Sunday, October 30, 2011

Updating and Undead

Wow, it’s been a busy few weeks, and not likely to ease up for at least another week. However, I haven’t posted in a week and haven’t even been able to visit blogs the last few days. I even missed my scheduled blog post on Novel Spaces, which is not like me. So I thought I’d take a moment while I’m watching the Saints game (and it isn’t going well) to update the blog on what’s going on.

On Friday, I spoke to the Entre Nous Book Club for Halloween on the topic of “The Psychology of Fear.” There were about thirty folks there and the talk went really well. There were a lot of questions and discussion afterward, which is always enjoyable. The group then treated me to a delicious lunch at the Metairie Country Club. Thanks to Fe, Christie, Elaine, and all the members of Entre Nous for a great time.

Friday evening, Lana and I attended the Vampire Lestat Fan Club Vampire Ball in downtown New Orleans. A few technical glitches that delayed the start of the ball, but once things got rolling it was magnificent. Incredible costumes and the entertainers all rose to the occasion with great performances. Lana and I spent much of our time just watching the movement of the gorgeously costumed performers and attendees.

On Saturday, I spent most of the day at Undead Con 2, at the Chateau Bourbon hotel in the French Quarter. They had two great panels of writers and I got to meet and chat with most of them. I sat on the second panel of the afternoon, with Cynthia and Mike Arsuaga, Lewis Aleman, Robert Crutchfield Jr., and Kurt Amacker. We had great attendance and a lot of laughs. After that, there was a cocktail party with delicious food and more conversation. I much enjoyed myself. Thanks very much Dionne, Suzie, and Cher Groves for all their hard work in making the ball and the con a success, and for being kind enough to invite me.

Now I’m going to try to visit a few blogs, but bear with me for the next week as school work heats up and CONtraflow Con comes roaring in next weekend.
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Psychology of Fear

Still way too swamped to get much in the way of blogging done. Besides school work, I've got several writing related things coming up. I'll be giving a lunch time talk this coming Friday to the Entre Nous Book Club. I'm going to be talking about the Psychology of Fear for Halloween.

Right after I finish that talk, I'll be heading downtown in New Orleans to attend the Undead Con. This will be my first time as a guest of that Con and I'm really looking forward to it. The con takes place at the Chateau Bourbon Hotel and I'll have an author's panel on Saturday.

The following week I'll be attending CONtraflow in New Orleans. I'll be setting on panels about Robert E. Howard, Vampires, and writing. I'm looking forward to that as well. After that I'm going to take the following weekend totally off!

I'll leave you with a few definitions from my talk about fear.

Fear: a biological response of the body to a threat. Sympathetic nervous system activity (SNS). The FIGHT or FLIGHT response. Heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure go up. Sweating, butterflies, goosebumps.

FEAR is: more biological: Horror, terror, and suspense all contain major psychological factors.

Suspense: When something is about to happen. Something BIG. But not quite yet. Can be good or bad. Child waiting for Christmas Day. Patient waiting for test results.

Terror: When the suspense is dark and threatening. When what you expect to happen is bad. Since the happening is not there yet, it isn’t quite fear.

Horror: When what’s about to happens--Happens. And it ain’t pretty.” FEAR is always an element of horror, that SNS response. Horror also has at least a little bit of disgust with it.

Suspense is when the person says: “I just wish something would happen. Anything. I can’t stand the waiting.”

Horror is when the person: Wishes they were still in suspense because what’s happening to them is far worse than the waiting.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Aging and Raging

I’m still really swamped at work so I’m going to continue being relatively scarce on blogger for the next couple of weeks. Just a quick thought today on Aging and Raging. I was listening to Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” yesterday. The opening line is: “I stand up next to a mountain. And I chop it down with the edge of my hand.”

