Thursday, December 31, 2009

No. 1 (for 2010), No. 57 (for 2009) - Midnight Tides

by Steven Erikson

Started: December 31, 2009
Finished: January 13, 2010

Notes: I've had this book for a while but been putting it off because it's so darn long, nearly a thousand words, but I like the author and am in the mood for some action fantasy.

Mini review: An excellent read. I was surprised how little actual combat there is in this book, at least until the very end. Most of it was sort of political intrigue with some religous and family elements tossed in. I was also quite surprised at the socio-political commentary put forth in the book, often leaning quite left (or, at least, anti-right), in my opinion. Not that I'm taking sides. Just found it interesting. The ending was a bit disappointing for me. Not that it was a bad ending, just that I felt it didn't quite live up to all that had come before. Still, I'll definitely be reading more in this series.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

No. 56 - Some of Your Blood

by Theodore Sturgeon

Started: December 26
Finished: December 30

Notes: I picked this one up back around Halloween after reading the back content, plus the fact Sturgeon is known classic writer of the Golden Age of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Here is supposedly a realistic tale about a man dealing with vampirism. I'll see how it goes.

Mini review: A tale eeiry enough to shake you up a little. Not graphic, but very disturbing, delving into the depths of a disturbed mind. Modern horror writers could learn a lot from this, instead just more gore, gore, gore.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas horror flash story

Yes, it's that time of year ... for a very short horror story. I couldn't help myself. Sorry. I might be sick in the head.

But my holiday horror tale, all 500 words of it, titled "Milk and Cookies" is now available at Every Day Fiction.

You will never look at Santa Claus the same.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No. 55 - Midnight Falcon

by David Gemmell

Started: December 20
Finished: December 26

Notes: I took a short break, but now I'm back into some action reading. Plus, I put aside a lot of fantasy reading this past year, so now is as good a time as any to get back into it. And why not turn to one of the best? The late, great David Gemmell.

Mini review: Probably my favorite Gemmell read so far. A fine story that entwines several characters while still having one main character who stands out. My only complaint would be one I've noticed with all the Gemmel books I've read (this one only being the third, so far), and that's the he doesn't wrap anything up. There's a climax, and then three pages late his novels just end. In a way, that's a nice change of pace from some novels who have an ending akin to the Lord of the Rings movies (endless), but it is also quite jarring to the reader. After you've got to care for the characters, you want to see how things are going to turn out for them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No. 54 - The Science of God

by Gerald L . Schroeder

Started: December 16
Finished: December 20

Notes: I wanted a little change of pace, a small break from fiction reading, so I turned to this book. It's by a biblical scholar who is also a physicist. The book's topic concerns the division of science and religion, and how they're really not as far apart as many would lead us to believe.

Mini review: One of the most interesting books I've read in a long time. Basically, the author has found several ways (through Biblical and scientific studies mostly) to merge the ideas begind creationism and evolution. For the most part, it seems to come together pretty well. I found a few things questionable, but only a few. But some of the science and mathmetics used were over my head. Still, much of what he wrote made sense. Most importantly, this book, more than any other I've read, opened my eyes to how different the Bible is in English than it is in its original Hebrew (or Greek, for the New Testament). It's almost as if, in some areas of the Old Testament, modern Christians have a whole bunch of stuff wrong, sometimes even basic beliefs. The subject matter is definitely worth further study.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Looking back on the year

2009 is almost over, and looking back, I realize I accomplished most of the goals I had set out to do.

I finished writing and editing my fantasy trilogy, and even though I didn't find a publisher (a couple of opportunities fell through, but that's life) I did go ahead and self-publish the series.

More imporantly, I finished my literary novel, though the title keeps changing. Originally it was "Looking for America." Then it became "The Last Newspaper." Currently it's titled "More than Kin," and it's been shipped out to a bunch of literary agents, a few of which are actually considering it. We'll see what happens.

I wrote few short stories this year, though I had a handful published in one venue or another. So that's not bad.

But what's next? I'm working on a fantasy short story now, and it has a specific targeted publisher, so we'll see how that one goes. After that, I'm actually kind of free. I've a few ideas for short stories, and a whole bunch of ideas for novels, so I'll have to see what I want to tackle next. I'm thinking a few short stories, at least, then on to another novel.

But overall, I'm feeling pretty good about the year. I got some things accomplished, nearly everything I had set out to.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

By This Axe, I Rule

In case you're not familiar with it, the title of this post is also the title of a Robert E. Howard short story about his character Kull the king of Valusia. Tragically, the story was never printed in Howard's lifetime, though he did rework it and this reworking became one of the first Conan stories, "The Phoenix and The Sword."

Why do I bring all this up? Well, I've read a fair amount of Howard. Not everything the man ever wrote, but a pretty good amount, especially of his Sword and Sorcery tales, such as those featuring Conan and Kull and others. And, after all these years of reading these tales, I've finally found my absolute favorite.

Yes, "By This Axe, I Rule" is my all-time favorite Robert E. Howard story. It is not his best writing, which I think came a few years later in his later Conan tales and some of his Western stories, and it's not even his best plotting. But the last five pages alone make this short story one of the greatest ever written, of any genre. The action is pretty intense, but it's truly the dialogue (from which the title is taken) and some of the philosophy behind those words that really make the story here.

So, if you're a fan of hardcore, action-oriented fantasy, you must read this story. Rush out and find it right now. It's probably available in a collection of Kull stories at a local book store, maybe even at the library.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I landed the Christmas Eve spot at Every Day Fiction

It's official! My 500-word flash story "Milk and Cookies" will be available at Every Day Fiction on December 24, 2009. It's definitely something a little different for the holidays!

Friday, November 27, 2009

No. 53 - Kull: Exile of Atlantis

by Robert E. Howard
artwork by Justin Sweet

Started: November 27
Finished: December 16

Notes: After my recent readings, I'm still in the mood for some old-fashioned Sword and Sorcery. Why not stick with the original master? I've read some of the stories in this collection, but there is plenty here of which I'm not familiar. Besides, I'm working on some fantasy short stories at the moment, and this keeps me in the right mood.

Mini review: Wow! That was just an awesome, rollicking ride of sword-slinging fun. I'd read a couple of those stories before, and they were still fun. More importantly, I discovered my all-time favorite Howard story, "By This Axe, I Rule." Great stuff.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No. 52 - The Hour of the Dragon

by Robert E. Howard

Started: November 16
Finished: November 25

Notes: For shame! For the most part, I've been neglecting my fantasy reading this year. Well, I've read enough about Robert E. Howard this year, so it's time I actually read something by the man. I've read pretty much all his Conan short stories, but I don't believe I've ever read The House of the Dragon, Howard's only novel-length work about his famous barbarian.

Mini review: Not a bad tale, but I fear Howard was a stronger short story writer than he was novelist. But, to be fair, he also had much more experience with short stories than novels. Who knows what would have came if he had lived longer? This book felt somewhat disjointed, but it all came together well in the end. King Conan loses his kindgom, but regains it in the end.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Where did Thanksgiving go this year?

A couple of weeks ago I was walking through stores and everything was orange and black. There were bags of candy all over the place, and smiling pumpkins and witches and monsters and ... the list goes on.

