Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No. 11 - Dreamcatcher

by Stephen King

Started: January 27
Finished: February 7

Notes: One of the handful of King novels I've yet to read. Here goes.

Mini review: The best of the last four or five King novels I've read. A real pleasure to read. There's a car chase that happens in the last half of the book that drags on for too long, but otherwise this was an excellent story.

Monday, January 26, 2009

No. 10 - Tricks

by Ed McBain

Started: January 26
Finished: January 27

Notes: Keeping with my recent hard-boiled reading, I thought I'd return to my favorite and another in his long series of 87th Precinct novels. This one interests me because it takes place on a Halloween night, and two decades before 24, this novel is supposed to take place entirely within one shift of the precinct.

Mini review: Another excellent read from McBain. Perhaps the most tense one yet, with several plots running alongside one another, sometimes rubbing shoulders. I can't get enough of this author. I'm going to have to try out some of his fiction besides the 87th Precinct stories, but I've still got plenty of those stories to read, too.

Friday, January 23, 2009

No. 9 - The Simple Art of Murder

by Raymond Chandler

Started: January 23
Finished: January 26

Notes: I gave this author a shot a couple of years ago, but his writing didn't blow me away, though it didn't suck either. Thought I'd give him another chance. This book is a collection of short stories from the 1930s and thereabouts, and also included is one essay on detective/mystery fiction.

Mini review: I didn't care much for the first story, and the last one was too longwinded though not a bad story. But the two stories in the middle were quite good. The essay was a bit difficult to understand, as was some of the dialogue in the stories, as Chandler has a tendency to use lots of 1930s street slang that went over my head (though not all of it ... I mean, heck, I know what a "gat" is, fer cryin' out loud). There was enough here to keep me interested in trying more from this writer.

Monday, January 12, 2009

No. 8 - The Godfather's Revenge

by Mike Winegardner

Started: January 12
Finished: January 23

Notes: Yep, this novel is a continuation of the Godfather movies, and more specifically, the Godfather novel by the late Mario Puzo. This novel was a Christmas present from the wife. We both are big fans of the movies, and I liked the original novel.

Mini review: The plot here is pretty interesting, though somewhat implausible in that in hints at organized crime connections to the assassination of the president in 1964 (the dates and names are slightly changed as this is a work of fiction). I like all of the newer characters, but I didn't care much for the portrayal of the tried-and-true characters such as Tom Hagen and Michael Corleone. The portrayal of the known characters didn't work for me as I remember them from the original novel by Puzo and the movies. The writing was decent, but not exciting. There were a few places where there was too much telling and not enough showing. The Nick Geraci character was by far my favorite.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Taking a break

My life, as has been the case so much for the last couple of years since I moved back to my hometown, is a mess of late. Yet again, I need a new job.

But I'm not here today to write about all the woes of unemployment and unpaid bills, etc.

I'm writing about my current projects.

I'm taking some time off.

No, I'm not stopping writing. But I've recently finished the latest (and maybe last?) round of rewrites on my fantasy trilogy. My original plan was to then get to work editing a novel of a friend of mine, but he told me to hold off for a while because he's doing some rewriting.

So, what to do? I have plans for another novel, but I don't want to get into a project that big right now while I'm busy looking for work.

Instead, I'm going back to short stories, at least for a while. I'm currently editing/rewriting two short stories I wrote several months back then shelved them for a while to let them stew. Once I'm finished with those two stories and have them sent off to editors, I'll probably start some new stories.

Short stories have become a break for me, while novels are more like work.

So, I'm taking a break. But I'm still writing. Happy? I am.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

No. 7 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

Started: January 10
Finished: January 12

Notes: This is the first book I'm getting to on my list of books I want to read. I have seen this movie and found it quite awful, but I've always heard the book is much, much better. Besides, I like humor and some science fiction and this combines both. Also, this is one of those books everyone seems to have read but me, so I guess it's time I got to it.

