Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ebooks and Paying Markets

In case you didn't know, two of our Blog Colleagues have published with Kindle in the past few days. They are Avery Debow with Resonance, and Bernardl (Bernard Lee Deleo) with Monster. I've got my copies.

Also check out Full Throttle Steve for an ebook offer HERE.

And our friend Rick over at The Writer and the White Cat has some very exciting news for the writers among us.

Just a little Linky Love for everyone.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When Dreams Come True

I've posted on a personal dream that came true over at Novel Spaces. I hope you can drop by.

Also, my article on "Peter Elbow and the Real Voice" is in the latest volume of the Illuminata. I discuss the issue of voice in relationship to Peter Elbow's book Writing With Power.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Battles, Broadswords, and Bad Girls

I'd normally leave the last post in my "100 Books Everyone Should Read" series up a bit longer, but I have breaking news I want to share with the crew. Many of you may remember the award nominated story that Chris F. Holm set up over at Beat to a Pulp featuring Simon Rip through time. The next installment of this serial story is up now over there, and it's by yours truly. It's called Battles, Broadswords, and Bad Girls." I hope you'll check it out.

Before you read the story itself, though, you might want to check out David Cranmer's post about the story and about where it's been and where it's going. That's over at his personal website.

Thanks for tuning in.

Gramlich's 100 Books You Should Read: Part 4

Here's the last installment, with some commentary afterward.

81. Something by Raymond Chandler. Chandler’s and Hammett’s names are synonymous with the Private Eye Detective novel, and that genre has been hugely influential on fiction and film. I recommend The Big Sleep, Chandler’s first novel.

82. Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. First published in 1798, later republished in 1800 and again in 1802 with material added. Generally credited with ushering in the “romantic” movement in English literature. The most famous work in the collection is “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge.

83. Something by Alexandre Dumas. Dumas, who died in 1870, was an early practitioner of the historical adventure novel. His stories have great zest. Best known works include The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

84. Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott. This was the 19th century’s “Shogun.” A huge, sprawling novel, but a great adventure. Set in 1194, after the third crusade when many knights are returning to England and Europe. It also features Robin Hood.

85. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. A literary ghost story, and scary as hell. One of the very few books that scared me.

86. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer. The most complete and most compelling history of Hitler’s Third Reich. The rise of fascism in the 20th century put an end to a period of rationality that had been growing in England and parts of Europe. Rationality has yet to recover.

87. Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez. A beautifully written ode to the great white north, and considering how rapidly the ice is receding in the summertime it’s a world that is becoming increasingly exotic.

88. Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey. I’m a big fan of Abbey’s. This is his nonfiction work about living in the desert. A number of books on my list are about Earth’s wild places. I love them, and I love the loners who visit them.

89. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, as translated by Edward Fitzgerald. A collection of poems about life, drinking and love originally written in Persian.

90. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by Oliver Sacks. I’ve read about everything Sacks has written. It’s all good. Sacks is a medical doctor with a knack for bringing out both the humanity and the fascinating aspects of patients he’s worked with. This particular book illustrates some incredible things about the brain and how it works. Or sometimes fails to work.

91. Something by Louis L’Amour, the bestselling western writer of all time. L’Amour knew how to tell a story and combined the real and mythical wests in an appealing package. However, not all L’Amour is equally characteristic of his work. I recommend such books as: To Tame a Land, The Man Called Noon, Milo Talon, Flint, Silver Canyon, or Utah Blaine. To Tame a Land is my favorite.

92. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien. A children’s or young adult story. But it’s just wonderful and so imaginative. Loved it.

93. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. One of the great children’s classics.

94. The Borrowers, by Mary Norton. Imagine little people living in your walls. Imagine that the things you misplace aren’t really misplaced. They are “borrowed” by the little people. This story ignited my imagination so much as a kid that I can’t help but include it here. I was disappointed when I grew up and found there were “sequels” I’d never known about. Sigh!