Jimi was young when he did this song, of course, and young when he died. I remember hearing “Voodoo Child” when I was young, and feeling the power flow through me. I felt the same way, felt like I could challenge a mountain and whip it, felt like I could take the scraps of that mountain and build an island, as Jimi sang. I remember one day, at sixteen, I’m barreling down a rough back road on the dirt bike I had at the time. I’m pushing the motorcycle as hard as I can, and the speed, and my youth are making me feel invulnerable. I take both hands off the handle bars, lift them high and give the world a big “F You.”

Good thing the world didn’t toss a rut in my way at just that moment. I might have experienced road rash a long time before I actually did. Or worse. I don’t know about you, but I remember feeling invincible as a teenager. You stand up in the storm and the thunder rolls over your head and the lightning strikes the ground around you, and you feel your heart running like a wild horse, and you know nothing can bring you down.

I remember in my twenties reading Dylan Thomas’s:
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Those words ignited in me. I had no doubt that I’d do exactly that. By then, perhaps, I could imagine being taken down by a force bigger than myself. But I still knew I’d go down fighting.

It’s a long way from twenty-five to fifty-three. One by one my sureties are fading. Most of the time, my raging seems to have changed to aging. I like to think its wisdom and, if so, it took it long enough to work through my thick skull. But like I said, the sureties are fading. I’m not so sure it’s not just fear.

Still a great song, though! Have a listen! Voodoo Child.

Still a great poem! Have a look: Dylan Thomas.
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Year of Reading Dangerously

Those who have been visiting my blog regularly may remember that I keep records of the books I read and that I measure my reading year from birthday to birthday. Being that the 14th was my birthday, I have now compiled my yearly report.

I read 118 books this past year, up 2 from last year and down 6 from the year before that. In general, my reading habits remained very consistent from last year, 13 nonfiction reads in each year, 2 classics, 21 SF, and 5 poetry works. I was up 2 on westerns, to 15, and down 6 in thriller/mystery, to 18. The three most notable changes were as follows: 1. I was down 6 in fantasy, for a total of 5, the lowest number of fantasy novels that I’ve read in a year since I began keeping detailed records (1988). 2. I was up to a total of 11 in graphic novels, the highest number since I’ve been keeping records. (I didn’t even have a category for graphic novels until about three years ago.) 3. I hit 7 on reread books, the highest number ever in my personal history. (I didn’t have this category until about 10 years ago.

Why the changes? Well, ever since I read The Watchmen I’ve been going up on reading graphic novels, hoping for a repeat of that classic. So far, not. But hope remains. And, some of those graphic novels would be classified as fantasy, so my fantasy count may not be down as much as it seems. As for the reread books? For most of the last 30 years I’ve virtually refused to reread a book because there were so many “new” books out there. Since about 2003, though, I’ve started to allow myself more “comfort” reads, books that I know without a doubt I’ll enjoy. I suspect it has something to do with aging.

So that’s my year-of-reading report. I’m gonna try to make my blogging rounds now, although I’m still going to be fairly scarce for a while. I just finished a major editing job for which I was spending several hours a day, and finished grading a test I gave Thursday. Unfortunately, next week is midterm time for us at Xavier and I’m going to be doing a lot of grading for the next few days. After that I hope things will get back to normal.

Later.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bullied by Life and Work

Life and work are ganging up on me right now. I'd report them to someone for bullying me but the folks I'd report them to are probably on the side of the bullies. Certainly no time to write any fiction, although the ideas are coming fast and furious. I'm gonna try to maintain my blogging for now but will be making some short posts for a bit.

Today I'll just casually drop a mention of Write With Fire, my book on writing, which is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Here's a little piece from the introduction about the book:

If you’re wondering why you’re holding a book on writing by someone who is not famous, well, most writers aren’t famous. Most of us work hard at our craft without the benefit of big advances and multi-city tours. Most of us never have autograph parties with lines so long that our hands cramp from signing our names. For many of us, writing is something that we beg, borrow, or steal the time for while our other job keeps the bill collectors at bay.

