Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spooky Music

I heard “Werewolves of London” this morning driving in through a heavy fog on the Causeway bridge. That has to be, for me, the most recognizable Halloween song out there, followed closely by “Monster Mash.” However, both of those songs are funny rather than spooky, and that got me thinking. What are the actually spooky Halloween songs?

I thought of “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, and there were some elements of spookiness in that, particularly the riff by Vincent Price, but generally that song is a dance tune and not terribly creepy.

After some careful consideration, I decided to give my picks for best creepy/horror music. But maybe there’s something I’m not thinking of, so let’s see how your opinions differ.

Numero Uno: Alice Cooper, from the “Welcome to My Nightmare” era. In fact, the album, “Welcome to My Nightmare,” is the all time creepiest album out there. With song titles like “Devil’s Food,” “Black Widow,” and “Cold Ethyl,”, the last one about a man who freezes his dead lover so he’ll be able to have her with him always, you’ve just gotta see the horror elements. There’s even an awesome spoken word piece by Vincent Price in “Black Widow.” This is the music I play on Halloween.

Here’s Welcome to My Nightmare.

Numero Dos: Black Sabbath, from the early years. Especially the album “We sold Our Soul For Rock and Roll.” Most of the songs on this compilation album are about madness, horror, and evil. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” “Black Sabbath,” “Paranoid,” “Am I Going Insane,” and “Children of the Grave,” are great examples. And don’t forget, “Iron Man” and “War Pigs.”

Here’s Black Sabbath.

So what do you think of my choices?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Like Mayflies in a Stream

I just finished reading Like Mayflies in a Stream by Shauna Roberts and I can highly recommend it. “Mayflies” is a retelling of certain aspects of the Gilgamesh legend, but it’s told primarily from the point of view of the woman named Shamhat, who is a priestess of the goddess Inanna and the mother of one of Gilgamesh’s many children. Shamhat is a very realistic character and very sympathetic throughout the book as she strives to obey what she sees as the will of her goddess. That often means putting her own wishes second, and it means putting her life repeatedly in danger.

“Mayflies” is a hard book to categorize. I suppose it would generally be considered a historical novel, and Roberts certainly did her homework on ancient Mesopotamia, as her “resources” section indicates. However, as she also indicates, not a lot is known about the time of Gilgamesh and she had to intersperse what she could find out about that age with information gleaned from later periods for which we have better records. In that sense, perhaps “speculative historical” might be apropos as a descriptor for the book. There is also a strong feeling of fantasy/mythology about the work as well, so it has many elements.

However you describe the book, though, it is a fascinating read. I really found myself caught up in Shamhat’s struggles and I much enjoyed the background detail that brought the ancient world to life. Through the last half of the book, in particular, I didn’t want to put it down. I read most of the last half at one sitting. And Roberts’ passion for the story and the characters came through clearly. If you’re interested you can find Like Mayflies in a Stream on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Beat To a Pulp Story

Just a quick announcement today that my Halloween horror story "Hunter's Moon," is up over at Beat to a Pulp. Stop by if you get a chance and give it a read and let me know what you think.


Friday, October 23, 2009

900,000 and One

I heard this morning on the radio that 900,000 new blog posts go up every day. Do we really need another one? From me? Probably not. But I’m going to post anyway. I started out my first year posting every day, then went to every two days, and lately I’ve been at every three days. I’ve seen no signs that the world is suffering from my slowdown.

My post today is a kind of meme I made up for myself. Certainly if anyone wants to do it, feel free. Or use parts of it if you want. Or not.

What five novels (other than your own) do you wish you had written?
1. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
2. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
3. War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells
4. A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs
5. The Hour of the Dragon, by Robert E. Howard

What five short stories (other than your own) do you wish you had written?
1. The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allan Poe
2. Surface Tension, by James Blish
3. Nightfall, by Isaac Asimov
4. The Valley of the Worm, Robert E. Howard
5. The Statement of Randolph Carter, H. P. Lovecraft

What five songs (other than your own) do you wish you had written?
1. Stairway to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin
2. Bullet the Blue Sky, by U2
3. The Warning, by Black Sabbath,
4. Screaming in the Night, by Krokus
5. Leper Messiah, by Metallica

What five movies do you wish you had written/directed?
1. Once Upon a Time in the West
2. Alien, Aliens
3. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
4. Predator
5. The Thing (John Carpenter version)

What five science/nonfiction books do you wish you’d written?
1. On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
2. The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen
3. The Night Country, by Loren Eiseley
4. Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat
5. Artic Dreams, by Barry Lopez

What five games do you wish you had invented?
1. Chess
2. Scrabble
3. Jikaida
4. Jetan
5. Kaissa

What five movie lines do you wish you’d written? (Mine are all from Clint Eastwood)
1. Go ahead, make my day
2. Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you? Punk?
3. A man’s got to know his limitations
4. Deservin’s got nothing to do with it.
5. There’s nothing like a good piece of hickory.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The newest issue of The Illuminata has just been published. If you follow the link and click on “Download an issue” you can get it for free. It’s volume 7, Issue #4, October 2009.

