Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Frights of Halloween

Shadows do not remain in their places. Tonight.

Leaves crackle, and you ask yourself what strange feet are treading them under.

The wind moves in the trees and around the eaves of the house. Why does it sound like voices? And what are they saying?

In the summer, a cool breeze is a friend. On Halloween, it is something else.

What lies beneath all those costumes? Are they really children? From what parents?

The moon has been staring at you for a long time. You begin to wonder why.

Why are all the cobwebs empty? Where have the spiders gathered? Is it someplace close by?

None of the movies you watch on Halloween are true. Are they?

Why is it on Halloween, when you finally go to bed, you hear sounds in the house you never heard before? Where have they been hiding?

Was the door to that closet closed the last time you looked?

Could the wind be alive? Could a house be alive? What if they are? And what if they are friends and don’t like you very much?

But now forget all these silly thoughts and questions. Why don’t you have a nice, hot, relaxing shower. What could possibly go wrong?

Have a happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recent EReads and Acquisitions

I went through a couple of weeks of heavy school work with very little time to read, but finally turned on my Kindle yesterday and began reading some of the shorter stuff I’ve downloaded, as well as finishing up one book I started previously. Here’s my report on said stuff.

First up, I bought Blood and Tacos #3 several weeks ago but finally got around to reading the story I bought it for, “Blood & Sweetgrass: This Rez is Mine,” by Chris La Tray. I love the characters in this, and the high intensity action. I really am looking forward to seeing more about these characters. I will be reading the rest of this magazine as time permits.  This looks to be a very fine magazine and I’ve been remiss in not reading it until now.

Next, I picked up Savage Blood, a western novella from James Reasoner, featuring a one-armed gunfighter named Brodie. Brodie has been drifting since he came home from the war to find that his wife had left him for another man. But now she’s calling for his help, and Brodie responds, to find that she’s in a dirty fight against powerful foes. Soon, they’ll learn that hell hath no fury like a warrior scorned.

Like in all of Reasoner’s tales, you find an excellent mix of characters and action that pull you straight through the story until the end.

I also picked up a very strange item free from Smashwords called Skull Face Revealed, by Roberta E. Howard, which is billed as a “gender switch adventure.” I have heard of this writer before but have no idea who they really are. There is a picture of her at Smashwords, but I don’t know if this is the real author or not. I picked this up because it was free and I was curious.  Ms. Howard apparently writes tales that use Robert E. Howard’s  basic plots, settings and titles but reverses the gender of the hero. Some titles include “Red Nails, Polished,” and “Queen of the Black Coast, Recrowned.” I have started reading the one I have and will say the writing is certainly decent. I don’t really know what to make of this whole thing, though.

I picked up The Unexplained, a collection of terror tales from Christopher Fulbright, and The Fantastical Acquisition of the Sword of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna by Angeline Hawkes.  Fulbright and Hawkes are both writers whose work I have enjoyed before. Haven’t started reading either book yet, but they look intriguing.

I got a copy of “Fuckin’ Lie Down Already” by Tom Piccirilli. I’ve read a couple of Tom’s books and stories and enjoyed them, and Tom has recently been going through some serious medical issues related to brain tumors. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt his mood to find his books climbing the charts, and no doubt the royalty money would come in handy as well. At Amazon, his author page is>here>.

I also got Hard Case, by Bernard DeLeo. Looking forward to reading it since I’ve really liked some of the other books by him I’ve read, such as The Defenders and Cold Blooded.

There are a lot more I could talk about but wow this blog post is starting to get pretty long so I’ll cut it off there. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Story of Kindness

On facebook, a friend of mine named Christopher Golden posted about a very negative event that happened to a veteran in a wheelchair and invited everyone to post about an act of kindness in response. I thought it was a great idea, so here is mine.

I was twenty-four, in graduate school, living on 500 dollars a month. I’d hitched a ride to Dallas, Texas for a society for neuroscience conference where I was presenting a poster, and was staying at the cheapest place I could find on the outskirts of town. I took the bus in every day to convention center.

