Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Avenging Angels Dream

It's been something of a dream of mine to work on a book series beside other writers whose work I value. Finally, it's come true. Late last year I was offered a chance to write a book for Wolfpack Publishing's ongoing western series, The Avenging Angels. I took the leap and am glad I did. That book is out now and is called "Avenging Angels: The Wine of Violence." 

The house name for the series is A. W. Hart, but such writers as Peter Brandvold, Richard Prosch, Wayne Dundee, and Chuck Dixon have handled the reins. I got my chance with book #7. 

The Avenging Angels series features twin brother and sister, Reno and Sara Bass, who become bounty hunters after their family is brutally murdered by outlaws. Their preacher father urged them to root out evil and they are doing it one bullet at a time. 

In The Wine of Violence, Reno and Sara travel to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas (my old stomping grounds), to uncover and stop a plan to build a criminal empire. Reno goes undercover in a town full of outlaws and finds himself caught up in a mystery. Is the preacher who leads the town a voice for good or a ruthless murderer? 

In the end, Reno and Sara have to rely on their guns to survive the day. If you like action oriented westerns, this might be a book for you. The whole series is certainly worth reading. It would tickle me no end if you bought a copy and read it. And if you do, a review would be icing on the cake! It's available in both ebook and print.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

1-18-2020: Local Mysteries Intrigue Author:

Since 2007, I’ve lived in the country outside Abita Springs, Louisiana, on a dirt road surrounded by woods. It lies in a sparse community of mostly trailer houses on other dirt roads. And it is a nexus of mystery. First there was/is the house. While most houses in the area are trailers or modular homes, this is a nice two story, possibly the most beautiful house in the neighborhood. And yet it lies abandoned. For a while, there were clothes hung on the rail of the back porch, as if set out to dry. Those finally rotted away. But at night, lights come on inside and a single ceiling fan begins to rotate. I’ve never seen a car there, or a person. I no longer walk past it.

One day I discovered a whole set of women’s clothes—socks, jeans, sweater—lying just off the ditch on one of the roads. They were arranged in the shape of a person sleeping on their back. Another time I discovered a white van run off the road into the woods. It was empty, with broken windows. I told the police about the clothes and the van. Nothing ever came of it.

My son and I discovered an unfinished wooden shed in the woods about fifty yards behind my house, clearly hidden from the road. It has since nearly rotted into the ground. We also discovered a bloated wild pig carcass in a ditch. I’ve found other unsavory things—deer heads, fish carcasses, and once a huge smear of what looked like blood across a gravel road. I’m pretty sure the dead animals and blood were from hunters throwing out the parts of their hunts that they didn’t want to take home. Pretty sure.

In the last couple of years, periodic explosions have rocked our neighborhood. Usually we’ll hear a big bang, or maybe just feel vibrations. One of these explosions was explained as an accident when someone was burning trash, but the authorities haven’t even acknowledged the others that have been reported by local residents.

In the last few weeks, another little mystery has reared its head. I often pass a house on my walks where there is a strange sound. It sounds like someone slapping their hand on a road sign, a kind of “spang.” And it’s very regular. Each time I’ve heard it, I’ve stopped and tried to figure it out; today, I realized that it’s coming from underground. As a writer, my first thought was, someone imprisoned in a cellar is tapping a metal cup on a water pipe to get attention. Then the rational part of my mind kicked in. It’s far too regular to be a person. It’s clearly mechanical and maybe it has something to do with these folks’ plumbing. Maybe. Or…

They say mystery is the spice of life. My life outside Abita Springs has been pretty spicy.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Surrounded by Friends for the Holidays

From the post that follows, don’t imagine that I’m lonely for human companionship. Far from it. Lana is here. I’ve spoken with my son and should see him and his wife, Heidi, and new son (my beautiful grandson Silas) soon. I’ve been on the phone and visited with friends and family. I stay in touch with many on facebook. But today, I’m posting about a different kind of friend. Some might call them the imaginary kind, but if you’re a reader you’ll know it’s more than that.

