Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Renewal of the Vows: Sort of

Tomorrow marks a twenty year anniversary of sorts for me. On January 1, 1989, I made a vow in the journal I was starting to keep. On that date, I gave myself five years to get published, and I promised myself that I would work on some writing task, no matter how small, each day. That meant I would read a book about writing, or study a grammar guide, or, mostly, that I would just write. And I added a last promise, that if I’d really tried hard for five years and had nothing to show for it, I’d quit writing and not look back. I’m glad I didn’t have to abandon writing. In fact, I sold several things that first year, and quite a bit since, although at times I wonder if it’s gotten any easier.

Several times over those first five years I had to “rededicate” myself to writing. Life does get in the way. I was also establishing my career in those years, and a marriage that ultimately didn’t survive, and I was raising a son. I don’t regret letting those things get in the way of my writing. They had to. No matter how important writing is, life is more important. Other people are more important. Children are the most important. You can’t write without doing some living yourself.

Eventually, it became sort of routine to “renew” my commitment to writing each New Years, even if I’d written a lot and had good success in the previous year. I’ll do it in my journal again tomorrow. I don’t really make resolutions, per se, but I do take stock, and I believe it’s important at least once a year to verbally acknowledge those things that remain important goals in your life.

Looking back now on that original vow, I think the only thing I might change is the time limit I set for myself. I don’t think the time matters because every writer grows and develops in their own way and at their own pace. It only matters how many words you’ve put on the page, and whether you’ve tried each time to make them better, and if you’ve put in the hard work and study that you must do to improve.

I hope everyone out there has a wonderful New Year’s eve and New Year’s Day. As for me, I’m planning on enjoying the three F’s—food, football, and fine reading.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Hero Problem

I recently read Doc Savage: Man of Bronze, the first in the Doc Savage series. I thought it was pretty bad. In fact, I’ve never been a fan of the Doc Savage books. I’ve read maybe a dozen or so and while they often have interesting beginnings, and some rather cool concepts, I’m usually pretty bored before the end. So I started to wonder why, and I believe I’ve figured out a major reason.

I just don’t like the character of Doc Savage, mainly because he’s just too damn perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I like for my heroes to be heroic. I like to root for the main character in a story, and I don’t root for true anti-heroes, such as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. But I like my characters to have complexity and at least some areas of gray.

Conan the Cimmerian, created by Robert E. Howard, is a good example of the kind of hero I like. Some call him anti-hero but I disagree. He certainly doesn’t always follow the rules of societies he finds himself in, but he clearly has an internal moral compass. He doesn’t betray a friend. And when he becomes king he indeed rules for the betterment of his people. He’s far from perfect, though. He was a thief when young. He’s ambitious, not above drunkenness, and has a weakness for women. These things make him far more human than Doc Savage and far more real. They also mean that he isn’t 100 percent predictable, as Doc Savage is.

There is one character who is pretty close to a true anti-hero that I do like, and that is Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane. But even Kane isn’t “quite” out for just himself. He has respect and liking for some people. He’s not just a vicious psychopath, which is how Hannibal Lecter was drawn in Red Dragon and through Silence of the Lambs.

I’d like Doc Savage a lot more if he ever had a lazy moment, or drank too much once in a while. Or, for goodness sake, what’s up with this “no women” thing? As I was reading this last volume there were several places where it talked about how Doc couldn’t allow himself to be weak toward women because he had such lofty goals. Reading it with today’s eye, I immediately thought, is he gay? Of course, many of these books were written in the 1930s and 1940s so they are dated in this way. But Howard wrote about Conan in the 1930s too and the character doesn’t seem nearly as dated.

A too perfect hero just doesn’t work for me. Give me a Conan type every time.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

For Lana

If I die tomorrow
I’ll call your name
From the dirt

I’ll sing this song
In the white;
In the smoke

And you’ll know
The last word I whispered

The last name
I called

If I die tomorrow

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Night of the Living Holidays

Like many bloggers, I’m going to take off a few days from blogging to celebrate the holidays. It’s also possible that I’ll head up to Arkansas to see my mom. She was put in the hospital for just a day, but they then took her to the nursing facility for a bit to get her physical therapy so she can come home. I’d like to be there to help out once she gets out of the nursing facility. But I also have to go back to work on January 7 so I need to go up before then. I’m still playing it by ear, to see when it would be best for me to be there. I’m not leaving until after Christmas for sure because I want to be here for that to be with Lana and to see my son, Josh.

I will post here if I decide to go, or when I decide to go, but I may not be visiting blogs for a few days anyway because of the holidays. In the meantime, I leave you with a review of Kolchak: Night Stalker of the Living Dead.

I was lucky again in winning a contest held by Christopher Mills over at Atomic Pulp, and he sent me the three volume comic book series that he wrote about Carl Kolchak warring with zombies in the corn fields of Nebraska. Chris wrote the books, and the art was done by Tim Hamilton. Dave Ulanski is the editor.

I’ve been a fan of Kolchak for a long time. I really enjoyed the original TV series, with Darren McGavin in the lead role. It’s one of the very few TV series I’ve ever caught all the episodes of. Chris perfectly captures the McGavin take on Kolchak, rumpled, cynical, a little brave and a little cowardly at the same time. If you like Kolchak and comics you should definitely like this three volume series. It’s available at Moonstone Books.

By the way, Chris’s Femme Noir series is also very good. In fact, I thought it was better than the Kolchak, and that’s saying something.

Until later, Merry Christmas to all. And to all a good night!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fire Ants and Mushrooms and Roses, Oh My

I have a series of posts related to writing that I’ve finished, but I’ve decided to wait until the new year to start running them. Get 2009 off to a rousing (writing) start, so to speak. In the meantime, today’s post is going to ramble a bit.

First, I’ll share a few pictures I took of our neighborhood yesterday. To begin with, there are two views of the Fire Ant nest at the end of our driveway. This thing has been growing and growing and is almost a foot high now. It looks like a freaking termite mound. I’m thinking atomic ant movie size here.

Second, this “field” of mushrooms are all “Fly Agarics.” They grow all over the place around us, and are particularly common in pine forests, which is mostly where we live. They are famous for being “magic” mushrooms, with hallucinogenic properties produced by an active ingredient called muscimol. This field is just across the dirt road from us, in our neighbor’s yard. There’s also a close up view of a couple of the fly agaric caps. They’ll kill you pretty quickly if you overdose on them.

Third, is a rose “tree,” not a bush, that grows down the road about ten yards from our mailbox. As you can see, the blooms are gorgeous, but this is not a typical thorn bush. I have no idea what its official name is. Most of the blooms are bloody crimson but one has a lot of white streaks in it for a nice contrast.

After finishing the book No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, which I thoroughly enjoyed—even the movie is very good—I chose a less challenging work called Bronson, by Philip Rawls, published by Manor Books in 1975. Less challenging is an understatement. It’s horribly written and is, as I suspected, a complete rip off of Death Wish, probably being more influenced by the movie starring Charles Bronson than by the original 1972 novel of that name by Brian Garfield. That novel is much better written by the way.

The main character, Richard Bronson, is an engineer, much like Paul Kersey of “Death Wish,” who is an architect. The Kersey character became a vigilante after his wife and daughter were attacked and killed by muggers. The Bronson character becomes a vigilante after his wife and “two” kids are attacked and killed by muggers. Paul Kersey had been a combat medic in Korea; the Bronson character here is an ex-Green Beret from Vietnam. There are many other similarities., none of them flattering to the actor Charles Bronson and the original “Death Wish” novel or film. Say what you will about Death Wish, the original book, and even the movie, at least tried to be about more than just grisly vigilante murders. This book doesn’t make that effort.

