Sunday, December 31, 2006

Favorite Fictional Characters (Animals)

One thing I loved to read when I was a kid was Animal Stories. Jim Kjelgaard and Walter Farley were two of my favorite writers at that time. I still have fond memories of many of their tales. In fact, I still own many of their books. In keeping with that, and with my yesterday's post, I thought it only fair to put up my Top Ten Favorite list of fictional animal characters. Here they are:

1. Pagoo, a hermit crab from the story of the same name. A children’s book by Holling C. Holling. One of my favorite books of all time.

2. Desert Dog, a greyhound abandoned in the desert who must learn to survive, from Jim Kjelgaard’s book.

3. Flame, also known as “The Island Stallion,” from the Walter Farley books.

4. The Black Stallion, also from Walter Farley.

5. Mike. Steve Costigan’s white bulldog, from the Robert E. Howard stories.

6. White Fang, from the Jack London book.

7. Buck, from Call of the Wild by Jack London.

8. Charlotte, from Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White.

9. Black Gold, the horse in the book of the same name, by Marguerite Henry.

10. The unnamed polar bear from the book The Strange Intruder by Arthur Catherall.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Favorite Fictional Characters

Over on his site, Christopher Mills has a list of his top ten fictional characters. It seemed like a blogworthy sort of thing to do, so I thought I’d join in. First up below are my top ten, from written fiction only. Below that are ten from TV/Movies. These are as of right now, of course, and subject to change.

From Prose:
1. Karl Edward Wagner’s “Kane”
2. Robert E. Howard’s “Bran Mak Morn”
3. ERB’s “John Carter”
4. Ken Bulmer’s “Dray Prescot”
5. John D. MacDonald’s “Travis McGee”
6. Louis L’Amour’s “Rye Tyler” (From To Tame a Land)
7. Howard’s “Conan”
8. David Gemmell’s “Druss”
9. Poul Anderson’s “Flandry of Terra.”
10. Jim Kjelgaard’s “Desert Dog.” (Gotta get one animal in there.)

From TV/Movies
1. James T. Kirk
2. Spock
3. Kolchack (From the original series)
4. Kelly (From Charlie’s Angels)
5. Sean and Christopher (from Nip/Tuck)
6. Little Joe (From Bonanza)
7. Matt Dillon
8. Ripley
9. Pinhead
10. Cartman

Friday, December 29, 2006

Catching Up

Last night I took a little time to go through my files, to see what stories and poetry I have out and what needs to be resubmitted. I used to do this at least once a month, but it seems today that when I sit down to write I usually have deadlines looming and need to get right into new stuff. I found a bunch of items lying around in my files that needed to go out, so I submitted four stories, got six poems ready to go in January when the Science Fiction Poetry Association begins its reading period, and identified a couple of snail mail magazines I want to send pieces to today. After that I’ve got to get back onto two non-fiction pieces that are due just after the start of the new year.

As an aside, I wrote this entry on my laptop this morning as I sat out on my back deck and watched the robins splattering around in the puddles in the yard. Amazing how nice and warm it is here for December 29. There was enough wind to stir the trees and ring the wooden wind chimes, but it had no chill edge and I worked in sweat pants and a t-shirt. For those of you in the cold climates reading this, I’m sorry. Uhm, well, almost.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Elementary, My Dear Stewart

In one of his comments on this blog, Stewart mentioned “grammar” as a possible element. My first though was “yes,” but then I began to think more about it. If we add grammar we’d need to add vocabulary too, it seems. And what about punctuation? But grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation almost seem more like “tools” that we use to manipulate our elements, like the particle accelerator used by the physicists. This is probably needlessly complicated. Maybe I’m at risk of disappearing right up my own particle accelerator and ending up more quarked than I already am. Anybody have any thoughts? Grammar, vocab and punctuation? Are they elements or tools? Is it even useful to separate elements and tools?

I was also thinking of something else. Most storytelling is linear with the occasional flashback, but some writers, such as Jim Sallis, often make non-linearity a major part of their work. Is linear versus non-linear a part of “pacing?” Or is there a better name for such an issue?

By the way, the Sphinxy One has a nice post on blogging over on her site that suggests a relationship to “The Great Conversation.” Could be. Could be.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Periodic Writing Table, addendum

Candice pointed out that we could add "Pa" for "Pacing" to our table of elements. And since Stewart has brought up "concept" a couple of times as a separate element from plot, then maybe we need to add that. This would give us:

Character - Ch
Plot - Pl
Style -St
Setting -Se
Mood - M
Voice - V
Point-of-View - PV
Pacing - Pa
Concept - Co

I'm leaning toward Style being the "expression" of voice. Voice is within you as a writer, while style is the expression of that voice on the page. Could be then that these aren't separate elements, but merely altered versions of the same basic element, like Ozone is a special case of oxygen.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Periodic Writing Table

Our discussion of Plotting recently has gotten me thinking. Is there one element of writing that is more important than any other? Koontz talked about "character" for instance, and I've heard many other writers say they start with character. But some writers say they have trouble reading "un-plotted" works, and so they never get to character. For me, good prose style is also important in my reading, but sometimes I can get past that if I find a great plot or an interesting character. Finally, I decided I better lay out what exactly the elements of writing are before I start trying to analyze them. That said, here is my Periodic Table of Writing. What have I missed? And just what the Hell is “voice” anyway?

Character - Ch
Plot - Pl
Style -St
Setting -Se
Mood - M
Voice - V
Point-of-View - PV

Monday, December 25, 2006

Joshua's First Christmas

What follows is a Christmas poem I wrote for my 19 year old's first Christmas. How did the time get away? Merry Christmas to all.

CHRISTMAS PARTY

It was late Christmas Eve in December so fair
With not one flake of snow swirling in the air
The tree was all dressed, the lights blinking awake
The turkey and stuffing and the hams were all baked
Mary was up the stairs, making all the beds
Joshua with me, banging rattles on his head

I was reading a book when I heard such a sound
That I raced to the window and glanced all around
In the sky came a jingle, as if of sleigh bells
And a voice calling down "Merry Christmas" as well
There landed a bright sleigh and Santa stepped out
And the elves that were with him raised up a shout

Old Santa's broad face was cherry red from the wind
And his whiskers were frozen all white to his chin
Rudolph's nose was glowing and so was St. Nick's
Both of them were blinking. Now that's quite a trick
Since we hadn't a chimney Santa came in the back door
He said not a word but spread his bag on the floor

He took out the presents, wrapped in red and green
And he laughed all the while, or so it seemed
He lay them under the tree, spread out with such care
And Joshua sat still with wide eyes and stared
I went to the refrigerator to fetch Santa a bite
And when I came back I saw such a sight

A fairy wind had blown up and thrown back the door
And in had come elves to dance on my floor
They had turned on the stereo and had it real loud
And smoke from their pipes rose up in a cloud
One had gotten into my brandy, another my beer
And Joshua was riding on one of the reindeer

Santa was on the table, cutting a jig
I couldn't get around him, his belly was so big
Everywhere you looked there were elves, elves, elves
Falling around and making fools of themselves
They were screaming and yelling like I'd never seen
And I can tell you this. I've had some strange dreams

Elves standing on their heads, elves on the ceiling
Elves on the shoulders of reindeer that were kneeling
Two of them were swinging around on the chandelier
And another was watering the tree with his beer
I knew I had trouble when I heard glass shatter
And Mary called down "Now what's the matter?"

I yelled at the elves and chased them to their sleigh
Santa called to his team, up they went and away
I caught up Joshua before they went into the sky
He was having a ball and trying to fly
Santa yelled back before going out of sight
"Thanks for the brandy and have a good night."

About that time Mary came down and says
"How in the world did you two make this mess?"
I told her the story. She thought I was lying
And Joshua ain't talking, though he's sure trying

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dean Koontz on Plotting

I picked this up off an Amazon plog. It's Dean Koontz's response to a question about plotting:

Q: Which do you think of first: character or plot? --John, Columbus

I do not plot. Not consciously. Characters drive the events of the story and take me places I never would have anticipated. This does not mean that every book starts with a character. Some do--like ODD THOMAS, in which I knew the character in detail long before I knew what his story was going to be. In books like THE HUSBAND, the hook--some would call it the concept--comes first, but the concept is not a plot. It is more a situation, a premise. With that, I have to know who the lead characters are, have to understand them, and in the understanding of them, I find the plot chapter by chapter. This feels organic to me, and character-driven stories feel more real, even when they are stories of the fantastic, than do plot-driven books.

In personal news, I finished my article on Jim Sallis so I'm taking the day off. Unfortunately, I had a bit too much drink last night and am not feeling very good at the moment on my day off.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Short Story, RIP

Stewart Sternberg is talking about what is happening to the short story over on his blog and that inspired a few thoughts. He believes the short story as a form is dying, and I tend to agree with him. But I will mourn that death until my own last breath.

I like short stories. I like to read them and I like to write them. Along with poetry, I consider them a different kind of art form from novels, and sometimes they are the "perfect" art form. No novel could express so perfectly the ideas behind Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations,” or Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Nine Billion Names of God.” No novel could equal the absolute horror of “Hangover” by John D. Macdonald. There are reasons why “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes and “Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov were better as short stories than when they were expanded to novels.

We humans live our lives as moments. Just as novels are made up of scenes, so too are our lives. Even if our lives are epic, we don’t experience them that way, we don’t know they were epic until--usually after we are dead--someone writes about us. And none of us are ever going to be trilogies. The short story is really more like the way we actually exist. We lose it at the risk of losing ourselves.