One night I was eating at Shoney’s next door to my motel. I had about eleven dollars in my wallet and was glad we were going back home the next day. A fellow came in who was trying to sell his paintings and was asking twenty dollars for them. They weren’t very good but if I’d had the money I would have bought one anyway. As it was, when he came up and asked me to buy one I had to tell him, “I’m sorry, man. I’ve barely got enough to cover my supper here tonight.”

The fellow left and I didn’t think anything more about it until I was getting ready to leave and asked the waitress for the check. She told me that it had “been taken care of.”  When I asked “by who,” she reluctantly pointed to a nearby table where an older gentleman sat with his family. I didn’t really know what to say to the waitress but I went over to the table and told them “thanks,” but that I could have paid for my meal. The man responded with, “Well, I heard you say you had barely enough to cover your supper and I’ve been there myself.” 

I thanked him again and went on. I’ve never forgotten it, though. Sometimes humans do nice things. It’s in us if we’ll just let it out.


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Chain...

I was chained to this by David J. West (Author of HEROES OF THE FALLEN) so I’m sharing some things about my primary “work in progress.”

What is the working title of your book?

I’ve actually worked recently on two books but the one I’ve gotten the farthest along in is called The Razored Land.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It’s a post-apocalyptic book, which I’ve always wanted to write. The concept of folks surviving after an apocalypse that destroys human civilization is an oldie but a goodie. Some great stories have been told in that kind of a setting. For my book, I added in the idea of a DNA plague that alters all kinds of life forms, including most humans. There are people who are immune to the plague, and that’s where the main character comes from.

What genre does your book fall under?

Post-apocalyptic literature is almost a genre of its own. However, this kind of book is typically classified as Science Fiction and I’d say that genre makes up the greatest element of the story I’ve conceived. However, there are going to be some very strong horror elements in the piece.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I don’t ever see actors playing the roles in my fiction. Not sure why. I’m not a big movie buff. If forced to choose, I might pick Colin Farrell to play the main character. Samuel Jackson might fit the primary villain, with lots of makeup. There’s also a female character that might be played well by the young woman who played the female terminator on the Sarah Conner Chronicles. She’d also need quite a bit of makeup.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

At the end of the world, love and hate meet as enemies on the final battlefield.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Neither, most likely. I have a small press publisher interested in it and that’s probably the route I’ll go.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The book is about half done at 33,000 words. It took about 8 months to write that much, although it wasn’t the only project I was working on. I have other commitments now before I can get back to it but I figure about another 8 months to finish. It would take considerably less if I wasn’t working a real job.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are many post-apocalyptic (PA) books out there, although some of the other elements that I’ve added in will make this book different. A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of my favorite PA books. The Stones of Power series by David Gemmell has certain things in common with my book. I could certainly name a dozen others. Andre Norton wrote some of this that was certainly an early influence on me. Jerry Ahern wrote a series called "The Survivalist" that had many elements I admired.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I’d have to say, “reading” inspired me to it. I love post-apocalyptic books. I love the setting and the possibilities. It gives the imagination some room to run and I always enjoy that. I want to try my hand at it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

In my novel, Cold in the Light, I had a non-human character named Kargen who many readers really liked, even though he was basically the villain of the story. He was kind of a non-human anti-hero. I’ve wanted to write such a character again and “The Razored Land” has given me that chance. I’ve got a couple of Kargenesque characters in it. I’m having fun with them.

That's it.

Now I have to chain people to this thing so I’ll name a few people but will say only for them to do it if it intrigues them and they have the time. I don’t want them to feel any kind of pressure from it. I know we writers are busy folks and the last thing I want to do is add more pressure and stress to the mix.

James Reasoner
Oscar Case
Richard Prosch


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Growing a Character

I see a scene in my head. It goes something like this:

The last Danok lies dying at the warrior's feet, it's silver blood soaking into the raven sands of the arena. More of that same blood drips from his sword, from his hand, from his face. He tastes it in his mouth like a raw and bitter wine.