Then a handful of kids came to my house and asked for candy. I gave them some.

The next day I got up and went to the store again. Suddenly, over night, the orange and black had all disappeared. What little candy was left was really cheap (but mostly it was candy not too many people like any way).

Now the stores were filled with red and green and fake fir trees and smiling fat guys in red suits.

Christmas was here. The first week of November.

What the heck ever happened to Thanksgiving? Did it die? Did it run away? Did it get kidnapped?

It has flat out disappeared.

I'm already seeing Christmas lights up at some of my neighbors' houses. Wreaths are on doors. Ribbons are tied around lamp posts.

And I've not even had any turkey yet.

I really noticed when my wife asked me to pick up some Thanksgiving paper towels. I couldn't find any at the stores. No brown and orange paper towels with little images of turkeys or pilgrim hats. But paper towels with red berries and green trees are readily available. She didn't believe me when I called her from the store. She thought I was just being lazy. Minutes later she called me back, while I was still in the store, and apologized; she had called three other stores and none of them had Thanksgiving paper towels. Or napkins. Or nose tissues. Or anything.

Our closest Walmart had one little display of napkins with turkeys on them and paper table cloths with pilgrims.

I know Christmas comes quick every year, but right now in 2009 it seems to have come sooner than ever.

Is it the economy? Are the retail stores in such a dump that management decided to start Christmas early in hopes it would bring out more shoppers?

Maybe all of us are glad to see this. Maybe the world is in such a bad shape that all of us are ready for the Christmas season to kick in.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No. 51 - Selected Stories of O. Henry

by O. Henry

Started: November 13
Finished: December 13

Notes: O. Henry is generally accepted as one of the greatest American short story writers of all time, at least within literary circles. I read quite a few of his tales in school, but that's been years and years ago. I thought it was time I became reacquainted with him. Maybe he can teach me something.

Mini review: As can be expected, there was plenty of warm, homespun fiction here from the turn of the 20th Cenury. But what was surprising were a handful of tales that had a dark edge to them, or were out-and-out dark. I was happily surprised on more than one occasion. Every short story writer should become familiar with O'Henry.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

No. 50 - Vespers

by Ed McBain

Started: November 8
Finished: November 13

Notes: Sort of sticking with the horror theme, I'm now turning to one of the 87th Precinct police procedural novels. Why is this one sort of horror? Because it apparently has the detectives of the 87th dealing with murderous Satan worshippers. Oh, joy!

Mini review: I didn't care much for this one until the very end. There was a side plot about a former hooker being blackmailed by a couple of guys that I found mostly distracting. But why did I like the end? For one thing, the main killer took me by surprise. For another, the ending was quite dark, perhaps the darkest I've yet read in a McBain novel.

Monday, November 02, 2009

New tale of horror published

My very short short story "Forlorn" can now be found over at Deadman's Tome!

If you like stories where you get into the mind of a killer, this one is for you.

I'm being productive, I promise!

So, my blogging has dropped off of late. And I've not had many short stories published of late. In fact, I'm quite low on the number of short stories I still have that have not been published.

So what in the heck have I been doing, writing wise?

Quite a bit, actually.

Not too long ago I had to put together two different proposals for two different publishing houses. Haven't heard from either of them yet, but hopefully something will come through.

I've also just finished the second edit of a novel. I have one more edit to do, the quick-read edit, then I can begin circulating it to publishers, agents and possibly universities (this is a literary/mainstream novel).

All three books of my Kobalos trilogy are now available for the Kindle and at Smashwords.

Also, I've been working on something that I'm not going to talk much about just yet. It's something finished and something I'll be self-publishing online, but I'm waiting for Amazon to get their butt's in gear before I announce anything

See? I've been doing stuff.

Friday, October 30, 2009

No. 49 - Darkness, Tell Us

by Richard Laymon

Started: October 30
Finished: November 7

Notes: Just in the nick of time for Halloween, I'm getting into a horror novel. This particular author comes highly praised from other horror writers, including Stephen King and Ty Schwamberger, so I'm excited to finally get an opportunity to check out this author.

Mini review: Reminded me a lot of Dean Koontz, especially the plotting. The overall writing was a bit more literary than Koontz, and the characters more personable. However, this is just the first Laymon book I've read, so I'll have to check out more to get a better feel for his style. Will I read more? Sure. This book was a lot of fun and tense, though the real action didn't kick in until the last 30 pages. Then things got quite grizzly.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Geocities is dead

It's a sad, sad week. After years of service, Yahoo has killed Geocities where I had my old Web page for the last 12 years, including my pages about beer.

But all is not lost. My beer rankings have been saved and I have something special planned for them.

Expect an announcement in coming weeks!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No. 48 - How to Win Friends and Influence People

by Dale Carnegie

Started: October 21
Finished: October 29

Notes: My dad has been a fan of public speaking guru Dale Carnegie for decades, specifically this book, so I thought I would give it a try, especially since this is a motivational book of sorts. This non-fiction book was originally published back in the 1930s, but still has some following even today. My guess is it will be a bit outdated, but hopefully it'll still be an interesting read.

Mini review: The basic gist of this book is, "follow the Golden Rule." That's oversimplifying to some extent, but not too far off the mark. The writing style was dated, but not to the point of annoyance. The main ideas focused mostly on business relations, but there were also some chapters on marital relations, friendships, etc. Not a bad little book. Too bad not many people today seem to follow the advice given.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Final trilogy novel published

Dark King of the North: Book III of the Kobalos trilogy is now available in ebook form online and for the Apple Kindle. Check it out at Amazon, Smashwords and Scribd.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

No. 47 - The Trial

by Franz Kafka

Started: October 8
Finished: October 20

Notes: This is another of those literary authors I've been meaning to try for years. The subject matter of this particular novel sounded of interest to me as it's about a man who is arrested and put on trial but no one will tell him what charges he faces.

Mini review: It's a shame the author died before this novel could be finished, because this could have been a major literary classic. As is, it's still a classic (as is the author), though it remains unfinished (though there is an ending ... it' just much of the middle is missing or only in part). I liked this book, though I don't believe I'd call it a favorite.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Internet is for Porn!

Yes, this is actually from a Broadway musical. It's called "Avenue Q," sort of a Sesame Street for adults.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No. 46 - The Complete Plays of Aristophanes

edited by Moses Hadas

Started: September 25
Finished: October 8

Notes: I consider myself pretty well read in classical literature, though admittedly it's been years since I've dipped into any of the ancient literature or histories. Here I'm checking out Aristophanes, a Greek comic playwrite who lived about 2,500 years ago. Aristophanes has come highly regarded to me from a friends, specifically the play "Frogs." Besides entertainment, I also often read for educational purposes; hopefully this will be a little of both.

Mini review: Another book I'm glad to have read but also glad to have finished. Seems I've been reading a lot of those this year. Of the 11 plays here, "Frogs" was by far the funniest and my favorite, with "Birds" being the next best. While only one editor on this book, there were four or five translators, some of whom were quite good but others that were lacking. Glad I read it. There was some funny stuff here. And it was interesting to be reminded of how modern the ancient Greeks really were.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No. 45 - Dark Deceiver

by Pamela Palmer

Started: September 23
Finished: September 25

Notes: Stop laughing. Please, stop laughing. Yes, I'm reading a Harlequin romance novel, but at least it's one of their Silhouette Nocturne novels, which means it's a speculative romance novel, usually involving horror and/or fantasy elements. This is the first Harlequin I've ever read. Will it be the last? Probably, but who knows? I'm mainly reading this one for experimental reasons, to expand my writing and reading experience a bit, but I've also heard from women friends that Pamela Palmer is a good writer. Here goes.