95. Something in the Romance genre. People ought to be familiar with the whole range of human literature. Every genre has strengths and weaknesses. None are worthless and something like Romance, which has survived a long time and is still a force in the marketplace, deserves to be taken seriously. I’ve read a dozen or so romance novels but don’t know enough to suggest a specific book. My favorite among the ones I’ve read was The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Definitely an historical novel as well as a romance.

96. A book’s worth of H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft wrote short stories and quite a few are really good. Others are slow for modern audiences and heavy on description. I like that myself. Whatever you read by him, make sure it includes “The Color out of Space,” “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” and something from his “Dream story” sequence. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos has been a huge influence on modern fiction and film.

97. Something by Dean Koontz. Koontz’s best work is a virtual lesson in how to write a thriller. Not all his stuff is equally good, however. Stay away from his humorous stuff, but do try something from among Midnight, Lightning, Watchers, or Phantoms.

98. Night, by Elie Wiesel. I don’t always agree with the “experts” on what folks should read, but they got this account of the Nazi Death camps right.

99. Something by Tom Robbins. I recommend Jitterbug Perfume, but others are also excellent, including another personal favorite, Still Life With Woodpecker.

100. Something completely trashy. Just because you should.

There are many other good books that didn’t make my list here, although they came close: “The Turn of the Screw,” “The Name of the Rose,” “Childhood’s End,” “A Canticle for Leibowitz,” “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Cold in the Light,” :)

There are also many books I left off deliberately. I don’t think you need to read “On the Road,” or “The Metamorphosis,” or “Silas Marner,” or “The Catcher in the Rye.” I took the hit for you on these and I wish I had the hours back.

There are also some that might make this list, based upon their frequent recommendations on such lists, but which I’ve not read yet and can’t make a judgment: “To Kill a Mockinbird,” “Catch 22,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Someday I’ll read them and then my list may change. That’s the beauty of such a list. It is forever changing, both from experience and from changing lives and personalities.

I hope you enjoyed ‘my’ list. I won’t mind if you disagree, or if you make your own. That’s also part of the fun.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gramlich's 100 Books You Should Read: Part 3

Here's my third installment of the list. Just one more to go.

51. Watership Down, by Richard Adams. Animals have been used many times to illustrate human heroism and human villainy. It’s never been done better.

52. Something by Jack London. People talk most about Call of the Wild and White Fang, but the best thing London did were his short stories, like “To Build a Fire” and “A Piece of Steak.”

53. Plutarch’s Lives, by Plutarch. Louis L’Amour introduced me to this book and it’s definitely worth reading, particularly as an introduction to historical literature and biography.

54. Something by Dashiell Hammett. One of the first noir writers. Many folks recommend The Maltese Falcon or The Thin Man. Both are worthwhile, but I actually like Red Harvest the best.

55. Cosmos, by Carl Sagan. The best introduction to our planet, solar system, and universe I’ve ever read. An excellent source of information about science, and full of Sagan’s sense of wonder, which I found contagious.

56. The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas. I felt I should include at least one modern poetry collection, and Thomas is my favorite poet and the one who has most influenced me. His influence has extended much further than that, though

57. Why People Believe Weird Things, by Michael Shermer. With one exception, this book is a relentless expose on pseudoscience and superstition. A very good lesson in rational thinking.

58. The Year of Living Biblically, by A. J. Jacobs. Besides being pretty funny, this book really examines the difficulties one stumbles upon in trying to live a religious life based on the Bible. It shows very clearly that an absolutely literal interpretation of the Bible is neither possible nor desirable.

59. Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat. One of the funniest and most endearing books I’ve ever read. I was assigned this book and griped around for a week about being ‘told’ what to read. But from the first page I was hooked and roaring with laughter. Mowat’s sensitivities for wild creatures is inspiring.

60. Something by Loren Eiseley. Eiseley is probably our greatest naturalist since Thoreau. All his nature essays are outstanding. I recommend his collection called The Night Country most, but The Immense Journey is also awesome.