Most amazingly, the Bronson books were actually a “series.” Hard to believe they ever published more than one. The one I have is subtitled “Streets of Blood,” while the first volume in the series is apparently “Blind Rage.” There is also one called “Switchblade.” I’d almost like to see if the other two are as bad as this one, but even spending fifty cents on such literature might be impossible for me. I’ll have to see how I feel after a week or two of recovery.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Celebrate if you’re a mind to.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Great New Book

I just finished a great book, and even greater, it’s the first in a series. I always love finding a compelling new series to read.

The book is What Angels Fear by C. S. Harris, who is also know by the real life name of Candice Proctor. This is a historical mystery series set in England, primarily London, during the early 1800s, the “Regency” period. It features Sebastian St. Cyr, a nobleman who has been rusted a bit by the dark side of life that he’s witnessed, but whose basic goodness is untarnished beneath. St. Cyr hangs out with a lot of “undesirables,” or so they would seem to his noble father and to his social climbing sister. But St. Cyr finds that nobility, and depravity, can each wear fine clothes or foul.

The series stands at four books right now, What Angels Fear, When Gods Die, Why Mermaids Sing, and Where Serpents Sleep. The first one certainly made me want to delve right into the others, all of which I have on my shelves.

What Angels Fear begins with a brutal murder of a popular actress from the London stage, and our St. Cyr is accused of the horror. Rather than flee the country, as many of his friends urge him, he remains in England to solve the crime and clear his name. He gets more experience of the seamy side of London than he might have preferred. But he thrives, and even manages to rekindle a love he thought he’d lost.

The mystery at the heart of “Angels” is a good one, with several surprising developments, but the real joy here is characters and the chance to really “live” for a little while in a very different sort of life. Candy, who has a Ph.D. in history, knows her time period, and the intimate little details are wonderfully realized. And besides, how can you not like a book in which London’s “yellow fog” virtually becomes a character.

Check it out!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Recent SF Dream

A generational spaceship had been discovered which was inhabited by two different alien races. Both had been reduced to a relatively simple level of culture and were constantly in conflict with each other over resources. What had been a decidedly “hot” war in the past had deteriorated into more of an exhausted hate fest because the numbers of each group had declined so precipitously. I was part of a group of humans who were trying to negotiate a peace between the two warring factions. I don’t know how we found out about the ship or how we reached it. The story began with our group already onboard. I didn't "see" the origins of the story; as often in dreams, I just "knew" them.

Although both groups of aliens were relatively humanoid in appearance, there were some differences. One group was very tall, and…wedge shaped. They looked like slices of pie from behind, with two eyes on either side of a triangular shaped face. The other aliens were very squat, and almost frog looking. They were quite a bit less humanoid.

The representatives of the two groups sniped at each other constantly throughout our attempts to negotiate, and my fellow humans were on the verge of giving up. Then the wedge shaped alien representatives did give up. At least, they rose as one and started to stomp toward the doorway. In desperation, I launched into an impassioned speech. I can’t remember much of the details, only that I focused on how the two groups had to live, or die, together. By the end of my speech everyone was in tears, including me, and the Wedge aliens had returned to their seats.

We humans then began to carefully withdraw from the scene as the two alien races began to talk with each other and, for the first time, seemed to speak honestly and honorably. I remember looking back on the room and thinking, we’d done it, we’d brought peace to these war torn groups.

We took an elevator upward and as the dream ended we stepped out of the elevator on top of a spaceship to look down across it. It was a series of half spheres, each one seeming to have bubbled into others. Our ship was docked nearby and I remember it being sleek with a huge back fin rising up into the blackness of space. Then I woke up.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is Storytelling Failing

I watched two movies yesterday. First, I watched Treasure Planet, an animated retelling of Treasure Island, set in a future with sailed starships. Next, Lana and I watched the recent remake of The Incredible Hulk. I really liked Treasure Planet and didn’t care for the “Hulk.”

Later, Lana and I talked about the movies we’ve watched lately that were “less” than compelling, The Strangers, Mongol, and whatever other ones we’d seen that we couldn’t even remember the titles of. We both decided that Hollywood made better movies in the 1970s and 1980s than today, and I was trying to decide why. A reason occurred to me that I’m throwing out to see what folks think.

I suspect that the people making movies in the 70s and 80s were largely influenced by books, while many of the folks making movies now are influenced by other movies and TV, or by comic books, which are closer to TV/Movies than to regular books. Movies influenced from books seem, to me, to have a better sense of storytelling, of combining all elements such as characters, action, and setting into a complete experience. Movies made by folks who basically only watch other movies or movie-like experiences lack that completeness.

How else to explain my yesterday’s experience? I much enjoyed Treasure Planet, based on a wonderfully fine novel, while with the Hulk I was constantly thrown out of the story by problems with continuity, things that just seemed simple storytelling "don’ts." For example, a chase scene early in the movie, which probably lasts a total of 15 minutes of “real life” time, begins clearly in daylight, and suddenly it is night! Say what? Or another fight scene takes place under a completely blue sky, until suddenly at the end it begins to pour down rain.

Now, Lana looked the Hulk up online and found that they did a lot of neat things to reflect back on the history of the character and on the TV show, and they were the “greenest” production ever in being environmentally friendly, but how could they take such care with these details and let the scene continuity vary randomly? It really hurt the movie for me, and all I can think is that they weren’t quite coming from a storytelling perspective. Rain is dramatic. Throw it in! Night is dramatic. Stuff it here! So it doesn’t make sense? The audience trained on TV and Video Games and comics won’t care. Well, uhm, there are still some of us out here who remember what good storytelling was like.

Nuff said!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Snow Day

I woke up a little after 8:00 Thursday morning to an amazing sight. It was snowing! Literally snowing. Actual flakes instead of the occasional hard pellets of ice that we do get. I’ve lived in southern Louisiana since 1986, and in that time I’ve seen it “snow” twice, which means I saw a few flakes mixed with sleet. But this was an actual snow that continued for hours and ended up laying about three inches of the white fluff on our entire neighborhood. (Some forty miles north of us it snowed eight inches!) I quickly went out and had a walkabout.

Later, I completed my grading and got my final grades turned in. I still have a few student letters of recommendation to do, but otherwise I’m officially finished until January. I have a deadline on an article but I’m hoping to have time for some fiction as well. Maybe I can also get some stuff submitted.

In reading, after taking a well-earned break from doing anything, I finished my night off with Darwin’s God by Cornelius G. Hunter. It was a complete waste of time, and I wish I had those hours back. Hunter bases his “entire” book on the fact that Darwin commented several times in On the Origin of the Species about how God would not have deliberately engineered a world with so much savagery in it and with so many poorly designed structures. Hunter points out, rightly, that this presupposes a view of God as essentially a benevolent, merciful, and competent creator.

After this single point, however, Hunter states the same thing over and over throughout 175 boring pages. His primary addition to this argument is that the very fact that Darwin mentioned God in his book means that evolution is really “entirely” an argument against the positive view of God rather than for evolution. Of course, Darwin made such comments in his book. Any new theory is going to point out how it is different from the prevailing theory.

When he’s not reemphasizing the above point, Hunter is claiming that the evidence for evolution is simply not evidence. He makes this claim over and over…, with no justification whatsoever. He has to know he’s engaging in “baffling with bullshit.”

Finally, though, the worst part of this book is its cowardice. I wondered if Hunter would have the guts to say what lies at the heart of his argument. He didn’t. I wasn’t surprised, since it would have horribly insulted many Christians who probably make up the book’s primary audience. If we follow Hunter’s arguments to their logical conclusion it would mean that God, according to Hunter, is capricious, vicious, and hateful. Hunter’s God is a trickster and a liar, and Hunter should have had the cojones to say so.

And oh, wow, the snow is still here this morning, although it's melting fast. This is unheard of.

Forgive me for not getting around to everyone's blog the past couple of days. I'm off to visit now, although I doubt I'll be able to catch up on all the posts I missed.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008


All finals given. Grading has commenced.

Brain slowly collapsing under the pressure.

Mental failure imminent. Failure imminent!