Mini review: Full of silliness, which is fine if that's what you are in the mood for. Unfortunately, I wasn't. It was a fun, fast read, but my frame of mind wasn't there. Nothing turned me off, however, so I'll have to give this author another try in the future. Definitely better than the movie.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

No. 6 - We Have Always Lived in the Castle

by Shirley Jackson

Started: January 8
Finished: January 10

Notes: If you aren't familiar with author Shirley Jackson, you should be, especially if you have interests in being a writer of dark fiction. Jackson is probably best known for her story "The Lottery." I've read some of her short fiction, but this is the first novel of hers that I've opened.

Mini review: An excellent tale. Basically, hopefully without giving too much away, this is the story of a small town's local haunted house, or more accurately, how it became to be the local legend that it is. There are no ghosts to be found here, but there is plenty that's deeply disturbing, mostly dealing with one family's history and their secrets. Modern reading audiences might find this one a bit slow going, but the book is short and I enjoyed it immensely.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

No. 5 - Deadlines: An Anthology of Horror and Dark Fiction

edited by Cheryl Mullenax

Started: January 6
Ended: January 8

Notes: In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit right up front my short story "The Death of Lester Williams" appears in this horror anthology from Comet Press. But I've got to read all the other stories, right? Of course I do. Originally these were all tales published at the ezine Crimson Highway.

Mini review: There's some real cool stuff here. There were a couple of stories I really liked, and as can be expected there were one or two that just weren't right for me. But that's okay. Worth reading if you're a fan or short horror fiction.

Marlin Model 1894 Cowboy

I owned this lever-action Marlin rifle with an octagonal barrel in .357 magnum.

I loved this rifle. It's probably my favorite of the rifles I've owned.

First off, I love the .357 magnum cartridge because it's great for just about everything ... target shooting, hunting (though nothing too big), self defense, cowboy action shooting, etc. I also loved that this rifle was in this caliber because it also meant I could shoot the less-kicking .38s from it, making it even smoother for target practice. But still, even though .357 magnums pack a kick in a handgun, in this rifle there wasn't much of a kick.

The feel of this weapon in my hands was also quite superb. There was a good, solid heft but it was light enough to carry all day. The only complaint I might have in this department is that for me the wooden stock was a bit too smooth, making it a bit slippery to hold in hot weather, but this could easily be remedied with shooting gloves or in other ways.

I was a decent shot with this firearm, too. I can't boast too much as I don't consider myself any kind of a sharpshooter or expert on guns, but within 50 yards I could definitely hit what I want with this weapon. Within a hundred yards, I was still pretty accurate. Beyond those distances, I did the best I could, but any failings there weren't the fault of the weapon.

Also, this was a finely made weapon. The craftsmanship was solid.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

George Orwell quotes

Considering I just finished a book by him, I figure it's time I listed some of my favorite quotes from British writer George Orwell. Some of these are from the book I just read, but many are not, some from non-fiction and others from fiction. Keep in mind most of these quotes were written during or right after World War II.

"Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money."

"The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude."

"When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, 'I am going to produce a work of art.' I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing."

"All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery."

"Good prose is like a window pane."

"As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me."

"In any case I find that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it."

"It is very rare to meet a foreigner, other than an American, who can distinguish between English and Scots or even English and Irish."

"It should be noted that there is now no intelligentsia that is not in some sense 'left.' "

"Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again."

" 'Pure' pacifism ... can only appeal to people in very sheltered positions."

"An army of unemployed led by millionaires quoting the Sermon on the Mount -- that is our danger."

"However little we may like it, toughness is the price of survival."

"Patriotism has nothing to do with Conservatism."

"Many political words are similarly abused. ... Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different."

"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible."

"In prose, the worst thing you can do with words is to surrender them."

"Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

"Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket."

"All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting."

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

"Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it."

"Enlightened people seldom or never possess a sense of responsibility."

"Four legs good, two legs bad."

"He was an embittered atheist, the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him."

"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever."

"Liberal: a power worshipper without power."

"Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness."

"On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time."

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

"Prolonged, indiscriminate reviewing of books is a quite exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting job. It not only involves praising trash but constantly inventing reactions towards books about which one has no spontaneous feeling whatever."

"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting."

"So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot. "

"The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun. "

"The best books... are those that tell you what you know already."

"The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it."

"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."

"War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it."

"War is evil, but it is often the lesser evil."

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

"When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic."