61. The Closing of the American Mind, by Allan Bloom. An indictment on higher education in America, and the problems he pointed out in 1987 are still with us today. In fact, they’re growing worse.

62. House Made of Dawn, by N. Scott Momaday. One of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read, second only to The Snow Leopard. A novel about a Native American character by a Native American author.

63. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. To my chagrin, I’ve never read this. Considering that it’s generally judged one of the cornerstones of modern western literature I think I better get to it. I think we all should.

64. Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. Love this book. Perhaps the archetypal story of marooning, and quite a few books and films have taken their cue from it, including a decent SF film called Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

65. The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer. Very old stories, from the 14th century, written in a form of English very different from our modern tongue. Thus, they are difficult to understand and there is a voluminous concordance that usually goes with it to explain meanings and differences. I’ve never read all of it but have read a number of selections. Shows how much English has changed.

66. Something by Nathanial Hawthorne. The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables are his best known and I liked both, but I prefer his short stories. An important American writer.

67. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison. A collection of Science fiction stories from 1967. It broke emphatically with the prototypical SF story and introduced the “New Wave” of SF, which dominated for the next few decades. New Wave put far less emphasis on technological advancement and exploration and adventure, and far more on social and political issues. Although the stories in this collection are awesome, the New Wave also produced some stinkers in my opinion. However, any modern SF writer from the literary side of the field owes a debt to Dangerous Visions.

68. The Virginian, by Owen Wister. This work, published in 1902, is considered the first “Wild West” novel It generally created the cowboy hero stereotype. A bit slow for modern readers, at times, it’s a set of loosely connected stories without a main plot. It’s really a character study of the “Virginian,” but it’s enjoyable, if leisurely. I thought about putting Shane, by Jack Schaefer, here. It’s more of a prototypical western, but it saw print in 1949.

69. Something by Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy is my favorite modern literary writer. He creates compelling characters and still tells a great story. My favorite by him is The Road, and it’s one of his most approachable books, but I also liked All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men.

70. Something about Robin Hood. This is actually more about the character than a specific book. Everyone ought to know Robin Hood’s story. It’s been hugely influential in our culture, all the way to Star Trek.

71. Critique of Pure Reason, by Immanuel Kant. One of the most influential philosophical texts of all time. A difficult read but it really does all make sense once you work your way through it.

72. Something about King Arthur. Like with Robin Hood, everyone should have some familiarity with King Arthur, which is probably the single most influential legend in Western Civilization. There are numerous books about Arthur. I’ve read quite a few, and you probably have too. Most canonical might be T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, which I’ve actually not read.

73. At least something from Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil are his best known works. I’ve read a fair amount about Nietzsche’s beliefs but have not read any book length materials actually by him. I need to correct that and will do so in the new year.

74. The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell. I’ve not read Campbell’s highly influential work because, from everything I’ve heard, I just don’t buy it. However, I of all people should know that what people say about a work and what the work itself says can be two separate things. I intend to get to this in the new year and figure most everyone ought to know something about it.

75. At least something from the greats of Russian Literature. That is Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and/or Anton Chekhov. From these writers, I’ve only read short stories. Nothing so far has made much impression on me, but I do want to try a novel by Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, particularly War and Peace or Crime and Punishment. I’ve downloaded War and Peace to my Kindle but haven’t yet gotten up the courage to begin.

76. At least something from James Joyce. I’ve only read Joyce’s short work and it sucks. I have his most famous work, Ulysses, but have not the courage to confront that battle at the moment. I thought long and hard about including this. Joyce may have once been relevant but is he still? Maybe there’s a benefit to suffering through such a work, though, and if I have to then so do you.

77. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. Wilde has a sense of wry humor with an edge of cynicism that resonates with me. I don’t know why, since I have nothing else in common with him. Yet, his work is always a delight. This is his only published novel. More’s the pity.