Further blog posting and commenting delayed.

Recovery possible in two days.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Poetry Mood, Movies, and Violet Raines

How much does your already established mood influence your enjoyment of poetry, fiction, and movies? A couple of days ago I started reading Virgin of the Apocalypse, a poetry collection by Corrine De Winter. I tend to read only a few poems a day from such collections, and I started this one on Thursday. At first I couldn’t get into the pieces. Of course there was beautiful language, interesting word use, and strongly imagistic writing, everything that Corrine De Winter is known for, but I wasn’t feeling much emotional power from the pieces.

Then on Saturday morning I picked up the same collection and read “It Was in a Time of War.” Suddenly the meaning clicked. It sang. I turned the page, read “The Ballad of Marie Virgo.” Again, bam, the resonance overtook me. I flipped back to poems I’d read the day before and found in them now the meaning and emotional power I’d previously missed.

What happened? I had given a test on Thursday, and even when I was doing other things part of my mind was focused on grading I had to do. My mood was blocking any chance the poems had to engage my emotions. Once I got the hardest grading done, my mood lightened and suddenly the poems could freely enter my consciousness.

Obviously, the emotional power dwelt in the poetry, but my mood was blocking the full experience. On the other hand, three movies I’ve seen lately failed to engage my emotions, even though I wanted to watch them. We watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Strangers, and Mongol, none of which I cared for. The new Indiana Jones wasn’t as horrible as some have claimed, but I never felt caught up in the story and the ending felt sort of silly to me. The Strangers was supposed to be a horror film. It wasn’t. I didn’t like the movie’s main characters, and the “threat” was very weak. The good guys were a full grown adult male and adult female, facing off with a young male teen and two teenage women. The good guys had a shotgun while the bad teens had an axe and knives. Why didn’t the adult couple just clobber the teens in ten minutes and go out for breakfast? As for Mongol, it had beautiful scenery, and most fight scenes were pretty cool, but overall it just didn’t work as a story. Whenever young Temudjin (Genghis Khan) got into serious trouble the filmmakers cut away, leaving us to assume the miraculous. And though people were threatening to kill him throughout the movie, and he was captured numerous times, his enemies always managed to let him escape. Once he just ran off, because no one had bothered to tie his feet or tie him to a pole, and no one was watching him. Another time they put the great warrior in a yoke but didn’t tie him to a pole and left one guy to guard him. Were we supposed to be surprised when he escaped? There were many other silly parts to this movie.

Finally, though, I started reading Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightening by Danette Haworth, about noon on Saturday and finished it within a few hours. What a wonderful book! It didn’t matter what mood I was in, the book put me in the right mood to really enjoy it. “Violet Raines” is what I’d call a “Tweener” book. It’s not quite a young adult novel, but not quite a children’s book either. I’m a long way from the 12-year-olds that populate this book, but I really found myself involved in their stories and dramas. I thought the story was a very honest portrayal of both the strengths and weaknesses of young folks who are struggling with burgeoning maturity. Well done, Danette. Thanks for an enjoyable afternoon.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Equal Time for Weird Men

I did a post about women being weird, so it only seems fair that I’d expose some of the odder tendencies of my own gender. Of course, not all men will show these things, but many will have to sheepishly, or not, admit to being characterized.

Without further ado, here are five weirdities about men. Feel free to agree or disagree. But remember, it’s a man telling you these things.

1. Why don’t men like to cuddle more? I do enjoy it, but try as I might, a few minutes of cuddling go a long way. I think, for me, it’s because I have a very hard time doing…nothing. I know it’s not nothing, but it seems like nothing to me. Stillness is a tough thing.

2. I’ve wondered why many women like to watch movies that make them cry. Well, I have to wonder why men like to do things that “hurt.” I once stepped out into our back yard to see my 12 year old son punching his best friend in the shoulder as hard as he could. I leaped to stop him, only to be told that they were “taking turns” busting each other on the arm to see who could take it best. I shook my head, told them I didn’t want to see anyone bawling on my watch, and went back inside. Of course, I have to admit that a main attraction of football was being able to hit someone as hard as I could and not get punished for it. I still love it when I see a football player get “jacked up.” But don’t get me started on Jackass and it’s brother shows.

3. Why don’t more men love to read? Of course, I’m talking to a biased sample of men here on the blog, most of whom seem to enjoy reading. But I know a lot of other men who hardly ever read. Why in the world not?

4. Why are men typically less religious than women, but when they are religious why are they often more fanatical about it than women? It’s men who tend to run things like the Taliban or the Inquisition, for example.

5. Why is it that you’re better off falling asleep, or passing out, around female friends rather than male friends? I believe, although correct me if I’m wrong, that when a young woman passes out among her peers she is quite likely to have a pillow put under her head and a blanket over her feet. At worst she might have a mildly embarrassing picture taken of her in such a state. But when young men pass out among their male friends, they are likely to wake up with shaving cream all over them, or with a bra tied over their head and a plastic sex toy in their hands. And when photos are taken by their “friends,” it quite likely involves someone’s butt (or other anatomical features) next to their face.

If anyone has the answers to these items, I'd like to know.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Day of Listening

Moonrat mentioned the “National Day of Listening” the other day. She suggested we send her links to our own “Day of Listening” stories, which are stories we’ve heard from others rather than ones that actually happened to us (or that we remember happening to us at least), and she’d post them. Most people who took part told either heart warming or heart wrenching stories. Well, I’m behind the times as usual, but it was such a great idea that I’m going to do it anyway. And I’m going to tell one that isn’t so heart warming or wrenching. I had the following tale from one of my brothers.

There was an old house a couple of miles from where I grew up called the Slavely house. Nobody had lived in it for a long time, not since Old Man Slavely hung himself there. One of the gorier details is that he hung there for four days in the summer’s heat until he was found and taken down. Some say he was buried in the yard without a gravestone to mark the site. Some say his rope was buried with him. I can never think of that part of the story without imagining the buzz of flies.

Years passed and the house became a source of scares for local kids, and for many adults too. There were dares for people to spend the night. None did. The usual excuse was that the basement had partially filled with rain and water moccasins and the floor was none too sturdy. You didn’t want to go crashing down among the snakes in the dark.

The weak floor theory wasn’t completely true, because one local family sometimes used the house as a barn to store hay for their cattle. As you might imagine, no one liked hauling hay to that house. Now, I was too young to haul hay at the time this story took place, but I later did go by the Slavely house a few times. One evening I was there at twilight, and the house certainly projected a dark atmosphere as it squatted amid its grove of gnarled oaks. I left the vicinity pretty quickly, wondering if I might, by chance, be stepping on the old man’s grave there in the yard. Believe me, I was glad to shed the aura of that house as I made my way rapidly toward home and light.

On the day of the event I’m relating, two brothers were hauling hay to the Slavely house. I’ll call them Jerry (the older) and Willie (the younger). It was an overcast day, and Jerry made Willie go into the house to actually stack the hay. Willie wasn’t happy with this and kept glancing warily around as he placed the bales one on top of the other on the scratched old wooden floor.

Jerry, knowing his brother was nervous, began repeating, and no doubt embellishing, terror tales of Old Man Slavely’s hauntings. They were unloading the hay through a broken out window into the house, and as the stories grew in horror Willie started stacking bales closer and closer to the window where the sun shone rather than farther back in the gloom-laden room.

Jerry, sensing his advantage, began maneuvering for the kill. He began to unveil the most grotesque of the stories, the one about Mr. Slavely’s anniversary. The anniversary of his suicide, that is. Some claimed that every year on the day of his death, Mr. Slavely would claw his way up through the dirt of his front yard and return to the home he’d once known. He’d drag along his old rope and would then suspend himself from the rafters and hang there for exactly four days.

While Willie’s eyes bulged further with each dreadful word, Jerry suddenly looked past Willie’s shoulder in terror and screamed: “AND THERE HE IS!”