He looks up at the stands surrounding him. The Vhichang mob is on its feet, the bright feathers on their bodies standing up with excitement. They chant  his name in hawkish voices. "Raath! Raath!  Raath!"

A sudden roar of sound drowns out the mob. Raath's gaze is drawn higher, into the golden sky. A metallic object as big as the arena hovers there. He recognizes it as some kind of ship, but it is nothing like the Vhichang vessels he has seen. On its side there is writing.

A weakness sweeps over Raath, a weakness that no foe has ever caused in him. He recognizes the writing from a childhood he barely remembers. He can read it.

"United States Air Force," it says.

End scene.

Where will this scene take me?  Anywhere?  Nowhere?  I only know that I feel a character growing in my head. And I wonder.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Mouse that Got Even

When Josh was little he had quite a few stuffed animals and all of them had names and personalities. Josh generally gave them the names; I typically handled the personalities. We had “Tenny,” a rabbit who had a tennis racket sewn in his hands, “Pinky,” a fluffy pink rabbit, “Baby White Bear,” whose name is self-explanatory, “Bear,” who was a larger white bear, “Bro,” “Bear’s” twin, “Mittens,” a calico tabby, “Dallas,” a bear Josh’s mom picked up for him in Dallas, Texas, “Mickey,” a mouse we got at Disneyworld, and “Baby Yellow Mouse.”

Tenny and Pinky were bought from a Goodwill store and were partners in crime, always on the lookout for the cops. We never found out exactly what they’d done, but it was apparently pretty serious because whenever they were with us in the car they kept a constant eye out for policemen and would immediately hide if any were spotted. Bear and Bro were good companions to Josh, always making sure the other animals behaved and protecting Josh if there was any need of it. They slept on either side of him at night, and they were in charge of our annual Halloween Haunted house, which the stuffed animals put on each year in Josh’s room. Mickey was quite obnoxious, going around constantly saying things like “Everyone loves Mickey” in his high pitched voice. Most of us didn’t really love Mickey because of that.

Mittens, like most cats, simply existed to be petted. He was generally good natured, but we had to keep him and Baby Yellow Mouse separated because they did not like each other. We never traveled with both of them at the same time for fear of an…incident. Baby White Bear was something of an airhead. He could hardly remember anything and would frequently get off topic if you asked him a question. He was good natured, but gullible, and he sometimes fell under the sway of Baby Yellow Mouse, who I will sometimes refer to as BYM. BYM was just flat out a sociopath.

One year when we were going to Arkansas to see my mom and family, I asked Josh whether he wanted to take Mittens or Baby Yellow Mouse with him, and he decided to take Mittens. BYM was quite upset about this and threatened that we “hadn’t seen the last of him.” Josh and I just laughed. But it turned out the joke was on us. The day after we arrived in Arkansas, a small box arrived in the mail at my mom’s house addressed to Josh. Mystified, he tore open the box only to find Baby Yellow Mouse and a note inside. The note read: “You thought you would leave me behind but it didn’t work. You’ll never be able to leave me behind. I have my ways.”

By necessity, Baby Yellow Mouse joined us for that vacation, and on the way home that year, Mittens mysteriously disappeared. We suspect that he fell out at one of our stops and we didn’t see him, but I could never be sure of whether BYM had finally gotten even. He certainly looked smug enough, but that wasn’t proof of any wrongdoing. We bought Josh another stuffed cat, but this one never messed with BYM. I think the word had gone out.