I’m lucky that as a college teacher in the field of psychology part of my job is to write and to teach and study writing. I hope that’s given me a perspective on the field that can be of use to others, but like most of you reading this I still struggle for every bit of writing success that I get. That struggle has been long, and it’s taught me a few things that I’ve tried to put into the essays that follow. I hope you enjoy.

In case you're wondering what's in the book, you can "look inside" at Amazon. But here's the table of contents below:

Part One: ……………………………………………………………
So You Want to be a Writer ……………………………………
First Words …………………………………………………….……
Writer’s Block No More ……….………………………….…………
Tipping the Odds in Your Favor ……………………….……………
Writing with Purpose ………..………………………………………
Don’t Talk, Write! ..……..…………………………………………..
Writing With Confidence …….……………………………………..
RQW3R …………………………………………………..…………
Five Habits of Publishing Writers ………………………………….
Quick Versus Slow Suspense ……………………………………….
Six Steps to Creating Suspense ............…………………………
The Mechanics of Suspense ……...…..……………………………..
Creating Sympathetic Characters …........………………….……
Characters: The Best and the Rest ….…….....…………………
Harvesting Memories ……….……………………………………….
Writing Your Past for Fun and Profit ………………………………
The First Rule of Endings ……………………………………………
The Curse of the Lazy Ending ……………………………………….
Endings: What’s at Stake ……………………………………………
The Physical Side of Writing …………………………………..……
One Way to Put a Style Together ……………………………………
Writing for Excess (With “Barbarian’s Bane”) ………………………
Writing With Attitude ……………………………….……………….
Selling and Reselling (With “To The Point”) ………….…………….
The Working Man’s Curse …………….……….…………….………
Punctuate It and Forget It! …………………….………….…………..
Problem Words ……………………………………………………….
A Grammar Primer …………………………………………………...
Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite ……………………………………………
By Example ………………………………………………………….
Before you Submit, Don’t Forget ..…………………………………

Part Two: ………………………………………………………………
Writing Groups …………………….………………………………...
Page-Turners: What Makes Them, What Breaks Them ..…………
In Praise of the Net ……................…..………………………………
Blogging: Pros and Cons ..….……………………………………….
Pro Versus Amateur ………………………………………………….
Expand Your Mind …………………………………………………..
Fun With Fear ………………………………………………………..
Why Horror ………………………………………………………….
Horror Writers: The Crazy Truth …………..…….………………
The Horror Lists ……………………………………………………..
Dream Stories …………………….…………………….……………
Criticism Hurts ………………………………………………………
An Error in Detail ..........................
Ernest Hemingway: A Writer’s Life and Death ..…………….……
Jack London: Two Fisted Writer …………………………………….
Ken Bulmer: A Death in the Family..………………………………..
Where Have all the Good Themes Gone ……………………….……
Writing Weather ……………………………………………………..
What the Writer Wants ..……………………………………………..
Rest in Peace: Short Story .………………………………………….
Five Years Down the Road …………………………………………..

Part Three ..……………………………………………………………
A Writer on the Run …………………………………………………
Readin’, Writin’ and Me ……………………………………………..
Death By Prose ..……………………………………………………..


Bibliography ..………………………………………………………… P. 286
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Erotica

ADDED NOTE: I'd forgot about this, but an interview with me just went up over at Penny Ehrenkranz's blog. I hope you can check it out.
And now, back to my original blog post for today.

I’ve blogged before about a strange goal I’ve had in my writing life to try and publish something in every genre. In pursuit of that goal, many years ago now, I had an erotica story published under a pseudonym. I used the pseudonym because my mom was still alive at the time, and she would not have approved. When I was a teenager my mom didn’t even like me reading anything with sex in it. She once picked up a book I’d borrowed from my older sister that had sex scenes in it. That was not a pleasant day when I got home from school, and I know it was worse for my sister, who I’m sure got a sound chewing out.