And at the risk of sounding a little harsh, those of you who never read poetry or short stories should remember a little quote, which I’ll paraphrase here:

First they came for the poets, but I wasn’t a poet so I did nothing. Then they came for writers of short stories, but I never read or wrote stories and so I did nothing. Then they came for the novelists and the readers of novels, and I was one of those. But by that time there wasn’t anyone else left to help us.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Plotters versus Pantsers

Since some discussion of plotting is going around I thought I'd throw in my 1.5 cents on the Plotters versus Seat-of-the-Pants writers. I started out writing short stories, often no more than a couple or three thousand words, and often I wrote them in a white heat. In addition, most of these were horror stories, where mood and atmosphere is often as important as the "events" that take place. For such pieces I really didn't need to do much plotting, so seat-of-the-pants it was.

When I wrote my first novel, well, my first decent novel, which was Swords of Talera, I used the same strategy that I'd learned in short stories. I didn't plot it out, just let it unfold. It was fun, perhaps the most fun I've ever had writing. But I can look back now and see that there are some weaknesses to that book that I don't believe are there in the two sequels. The latter two books were plotted, albeit not to the point where I developed a detailed outline. Instead, I knew where I wanted to begin, where I wanted to end, and at least several major points I wanted to hit along the way. I think the books are better for it.

For Cold in the Light, I initially just started writing, without thought of what might lie ahead. But after I got a couple of chapters in I realized I had a long piece coming and I stopped, spent some time plotting out the story chapter by chapter, and then rewrote the first couple of chapters to set up the rest. However, I still didn't know the end of that book until I finally got there. But at least with the steps planned out the ending became inevitable.

For short stories, I like the freedom of not plotting, of just spinning out the words to see where they go. This results in plenty of false starts, but those starts are usually no more than a page or so. I don't think I'll write another novel without a much more detailed plot, however, which is why I'm reading along carefully with C.S. Harris as she talks of plotting over on her blog.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Writing Life

I turned in my grades Sunday and Monday began my vacation. I did a bit of writing that day but mostly had to Christmas shop, run errands, and handle various life details that had piled up during final exam week. Yesterday was the first day of my writing holiday, not a holiday from writing, but a holiday in which to write. Man it was nice. I slept in until nearly 10:00, then checked email and did some blogging things, then went to the UPS store in Covington to mail my mom's Christmas present. I had lunch there, then came home and had a quick nap. After that, I started work on the Jim Sallis article, and with the combination of being rested and having uninterrupted time, I knocked out about a third of it, which included substantial fact checking. I fixed a supper of pork chops and corn for Lana and me and then hit the article again. I finished about half of it by late evening and rough drafted some more, and that was despite taking several fifteen to twenty minute breaks here and there to talk with Lana or watch a bit of TV.

Days like this make me wish I wrote full time. It's so nice to be able to write and still get some rest and get other things done, like eat a leisurely meal. Too often during the school year, writing means giving up an hour or two of sleep or grabbing a quick tuna sandwich and back to the computer. It almost always means that I miss whatever I might find interesting on TV. (I guess I'm fortunate there's not that much interesting on the tube.)

But, of course, when I look at what they will pay me for the article I realize that even if I finish it in two days it wouldn't match my salary, and considering the amount of reading I've already done for this piece it doesn't come close to what I typically make at my job in an hour. Considering bills and a 19 year old son, I'm not going to be giving up the day job anytime soon. But at least I have now; I have Christmas break. Let the writing holiday continue.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hannibal Rising

I just finished reading Hannibal Rising, primarily because I have an article due pretty soon on Thomas Harris. Despite reading it for work, however, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was an easy read, and didn't have, to me, the kinds of plot twists and turns that marked Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs, but it did tell an interesting story and brought out a lot of stuff from Hannibal Lecter's childhood that show how he got to be who he is. I'm sort of torn about that, and as I work on the article I may post a few more thoughts on this subject.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Return to your Regularly Scheduled Blog

I'm going to put RZ E NEWS on the shelf for a bit and return to more serious commentary. It's pretty hard for me to maintain the illusion of comedy anyway, seeing as how I was born without a sense of humor.

Sidney Williams, Stewart Sternberg, and Wayne Allen Sallee have all posted on the issue of "Why We Blog" lately, and you can find commentary on those posts at their website. Stewart has pointed out that the key to increasing your blog traffic is to "have something interesting to say." One point about that, though, is that "interesting" exists more in the reader than in the blogger. Obviously, to many people, Paris Hilton is an absolutley fascinating person. I don't feel the same way, and I'm not going to have much or anything to say about such celebrities. I remind myself, however, that I'm not likely to sell my writing to "most" of the people who find Paris fascinating. My potential audience is different and I have to find and post here that which interests "them."

In related news, C. S. Harris is posting over on her site a series about how she plots, especially related to her current historical mystery series. I found the first entry quite informative so you folks interested in plotting might check it out.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Denial of Truth; A Cure for Everything

Williams Denies Charges. According to this interpretive reporter, Sidney Williams, revealed the other day on this very blog to be Satan’s actual love child, has called the accusation, “rash” and “premature.” He claims that Azarius is only a novel and not the blueprint for damnation that, in fact, it is. Let me ask you, Mr. Williams. If the charges are false, then why are you never seen in public without your pants? Is it not that you are afraid to reveal the Satanic tail that is the genetic legacy from your father?

Save your Life

Save your life and buy Cold in the Light by Charles Gramlich. A local scientist, whose name is being withheld at his request but who has a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, has revealed that the mere purchase of the book Cold in the Light by esteemed author Charles Gramlich can add years to your life and protect you from all sorts of diseases, including cancer of the big toe and hair follicles. In one particular experiment, mice who were exposed to repeated visual flashes of the phrase "Cold in the Light" were found to lose weight and be 72 percent more attractive to mice of the opposite sex. This news is likely to spark a rush on Amazon and other fine establishments where Cold in the Light is sold. So, get your copy today and start feeling better immediately!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Today's Top Story

Your syncopated correspondent has discovered that Sphinx Ink is actually a….pseudonym. Believe it or not, Sphinx Ink is not her real name. Although several eye witnesses to Sphinx’s actual identity have disappeared under mysterious circumstances, this reporter will continue to dig for information. Already we know there are lawyers involved, but as I've said before, somewhere, "I'll take a bullet for the truth. As long as it's a small bullet in some non-vital place." Stay glued to this blog and any day now I’ll reveal the secret. Yeah, any day now.

This Just In

Stewart Sternberg Caught in Flagrante Delicto with a Squid! Some witnesses say the squid was female. Others claim that it was, in fact, Cthulhu. Basil Ratbane, who took the photographs of the incident, is holding out for more money so at the present time you'll just have to take the word of your astounded correspondent as to the truth of this case. However, check out this picture of Stewart, to the right of the page, and decide for yourself whether he seems the type to sleep with a squid.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Torn from Today's Birdcage Liners

Turmoil in New Orleans.

This ineffectual correspondent has discovered that C.S. Harris and Candice Proctor are conjoined twins who were never separated at birth. Furthermore, the two are married to the same man, a former KGB assassin and tormented chef. Sources close to the…uhm…triple, suggest that the former assassin prefers one of the twins over the other and that this is causing serious domestic strife in the household. A picture of the twins is to the right side of the screen here. Notice how cleverly the twins are turned to the side so that only one is visible. A back pack hides the protruding portions of the second twin.

Feel Good Story Goes Bad

My revelation of the secret marriage of Clifford and Cougar has already generated controversy. I have been contacted by PETA, which has asked me to cease and desist publicizing this marriage. Apparently, Cougar wore only a bit of jewelry and a full-length fur coat for the ceremony, which can be seen in the accompanying photograph. Although I am resistant to pressures to back away from the truths I report here, I have been personally attacked by noted PETA member Pamela Anderson Lee-Rock. I plan to have dinner with the former Baywatch model later this week at my place to discuss our...options. Trust me, your cromulent correspondent will reveal all to you, my faithful readers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

RZ E NEWS

An examination of an ancient manuscript dating all the way back to 1989 has revealed that Sidney Williams, mildly mannered writer by day, is, in fact, the illegitmate son of Satan, conceived during a single night of passion with Yeoman Rand. (Those of you who do not recognize the name of Yeoman Rand are probably either too young for this blog, or insufficiently nerdy). The manuscipt in question is a tome simply called Azarius, which is clearly the name of some sort of demon, and is believed, by this insipid correspondent, to be Williams' name in Hell. A perusal of this "book of evil" easily reveals Williams' parentage. The numbers on the back of the book show three and only three "fives," one less at all points than the 666 of the devil. Furthermore, the book begins with the single line "I'm going to kill a priest," warning enough perhaps of the evil within. And finally, I was rather easily able to find words, rearrange words, or alter words in the actual text to produce such phrases as "father lies," "Satan dad," "mother Rand," and "evil sex."

This is a public service announcement.

This just in: It’s official. Noted Tablet Writer, Clifford, has married his cat. Clifford says that “Cougar…” “is a new breed of cat.” Heh heh heh, if you know what I mean. Pictures of the secret ceremony were taken by Basil Ratbane, who despite his apparent antipathy to this blog, viz a viz his posts, is--in fact--one of my field paparazzi. One of Ratbane's pictures of the Clifford marriage can be found here. This blog will soon carry exclusive photos of the Siberian Honeymoon.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Writing Group Blogs

My writing group talked mostly about blogs last night. Three of six members have them, one more will be joining shortly, and a fifth member is considering it but is holding off for now. Mostly we talked about whether blogs are at all helpful in introducing our work to new readers and, perhaps, in helping sell our writing. So far, those of us who have books out have not noticed any avalanche of sales that could be related to our blogs. However, I have had a couple people tell me here that they would buy my novel, Cold in the Light, which probably doubled my sales for the month.