Mini review: Actually, this was a pretty good book, the writing style reminding me of Dean Koontz from about 20 years ago (before he'd gotten boring and predictable). Of course, there were a few love scenes and such that felt a little juvenile to me, bu then I'm a guy and this is the first Harlequin romance I've ever read. Will I read another? I won't be jumping to do it, but this particular novel was the second book of a trilogy, so I might want to seek out the other two books.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

No. 44 - Darkness Weaves

by Karl Edward Wagner

Started: September 20
Finished: September 23

Notes: I'm in the mood for some Sword and Sorcery, so this book by the noted horror/fantasy author Karl Edward Wagner is a natural. This is the first novel of his I've read, though I've been familiar with his short stories for years.

Mini review: Fantastic! Awesome! Not perfect by any many, but the best Sword and Sorcery novel I've read in a long while. The biggest problem was the editing job was just atrocious, but the writing was fun and dark in that 70s slightly unbelivable and comic-bookish sword and sorcery kind of way. I liked this novel even better than Wagner's short stories, so I'll have to search out some more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

No. 43 - Don Pendleton's The Executioner #365: Collision Course

by Nathan Meyer

Started: September 17
Finished: September 20

Notes: Thought I'd get back into a little Executioner action. Man, I've been reading plenty of pulp fiction of late, and that's what I consider The Executioner series, modern pulp fiction. In this one, Mack Bolan is on the trail of illegal arms dealers.

Mini review: This one started out a bit disjointed, but eventually the ball got rolling pretty good. Near the end is my favorite action scene in the whole book, but then the very ending felt cheesy to me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Robert E. Howard quote

Came across this great quote from pulp author Robert E. Howard. It's from a letter he wrote to a friend.

"When a nation forgets her skill in war, when her religion becomes a mockery, when the whole nation becomes a nation of money-grabbers, then the wild tribes, the barbarians drive in ... Who will be our invaders? From whence will they come?"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

No. 42 - Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard

by Mark Finn

Started: September 13
Finished: September 16

Notes: Having earlier this year read a biographical book about pulp writer Robert E. Howard, I was pleased to run across this book recently. I had to pick it up. I'm especially drawn to this one because it looks at Howard's life not only as a writer, but as a Texan and a man of his times. Also, I've not done a lot of non-fiction reading this year and thought it was time I did so.

Mini review: A truly fascinating and fantastic book. Fans of Robert E. Howard need to read this one, probably moreso than any other book about Howard. This book places Howard into perspective seen quite rarely, but in my opinion, the views of this book's author are more akin to the truth about Howard, his writing, his life and even his death than any show elsewhere. If all you know of Howard's writing is Conan and Howard's other sword and sorcery tales, you're missing out on a lot.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

No. 41 - Doll

by Ed McBain

Started: September 12
Finished: September 13

Notes: I've still got some more Executioner books to read, but I don't want to get burnt out on them, so I thought I'd take a little break and turn to another pulpy favorite, Ed McBain. Besides, it's been more than a few months since I read any of McBain's 87th Precinct novels. This is one of the early novels in the series, from 1965.

Mini review: Another fun, quick read from McBain with lots of detective leg work and a little gun action. It was nice to have a read over with that fast.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Zombie Tears" reprinted

My flash fiction story "Zombie Tears" is now available online from the fine folks at Dark Fire Fiction where it is the feature story for issue 41. It's one of my favorite flash pieces I've written, but keep in mind this is a zombie story so there's some gore.

"Zombie Tears" was originally published a couple of years ago over at Tales of World War Z.

Monday, September 07, 2009

No. 40 - Don Pendleton's The Executioner #341: Rebel Force

by Nathan Meyer

Started: September 7
Finished: September 12

Notes: After recent action-oriented readings, I thought I'd stick with it a little more. Plus, it's been a while since I've read many of The Executioner books, so I'm having fun delving back into the depths of Mack Bolan and his Endless War against the worst of humanity. As an added bonus, this one is written by my online writing bud Nathan Meyer. This is the first of his Bolan books I'll have read, though I've read some of his short stories.

Mini Review: What a rollicking ball of action! Seriously, if you like men's action/adventure reading with lots of gunfire, explosions, car chases, etc., then this novel is right for you. Worth checking out. Nathan Meyer did an excellent job.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Zombies" on the loose

My short story "Everyone is Zombies" is now available over at Demonic Tome.

It's not exactly a traditional zombie story, so even if you're not a fan of zombies you still might like it. No brain eating, I promise.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

No. 39 - Don Pendleton's The Executioner #357: Extreme Justice

by Mike Newton

Started: August 22
Finished: August 30

Notes: The Executioner series of men's action/adventure novels has been around for 40 years, originally penned by Don Pendleton. Pendleton passed away a while back, but the series has continued, written by a multitude of writers. I read a ton of these short novels as a teen, and from time to time I go through a spell where I delve back into them again. The series' overall plot concerns one Mack Bolan, a former U.S. soldier who fought in Vietnam. Mack returns home to find out his family has been killed because of the mafia, and he decides to go to war against the mob. After years of that, Mack turned his attentions to fighting terrorism and other evils throughout the world. This particular novel has Mack looking for a prosecution's witness in a trial against the mob in hopes of bringing the witness to trial before the mafia can kill the guy. I'm reading this one for fun, but also for a little research; I find the Executioner novels usually show how to write action scenes really well.

Mini review: The action started well and ended very strong, but the middle was pretty slow. It was nice to get back to reading some Mack Bolan again. I'll have to do it soon.

Friday, August 21, 2009

No. 38 - Rage of the Behemoth

edited by Jason M. Waltz

Started: August 21
Finished: September 7

Notes: It's with more than a little glee that I get to read this collection of Sword and Sorcery short stories featuring gigantic monsters. I like Sword and Sorcery. I like big monsters. And most importantly, I like the editor, who I've had the pleasure to work with on a few occassions, including when he published my story "Deep in the Land of the Ice and Snow" in the Return of the Sword anthology last year. Another nice thing about short story collections is I don't feel the need to read the whole thing all at once; I can read a story or two, then go read a novel or something else, then get back to the collection. Also, I'm familiar with the works of a good number of the writers in this anthology. So, what's there not to like?

Mini review: Fans of sword-slinging action need to read this, especially if they're also fans of big monsters. There are all different kinds of beasties to be found in these 21 tales. Of the stories here, three were my favorites, "Beyond the Reach of his Gods" by Brian Ruckley, "The Rotten Bones Rattle" by C. L. Werner and "Nothing Left of the Man" by Jeff Stewart. But those were just my favorite three. There are plenty of other tales of all kinds here, and each is great in its own way.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

For Writers, Reading Sometimes Can Lose Its Luster

Writers like to read. Or, if they don't, they should. I mean, it's their bread and butter. It's what makes them what they are. If they don't like reading, they probably shouldn't be writing.