Willie leaped for the window with a shriek. But he jumped so high that his head hit the top of the windowsill and he knocked himself out cold.

Jerry was still laughing when Willie finally came around. And then the younger brother came close to killing the older and burying him in the yard with Old Man Slavely. I’ve always thought it would have been justifiable homicide.

I’ll end with one last thing. Some say that anyone who hears or reads a story about Mr. Slavely will get a strange visit within 48 hours of the experience. The lucky ones will hear no more than the sound of a heavily laden rope creaking slowly back and forth in the shadows away from the light. The unlucky ones? Well:


Sunday, November 30, 2008

December 1

December 1. One more week of classes and then final exams. After that it’ll be Christmas break. There’ll be a lot of work before then, though. The end of the semester is typically the hardest. This year won’t be quite so bad for me, though, because I had release time so that I only taught two classes instead of my usual three.

The release time was for a long-term project to write a book about science and religion, particularly where the conflict between evolution and creationism occurs. That conflict is a tremendous waste of energy in my opinion. In the first place, acceptance of the theory of evolution certainly does not require one to believe in God, but it doesn’t require that you disbelieve either. No scientific theory can require a belief in God. That’s just not the way science works. Science attempts to explain the physical world, and it applies to the physical world only. Science can answer many, many questions, but it does not tell us if there is an ultimate truth about the purpose of humankind. People of faith approach the great question of ultimate meaning from a different direction. Both ways of looking at the world are legitimate, and—-I believe—-can even compliment each other.

My project is not finished. I completed three chapters of the work, to go with seven chapters that I had previously finished. However, as I moved into the section on religion I found that I needed quite a bit more reading to ensure that I got the views right. That won’t be easy. Despite appearances, the creationism front is itself full of divergent views.

I did make good progress, though, and also managed to finish three reference articles in addition. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave much time for fiction. Maybe during the break I’ll be able to do some more of that.

In the meantime, with the holidays coming, don’t forget great gift ideas from the Charles Gramlich library: ;)

Cold in the Light

Swords of Talera

Wings Over Talera

Witch of Talera

Wanting the Mouth of a Lover. (See Sidebar to the Right. Scroll down just a bit.)


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, and Friday's Forgotten Books

First let me wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and forgive me for not getting around for all my regular blog visits today. I didn’t get to check blogs Wednesday and when I called up my Google Reader list this morning the number of posts was just beyond any chance of catching up. So I used the “Mark all as Read” choice and spent the rest of the day eating turkey and napping.

My post for today/tomorrow is for Forgotten Book Fridays, which is the brainchild of Patti Abbott. My choice for today is The Secret of the Martian Moons by Donald A. Wollheim. It was publishd by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston in 1955, and was part of a “juvenile” line, what today would be considered young adult. It’s an example of an SF subgenre that I’d call “Space Opera,” where the emphasis is on adventure.

“Martian Moons” was published before I was born, and I’m not quite sure at what age I read it. Probably I was no more than 12 or 13, and I found the book in the small Charleston, Arkansas library. At that time I wanted to be an astronaut myself and was especially enamored of Mars. This story didn’t let me down with its mixture of adventure and mystery.

The story begins with Nelson Parr, returning to Mars at age 16 after four years on earth. Nelson had been born on Mars, where his parents were scientists investigating the civilization left behind by an original Martian race. Unfortunately, the scientists had not had much luck in cracking the mystery of the aliens and Earth politicians were about to shut down the project because of costs.

But when everyone else leaves Mars to return to earth, Nelson, his father, and a few others stay behind on a “secret mission.” I won’t tell you what this mission is; it’s part of the fun of the book. But I will say that it involves a secret trip to Phobos, and later Deimos, which mean “fear” and “panic” by the way. And along the way there is one exciting revelation after another about the mystery of Mars’ original civilization.

This was all pretty heady stuff to the boy I was then, and in preparation for this post I reread the book and found it just as much fun, although not quite as surprising, as I had in those long gone days of youth. I even realized that elements from this book have worked their way unconsciously into concepts that I’ve developed for my own writing, including for the universe in which the Talera stories are set.

The Secret of the Martian Moons was a book that I remembered for years and years until, in my forties, I sought it out and bought my own copy. I remember the smile on my face when the package arrived and I took the book out and ran my fingers over the cover. And sitting here now writing this, I’m still smiling.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wherein I Get Tagged

The Sphinxy one tagged me, and since I was casting around for my next post I thought: Why not? It’s “Six Random Things About Me.” Or maybe it’s “eight.” I’m not sure but I’ll go for six, because there surely aren’t eight things that folks don’t know about me. First, here are the rules. Let’s see how many of them I manage to follow.

The Rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

1. I played football from 7th through 12th grade. I loved it, even though I almost always played on losing teams. At that time, Charleston was the smallest school in our district and we seldom had more than 20 kids out for football, not even enough to field two full squads. Most of the other schools had at least forty kids out, and some had seventy to eighty. We lost a lot, but we played hard. I played halfback on offense and either cornerback or safety on defense. I played a lot more defense than offense. In my junior and senior years our whole defensive backfield made all district.

2. I grew up in the country where hunting and fishing expanded our larder. That means I’ve had guns most of my life. I got my first pistol, a .22, at about fifteen. By the time I was 18 I had a shotgun (12 gauge) and a couple of rifles, a Remington 30.06 and a Browning Lever action .22. I sold the shotgun and the Remington when we needed money early in my first marriage, but I still have the Browning. I now have three pistols, a Colt Trooper .357, a Sig 228 9mm, and a Uberti single action .357. I know there are “gun nuts” out there, but most people I know who own guns are responsible and careful with them. I don’t understand sometimes the vehement resistance I see in folks to gun ownership. A gun is a tool, albeit a dangerous one that you should always exercise caution around. I do a fair amount of shooting at the range and enjoy it. I never pick up a gun without making sure it’s unloaded. I practice so that I know how to shoot and I keep my weapons clean. I’ve taught my son how to shoot and how to load and unload guns so that he understands and respects them. Respect is the key, it seems to me, not fear.

3. I may be an adult but I still love naps. Lana says my superhero name is “The Napping Avenger.” In a perfect world I’d have a siesta every day. I find them both pleasant and very energizing. I get a lot more work done on days that I nap than on those I don’t.

4. I begin every rest period by telling a story to myself. I’ll create a scenario, such as being transported to an alternate earth where none of the great SF, Fantasy, and Horror novels have been written, and then I’ll spin out a story of what I might do in that world over the course of dozen nights or so. I switch up stories all the time, although I often go back and retell stories with variations. It’s just how I get off to sleep.

5. My favorite games growing up were war games, and I played very elaborate ones all by myself. (I lived six miles away from the nearest kid my age.) I created one game where I used seeds from various trees as soldiers. Walnuts, Chinaberries, Acorns, yellow berries, hickory nuts, and others. Each type of seed represented a different race of beings (a precursor to the Talera stories perhaps). The acorns were tribal, with each oak tree producing it’s own tribe. We had two chinaberry trees in our back yard and the chinaberries became my favorite group. I developed a two party political system for them, a religion in which the Emperor was worshipped as a god, and a military that included an army, navy, air force, and mercenary forces. There were numerous tales of heroism that I came up with for the Chinaberries. Some day I’ll have to tell you about the “Lost legion.”

6. Next to war games, my favorite games growing up involved football. I created my own football “league” of teams using empty shotgun shells for the players. Each year after dove season, where a lot of folks would hunt on our land, I’d go and gather up all the empty shells and then the existing teams would hold a “draft.” I had an elaborate set of rules for how the pieces played, and I used a large rectangular piece of Formica as the “field.” My four teams were the Mongols, the Saxons, the Knights, and the Marauders.

And now I break the rules. I’m not going to tag anyone, but anyone who wants to take part please feel free to do so.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Contrast and Completion

First, thanks very much to both Laughingwolf and Demon Hunter for giving me this award.

