Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interrupting Our Normal Three Day Pattern

I'd normally leave "The Gray Man" post front and center for another day but there is some breaking news I wanted to share. Richard Godwin has interviewed me over at Chin Wag At The Slaughterhouse, and it's certainly the most unique interview I've ever done. There's already some good comments and discussion so if you get a chance to check it out, you might find it intersting.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Gray Man

He came frequently to the library. The gray man.

He was of average height but well above average weight. His hair was missing except around the edges and it was a lighter gray than his skin.

The man’s color always looked bad to me. I thought him on the verge of heart failure. At least for a while. But for four years I saw him at least once a week, often more, and during that time he scarcely changed physically except for losing a few pounds here and there.

When I arrived at the library as a grad student, people spoke of the gray man with an intense dislike. He was retired from the university. An ex-professor. But he seemed not to have recognized the “ex” part. I had heard that he would pontificate and exasperate. He was said to demand services, in a loud voice. He sent staff members scurrying to fetch the articles and tomes he sought. And he never said, “thank you.”

People watched the gray man with clouded and hooded eyes when he walked in. It was those eyes that made me ask about him. And I was told. I got an earful. No one liked him. They wished he’d retired to Florida. Some said, “to Hell.”

The thing is, I rarely saw him speak during the time I was at the library, and then only in a monotone, almost a stale whisper in passing. For four years I saw him come in, saw him remove papers and volumes from the small black satchel he habitually carried and spread them out around him on a library table. I saw him rise ponderously on occasion to fetch more books and journals from the library shelves.

For four years I saw him scribbling notes on the various legal pads he owned. I saw him transferring snippets of information from one place to another. I never heard that he published an article from it, or even that he’d put the material together to submit. I thought, perhaps, that he was working on a book, but the research materials he used were too varied to reveal a subject. During all that time I scarcely saw him interact with the library staff; he spoke only when spoken too, and then not at length.

Over the years, the clouded looks the staff gave him changed, from irritation, to resignation, to tolerance, to pity. Even after I left that school I sometimes thought of the gray man. He might have a lost a few pounds outwardly, but he seemed to have lost a great deal of weight inside.

And I wondered. Did the looks of pity dissipate too? Did the gray man finally become as gray and ephemeral as a passing rain? Did anyone in the library notice when he stopped coming?

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Novel Spaces Day

I'm over at Novel Spaces today (Friday, August 27) with a post about two kinds of people, PO and LO. If you get a chance, drop by and visit.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Contest Entries Up

Writtenwyrd's flash fiction contest is up and running. There are 12 entries, most of which are under 250 words. These were all written based on a prompt from "D." My entry is number 3: "With Eyes Like Fangs." If you get a chance and want some good quick reads, check it out. And you can vote for your favorite.

In other news, I'll be posting over at Novel Spaces again on the 27th. I'll put up a notice here. I've got a nice post already prepared and I think a lot of writers will find it interesting, as well as non-writers.

Till later


Monday, August 23, 2010

Razored Zen's First Guest Blogger

I'm not sure when I first happened upon Sarah Hina's blog, but I do remember being captivated by her poetry and by the sheer loveliness of her language. Sarah is, in my opinion, one of the most talented ‘pure’ writers I’ve yet met in the blogosphere. Sarah recently had her first novel published, Plum Blossoms in Paris, and I immediately snagged myself a copy. I’ve not had a chance to read it yet, but it won’t be long, and I’ll review it when I’m finished. In the meantime, however, for the first time ever on Razored Zen, we have a guest blogger for the day. Please welcome…Sarah Hina, with “For Whom the Bell Tolls”!


His feet stepped over Point Zero, the origin of all measured distances in France.

He walked.

He walked past the chattering tourists and pigeons. He walked with his back straight and head tilted down, as if the layers of this isle’s history were an archaeological wind to tunnel through.

He walked through the entrance of Notre Dame, ignoring the saints and virgins, and found the stairway leading to the south bell tower.