I’m pretty popular in this issue. Bret Funk starts out with some commentary and a review of Write With Fire, which I appreciated. The Illuminata definitely played a big role in the creation of that book. Without the demands of writing a regular column for the newsletter Write With Fire might never have existed, and certainly not in the form it took.

I also have my usual Writer’s Block column in this issue. Those of you who read my guest blog over at Novel Spaces, called “GEMS,” will see that this article is largely a reprint with a few minor changes. There’s also a review that I wrote for a fine fantasy novel called A Mage of None Magic: Heart of the Sisters by A. Christopher Drown. Drown is kind of a cool name eh?

Not much time for anything else. Mid-term grades were due at noon today and I squeaked mine in. I’m putting the final touches on the Darwin essay, which is due on Friday. It’ll be done tomorrow night, with just some final nitpicking on my part. I’m rather obsessive in case you haven’t noticed.

Man, I need sleep.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Louisiana Book Fest II: And Hint Fiction

First, I was very happy to learn that one of my pieces was chosen by Robert Swartwood for the “Hint Fiction” anthology. Some of you might recall that I mentioned this anthology previously on my blog here. I’m tickled to be included, and with such names as Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Joe Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, and Joyce Carol Oates included, as well as talented but-not-yet-quite-so-famous writers such as our own Kathleen A. Ryan, I feel in pretty good company. Check out Robert Swartwood’s blog for more information.

As for the Louisiana Book Festival, Lana and I had a great time. We went up on Friday evening for the opening party, which was held at the State Library and offered a variety of wonderful foods, including delicious fried catfish, shrimp, and a chocolate fountain that Lana was very appreciative of.

My talk on Saturday morning went well. I only had about 8 folks in the audience, 6 of whom were teen aged girls. I wondered if they had been mislead by the title of my talk, about “Witch” of Talera. But they were attentive and took notes, and a couple of them even asked questions at the end so that was nice. I then had my signing at the Barnes & Noble tent and they had plenty of copies of my books. I was not the busiest author there but most folks signing didn’t have a lot of people vying for their books. I did sign some for the store as well.

After that, Lana and I wandered around. She took many, many pictures, of which I will feature a few here. The Capitol grounds are quite lovely and the building itself is amazing. There were a lot of cool booths and some very fine Zydeco music. There were a few couple dancing and that was quite entertaining as well. Naturally, I bought a few books.

When I finally did get home it was to find that Arkansas was giving Florida all they could handle in football. In fact, Arkansas should have won that game. Our kicker missed two field goals. Florida won by three points. There was also a couple of horrible penalties against Arkansas on one Florida drive that helped them score a touchdown to tie the game against the Razorbacks. As you can imagine, I was doing some serious ranting at the TV.

I started to load some of the pics but blogger doesn't seem to be cooperating so I'm going to post this and then try to upload more pics later!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Louisiana Book Festival

Festival day is almost here, and I’m excited! The Louisiana Book Festival starts Friday, October 16, but most of the action is on Saturday, October 17. Lana and I will be going up Friday afternoon for the Authors Party dinner from 7:00 to 9:00 at the State Library. Then we plan to just get a room, if we can find one nearby, because my talk is on Saturday morning from 10:00 to 10:45. I’ll be talking about my writing, with specific reference to Witch of Talera, which is my most recent novel.

If you’re not familiar with the Louisiana Book Festival, it’s held on the Capitol grounds in Baton Rouge. It basically starts at 10:00 and ends at 5:30. The general link is here. And there’s also a link to my profile here. My talk is in the Capitol building itself, in House Committee Room 4, which is in the basement (Alario Hall). I’ll be doing a signing at the Barnes & Noble tent at 11:00, which is along Spanish Town Road on the Capitol grounds. After that I plan to hit a bunch of other exciting panels and presentations.

The festival is free and open to the public, and they have all kinds of things for kids to do as well. There will be booths up during the day with food and exhibits, and there are kid’s tents, live music, a cooking demonstration, and much more. There’ll be lots of books. Hurray! The State library and State museum are also right there. At 6:00 there is a free concert by the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.