Ain’t she a beaut? It probably won’t be a surprise to anyone that I don’t follow all the rules upon receiving this award. I follow enough rules in my day to day work life that I tend to resist them when I’m expressing myself here on the blog. Call me an anarchist! Or just a lazy idiot! It would be impossible anyway to just nominate 10 of my blog colleagues. I see so much wonderful stuff here every day.

And now for my own day’s post. Since I’m working from home today I decided to sleep out on our deck last night. It’s getting pretty cool here now. The temp dropped into the low 40s and there was a gusting breeze, but I built myself a cocoon of blankets on top of my cot and snuggled down as toasty as a pig in warm mud. Even though I was aware of the occasional ping of acorns or twigs on the deck’s tin roof, I slept wonderfully and feel very rested today.

It’s really a different experience sleeping outside. I could hear the constant murmur of the breeze, and feel it caressing the cot. I heard night birds and a few other critters I couldn’t name. The chill in the air around me increased the pleasure I found in being warm and snug. It's the contrast effect, I guess. The awareness of contrast somehow enhances my emotional feelings.

I remember when I was a kid, during the winter, when it would get cold as could be in my room at night because we had such a big drafty house. And even though I was snug under the covers, I'd deliberately stick my foot out and let it get cold so I could draw it back under the quilt and feel the enveloping warmth. And I remember when we’d have winter rains and I’d pull a chair up close to the edge of our porch, snuggle up in a blanket, and read there where droplets of chill mist could drift over me.

I guess it's hard to understand and appreciate the good unless you’ve experienced the bad. How can you truly know warmth if you’ve never known cold? How can you understand the true wonders of a good meal unless you’ve gone hungry? I guess I have to be thankful for the women who broke my heart when I was younger, or else I wouldn’t understand now how wonderful my life is with Lana.

I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recent Reads

I finished reading The Year of Living Biblically and really enjoyed it. I thought the author, A. J. Jacobs, did a good job of taking a fair and unbiased approach to his subject. One thing he pointed out, and it's something I've thought about before, is that even people who say they take the Bible literally don’t really do so. There are many things in the Bible that everyone pretty much agrees should be taken metaphorically. For example, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” clearly doesn’t mean that people are literally salt. Almost every person who looks at the Bible religiously will follow some rules and not others. How many moderns always wear white, for example, which is an injunction in Ecclesiastes?

Another book I’ve started reading is The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is what I call an anti-theist and really doesn’t want folks to believe in God. It’s an interesting read so far, although far from a convincing one. Most of his arguments are statistical in nature, although the statistics could be used just as easily to counter his points. I’ll say much more about this eventually in a longer piece.

I also just finished Phillip Ellis’s poetry collection called The Flayed Man and Other Poems. Ellis is an Australian poet and this is the first collection of his I’ve read. It’s really tremendous, particularly “Deep in Darkness” and “Deep in the Midnight,” which are almost companion pieces. I highly recommend it, from Gothic Press.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Creating Characters Part 2: Stereotypes

Standard thinking is that good characters avoid being stereotypes. I think that’s a bit oversimplified. Consider a character named “Joe.” We first meet Joe at a gun show in Alabama. He’s around fifty, long hair, beard, wearing blue jeans, motorcycle boots, and a t-shirt that reads: “Always outnumbered, Never outgunned.” He has a southern accent. We see him talking with one gun dealer about the best weapons for home defense, then see him buying reloaded ammunition for this .357 magnum. He finally buys a machete before leaving.

What kind of vehicle does Joe drive away in?
a. sports car
b. SUV
c. pickup truck
d. a hybrid

What level of education do you think Joe has?
a. high school only
b. college degree
c. advanced degree, (MA, PhD, JD)
d. high school dropout

If you selected “c” for the first question and either “a” or “d” for the second one, then you’re doing what most readers do, you’re buying into stereotypes. Readers will say they don’t like stereotypes but they use them all the time to guide them into a story. And if you suddenly break stereotypes as a writer you run the risk of losing the reader.

Characters should avoid being complete stereotypes, of course, but the writer usually needs to bend stereotypes gradually rather than snapping them all at once. You have to lead the reader into your character, and remember that almost all readers will make certain assumptions about your characters based on stereotypes.

By the way, Joe is essentially me. The gun show mentioned was in Louisiana instead of Alabama, and was a composite of several gun shows I’ve visited. But other than that it’s me. And I don’t drive a pickup.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Creating Characters: Part 1: Why Women are Weird

A couple weeks back in my critique group we went over a writer’s chapter in which two women have a confrontation and argument revolving around a man they both like. I and the other two men in the group thought the chapter worked well. Information was revealed. The plot got moved along. And, we thought there was even some nice characterization going on.

Three of the women in the group were having none of it. The scene didn’t work for them because they thought one of the women in the scene was too aggressive and blunt. In general, the women in the group thought that character was acting too much like a man, and that there should be more subtlety and undercurrents expressed in the argument scene. One woman even went so far as to say “real women” were more subtly vicious and cruel under these circumstances. Now, here’s the kicker for me. The author of the chapter was a woman.

Several weeks before this event, I was telling another group about a scene in a story I was writing where a mother acts a certain way after her child runs away from home. The three women in the group immediately tore my idea to shreds. “A mother would never act that way,” they said.

Skip forward to another moment in my critique group. I have a scene where two women, one a female warrior and the other an empress, are interacting. There’s distrust and hostility there and I tried to convey it with undercurrents in the dialogue, which wasn’t easy because the warrior prefers to let her actions speak louder than her words. One of the female group members said: “Well, I have to keep in mind that this is a man’s idea of women.”

OK, I’m confused. And it’s not the first time I have been so confounded by the other half of the human race. My confusion runs something like this: 1) Would not the woman author in the first instance have a legitimate feel for how women might act in a given situation? 2) Are all mothers precisely the same in how they’d react to a child gone missing? 3) Are there not variations in how women act, or do all women react exactly the same way to such experiences as an argument with another woman?

In defense of my own scene with the mother, I must say that I ran the same scenario past a female friend of mine who is a mother and she said: “That’s exactly what I’d do.”

I understand that men often put women into fiction simply for sexual reasons or to act as window dressing. Well, women do that to men sometimes, as well. And neither of those tactics leads to good characterization. Good characters definitely have subtleties, and they have varied responses to the world around them. I’ve known women who have been blunt, snide, vicious, understanding, supportive, emotional, unemotional, and just about every other descriptor you can imagine in specific situations. I don’t think women are always one thing.

So why are women so hard to characterize in writing? How easy is it to get a female character wrong? What kind of things should you never do in creating a female character? Male writers, and some female writers, want to know.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Death by Misadventure

The LSU football team lost a hard fought game against Alabama this weekend. That’s not my story. Sometime later, according to a radio report that I heard this morning, an LSU fan phoned an Alabama fan of his acquaintance and an argument ensued. Said LSU fan then drove over to the Alabama fan’s house, apparently taking his wife along, and a fist fight followed.

At some point, according to the radio, the LSU fan pulled a gun. But it so happened that the Alabama fan also had a weapon, a shotgun, which tends to trump other cartridge weapons at close range. The LSU fan and his wife are now dead. Radio announcer announced that “alcohol was apparently involved.”

My first thought was that the Darwin Awards had claimed two more. Stupidity will weed itself out (though I don’t see nature doing the job very quickly). My second thought was a touch of guilt at my first thought. Hello! Human beings dead here. Maybe I should have more compassion. Though I seem to be having a hard time working it up. What compassion I feel is for the poor families of those involved, not only for the dead ones but the relatives of the fan who did the killing. They must be going through hell because someone couldn’t hold their liquor. A sad day for them.

Come on people! Get a little perspective. It’s a football game for crying out loud. The sun will come up tomorrow for you.

If you let it.

