Thursday, July 31, 2008


Famous Monsters of Filmland. Creepy. Eerie. Vampirella. Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider. Savage Sword of Conan, The Conan comics. Have you heard of them? If you’re a male older than thirty with any interest in pulpy sorts of work you almost certainly have. These are all magazines (or in one case a comic) from the past, although Conan comics are still being published and Vampirella also experienced a resurgence.

If you have heard of them, did they have any influence on you? Your writing? So many of my male friends who are writers tell me how influential these magazines were on their lives. I’m jealous of those friends. Because I never heard of any of these as a kid. I didn’t even hear of most of them or see a copy until I was at least in my twenties.

I’m pretty sure I would have loved ‘em all. But they never made it to Charleston, Arkansas. The library didn’t carry them. They weren’t for sale at the drug store. There were no bookstores in town, and the comic carousal at the quick stop held only a few DC and Marvel comics, Superman, Fantastic Four, Spiderman. Not one of my friends had a subscription to any of them, or even had a copy that they’d gotten from somewhere. I know because any time I was at a friend’s house I looked at their books and comics. I traded some, borrowed others. I was a reading addict and read everything I could find, and was on a constant hunt for more. Had Famous Monsters and the like been available I would have found them.

There is no way to know how differently I might have turned out, or how differently my writing path might have been, had I been exposed to these sources that so many of my writing cohorts enjoyed. Would my imagination have been tuned differently? Or would I have just come upon certain themes in my writing earlier? Or might I have been hamstrung by reading all those magazines? Maybe I would have felt like everything had been done and given up on my own ideas. Maybe it was good that my imagination got to develop in relative isolation. Still, I feel a bit of envy for those who thrilled to such long ago thrillers.

I believe that one’s future reading choices are strongly influenced by the works we discover when we’re between the ages of 8 and 18. That’s why Edgar Rice Burroughs is such an influence on me. That’s why today when I read the exploits of The Shadow or Doc Savage I just don’t find them compelling. I missed the reading window when I would have fallen in love with them.

How about you? What did you miss out on when you were a kid? Is there anything you wish you’d discovered then that you learned of only later? How do you feel about that? The writer in me wants to know.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

When Laziness Comes To Town

I got an abrupt and well needed awakening two weeks ago. I’ve joined a writing critique group near where I live now, and the group has been sharing pieces of novels in various stages of completion. So far I’ve shared the first two chapters of Wraith of Talera, my work in progress. After the first chapter, I got one comment something along the lines of: “Well, it’s a little wordy. There are a lot of “To be” verbs in it.”

Although I didn’t say a thing to defend myself during the critique session, which is exactly as it should be, my inner thoughts were not as sanguine. I thought to myself, “Wordy! I honed my chops on short stories, and I still write flash fiction where every single word counts, and I know good and well I’m not…wordy.”

News flash to Fortress Gramlich. I was wordy. I sat down that evening to go over the manuscript and a gradual and appalling silence fell over my thoughts. I shortened and tightened a sentence or two, recast a few more, and suddenly I began to see wordiness everywhere. What the hell had happened? The writing wasn’t tight at all. Oh, there was an occasional nice sentence, but I’d let those blind me to the general weakness in many others. I started a systematic reworking of the whole thing. I’d been at page 53, but by the time I finished weeding out material I was back at the 49 page mark. Man! Four pages of fat in a 53 page manuscript? When I shared chapter 2 with the group, a reworked chapter 2, the same person said: “Yes, whatever was wrong in chapter 1 you corrected here. It’s much tighter.”


Somewhere along the line I’d let bad habits creep back in. I imagine part of it is due to a fairly long layoff in writing fiction. Part of it might even be due to blogging, where I tend to use a very free flowing approach. Ultimately, though, it was laziness on my part. Not physical laziness as much as mental laziness. I wasn’t “thinking” enough about the material.