For our trip to Arkansas the next year, we told BYM well in advance that he could not go with us and that we’d make sure of it. As the time for the trip neared, however, BYM suddenly disappeared from Josh’s room. We thought he had run away. We arrived in Arkansas all happy and as we got out of the car we heard a voice, sounding much like my voice except higher pitched, say, “Hey, don’t leave me in here.” A few moments of searching revealed that BYM had stowed away inside one of the hubcaps. Josh was quite impressed with his ingenuity, and from then on we never forbade Baby Yellow Mouse from accompanying us on trips. We were sure it wouldn’t do any good anyway.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

To Newsletter or Not

I’m considering trying out an author newsletter to support my writing. I don’t read a lot of author newsletters but I find some intriguing stuff in them at times. I’d read more if I had more time, since I enjoy learning about authors whose work I like.  Knowing how busy I am, and knowing that others are similarly busy in this connected world, I would only want to do two issues a year, Spring/Summer, and Fall/Winter, and would not want them to be more than about 2 pages each. My thoughts right now are to call it the “Razored Zen Newsletter” to keep it tied to my blog and to Razored Zen Press. 

Content wise, I’m thinking of adding a very brief update on what is going on in my personal world, and then include mentions and teasers for a couple of recently published projects, with snippets of reviews of those publications.  I’d have a short “what I’m working on” piece, and maybe a poem or a sample of a story in progress. If space permitted, I could do capsule reviews on some of the stuff I’ve been reading.  Since this newsletter would be distributed primarily through email, I’d have embedded links to everything.

Here’s my questions for my visitors. 1. Does this sound like something that might attract readers to my work? Or drive them away?  2. Do you ever sign up for this kind of newsletter from authors?  3. If you do read such newsletters, what kind of things do you like to see in them?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

The World According to Detail

Outside my window this morning, a Chickadee perches, worrying at a sunflower seed to get it open. I see his little black cap and the white eyeliner he wears. A cardinal, dressed in angry red, lands on the same branch. The Chickadee wisely hops to another.

Lana comes in and points out a female Indigo Bunting in the yard. She isn't brightly colored but if she is here the blue bedecked males may not be far behind.  I see some of our resident doves on the ground near her, in a patch that is bare of grass where we spread seed every other day.

The leaves on the trees are still summer green here.  Mostly. I can see a few brown ones scattered throughout, and at places in the woods I see red and yellow leaves on some of the bushes. We will have a fall, though it will be a brief one. You wouldn't want to blink.

There is much to be thankful for this day. This morning I have a few minutes to think, and it is a joy. And it is our 5th anniversary. Lana and I have a five-year-old, you might say. I'm looking out on the same backyard scene we saw that October day 5 years ago. We were married on our own deck. And this whole last week Lana has been feeling so much better. That, too, is such a relief.

I hope your day is going as well as mine.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

When It Pours

I’ve said before that academic work is often feast or famine. Sometimes it gets piled on. At other times you get to catch your breath, and maybe even complete a thought. There is one way to predict when you’ll get hit with a pile, though, and that is whenever it will be most unpleasant for you. This is a corollary of Murphy’s Law, no doubt.

Xavier was originally scheduled to be off school on Monday, and Tuesday, October 8-9. I knew CONtraflow was the weekend prior so I scheduled two tests on Friday, the 5th, knowing I’d be able to recover from the con and get my tests graded over those two free days. Then Hurricane Isaac hit and we lost a week, and as a result we’ve taken those two days back for classes. To accommodate CONtraflow, then, I moved one test to Monday.

It would have been tight to get to the Con and get the first test graded too, but I could handle it. Alas, I had forgotten to predict the inevitable. When I came in on Friday I also found three big research proposals waiting for me in my box for my evaluation.  I went to work on those and made some progress, though it meant that I barely made it to the meet the guests party at CONtraflow. But by Monday morning, two new research proposals had spawned in my box, and I gave another test that day. I put in almost 15 straight hours of work and made it about halfway through the pile that needed to be completed. I’ve been up working since early this morning and it’s looking like a 12 hour day is on the way. I’m taking a little break to write this.

I looked at Blogger for the first time in several days yesterday and had 283 posts in my feed. I hadn’t the strength so had to mark them all as read. If I should get through early enough today, I’ll try to make some rounds this evening. I’ll have to see.

In the meantime, Issue 6 of White Cat Magazine is out, and it looks to be a doozie.  I’m going to do a fuller review as soon as I can get out from under the work pile. Check it out.