And now for a song with some lyrics appropriate to that story, as well as to honor our vets on this day of remembrance. It's by Saxon and is called Broken Heroes.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Oh Happy Day

For reasons unknown, some kind of virus popped up on my work computer this morning. It keeps opening up webpages that I don't want to visit, and seems to be activated every time I intentionally open up a different site. Our ITC department tells me I have to take the computer to them for a mind wipe, which frightens me nearly as much as the virus. I'm going to back up everything first. I like my work computer and I'm wondering if it will ever be the same again. It's like Electroshock therapy for a PC.

In the meantime, I may not be posting a lot or viiting blogs as often for the next few days anyway. I have a bunch of tests to grade, some writing tasks that I'm behind on, and some things I need to help Lana with. In addition, there are a couple of football games I'd like to catch this weekend and it's not looking good for that.

I'm reading a fun book, though, The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs. It's a nonfiction work about the author's attempt to live for a year following--literally--the rules of the Bible. Jacobs says that he was born Jewish but was never really raised religiously. But he wanted to find out how difficult it would be to follow the Bible. He wants to try and understand the mindset of those who do this, or mostly do this, and since I'm interested in that topic too I felt it was worth a read. There's a lot of humor in the book, but it also makes some very good points about religion and secularism in our country.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Lana's Blogiversary and Moonrat Day

Politics aside, today is notable for two other reasons. I give you these below.

1. Today is the one year blogiversary of my lovely wife, Lana. Her "The Dreaming Tree" has gained her quite a bit of recognition, and in honor of the support that everyone has given her, she's going to be giving away one of her awesome paintings. I'd try to win it myself but I get to see them all as they are being created. And that's the absolute best. Check her blogiversary post out and enter to win HERE.

2. It's Moonrat day in honor of our favorite editor. To play along, win prizes, make comments, write haiku, and enjoy many other fun things, check out Celebrating the Moonrat. I think you'll enjoy.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I awoke to a very unpleasant sound this morning. We have been trying to buy the lots next to us where we live to keep folks from building on them but have had little luck in tracing ownership of said lots. Then I saw a sign up last week that I thought was a lot for sale just one over from ours. I immediately called to make an offer only to find out that it had already been sold and that no information could be released on the buyer. This morning, before 8:00, they started clearing the lot and the awful sound I heard was a bulldozer tearing down trees. I don’t begrudge others wanting a bit of nature in their lives. That’s why we moved where we did. But with the constant building—at least 12 houses have gone up in our neighborhood since we moved there in 2006—we’re rapidly losing the very nature that we wanted to get a piece of. It’s very saddening and I’m really not feeling very happy today. I want to get back somewhere in the woods with hundreds of acres around us as a cushion against other people. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

As a quick warning note, if you see a book by Peter Benchley called Creature, be aware that it’s the exact same book as his White Shark. I liked the book when I read it but didn’t need two copies. Now I have two because I didn’t realize it was just a change in title.

Finally, below is a complete—I believe—list of all those flash fiction stories and poetry that were written for Halloween Horror October. I’ve also included links to Halloween art from our blog colleagues, and links to blogs where nonfiction materials were published about Halloween. My own stories can be found in my post backlog under the names Halloween Flash #1 through #7. Thanks again to everyone who participated and who visited. Happy Halloween!

Halloween Flash Fiction Stories and Poetry:

Donnetta Lee, Spirit Moving.
Donnetta Lee, Loop.

Avery Debow, Empress of the Fescue.
Avery Debow, Problem Child.
Avery Debow,The Love of the Job.

L. A. Mitchell (an Award Winning Story), Home.

Sidney Williams, Having His Say.
Sidney Williams, Jack-O-Lanterns.

Miladysa, Twisted.

Bernardl, Jack-o-Lantern.
Bernardl, Last Halloween Fiction.

SQT, Election Day.

Lucas Pederson, The Lesson.
Lucas Pederson, Hell Plate.
Lucas Pederson, The Creeper.

Stewart Sternberg, Fat Man.

Vesper: Fortune.
Vesper, On a Halloween Night.

Will Kinshella, Halloween Flash.

Mark C. Durfee, Trick or Treat.

JR, Inspire.

Writtenwyrd, Chocophobia.

Travis, Investigating a Mysterious Ending.

Ferrel D. Moore, Little Friends .

Barbara Martin, Halloween Flash.

Sarah Hina, Run.

Jason Evans, The Forgotten Ones.

Billy Hammett, It Is a Fearful Thing.

Laughingwolf, freaky flash iii.
Laughingwolf, witch.
Laughingwolf, overlord.
Laughingwolf, Polterguest.
Laughingwolf, Dawn Coyote.
Laughingwolf, freaky flash IX, night.
Laughingwolf, flight.
Laughingwolf, analine..
Laughingwolf, lady jane.
Laughingwolf has another freaky flash up: Chance
Laughingwolf, freaky flash IX, night.
Laughingwolf, lobo.
Laughingwolf, rider
Laughingwolf (Adult Language Warning): taboo

Nonfiction Halloween Horror links:
Rick, “The Writer and the White Cat” ran a very informative series about the “monsters” of horror fiction.

Scott, Blog of the Beast did a series on horror movies, including one of the goriest films ever, “Dead-Alive,” which was directed by none other than Peter Jackson.

Writtenwyrd, Marketing Horror, markets for horror fiction.

Barbara Martin, Dracula, posts about horror films.

Travis, (a great true story of haunting),Ghost. Well worth checking out.

Halloween inspired art:
Steve Malley, here.

Jack Bertram, Frankenstein versus Hercules


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Flash #7: The Final Flash

All right. This will be my last Halloween Horror October story for the season. I hope to do this again next year, or something like it. I’d very much like to thank everyone who took part by posting flash fictions or other Halloween related materials on their blogs. We truly had some awesome stories posted and some great discussion of movies and other horror related topics. Kudos to everyone, even if you just came and read the pieces.

Now, I hope I didn’t miss any links. But I plan to do a post in a few days that pulls together ALL the Halloween Horror links that I’ve posted previously. So, if I’ve missed anything you’d like me to include, let me know and I’ll get it into that post. After tomorrow night, however, I’m not going to be adding any new links for a bit. I need a short break.

The piece below is a variation on something I posted originally in response to a prompt on another person’s blog, in this case Bernita, who is soundly missed, by the way. I don’t believe most of you have seen it so it should be completely new to you. It’s been revised anyway. It’s called:


Sunlight fogs the clearing where the dying trees watch; nothing stirs. But the quiet will soon break. Riders are coming from north and south, and before them fly the ravens. They come in flocks, light spilling dark from flashing wings. Their cries rasp the sky. A wind moves with them.

The ancient oaks shiver as the black birds settle raucously in their branches. The ravens’ agate eyes spark with red as they turn their heads in the sun. The grass stirs now, whispering with gossip as the wind arrives. And there is a rumble in the distance that might be thunder but which the ravens know as the beat of iron-shod hooves.

Up the last hills toward the clearing the riders come, their thunder shaking the earth now, shaking the trees and stirring the birds into a frenzy. Light ripples off armor, off the heads of lances and the bright pennons that snap with eagerness.

The sky roars with sound, then falls nearly silent as the armies draw to a halt facing each other. In the trees, the ravens preside. And the charge comes, as the birds expect. Battle is joined. Carnage riots in the clearing.

First blood soaks the earth, moistens the dry soil. More crimson follows. Buckets of it. It’s what the dying oaks have waited for. It’s why they’ve been sending hate over the years into weak human minds, urging them toward war, urging them toward this moment and this place.

Quietly, the oaks begin to bloom. And in the trees’ awakening hunger, the ravens are the first to be devoured.

The first. But not the last.

--- the end ---

New Halloween Horror Links:

More Halloween Horror October Flash Stories, or Poetry

Barbara Martin, with her first: Halloween Flash

Lucas Pederson: The Creeper.

Sarah Hina: Run.