It’s disheartening in a way to realize that you can “lose it” if you don’t “use it.” It would be nice to reach a certain skill level and never have to worry about backsliding. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. At least not for me. But it's also “heartening” to know that you can recover, that a misstep can be caught and corrected. I know now, and I appreciate the new group pointing it out, that I have to stay vigilant, even ruthless, with my own writing. Laziness is way too easy a trap to fall into, but it is a trap with an exit.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Updates and Blessings

I found out from Lisa that Hubert Selby Jr. died in 2004. (His supposedly official website didn’t indicate this.) This means that I can tell everyone that the book I so soundly criticized in my last post, “Breaking all the Rules,” was Requiem for a Dream by Selby. I went to Amazon to look at his other famous book, Last Exit to Brooklyn and it’s written in the same style. I won’t be reading it. I’m still trying to get the taste of “Requiem” out of my mouth. *gag*

In publishing news, Bits of the Dead, a zombie anthology of mostly short short stories is out. I have not seen a copy or even the table of contents yet, but it’s listed on Barnes and Noble, as indicated, and also at Amazon. I have a story in it called “Once Upon a Time with the Dead,” a zombie western. I’ll give more information as I get it.

Finally, I was at CrazyCath’s Reflections today and her post really struck home with me. She posted about her blessings, an idea that she also found elsewhere on the web. But it struck me that I haven’t done enough of this, and I have been so blessed that I should take a moment to acknowledge those blessings.

First, let me say how thankful I am for my family, especially my wonderful mom, who is still kicking it at 91. Mom sacrificed so much for me, encouraged me to do the things that made me happy, and, primarily, just loved me. Also, thanks for Ray, who has made my mom happy and taken care of her for many years now, and for my brothers, Jimmy, Raymond, and Paul David, and their wives (Alice, Joyce, Rita) and all their many, many children. (I’d list you all but I don’t have time to write another huge novel right now.) My family, of course, includes my son Joshua, who is just a great kid (not a kid anymore at 21). Josh has made so many hard days worth living. And, of course, there is Lana, who I found late but who is just the perfect woman for me, even more than Rannon is for Ruenn. In memoriam, there is my sister, Dolores, who sure helped along my reading habit, and all her children. And Roger, who loved her for so many years. I used to be scared of Roger when I was a kid, but he had great books so I had to come around. Now I know he’s really a pussycat.

I’ve been blessed, too, with many friends, especially my colleagues at Xavier University, who helped teach me how to survive and who have supported me in my endeavors. And for my newer friends here in the blogosphere, who have given me such wonderful support over the last few years. I have to mention the great writing groups I’ve been part of. Thanks to all the members past and present who have read my junk and helped make it better, or who have just taught me things about writing. This includes, of course, Sphinx Ink, C. S. Harris and David Lanoue here in the blogosphere.

I’ve been blessed because, although I work hard at my job and sometimes complain about how much dedication it takes, I still love what I do and it has provided me with the money and the time (on occasion) to do other things I also love, like collect books, read, and write. And eat.

I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to write and find publishers for most of what I’ve written. Sure, I wish I’d had some bigger publishers for some things, and made more money, but the true joy has been in writing them and in finding out that some folks like what I’ve written and even tell others about it. Along the way in the publishing world I’ve met so many great folks who have helped me out and given me breaks. There are far too many to mention them all, but thanks to you all. Special appreciation for folks like Michael Burgess, Charles Nuetzel, and J. Bruce Fuller, who’ve been involved in accepting/ publishing my books, and to Lana again for her tireless promotion of my work.

As I look out my window, good books by my side, cold Michelob and chicken wings in the refrigerator, Ozzy on the CD player, Lana hovering around the house looking all sessy, birds feeding in the yard, trees on three sides, knowing I’m still off work for a couple more weeks, I realize I’ve got it pretty damn good. I am blessed, and I appreciate it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Breaking All the Rules

Can someone please explain why “literary” writers get to freely eviscerate the normal rules of writing but don’t get called on it, while you or I would be pilloried soundly if we tried the same thing? (Actually, we should be pilloried if we did such things. But so should the literary writer.)

I just finished reading a “critically acclaimed” novel, which was made into a “critically acclaimed” movie. I’m not giving the author’s name because the writer is still living and is pretty old. I’m also sure he’s a perfectly nice guy, and he has plenty of fans who love his work. (This book had 80 reviews on Amazon. 78 were 5 stars, 1 was 4 stars, and 1 was 2 stars.) But I want to make some points and his work is perfect to illustrate with.