He climbed.

He stepped over a rope line.

He climbed higher.

He stopped when he mounted the top of the stairs. When he saw what he came for. The lonely bass bell, sequestered from its four siblings in the north tower.

A man with a blue cape stood beside it.


I looked at the sweaty American and reached for my phone. Security was third on speed dial. And I had a luncheon to attend.

“Monsieur,” I said. “You are not permitted.”

I noticed his eyes. Leaden, like a soldier’s. Bearing the shadows of battles yet to be fought.

The cell phone stayed in my pocket.

“Are you the one?” he asked. “The keeper of the bells?”

I hesitated.

“Yes, I am Monsieur Fontaine, the chief sacristan,” I finally said.

The man stretched out a hand to lean on the bell. For support, I could see. Emmanuel did not budge. His clapper alone weighed 1,000 pounds. Gone were the days of striking hammers, and the romantic piffle of Quasimodo’s rope swinging. Everything ran to a computer’s atomic precision.

With my finger on the button.

“I need for you to ring this bell,” the man said.

I laughed.

“Monsieur, the bourdon is rarely rung by itself, except to mark the deaths of great and distinguished men, like a pope or archbishop. I am afraid you ask the impossible.” I cleared my throat. “And now you really must—”

“I know why it’s rung,” he said, more quietly. Urgently. “As you say. To mark the deaths of great people.”

I caught his subtle distinction and nearly reached for my phone again. This American seemed prepared to lecture me on his tour-book interpretation of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

Well. If equality were his aim, then Death would sound constantly throughout the city. Even the tourist parts.

And I would never see lunch.

But instead of a speech, the man looked down at his feet.

So I did, too.

He did not wear shoes. Or, if he did, they were not visible beneath a pair of yellow hospital booties that were speckled red. The afternoon sun bathed their trauma in a soft, opal light.

Blood like wet paint.

“Monsieur,” I murmured, taking a step forward. “I am very—”

He waved me off.

“This . . . she . . . I didn’t know where to . . . ”


“I need to feel." He inhaled sharply. “That someone. Is listening. That someone. Acknowledges it.” He tried to smile at me, but his face could not suffer it.

“You know?”

I closed my eyes.

I was not a man who looked outside my own reality. Or cared to, in truth. But sometimes, when working the towers, it felt like the cathedral breathed. Like she sighed over the wingspan of her centuries. For all she had been forced to see. During these moments, the bells’ clanging could almost remind me of a bloodletting. An exorcism.

If one believed in such things.

I opened my eyes.


He walked down the stairs. Over the rope line.

And down again.

He walked from the cathedral, and past the tourists and pigeons, snapping up their photos and breadcrumbs.

He walked because he was afraid to stop. Afraid. He might never stop. The river was right there. A bridge above it.

A solitary note clanged.

Low. Solemn.


And again.

He stopped walking.

Everyone—tourists, Frenchmen, stone martyrs—offered him a drink from their silence. All listening, instead of talking. Feeling, instead of looking. Connected, for a brief reverberation, by the atomic weight of thirteen metric tons, swinging.

His feet had halted on Point Zero. The origin of all measured distance.

His back hunched.

He grieved.

--- the end ---

Synopsis for Plum Blossoms in Paris:

Post-grad neuroscience student Daisy Lockhart has never been short on brains, but after her longtime boyfriend dumps her through e-mail, she is short on dreams. Alone for the first time in six years, Daisy allows herself to finally be an individual instead of half of a couple. On a mission towards self-discovery, new adventures, and healing her wounded soul, Daisy travels to Paris. Upon her arrival, she meets Mathieu, a mysterious intellectual with a carefree spirit, and Daisy begins to experience the passion and the fulfillment she craves. Daisy's tense battle between possible love and her newly found freedom forces her to decide what she really wants.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Secret Project Revealed

Since the (in)famous “Sheriff” Cranmer let the cat out of the bag over on Meridian Bridge, I can at last reveal something about the secret project I referred to a few times this summer. David came up with an idea for a time travel romp featuring the hard-boiled Simon Rip in a desperate race through the ages to confront the end of time as we know it. David recruited a few writers to put more flesh on Rip’s bones and the results will begin to appear as a serial on Beat To a Pulp in September.