Even worse, when I was in high school my mom found one of my notebooks in which I’d written down a scene that had sex in it. I still vaguely remember that scene, and it was incredibly tame even by the standards of the time. Nevertheless, it was sex and she was not happy. I didn’t get yelled at too much; I got the “disappointment,” and that was far worse.

I did later publish stories with sex in them while mom was alive. I just didn’t tell her about them. But I didn’t publish anything in which sex was pretty much the sole purpose of the tale. Except that one pseudonymous story. This brings me to today’s post.

I’m thinking of republishing that old erotic story as a .99 cent kindle ebook. I haven’t decided on a title yet, and I have no idea at present about a cover. I’m trying to decide whether to use my own name or another pseudonym. I do intend to acknowledge it if I publish it, but it might still be best to use a pseudonym. The thing is, although the books published under Charles Allen Gramlich have been in different genres, they have all had a strong sense of adventure at the core of them (except for some of the stuff in Midnight in Rosary, I guess.) This story would not have that so it seems reasonable to establish a different name for it. I had once thought about writing a romance novel and using the name “Pamela Charles” on it. I have a feeling that erotica sells better with a female author’s name on it, but I don’t know for sure. Maybe someone here knows. So here are my questions to my fellow bloggers.

1. Is there any likelihood that publishing an erotica story would hurt the sales of my other titles? I guess here I’m wondering if there is still any stigma attached to publishing erotica. I have to admit, and it’s probably my Catholic upbringing, it still sometimes seems a little questionable to me.

2. What do you think about a pseudonym? Should I use a female one, and, if so, what about Pamela Charles?

3. For anyone that has published or read a .99 cent ebook, what kind of word count do you typically look for in such a work? Especially for erotica?

4. As for covers, how and where do people get covers for erotica?

As always, thanks for reading.
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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Razored Zen Interview: Bret Funk

My guest today on Razored Zen Author Interview is Bret Funk. Bret is another Louisiana author. I’ve known him for a lot of years now. I’m not quite sure how many. I first met him at a local science fiction convention where we were both guests. Bret is the author of the acclaimed Boundary’s Fall fantasy series, and editor and publisher of Tyrannosaurus Press. He also edits The Illuminata, for which I’ve written a lot of articles and essays over the years, including quite a few that appeared in my book Write With Fire. Now, here’s Bret. (RZ represents Razored Zen and BF is Bret.)

RZ: Tell us a little about yourself outside of writing. Home town. Family. Job. That sort of thing.

BF: I grew up in southern New Jersey, not too far from Philadelphia. It was a rural area when I was born but morphed into a suburban haven, full of housing developments and strip malls, during my childhood. Two sisters. Parents who worked hard. Good friends. But it was still NJ, so as soon as I graduated high school, I left.

College was a choice between Boston and New Orleans. A conveniently-timed visit to Tulane in February sold me on New Orleans. It was only after I returned in August of 1994 that I realized the pleasant February weather was partnered with ridiculously hot summers. For someone that had been always hot in NJ, that posed a problem.

I majored in Biochemistry, got a Master’s degree in Epidemiology, all with the intention of going to medical school. Fate intervened, medical school didn’t happen immediately, and as I watched many of my med school friends grow tired and miserable, I decided that it might not be the wisest career choice. I started writing, and since I couldn’t survive off my words, I went back to doing what I did in high school: fix computers. I’ve been in IT ever since.

RZ: What made you want to write? Is it a desire that’s always been with you? Or was there some particular event or book that ignited the fire?

BF: There was no particular event, but I’ve always had an active imagination. Giant battles were arrayed across the attic of my house (fantastic crossover wars with Transformers, army men, dragons, and even the occasional My Little Pony when troops were in short supply). I tend to pose myself a lot of “what if” questions, and try to follow those thoughts to their conclusion. And I have a tendency to criticize, and a habit of listing (in my head, at least) all the things I would have done differently to make a given book, TV show, or movie better. Eventually I decided to walk the walk, and I started writing down my own stories. It was tougher than I thought, and even tougher to get noticed. So I should offer a blanket apology now; some of the things I was critical of were probably more a result of the industry and less the fault of the author.