1st rule of writing: Have at least one character that the reader likes and is able to identify with. This book had four primary characters. I felt some sympathy for one of the characters but couldn’t respect her. I quickly began to want the other three characters dead. Every one was a loser. And mostly they were just pathetically silly. I know there are people in the world just like these characters, but I don’t personally know or want to know any of them. All are addicts and I can’t imagine having a conversation with any of them that would go beyond drugs. How boring.

2nd rule of writing: Show don’t tell. The book is almost entirely dialogue or a kind of omniscient narrative. They did this and then this and then this. Except where drug use is described, there is a minimal amount of descriptive writing. The language felt simplistic and naked to me. The prose was just flat.

3rd and 4th rules of writing: Write as clearly as possible. Avoid pretentiousness. While the vocabulary was so simple that it wouldn’t challenge a 6th grader, the author deliberately used a bunch of silly and arbitrary expressions that upped the confusion level. For example, what possible reason can there be to leave out the apostrophes throughout. And I don’t just mean in dialogue. Over and over I read “youre,” “Im,” “theyre” and so on. It was so pretentious that I could barely restrain myself from throwing the book against the wall before the “I’m-too-good-to-use-normal-punctuation” attitude rubbed off.

5th rule of writing: Make clear during dialogue who is talking. Not only could our pretentious author not be bothered with quotation marks and dialogue tags, but he enjoyed cramming two or three speakers together in a single paragraph. And since two of the characters were constantly aping each other’s form of expression it often required calculus to figure out who was talking. Not that they were saying anything interesting anyway.

6th rule of writing: Introduce a new paragraph when the topic changes. Now, I don’t mind fiction with relatively long paragraphs, but 8 pages in one paragraph? Isn’t that either a bit careless or a bit pretentious? There were a lot of paragraphs that went on for at least 4 or 5 pages.

So there you have it. Can you explain why critics seem to love this work, why they ooh and ahh over every word that drips from the author’s pen? I don’t get it. I really, don’t get it, and I wonder if some of the Amazon reviewers who gave the book five stars had seen the movie first and were influenced by that?

Finally, though, I guarantee that you couldn’t drag me into another of this author’s books. Unless someone can explain to me why such things are permitted of some writers and not others?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lana's Photo, and other Sessy Things

I've put the cover of Wanting the Mouth of a Lover on my sidebar. Clicking it will take you to Spec House of Poetry in case you want to pick up a copy. I'm not sure why the image is bigger than the other book images, or why it's set further to the right, but, hey, it's there.

I've also added links to more blogs I visit, although I didn't get them all. My list is so long now that it's hard to be sure who I've added and who I've not. If I didn't get your link up, please let me know. I no longer go through my link list every day. I'm depending on Google Reader to identify new posts. If not for that I'd have no time for anything but blogging.

Lana, who did the great cover for the chapbook, has a photo entered in a contest, and I think it's the best one there. She has the link on her blog where you vote, so if you get a chance and want to look at some great photos please stop by her blog and follow the link to vote.

Finally, I didn't get a chance to point out that the Book Roast is happening again. You can win free books, so check it out.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Last Breath Poems

Here are the covers for the two editions of Wanting the Mouth of a Lover. The chapbook is now for sale at Spec House of Poetry.

Just to mention a little about the genesis of these poems. I was introduced to Haiku in 1991 by David Lanoue, an English prof and friend of mine at Xavier University. David referred to them, memorably, as "one breath poems." That is, a poem that could be said essentially in one breath. Since I was writing quite a bit of horror fiction at the time, including working on Cold in the Light, I started--naturally it seemed to me--to think about horror haiku, and I wrote some Warkind ku just for play and to try and get a handle on the form. Then, it occurred to me that if a haiku was a "one breath poem," why not a "last breath?" That's when I started writing the vampire haiku. Rouge et Noir published some of these and they were well received, but for various reasons I didn't pursue the idea any further. When I started talking to J. Bruce Fuller about chapbook ideas, I mentioned the vampire stuff and he told me to send it to him. So, if you like them, I take full credit. If you don't, it was all J's idea.