78. A book’s worth of Robert E. Howard. Howard wrote mostly short stories, but few writers in history could throw readers more headlong into adventure. I’d suggest The Best of Robert E. Howard, Volume 1: Crimson Shadows, from Del Rey, which includes many of his best pieces and gives a good sample of his work.

79. The Broken Sword, by Poul Anderson. Fantasy has never been done better, and I include The Lord of the Rings in that judgment.

80. Something from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. There are 7 volumes in the series and I think once you read one you’ll want to read all. I did. This remains the only series, ever, that I read entirely back to back, without taking a break between books. The first couple are clearly for younger readers but by three the series really hits its stride. That one is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gramlich's 100 Books You Should Read: Part 2

Here's part 2 of my list. Please note, the numbers assigned to these books do not indicate a rank ordering on my part. In other words, I'm not saying that number 1 is necessairly a more imporant read than number 50.

21. On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. Primarily meant for nonfiction writers but in reality the best book for writers ever. An excellent book to read for anyone who has to write as part of their career.

22. Watchmen, by Alan Moore. Graphic novels should be represented on any list of this sort because they’re becoming so big a part of our culture. This one is probably the best one yet written. It’s my favorite at least.

23. The Epic of Gilgamesh. One of the oldest examples of literature in the world. And not a bad story.

24. Beowulf. The great Anglo-Saxon poem cycle. One of the most enduring heroic myths of Europe.

25. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown. Heart rending. It definitely changed my view of the world and of American History. I love America, but our history is not one of white clothed innocence. We need to know it.

26. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume One, edited by Robert Silverberg. The single greatest collection of SF short stories ever. Not a clunker in the bunch and there are some of the most powerful tales of any kind I’ve ever read, such as “Flowers for Algernon,” “Nightfall,” “The Nine Billion Names of God,” and “The Cold Equations.”

27. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. Sometimes the folks who anoint the classics get it right. A real window into human behavior. I put this one into the horror genre.

28. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. I find this novel flawed but it is nonetheless powerful and has influenced many later works of literature and film, most notably Apocalypse Now. One day I’m going to write my own version.

29. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. A tale of genetic manipulation that should be a warning for people today.

30. 1984, by George Orwell. The world of 1984 came early behind the Iron Curtain and it will certainly come again. Elements are with us now, in America, in China and North Korea, in many other places.

31. Animal Farm, by George Orwell. Orwell is the only writer on my list with two books but I just couldn’t figure a way around it. A morality tale for us all.

32. Walden Two, by B. F. Skinner. Not content with rewriting the field of psychology with such works as Beyond Freedom and Dignity, Skinner wrote this novel laying out his idea of a utopian society in which every behavior is controlled by appropriate reinforcement. Many find it horrifying; that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

33. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. The classic adventure novel that has fired the imaginations of generations of young readers, including me.

34. At least some Jules Verne. Verne, in France, was one of the first science fiction writers and his work is seminal. He wrote a lot of books but I’d recommend Journey to the Center of the Earth or Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.

35. At least some H. G. Wells. Wells was Verne’s counterpart in English and I generally prefer his work to Verne’s, although only slightly. He also wrote many great books but I’d recommend The Island of Dr. Moreau, The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, or The Invisible Man.

36. Ghost Story, by Peter Straub. The scariest book I’ve ever read. I wish I could write this kind of complex book and make it work like Straub did. He’s one writer whose talent makes me jealous.

37. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. Too charming not to include. My son’s favorite book as a child, and my favorite to read to him.

38. Dante’s Inferno, by Dante Alighieri. I’ve seen Hell done better but this version has much to recommend it. Hugely influential.

39. Something by Stephen King. King is a juggernaut, hugely influential on other writers and on TV and film. I’m not a huge King fan but everyone should know a bit about him. I’d recommend Misery, The Shining, or Salem’s Lot.

40. A book’s length of O. Henry. Considering today’s flash fiction explosion, you’d think O. Henry would be cited more often. His pieces are masterpieces of the concise. “The Gift of the Magi” is most famous but most of his stories are worthwhile.