But for the sake of argument, let's say that writers like to read.

Or, at least much of the time they do. See, writers don't always get to read for fun. Sometimes writers have to read a book or story or article because they have to review it. Or they have to edit it. Or they are doing another writer friend a favor and are reading something so they can offer their advice about it.

And sometimes a writer reads just to see how another writer performs the craft of writing.

Which can sound like fun. But often it's not.

Even if there's a particular writer who has works you really, really enjoy, sometimes it can become a bit numbing pouring over their material. Sounds impossible? It's not. What often happens is the reader who also happens to be a writer sometimes becomes caught up in the craft and can't experience writing for the sheer enjoyment factor. Sure, this person would like to sit back and laugh or cry or scream with a book, but they're caught up in how the author puts together his or her scenes, or they're caught up in the fine use of adjectives, or they're caught up in something seemingly simple and silly like how many times an author uses the word "said" on a given page. Or there could be a thousand other things.

Also, sometimes a reader can become too familiar with a particular genre. If your really like mysteries and have read a few hundred of them by a variety of different authors, you can probably often see what's coming. This is even worse for the writer who has written a few mystery novels, maybe some short stories, too, and who has also read tons and tons of mystery books.

The writing has become all craft for this reader who is also a writer. But there is hope. Sometimes this unfortunate reader can break away and enjoy reading just for reading all over again.

How is this done?

My suggestion is to try reading works of an author with whom you've never read, maybe even in a genre of which you're not familiar. If you read mysteries all the time, try out a fantasy novel or two. If you read romance novels a lot, pick up a few thrillers. If you do this, you can find yourself pleasantly surprised. You will find new ways to tell your own tales, and you could find yourself enjoying your writing and reading more than you have in years.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Road to Wrath novel now available

The adventures of Kron Darkbow continue!

Road to Wrath, Book II of the Kobalos trilogy of epic fantasy, is now available in two places online and the price is only $1.

The Road to Wrath ebook is available at the above link in multiple formats. Just pick which one you want, then read it on screen or download it. Of course you can still find City of Rogues, Book I of the Kobalos Trilogy, on Smashwords, too.

If you own a Kindle, you can download Road to Wrath directly from Amazon. Of course you can also find City of Rogues, Book I of the Kobalos Trilogy, for the Kindle as well.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

No. 37 - Little Brother

by Cory Doctorow

Started: July 31
Finished: August 6

Notes: This is a book, and an author, that's drawn tons of attention the last few years in science fiction literary circles. Thought it was time I checked out the book and the writer.

Mini review: I think my expectations were too high for this book. It was a decent book, but I felt like I was supposed to become caught up in some kind of anti-government, rebellious attitude. At for the most part, I wasn't. But the mantra of the young characters in the book is "Never trust anyone over 25." And I'm quite a bit past 25. So maybe I just didn't get it. Still, this was an okay read, but not a great read, in my opinion. To me, it felt as if the messages in this novel hit a little too hard. But maybe I would have felt differently a few years ago when this book would have seemed a little more relevant (not that it's not relevant today).

Friday, July 31, 2009

Can Social Networking and Online Marketing Take Over a Writer's Life?

Reaching out to readers and potential readers is important, but don't let it take away from your writing time.

You've written a new novel and it's coming out from the publisher next month. Or maybe you've self-published a collection of short stories online. Or maybe you just like to write for online sites such as Triond.

Under any of those conditions, you want people to read your work. Sure, the money you could make is nice, but you also just want to be read.

To help grow your fan base and to hopefully gain potential readers, you decide to check out some of the social networking sites, online marketing sites, forums and similar places that allow you to promote your work and yourself.

There are tons of these Web sites out there that could be of use to writers. Facebook, Myspace, StumbleUpon, Digg, and Reddit are just a few of the online places a writer to use to toute their work. How do you know which one to use? Trying to use all of them would be time consuming.

And here is where many writers run into problems online. There are so many different ways and sites to promote one's work, it becomes difficult to choose which sites to use and how often to go to them.

It can even turn into a nightmare if you've signed up with 10 or more sites and try to go to each of them every day. You end up spending more time in forums and chatting and promoting, etc., than you actually do writing and editing your work.

That's not good for a writer.

The key is to find the right balance for yourself as a writer. Sure, you can go ahead and join all the different sites just so you'll have some presence there, but I'd suggest not visiting more than a few a day. Otherwise, you'll always be online and never in your word processor.

It's easy to become too caught up in the online world of marketing and networking. Not only could you lose writing time, but if you are promoting yourself too much you could end up becoming annoying to regular users of the sites. That's right, you'd become a spammer, and once you receive that label you've hurt your chances of turning others onto your writing.

Still, using the Web for promotions is a given nowadays. It has to be done. Picking which sites to use regularly is really up to you. Try a few different ones, see which places are the most comfortable for you, then hang out there from time to time.

To get a little more constructive with it, you could even come up with a schedule. For example, maybe on Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays you will spend an hour a day online at Facebook and Reddit, then Tuesdays and Thursdays you hope on over to StumbleUpon and the Amazon forums.

Just remember to keep it fun and to keep writing.

Other Writing Links

Dealing With Negative Reviews as an Author
Fiction Writers Need to Know Their Weapons
Promote Your Writing by Promoting Others

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No. 36 - First Blood

by David Morrell

Started: July 28
Finished: July 31

Notes: I'm note finished with my last book yet, but I ran across this one in the library today and had to snag it up because I've been meaning to read it for at least 25 years. Yes, this is the novel the First Blood moving starring Sylvester Stallone is based upon, and upon which the John Rambo character is based. The novel is supposed to be quite different, especially the ending, from the movie. I've already read the first 30 pages, and so far it's quite interesting. The contrast, physically and mentally, between Rambo and the sheriff is much more engauging than that in the movie. In the film, the sheriff is sort of portrayed as this small-town, hick sheriff who is just an asshole, and maybe not real bright. So far, in the book the sheriff is portrayed as a Korean War veteran who is likable in his own way but has very different values, and a background, than Rambo. Should be interesting.

Mini review: Actually, a pretty darn good book. In some ways better than the movie, but in other ways not so much. But it's difficult to compare the book to the movie in this case. The plot and characters are technically the same, but the characterizations is quite different. Rambo is a more complex but less sympathetic character than he is in the movie; the sheriff, however, is also more complex but a much more sympathetic character. Definitely glad I read this one. And a word of warning to flagwavers who want to read the original Rambo novel: John Rambo is not nearly as nice a guy in this book as he was in the original movie. If you think Rambo was a badass in the movie, you haven't seen anything.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When is the Best Time of Day to Write?

Some writers work in the middle of the night. Some are early risers, getting their daily writing finished before other tasks or jobs. Some write in little bursts, five minutes here, ten minutes there.

Truly, the best time to write each day is whatever time feels most comfortable to you. The trick is to write at that time consistently, perhaps even every day if possible.

By writing every day, and at the same time every day, you are training your mind. Sort of fooling your mind, even. You're showing yourself that your writing is something serious, that it's not just something you do as a lark for a little fun. That you are taking your writing seriously. You're getting yourself used to writing on a consistent basis. That's what writing at a certain time each day, whenever possible, can do for you.