In other news, I was grateful, and honored, to learn that my flash fiction piece, "Precious Cargo," won the "Reader's Choice" award in Jason Evans' The Clarity of Night contest. Thanks to all of you who voted for me. I really appreciate that.

And now to end on a light note, here's a picture Lana took of our poetry panel at Babel Con. That's J. Bruce Fuller there with me. Yes, he does look a little bit like Mephistopheles, but he's a much nicer fellow than I am. My pic came out with a bit of "red eye" and Lana fixed all that up. Ain't I purty?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Mouth of a Lover

What a whirlwind weekend. Babel Con went well. I had at least 25 folks at each of my two presentations, and about the same for a horror fiction panel I sat on with two other writers, Whitney Lakin and M. F. Korn. From the reports I’ve heard, the presentations and panel were well received.

I sold some copies of my books, a lot more than last year. Scotty, a regular Babel Con attendee, bought copies of all the Taleran books Saturday afternoon and had already read 50+ pages of Swords of Talera by the time I saw him Sunday. He was liking it. Yeah!

Our late Sunday evening poetry panel was only sparsely attended, but it was exciting for me because we held the official unveiling of my very first poetry chapbook, entitled Wanting the Mouth of a Lover. I knew it was coming, but I never count my chickens before copies are in my hand. Now they are.

The publisher is Spec House of Poetry, founded by J. Bruce Fuller, a fine poet in his own right. J publishes chapbooks through Spec House, and also edits and publishes his own poetry/prose magazine called The Shantytown Anomaly, which you can also find at the Spec House site.

The chapbook comes in both a regular and deluxe edition. They feature the same cover image, but the deluxe is signed and has a silver see-through cover with the title etched at the top. The regular edition has an opaque silver cover and is printed in a smaller size. However, the regular edition also contains a short essay that I wrote on the genesis of the poetry in the collection.

The poetry consists of horror haiku with a vampire theme. Some were published in 1995 in Rouge et Noir, but there are never before seen “ku” as well. You can view the covers at the Spec House site. Copies will be available for sale at the site as soon as J gets back to his computer. I’ll also have signed copies of the regular edition for sale here in a day or two.

By the way, this chapbook is a family affair. Lana did the wonderful cover.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Updating the Updates

Sorry I haven't had more substantial posts the past few days but I've been really busy with a couple of things, mostly getting ready for the Babel Con convention, and trying to set up a PayPal account so I can get paid by one particular market that's located in Canada. They were happy to send me a check but my damn American bank won't cash it. Sigh!

I had a haiku accepted by Paper Wasp, an Australian magazine. I also joined a group called Goodreads, which a couple of my writer friends have pointed me toward. It's a place to share book recommendations and talk about books, something I love to do. I've actually spent quite a bit of time there the past couple of days adding books and friends.

In Babel Con news, I'm down to giving two presentations now, on Alien Evolution and the Psychology of Fear. The Dream presentation will be next year. I've also been put on a new panel, on Speculative Poetry, which I'm interested in. I'm glad not to give three presentations. They can be time consuming, and they sure cut into your ability to just relax and "Grok" the con. It's coming up tomorrow so I probably won't post again or be able to visit many blogs until Monday.

Until then, may the farce be with you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What's Happenin' Now

The most recent issue of The Illuminata is out. (It’s the July 2008 issue, at bottom right.) My Writer’s Block column this time is “What I Learned from Bad Writers.” I published an early version here but this is expanded from that. And one of our blog mates has several pieces in this issue. This is Rachel Olivier. Check her stuff out.

In other news, I’ll be a guest at Babel Con this weekend (July 19, 20) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Some of the actor guests will be Richard Hatch, Suzie Plakson, and John Hertzler. I’ll be giving presentations on Dreaming, on Using Fear and Suspense in Writing, and on Evolution and SF Aliens. I’ll also be sitting on a horror panel with some other writers. That means I’ll be a busy little boy and won’t get much rest. But at least I won’t have to go to work on Monday.