Chris F. Holm wrote the first installment and I picked up the baton for part 2. Matt Mayo has taken over for part 3. I had a tremendous amount of fun working on this project. It’s the first time I’ve ever taken part in a serial/shared world type adventure like that and it was a great learning experience. Challenging, but fun.

I’ve read Chris’s opening but will be reading Matt’s conclusion along with the rest of you when it hits BTAP. I’m looking forward to seeing the whole thing together.

I know I've mentioned these before, but I didn't have the cover for one of them. In a follow up to my last post, these are two recent anthologies that have stories in by me.

Here are a couple of books on writing that I read years ago but don't own copies of. I'll be looking for these soon.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Post I'm Not Ready to Make

Well, it's over. And I weep for the passing of summer vacation. It was a fruitful one. I put together and published Killing Trail, which included several brand new items as well as heavily rewritten older material. I completed putting together a collection of my vampire fiction, which I'm calling Midnight in Rosary, and which also includes a lot of revised material as well as brand new stuff. That anthology is submitted as we speak.

I sold five short stories to various markets, two of which have been published, and completed a roughly 7,000 word secret project. I got a surprise publication with "Precious Cargo" being selected for the Clarity of Night: Contests, Volume 1. I had a couple of nonfiction articles on writing published, and five haiku translated into Bulgarian. I did a lot of promoting for various projects, including Killing Trail and Bitter Steel.

I did a LOT of blogging, and made 500+ friends on Facebook. And I read and read and read.

But, alas, all good things must come to an end. Tomorrow I start back to school, and the writing output will slow to a trickle. I'll still be blogging and facebooking a bit. I'll try to post here every 3 days at least, and I'll try to get around to as many blogs as possible. During this summer, though, I often spent an hour and a half a day blogging and facebooking and that simply can't continue. My commute alone takes almost 3 hours a day. School hours vary depending on the time of the semester, but it ranges from 5 to 12. Then there's eating, sleeping, hanging with Lana, and trying to keep some writing projects alive.

In short, you'll be seeing me a lot less until next summer gets here. Some of you will probably find that a relief, but some of you will miss me. I'm practically sure of that! Almost sure. :)

Charles Gramlich

Monday, August 16, 2010

Red Dead Redemption

True to my intentions, I've done almost no writing the past few days and instead have been relaxing in preparation for the hard labors to come when I return to school on Wednesday. I've been doing a fair amount of reading, but have been playing a lot of a video game called Red Dead Redemption for my XBox 360. My son bought me the game for Father's Day but I've scarcely played it up until now because I’ve been too busy writing. I must say I’m enjoying it tremendously and am rather glad I didn’t get into it until now. I would have lost some writing time, I imagine.

Red Dead Redemption is a western themed game. It is supposedly set in 1910 but looks like the 1880s for the most part. I think they set it later so they could introduce technology that wasn’t seen in the 1880s. It features a character named John Marston, who is being coerced into going after some old gang mates of his.

One of the good things about the game is that it has a big “exploration” element, which I like. You get to discover a lot of new areas and secrets, and that’s one of my favorite elements of video games. It’s why I liked Doom and Super Metroid and Zelda so much. There’s also a lot of action and shoot-em ups, which I also enjoy.

It’s easier to be bad in the game, to steal and murder, but it pays better and gives you better adventures if you are good. I’ve tried it both ways. I’m kind of liking being a good guy right now, though the bad guy game is saved when I want to go back to that.

One problem I’m having is that the game is clearly set up for a wide screen TV and I can’t read half the prompts and hints that appear on the screen. That has made certain discoveries a long time in coming. However, Lana found out there is a Red Dead Wiki available that can answer a lot of your questions and give you some good hints. I’ve been enjoying the game more since checking out the Wiki.