Will this help your writing? Of course it will. Not only will you be outputting more work regularly, but you will be improving as a writer. Writing takes practice, practice, practice. Writing at the same time every day puts your body and your mind into work mood. You'll be better able to get to work on your writing if you have set periods for when you plan on doing your writing.

And if you miss a day, don't fret over it. Just jump back into things the next day. Even if you miss a few days, don't beat yourself up. Get back to writing as soon as you can.

How do you set a certain time? Again, it's really up to you, what works best for you. If you are someone who likes punctuality, set a specific time, maybe a certain hour. If you like to keep things a little more free, just casually set a time of day, but don't get so specific about the actual time.

If you happen to be one of those who writes in short bursts throughout the day, that's a skill you should be happy to have. Not everyone can write that way. But still, keep at it every day when possible.

Me? I feel most comfortable doing my writing late at night, usually after midnight. That seems to be the time I'll have the least interruptions, and the time when I feel I can completely focus on the tasks at hand.

Good luck, and keep writing!

Other Writing Links

No, I Won't Write Your Book for You

The Importance of Editing Your Writing

Has Reading Become Unmanly?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Promote Your Writing by Promoting Others

Maybe you've written a novel, or a few short stories. Or maybe you just like to post articles on Web sites such as Triond or Bukisa. Or maybe you like to provide or sell your writings on sites like Scribd or Smashwords. Whatever your venue for writing and publishing, you probably want other people to read your work.

And that's where things can get a little tough. Self promotion isn't easy, especially when everywhere you go online, the second you post something about your writing, someone immediately jumps up and starts screaming SPAMMER!

How to get around this? One easy way is not to promote your work, but promote the work of other writers. You can't be accused of spamming, and you're driving potential readers to other writers.

But how does this pay off for you? In several ways. First, hopefully the other writers you are promoting will get a clue and will do the same for you; this helps if you have some sort of relationship with the other writers, maybe are even friends with them. Also, by promoting other writers, you are letting potential readers know a lot about yourself. They get to know what kind of writing you like, if nothing else, and if they like what you like there's a good chance they will want to check out your writing, too.

So, you don't need to go to a bunch of forums and start spouting about how great your latest project is. That can be annoying. But you can go to various forums and talk about other writers and their works. You'll sound like any reader or fan, and won't draw the spam haters.

But be careful about the forums and social networks you decide to visit. Make sure it makes sense for you to post in any particular forum. Keep it appropriate. You shouldn't go to a forum about puppies, for example, and start posting about the latest thriller novel you read.

Also, you're likely to have some fun and maybe you'll make some new online friends.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Scarefest: A Convention of Horror and the Paranormal

Billed as the largest convention of horror and paranormal in the United States, Scarefest brings thousands of fans and plenty of professionals to the Bluegrass every year. Ghosts, ghouls and even Jason Voorhees and Leatherface are to attend the 2009 Scarfest in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, on Sept. 11, 12 and 13.

One big draw for fans is the many special guests who will be attending. From the horror field, just a few of those to make an appearance in 2009's convention are Kane Hodder who portrayed mass murderer Jason Vorhees in four Friday the 13th films, Gunnar Hansen who played killer Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Doug Bradley who was Pinhead in the series of Hellraiser films. Some of the guests from the paranormal field include Zak Bagans of the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures" television program, psychic Chip Coffey of the TV show "Paranormal State" and ghost hunter and author Patti Starr.

Plenty of events are lined up for the 2009 Scarefest, including a class on special effects makeup, movies at the nearby Kentucky Theatre and the Nightmare Haunted House. Dealers of all sorts will have tables available, and many of the guests will be available for autographs and seminars. A couple of the really grand events include a costume party the night of Friday, Sept. 11, and a VIP party for Saturday, Sept. 12.

So, fans of ghosts and goblins, get ready to have some fun in Bluegrass country come September! Tickets are available now!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

10 Web Sites for Horror Writers

Horror Writers Association

The Horror Writers Association is mainly for members, but the group's Web site has plenty of information for those who don't qualify for membership. Of course the site has plenty of information about the association and how to become a member, but there are also market listings for writers, tips for writers and more. Another nice thing is the HWA site is home of the Bram Stoker Awards, annual awards for outstanding horror writing.

Horror Find

Horror Find is a search engines just for things horror and Halloween related. If you need it, you can probably find it here, at least as long as it's something gruesome. There are even classifieds at Horror Find, in case you're looking for something that's difficult to get your hands on.

Horror World

Horror World's site offers plenty for fans and writers, but it's probably best known for its active forum community. Plenty of professional authors, beginning writers and fans come to Horror World just to chat and catch up on things, and all the thousand other reasons people hang out in online forums and chat rooms. There are also interviews and reviews to be found here, and much, much more.

Masters of Horror

This is another Web site with an excellent online community and plenty to keep you busy. There are also a good number of groups to join, if you are interested. This is also an excellent site for beginning writers to post about their works in progress.

Horror Web

Horror Web is a great place for keeping up with horror-related news. If you need to know about a new movie or book or game, this is the site to head to first. The site also has contests and giveaways from time to time, so you have a chance of winning something horrific. And there's plenty of news on Horror Web about the latest horror conventions.

Asian Horror Encyclopedia

This Web site is a little out of date and not the best known out there, but it definitely offers a different perspective for horror writers and fans of horror literature. Movies aren't the focus here, so this isn't necessarily the place for fans of that medium. Still, there's tons and tons here from folklore, mythology and history related to horror and Asia. Definitely worth spending some time checking out.

The Web site has a little side headline that reads "Everything That is Horror ..." and this is pretty much true. Movies. Novels. Reviews. Interviews. Information on conventions. Links. All kinds of stuff, and I've just touched on the tip of the iceberg. Really, if you like horror, you could find yourself spending hours and hours on this site. If you become a site member, you can even post your short stories here for others to see.

Dark Markets

Writers are always looking for places to submit and sell their stories, so Dark Markets is a good place to start that search. Here you'll find all kinds of listings for magazines, book publishers and contests where you can submit your work for publication (and hopefully a little money, too, right?).

Really Scary

Where do you go for your horror news? You could do worse than Really Scary, believe me. Updated every month or two, this Web site offers news mostly about horror movies, though every once in a while there's news about the dark literature. Here you can also find a good number of links to other Web sites featuring horror-related material.

World Horror Convention

Didn't know there was a World Horror Convention? Well, now you do. The WHC is an annual gathering of mostly professionals within the horror field, though plenty of fans often make it, too. The convention moves around every year and is in Brighton, England, for 2010 and Austin, Texas, for 2011. This would be a great convention for writers to attend because it gives plenty of opportunities to make connections in the horror field.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Violence in Fiction: How Does the Writer Know When Enough is Enough?

Nearly all fiction writers are going to have violence of one form or another sooner or later in one of their short stories or books. Fiction is about conflict, and violence is one of the most common forms of human conflict there is. Even romance writers will sometimes have a sword-carrying hero rushing in to save the day, or a pistol-packing thug as the villain. In horror fiction, violence is almost a given. Violence is also common in much fantasy and science fiction. And what would a Western be without a revolver or two or a lever-action rifle?