We also talked about ways to increase our blog traffic and wondered why some blogs attract a lot of attention while others garner mostly silence. I think most of us realize that posting on other folk's blogs helps attract readers to our own blogs, but you're not going to be able to post on enough blogs every day to make a living out of it. We also decided that "controversy" and "personalities" attract a lot of readers to blogs. Both of those might be a bit of a problem for me.

For example, I don't know anyone tremendously famous. Except for Stewart Sternberg, of course. That means I don't have much ready gossip to draw in the readers. And I'm not a terribly controversial guy. However, working with what I have, I introduce my new blog style below:

Razored Zen E. News:

1. A photo was taken of Stewart Sternberg without his underwear on while he was getting out of a car with Paris Hilton. Apparently, something horrible happened to the photographer immediately afterward, however, and the photos have yet to appear. Your intrepid correspondent for RZ E NEWS will remain on this story and will attempt to cover...it up before the world as we know it ceases to exist.

2. Wayne Allen Sallee, noted horrorist, appeared recently with Supermodel Tyra Banks and some bimbo in a black dress. Wayne was clearly bloody about the face and your intrepid correspondent believes that he was badly beaten when a "multi-way" with the two models, William Shatner, and a bunch of kinky tribbles went wrong. If you doubt this story, check out the photograph.

3. Tune in tomorrow when I blow the lid off Sidney Williams' double life.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Eye of Cyclops

I'm reading a book about mutation and at one point the author suggests that early myths of the Cyclops came from folks finding the skulls of elephants and mistaking the opening where the trunk was for a single eye socket. I could certainly see this is a possibility, and I wonder how much of our mythology may have been influenced by such experiences. I've often thought that stories of Dragons and Rocs were probably based on the discovery of dinosaur fossils. I also read recently that the Greeks sometimes found fossils of various types and mistook them for the bodies of gods, which they then rearranged to look more human and reburied.

Humans are imaginative and are natural storytellers. They make up shit all the time. Those of us who are writers should take heart from that fact. What we can do will always be in demand, even if not in the exact form we are used to now. And, thinking about such things, and deliberately trying to incorporate such images in our writing, may be able to help us connect with our readers. I think this may be especially true in fantastic fiction, but any writing could benefit from a dose of mythology.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Plagiarism

My friend Sphinx Ink has posted over on her blog about the case in which Janet Dailey admitted plagiarizing Nora Roberts in at least two of her novels, Notorious and Aspen Gold. What was most disturbing to me, I think, is that some readers seem to be critizing Nora Roberts for "making a big deal" out of it. Janet Dailey stole from Nora Roberts. This isn't a victimless crime. And it wasn't that she borrowed a "phrase" here and there. Whole passages were taken. In reading about the issue, it actually seems to me that Roberts has showed remarkable restraint.

As a teacher, I can tell you that plagiarism is a serious problem, and it is damaging to both the plagiarist and the plagiarized. It needs to be dealt with firmly, although too often it is not. I don't mean to say that Janet Dailey should be ostracized from the writing community. But 1) she should not earn money from plagiarized work, 2) any future work she does should be carefully inspected and rejected if evidence of plagiarism is found, and 3) Janet Dailey should apologize to both Nora Roberts and to her readers. (I believe she has done the last.)

I do want to note, however, that plagiarism is a serious claim and the mere fact that someone is "charged" with plagiarism does not mean that the charge should be accepted as true without further investigation. This happens to famous, money-making authors all the time by folks who want to make some cash or earn a little infamy.

Also, of course, plagiarism needs to be defined carefully when any charge is made. The plagiarism of general ideas is very difficult to determine. Charging Dan Brown with stealing the idea that Jesus had descendents is ridiculous. I've heard that story bandied about in many quarters, long before The Da Vinci Code or Holy Blood, Holy Grail. If one sentence or one phrase is borrowed then making the charge of plagiarism also seems ridiculous, or at least petty. Even if the so called plagiarist did borrow that sentence, it seems most likely that it was accidental rather than a pattern. But when phrase after phrase is borrowed, when whole paragraphs are lifted, that is not an accident and should be pointed out and criticized by everyone who finds it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Working on Fiction

I've actually worked a lot on fiction the last two nights. I'm reading the final book I need to read for the article on Jim Sallis, so when I take a break from that I'm working on a story called "Farhaven." This is actually a story I started many, many years ago but never finished. It's a children's story, and instead of working on some piece that I feel I should work on, I'm working on this one just because I want to. I guess we'll see if that strategy pays off.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Whining?

I was thinking about my writing last night and I believe I've figured out one reason why my fiction product may have dropped this past year. I've forgotten that I'm not a professional fiction writer. What I mean by that is, I don't have to sell my work in order to pay my bills, and yet I'm not taking advantage of the freedom that this fact offers me. I've started a couple of stories recently for anthologies that I know pay pretty decently, but I've been unable to muster up any true passion for the work. I think it's because I'm writing them for the money and exposure rather than from any internal drive to produce. Let me add: It's not that the work I've done on those stories is bad, only that I'm having a hard time driving myself to the computer to work on them. I can't wait to get to the computer when I'm really in love with an idea or a story.

The same considerations don't occur to me when I'm working on non-fiction. I am a professional when it comes to non-fiction. At least, a pretty good chunk of my income depends on my ability to produce articles in my field and related fields. I have them to do and I simply do them. But maybe when it comes to fiction I should let myself just write what I'm enthusiastic about rather than worrying about where to sell it or how much I'll earn.

On the other hand, maybe I need to just stop whining and write already.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"Mad House"

I just finished a longish short story by Richard Matheson that was very good. It's called "Mad House," and involves an English teacher whose goal has long been to write but who never seems to get around to it. Yet, it's never his fault, you see. He has papers to grade, or his wife is holding him back, or reading poor student work has tainted him, or....well, you get the picture. As we find out in the story, of course, he has ample time to write if only he would sit down and do it. But he makes excuses, and his anger and frustration at himself makes him lash out at everyone and everything around him. I have to admit to a little chill here and there throughout the story as I heard the narrator's words coming out of my mouth. I'm certainly not as bad as the story's narrator, but I've made plenty of excuses for my own lack of productivity. It's a good piece of writing that holds a mirror up to our own faces.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Library Thing

My friend Sidney Williams turned me on to the Library Thing, which is sort of an online place to share with other readers about the books that you own and read. I joined up and have added some of my own books. Sid talks more about it on his blog, or you can check the site out itself and it will give you an explanation. Seems like a way for authors and readers to make contact with each other. I also found it fun, although I can see how one might spend a fair amount of time on such a site. It was interesting to see who there had some of the same books I have.

books, reading

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mystery Probe

My writing group met last night. I mentioned that I was reading one of James Sallis's mysteries and that it seemed to me that the mystery genre allowed one a lot of leeway in process and subject matter. One of our female members, who is writing a mystery series now, and who has written romance novels before, said that she actually found mystery to be "more" confining in structure than romance. I believe she was talking about the need for a mystery to be more tightly plotted than a romance. That made sense to me, but then I realized that I'm attracted to "mysteries" in which the puzzle is secondary to an exploration of character and theme. In these kinds of mysteries, like the ones Jim Sallis writes, the plot is not tightly woven and there are a lot of sidetracks to follow. Although I've not read a lot of "mainstream" mysteries, I can imagine the rules for writing one would be more constraining than those for writing in many other genres. But mysteries also seem to allow for a lot of experimentation around the edges of the genre. I wonder if the same thing is true for other genres?

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Importance of Place

The countryside shaped me. As a person and as a writer. But I don't think I realized how much until I moved back to the country after twenty years in suburbia. Cold in the Light was all about the woods, which is where I played throughout much of my childhood. And I've come to realize that most of my best writing has involved the woods in some way or another. I'm an alien in the city; I don't belong. In my more melodramatic moments, I might say that--for a while--I had a brief flirtation with civilization, but the newness has worn off and it's easy to see now the tarnish behind the glitter. Now I'm back where I belong, wrapped in an old world that is new all over. Maybe you can go home again.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Renaissance Festival

Lana and I went to the Louisiana Renaissance Festival yesterday. This happens every year near Hammond during November. It's great fun. There are a lot of booths that sell medieval type clothing, weapons, art. You can shoot arrows and throw axes, and there are a couple of rides for kids. They have a Queen, who always has a court, and often there are parades through the "town." There is a jousting site that is very cool, and also places where they demonstrate glass blowing and older crafts. This year they had tigers. I particularly like the bar where they have comics of various kinds. For a couple of years now we've gone to see Christoff the Insulter," who people pay to insult other people in the bar. He is very good, and very hilarious, although you do NOT want to take your kids, or any kids.

Lana and I had decided that instead of buying each other Christmas presents we would go in together to buy something for the house. We found two things at the festival that we bought. One is a metal sculpted fountain that is absolutely gorgeous, and the other is a sculpted dragon perched on a rock. The lady who did them threw in some metal dragonflies and butterflies, and we are very happy with our acquisitions.

If you get a chance to go to the festival I'd certainly recommend it. A lot of creative people there.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Return of Sword & Planet?