So there you have it. How I spent the last few days of summer vacation. And now I’m going to go play some more!

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Contest and More

This is the cover for Beat to a Pulp’s first print publication, which is soon to be published. Some of you have seen it already but I think it’s pretty cool. I’m looking forward to this collection.

Writtenwyrd is having a writing contest I’ve already started on my entry so check out the contest and throw your tale into the ring.

I spent yesterday (Thursday) with my son, which is why I didn’t make my normal blogging rounds. We ate some sushi and had a nice walk. We shot the B-B gun some and played a bit of Red Dead Redemption, the video game he bought me for Father’s Day. “Redemption” is a western themed game and I’m having a lot of fun with it. I have ceased to be a law-abiding citizen within the confines of the game, however. Perhaps this should trouble me more than it does.

Today, (Friday), we’re having some tropical weather and net access is spotty at best. I’ve been unable to get around to just about any sites so that’s where things stand. It took half an hour of refreshing and working one window at a time to get the this post up.

Here's a book I'll be getting soon:


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Novel Spaces Day

I'm over at Novel Spaces today, talking about the "one" rule of writing you must follow. Hope you will drop by.

And late breaking news: I didn't know this was going up today but there's an interview with me over at Aerin's In Search of Giants. It's even for charity.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Winners and Losers

True to my intentions, I've taken a few days largely off writing and tried to just relax and do some reading. I've even engaged in a little TV/Movie action. I caught a few more episodes of The Office, watched some Frasier and Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns, and watched Hell's Kitchen. Last night I rented the movie The Losers, and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a lot. I've never read the comic book series it is based on, and it looked at first glance very much like an A-Team kind of set-up, but I liked the characters and the action was satisfyingly over-the-top. I don't know the names of the actors but among the characters we had the woman who played Uhuru on the new Trek, the guy who played the "Comedian" on Watchmen, and the guy who played Johnny Torch on The Fantastic Four, all of whom I like as characters. The villain was Jason Patric, who gave a pretty good performance as a totally conscienceless but sometimes blackly humorous evil CIA operative.

In reading, I started Hunt at the Well of Eternity, by our own James Reasoner, and am enjoying it muchly. I'm reading a collection of Loren Eiseley's poetry called The Innocent Assassins, which is, in general, not as good as his prose essays. I also started Flash Forward by Robert J. Sawyer and am liking it. I was hooked on the TV show before it was cancelled and the book so far is pretty close in many ways to the show.

I finished Ed Gorman's Harlot's Moon, which was very good, and Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying, which I liked a lot although I don't know if I'd consider it among the world's fifty best mysteries ever. I also read an enjoyable western by a fellow named Gary Addis, who I've mentioned in this blog before. I've copied my review from Goodreads below:

"Lance Jolley is a gunman. He's been shaped by childhood and by the harsh environment of the American Civil War into a hard man who can react with volcanic violence when he's pushed. And he's not adverse to trading on his gun rep.

But Jolley has a moral center and never forgets a friend. When the son of a friend is harassed into a gunfight that the young lad can't win, Jolley sets the range on fire as he rides for vengeance. Once more his enemies will learn not to push Lance Jolley, or those he cares about.

I just finished reading this for Kindle, which is the only way it's available at the moment. This is Gary Addis's first novel, I believe, although he's been published in nonfiction and fiction multiple times. It's a very good story, well written and strongly visual. There are flashbacks to the Civil War that are gut wrenching in their realism.

Good stuff, and I hope we see more of Lance Jolley."

Until next time, keep the word side up!

Friday, August 06, 2010

What I Learned from The Office

Any “Office” fans out there? I am, although I definitely did not start out that way. The first time I tried to watch it I thought it was lame. I’d never have given it a second glance if not for Lana. She watched it regularly, so I watched a few episodes with her, often criticizing it at the same time, and suddenly at about 7 or 8 episodes in I found that I was enjoying it, that I was “getting” it. Now I even watch it when Lana is not around, and it’s the only TV comedy besides Frasier that I’ll say that about.

