Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Novel Spaces A Day

My latest post is still up over at Novel Spaces. It's down one from the top at that link, and is called "Need to Believe." Drop by if you get the chance.


Thursday, February 24, 2011


I’d been wanting to see the new Sci fi channel series called “Face-Off,” which is a competition between folks who do special effects makeup. I finally caught an episode last night in which the competitors were asked to change the apparent gender of a couple and to set them up as if they were going to get married. Thus, they changed the male into the bride and the woman into the groom.

I won’t, however, be watching another episode. Not because of the competitors, who were interesting and showed various levels of talent, but because of the judges, who apparently have no discernment at all. With one couple, the man was a tall black fellow with strongly masculine features. I’m sure the two competitors chosen to work with him did their best, but in the end there was nothing remotely feminine about the guy except for the bridal gown they put him in. The judges raved about the transformation, about the makeup, about the whole presentation, and rated him the highest of any of the “products” of the competition.

Now, maybe some of you saw the Sports Illustrated joke cover picturing Mike Ditka as a groom and Ricky Williams as the bride back in the day when Ditka gave up most of the Saints’ draft choices to get Ricky. The “bride” in this set looked as feminine as Ricky Williams did in that photo. Or maybe you’ve seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Well, Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter looked more like a woman than this guy did. Rupaul probably wouldn’t even have this guy on his drag show.

In other words, these judges apparently know absolutely nothing about true transformation, although they apparently recognize shades of make-up. I’ll be passing on any future episodes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Local Borders Closes

Many of you probably know that Borders is closing a lot of its stores. No bailout for the bookstores, I guess. One store that’s closing is the store in Metairie, Louisiana where I’ve bought most of my Bricks & Mortar books over the last decade. It’s also the store where my Wordsmiths Writing Group meets, so we are for the moment a group without a home. Anyway, Borders is having a going out of business sale and I naturally stopped by last night to pick over the carcass. I’m enough of a scavenger that way, although I will weep while cracking the bones for their marrow. A lot of other folks had the same idea I did. Too bad business couldn’t have been that good for them before bankruptcy.

I bought some $300 dollars worth of books, mostly nonfiction, with about 75% of it being related to the Darwin project I’m working on. These include books by Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins on the anti-creationism side, a book on the cool new area of evolutionary theory called “Evo-Devo,” and several books by religious thinkers who are trying to resist the Fundamentalists’ attempt to hijack the Bible and Christianity for their own ends. A lot of good reading ahead of me.

I did buy some just-for-fun books. I picked up three of the “Chuck Norris” is the man books by Ian Spector, including one entitled Chuck Norris vs. Mr. T. Some light, quick reading. I only bought one novel, Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry, which I’ve been intending to get for a good while. I also bought a Batman graphic novel, and books on Dave Mustaine, Motley Crue, and AC/DC.

I do not need more books to read. But that has never stopped me before. A couple of months back I bought a new bookshelf that I intended just to hold 1) my highest ranked TBR pile, and 2) unread books by friends of mine. I’d hoped to keep that shelf under 50 books but it’s over 200 already, not counting the ones I’ll be adding to it today.

I have to face it, I suppose. I just can’t stop. My name is Charles, and I’m a Bookaholic.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Lana and I watched the movie Creation last night. (I had previously read the book on which the movie is based.) It’s a story about Charles Darwin’s work on his most famous book, The Origin of Species, and about the horrible loss he experienced when his ten year old daughter, Anne, died painfully after a long illness. Paul Bettany played Darwin, and Jennifer Connelly played his wife, Emma. The acting was outstanding, even though I don’t ever remember seeing Bettany in anything before.

Up front, I’ll tell you that the movie got many details wrong. I’ve made something of a study of Darwin’s scientific life and am working on my own book about him. The sequence about how Darwin came to do the final work on “Origin” and publish it were not accurate. Darwin also suffered himself from chronic ailments of the stomach, and the symptoms and sequences of his treatments were not portrayed quite right. There is no evidence that he really experienced the hallucinations he has in the movie. There was also too much emphasis put on the religious conflicts between Charles and Emma. In general, though, these did not much detract from the movie, and I imagine for someone less familiar with Charles’s life and work they would seem to be minor details.