S. M. Stirling has a new book out that is causing some stir in the ranks of us Sword & Planet aficionados. It's called The Sky People, and you can read a sample here. In opening notes, Stirling gives thanks to Burroughs and Otis Adelbert Kline, who were the main early practicioners of this genre, and the prologue certainly has that retro feel. I would love for this genre to return, both because it's about my favorite type of reading, and because it might help develop a market for my own Talera novels. Anyway, I saw today that the book will be offered in my SF Book Club mailing so I may pick it up there. Or else I'll let Lana get me this for Christmas. It's definitely going on my reading pile.

Reading, Sword & Planet

Friday, December 01, 2006

I am Legend

Years ago I remember enjoying a movie called The Omega Man. It starred Charleton Heston as the last normal human trying to stay alive on a world where everyone else has turned into vampires as a result of biological warfare. The movie was based on a book by Richard Matheson called I Am Legend, and I finally got around to reading that book this week, a lapse on my part since it is considered a classic in the horror genre. I have to say that I was disappointed. I didn't think it was well written at all, and for the most part it is very static. We spend most of our time inside a boarded-up house, locked into the thoughts of the main character, Robert Neville. There are very few interactions with any other characters, including the vampires, until the very end. Matheson also glosses over some scenes that could have been quite dramatic, such as when the body of Neville's dead child is stolen by vampires, and when his wife comes back after he's buried her. These powerful scenes are told only in very quick flashbacks that are over almost before they begin. I was looking forward to reading this book but I think this is one of those rare cases, for me, of a movie being better than the book it was based on.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Time Constraints

Just another couple of weeks of school and then I'll be out for about three weeks. I'm looking forward to it, but it looks like I've already scheduled most of the writing that I need to do in that time. I have a couple of articles due by January 1, and I think I'm going to end up with a couple more non-fiction items to do. I have worked off and on on some fiction but it will have to take a backseat again to the non-fiction, which has deadlines attached and guaranteed paydays. Unfortunately, I've been lazy throughout the last half of November, when I did have a little more time to work on fiction. As I get older, the energy to write long hours seems to be declining, and I've found myself doing more relaxing than is typical of me. I did get quite a bit accomplished yesterday on my Jim Sallis article. Today I have to work on making up final exams.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Out of the Fog

The fog was so thick on the 24 mile bridge (the Causeway) this morning that traffic snailed down to 25 mph. The mile markers crawled by, and for the first time ever I really noticed the odd little structures here and there along the bridge as they suddenly loomed like alien outhouses from the mist. For part of the trip, about all I could see were the tailights of the car just in front of me and the ghostly moving shroud of the vehicle to my left. It was an eerie feeling, taking me out of the real world. I was in a kind of burning land where the only reality was movement and the curl of white smoke across my windshield.

But when I came down through the fire place, and reached the sanctuary of my office, I found three emails waiting for me with links to pictures of Brittney Spears flashing her sex. And I realized: the day to day world I live in is far stranger than any misty land I could imagine. Because the real world has people in it, and people are the most bizarre creatures to ever walk the earth.

Can I go back into the mist? For just a little while?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Who Needs a Hero; Who Needs a Villain

Are heroes passe? At my writing group last night we got on the subject of characters, and one of our members remarked on how much they enjoyed the TV series "Lost," in part because all the characters were developed with both positive and negative attributes. None of the characters were completely villainous, and none were completely heroic. Another member of the group remarked that this was good writing, and someone else chimed in about how characters who had only black or white characteristics were "cardboard cutouts."

I thought about this for a while, and I decided that while all my colleagues made good points, and I generally agreed with them, I'm not quite ready to give up the absolute heroes and absolute villains. Sauron from Lord of the Rings is an absolute villain; John Carter of Mars is an absolute hero. And I like them both. I remember them both. I'm glad they exist. (In fiction that is.)

I do think that in real life few people are completely black and white, and I do like when fictional heroes have flaws, as long as they aren't fatal flaws. I can read about Conan the Cimmerian, for example, even when he's a womanizer. I couldn't handle Conan the pedophile. I don't mind when Conan steals from sorcerers or from the rich. I wouldn't like it if he robbed a mother-to-be or kidnapped a child for ransom.

But, I mostly want my fictional heroes to be heroic. I want their flaws to be minimal, and I want them striving constantly to defeat their flaws as well as whatever villain they are facing. In other words, I want them "better" than real life. And I want my villains to be worse. Fiction is not reality, and it fills a need in me that I don't get filled in my day to day life. I want that. I need that.

Writing, Characters, Heroes, Villains

Monday, November 27, 2006

Synchronicity

There have been a lot of synchronicities in my life recently. I mentioned here the "shank" coincidence. There have been many others. Two occurred just this weekend. First, I was telling my son yesterday about a video I'd seen at least a year or two ago in which two men riding a motorcycle had hit a truck with poles in the back and a pole had pierced both of them, locking them together but without killing them. Last night, when I returned home after dropping Josh off with his mom, Lana was watching a new "caught-on-video" show. The video of the two men and the pole showed a few minutes after I sat down with her.

Second, I took Josh to look at four-wheelers this weekend and I also checked out the motorcycles. I told Josh how much I missed my bike and started thinking that maybe I should buy another one since I'm living in the country now. This morning I passed a motorcycle wreck on a country road about a mile from my house. Could I take such incidents as warnings? Should I? A year ago I would have laughed at such a thought. Now, I don't know.

I used to think that I lived a step out of phase with the rest of the world, judging by my day to day experiences with such things as traffic and work. I imagined myself in a sort of "Wink of the Eye" scenario, like from the original Star Trek episode of that name. Somehow, the sudden increase in synchronicities seems to suggest that I'm starting to phase back in.

The world gets weirder. At least my world does.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Miscellania

Our back yard is full of robins as I write this. For the past three days we've been swarmed with them. Not that we mind. Not at all. We'd been lamenting last week the fact that we didn't seem to have a lot of birds around our new place. I've also noticed that we still have a few butterflies during the day, despite several nights of frost. It made me wonder where they are staying at night, and I had an image of some giant ball of butterflies blowing through the forest in the dark hours. Thursday, we also had a sudden influx of giant stinkbugs. These were at least as long as my little finger, with a wingspan close to the width of my entire hand. Prehistoric looking beasties.

In eating news, my son came on Friday and I fixed turkey, rolls and baked potatoes on Saturday. None of it came out quite perfect but it wasn't too bad. Sometimes I give thanks for civilization. The turkey was already smoked so I just had to heat it up, though it came out a touch dry. The rolls were brown and serve and took five minutes to heat. The cranberry sauce came from a can. At least I baked the taters myself.

I'm sorry to see this little break nearly over. Back to work tomorrow. Aieeee!

Friday, November 24, 2006

I Dream of Books

I dreamt that I was in a bookstore last night, not an unusual experience for me by any means. According to my dream, it was a store that I'd been in before, although in reality it doesn't exist. The store sold mostly newer books, comics, and magazines, but under a table of magazines I found a box of older books. Such an experience in real life always thrills me, the thought of what treasures I might discover, and this was true in my dream as well. Eagerly, I pulled the box out and pawed through it.

I found one book that I was very happy with. Now, I'm a big fan of Sword and Planet fiction, like Burroughs wrote with his John Carter of Mars series, and my find was an old Sword and Planet novel that I'd never seen before. It wasn't by Burroughs, or Lin Carter, or Alan Burt Akers (Ken Bulmer), who I knew very well, but was by someone who'd be relatively unknown outside of the field. I can't recall if I even knew the author's name in the dream, but it seems like it was probably by someone like Charles Nuetzel or Mike Sirota. I don't remember the title either, although it had the word "Mond" in it. Perhaps something like "Swords of Mond."

I do remember the cover. It had a yellowish-brown background, with the title in big black letters at the top, and it showed a desert scene of sand and rock with a man riding a cat-beast that looked much like a sabertooth. The man had a lance in his right hand, with a red pennant tied to the head that blew out in an unseen wind. I'd love to read this book, although I suppose to do so I'd have to write it myself.

Does anyone else here ever dream of bookstores and the treasures they contain?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Good Advice from One of Our Finest Writers

In an essay called "Gone So Long," James Sallis gives some advice for writers that you don't often see. He says: "Write about the things that hurt you, write about the things you don't understand." This sounds easy, but I'll tell you it's not. Especially the first part, the "hurt" part. I've tried, in a slightly different way.

In writing horror, I always heard, "Write about what scares you," but I've always struggled in doing so because those things are so personal. I'm not personally afraid of vampires and werewolves, or invasions from outer space. I'm afraid of losing my son, of losing my health. I'm not particularly afraid to die; I'm afraid to suffer.

What hurts and scares you also defines you. These things are at your core, and they do not want to be dredged up. They will fight you tooth and nail. But Jim's advice is good. I believe that. I believe I should do precisely what he says.

Damn it's hard.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Almost Break Time

I'm working feverishly today to get my academic work done because from tomorrow through Friday is our school's Thanksgiving Break. I want to leave work today, and leave that work behind for a few days. Instead, I hope to find myself with some time to write that doesn't have to be stolen from some other job that needs doing. I've got at least two stories that I'd like to work on, and I'm going to make an effort to avoid doing any non-fiction so that I can lose myself in the fiction. Wish me luck. I'll probably need it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Perfect Line

For most of my writing life I've been on a search for the perfect line, the search for a single, distilled sentence that would convey both truth and beauty. I've seen such lines in other writers' work, primarily in their titles. 1) "I have no mouth and I must scream," from a Harlan Ellison story. 2) "For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky," from an original Star Trek episode. 3) "All heads turn when the hunt goes by," from John Farris's novel. The 1st and 3rd ones are the best, because they seem to convey an almost universal sentiment.