41. Something by Rudyard Kipling. The Jungle Book is well worth the read and Kipling’s best known work. I’d personally recommend his poetry the most.

42. The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Probably the single biggest influence on modern fantasy literature. A great story. A modern myth.

43. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. I’m not Twain’s biggest fan but this is a really good book. If you only read one Twain, I’d give this one the edge over The Adventures of Tom Sawyer because it’s more culturally relevant. Both are good adventures.

44. At least something by Sigmund Freud. Freud wasn’t a psychologist and couldn’t be called a scientist. He actually delayed the development of psychology as a science. However, his work has been hugely influential on our culture and entertainment. I’d recommend Civilization and Its Discontents, or The Future of an Illusion. Both have interesting things to say about the battle between the individual and society.

45. Native Son, by Richard Wright. Bigger Thomas is born poor, born black, born in the inner city, and born for jail, or so it seems in this tremendous novel. The great thing about this work is that it doesn’t turn Bigger into a hero; it doesn’t mythologize him. It puts his character into a realistic context that introduced many readers to the forces that have shaped our inner cities and the lives of the African Americans who live there.

46. Something by James Baldwin. Baldwin was one of America’s best literary writers, writing fiction and nonfiction with equal ease. I like his fiction a bit more. In fiction, Go Tell it on the Mountain (novel), or Going to Meet the Man (short stories) are his best known and well worth the read. I have a slight preference for a little novel called Giovanni’s Room. In nonfiction, Notes of a Native Son, (essays) is the way to go. I hesitate to say it because it shouldn’t make any difference, but one reason I find Baldwin’s work fascinating is because he comes from such a different background from me. Baldwin was both African American, and gay.

47. Cultural Literacy, by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.. This book is subtitled: What Every American Needs to Know. Hirsch thinks he knows everything that you should know. In many cases he was right, or so it seemed to me. In other cases he was full of it. It was fun making that determination.

48. Something by William Faulkner. I don’t like Faulkner’s novel length works, although some of his short stories are pretty good. But there’s no denying his influence on American literature and culture. I’d recommend nothing of novel length by Faulkner really, but I forced my way through The Sound and the Fury and perhaps you should too.

49. Something by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I’d recommend One Hundred Years of Solitude, but most of Marquez’s work illustrates the field of magical realism and it’s worth becoming acquainted with.

50. The Prince, by Machiavelli. The single best guide for tyrants and those who would resist them ever written.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gramlich's 100 Books You Should Read: Part 1

I often have strong disagreements with those 100 books everyone ought to read lists. For one, they’re generally very narrow and limiting. There is a huge wealth of literature out there, and an educated individual knows about breadth as well as depth. An educated person doesn’t just read literary novels, or just nonfiction. Second, some entries in such lists seem rather extreme. I don’t think you necessarily need to read everything Shakespeare wrote, for example. I think there are a lot of authors people need to be familiar with, but a specific book by them might not be required. Third, the world has changed and continues to change. There are books that once were critical for an educated person to know about, but maybe that’s no longer true. Forth, there are books that get chosen for such lists because they've been anointed by some “expert” along the way and no one is willing to really say the truth, which is that they suck. All of this is by way of saying that I’ve made my own list and annotated it. And now I’m going to blog it. The list is pretty long so it’ll take several days to get it all in. I make my start today. Feel free to disagree or argue. That’s one thing that makes these lists fun.

1. The Bible. Whether you believe in it or not, there is no arguing with the cultural importance and influence of this book.

2. The Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin. Probably the most important scientific book ever written. Profoundly influential in every aspect of the modern world.

3. The Koran. Included for the same reasons I included the Bible.

4. The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Twenty years ago I’d not have hesitated to include this. It’s importance seems to have faded a bit, but I’m keeping it for now.

5. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. Considering my love of books, I sort of have to include what is typically recognized as one of the very first modern novels. Sections of it are incredibly boring, but it has also widely influenced modern fiction all the way from Ray Bradbury to Star Trek.

6. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. I’m not sure anyone has ever seen nature more clearly or appreciated it more. I love this work.

7. Dune, by Frank Herbert. Perhaps the most enduring classic the SF world has ever produced, or perhaps ever will. It rocks!

8. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. A major influence on both science fiction and horror, and just a damn good novel with a lot of important themes running through it.

9. At least some Shakespeare. I don’t think one needs to read everything Shakespeare ever did, but his plays have been so influential on modern literature, theater and movies that I think everyone ought to have some exposure, particularly to plays like “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Macbeth.”

10. The Odyssey, by Homer. Great adventure novel. Highly imaginative. One of the roots of fantasy fiction. I love this one too.

11. Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Not the first vampire novel but certainly the most influential one.

12. A book’s worth of Edgar Allan Poe, including his poetry. Many “100 books to read” lists “short” the short story writer. I’m not going to do that. In many genres the short story has been as important or more important than the novel. Poe is the grandfather of the detective story and a huge influence on the horror genre. I especially recommend such stories as “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” One can hardly go wrong with Poe.

13. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Hugely influential, and fun. Probably the best known ghost story of all time.

14. A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The prototypical Sword & Planet novel, a big influence on fantasy fiction and on the field known as Space Opera. One of the best sheer adventure novels ever.

15. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s best tale, although some of his short stories are outstanding as well. Pretty much any Hemingway would be good, except for The Torrents of Spring, which is horrible and not Hemingwayesque at all.

16. At least something by John Steinbeck. I recommend, The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, or Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck is sometimes a bit pretentious but he really understood the human condition and the world of the rural poor.

17. Something by Dr. Seuss. Seuss is an icon, the most important children’s author ever, I would argue. I’d recommend The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Oh the Places You’ll Go, although I also have a fondness for Green Eggs and Ham and The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

18. A book’s worth of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle. I’m not a huge fan but Holmes is iconic and these stories have been hugely influential. My favorite is probably “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

19. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. Almost all Bradbury is worthwhile but this one is probably the most politically and culturally relevant.

20. The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen. Best book I’ve ever read. Luminescent prose. No book has ever affected me more.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Star Trek: Ghost of a Savior

In one dream last night I was flipping through my TV listings and saw Star Trek: Ghost of a Savior. I knew this was for The Next Generation and was thinking I’d never seen that episode. I was intrigued. When I woke up, of course, I realized I’d never seen it because such an episode never existed. However, I think I know the plot.

The Enterprise arrives at a far flung Federation outpost to find no one home. The place is abandoned. Lightless and lifeless. There’s no sign of an attack from outside. It looks like everyone just packed up and left.

Then, at extreme sensor range, Data detects a ship of alien design fleeing the vicinity at high warp. Because the outpost monitors the Neutral Zone, the Enterprise can’t leave it abandoned. A skeleton crew is beamed down to the base while the Enterprise herself takes off in pursuit of the alien ship.

Riker and Beverly Crusher are among the crew members who beam down to the station. There’s about a dozen others. They start getting all the base’s equipment back on line but two minor mysteries quickly rear their heads. First, they find that all the base’s plant life has died or is dying. Then they find three empty coffins that look like they were being prepared for space burials. While Crusher goes to work on figuring out what is killing the plants, Riker knows his primary job is to get the base up and monitoring the Neutral Zone.

In the meantime, the Enterprise is catching up to the alien ship, which is running like the hounds of hell are on its tail and which will not answer hails. Back at the space station, more mysterious events occur. Things left in one spot appear to have moved when the users return. Systems turn on and off apparently on their own. Doors open when no one is coming through. Scans reveal no life force readings on the base, however, except for Riker and his group.

The Enterprise catches the alien ship and discover the entire compliment of the star base on board it and perfectly safe. Their communications and sensors were out so they didn’t know the Enterprise was hailing them. Confused, Picard wants to know why they’ve abandoned their posts and mentions that he had to leave a skeleton crew behind to take over the duties. The leader of the star base crew blanches and demands. “You didn’t leave anyone back there. Tell me you didn’t. You’ve signed their death warrants. There’s something on that base.”

