Sunday, May 20, 2018

Unsheathed: A Review


Unsheathed: An Epic Fantasy Collection. 2018: Hydra Publications. ISBN = 9781940466682

Edited by Stuart Thaman.

Contains: 9 fantasy stories, all of which would be classified as either sword and sorcery or high fantasy. Full disclosure: one of the stories is mine.

Hanging at Crosbothar, by Austin Worley: A great opening line here, “Corpses hung from the ancient maple like leaves.” Has an historical feel—brought to mind the Templars—but brings in magic as a significant player in the story. The primary hero is female and is well drawn. Writing is good; lots of sensory details. Enjoyable.

Retribution by Night, by Chad Vincent: No real hero in this story, but plenty of villains. The one known as Armstrong is most memorable. I’d generally consider it sword and sorcery but the naming convention in the story sounds more historical. The writing style is very unusual, perhaps rather experimental on the part of the author. Interesting read.

Where All the Souls are Hollow, by Charles Gramlich: My story. Features the character, Krieg, a series character I’ve been working with. This was intended to be sword and sorcery with a twist. I won’t give that away. For those of you familiar with fantasy, the charter of Krieg probably most resembles Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane.

Switch Blade, by Dr. Scott Simerlein: More high fantasy than sword and sorcery, and a tale with humor. A magical blade that can switch bodies and souls. The tale hinges on the difficulty of getting the right soul back into the right body after an accident. Ingenious plot. A very satisfying ending that brought a smile and a “well-done.”

King’s Road, by G. Dean Manuel: This one has another magical blade and my favorite character in the collection, Prince William. William’s father, the king, is not serving his land well in the face of a sorcerous invasion. William has to act but he does so with honor by giving his father a chance for redemption. A good read with another strong ending. Has a kind of historical feel.

The Artefact, by Ross Baxter: Excellent start to this tale, when three companions enter a ruined estate in search of secrets. There’s a cool female warrior named Silja, and a tinkerer named Jud, who is the primary character. I liked Jud a lot and liked how the tale ended. Sword and sorcery.

Under Locke and Key, by Jay Erickson: The only story to feature a child as main character, although there are strong supporting characters. Gwendolyn is a slave girl in a land where a plague called the “Red Tears” is running rampant. The cure to the plague is hidden in plain sight but the story is well constructed so you don’t solve the mystery until the final reveal. I liked it quite a lot. Sword and sorcery with an historical feel.

Ransom for a Prince, by Liam Hogan: This one features a realistically portrayed female warrior who must fight a desperate battle to give her liege a chance to escape. No magic in this one. Lots of good fighting choreography. And a strong ending. Well done.

Only an Elf, By Stuart Thaman: This one features elves and dwarves and leans more toward high fantasy. The main character is an elven slave of the dwarves who discovers a way to strike back at her captors. Well told tale with interesting and complex characters.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Rope and Wire, and Lane Gabriel

I've joined an online western community called Rope and Wire, which is the brain child of Scott Gese. There's a tremendous amount to explore and so far I've just scratched the surface. Generally, it provides a place where western authors can find support and support each other. Lots of good stories are already posted there, although, as I say, I've only been able to read a few so far.

My first story accepted for the site went up yesterday (Saturday). It's called "Gun Law" and features a character named Lane Gabriel. I created Gabriel all the way back in 2013 and wrote three partial stories about him. Life intervened and I never finished any of them. Then I moved on to other projects, but I've remembered the character.

When I became aware of Rope and Wire, I decided I wanted to submit something to them. I went back to the Lane Gabriel stories and found one that I could whip into shape as a complete tale. If you read it, you can see that the "end" could easily be expanded on, and I may do that over time.

If you check out my story, you'll find it written under the name Tyler Boone, which is what I've decided to publish all my westerns under from now on. Anyway, if you'd like to read "Gun Law," you can find it here.

Thanks as always for the support!


Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Blog Rejuvenation


Well, I took off half of March and all of April from the blog. I just needed a break. Sorry to all those whose posts I’ve missed, but April, in particular, would not cut me any slack. However, school is just about out. A couple more tests and graduation and I’ll be done for the summer. So, I thought I’d see if I can rejuvenate the blog a bit over the summer.