I've written two sentences of which I'm quite proud, although I would not consider them absolutely perfect lines. The first one I used a variation of here the other day in my seduction scenario. The original of that sentence appeared a couple of years back in a story called "Thief of Eyes," and it was: "She had the lips that Satan dreamed of in his long fall to Hell." The second good line that I've written is: "She spoke to me in the language of scorpions," which has appeared in slight variations in a couple of published poems.

I have, of course, seen many beautiful lines of writing embedded within beautiful paragraphs, but the perfect line must stand on its own. It must convey meaning, and, in fact, must seem to convey more meaning than a mere surface examination would imply. It must also flow sweetly off the tongue, and its very tone must demand that it be spoken aloud. Anyone out there have any candidates for the "perfect line" award? I'm eager to hear them.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Where Has All the Literature Gone

In an essay in 2000 called "Pushing Envelopes," from Gently into the Land of the Meateaters, James Sallis writes about the small magazines and how they seem to have changed. He says: "Years ago I wrote a piece for American Pen suggesting that, abandoned by mainstream publishing, our literature--even then we'd begun to miss it, you see, and to go looking--had fled to these magazines. Like those remote islands in science fiction upon which prehistoric life has survived into the present. Now I don't know where it's gone. I've looked. I can't find it. If anyone's seen it recently, please call. I'll pay for information, photos, confirmed sightings."

I decided to post this passage for today, partly because of its humor, and partly because it dovetails nicely with my post yesterday about cryptozoology. Perhaps literature has become a mythical land, and we writers are sasquatches who leave only our footprints behind as we pass through it and out of the world of common experience. The passage also calls a question to my mind, not about where "literature" has gone, but about what is happening to "readers."

My son is 19 and doesn't read very often. Few of his friends read, and when they've been over to my house and seen all of my books most of them display looks that combine elements of awe and "damn-what-a-weirdo-this-guy-is." My college students laugh at me when I talk about having so many books that I have to have them organized alphabetically within genres. People in lines at Walgreens look at me funny when I bring a book to read while I'm waiting, despite the fact that they are the ones twiddling their thumbs with boredom.

Is reading valued anymore? I don't mean the need to scan My Space pages or to translate phone text-speech into English, I mean "real" reading, sitting down in a relatively quiet place and working your way through the intricacies of wording, tone, character and dialogue that make up a novel. In a world dominated by TV and movies, people seem less likely to read for entertainment these days, but there is more to reading than just for entertainment, or even for information. Reading really is a way of disciplining the mind, and of opening it to possibilities. On a simple level, reading expands our vocabulary. And human thought is largely verbally based. We think in words inside our heads. If we don't read, how much will our thinking become impoverished? If thinking is impoverished, how much more our lives?

Do the human race a favor and pick up a book to read today.

Someone?

Anyone?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cryptozoology and Me

Cryptozoology is the study of mysterious animals, particularly ones such as Bigfoot and the Lock Ness Monster, who may or may not exist. I've always been a doubter where Nessie is concerned, although I think there is a small possibility that something like a bigfoot exists. Certainly, some weird animals are still being discovered in our modern age. Witness the Coelacanth, a very large fish that was thought to be extinct for something like 70 million years until a living specimen was caught in the 1930s.

The Ozark Mountains, where I grew up, carry their share of stories of strange creatures. I've written a few stories about them, and my novel, Cold in the Light, plays with that theme.

Recently, my niece Sarah sent me and some other folks a few pictures of a strange canine-type of animal that had been shot in the Ozarks. These pictures eventually wound up in the hands of Loren Coleman, who studies stories of cryptic creatures. He posted the pictures and some information about the animal on a website called Cryptomundo.com. And for reasons I'm not quite clear on, he mentions my name and talks about Cold in the Light. Thanks, Loren. I appreciate the mention.

By the way, my guess for what the thing is? I think it's a coy-dog, a hybrid between a coyote and a dog.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Insurance Scam

Car insurance these days is ridiculous. Geicko, our current company, is dropping my car insurance because my son had a wreck in his car. What kind of stupidity is that? But so I'm calling around to get quotes from other companies. First, it's virtually impossible to speak to a real human being anywhere about insurance, and when you do finally get a quote it's outrageously expensive. I got a couple of speeding tickets in my 20s and 30s, but none since I've turned 40. And the only accidents I've been involved in the last 20 years have been with folks who hit me. I drive a car with all kinds of safety features, and except for getting hit my record is spotless. I can't imagine what kind of quotes people are getting who have a few recent tickets. If the government wants to legislate that everyone have insurance, they need to do something about keeping the costs down. But I guess that would cut into the politicians' kickbacks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Personal Webpage

I was updating the bibliography section of my webpage last night on a recent publication, a new column for The Illuminata, when I decided to check on just how long it's been since I'd updated the opening screen and the "New Stuff" section. Not since November of last year, when we were evacuated for Hurricane Katrina! I was rather appalled that it had been so long, so I updated it a bit and added a link to this blog. The stuff that's on the page is still good; it's just that newer notes have been put here rather than there. My webpage is also called Razored Zen, and I've added a link to it here as well if anyone is interested. By the way, it's hosted on a free site so you will see some ads if you go to it. I suppose I should break open the old checkbook and buy a site, but lately there have been other priorities.

The only other news I have is that, as mentioned above, a new column is up for The Illuminata. This one is called "Criticism Hurts: How I stopped the Brutality and came to Love Writers." Another interesting coincidence occurred last night involving the latest newsletter issue. Lana and I were watching Nip/Tuck when I said in response to something on the show: "Everything old is new again." An hour later I opened my email to find the new Illuminata, and the first article was entitled "Everything Old is New Again."

The weirdness keeps rolling.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sphinx Ink

A friend of mine who is very knowledgeable about books and who thinks deeply about writing related topics has started a blog that promises to be both interesting and entertaining. She goes only by Sphinx Ink here, and I'll not reveal her mysterious origins. But check it out and see what she has to say. I've added her blog to my links but you can also navigate there by clicking HERE .

Monday, November 13, 2006

Kissercise

Stewart Sternberg, whose blog is included with my links, challenged some folks to a seduction exercise. Writing one that is. I don't normally write this sort of thing, but I thought, what the hell. Below is my entry. I call it:

Kissercise:

Every day as he walked from his office to lunch he passed a woman whose lips Satan must have dreamed of in a long fall to Hell. She sat always at an outside table at Fryer Tucks, and every day he intended to speak to her. He planned things to say. But every day he lost his will just when the moment was ripe. Today the woman wore blue, as if she’d wrapped herself in sky, and today he’d left nothing to “will.”

At the precise moment when he passed her on the sidewalk, she sitting like a rapture at her white-clothed table, he triggered the virtual movie that he’d filmed on his computer and uploaded to his iPod. A calculated stumble precipitated the small device directly into the woman’s lap.

She startled, but so gracefully that she didn’t even spill the water glass cradled within the delicate web of her fingers. He paused, looking sheepish, and she immediately picked up the iPod and started to hand it back. That was when a character on the small screen said her name, “Jennifer.” It was a name that he’d overheard from a waiter on a previous walk past her table.

When Jennifer heard her name, she looked down at the screen. She saw a man and a woman, two lovers about to touch. And she saw:

***
He leans so close, halfway to the heaven of her kiss, wanting to close that gap. Needing to close it. Then his mouth finds the path to hers, his lips warm as they part slightly and he brushes them across her smile. That contact is feather light but electric, and his hand rises to cup the soft weight of her cheek, his nails sketched along the delicate line of her jaw.

He pulls back for a moment, studying her intently as if to memorize her face. Then his eyes darken, grow heavy-lidded with scarcely hidden desire, and he moves his mouth to hers again, turning his head to one side, letting his lips skate across the pout of her touch-warmed mouth. The tip of his tongue slips against the fullness of her lower lip, flicks softly across it, like the caress of a moth's wing.

He hears her gasp lightly and feels her mouth open under his. His tongue slips through that opening, meeting her own tongue in a brief swirl of heat that turns to hunger. His free hand slides up her back, fingernails grazing hotly on her skin until they twine in the satin-lace tangle of her hair.

He presses the kiss harder, turning his head again, tasting her, loving the wet glory of her mouth against his. The faint gasp of their breathing crackles in the room, that sound merging with the soft damp whisper of lips and tongues locked in a sweet war.

Her tongue thrusts suddenly against his and he lets her push him from her mouth, then uses his own tongue to capture hers and imprison it between his lips, suckling her, drawing a shiver from her body, a tiny mewling cry from her throat. He moans as well, both hands in her silken mane now, pulling her against him, the shock of their kiss spiraling down his chest, setting his muscles aquiver as he continues to make love to her mouth with his lips and tongue.

Only after a long moment does he pull back, breathing hard, his eyes dilated, half wild. He brushes his palm over his mouth, then glances down to see the smear of her kiss across his pale skin, the trail of dampness lying misted with a faint crimson stain from her lipstick. The vision jolts his body. He glances back up to meet her gaze, says--
***

The movie ended. The woman with the lips that Satan dreamed of looked up at the man who had dropped his iPod. She offered it back to him; he took it with his hand brushing hers.

“Sorry. So clumsy,” he said. “And sorry about the…film. Just a little animated piece I’ve been working on.”

“It was…interesting,” she said. “Are you a director?”

“In my dreams,” he said, and he wondered if she caught his double meaning. Then he glanced across the crowded tables nearby and added: “You know I’ve always wanted to eat here but I didn’t know if it was any good.”

