Friday, December 28, 2012

A Year In the Mirror

2012 is just about over. I’ll be glad to shake the last dust of it from my feet. After a rough 2010, where we lost my mom, stepfather, and brother-in-law, 2011 was  a year of recovery. I wrote more and more as 2011 went on and had a very productive summer. The fall of 2011 was tough at work and I had to slow down on the writing front, but I picked up over Christmas break and drove into the first couple of months of 2012 with enthusiasm and energy that I hadn't possessed in some time. Everyone who reads this blog knows what happened next and I won’t rehash it. I could have found the time to write after March, but my will broke for a while.

I've never kept word counts for my yearly production but I’d estimate that I've typically produced between 100 to 120,000 words of published fiction a year for the last decade. In 2012 I actually did decide to keep records. I only produced about 50,000 words of what I’d consider publishable material. About 10,000 of that was produced in January and February and has been published. Another 15,000 of what I did later in the year is scheduled for publication in various venues. In fact, much of that material was written because I had requests or contracts for it. I don’t know if I’d produced much of it without that motivation. The rest of my 2012 writing consists mostly of partials, most of which I hope to finish in 2013.

2012 has ended on a high note emotionally for Lana and me. Her cancer is gone and life is steadily getting back to normal for us. Despite that lift in mood, though, I have really just wasted my Christmas break as far as writing is concerned. I wrote one 1000 word short story, and that was during final exams. Since I've been home for break I've done virtually nothing. I’m not quite sure why. It just seems far easier not to write.

I see 2013 as an important year for me in writing. If I don’t do better than in 2012 I’m thinking I might as well just admit that I’m a dabbler rather than a writer. Fortunately, my production this year was so low that I scarcely have anywhere to go but up. I’m going to try and use these last few days of 2012 to re energize myself a bit. I've been overdosing on reading fiction in hopes of feeding my muse some stimulation. We’ll see how that works out.

What I need, and I know it, is the discipline that has served me well over previous years. I've never been a prolific writer and have always had many other work commitments, but throughout most of my life since graduate school I have written steadily. It might have been just a small amount, but it was nearly every day.  Even if I was tired, or sick, or depressed, or overworked at school, I produced a sentence, a paragraph, a page.  2010 knocked that pattern off kilter, and 2012 kept it off. But it wasn't the events in those years that did it. It was the change inside of me.

Maybe it’s time to shrug back into the harness. 


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Feed Your Head

It’s been a while since I've had a good alien dream but I had an interesting one last night. Earth suffered two alien invasions in succession. The first one involved a very human appearing species who could often pass for us unless you really knew what to look for. They were generally taller and thinner than us, and always had black eyes that held an unusual shine. They initially attacked right at Christmas and were able to cause tremendous disruption by attacking shopping centers and traffic hubs. Lana and I were getting gas in our car when one such attack occurred, and we were able to make a break through the resulting traffic snarl and escape into the countryside. I saw the police respond and shoot some of the aliens, but they had some kind of shielding that stopped the bullets. All you’d see was a kind of shimmer when the bullets struck them, like heat waves.

Although the aliens quickly took over most of earth, a large human underground resistance formed. We found that we could kill them even when they were shielded by using edged weapons that could be pushed slowly through their defense fields. We also discovered that they didn't wear their shielding all the time. At one point, I and another group of guerrillas broke into an alien TV station and were able to shoot up many aliens who were unshielded in what they thought was a safe area.

The resistance forced the aliens into a peace treaty and we found that, in fact, we could co-exist. Before long we were living with one another instead of against one another. In fact, when the second invasion came, I was at a football game with an alien friend of mine and was studying the program booklet, which told us which of the players were alien and which human. The tall, thin aliens seemed to be particularly prominent at the wide-receiver position.

As we were at the game, these small, crab-like aliens suddenly came floating down all over the place. One landed at our feet. It tried to snap my human-like alien friend with its claws and he stomped on it. We knew instantly that they were aliens and it was an invasion, but we laughed at how easily it was going to be for us to repel the new invasion. Then the crab creatures deployed their technology. Each was wearing some kind of machine harness around their bodies, and when they pressed a red button a virtual armored suit formed around them, kind of like what they used to call a Waldo. When they opened fire from these suits we realized we weren't going to defeat them so easily.