So what happened? And what does it have to do with writing? Well, first let me tell you why I didn’t initially like The Office. I didn’t because it takes the laziest possible tack toward storytelling. Frequently, the characters directly address the audience through a patently fake and quite silly “mockumentary.” We are supposed to believe that the folks are being interviewed at times and that the cameras and cameramen are recording the people at work. The problems are two-fold. 1). The “interviews” address anything the “storyline” needs them to address. 2). The cameras clearly catch elements that no documentary cameras would catch. This requires a level of suspension of disbelief far greater for me than believing in aliens, vampires, or an honest politician.

I know it is comedy, but you have to admit this is just lazy storytelling. Don’t we criticize writers when they directly address the audience? Don’t we tell writers to show and not tell, and to avoid info dumps? The Office does all of these things. Despite its flaws, however, I came to really enjoy the series, and it had to do with one thing: The Characters. Under Lana’s influence, I watched enough episodes to get to know the characters and I found that I liked them and empathized with them. I wanted to find out more about them. I wanted Pam and Jim to get together. I wanted to find out more about Dwight's twisted childhood. I even came to feel sorry for Michael, who I absolutely hated at first as a character.

What I learned, or relearned, in relation to writing is that characters are the single most important element in storytelling. Great characters will cover up a multitude of sins. That doesn’t mean the writer can or should neglect the other elements of a story, but if you were going to follow the Bill Clinton approach to winning the presidency in your writing, you might want to use the mantra: “It’s the characters, stupid!”

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Interview Part II

The second half of Richard Prosch's interview with me is up over at Meridian Bridge. T'would appear I'm fairly long winded. But you all knew that.

I just finished reading Crossroad Blues by our own Steve Malley and, let me say, I enjoyed it immensely. I highly recommend it. Here's what I had to say on Amazon and Goodreads:

In Crossroad Blues we have wonderful characters full of heart and emotion, one of the nastiest villains I've ever come across in fiction, and a setting that is both exotic and very real. We have joy and despair, and gain and loss. And all of it is written in a highly charged and highly visual prose.

The ending was one of those where you just sit for a few moments after the story is over and let the fullness of your emotions wash over you. It will be an ending that lingers in my mind for a long time, not because it was some special effects extravaganza or some impossible to see twist, but because it touched my emotions at a level far deeper than my eyes.

I highly recommend this book.

Another book I enjoyed recently was Slick Time by O'Neil De Noux. Here's my review of that one from Amazon:

This is a sexy caper novel, and it's a lot of fun. We've got New Orleans, the Caribbean, a sexy movie in the making, and a con. We've got a fake kidnapping, and a real one. We've got beautiful people, great food, and crystal waters cluttered up by modern day pirates. We've got some edge of your seat suspense and some excellent wry humor. And there's some steamy sex thrown in.

De Noux knows his way around New Orleans and around police procedures, and his settings are spot on.

I read this in the Kindle edition but there is also a print edition. I highly recommend it.

Monday, August 02, 2010


The first part of a two part interview with me is up over at Richard Prosch's Meridian Bridge. Thanks, Rich. I always like getting a chance to yak about writing. These were great questions and I had fun with them.

Heading into New Orleans today to check on some things at work. I have about two weeks of summer left before school starts. I love my job, don't get me wrong, but I sure have been enjoying my time away as well. Once school starts everyone will see me online and on the blogs quite a bit less frequently. I won't be able to make nearly as many comments as I have been doing this summer. I imagine the blogosphere will survive.

In those two weeks I want to put the finishing touches on a collection of my vampire stories, which is just about done, and then I want to take a few days off to do absolutely nothing but read and eat and sleep. Even though I've been off "work," I haven't been off writing and I've had a very productive summer. I do need some vegging time, though.