“It’s very good,” she said.

“Great! Maybe I’ll go get a table.” Then he slipped into a well-practiced stricken look. “Or do you think the wait would be too long? I don’t have much time for lunch.”

Jennifer looked around. “Hmmm, I’d guess the wait would be pretty long. But why don’t you join me? I’m eating alone today.”

He smiled. “I’d like that very much. My name’s Paul. Can I ask yours?”

“Jennifer. Just like the character in your movie.”

“Wow,” he said, as he moved to pull up a chair across from her. “Can you picture such a coincidence? I wonder what other strange synchronizations we’ll find between us.”

Jennifer chuckled. “Quite a few, I would imagine. Perhaps enough to believe, almost, that our meeting was orchestrated.”

“Fate,” Paul said. “Must have been.”

They both laughed, and Paul clicked is iPod to Jennifer’s water glass in toast.

A Reading Weekend

What a pleasant weekend. Lana and I decided to stay home and just enjoy our new place, and I found it very relaxing. I finished two books by Jim Sallis. I'm reading them in part because of an article assignment I have, but I also read Jim's stuff just because he's a tremendous writer. The two books were: Gently into the Land of the Meateaters, an essay collection that ended with a real zinger. This was the kind of book that you close the covers and lean back for a while to savor the mood it's created. There's also some great commentary on the writing life in this one as well. I also finished Bluebottle, one of Jim's Lew Griffin mysteries. I'd say this is one of my favorites among the Lew Griffin books, but I remember saying that every time I finish one. Just to make clear, however, I don't think you really read the Lew Griffin books because you desperately want to see how the mystery turns out. You read them because of the characters and the insights.

I also finished reading Red Harvest, a collection of poetry by the late Karl Edward Wagner. I typically don't find Wagner's poetry all that outstanding, but all of these were related to the character he created named Kane, who is one of the most interesting characters in fantasy fiction. Wagner's Kane stories are among my favorite works of fiction.

Next I turn to Cypress Grove, the first in a new series by Jim Sallis. I'm also reading White Oleander, which is beautifully written, although at the moment I'm not particularly fond of the main character.

By the way, if you'd like to learn more about James Sallis, you can find it on his website.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Quick Gray Fox

Last night I watched a gray fox sniff around in the yard under my office window for nearly half an hour. I think I've mentioned that we've been throwing out table scraps in our back yard now that we're in the country, and the animals are definitely coming by. Three of our raccoon friends were back last night as well. The biggest of the three coons spent his/her time on our bird feeder stump, carefully picking out the sunflower seeds from the pile. Two smaller coons came up under my window to search around, and one came completely up our back steps to our door. At one point, the fox and one coon faced off, but the fox thought better of any confrontation and went on about his business. I'd also noticed yesterday a tiny fairy ring of mushrooms growing at one side of our deck, and this morning those shrooms were gone and there were signs of digging. I wonder what ate them, and am suspecting it was an armadillo, although we didn't see it.

In more writing related news, I'm reading an excellent collection of essays by Jim Sallis called "Gently into the Land of the Meateaters." Some of my favorites here are his essays on the writing life. Jim has definitely lived something of a bohemian life and has met some interesting characters. I found this collection at the library.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Priming

After posting about the "shank of the evening" coincidence, Sidney Williams pointed out that Wayne Allen Sallee's new collection has a story in it called "In the Shank of the Night." I've been savoring a story a day in that collection for the past couple of weeks, and I'd already read that story when I used the term "shank of the evening" in a story I was working on. Although it was unconscious, I'm virtually sure that seeing Wayne's title is what prompted me to use the term in my own tale. Psychologists call this sort of thing "priming."

This got me to thinking about the role of reading in writing. How often are the things we write triggered, in part at least, by things we've recently read? Quite often, I imagine, although if Sidney hadn't pointed out Wayne's story I would never have realized that I'd been "primed." The same thing happens in dreams. I was in Walgreens the other day and saw the display of "reading glasses," and I thought I ought to try a pair of those some time. Last night I dreamt that I was buying a pair.

This brought up another thought. I've known writers who refuse to read anything in the genre they are writing in while they're working on a piece. They say they don't want to borrow something unconsciously. I've had other writers say the opposite, that they read heavily in the genre they are writing in. I've always been among the latter group, and I think what I "borrow" unconsciously is more tone and flavor than it is specific details. If anyone has any thoughts on this, pro or con, I'd be intersted in hearing them.

By the way, my "shank" coincidence is still a coincidence, although my use of the term might have been primed. But it's still a bit weird that I'd be reading two books so close together where the phrase was used. I wonder, does Wayne read Jim Sallis's work? Does Jim read Wayne's?

The world is still weird.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Shank of the Evening Coincidence

"Shank of the evening" can mean the latter part of the evening, or it can mean "the best time of the evening," as when the mood and the colors are especially heightened. Whatever it's used to mean, it's not a very common phrase. I used it Wednesday night in a story I was working on, and I don't think I've ever used it before in writing. Imagine my surprise then, when reading James Sallis's Bluebottle a little later that same night, to find the phrase "shank of the afternoon."

I've had this kind of experience before, and it never ceases to amaze me. Like when you learn a new word and suddenly you see it everywhere. But "shank" being used in this fashion has got to be pretty rare, and I wonder what strange cosmic coincidence led to me using this unusual term just when I was reading--quite possibly--the only book in my house to also use the term. On the same day, within less than two hours of each other.

The world is weird, man.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Self Censorship

Ninety-nine percent of the time I write exactly what I want to write. But last night I started thinking about the other one percent. I was reading some sexually graphic horror stories by a friend of mine, and the thought occurred to me that I wouldn't feel "free" to write quite that graphically. I wouldn't because 1) I teach at a Catholic University and I don't think the institution's chief academic officers would be very happy about my choice of subjects, 2) I'd be deathly afraid my 90 year old mother would somehow find out and have a heart attack, and 3) I wouldn't want my 19 year old son to read them and start to wonder about his father. Someone might tell me to use a pseudonym, but pseudonym's are never forever. Someone else might tell me that I worry needlessly, and oftentimes I'm sure they are right. But I'm a nervous sort of person and I can't change that after all these years.

In other words, I occasionally censor myself. Francis Bacon supposedly said that: "He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief." I believe this quote to be true, although perhaps Bacon should have added "parents" and "career" to wife and children.

Sometimes I hear people say that art is about never compromising. But life itself is a compromise; it always involves trade-offs. Maybe the greatest writers do bleed absolutely true on the page; maybe that's why they're great. But I'm not among their number. I'm just thankful that ninety-nine percent of the time I want to write the kind of stuff that won't get me into trouble. At least not too much trouble.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Well is Filling

I think my story well or idea well is finally starting to fill up a bit. Just in the past week I've had decent ideas for four stories, two longish ones and two short ones. The main problem right now is that I have no chance to write them. This is the worst part of the semester at school, with little time to do more than teach my classes and meet with students. And at home there is more school work, letters of recommendation, getting tests ready, and grading tests and papers that I've already given. I'm at the point of quickly sketching the ideas down in a file and hoping to get back to them at a later date. Unfortunately, doing this lets the idea get cold, and I find that it's much harder to go back to that idea and work up enthusiasm for it after it's been sitting. It's like cooking a great meal but not sitting down to eat it right away. The food just doesn't look or taste as appetizing after it's sat for a while.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Men Versus Women

Last night my writing group got on the subject of differences between men and women, and how these differences play a role in character development as well as how our own genders affect our writing. I suggested, and believe, that my female characters are much more like men in their psychology than most real women are. This is because 1) I don’t understand women very well, and 2) what I think I do understand sometimes just makes no emotional or logical sense to me and I can’t write it convincingly.

Candice Proctor, one of the women in our group, mentioned an article that she’d read which said that about 10% of women have brain chemistry pretty close to that of men. I think maybe my female characters come from that 10%. Candice also said that she often feels more comfortable writing about male characters than female characters. I can’t imagine the reverse for myself, but then I think that many women understand men better than most men understand women. I think, in part, that this is because women actually “study” men and try to figure them out, while most men don’t do the same thing in reverse.

So what differences did we come up with between men and women? Here’s my take on it, and other members of my group can correct me if I’m wrong. First, most of us agreed that women and men each have their own gender strength, but that some women come across as having more of a masculine strength than others. Such women may well be respected by other women but are not usually as appealing to men. Madonna was mentioned in this context. Second, women probably spend more time paying attention to the subtexts of conversation, and spend more time trying to figure out what so and so meant by their actions. Women ask more questions about personal situations than men do, and, quite possibly, are simply more curious about those situations. Both women and men are ambitious, but until relatively recently many women had their ambitions short circuited by cultural constraints. Men and women can both be competitive, but men tend to be more globally competitive while women are more situationally competitive and often prefer to build a consensus.

Now for my personal commentary, 1) men are simpler than women, 2) don’t ask a man to be subtle in dealing with interpersonal issues, and 3) why can’t women be more like men (psychologically). One of my best friends is a woman, but I think she’s one of those 10 percenters.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Swallow Storm

Coming in to work this morning across Lake Pontchartrain, I was treated to a storm of swallows off to the west over the lake. They were swooping and swirling wildly, but never approaching closer than fifteen to twenty feet of the bridge. I didn't see any insects but I hope they were feasting on the mosquitoes that feasted on me last night. Or at least their relatives. But who knows, maybe it was preparation for a giant swallow orgy.