RZ: Writers always get asked about their influences. Consider this that question.

BF: I can’t, and probably shouldn’t for fear of forgetting someone, provide any particular list of authors who have influenced my writing. I have gravitated to science fiction and fantasy since childhood, with a tendency toward epic fantasy. Stories that are character driven over those that are plot driven. As a child, I preferred tales where the good guys won absolutely; as an adult, I tend to favor stories with more nuanced conclusions, where the line between good and evil is blurred in both protagonist and antagonist, and where even the noblest characters suffer for the choices they make.

RZ: Bret, tell us a little about Tyrannosaurus Press.

BF: Tyrannosaurus Press is an independent publishing house of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternate reality, etc.) born out of frustration with the way the publishing industry worked, and how difficult it was for an unknown author to get any sort of voice. Sadly, the demands of life mean that it does not always get the attention it deserves, but we have published five novels and two anthologies to date, and our ezine, the Illuminata, is about to enter its tenth year. Our goal remains the same: to help unknown but promising authors find ways to get their words seen, with the hopes of furthering their writing careers.

RZ: Writing can be hard work. What motivates you to keep going? What inspires you?

BF: Writing is an escape for me. It gives me the much needed break from reality that we all need to continue functioning. For me, writing is a better escape than watching TV or movies, or even reading, because it also offers me mental exercise as well. Figuring out how each character should react in a given situation, and the consequences born of those characters’ decisions, excites me. It’s that excitement, coupled with the rush of a finished story, that inspires me most.

RZ: What are you working on currently? And what’s next for you?

BF: At the moment, I am preparing to start the final volume of the Boundary’s Fall series. After that… I have a number of other ideas, but I haven’t decided which one will get my attention next.

RZ: What work is available from you right now, and where can readers find it? Is there a place online where folks could go to learn more about you and your work?

BF: I have four novels in the Boundary’s Fall series (Path of Glory, Sword of Honor, Jewel of Truth, and Forge of Faith) available now in bookstores. The latter books are available in ebook formats as well. By the end of the year, we hope to have all four books available in Kindle, Nook, and ePUB formats. There’s also a smattering of short stories available across the web, and a number of articles in the archives for the Illuminata, which are available on our website (www.tyrannosauruspress.com).
Bret, thanks for visiting Razored Zen.

NOTE: Bret’s books are also available in print on the websites for Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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Monday, October 03, 2011

A Couple of Announcements

A couple of quick things. I mentioned Treasure Island in my previous post and how I was hoping to reread it soon. Well, I found that it was free for the Kindle on Amazon and quickly downloaded it. If you want it for free, the link is: here.

Also, the second issue of Rick Moore's White Cat Publications magazine is up online. I've read a couple of stories already and they are very good. The general link is here. There's also some exciting stuff coming up over there.

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

Treasure Planet

We watched Treasure Planet last night. This was my second time, Lana's first. This is a Disney animated movie, in case you don't know. It's based on Treasure Island but with all the action transplanted to space instead of the high seas. It starts similarly to Treasure Island but then moves further and further away from that story as it progresses.

I like the movie quite a lot. It engages my imagination. It's got pirates in space and a bit of a Space Opera / Sword and Planet feel. However, Lana told me it lost 80 million dollars when it was released and is considered Disney's biggest flop. Wow!

At first I couldn't figure out why it lost money, but I think maybe I've figured it out. 1) It's a bit too complicated for really young kids. 2) it's not sophisticated or modern enough for teenagers. 3) There's no love interest for the young man, Jim, which is a staple of many Disney classics such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. 4. The story seems targeted more toward a male audience with its subplot of a developing relationship between Jim and Silver, who becomes the boy's sort of surrogate father.

All in all, I thought it was well worth my time, but I'm apparently one of the few. If you saw it, what did you think? Do you have any idea why it may have done so poorly?
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