First post back is gonna mostly be writing related updates. I’ve had various bits of good news, and some not so good. I’m putting the not so good behind me so here’s the good:



First and most recent, Sirens Call #38 is out. It’s a free PDF download and contains a horror story by me called “She Fled, Laughing.” It’s gone one of the grosser endings I’ve written. I do hope you enjoy. Like I say, it’s free to read. Here’s the link.
 



Second, the “Unsheathed” anthology is now available in paperback if anyone wants. Nine sword and sorcery tales, including “Where All the Souls are Hollow,” a Krieg story, from me. There’s also a kindle version, which I mentioned in my last blog post way back when. Here’s the link:

 

Third, “The Shot Rang Out” is the first in at least 4 western anthologies of 500 word flash fiction tales that will be published this year. All are helmed by the illustrious Scott Harris. Each will contain 52 stories, written by 52 different writers, in response to a specific prompt. “The Shot Rang Out” is already available in paperback and kindle. I’ll be in all four anthologies, under the Tyler Boone name. My story in “The Shot Rang Out” is called “The Long Ride.” My stories for 2 and 3 are already done. #4 is rough drafted. I had a lot of fun with these and I’ve read the first volume all the way through and will say it’s all great fun. Here’s the link to the first one:

 



There are a couple of other things upcoming that I’m excited about. I’m going to have a Krieg story in a brand new fantasy mag that’s coming out soon. I won’t say too much until it drops, but I’ve seen some illustrations for it and they are dynamite.



Looks like I’ll have a story in a Halloween anthology this fall, although I’ll share more about that later too.



Finally, my first western novel will be published this summer through my own Razored Zen Press. It’s called “The Scarred One.” I’m just looking for the right cover now but it should go up sometime in the next few weeks.



If anyone is still out there, thanks for reading. I’m going to make my blog rounds later today, although I’ll never get caught up on all the posts I’m missed, I’m sure.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Unsheathed

A new collection of Epic Fantasy is out from Hydra Publications called "Unsheathed." This contains a story by me called "Where All the Souls are Hollow." This is the second story that I've written about the character Krieg, who is kind of a mix of REH's Kull and Karl Wagner's Kane. I just found out this was published so I haven't read it yet, but I like the cover and the story titles look pretty interesting. Right now it's available on Kindle here:

There's a third story of Krieg that is completed but not yet sold. It's called "The Rotted Land." I'm currently working on a fourth story called "Lords of War." I've been really enjoying writing about this character, more than any other heroic fantasy character I've created. Each of these tales starts with a brief, few line poem. Here's the one for "Where All the Souls are Hollow."

Out of choking dust and black smoke
came a warrior with eyes
like broken blades.
Wherever he journeyed,
war followed.
None could say why.
The survivors called him Krieg.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Lawyers, Am I Right?


A few lawyer jokes for your morning.

1.
A lawyer dies and is standing before St. Peter at the Pearly Gates for judgment. The lawyer says: “I object.”

“Object to what?” St. Peter asks.

“I wasn’t given enough life. I’m only 50 years old.”

St. Peter consults his records and frowns. “It says here that you’re 87, not 50.”

The lawyer sputters. “Why that’s ridiculous. You must keep shoddy records. How did you figure I was 87?”

St. Peter replies: “We added up your billable hours.”


2.
A Catholic couple die in an accident just before their wedding. They go to heaven, but because they'd really been looking forward to their wedding, they ask St. Peter if they can still get married. He tells them that he’ll have to get back to them.

Two years later, St. Peter comes and asks if they still want to get married. They say yes and so he takes them to a priest who performs the ceremony.

All is well for quite a few years but finally the couple decide that they want a divorce. They go and ask St. Peter if they can get a divorce in heaven.

St. Peter sputters: “It took two years to get a priest up here. Do you have any idea how long it’ll take to get a lawyer?”


3.

A condemned man is asked on his last day if he’d rather have a visit from his lawyer or a hooker. Without hesitation, he says: “Lawyer.”

The guard says, “Now you know the lawyer is not going to be able to get your execution delayed.”

The prisoner nods. “Yes. But all I want is a last round of kinky sex.”