Lana will be helping me out on the Dream presentation. It’ll be nice to have her along. Anyone who is in the area should come on by, although I know most of you aren’t. This is the first year they’ve gone to a two day schedule so we’ll see how it goes. I’ll have a report next week.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Meme for Writers

I saw this meme over on Writtenwyrd’s blog and thought it looked worth doing. I love to hear this kind of thing about writers but I won’t specifically tag anyone. If you’d like to do it, tag yourself.

Your genre(s): Since I started writing I’ve had a goal, a silly one perhaps, of trying to publish something in every genre or style of writing. So far I’ve managed SF, Horror, Fantasy, Western, Thriller, Y/A, Poetry, Erotica, Nonfiction science, Nonfiction essay, Humor, Literary, Flash Fiction, Novel, and Short story. I’ve yet to publish a Romance, a Children’s Story, or a Gay/Lesbian story. (Are there any I’ve forgotten?)

However, by far my main interests are in Fantasy and Horror. These genres make up probably half of what I read, and somewhat less of what I’ve written. It would be far more than half of what I write if it weren’t for the Nonfiction I do.

How many books are you working on now: I’ve tried to work on more than one book length project at a time and have generally failed miserably. I have been able to work on one Fiction and one Nonfiction project at the same time. But I find even this very hard. I can only manage it if I do one early in the day and the other late, and if I'm absolutely ruthless with myself in switching. I tend to get excited about something I’m working on, and I don’t want to let it drop for something else.

Are you a linear or chunk writer: Almost totally linear. Very occasionally, I will jump ahead of the linear sequence of a story and write a later scene, but only if something really intense or visual occurs to me. And when I get started on a project I tend to work my way straight through it.

The POV you’re partial to: I love to both read and write in first person. It just seems such a nice and natural storytelling technique. However, some stories just can’t be told that way, and I do enjoy third person limited. I typically don’t like omniscient viewpoint or second person, although I’ve written a story in second person.

The Tense you use: I added this one because I find it interesting. I write almost everything in past tense, but I have been experimenting lately with present tense. There are some really nice things about present tense but it also poses difficulties. The “immediacy” of present tense is unparalleled, but the forward momentum is so powerful that it’s tough to bring in the background detail that you need to develop character. At least that’s what I've found.

The theme that keeps cropping up in your books: Sometimes I don’t really even understand the concept of theme. I’m never conscious of a “theme” when I’m writing. The main thing I want to do in a story or book is to affect the reader. I mainly want to create a mood, or I want to drag the reader headlong into a story and keep them wondering what’s about to happen next. Certain things do crop up again and again in my stories, though, so I guess you could call these things themes. These are, “the nature of heroism,” and “the nature of violence.” My characters also struggle with issues of guilt and responsibility, and they’re usually pretty hard on themselves. A lot of my early writing dealt with religious elements, but that has fallen off as I’ve aged.

How many days a week do you write: This depends a bit on whether I have a deadline coming up or not, and whether school is in session or not. Typically, I write six days a week. I seldom write less than three hours a day when I’m off. When school is in session I often go several days in a row, however, without being able to get any writing done. And on other days I’ll only manage an hour. If I’m really tired from a long week at school I may take the whole weekend off just to recover.

What time of day do you get your best writing done When school is in session I write whenever I have a free moment. If given the choice, I’ll tend to write in late afternoon and evening, and late at night. I believe my best writing often comes at night.

Who are your mentors: My mentors have always been books, not books about writing, but novels. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, John D. MacDonald, Louis L’Amour, Ray Bradbury. These were my earliest mentors. Since then I’ve been mentored by thousands of authors.

I almost had a real life mentor once. Francis Gwaltney was the only writer I ever knew who came from my home town of Charleston, Arkansas, and when I found out he taught at Arkansas Tech University where I went to undergraduate school I went to see him to talk writing. He was very encouraging, but, unfortunately, less than two weeks after my discussion with him he went out to celebrate the publication of one of his books and died choking on a chicken bone. I didn’t want to kill any more mentors so I never tried to get another in real life.