If you’re going to be in the Baton Rouge area on Saturday, stop by. The Capitol grounds are gorgeous and there should be many interesting sights and sounds to experience. Plus, did I mention "books?"

Needless to say, I won’t be blogging until at least Sunday. But I’ll give a report here when I get a chance. In the meantime, I’m going to have some fun.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Reading Allowed

I've not been able to get around to visiting blogs much in the past few days but I should get back to a more normal schedule next week. Monday and Tuesday I put in eight hour writing days finishing up an article on Charles Darwin. Wednesday I spent most of the day in court or dealing with court related items. After nearly three hours in court, however, all they did was end up giving Josh yet another court date on November 2. That means another lost day of work for both of us, and no doubt more expense.

After the few times I've had to be in court I've seen enough to realize a few things. One, the courts are overloaded for two main reasons: 1) they deal with plenty of petty things that really should not be clogging up the courts at all, and 2) they are so inefficient that they end up seeing every person who comes through the court multiple times. Most of today's actions seem to be delaying tactics, putting things off until later.

I also came to another realization today. While courts are supposed to represent rationality they are, in fact, bastions of irrationality. They assert power in all its irrational forms. Here's a good illustration, although just a minor one. I'm sitting in the back of a large courtroom that has about fifty people in it. Most people are fidgeting. Almost everyone looks either sullen, bored, or terrified. The judge is way up at the front dealing with lawyers and one defendent at a time. The woman in front of me is sitting quietly next to her son reading a novel. The novel is down in her lap. The bailiff comes marching up and tells her she's not allowed to read in the courtroom. It could have been me. I had a book with me but hadn't started to read yet.

Can you imagine much of anything more asinine? Or irrational? I could see not wanting someone to play a Gameboy in the courtroom, or be talking on their cellphone, but what possible harm could occur from someone reading quietly in the back of the room? I think this, more than anything today, showed me how profoundly silly the justice system is in this country.

Anyway, now I've got to get ready for the my Louisiana Book Festival presentation this Saturday. No rest for the weary.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reading Habits Meme

Check out Writtenwyrd’s Chthulu Horror Writing Contest. Looks like it’s going to be cool.

In the meantime, I’ve been seeing this “reading habit” meme around and it looks like fun. So here goes: (the questions are in italics, my responses not)

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack:
I read any time I get a chance so I often read while I’m eating, but I don’t specifically seek out snacks or drinks when I decide to read.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I do mark in nonfiction books, especially those I’m using for classes. In fact, I’ll have lots of marginalia in those. If I find something particularly interesting in a nonfiction book I’ll make a note in the front of the topic and page number. I don’t mark in fiction books but will make notes on a separate sheet or a computer file at times.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
Bookmark only. I hate the thought of dog ears. As for laying the book flat open, and face down, I’ll only do that with hardback textbooks, which are built tough.

Fiction, nonfiction, or both?
I read about two thirds fiction to one third nonfiction. I read in just about every genre within fiction and nonfiction. Probably most of my nonfiction is about science or writing.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
It depends on the book. I like to read to the end of a chapter, or to a clear break marked by a space, but some books have long dense chapters and I’ll stop where ever I have to, like with The Prince of Tides.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
Almost always, or if I’m not in a position to look it up I’ll write it down to look it up later.

What are you currently reading?
The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy
The McDonaldization of Society, by George Ritzer
The Future at War, Volume II: The Spears of Mars

What is the last book you bought?
Like Mayflies in a Stream, by Shauna Roberts

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?
I usually read at least 3, often a nonfiction book, a novel, and a short story collection.

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?
Anywhere, anytime. I once took my brother to the New Orleans casino. Since I didn’t care to lose money myself, I took a book and read. Man did I get some weird looks. But I just thought it was funny. I take a book with me everywhere.

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?
Seems like most books published these days are parts of series, especially in fantasy. I like series a lot, but I also read plenty of standalones. I don’t have a specific preference, I don’t think.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
I recommend The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen to anyone I see. I consider it the single best book I’ve ever read. Besides that, I recommend based on the person’s interests. If they are interested in reading westerns I’ll give ‘em some L’Amour titles, if it’s thrillers I’ll mention Koontz or C. S. Graham, if it’s horror I’ll talk about Wayne Allen Sallee, or Charlee Jacob.

How do you organize your books?(by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)
The books that I’ve read are generally filed alphabetically within genre, and separated by hardbacks versus paperbacks. A few special types of books are kept in special places. Like I have all my old Ace Doubles in one place, alphabetical within author for those. My TBR piles are huge and are separated only into general categories, westerns, thrillers, SF/Fantasy, etc.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

My Reading Year

I’ve mentioned how I keep records of the books I read. Well, I date my “reading year” from October 14 to October 13 of the following year. That’s because my birthday is on the 14th so it corresponds to my actual number of years alive. I’m about to finish out the current reading period and thought I might share the results.