But sometimes, for some readers, violence can be too much. It can be too powerful, even to the point of turning the reader off a certain author. Possibly such a reader won't even finish the story they were reading.

What can a writer do about this? How can the writer know when their fictional violence has gone over the top?

It's not easy. In fact, it's mostly a subjective decision.

The writer has to take into account the genre in which they are writing and the potential reading audience. Violence obviously is a bit more acceptable in horror, for example. But even within the horror genre, there are many different levels of violence that could be portrayed. As examples, there is generally a huge difference in the violence as portrayed by an author like Dean Koontz than there is by someone like Joe R. Lansdale, a known "splatterpunk" writer. Koontz's violence tends to be over fairly quickly and doesn't focus on prolonged torture or gore. Lansdale, on the other hand, gets his hands dirty with the red stuff, then makes you do the same while smashing your face down in it.

Would you want your readers to have to deal with that level of violence? Maybe you do. There is such an audience for over-the-top violence, though it's not a mainstream audience nor is it very large. Some writers enjoy delving into the darkest parts of humanity, as do some readers. Some writers intentionally set out to be offensive, even go out of their way to do so, but even this has a place within a free society with protected speech; if nothing else, such literature can get people to thinking and talking.

Most authors, however, will not want to go quite that deep into violence. Violence is often a necessity in fiction, but the truth is the majority of readers won't want to dwell on it. And that's fine, too.

Much of this depends upon the writer's goals and what they wish to accomplish with their career and any given piece of their work. Someone striving for more mainstream success should generally shy away from writing graphic violence. Horror writers have a little more room to work with, as to some extent do men's action writers, thriller writers and writers of Westerns. But even within those genres, there is much wiggle room. The best thing is to be familiar with your genre and its audience; this will help you know the boundaries of the levels of violence which you can approach in writing. And it can help you decided how far you want to stay within those boundaries, or if you want to leap over them.

And readers need to remind themselves what they are reading is only a story. It's fiction. It's not real. Yes, stories can have power, but only the power you allow them to have over you.

Speculative Fiction Writers Must Set Ground Rules for Their Stories

Fantasy, horror and science fiction authors serve their readers best by knowing the rules of the worlds they create.

The old saying is "truth is stranger than fiction," and there is truth to that. Even though fiction, especially speculative fiction, isn't about real things, it must seem so for the reader. Otherwise, the reader will lose interest and will go on to read something else. Writers don't want that. They need to keep their readers.

But how does a writer make things like wizards and ghosts and spaceships seem real? By setting some ground rules for the story the author is writing, and knowing and sticking to those rules.

For example, let's say you are writing a horror story. Our hero locked in a house is being chased by a big, bad monster with gigantic teeth and fur running down it's back. Your monster seems unbeatable. The hero has stabbed the monster, shot it, shoved it down some stairs, beat it over the head with a shovel, all kinds of things. But the monster keeps coming. Eventually, tedium will set in for the reader if this goes on too long. There hasto be a way to defeat this monster. And the hero of our story has to figure out how to do so, but only after many trials and tribulations for building tension and reader sympathy for the character. Finally, the hero figures out the monster chasing him is a werewolf. Oh, where is that gun the hero used earlier? Down in the basement. The hero runs down, grabs the gun and loads it with the only silver bullet he has, a family heirloom left by his great-great-great grandfather who was a Civil War general and had the bullet molded as a memento to mark the end of the war. The hero slams the bullet into the gun, then pops up our monster and BANG! Monster is dead. Totally impossible, you think. Couldn't happen in rule life. But the reader's mind wants to believe this could happen; in fact, the reader's mind needs to find this acceptable to be fully entertained. And how is the reader's mind convinced this story could be real? Because of the rules set down by the author. What rules? Well, rule one is that werewolves can only be killed by silver bullets. In fact, that's probably the most important rule in our little story. But there are plenty of other rules here, too. Where did the silver bullet come from and why does our hero have it? The plausibility of this has to sound rational.

Speculative writers shouldn't have antagonists who are too powerful and seemingly invincible. This is even more important for protagonists. Where's the fun reading about a monster the reader knows can't be defeated no matter what? Where's the fun in reading about a protagonist who passes his or her trials far too easily? It's unrealistic and it's boring. On the flip side, you don't want a hero who fails all the time and a villain who is incompetent all the time.

Striking a balance is what can help your fiction. You can have a bad guy who seems invincible, but somehow the protagonist has to figure out a way to save the day. You want that balance between the good guy and the bad guy of your story. Even if you're writing a tragedy, a tale of woe where the hero fails, there at least has to be the impression that the good guy could have won. Otherwise, the reader won't be interested, and you as a writer won't have an audience for very long.

Knowing the rules of the universes you create can help strike that balance, and draw and keep readers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

City of Rogues novel available for PDAs

My epic fantasy novel, City of Rogues: Book I of the Kobalos trilogy, is now available at Mobipocket.

This means if you have a PDA, like a Blackberry, and an e-reader APP for your PDA, you can download City of Rogues for reading.

I'm still learning all the formatting for Mobipocket (and Kindle, for that matter), so if you run into any technical difficulties, please let me know and I'll try to fix things.

And the amazing thing? Right now the price is only $1!

There is also a free sample of the book, so you can check out the first chapter and just a tad of the second chapter without having to pay anything.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rage of the Behemoth video

If you're a fan of big monsters and sword-slinging action, you've got to read this collection of short stories, Return of the Behemoth, from Rogue Blades Entertainment. It doesn't get any better than this.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ebooks available at Mobipockets

Three of my short ebooks are now available for purchase at Mobipockets. Which means if you have a PDA, such as a Blackberry, you can now get an app to download and read my ebooks (and others' ebooks, too, I suppose ... but I only really care about mine).

The three books available are:

Dark Side of Io, my horror/science fiction screenplay, priced at only $1

Sever: five tales of horror, priced at only 80 cents

Preludes: four tales of the fantastic, only $1

In the next few days I will probably upload City of Rogues, my epic fantasy novel, but until then I'm interested to see how these books sell.

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, July 13, 2009

City of Rogues available for Kindle

My epic fantasy novel, City of Rogues, is now available on the Kindle from Amazon for $2.99.

Product description

Kron Darkbow seeks vengeance, and he plans to have it no matter the costs. Returning to the city of his birth after 15 years, he hunts down the wizard responsible for the deaths of those he loved only to find out another was responsible for the murders. That other is Belgad the Liar, a former barbarian chieftan who is now boss of the city's underworld.

Following his path for blood, Kron comes across the magical healer, Randall Tendbones, and accidentally reveals Randall's darkest secret to the world. It's a secret about the past, a secret that has kept Randall on the run for three years. Now it has caught up with him, and Belgad the Liar is suddenly the least of Randall and Kron's concerns. The gaze of Lord Verkain, king of of the dark northern land of Kobalos, has fallen upon Kron and Randall. And it is a gaze filled with madness.

City of Rogues is a dark action/adventure epic fantasy novel in the tradition of David Gemmell and Glenn Cook. It is Book I of the Kobalos Trilogy.