I would not like anyone to watch this movie and think this was “exactly” how the publication of the “Origin” happened, but I wish a lot of people who seem to hate Darwin without knowing anything about him would watch it. A key thing it does is humanize him. Darwin was an intensely human person. He loved his wife and his many children. He took joy in good friends but also loved his time alone. He fought a war within himself about his religious beliefs, which changed over his lifetime, but he never considered himself to be at war with God. He was at times tormented by self-doubt, but he also believed he was uncovering real and important truths about the way the world worked. He had the ambitions of a scientist. He wanted to be remembered for his work. He also wanted to respect his wife’s beliefs. In short, he had the same kinds of strengths and failings that we see around us in others of the human race.

When Anne fell into the worst part of her illness, Charles took her to a hospital where he had himself been treated for his own ailments. Emma could not go, both because she was pregnant herself at the time, and also because of the other children. Charles went, and he was by Anne’s bedside at nearly every moment while she was dying. He grieved terribly afterward. The letters that he wrote to Emma almost every day are heartbreaking. One day he would be filled with hope for his daughter’s recovery, the next he would be sunk into despair and tell Emma to prepare herself for the worst. The worst came, and it is clear that Darwin never forgot.

I’ve said several times on this blog and others, that I respect plenty of people but that I don’t truly admire many real humans. I may admire the actions of many, but most “real” heroes have plenty of less than admirable characteristics. Darwin is really an exception for me. I do indeed admire him. His feet of clay are pretty minor compared to those of some others that people seem to admire. His good qualities are many. He was not perfect. But he tried hard to do what he thought was right. When my book on him is eventually finished, and hopefully published, the dedication will read: “To Charles Darwin. Who helped me see.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Style Changes

Over the last few weeks I've been going through the Talera trilogy one more time for the conversion from print to ebook. Reading the three works back to back like that has been fun, sometimes surprising, and sometimes I've just had to say "Doh!"

The "Doh" has come from the fact that in both Wings Over Talera and Witch of Talera I sometimes misspelled my own invented words. In "Wings," the city of Revenor is sometimes spelled RevAnor. In "Witch" the distance measurement of "tahng" is spelled "taung." I've even got a series bible where the correct spellings are listed. Why didn't I bother to consult it? I couldn't tell you.

The surprise has been in noting certain stylistic trends that have changed in my writing over time. I went from using very little italics for emphasis in Swords of Talera to using too much in "Witch" and backing off of that for the ebook. There's also something I've always done stylistically, and that is to repeat certain words to give emphasis in sentences. I might say, for example, "he was running, just running." However, I see that I relied on that element a bit much in "Witch" and am also backing off of that for the ebook.

At one point in my life I thought of a writer's style as largely fixed. Mine certainly hasn't been, and there are deeper changes than the ones I've mentioned above. That probably calls for another post.

In the end, though, reading through the Talera trilogy has primarily been great fun for me. I have to say I like them pretty well. I'm proud of them.

But how about you and style? Has your writing style changed enough to notice over time? Or have you noticed changes in the style of some writer you love to read? I'd like to know.


Monday, February 14, 2011

When it Rains it Pours

Lots of forward movement in my writing world in the past few days. I'm happy to say.

Sold a story called "Lily White and Red" to Trembles. I also got word from Borgo's editor that "Midnight in Rosary," my collection of vampire and werewolf tales, has been sent to the folks who will print it. I don't have any idea as to the cover yet. I'm also going over the galleys for Wings Over Talera, which will soon be published in ebook. I did not make any forward progress on my science book over the weekend. In fact, I was pretty lazy and played quite a lot of video games, as well as doing some reading. I think I needed it, though, since last week was extremely busy, what with normal schol stuff and three extra research proposals to consider by the IRB committee that I chair. This week is gearing up to be a nightmare. Today, for example, I was up at 5:50 and won't get home till probably 10:30 tonight. Or later.

And, unfortunately, I've just acquired another university committee. So, forward progress on anything is likely to slow to a crawl for at least the next few weeks.

Lana and I did also watch Inception this weekend and I thought it was quite good. Lots of cool ideas and great special effects. I was actually pretty amazed that what was a complicated story was told so clearly that I didn't have trouble following it at all.

Last weekend, Lana and I watched two other movies, The Social Network, which I thought was pretty lame, and The Expendables, which I liked better but which wasn't anything to write home about.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Invisible Writer

I'm over at Novel Spaces on Feb 11 with a post on "The Invisible Writer." I'd love to have you stop by if you get the chance.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ebook News

Well, sooner than I had thought it might happen, two of my books have been released by Borgo/Wildside as ebooks for both the Nook and the Kindle. This is Swords of Talera and Bitter Steel. The rest will eventually follow, although dates for that are unknown. A couple of folks have asked me particularly about the Nook versions so I thought I'd put up the links today.