Laughingwolf (Adult Language Warning): taboo

Jason Evans: The Forgotten Ones

Vesper: On a Halloween Night

Billy Hammett: It Is a Fearful Thing

Halloween inspired art:

Check out Steve Malley’s killer Halloween art here.

Jack Bertram: Frankenstein versus Hercules

From Scott’s blog: David Hartman


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Halloween Dream

Had a very strange dream last night. In some dreams I’m one person all the way through. In others, I’m observing from above as an omniscient presence. But in last night’s dream I “head-hopped,” moving from person to person depending on the scene.

The dream began on an oil exploration ship. Our team had brought aboard a slimy substance dredged from the ocean’s bottom and we had it in a glass case that looked a bit like a crystal coffin. I was one of several scientists gathered around the case as another scientist showed us how the slime moved when shocked.

At one point, the scientist sent a surge of electricity through the slime and it suddenly began to grow and started sloshing back and forth in the case much like those old wave machines used to. We all panicked and started backing away when suddenly the slime darkened dramatically and thickened into a throbbing chrysalis. In the next instant the chrysalis burst open to reveal, very anti-climactically, a chimpanzee.

The dream switched ahead in time then and I found myself in a rec room on the ship. I was reading a newspaper while two other men played cards. The chimp was wandering around in the room and I understood that tests had revealed him as nothing more than a normal chimp. For that reason he’d been freed of his case. I heard a sound and looked up to see the chimp suddenly attack the two other men and begin tearing at them. Blood sprayed; the men began screaming; I jumped up and ran for the door.

That’s when I began head-hopping. First I was back in the lab where the slime remaining in the glass case started to bubble and birth black blobs of some tarry substance. These broke open to reveal all kinds of apes. There were chimps, gorillas, and orangutans, but they were distorted, looking more human in the shapes of their skulls but with long arms ending in massive slashing claws. They smashed through the glass and I was swarmed under as I tried to flee.

I switched into another man’s head who was running from some howling apes. He dodged through a door ahead of his pursuers and reached the rail of the ship. There was nowhere else to go so he (I) hurled himself over the rail into a bright blue sea. As soon as I hit the water I switched into the head of a man hiding behind a white counter with two others. Apes burst through the door and began searching the room. One guy tried a peek over the counter and the apes saw him and attacked us.

I fled down a hallway and out a back door and slammed it against the apes. I tore off down a corridor toward what I knew was the bow of the ship. I passed another man running the other way and realized there was no safety in that direction. A large, glass-windowed room was to my left and I pulled open the door there and rushed in, thinking to hide among the machinery in the room. But an orangutan loping down the corridor after the other guy saw me through the windows and came after me.

I saw a metal mesh door that opened into some kind of small control room and ran over to it. The door was opened slightly and it took almost all my strength to get it open and get inside. I started pulling it shut just as the orang burst through the outer door into the room I’d just left.

There was a bolt that locked the metal mesh door and I started to slide it forward with the orang coming toward me. But it was very heavy and I struggled, knowing I had only seconds to work. I almost had it in the lock slot when the orang smashed into the metal mesh from the other side. Hot spittle exploded over my face and chest and I could hear an incredible howling from the creature’s wide open mouth. The bolt was touching the lock when the orang’s fingers came through the mesh and grabbed it. We strained against each other, me trying to close it, he trying to force it back to get in at me. At the instant I knew the beast was going to win I woke up.

--- dream end ---

NEW Halloween Horror News and Links:

A bit of cool news. L. A. Mitchell did a flash piece called “Home” for Halloween Horror October and won second place in a contest with that same piece. Check out the post here.

Laughingwolf has another freaky flash up: Chance

Vesper has a story up called Fortune

Will Kinshella has entered the fray with his own Halloween Flash

And Avery Debow adds another flash with The Love of the Job

And another from Laughingwolf, who would get an award for most prolific halloween flash fictioneer if I had thought about making such an award. See rider

OLDER Halloween Horror Links:

Flash Fictions

Hell Plate by Lucas Pederson.

freaky flash IX, night, by Laughingwolf.

lobo, also by Laughingwolf.


Barbara Martin has been running some posts on her blog about horror films. Today she has a piece on Dracula.

Travis has a great true story on his blog called Ghost. Well worth checking out.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween Flash #6

One thing I’ve realized about twist-ending stories is that there are usually several possible endings that can be produced by making only minor alterations in the text. And sometimes with no alterations. In fact, I’ve submitted stories with anywhere up to four different endings. My Halloween Flash this time is an example. Some of you read the story “Precious Cargo” when I entered it in the “Clarity of Night” contest. For that contest it had a bittersweet ending. As you can see, I’ve made a few minor changes at the end, and have changed the title to reflect the story’s new direction. WARNING: This ending is pretty damn nasty. Read at own risk.

Note: There are some more Halloween Horrors listed in the links below the story. Since I’m way behind in checking blogs, I may find more today and will add them here. If I miss anyone, please let me know. As always, older stories are linked in my recent posts.


No moon.

A sky flecked like mica with stars.

I had my Harley redlined, the V-Twin burning between my legs. It’s always dangerous riding fast at night. But since the change I had nothing to lose, no one to care if I lost it.

Then I saw her, lying across the blacktop.

Dead, I thought.

But she moved when I swerved to avoid her.

I got the bike stopped, u-turned, winced as I saw… Her back was broken.

I hung the bike on it’s kickstand, the headlight painting her, refracting jewels from her liquid eyes. I rushed to her, knelt.

She opened her mouth but made no sound. How could she be alive? How could she breathe with a chest half crushed? What was she doing so far from town? What sick fate had sent a vehicle to rendezvous with her at this lonely spot? There were signs of burnt rubber. Whoever had hit her hadn’t even slowed down.

I tried to force, “It’s OK,” through my lips. The meaningless words wouldn’t come.

Then she looked past me toward highway’s edge. I turned, saw some shadowy movement. When I turned back she looked like she was sleeping but her chest no longer rose and fell.

My feet followed where her gaze had led, and I saw why she’d been crossing the road. Saw what she was returning to. Or running from.

Her puppies had been born dead. But in this new world they hadn’t stayed that way. They smelled me, and squirmed toward me through their mother’s afterbirth, their baby teeth stark and white and gnashing.

I backed away, then screamed as a sudden flashing agony lanced through my legs. I fell, rolled instinctively away from the pain. The mother hound’s mouth was flecked with foam and blood. My blood. Her eyes had been reborn as scarlet hells.

I tried to get up, found she’d torn out my Achilles tendons. Still screaming, I scrabbled away along the highway. The hound growled and hitched herself toward me, her paws slapping at the asphalt. Intestines unraveled behind her.

I almost laughed hysterically as I realized the mother’s broken spine would keep her from catching me.

Then I saw the puppies. On the road. They couldn’t walk either. But they were crawling faster than I was.

--- the end ---

Halloween Horror Links:

Flash Fictions

Hell Plate by Lucas Pederson.

freaky flash IX, night, by Laughingwolf.

lobo, also by Laughingwolf.


Barbara Martin has been running some posts on her blog about horror films. Today she has a piece on Dracula.

Travis has a great true story on his blog called Ghost. Well worth checking out.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween Flash #5

In thinking more about the primary topic of my last post, an idea for a flash piece occurred to me. And so, I give you “Isolation.”

Stay tuned after the story for another new Halloween Horror link. I'm expecting some more tomorrow and will add them to this post then.

In last minute news, before this post, I just got an email accepting a short story of mine called "Dragon Lost." I'll write more about that at a future time.


The snow falls straight down. Like cold feathers at first. Then in heavy clumps like frozen rags. You stumble to your knees. But you’re up again swiftly. To stop moving is deadly. Not that you’ll freeze. That death would be almost welcome compared to the horror you fear. You can’t even name the horror. Not clearly. But it follows you. It follows.