Purchase a copy for your Kindle here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Zombieland movie trailer

Just because I love zombies, and because this is my favorite movie trailer in a good while. AND because of the fantastic Van Halen song!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

No. 35 - Roughing It

by Mark Twain

Started: July 5
Finished: August 21

Notes: I've read a fair amount of Twain, but it seems like there's always more to read. It's been a while since I've read any of his works, so I thought I'd settle into this one, especially since this year I've been trying to catch up on some classics that have eluded me thus far. "Roughing It" is sort of an autobiography, Twain's comments on 6 or 7 years he spent out West and in Hawaii, but with Twain you can't always tell where the truth ends and fiction begins. Not that I have a problem with that.

Mini review: This is another book I'm glad to have read but I'm also glad to be done with it. True to what I expected, this is a travelogue of Twain's trip to Utah, Nevad, California and Hawaii. The first half of the book I found entertaining, full of tall tales and humorous anecdotes Twain picked up in his travels, but the second helf felt bogged down to me mainly because the tone of the writing switches to more descriptive text of what Twain saw in Hawaii and elsewhere. The book ends well, however, with the last 20 or so pages giving a brief partial history of Mormonism and including a rambling, though humorous newspaper article.

Friday, July 03, 2009

How Screenwriting Broke My Writer's Block

I began writing fiction about twenty years ago, unless you count a couple of short novels I wrote back in fourth and sixth grades; those novels would be called fan fiction today, one being about James Bondand the other about Don Pendleton's character The Executioner, Mack Bolan. But other than those early novels, the first real fiction I wrote was a short story called "Entering Jupiter." I wrote that story for an astronomy class in college; the professor allowed me to do so instead of writing a paper.

I had always wanted to be a fiction writer as far back as I can remember. In grade school, besides those two novels, I also wrote and drew and colored a slew of comic books. Unfortunately, I no longer have any of those comics, but at least I still have the two novels. My early favorite novelists were mostly in the fantasy genre, Tolkien and the like.

But writing that short story for my astronomy class finally made me think it was time to get my butt in gear and start writing. So I did. I hammered out a half dozen stories on my red portable manual Olivetti Valentine typewriter. None of the stories were very good. But I realized that, and at least I was learning.

After a couple of years, I finally felt like my skills were improving. I started a novel, a horror novel title "The Storm." I've never finished it. Basically, during my last couple of years in college, I had to work two part-time jobs to pay for school, plus I worked on the school yearbook and the student newspaper. I was a journalism student. And frankly, I was just too busy to continue working on fiction. Which was unfortunate since I had about 70,000 words of that novel written.

Fast forward a bit. I started my career at a small newspaper in Ohio. I settle in after a while and got back to my fiction writing, though I felt then that my fiction skills needed to be worked on again before I could get back to lengthier fiction projects like novels.

I wrote about 50 short stories over the next 8 or so years. I sold a handful of them and received words of encouragement from a number of editors.

Then it happened. My writer's block kicked in.

Many writers, including myself, are not comfortable talking about writer's block. Writer's block isn't anything physically real. It's not a disease. It's not a virus. It's not something tangible that can be worked out, though I suppose a psychiatrist might be able to help. Some writers even deny the existence of writer's block. I don't, because I've experienced it.

Writer's block is a different thing for different people. For me it came down to two things, fear and perfectionism. I had gotten to the point where I was afraid to begin writing anything, even a short story, because I knew it wouldn't be good enough. Good enough for whom? For anyone. For an editor. A publisher. For readers.

And I was stuck with that fear for 5 years. I didn't write a thing that didn't pertain directly to my work as a journalist. It was the longest drought of my life.

A Discovery
I always have a stack of books to read. That stack has been as many as a hundred books, but right now I've whittled it down to 8 books. These are books I'm going to read when I get to them. I average about 45 books a year, so I'm not the fastest reader in the world, but I'm far from the slowest.

Anyway, about 7 years ago I was moving. My then-new-wife and I were moving to a new house, new for us, anyway. During the move, I had to box up all my books, then unbox them at the new house. While unloading the stack of books I had yet to read, I came across Syd Field's book, "Screenplay." I don't know why I had that book. It was still new, so obviously I had bought it at some point.

Let me say here and now, before reading "Screenplay," I had never consider screenwriting a serious form of writing. I'd sort of looked down on it. That book changed my mind. It got me to study the story-writing process in ways that were totally new to me. Before then, I had always sort of thought of stories as this ambiguous thing of ideas that came into your mind, then you put it down on paper and hoped it worked out.

Stories don't work that way. They have structure. The most basic structure is beginning, middle and end. Yes, it's that simple. But just simple ideas such as that opened my eyes.

That First Step
So I finished Field's book. I wanted to know more. I started buying more and more books on screenwriting for movies and television. I read them all. I researched screenwriting online. My favorite site was Triggerstreet, where I still have a membership though I haven't gone their often in years.

Then I began writing. I finished two screenplays, one a science fiction horror story and the other sort of a spaghetti western.

It wasn't straight prose, but I was writing again.

Back in the Saddle
After finishing my two screenplays and doing multiple rewrites on them, I toyed around with trying to sell them to a Hollywood production company. But I realized my screenplays weren't up to snuff. Even after my many, major rewrites, they just weren't that good.

But I didn't want to start another screenplay. I felt I'd learned all I had to learn at the time, and felt it was time for a new challenge.

I tried my hand at short fiction again. And the results weren't too bad. I kept at it. In the last 5 or so years I've written probably another 50 short stories and I've sold about half of them to magazines or online venues.

I've even written four novels. I had three of them practically sold to a publisher, then the recession hit. The publisher decided it wasn't the right time for him to publish a series of novels by a new writer. I had and have no hard feelings about that. Business is business. Too many wannabe writers don't get that.

I strive on. I'm back to trying to sell the four novels, three of them being a trilogy. I still work on short stories from time to time.

And I'm writing plenty on Triond of late since I lost my last newspaper job.

What's most important, for me, right now, is I'm enjoying myself. Every day I find new writing challenges.

And I blame it all on Syd Field and screenwriting, even though I don't consider myself a screenwriter and currently have no plans to be or become or try to be a professional screenwriter.

But writing's in my blood.

Oh, by the way, I did eventually switch to an electic Smith-Corona typewriter. That lasted about five years. I wrote on three different Macs for the next ten or so years, and still use one of them now, as well as my wife's PC.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

10 Tips for Sword Care

Whether you're a rabid collector or just someone who wants a long blade to hang on your wall for showing off to your friends, you need to know how to take care of your sword(s). Here are a few suggestions.

Avoid prolonged sheathing: Yes, swords were kept in leather sheaths. But not forever. Sheaths, especially leather ones, have dyes and such that can promote rust in a sword. By all means, if you're hanging out at a Renaissance festival all day, please keep your sword in its sheath. But for storage or wall hanging, remove the blade from the sheath. Your sword will remain more attractive that way.

Don't bang your sword around: Despite what you see in a movie when some mighty warrior hack through a tree with a sword, that's a really stupid thing to do. It could bend the sword, or worse, crack or even break it. Swords are weapons. They weren't made to trim your rose bushes or to whack down that oak in your front yard. That's what axes are for. No period warrior in his right mind would ever have considered using a sword for such tasks except perhaps in the most dire of circumstances. And remember, swords might cost a lot nowadays, but they cost even more back in the day.