“Well then why not pick the hooker?” the guard asks, flabbergasted.

The prisoner answers: “Because there’s ‘nothing’ a lawyer won’t do to get his client off.”




Thursday, February 22, 2018

Harlan Coben


Though I’d heard his name often enough, I didn’t discover Harlan Coben as a reader until I picked up “The Woods” by him in February of 2017. Here is my review on Goodreads:
“Very good. A standout mystery thriller that keeps the twists and turns coming. Well developed characters that you can root for, but who are certainly not perfect. I found myself irritated at interruptions that kept me from turning the pages and I think that is a pretty good recommendation. I'd not previously read anything by Coben but I'll be looking for more.”


Despite liking “The Woods” so much, it wasn’t until January of this year (2018) that I read my second Coben book—Darkest Fear. I loved it even more than “The Woods” and immediately headed to the bookstore and online to get more of his works. Here’s what I said about Darkest Fear.
“Wow, what a very fine book. The best I've read in a while. This is a good example of a page turner. I was completely caught up in the story and the characters. I've only read one Coben before, The Woods, which I also highly recommend. This is the first one I've read in the Bolitar series but I'm off to pick up the rest of them now. A very talented author.”


Since January 1st, 2018, I’ve read four more Coben books. This is rather unprecedent for me. I hardly ever select works from the same writer so close together. It goes to show how much I am enjoying his work. Here are some quick reviews below:



Six Years: “Really good. A professor uncovers the mystery of why the woman he loved suddenly married another man and made him promise never to try and contact her again. Layer upon layer of secrets are uncovered. Excellent plotting and very fine characters.”


Fade Away: “The third book I've read by Harlan Coben. This is also 3rd in the Myron Bolitar series. This is my least favorite of Coben's works so far, but it still gets 4 stars. A really good writer capable of creating very interesting characters and wrapping an exciting and intricate plot around them. Starting another Coben book tonight.”


The Innocent: My favorite so far: “An outstanding thriller. My favorite so far from Coben, which is saying a lot because I've liked everything I've read by him so far. It's a long book but I came close to finishing it in one session. That's how much I liked it. I did finish in two sessions and it was the kind of book where you close the last page and get that little feeling of melancholia because it's over. I highly recommend it.”


Gone for Good: This is the only one of Coben’s books so far that I didn’t just love. I still liked it, though. Here are my comments on Goodreads: “Is there such a thing as too complicated? Maybe, and maybe this one slips into that territory. I enjoyed it. Good writing. Interesting characters. I felt rather lost quite a bit of the time, particularly early. The ending was good.”




In short, I love me some Harlan Coben. Excellent storyteller and I highly recommend him.






Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Short Stories


So, I’ve now read my first Tolstoy. Not War and Peace. I haven’t the strength yet. I read a collection called The Kreutzer Sonata, which contains three longish short stories: "How Much Land Does a Man Need," "The Death of Ivan Ilych," and "The Kreutzer Sonata.”



Before I talk about the stories, some folks might ask me why I waited so long to read Tolstoy. I’m nearing my sixth decade. I blame high school English and literature classes. I already loved reading before I started Junior high. I read a bit of everything but particularly enjoyed animal stories, football tales, westerns, and SF/Fantasy. I hadn’t really been introduced to the “classics,” but in school we read such offerings as “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Silas Marner,” “The Great Gatsby,” and “The Scarlet Letter.” Grapes was about farmers, which my family was. It was long, with no action, and the settings were very familiar. When I reread it as an adult I appreciated it. But not as a teenager. As for “Silas Marner,” I still think it’s one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Gatsby was actually rather enjoyable because it introduced me to a world I didn’t know, but it still didn’t have the excitement I craved. And Scarlet Letter was much the same, interesting, but not a page turner. I decided after these experiences that the “classics” were generally unimaginative, long, dealt strictly with internal rather than external experiences, and, worst of all, were boring.



In my mid-twenties I came back to the “classics” when I started reading Hemingway and realized that things ‘can’ happen in classic tales. “The Old Man and the Sea” is a great example. I also came to appreciate internal experiences more, and since that time I’ve read a lot of the classics but have certainly not caught up with everything I should read.