Picard immediately tries to contact Riker to warn him, but they can’t get through. “Mysteriously,” the communication system aboard the star base has crashed. And then the first of Riker’s crew is torn apart by an unseen force.

I have an idea for how this would end but I’m going to let your own imaginations do that work. Since Star Trek: TNG is no more, I may end up writing this as an SF story set in my own universe. If I do that I don’t want to give everything away here. I think there are some interesting possibilities.

Dreams, man. You gotta love the ideas.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mystery Walk Post

I've posted over at Novel Spaces about a local mystery. I think it's kind of interesting and would love to hear your thoughts if you get a chance to check it out.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Hint Fiction, and other Good Stuff

I am alive. I thought I'd post more regularly once the new year came in but I've been banging my head a bit trying to get these two reference articles done. Every project I do takes much longer than I think at first it should take. Lana tells me I'm a perfectionist, and maybe I am, though it doesn't often feel that way. Anyway, here are some updates on what I've been reading and listening to. Some of these are well overdue.

1. First, there's a nice review of Hint Fiction up online today, and it even mentions my story. I'm happy about that. It's over at Wilson Knut's blog if you'd care to have a gander.

2. I posted my review of Discount Noir a bit ago, but I'm remiss in not posting my review of Mark Durfee's The Line Between. I gave both works five stars. In a nutshell, here's what I said about The Line Between on Goodreads:

“An excellent collection of poetry from a Detroit poet. Similar in many ways to his previous collection, "Stink." A range of poetry, mostly hard edged, and with a tinge of righteous anger overlying much of it. A good mixture of short and longer poems. I greatly enjoyed.” I’ll only add that Mark is a helluva poet with some important things to say.

3. I can't remember if I reviewed JR's book here, Adopted Behaviors, but I also gave it five stars and here's what I said on Goodreads.

“I don't have a bookshelf for Tomlinson's type of work. I'd consider it to be general literary fiction, but there is also some memoir in this collection. This is a 52 page booklet carrying the subheading of "Flash Memoir, Short Stories, & Flash Fiction."

I don't actually read a lot of literary fiction so I'm not the specific target audience for this work. I enjoyed this collection, however. Tomlinson draws vivid portraits of his characters and puts them into brutal but realistic settings. The characters certainly have the feel of realism about them, which means there aren't any clear cut heroes in Tomlinson's stories, nor many clear cut villains. Tomlinson himself has been a teacher in the prison system in Michigan for many years and the events and experiences he describes in his tales have the unmistakable ring of authenticity.”

4. I've also been remiss in reviewing a great new metal CD that I actually won in a contest over at Jodi MacArthur's blog. It's by a band called A Pale Horse Named Death. I'd call it melodic metal, but don’t take that to mean wimpy. It’s dark and heavy, but with a lot of polish and professionalism in both the licks and the lyrics. The band members have been around. I know a couple of them were in Type O Negative, which I’ve only lately started catching up with. If you check out the website link I’ve provided you can listen to a few songs off the CD to see what you think.

That’s all for now. I suppose that’s enough.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Update and a Sorcerer

School is in session again, which explains why I haven’t been posting much or even visiting a lot of blogs. I should be back to normal next week. In the meantime, I did have an interesting dream last night. I was a young man, apparently held in thrall by an evil sorcerer. I was joined in that slavery by a young woman (probably Lana although neither of us looked like we do these days). We were “helping” the evil one hunt down another sorcerer who he had injured in a battle. The young woman and I found the injured sorcerer, who was in dog form, and while my friend called out to the bad guy that she’d found blood, I pulled the wounded guy away and hid him, then marked out the tracks I’d left.