Swords of Talera for the Nook

Bitter Steel for the Nook

Both Swords of Talera and Bitter Steel for Kindle:

Killing Trail is, of course, still available on Kindle, although not on the Nook as of yet.

Cold in the Light is also available in ebook from Google Books.

Monday, February 07, 2011



The copper sky, I watch.
The sun in the water,
its reflection sinking.

Clouds build
as the heat of the day dies.
A wind is born.
It runs like a wild horse
with a mane of frost.

The day takes off its face.
Saffron blushes away.
Pomegranate red fades to kohl,
fades to indigo.

Behind the face lives black,
and the hungry stars.
When the sun goes.


Friday, February 04, 2011

What to Say, and the Curse of the Working Man

I no longer understand how people manage to blog every day. I actually never did blog 'every' day, but I used to get a post up every 2 days at least, and then every 3. Now the days sweep past and I seem to have less to say and less time to say it in. One reason is that I'm trying to get back to the science book on Charles Darwin that I started several years ago. The book is over 2/3 rds done but every time I get ready to make the final push some major issue or a host of minor issues arise. I even got some release time this semester to work on it, but as soon as the world found out I had the release time it began dumping stuff in my lap. And there's also the matter of revision. Science doesn't stand still and in the couple of years I've been away from the book some major changes have occurred in scientific thinking on evolution. I'm finding that the chapters I thought were "done," are not done. All my facts need checking to make sure they are indeed still accepted. That has slowed my progress considerably.

I generally find nonfiction easier to write than fiction, but I'm starting to realize that this may be true only for short works. A short, nonfiction essay or article can be completed fairly quickly and sent off for publication before the world changes out from under it. But a long nonfiction work, a book, creates its own set of problems, particularly in a rapidly changing field such as science.

Despite the fact that I'm carrying a cold with me everywhere I go, I actually made a lot of progress on the book this week because I literally stayed home from school for 2 days, shut off my phones, and largely stopped checking my email. But when I got in this morning I found that the work I'd skipped had caught up with me. I even came in an hour early this morning for just that purpose, and I made a dent but not much more. At least part of my weekend will be dedicated to finishing up the stuff I let slide this week so I could write. In other words, I didn't really gain much of anything.

If this post seems to ramble, that's because I had no idea what I was going to say when I started typing. I just noticed that I'd not posted since Friday and it seemed like I ought to get something up. Maybe I should have just let it slide another day, or three.

OK, I'll shut up now. Doesn't seem I have much to say.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

New Orleans Comic Con

This past Sunday I attended my first “Comic Con.” This is the first big one they’ve ever had in New Orleans. It was put on by Wizard World, the same people associated with the bigger Comic Cons that everyone raves about. Apparently it was successful enough to bring them back next year and I’ll probably try to attend again. I liked it quite a lot, and my son seemed to like it as well. He’s 23 and I told him I was glad he wasn’t “too cool” to attend a comic con with his old man.

It was smaller than I expected it be, and there weren’t as many costumers as I thought there might be. The cost for a single day pass was 35 bucks, which I thought was a little high. I also wish there’d been more booths selling the “graphic novel” formats. There were quite a few selling individual collectable comics but only one that had a selection of graphic novels. Those are the less positive things.

On the positive side, I got to renew friendships with quite a few folks in local SF/Fantasy fandom. I got to talk to a number of comic book artists, although I’m not really enough into the comic book scene to know people’s names. I picked up a number of cool book or comic book items that I most likely would not have found elsewhere, and got much of it signed.

I met Walter Koenig and Adam West and thought that was kind of cool. I got “Chekov’s” autograph on a photo. There were also a number of other celebrities there that I recognized, although I don’t know their real names. There was “Xander” and “Spike” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the mom from No Ordinary Family. There were several actors from the Walking Dead series that I really enjoyed this past year on AMC. There was a lady named “Claudia” something from Babylon Five. I recognized her but can’t recall the last name. One of the “Monkees” was there. I have no idea which one. There was a woman who played a demon on Buffy, and there was Ernie Hudson from the Ghostbusters movie. Apparently Burt Ward (Robin) was also there but I didn’t see him. I met a “character” in a graphic novel that I recently read and did an article on. He was one of the folks featured in A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge.

There were also quite a few very cool posters, including a zombie Clint Eastwood in one of his Spaghetti western poses. I almost bought that one, but with all of the paintings we already have up at home and the wall space taken up by bookshelves I don’t have any place to hang it. All in all, it was fun, and afterward my son and I ate at Mulates across the street and had frog legs and alligator with cold brews. That might have been the best.