And now for Tolstoy and this collection. Seeing as how this is a translation, I can’t make much judgement about Tolstoy’s prose directly. These tales are well and simply told. There’s not much beauty in the prose—in the translation, but there is excellent scene setting and Tolstoy seems able to involve you in the tale quickly. The stories are long and a bit slow for modern readers, but it’s not unbearable and the interesting things that happen keep you reading. I gave the collection four stars, which is pretty darn good. With the exception of “How Much Land,” and the ending of “The Kreutzer Sonata,” these stories are almost exclusively “internal experiences.” Almost no action, mostly telling, with very little showing. Despite these negatives, the tales are compelling, especially “Ivan Ilych” and “Kreutzer.” They are compelling because they lay out moment by moment high level emotional destruction of a human being, and they are paced nearly perfectly to wring the most out of the reader.



“The Death of Ivan Ilych” is just that, a story about one man coming to grips with his impending death. The fears, the hopes, the pleading. They are all there in superb detail. I found the ending excruciating and was glad of it. “The Kreutzer Sonata” is about the destruction of a marriage through jealousy. The last sections of that are also excruciating but pretty close to ‘page turning’ intensity. The internalized experiences of the characters in these stories rang absolutely “true” to me, and that is the mark of a very good observer of human behavior. Tolstoy certainly hit the mark square center. I highly recommend this collection.



I’ve already picked up another collection of Tolstoy’s short stories and will start reading that soon. And then? Maybe War and Peace.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Book List: Prices and Inventory

I suppose the new year is a good time to put this kind of thing up. Below is an inventory list of my books--meaning the ones I have in my house for sale. With prices attached. Most of these prices are better than you could get online. Some of them are pretty cheap, actually. And I could sign these copies if anyone were interested. A few of the ones on this list are very limited in number. I have only one Mage, Maze, Demon, for example, and one Strange Worlds. Those two I will not be getting more copies of, but everything else I can generally get more copies if needed. Of course, if you buy from me there is likely to be some postage costs. These are relatively minimal in the US but generally much, much higher for international mail. If you should be interested, you can email me at cagramlich11 at gmail dot com


PRICE AND INVENTORY:

(22) ADVENTURES OF AN ARKANSAWER----  $6

(4)   COLD IN THE LIGHT----  $8


(13) SWORDS OF TALERA---- $12:50
(8)   WINGS OVER TALERA---- $12:50
(6)   WITCH OF TALERA---- $12:50
(2)   WRAITH OF TALERA---- $12:50
(2)   GODS OF TALERA---- $12:50

TALERA TRILOGY ----         $35
ALL FIVE TALERA BOOKS ---- $60.00


(12) BITTER STEEL---- $12:50
(9) MIDNIGHT IN ROSARY---- $12:50
(6) IN THE LANGUAGE OF SCORPIONS---- $12:50
ALL THREE ANTHOLOGIES ---- $35



(14) WANTING THE MOUTH OF A LOVER (HAIKU)--$3

(1) MAGE, MAZE, DEMON---- $5

(8) HARMLAND---- DARK TALES---- $5

(6) KILLING TRAIL---- $5

(6) UNDER THE EMBER STAR---- $12:50

(4) WRITE WITH FIRE----  $18

(0) WRITING IN PSYCHOLOGY---- $18

 (1) STRANGE WORLDS---- $12.50

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Two Strange Movies

So, thanks to Lana, I recently watched two movies that I would never have seen on my own. I liked one of them quite a lot and one not so much, but I'm glad Lana urged me out of my comfort zone on these.

Movie 1: The Lobster, 2015. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Stars Colin Farrell and Rachel Wiesz. This is an absolutely absurd film about an SF dystopia. If you want to know the details of the plot, you can find it on Wikipedia. I won't repeat it. Basically, in the world of this movie, it is unacceptable to be single. Single people are taken to a hotel where they are given 45 days to find a partner, or they will be turned into an animal. They get to chose the animal, and Collin Farrell's character choses a lobster.

Farrell doesn't really want to become a lobster, though, so he strives to find a relationship. For a relationship to work in this world, it requires that the two individuals share some trait. One couple gets together because they both have nose bleeds, for example (although the man is faking it).