No. 4 - Perpetuity

by Dr. David Chambers

Started: January 5
Finished: January 6

Notes: This is a non-fiction book that was a Christmas present from my mother. This book is written by the pastor of her church, and the back of the cover sounds pretty interesting, concerning how history repeats itself. The book is supposed to be a look at the major empires throughout history and their failings, and how this relates to America today.

Mini review: I found this one a bit simplistic, but it's meant to be as it's a basic overview of the faults of earlier empires and a look at the faults of the current United States. The author is hopeful, however, that the U.S. can still turn things around. As can be expected from a pastor, he more than suggests the downfall of ancient civilizations has been due to not living (or governing) by Biblical standards. I can't disagree with him, though I think the issues are more complicated than that, though he admits to this at times. A decent read. I thought this book might be quite appropriate for a young person in their teens who is beginning to study Christianity and history, or for the Christian who is a casual reader of history.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

No. 3 - Why I Write

by George Orwell

Started: January 3
Finished: January 4

Notes: This is a collection of essays by the famous author, a writer I appreciate, so I wanted to see what he has to say about the writing craft.

Mini review: Quite an interesting little read. It doesn't focus as much on writing as I would like, having a rather lengthy centerpiece concerning British politics during World War II, but even the parts not about writing were of interest to me.

It was a good day to be a writer

Made a visit to Morris Book Shop yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to find they carry two anthologies that have stories from me. The anthologies are Deadlines, which features my dark Appalachian tale "The Death of Lester Williams," and Return of the Sword which has my Sword and Sorcery story "Deep in the Land of the Ice and Snow."

This was the first time I have ever walked into a bookstore and found books with stories from me. Hell yeah! Can ya give me an AMEN!!!

I bought a copy of Deadlines because I didn't have one yet, and I made sure to sign Return of the Sword, which was another first. My first book signing! I just put my name, not really knowing what else to put, though I should've come up with something funky or funny, I suppose. I'll have to think about it for future signings.

Friday, January 02, 2009

No. 2 - The Mugger

by Ed McBain

Started: January 2
Finished: January 3

Notes: Thought I'd kick the year off with a fast, easy read and McBain always supplies.

Mini review: As always, a delight to return to McBain's 87th Precinct novels. I think one of the things I like best about his serial fiction is that when I begin reading one, it's like catching up with some old friends I haven't seen in a while. This novel is one of the earlier ones, from 1956, and I think I've come to like those early ones the best; that latter-day stories (from the 1980s to near recent, before the author's a death) are still good, but that hardboiled edge works best for me when told in stories from the 1950s and thereabouts.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Goals for 2009

Last year on January 1, I listed my goals for the year. Some of them I reached, some I didn't. But here I'm going to list my goals for 2009:
  • Finish my trilogy once and for all, not counting any changes suggested by an editor. This should be an easy one. In fact, I'm only three chapters from accomplishing this one.
  • Getting published the first book of my trilogy. This one's tougher to accomplish, but I'm working on it. There's some behind the scenes stuff going on that I won't talk of here because nothing is official yet, but I have my fingers crossed. If what's in-the-works falls through, then I'll move ahead.
  • Start a new novel. I meant to do this one last year, but too many other projects and life got in the way. I'm hoping to do this one this year, and I hope to get at least the first draft of the new novel finished. This novel will most likely be a stand-alone mainstream novel; I've got a basic outline already worked out.
  • More short stories. I'm actually getting low on short stories to submit since I've had so many published during 2008. I've got about 10 out there floating around now, and I've got 2 or 3 that have been written but not edited.
  • I have a special project I've been meaning to get to for some time. Editing a novel for a writer friend of mine. His story originally was a screenplay, but he turned it into a novel and few years ago, and he's wanting me to do the editing/rewriting. This is another project I meant to accomplish in 2008, but it got put off because I was busy and my friend has gone back to do some more work on his novel. He's even asked me to put this one on hold for a while since I'm busy with my trilogy, but I'm hoping he and I can get this one taken care of this year. I think he's got an interesting story, one I wouldn't have thought of, and I'd like to see it get to print.

Okay, that's a lot in one year, at least for me. But rather to be ambitious than to not do anything at all.

Here's to 2009! May it be better than the last year.