My favorite authors to read: There are way too many to list here. The ones I mentioned above, of course, though I’ve pretty much read everything they’ve written. Some other great writers that I love or have loved are Poul Anderson, J. R. R. Tolkien, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, James Lee Burke, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Ken Bulmer, Andre Norton, C. L. Moore, Peter Matthiessen, James Baldwin, Clive Barker, and Wayne Allen Sallee.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Ed Gorman, Michael Connolly and Cormac McCarthy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yesterday's Work

While visiting Bernita's Blog yesterday I learned about a writing prompt contest over at Jason Evans' The Clarity of Night blog. I popped over for a look and the prompt was a motorcycle picture, which always reminds me of my own biking days. (I still miss my bike.) And the prizes were quite nice.

It was only 250 words and I thought, why not? I sat down at the laptop, typed the line, "No Moon," and was suddenly off and running on an idea that just unfolded in my head. My first draft was about 375 words but I found it easier than I thought to cut it down.

Off the story went to Jason, and it turns out it was actually the first entry. Since I found out this morning that Jason has already posted the first two entries, I think I'll consider the story as my primary blog post for today. If you're interested in taking part in the contest, the Jason link in paragraph one is the place to go. If you want to see the entries so far try here. And if you're interested in reading my story you can find it here.

Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Thank You

I got a royalty statement yesterday from The Invisible College Press, who published my novel Cold in the Light, saying that I’d earned out my advance and would now be making actual royalties on the book for the first time. I was thrilled, and I want to thank my friends here in the blogosphere because I know it was you guys who put me over the top. I’ve been amazed at the support for my work that I’ve seen here in the “sphere.” Thank you so much.

In writing news, I’ve passed the 50 page mark on Wraith of Talera, about 14,000 words. These books are not terribly long so I figure I’m looking at 225-250 pages total. It’s been going slower than I would like but actually faster than the first three in the series. Of course, this will still need revision and I’ll probably make adjustments to these early sections as the plot unfolds. I tend to polish pretty much as I go, though, so I can always hope the revisions won’t be too extensive.

I’ve had people tell me I’m prolific. I always have to laugh. I’m actually a very slow writer. I hardly ever manage more than 2 or 3 new pages a day on fiction, and that’s when I’m not teaching. During the school year I’m lucky to get a page a day, although I do quite a bit better with nonfiction. I also spend a lot of my writing time revising, revising, revising, and that has probably been the key to any publications I have gotten.

The truth is that I just spend a lot of hours at the keyboard and rarely skip a day. Even a paragraph moves you toward a finished product. Even a sentence. If there is a secret to writing, it’s to put in the time.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Change of Pace

Nothing really about books or writing today. It’s Sunday. Clouds are building high, with thunder muttering behind them. We’ve already had a good sprinkle. It’s not as hot as it has been the past few days so I’ve headed out on the deck with my laptop and the book I’m reading currently, Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. I’m watching the birds, and trying to keep the squirrels from eating all the bird seed. We have a wealth of cardinals and doves hanging out at the moment. I just saw our rat friend rushing from the yard into the high grass that borders it. I couldn’t tell if he had seeds in his cheeks but I’m betting he did.

Life is so amazing, so elegant. A chickadee sits in a nearby tree pecking open a sunflower seed. How does such a tiny thing survive? Blue Jays dart in and away, so blue against the mass of greenery that fills the woods not twenty feet from where I sit. Nature paints with both delicate and bold strokes, and the human mind, itself a product of nature, responds.

There is no steady wind, but errant breezes stir first one tree and then another, giving them for the moment the power of motion. Those same breezes bring me melodies reaped from the throats of dozens of different species. I hear a rasping call that I cannot place. And I know, there is great mystery left in this world.

Friday, July 04, 2008

No Good, Just Bad and Ugly.

Although I won’t mention names, anyone who has read this “book” will be able to figure out the author. He’s a household name, as famous as I am unknown, so famous that he doesn’t actually write his own books anymore. From what I hear, he meets with a co-author and they develop a story, and then the co-writer does the work. This “book” had a co-author, although I don’t know which is primarily responsible for this monstrosity.

Why did I start it? Well, I read one of famous author’s first novels many, many years ago and it was decent. It didn't make me a fan but I recognized the name later when he became a literary God. I actually picked up a couple of his later books but began to hear from friends who I respected that his later work sucked. This dropped his books down my reading list. Until last night. The lovely Lana brought one of his 2007 releases home, with a sexy cover, and I thought, “his stuff can’t be as bad as my friends are saying. It sells, a lot, and maybe I can learn something from it.”