When storing, coat the sword with oil: You don't have to pour on the oil. Just a light layer will do. WD-40 works fine, as do any oils made for firearms. There's moisture in the air, and this can lead to rust on your sword. The oil helps prevent this from happening. Also, make sure the oil you use is non-organic; you definitely don't want corn oil.

Don't touch the blade!: This is a pet peeve of mine. The first thing that inevitably happens when you show someone a sword is they touch the blade. NO! Stop that! Fingers have oil on them, but not the good kind of oil that helps protect the sword. Oil from our hands can actually induce rusting, and can even leave fingerprint-shaped marks.

Wax your sword: That's right, I said "wax." This is especially important if you're going to be storing that sword for a long time. Many shops that sell swords and Renaissance fairs will have a special sword wax for sale, but some weapon smiths say a good car wax will work just as well.

Dry storage: Don't ever forget that swords rust. And even all that oil and wax you've added might not be enough. To this end, when storing your sword, make sure it is in a dry area without a lot of humidity.

Don't sharpen your sword: This is especially true for Japanese swords. It takes a lot of skill to sharpen a sword, and it's a task best left to experts. If you absolutely have to have a sword sharpened, contact a professional sword smith and see if they'll do it for you or if they know of someone who can do it for you. Taking a sharpening stone or a turning wheel to your blade might only scratch up and mar the weapon, but it could possibly ruin it altogether.

Already rusted?: If your sword already has rust on it, my preferred way of dealing with this is a little olive oil and a Scotch-brite pad. This shouldn't scratch the metal of your blade, unless maybe you scour and scour really hard. Other folks may tell you to use a copper wire brush or steel wool, but I've witnessed swords scratched up pretty well from such use.

What about the handle?: Many sword handles will be made of wood. Lemon oil will help protect the wood and keep it from cracking. If your sword's handle is wrapped in leather, you can clean the leather with a paste wax or maybe mink oil (but keep in mind the mink oil will make that leather handle really, really slippery ... so you might want to opt for the wax.

Be careful: You knew this one was coming, didn't you? In the modern world, too many people seem to think of swords as toys. Swords are not toys. They are deadly weapons. Even some cheap, theatrical sword bought for ten bucks has the potential to harm. Remember that at all times when you are handling a sword. You are handling a deadly weapon. Treat it as such. Swords can wound, maim and kill. So, just be careful. And enjoy your sword(s).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Regina Spektor - Laughing With

5 Books Zombie Fans Must Read

World War Z
by Max Brooks
I'm starting off with Brooks' World War Z because this book is more than just a zombie novel. It's one of the finest pieces of fiction published in the last decade or so. Really. I swear. I'm not just saying that because I like zombie books. World War Z is literature. The basis of the book is that it's a collection of stories told by survivors of a great war against the zombies. It reads real, very real. Sometimes too real. Yes, there's horror, and there's some of the humor often associated with Max Brooks (he is the son of actor/director Mel Brooks, after all), but there's also a nice touch of pathos here. The stories in World War Z aren't really about the zombies. They're about us, the humans. And therein lies the strength of this fine piece of fiction.

Book of the Dead
edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector
The oldest book listed here, first published in 1989, it's also one of the best. It's a collection of short stories about zombies, and there is some fine writing here. My personal favorite short story is probably "Like Pavlov's Dog" by Steven R. Boyett, but there's a little something here for all zombie and horror fans, including a short story by Stephen King that still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Truly, you need to read this if you're into zombies.

City of the Dead
by Brian Keene
Brian Keene's name has pretty much become synonymous with zombie fiction in horror circles. He's quite well known for his novels about the walking dead. Of the lot he's written, City of the Dead is my favorite. It's about a group of humans who have found protection of sorts in a fortified skyscraper, but hundreds of thousands of walking dead outside the building are trying to break in. And these zombies aren't slow, nor are they stupid.

by Stephen King
Cell is the closest King has come to a traditional zombie novel, though his monsters aren't exactly zombies, at least not the traditional brainless, soulless zombies. Still, they're close enough you couldn't tell the difference once you were being chomped upon. As King often does, he brings his own uniqueness to this tale, even bringing up possible terrorism which could have caused his zombie-like uprising. King fans will like this book. Zombie fans will find plenty to enjoy, too.

Monster Planet
by David Wellington
Much like author Brian Keene, David Wellington has become known as a zombie writer. He's best known for his "Monster" trilogy of books, Monster Island, Monster Nation, and the novel mentioned here, Monster Planet. This book is my favorite. Traditionalists might not enjoy this book because the fictional world Wellington has created is filled with more undead than just zombies, like mummies and even the ever-powerful liches, but there's still plenty of good reading here. Also like Keene's books, Wellington's novels tend to focus quite a bit on action and a little less on the moodiness of more conservative horror.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dark Side of Io screenplay for sale

If you like horror and science fiction mixed, I've got something for you.

In a bit of self-publishing, I've uploaded my screenplay "Dark Side of Io" onto Amazon. The screenplay is now available for the Kindle at a price of only $1.00. And in case you're wondering, yes, my screenplay "Dark Side of Io" is based upon my short story of the same name (which also happens to be for sale in my collection called "Sever" on the Kindle).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

5 Good books about genre writing, by actual authors

How to Write Action/Adventure Novels
by Michael Newton
Michael Newton is best known for his action writing in the Executioner series of books and his non-fiction writings about serial killers. With more than 200 titles to his name, he's an author you need to listen to when he offers advice. This particular book, How to Write Action/Adventure Novels, comes from the late 1980s, but most of it is still relevant today. Also, there's plenty of advice to be found here that is applicable to crime novels, thriller books and just about any genre of fiction which could include law enforcement, spies, military, etc.

On Writing Romance
by Leigh Michaels
Leigh Michaels is a romance author who has had published more than 80 books, so you might want to pay attention to her advice if you want to break into that market. And if you want to go beyond what this book has to offer, Michaels offers an online class where you can learn even more.

The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West: From 1840-1900
by Candy Moulton
Whether you're interested in writing strictly westerns, or you just want to write other types of tales featured during that time period, this is the book for you. Not only does Moulton cover the basics for gunfighters and outlaws and lawmen, but she goes far beyond these stereotypes of the Old West and gets into the daily lives of the people. What kind of buggies and wagons were available? What about clothes? Food? All this and more can be found in this guide.

Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life
by Terry Brooks
If you are interested in writing fantasy, you could do much worse than listening to Terry Brooks, who has been a published novelists in the field for more than 30 years. His biggest popularity has been in his series of Shannara novels and Landover novels. In this non-fiction book, Brooks writes about what has worked for himself over the years, and he talks some about the mindset of a writer. At least his mindset. And some of it will likely sound familiar. Especially the parts about your fictional characters sometimes seeming more real than the real people you meet every day.

On Writing
by Stephen King
Arguably the most successful novelist of all time, and definitely the most successful horror writer of all time, Stephen King is an author with tips for beginning writers that could seem to drip gold. Here King talks about what it takes to become a professional novelist, and he goes into quite a bit about his personal life, how it shaped him into the writer he is today. Fans or horror, writing and King himself shouldn't miss this book.