Joe Lansdale is just off to my right as I type this. T. Chris Martindale, Robert McCammon, David Morrell are close by. Well, their books are; their characters are. I’ve never met these writers, but their books and characters like Hap and Leonard and John Rambo are long-term friends and companions. Shirley Jackson and Charlee Jacob are there. These two writers themselves are sadly gone, but the books remain my friends—although Charlee’s works are not exactly the kind one brings home to mother. Even H. P. Lovecraft is there, a curmudgeonly uncle if there ever was one.

To my left sits Robert E. Howard and the single largest collection of lit-friends. As I look at them now, I reach for a book or two to share a nod with Kull and Bran and Dark Agnes. But Edgar Rice Burroughs and his creations are calling from behind. John Carter, Tarzan, Jane, David Innes, Dejah Thoris, Carson Napier loom larger than life at my shoulders. And right next to them are Dray Prescot, Delia of Delphond, Elric, Druss the Legend, Raven, Croaker, Eric John Stark, and a hundred others—Brak, Kothar, Kyrik, Thongor, Aldair—you know I could go on.

I can go around the room and name them: Poul Anderson’s Flandry of Terra, the Witch World characters of Andre Norton, Hammer’s Slammers and the Dorsai, the Lost Regiment of William Forstchen, Paul Atreides and Captain Blood, Repairman Jack and all the magnificent characters of Thieves’ World. The Traveler and the Destroyer and the Survivalist. The Shadow and Spider. Dumarest of Terra, Doc Savage, and Blade (more than one by that name). Harry Potter and Hermione. The Sacketts and all their kin. Some aren’t even human—The Black Stallion, Flame, Desert Dog, Big Red, White Fang, Buck, Old Yeller, Kalak.

There are plenty works by writers I have met and can call friends: James Reasoner, Sidney Williams, O’Neil De Noux, James Sallis, David Lanoue, Candice Proctor, Rexanne Becnel, Shauna Roberts, and others I know well enough that it feels like we’ve met even if we haven’t—Paul Bishop, Richard Prosch, Bruce Boston, Danette Haworth, Charles Nuetzel, Seth Lindberg, David West, Chris LaTray.

And these days, there’s even some of my own literary children in the mix: Ruenn MacLang, Trenton Banning, Thal and Krieg and Bryle, and three little foxes named Emris, Lyder and Flis. It’s a pretty full house for the Holidays. I’m happy.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Game of Thrones: An Ending

Lana and I just finished watching the final season of Game of Thrones last night. It seems like everyone else in the world has already shared their disappointment with the finale, so I’ll do my take. Warning: Spoilers ahead.

I had zero interest in Game of Thrones when I first heard of it. I hadn’t read the books and hadn’t been in the mood for what I thought would be “High Fantasy” for years. But Lana, my wife, was captivated. She kept telling me I’d like it, and at some point I sat down and watched an episode. I was immediately hooked. It wasn’t High Fantasy, but some semi-historical combination of High Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery. There are folks who’ve told me they don’t like Game of Thrones. They’re entitled to their opinion and I’m entitled not to care.

The settings, the characters, the ambience were all excellent. The acting was terrific. There was tons of intrigue but it never got in the way of moving the story forward. I quickly developed strong attachments to the characters. Some I empathized with and came to love, like Tyrion Lannister, and some I came to hate, like Cersei Lannister. Some went from one extreme to the other, and sometimes back again, like Jamie Lannister, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark and Grey worm.

Then came Season 8. I certainly empathize with the writers who had to try and bring this sprawling epic to a satisfactory close. They were working without a net by now, having gotten ahead of the books by George RR Martin, and there were numerous plotlines to bring together. Many viewers have described season 8 as feeling rushed, and I agree. There was so much to get done and some of it did not get its due. This is one reason I was particularly irritated by some of the “wasted” time in the final season. There were long, long scenes of characters mourning, of characters waking up and trying to figure out where they were, of characters staring in shock. The mourning scenes and shock scenes were necessary but far too prolonged, and this time could have been better used.

The most difficult part for me to deal with in season 8 was the change in some of the characters. Tyrion suddenly becomes a bumbling, love-sick fool, Daenerys Targaryen—an awesome character—takes a 90 degree turn into viciousness, Jon Snow seems to periodically lose his spine. Oh, there was some justification given for all these changes, but it felt very cosmetic and…contrived. I think the problem was, in large part, that they killed the Night King fairly early in season 8 and then needed another villain. Cersei was available but her movements were constrained, and so they had to make Daenerys a villain—or felt they had to. (See my last paragraph here for another possibility.)