Farrell's character tries to start a relationship with a very cruel woman but cannot carry off faking his own cruelty. He flees the hotel and runs into a bunch of "loners" in the woods. Farrell's character is short sighted and he meets a loner woman (Weisz) who is also short sighted. However, the loners will not allow relationships so they have to hide their attraction to each other.

Throughout the whole movie, every character's dialogue and actions are delivered almost entirely deadpan. This adds to the absurdity of the situation. As with most artsy movies, the ending is left open-ended. I have to say, though, that I enjoyed this movie and was particularly interested in the dystopian world it envisions. I wouldn't mind reading a book that gave more detail about the world but apparently there isn't one.

Movie 2: Melancholia, 2011. Directed by Lars Von Trier. Stars Kirsten Dunst and Keifer Sutherland, among many other fairly big names. This is really a movie about depression. The big metaphor in the film is of a rogue planet named "Melancholia," which has entered our solar system and is supposed to swing close past earth. However, the first part of the movie barely touches on the planet.

Dunst's character is Justine. The movie starts on her wedding day. She and her husband are late to their wedding reception, but at first everything seems wonderful and they seem much in love. Gradually, the reception becomes a train wreck as Justine's depression comes fully into play. Her father is a dilettante and lush, her mother a vicious hag. Her sister, Claire, has some anxiety issues of her own but is generally trying to keep things together. Claire's husband, John (Sutherland) doesn't have much tolerance for Justine or her mother, but does have genuine affection for his wife and son. If you want to know more details of the plot you can find it here.

Although the acting is good, I found the first part of the movie to be pretty boring. I didn't really like any of the characters, particularly Justine. I sympathized with her depression initially, but when she began to behave in deliberately cruel ways I lost that sympathy.

The second half of the movie focuses more on Claire, Justine's sister, but it also brings to the forefront the plot with the planet Melancholia. Claire has heard that the planet will crash into Earth, while her husband, John, insists that it will only pass close by. This was interesting to me, and the visuals of Melancholia growing in the sky were great. My next couple of paragraphs are going to reveal the ending, so if you don't want spoilers you shouldn't read on. However, the beginning of the movie essentially reveals the ending anyway in a slow motion series of beautiful, digitally produced artistic images.

It turns out that John is wrong. The planet is going to crash into Earth. John cannot handle this and kills himself, abandoning his wife and child. This seemed completely out of character to me. Claire is left, panic stricken, to take care of her son. Justine is also there and now the movie tries to make Justine into the strong one. It doesn't work because Justine continues to exhibit cruelty and her solution to dealing with the impending destruction of earth is lie to the child about a "magic cave" that they can build to save them. The very end shows Justine, Claire, and the boy inside a haphazard construction of cut poles as Melancholia hits Earth.

Although I don't consider the time spent watching this movie to be a waste, as is sometimes the case with movies, I definitely did not like the movie. I thought it was well filmed and well acted but it was way too long, tried to make heroes of characters who were not heroes and tried to make cowards of characters who were not cowards. In a movie, or a book, the viewer or reader has to get to know the characters. It's a delicate thing to keep those characters true to the way they've been developed while still presenting new sides to them, but it is crucial. This movie didn't quite achieve that, in my opinion.




Friday, January 05, 2018

Year's Beginning: 2018

If you talk of 2017 now, you have to tell it like a ghost story. That year is dead, though I'm not sure it's buried. 2018 is fresh and vigorous, still feeling its sap rising. But life is like a gothic novel. The roots of the new grow out of the sins of the past. Nothing that "is" can escape the chains of what "was." And the older you get, the more "was" there is to deal with. The challenge, I guess, is to let the old inform the new without warping it.

I'm old enough now to have seen quite a few children grow up. I've seen them come into the world much like the new year, vigorous, curious, innocent. The innocence always goes. But some maintain their vigor and curiosity long after others have lost theirs. I wonder, were their childhoods less warping than those others? Did their roots start in a field free of sin, or relatively so, at least? Or do they have some inner strength, biologically given perhaps, that those others do not?

On a quiet day at work, with little to distract my thoughts, this is the kind of thing my mind turns to. Although my innocence is gone and my vigor diminished, it would seem that my curiosity has survive--although it has taken a morbid turn.