My friends had understated the suckage. I’ve heard Dan Brown described as a less than stellar writer, but compared with this “book” I’m going to have to start calling Brown Mr. HemingwaySteinbeck. Did I say it was bad? Oh man is it bad.

So why have I kept reading? Because I can’t wait to see what train wreck moment of horribly bad plotting and godawful foreshadowing will be next. I literally can’t believe a professionally published work would be so lame. And let me give you my reasons for saying so. It’ll probably lead some to recognize the work.

First, it starts out like a diary written by a 15 year old girl. A woman puts on her best little black dress and heads downtown to surprise hubby. She finds said hubby arm in arm with a ravishing blond and follows them in her car, like they were “connected by a tow hook,” to a hotel. The woman does not confront her husband, but instead of going out of town the next day as she is supposed to, she stays home and meets hunky, motorcycle rider. These two have apparently carried on a mild flirtation, but no affair.

We pause a moment to mention that hubby is an investment type. We know that both he and the woman have been to law school, where they met, but we don’t know anything about her job. From her interest in clothes and her sweet little “Mini-Cooper” she seems a spoiled housewife with no children to worry about. Anyway, motorcycle guy comes over. She has second thoughts, but then gets on the back of his bike and they race off through the rain to the upscale mansion where the guy is house sitting. They make sweet love, and then the man leaves to get “fresh basil and olive oil” to cook for her.

Meanwhile, hubby has been following the two and knows everything. He gets out of his Toyota Camry with a golf club. (The Camry struck me as odd considering he’s apparently a well off investment fellow who can afford to live in Manhattan and play golf.) As boyfriend comes out of the house, hubby moves to attack, but boyfriend gets the jump and takes away the club.

The scene shifts inside where the woman is at a window watching hubby and boyfriend fight. Hubby wins and throws big hunky guy into the back seat of his car, although the woman can hear the hunk groan and knows he is alive. Ok, now is where it gets really good, or bad. The woman decides her hubby has taken hunk to a hospital (excuse me?) and she drives to the nearest one. For the first time, and this is page 45, we see she has a gun in her purse (say what?). But at the hospital she finds no hubby or boyfriend. She wonders where hubby can have gone and heads to another hospital where she busts into a room holding a crime suspect and a uniformed officer. When the officer looks at her suspiciously, she makes up some lame lie and flees. However, she overhears the policeman’s radio crackle something about a white male victim and an address.

So, she goes to this address and sees numerous NYPD police cars. She thinks about how she better get out of here or she’ll get in trouble, but as she pulls up to the cop directing traffic she suddenly stops and gets out of the car. Then she takes her “badge” out of her purse. Yes, you heard right. On page 51 we find out she is a cop, and on page 52 that she’s been a NYC police officer for seven years, the last year and a half as a detective in homicide. We also learn that the trip she blew off to meet hunk boy was to Quantico for a seminar with the FBI. A few pages later we learn she is also a lawyer as well as a cop. (Rightttt.)

The female police officer/lawyer goes to the tarp where a body lies, looks under, and sees one dead hunk, although she doesn’t notice he’s been shot until another officer (her partner) points it out. We also find out here that boyfriend is a cop too. After that the woman cries hysterically, despite the fact that on the next page we learn she is considered by her chief to be one of his top detectives. And even though she has blown off a trip to FBI headquarters without permission or explanation, the chief immediately assigns her to the case. And this is as far as I’ve gotten.

I can’t even describe all the things wrong with this story. We don’t have the space in the blogosphere. But how can we go fifty pages into a book following a flustered, silly, clothes horse, housewife and suddenly find out that she’s a cop? A homicide detective no less? Suddenly, we are also expected to believe that an investment banker hubby could beat a younger, bigger, stronger man who is a police officer and armed with a golf club in hand to hand combat. (Although I’m quite sure that in this lamely plotted piece of crap we’ll find that hubby is really a spy or assassin or some equally ridiculous thing.)