Despite these complaints and the somewhat ham-handed forcing of the characters into awkward actions to close the storyline, I thought there was quite a bit of good in the final season. For example, Arya using an assassin’s trick to kill the Night King was perfect. I heard one critic say it should have been Jon Snow, and Jon was used poorly in the end of that episode, but it was right to have Arya do it. It should have been Jon clearing the way for her to reach the Night King, however. In addition, the ending of the Hound in conflict with his brother was spot on, I thought. And I thought it appropriate for Cersei and Jamie to die together, buried by rubble in the depths of the castle that Cersei had ruled for so long and so monstrously. I thought the end of Jon’s story was also right, even though it was emotionally painful for the viewer—at least this viewer. He was kind of a Moses character in some sense and thus could never quite reach the promised land. I liked Arya sailing off to chart new lands. I liked the bantering and bickering among the new King’s council near the end. It sounded just right to me.

And finally, Daenerys’ end. It seems to me that Game of Thrones was her story. She was truly a doom-driven hero, and her descent into madness was perfectly suited to drama, even if it was both hard to watch and so rushed as to make it hard to believe. In the end, having Jon Snow kill her the way he did was the only choice left to these characters. And to have her carried off by her last surviving dragon was a nice touch. So, I watched Game of Thrones. I don’t regret it. It won’t be easily forgotten in the years to come.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Out of Dreams: Nightmares

Most years I do a little more for Halloween than I've done this year. I have been busy writing, though, and some good things should start to show up pretty soon. In the meantime, I wanted to take Halloween to make an official announcement of the publication of Out of Dreams: Nightmares, a collection of short stories based upon the weird dreams I've had over the years. 

This has been out for a little while now but I haven't really promoted it. There was going to be a post from another blogger that was going to kick this off but they seem to have disappeared from the scene for the moment. I didn't want to wait longer. 

Some of these stories have been published elsewhere but not previously collected. Others are brand new to this publication. There's also a lengthy essay toward the end of the book on how to use dreams to enhance creativity. It's something I've given presentations on before but I've never written it up for publication before. 

Out of Dreams: Nightmares is available in print and ebook on Amazon. The print version is only $6.00, which is pretty cheap these days. The kindle version is $2.99. I hope you'll check it out. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Book Report for October 2018 to October 2019

I've done a reading report each of the last several years here on my blog. Time for another one. I've mentioned it here before but my way of keeping records is kind of unusual so I'll quickly explain again. I keep my yearly reading records from October 14th of one year through October 13 of the next. October 14th is my birthday, so that's why I do it that way. 

This was a good year for me. I read 129 books, up from 106 last year. I'm pretty sure I owe the increase to taking it a little easier at my job in the aftermath of last year's heart attack. It also seems I found a bunch of books I really liked this year and so I tore through them at a fast pace.

For the first time in quite a few years, Westerns led the parade. I read 29 of those. This is certainly due to me writing a lot of western related material this past year, including the novel The Scarred One, the short stories for Scott Harris's four 500 word anthologies, and some stories for another western collection that I plan to put together in the next year or so.

Second on my most-read list was Mystery/Thriller, with the main emphasis on the thriller side. I read 23 of these, due mostly to Harlan Coben, whose books I've been devouring at a high rate of speed. An interesting development (at least to me), is that for the first time I separated Men's Adventure from other types of Thrillers. This is because of the Men's Adventure group on Facebook, where I've been having a lot of fun talking about this kind of book. I didn't start separating these out until late in the year, however, so I only have 5 official Men's Adventure books on my list. That'll probably go up next year.

Non-fiction was next on my list, with 14. These generally fall into three categories: science books, books on writing, and books on heavy metal music. I separate these on Goodreads but not in my word processing list, which I like to keep to one page.

SF and Fantasy took slight dips this year, ending up at 9 and 10 respectively. I also read 7 classics (meaning books by folks like Hemingway etc), and 7 poetry books, both slight increases over last year. I got sent several poetry books this year from folks who know I do reviews and that's probably why that number went up a little bit.

I could go on but I may have overstayed my welcome on this post already. I do love talking about books. Here's to a great 2019-2020 reading year for everyone!