The evil sorcerer came up to us and he was in the form of a giant black wolf, but he bought our statement that we’d only found blood. He led us down a hill to the injured sorcerer’s abode, which was a glass cabin in the woods full of all kinds of plants and strange objects. While there, I spotted a set of keys, and when the evil one ordered us to go and hunt the wounded man again, I took the keys, and then locked the evil sorcerer in the cabin, knowing that the spells on the place would keep him imprisoned for a while. Then the young woman and I fled into the woods to escape.

We later wandered into a village that was abandoned, but it turns out the evil sorcerer was waiting for us. When he faced us, it was clear he meant to torture us slowly before killing us, and so in desperation I challenged him to a duel with swords. He laughed but agreed to my condition that if I merely cut him with the blade we would be free to go. At first as we fought it was clear he was toying with me, but then I began to become faster and faster with the blade. I noticed suddenly that on a hill to one side of the village stood the injured sorcerer we’d helped, and he had friends. I realized they were helping me. The fight became desperate, with the blades moving with incredible speeds until they seemed only flashes of light. And then I cut the wizard across the stomach and stepped back. The wound wasn’t serious but it counted toward our bet, and as the young woman and I strode away in freedom, we heard the good sorcerer comment to the evil one about how his time was up. The End.

I’ve also been remiss in reviewing my friends’ works of late. I finished Discount Noir and reviewed it on Goodreads. Here’s what I had to say:
A really fun collection of short flash fictions all involving "MegaMart," which you can probably guess is meant to represent another "Mart." There's a little bit of everything here, serial killers, vampires, losers, drug addicts, sad sacks and more. I couldn't quite decide on my favorite story in the collection and will call it a tie between "House Names" by James Reasoner, and "Thirty-one Hundred" by Loren Eaton. Loved 'em both. I enjoyed the whole work, though, and particularly the fine stories from Sandra Seamans, Kathleen Ryan, Evan Lewis, Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Patti Abbott, and more.

Probably based on my “Discount Noir” experience, I also had a dream involving searching for something in a Megamart last night, and finding everything but what I wanted.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


You see a lot of retrospectus posts these days on the blogs. It’s natural and I rather enjoy them. Usually I like to do one myself, and I guess this is such a post, but this year it’s a little harder. There are things I don’t want to look back on, losses that I’ve had a hard time dealing with.

In March my mom died, after a really tough few months of illness, hospitalization, and pain. While attending her funeral I came down with the flu and it lingered for well over a week. Physical exhaustion. Mental exhaustion. I had them both. It’s still hard to believe I’ll never speak to her alive again.

Then came more loss. In July, my brother-in-law, Roger, died. He had several pretty bad weeks with brain cancer before he passed. I wasn’t there for it, although the family kept me informed of what was happening. And then came the third loss. In November, my stepfather, Ray, passed. He didn’t suffer as long as mom or Roger. And in such times you find yourself thankful for small favors.

Such things do not make for a good year. For anyone. And they linger; they ache. Like an arthritic limb. But the year was certainly not all about loss. It wasn’t primarily about loss. I have Lana and Josh. Their love is wonderful. I have a job I enjoy and not a lot of money worries. I live in a great house with trees on three sides and a yard full of birds and other critters. I ate well in 2010. I bought and read many good books, often by friends.

My writing did not go as well as I’d hoped. Certainly I didn’t get much new work done. I started two novels and both came to screeching halts. However, I did complete some projects that were close to my heart. I self-published Killing Trail and am rather proud of it, although sales have been modest. I also completed two collections of my short stories for Borgo Press. One was a collection of vampire fiction, Midnight in Rosary, and the other horror, In the Language of Scorpions. “Midnight” has been turned in but Borgo is setting up ebook versions of older books so new publications are on the back burner. I’m hoping 2011 will see both books in print.

In the end, I cannot be sad to see 2010 go. It will not be remembered with joy, as I remember 2007 for my marriage to Lana, for how we settled into our current woodsy home, and for the publication of the Talera novels. I know I’m looking forward to 2011; I’m hoping for better things. But 2010 did remind me of what is important in life. It reminded me that love and family are the reasons why I’m here. I can live with that.