In other news, I was watching a "caught on tape" show last night when I saw one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen. A young punk had killed a 65 year old family man and had pled guilty to the crime. He got a mere thirty years, which was bad enough, but the aftermath was worse. While the families of the victim and the killer were outside the courtroom, a female member of the killer's family yelled out, "He was 65 years old. How much longer do you think he was going to live anyway?" Bad as that was, the spontaneous burst of laughter from most of the rest of the killer's family was even more disconcerting.

It's so hard to imagine how people could be so absolutely callous. Had it been my sister or brother or cousin who shouted such a horrible thing at the victim's family, I would have been the first to tell them to shut up and would have dragged them from the room. I certainly wouldn't have laughed when people who have lost a loved one are crying. I sincerely hope each and every one of those who laughed are ashamed of themselves as human beings, and they should try to apologize, difficult as that would be for such behavior.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Fun Weekend

This weekend was just how weekends should always be, but aren't nearly enough. The weather was perfect, cool but not cold, and with clouds moving in on Sunday but no rain. My son stayed over. We had a great time. Lana bought me an CO2 Air Pistol for my birthday and Josh and I sat up a target range in the backyard and shot probably close to two thousand BBs. We also took some long walks along the gravel roads around our place, shooting a few cast off beer bottles here and there, and just enjoying the fresh air. Each night we built a little fire in the yard and set outside trading yarns and talk. And we studied the full moon through binoculars or just enjoyed the moonlight filling up our yard and painting the trees. One night we watched as our racoon friends came in to the yard to check the larder. Or, if we weren't around the fire we were hanging out on the deck. We ate every meal in the fresh air on the deck, except for the night we went to Trey Yuen for a delicious dinner.

And to top it off, both the Arkansas Razorbacks and the New Orleans Saints won their football games this weekend. It was the kind of weekend that leaves you a little sad when it's over, but also very glad to have had it.

Friday, November 03, 2006

World Fantasy Convention

Even as I write, the World Fantasy Convention is being held in Austin. It'll be running through this weekend. I'd very much wanted to go because it's being dedicated to the Robert E. Howard Centennial, but finances are low after buying a house, and this is a critical time of the semester at work. Had it been held in Austin last year I would have been in the city due to Katrina, but I'm kind of glad we didn't have another Katrina event this year so I could go. If you do go, there will be a bunch of my friends and co-Howard heads there. You might run into Sidney Williams and Wayne Allen Sallee, two writers who I've mentioned here. From the Howard heads (REHupans), you should see Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier, Mark Finn, and probably quite a few others. Be careful of the REHupans. Horror writers like Williams and Sallee are nice folks, but REHupans can be a handful. Especially watch out if they want to show you their knives.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Yesterday's Work

I did some set up for my piece on James Sallis, and started reading his book "Bluebottle." I've read probably about 3/4s of his novels, but he has a new series (two books so far) about a character named Turner and I want to read those next.

I also worked on a story that I'm tentatively calling "Once Upon a Time on the Wine Dark Sea." I was disappointed last night that I didn't make more effective progrss, but then I reminded myself that all I have to do is make "some" progress. Even a paragraph a night will see the piece finished.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

James Sallis Assignment

I've mentioned the writer James Sallis here before. I've just been assigned to write a fairly in-depth article about him for a new Salem Press reference project. I sat up the file for the project last night and will probably work slowly on it for a while, doing a little bit at a time. My deadline for the piece is not until January. I could probably have gotten a few more assignments if I'd requested them, but with all that's going on now I wasn't sure I'd have time.

Speaking of time, my mom will be celebrating her 90th birthday on November 6. The family is actually going to have a party for her on November 12th. I would love to go to this, and will probably feel guilty if I don't, but it's a 10 hour drive and I have my heaviest class days on Friday the 10th and Monday the 14th. Used to be that 10 hours in the car wouldn't bother me, but after my motorcycle wrecks I tend to get really stiff and have a lot of problems with my neck when I drive even a couple of hours. I'll check out flights, but from where we live now it's also an hour and a half drive just to the airport, and after the move the money is a bit tight. I'm not sure what I'll do.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Writing Group Meeting

My writing group met last night and we had a good time. We talked for a while about what makes a book’s middle either sag or not. We generally agreed that to avoid a sagging middle one should: 1) introduce questions that can keep the reader going even if the pace slows down, 2) take the book in a new direction, such as introducing a second plot, 3) create surprises, which in general helps keep out the sag.

Later we got on the topic of humor, in life and in writing. I told them that I have no sense of humor, which is not completely true but which isn’t far from wrong if you should expect me to laugh at the kinds of things most people laugh at. We decided that humor was extremely idiosyncratic, and that it depended for best effect on surprise. This led us back to books. Surprise is essential in all writing. A book or story that is too predictable loses us just as a joke that is predictable falls flat.

Another thing we talked about was social skills. I mentioned that, in addition to lacking a sense of humor, I had no skill at picking up the subtle nuances of interpersonal relationships. Several group members mentioned some of the unspoken subtext that you see when groups of women or groups of men get together, and a lot of it surprised me because I just hadn’t realized such things were happening. At least one other member of the group admitted to not noticing such things as well, so I didn’t feel completely inept. But this also brought us back to writing. Does an author with weak social skills, as is the case with at least some of us, potentially lose readers by not—say—understanding the subtext in dialogue very well? I pointed out that maybe it wasn’t so bad because dialogue in writing is not natural dialogue. It has to sound natural, but it is certainly a heightened level of discourse. Dialogue in writing is “reasoned” out by the writer rather than simply being “released” by a speaker.

Finally, it occurred to me that these kinds of issues may explain one of my personal experiences in reading. Stephen King is often complimented on his extremely realistic dialogue. Readers say that his characters talk like real people. I’ve always found King’s dialogue to be rather mundane, and often a bit boring, but, then, I also find most casual conversation boring and mundane. It seems highly likely from last night’s conversation that the “fault” is in me. I find casual conversation mundane because, quite possibly, I’m not picking up on all the “behind the scenes” stuff. I bet King has good social skills, which are reflected in his skillful use of dialogue. I bet that’s why learning to create believable dialogue has been one of my greatest challenges in writing.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wild Night Company

Living where I do now I can no longer claim that I'm not inspired by what I see. So far that hasn't translated into a lot of fiction productivity, but maybe the well is still filling. At least I'm soaking up details and atmosphere.

Lana and I took a long dark walk along our gravel road last night. The moon was a good thick crescent floating over the tall pines, their tops swaying in a breeze that we couldn't feel at ground level. It was cool, our breath smoking faintly. We passed a single dwelling, and then another. Both were dark, except for porch lights, and I wondered who, or what, might be coming home to them later. Then we passed a tiny cluster of three houses close together, with lights on inside but no signs of any activity through the windows as we passed. Pole lights stood on either side of the road at that place, casting a haze of purple light that was just strong enough to birth shadows in the surrounding woods. Somehow, the three houses together seemed lonelier than the single dwellings had, and I felt a little colder then and moved closer to Lana.

When we got back home, I went to check email while Lana sat out on the back deck, wearing a sweater against an increasing chill. She soon came to fetch me, however, to tell me that we had visitors. Just after we moved in we'd had an old dead tree cut down, but had left the stump about three feet high. We'd poured seed onto the stump for the birds, but our visitors weren't birds. Two racoons were gorging themselves there with much accomaniment of crunches and cracks. A flashlight didn't seem to bother them and we even found that our binoculars would give us a close up view. And so we played voyeurs at a feast of the Wild Night Company.

Lana thought she had seen another racoon so I shone the flashlight along the edge of the woods. Immediately, twin gemstones of green light winked back, and a few moments later a third beastie, a smaller one, came and climbed up the stump to join the dinner crew. Soon, a fourth member of the troup joined, and as I shone the light around the wooded perimeter of our yard I caught yet another flash of eye-shine and discovered a cat watching the Coon platoon. At first I thought the cat might have been a bobcat because it was very large and with sharply pointed ears, but I finally managed to get a look at it's tail and it had the long one that named it Cattus Domesticus. It was pretty clearly feral, though, because it would not let me get anywhere close to it.

Eventually, the Racoon tribe slipped one by one back into the woods. The cat followed and Lana and I returned to the warmth of the house, both of us wondering who, or what, might come to visit us next.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Times are Changing

I grew up in the country and I spent a lot of time walking along highways and dirt roads. For a while as a kid I actually made money picking up discarded bottles and returning them for their deposits. This was in the late 60s and 70s and I found a few items of interest or strangeness. I occasionally found an unopened can or bottle of beer, and every once in a while I would find a discarded toy.

But those were yesterdays, a less perverse time it would seem. Today, walking along the dirt road by my house, I found a penis pump and a pair of pants. Let me hasten to add that I didn’t touch either one of them.

Now I have a pretty good imagination, but either my imagination is not up to picturing why someone would throw out a penis pump and a pair of pants about fifty yards down the road from my house. Or, maybe I just don’t want to imagine it. The times they are a’changin’.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

By Way of Introduction

I've gotten my copy of fiends by torchlight, which is by Wayne Allen Sallee and which I've mentioned here a couple of times. I started reading the stories last night that I hadn't previously read, and let me tell you that the book rocks. Some people might say that Halloween is a good time to read this book, but I think around the elections is the best time.