And the possibility of believing that this woman is a homicide detective is less than believing that the pyramids were erected by penis creatures from Tau Ceti, or that the Taleran series will outsell Dean Koontz’s entire backlist next year. We know she can’t tail a suspect worth a damn. But hubby can tail her without her having a clue. She can’t recognize a bullet wound until it’s pointed out to her. She works in homicide but her first, second, and third thoughts are that hubby is taking beaten up hunk to a hospital. And she’s crying hysterically at a murder scene.

Worst of all, because it’s cheating, we are deliberately mislead repeatedly by the author. The woman’s reaction to uniformed police officers make us think that she’s simply a housewife when in reality all she ever had to do from the start is show her badge. The author played false with the reader. We’re inside the woman’s head for page after page and the author didn’t respect the reader enough to give us a genuine character with genuine thoughts.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Strange, Sudden, and Unexpected

I have to share this. Today on Bernita's blog she talked about the "Doom Dog," a spectral dog seen on occasion in the wild places of the British Isles. The dog is almost always black in color. I commented about a legend I've heard in the US of a black dog. This is what I wrote: "I've heard of the black dog legend that truckers talk about. I'm guessing it's a transplant from overseas."

When I posted my comments I was thinking particularly of a 1998 movie starring Patrick Swayze called "Black Dog," which I saw years ago. This evening, as I'm flipping through the TV channels, guess which movie was playing. Not only that, but less than a minute after I flipped to the movie one of the few scenes of the black dog actually played. It has been a very long time since that movie was shown on TV. I haven't seen it in years and it wasn't very popular even when it was released. How weird is that?

In other news, the Flashing Swords Summer Extravaganza issue is out,("Special Edition Summer 2008), and it's twice the usual size. I have a story in it called "Worms in the Earth," a humorous fantasy tale, and there is also an interview with me in the magazine. It's available as download or in print. If you want to check it out you can do so here.

And in other, other news, CrazyCath was kind enough to present me with Arte De Pico award. Here's the criteria:

inspire others with their creative energy and talents.
This can be through writing, artwork, design, interesting
material or contribution to the bigger community.
It is a special honour to receive it.

That was very nice of CrazyCath and I greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How Today’s World Does Humble

I was flipping through the channels yester eve and came upon a celebrity talking about her newest album and acting gig. She is a very big celebrity, a pop diva, but I’m not going to reveal her name. In the few minutes I watched, she spoke very highly of her own talent, about how her music had touched people and how she had a gift for acting, though she had not often been challenged. Then they interviewed one of her friends/ relatives who said that though she had been a superstar since childhood she was one of the few stars who was “authentically humble.”

Now, I think the woman is talented. She’s won awards and has a nice voice, although I don’t care at all for her music. She is certainly very beautiful. But humble? Come on! She just spent ten minutes bragging on herself and it looked as if—though no one can see inside her mind, of course—that she’s never had a moment of self-doubt in her life.

Certainly she wasn’t snobby or mean-spirited about it. She didn’t do any “in your face trash talking,” which I despise in so many athletes today, or put-down any other musicians/actresses. But there was not a humble bone in her body. She’s rich, beautiful, and famous, and she knows it. She accepts all accolades as her due.

Contrast that to how Jake Delhomme carried himself after he almost single-handedly kept the Carolina Panthers within reach of a super bowl victory a few years ago. The “only” thing he said about himself was that it hurt to lose. Everything else was about the quality of his teammates and the quality of the opposing players. He gave everyone their due and never once even said, “well I thought I played pretty well.” That’s humble. That is honor. That’s the kind of role model I want my son to see, but which I myself see far too seldom.

Today’s world has a different view on “humble” than did the world I grew up in. Apparently, bragging on yourself can be seen as humble today, to which I can only say WTF. Of course, today’s world has a different view on many things. Consider “respect.” Respect today is all about getting it, never about giving it. Or what about the way in which humiliating one’s “enemy” on a field of games is cheered by the crowds? I’m glad at least that the NFL has banned taunting. What kind of “sportsman” taunts a defeated opponent? A sportsman I don’t care to know or cheer for myself.

Man, do I sound like an old fogy or what? Maybe I’m just getting old. Next thing you know I’ll be sitting on my deck in a rocking chair ranting about those “kids today.” Or is that what I just did? I think I’ll shut up now.