You stagger forward, through the first swirling winds of what threatens to become a blizzard. Wind will cover your tracks, you think. It would be such a gift. But you doubt it’ll happen fast enough to save you.

The snow thickens. You start to sweat. You remember reading how dangerous that is in the cold. The sweat will freeze on you, chill you to death. But you dare not slow. The followers are coming. You hear them, you think. Though you hope it’s only the wind’s shrill shriek.

Then the world knocks you down. You don’t see well anyway without your glasses and in the snow you run head on into a cliff. Suddenly you’re flat on your back with wet white piling on you. Your face throbs. You taste salt at your lips, know that it must be blood.

Somehow you climb to your feet. Your hands find the cliff’s face. You realize it isn’t a cliff at all. It’s a wall. It towers too high to climb over so you begin to feel your way along it, knowing there’s no time to retrace your steps.

A sound stops you, freezes your blood more than the cold surroundings. You turn. Your followers are there, mere silhouettes through the blitz of snow. You back away—until your shoulders press against the wall and there is nowhere left to go.

The followers close in, bulking around you, cutting you off from any escape. You want to cry out for mercy. You would beg in an instant if you thought it would save you. But their soul-less eyes tell you it won’t.

One follower offers something to you in a bulky paw. Though terrified, you scoot slowly forward. The paw resolves itself. It’s wearing a mitten. Your glasses dangle from the digits. You reach for them, knowing what will happen. The glasses are released just as you touch them, drop and disappear in the snow. You feel the sting of tears and fight them back.

From somewhere a bell rings. It’s too late. Nothing can end the game just yet.

The other children laugh as they push you hard against the wall, and you hear the crunch as someone stomps your glasses. You do begin to cry now, even though you know it’ll make things worse. They love the tears, and they don’t care that recess is over. They only care that you’re different, and alone with them. Alone. Isolated.

--- the end ---

Halloween Horror Links:

Three more from Laughingwolf:

1. Polterguest by Laughingwolf.

2. Dawn Coyote

freaky flash IX, night, a recent one. I'll add this one to links in my next post as well.

One from SQT

Election Day by SQT. OK, now this one is almost too horrific to contemplate.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Various Halloween Type Things

The new Shantytown Anomaly is out for Halloween. There are a couple of my horror haiku in it, and our own Greg Schwartz has a piece in it as well.

I’ve been enjoying the spate of horror movies that always show on TV around this time of year. One of my favorites is John Carpenter’s The Thing. I’ve seen it many times by now. Alien is another great one. I think of it more as horror than SF. Predator is the same kind of movie for me. One of the things that all three of these movies have in common is that they take a small group of people and isolate them in hostile environments—outer space, arctic cold, and the jungle. The first two achieve the greatest amount of isolation and are, accordingly, the most powerful.

A movie that achieves a notable degree of isolation despite taking place in a populated setting is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, both the original and the first remake. In some ways, the isolation is even greater because the small band of normals are surrounded by other people but have no idea who they can trust. The Thing capitalized on this sense of paranoia as well.

I used the small, isolated band idea in Cold in the Light. I’d like to revisit it in a future book. Isolation is important in horror. The hero or heroes need to be stripped bare of defenses and support. They have to stand on their own. And if the heroes can be turned against each other, even better.

I’ll have another Halloween Horror Flash up in a day or so. In the meantime, we have more flash fiction offerings from our colleagues in the blogosphere. The newest ones are below, along with some nonfiction links, but check my post from Wednesday, October 15 if you still haven’t read the older ones.

Trick or Treat by Mark C. Durfee.

Inspire by JR.

Loop by Donnetta Lee. This is a micro flash in 55 words.

analine by Laughingwolf.

Chocophobia by Writtenwyrd.

Investigating a Mysterious Ending by Travis.

And for a longer piece, but definitely a nasty one, see Little Friends by Ferrel D. Moore.

And for those of you looking for markets for horror fiction, check out:
Marketing Horror, put up by Writtenwyrd.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Halloween Flash #4

Does horror always have to be horrific? Or can it have a lighter touch? Humor and horror seldom go together in my mind, and I don’t think the following piece is a very good example of the proper mix. The mere presence of a ghost, or a vampire as we’ve seen in a lot of recent published works, does not make something horror. But I figure we should have examples of the range of horror for our Halloween Horror October. Maybe someone else can do much better with horror humor. After the story I'll give you some new links to more Halloween Horror tales that have just gone up


The ghost fluttered like a butterfly in the wind, wailing like a banshee over the members of the Goth Rock band Scarlet Sphinx while they sat chopsticking some sushi.

"You hear something?" Ricki Naill asked his mates.

"Yeah, you eatin’ like a cow," Harley Storm said. "Didn't your mother teach you to chew with your mouth closed?"

"That’s not what I'm talking about," Ricki said. "It was high pitched, like a Memorex scream, with a...fluttering."

The others laughed.

"You are one psycho mother," Harley said. And thus was born the title and much of the content of their biggest selling album.

The ghost traveled with the band after that and got to live (relatively speaking) the rock-n-roll lifestyle. But even though he was the inspiration for the band’s greatest success, he didn’t get any royalties. And that pissed him off. Royally you might say.

So one night the ghost possessed Ricki Naill, the only one sensitive enough to experience him, and used Ricki’s hands to stab the drummer with his own drum sticks, garrote both the bassist and guitarist with strings from their instruments, and electrocute the keyboardist. Ricki then tried to swallow his own microphone and choked to death.

The ghost was quite happy. Until, in the wake of all the gruesome deaths, the Scarlet Sphinx album went multi- multi-platinum. And he still didn’t get paid.

--- the end ---

New Halloween Horrors, Just Up

The Lesson by Lucas Pederson. Lucas is a horror writer and has leaped into the fray with a nicely imagine piece.

overlord by Laughingwolf. This is Laughingwolf's fith piece. Can you say prolific?

Rather than list all the links to the older stories here again, I'll just refer you to my Wednesday, October 15 post, if you haven't already seen 'em. We've got a pretty incredible line-up, I'd say.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Halloween Horror October Links

My next flash fiction story, #4, will be up Friday but in the meantime there is plenty of new stuff to read regarding Halloween Horror October. New stories are rolling in from around the blogosphere, and there are some non-fiction things happening as well.

Although not officially described as a Halloween Horror, Bernardl certainly has a Halloween themed short horror piece at his blog. It’s entitled Jack-o-Lantern.

Sidney Williams has thrown a second Horror flash into the mix. It’s a very nasty one, and similarly entitled Jack-O-Lanterns. I suppose evil minds think alike.

Laughingwolf has two, count ‘em two, flash horror pieces up at his blog. These are: freaky flash iii, and witch. “witch" is particularly interesting, I think.

L. A. Mitchell treats us to a haunting and lyrical piece of mood horror called Home.

And for non-fiction, Rick at “The Writer and the White Cat” is running a very informative series about the “monsters” of horror fiction. His latest report is on “The Sex Lives of Werewolves.”

And over at “Blog of the Beast,” Scott is doing a series on horror movies, including one of the goriest films ever, “Dead-Alive,” which was directed by none other than Peter Jackson.

If that isn’t enough, you can find my first three horror flash fictions at my blog under the names “Halloween Flash #1, #2, and #3.

And, in case you missed any of them, below we have the links to more short horrors by our colleagues in the blogosphere. I never guessed when I said for folks to “join in” that we’d have so much creative effort put toward the writing of flash fiction horror tales. A pleasant surprise! Or an “unpleasant” one depending on whether you like horror fiction or not.

Fat Man
by Stewart Sternberg.

Twisted by Miladysa.

Having His Say by Sidney Williams.

The Empress of the Fescue
, by Avery DeBow.

Problem Child by Avery Debow.

by Laughingwolf

lady jane, another by Laughingwolf.

Finally, the new Illuminata is out. That’s the October 2008 issue. It has pieces in it by myself and the blog world’s own Rachel.