And, by the way, I wrote the introduction to this collection. I did a short biographical article on Wayne for a reference book last year and had corresponded with him about it. I was surprised and flattered when he asked me if I would do the intro for his newest book. I had a lot of fun doing it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Baron Von Pelican

The Pelican is the Louisiana State bird, but there was a time not long ago when it was nearly extinct in the state. That time is not now. Pelicans are thick on Lake Pontchartrain, and, in fact, are sometimes a menace to motorists on the Causeway, which runs 24 miles across the lake. For reasons that I don't completely understand, but which I suspect have to do with the wind coming up from under the bridge, the pelicans love to cruise along right at bridge height heading into oncoming traffic. Most of the time they are off to the side of the traffic stream, but I've had a few anxious moments when members of this Avian Legion have decided to dip down right over the bridge and it looks like they are coming in for a strafing run. In case you don't know, a pelican is a big bird, and the thought of one of them flying into your car's front window while you're doing 65 MPH is not a pleasant one. At that rate of speed, and with the often heavy traffic on the bridge, even swerving to avoid them would be iffy or impossible.

So far I haven't seen any signs that there are pelican aces with at least five wrecked cars to their credit, but I think I did see one with a red scarf around his neck the other day as he dipped his wings in my direction. I saluted him just in case.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bret Funk

I’ve mentioned The Illuminata in these pages a lot. The editor of that newsletter is Bret Funk. Bret is a very good editor, but he’s a writer first, and a fine one. He’s written a trilogy of fantasy novels called “The Boundary’s Fall” series, which have been well received and which have been particularly noted for their strong characters. Bret is also the head of Tyrannosaurus Press.

Bret and his wife were living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed most of his publishing stock. He’s since relocated to the Baton Rouge area and has added a small changeling to his family. Check out his stuff, and if you’re in the New Orleans/ Baton Rouge area and plan to attend any SF cons you might well see him there.
Say hello for me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Drunk Writing

I'm sure you've all heard of "Drunk Dialing," when you call up old friends you haven't seen in a long time while you're drunk and talk their ear off. Lots of people have done it. Maybe even you. But how many folks do you know who have engaged in "drunk writing?" This is when you write something when you're drunk but later have only the vaguest recollection of the details of it.

I'll admit to drunk writing a time or two. Beer sometimes makes me want to write poetry, and one night a lot of beer turned into a lot of poetry. I was eventually able to salvage one useable poem from the resulting, rather sophomoric mess. The rest of it was so bad that I took to calling it "anti-poetry." Until I found out that that term already existed.

Yesterday I stumbled upon a story that I "drunk wrote." I'd pretty much forgotten it existed until I saw the title in my "story file" and opened it. Then I remembered, and I remembered that Vodka was the toxin of choice that time. The story is a political satire, politics being something I usually won't touch while sober, and it is both gross and obscene. My problem now is that it's also pretty good. In fact, I was guiltily pleased at how well it turned out.

You might think that having written a decent story would be a good thing, but when I say it is both gross and obscene I mean those words in the way a horror writer would use them. This means that many civilians (non horror readers and writers) will be put off by it. And it's about real people so that makes it worse.

Now I don't know what to do with it. Perhaps I should delete it before I'm tempted to submit it somewhere, or perhaps I should keep it for my own amusement. Or maybe I should let the marketplace decide. One thing for sure, if it's ever published I'll make sure it's under a pseudonym.

And now I'm wondering. What might whiskey do for me?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

John Ames

I met John Ames at another New Orleans SF con, probably around 1990 or so. I remember that he was the only guy there with hair longer than mine, and the first writer I’d ever seen with groupies. (Well, one groupie, at least.) He was also already well established as a writer, mostly as John Edward Ames with horror novels such as Spellcaster and Death Crystal. Later, John made his livelihood primarily from westerns, including three well received works under his own name and various series books under house names. His most enjoyable series work, to my way of thinking, was for his Cheyenne books, which are told from the Indian point of view and which he wrote under the name Judd Cole. All told, he’s written over sixty novels, in four different genres--historical, horror, romance, and western--and he’s written under such pseudonyms as Jon Sharpe and Dodge Tyler. He has also written numerous short stories. John is able to write both quickly and well, something I’ve never been able to achieve.

Monday, October 23, 2006

O'Neil De Noux

O’Neil De Noux. Jr., is another writer who is a good friend of mine. He was born and raised in Greater New Orleans, and I first met him at an NO SF con, I believe at a reading by George Alec Effinger. O’Neil and I--and his wife, Deb--have since become good friends and I’m an admirer of both. Deb is also a writer, and an editor. She put together the Erotic New Orleans collection, which I have a story in. O’Neil was a homicide detective and organized crime investigator for years in the Jefferson Parish Police Department, and he was well known as one of their best.

O’Neil began writing short stories in high school, but it wasn’t until after he became a detective that he wrote his first published novel, Grim Reaper, which introduced the character of Dino LaStanza, a New Orleans homicide detective on the scent of a serial killer. LaStanza, who bears quite a few resemblances to O’Neil himself, has appeared in four other novels and numerous stories. The LaStanza stories are hardboiled, crime noir, but his short stories range the field from mystery to SF to horror.

To my pleasant surprise, I found that O’Neil and Deb recently moved to Covington, not far from my new home in Abita Springs. Sounds like a barbecue is in the offing.

For more on O’Neil, check out his entry on Wikipedia

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Magical Deck



It rained most of last night and Lana and I spent a lot of time out on our new deck, listening to the drops on the tin roof and watching the lightning through the dark trees. We lit some candles around, in various glass holders so that the reflection of fire danced on the underside of the tin roof in multicolored hues. It was cool, with a little breeze that occasionally misted a bit of rain across us. It was for pleasures like this that we got this house and had the deck built. I think it earned its cost last night.

I was thinking, too, about how much fun I would have had on such a deck as a kid. It could have so easily become a pirate ship, cutting through southern seas, or the Starship Enterprise with a new Captain. Namely me. Perhaps it could have been a fort in the early American forest with the Iroquoi in the woods all around. Or a raft at drift on the ocean.

I wish we could have had a place like this for my son when he was young, but originally my wife wanted to live in Metairie to be near her family, and later, after she had gotten ill, we never seemed to have the money or the stability to look for such a place. Lana wanted such a place, and she looked until she found it, and with some money that she had inherited she was able to put a downpayment on it and pay for our new and wonderful deck.

And I'm wondering, am I too old to play Starship enterprise? Am I too old to pretend I'm a settler on an alien world? Naw!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What I'm Up To



Since the last Illuminata came out, I went ahead and polished up my next Illuminata column and mailed it off to the editor. It was largely done already but needed a bit of a read through. I'm also struggling with the ending to a poem I've been working on for some time. Everything but the last stanza seems to be ready to go, but for some reason that final image won't come clearly to me. I want to send a few poems to the magazine Star*Line, which is the zine for the Science Fiction Poetry Association, but I've been holding off in hopes of including this last one among the group. I'm going to make a concerted effort to try and finish the poem today.

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Illuminata Up

The October issue of The Illuminata is out, with a piece in it by me called "An Error in Detail." The editor is also running a writing contest for those of you who might be interested. The information is on page 7 of the October issue.

In other news, I was thinking of a book called Jonny Algiers and the Wizard of Sid. What a great opening line it had: "Jonny Algiers flicked the safety off his transmogrifier and slapped his hydroxen-powered drop-ship into overdrive as he blasted spaceward in pursuit of the evil Dr. Michael August, otherwise known as the Wizard of Sid."

Algiers was the protopical space hero, of course. Steely jawed, square-eyed, and always ready with a quip or a fist. And the Wizard of Sid? What a blackhearted villain he was. Maybe I'll try to revive the series. I think I could do it justice.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Apollo 17

In my novel, Cold in the Light, there is a mystery about something that the Apollo 17 astronauts found on the moon. Yesterday I started reading Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston and it has a mystery in it about something the Apollo 17 Astronauts found on the moon. Deja Vu all over again.

I'm quite sure that Preston never read Cold in the Light but I think it's interesting that we both chose the Apollo 17 mission, the last Apollo mission to the moon. I wonder what common thought patterns created that choice. Could it have been simply because it was the last? I guess I'll just call old Doug up and ask him.

Oh, wait, I don't know Douglas Preston. Sigh! I guess we'll never know.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Something About Ernest

In reading a biography of Joe Namath, I found a little tidbit about Ernest Hemingway. Apparently Hemingway was often on the lookout for sparring partners and, according to a fellow who was one such partner, the candidates were told not to throw any "rights" at Papa, and to also watch their testicles in a clinch because he often would hit below the belt then. I know Hemingway did a fair amount of boxing, but if this story is true then it doesn't show Papa in the best light.

Another tidbit that I discovered in the Namath book is that Namath was the star of a motorcycle movie back in the 70s called C. C. & Company. I actually remember this movie with some fondness but had completely forgotten that Namath was in it. Broadway Joe was also in a spaghetti western, which must have been pretty bad because I had never heard of it before.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Poetry

I think I've finally finished a long poem I've been working on forever. It's called "Silence Razored" and I had great hopes for it, as I do for all my stuff when I start it. It didn't come out quite as good as what I could see in my head, but I'm not unhappy with it. It's now in the process of "fermenting" if you will. I'm letting it sit for a few days without looking at it and then will give it a final edit before sending it off.

In other news, I'm going to have to take my computer to the repair shop and that's always scary. I've got to do a bunch of backups first. For some reason I still can't access internet on my computer and Lana says it's because it needs some kind of board inside. I guess we'll soon find out.

I missed my Writing group meeting last night. I hated to do so but I we were off work and by evening I just didn't have the energy to spend two hours on the road in order to get to and from the meeting. When I'm working I just stay in town an extra few hours and it works out nicely.