The 2008/2009 period was a good reading year for me and I read more than average. I estimated that I first started truly reading at around 7, so counting from that age I’ve averaged about 76 books a year. I believe the actual average should be higher because I didn’t keep records until I was a teenager, and didn’t keep accurate records until my 20s. But hey, the exact number isn’t that important.

For this past year, I’ve read 124 books. This includes 18 nonfiction works, almost all having to do with science, 15 westerns, 18 thrillers, 18 SF, and 17 fantasy. I’ve also read 11 young adult books, including the Harry Potter series, and then smaller numbers in horror, classics, and poetry.

In the past, I almost never reread books, but as I’ve gotten older I’m doing so more frequently. I only started a record column for reread books about 8 years ago, and this year I set a new record with 6. Several of these I reread in order to blog accurately about them for Forgotten Book Friday.

The Harry Potter books, especially the last five, were definitely among my favorite reads of this past year. Also notable was the graphic novel The Watchmen, which is by far the best graphic novel I’ve ever read (not that I’ve read many). My favorite mystery/thriller of the year was What Angels Fear, the first Sebastian St. Cyr mystery, by our own C. S. Harris. In SF, the Cap Kennedy series of Space Opera stories were an interesting discovery, and in fantasy it would be “The Best of Robert E. Howard series, although most of the stories there were rereads. In nonfiction, the best book I read was probably The Lost Notebooks of Loren Eiseley, which I talked about a lot on my blog.

So there you have it. Soon a new reading year will dawn, and the possibilities are…endless. Hurray!

Monday, October 05, 2009

I'm an old Fogy

Does anyone even know what “Fogy” means anymore? Well, I am an old fogy, definitely a curmudgeon, quite a bit of a luddite, perhaps something of an A**h**e. And it shows up in many ways. But I will tell you one way. Maybe we can laugh at it.

First, please, my friends, do not take this the wrong way. Especially those of you who are youthful and/or embrace the mixed media generation that we are living in. But I just really dislike the whole concept of book trailers. Consider my opening paragraph and feel free to ignore me. Go for the young and hip crowd if you will, and if I know you and like you I'll buy your book even if you have a book trailer. But I probably won't watch the trailer unless I'm somehow forced to.

I just really dislike book trailers. Have I said that? Have I said why? I'll tell you why. I read books because they are books. I watch very little TV, except for football, and not many movies, unless I'm getting them for free and they happen to be on at just the right time. Lana has given up bringing movies home that I've made some mention of maybe watching. If I'm required to get up and switch some cables around on the back of the TV to watch a movie, pretty much any movie, I just won't do it. It's not laziness; it's because I don't care that much one way or the other whether I see a movie or not.

Well, book trailers evoke TV/Movies to me, and my immediate reaction is like a case of the hives. I want all the drama of a story to be on the page, and I don't typically want drama sort of forced on me from outside. I also really, really enjoy the visualization aspect of reading, and I don't want my visualization to be overly influenced by the visualization of others. The book trailers I've seen tend to do both of those things, and it doesn't work well for me. In fact, I've never seen a book trailer that made me want to buy a book; I've seen several that made me not want to buy one.

Again, don't go by me you young-at-heart folks. Most people are not like me. (This is almost certainly a very good thing.) Just call me an old fogy, tell me the world is passing me by. I’ll agree with you, but I don’t regret my fogyness. I find it rather comforting even. I wouldn't even take that hipster transplant if it was offered.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Family Issue Update

It's not been a pleasant week. I don't have the energy to go into all the details but the basics are, 1) my son was stopped on Monday for having a brake light out, 2) the cop arrested him on a warrant he didn't know he had, 3) he spent 3 days in jail, partly because they 'lost' him for over five hours, 4), I barely slept during most of that time and went to school only to cover my classes, spending the rest of the time at the jail trying to get him released.

After he was out, he showed me a ticket the next day that he'd been issued over a year ago which clearly had TBA on it for court date, but he did not recieve any further information. It's possible he recieved something and accidentally discarded it, or that it was sent to the apartment he was living in when the ticket was issued, but which he'd moved out of. I know he would not have just "blown off" a court date if he'd known about it.

Right now I'm quite sick of having any association at all with the Greater New Orleans area.

I'm gonna try to get around to some blogs today but it'll probably be a few days before I can catch up.

Thanks to everyone for their kind thoughts.