I woke up after that so I don’t know whether we won or not. I guess we did since I’m still here blogging this morning. What I did realize when I woke up is that the image/idea materials for the dream had been cobbled together out of stuff I've been reading and watching lately. Since school has been out I've been indulging myself with reading and movies. I've been “feeding my head,” and that’s what my brain was using to construct the dream. I’d watched the movie Arrival, about an alien invasion; I’d watched Avatar again last night. I've been reading some Star Trek and watching reruns. I read a book about terrorists trying to use biological warfare on the US. I noted there was going to be a remake of Red Dawn. I watched The Bourne Legacy, which involved a guy shooting up a research laboratory. I read a horror/western about spider-like (or crab-like) demons. Put all that together and you have many of the elements of my dream.

In other words, if you want to have weird dreams like mine, remember what the door mouse said: Feed your head.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Little Known Facts

It seems lately that every time a tragedy occurs in the US, some people want to blame it on the most ridiculous causes -- Gay Marriage, Lack of Prayer in Schools, Obama's reelection, Women moving into Non-traditional roles, etc etc. My thoughts are that many of these people don't really believe what they are saying.  No, I believe that many of them are simply manipulating those that they see as their followers, and that's a pretty nasty thing to do. It's particularly nasty in the religious sense to me because, if it's true that God would let children die just because there is no prayer in schools, then that makes God out to be a vicious, petty thug. I'm not comfortable with that.

The truth is that natural disasters have been happening a long time in human history, and before human history.  The truth is that human beings have been killing each other in large numbers for a long time. If we are going to find answers to these problems, ways to mitigate natural disasters and to minimize humankind's more vicious tendencies, we have to give thought to real causes and potentially real solutions, not to distractions. Those who are throwing up these distractions at us are definitely part of the problem and not the solution.

I don't even know if its appropriate given all the crap we've heard lately, but sometimes a good way of calling attention to those who are adding to the problem is with humor. I hope you take what follows in that vein.


In 1883, the volcanic island of Krakatoa erupted, producing the loudest sound ever heard in the modern world. Over 36,000 people died as a result of the explosion. The cause has since been revealed as Gay Marriage!

Around 450 or so AD, Attila the Hun repeatedly attacked Europe, slaughtering thousands. It is said that Atilla constructed pyramids from the skulls of his victims. Only recently has it come to light that it was, in fact, Gay Marriage, that gave rise to Attila.

In about 72 AD, the Roman Coliseum was built. It was used for the execution of Christians among other things.  But do you know why the emperor Vespasian began construction of the Coliseum? You guessed it: Gay Marriage!

65 Million years ago, an asteroid (or two) slammed into the earth.  The dinosaurs went extinct. The fossil evidence is scanty but many suspect the impact was a result of Gay Marriage among the T-Rexes of the age.

GAY MARRIAGE – Triggering horrific acts of violence since before there were even people!


Sunday, December 16, 2012


As far as I know, this meme began with a writer named Les Edgerton, who I don’t yet know. I was tagged for it by Richard Godwin, the author of several well received works, including Apostle Rising and a short story collection entitled Piquant: Tales of the Mustard Man. I’ve read both and was stunned in each case at the originality of the voice. Richard’s latest book is Mr. Glamour, and I have my copy but have not yet had a chance to read it. I’m looking forward to getting to it soon. Thanks, Richard, for inviting me to this series. For consistency sake, when I get to the part about my own work below, I’m going to use the same questions from the original post.

First, we were asked to pick four writers to invite to this blog meme and that proved to be very difficult.  I have a lot of comrades who are writers and who are certainly worthy of consideration. After much debate, however, I decided to focus on those whose output, or at least some of it, could be described as noir fiction. This is in keeping with Richard’s picks for his post. My four are David Cranmer, Bernard Lee DeLeo, Patti Abbott, and Anonymous-9.  Here’s a few words about them and why I invited them to discuss their Next Big Thing.

David Cranmer is the creator and editor for Beat to a Pulp, which is the name of both an online magazine and of a publisher that has helped revitalize noir fiction. David has put together several important collections of noir stories in the Beat to a Pulp series, and, under the name Edward A. Grainger, has written an influential series of hardboiled westerns about the characters Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles. David has even invited other writers to play in his world and some excellent stories have been generated by that invitation. You’d be doing yourself a favor to check out David’s websites and his writing.

Bernard Lee DeLeo is a prolific writer who has written a number of books that are available for the Nook and Kindle. His general style combines high intensity action blended with a good sense of humor. Here’s what I had to say about DeLeo’s Cold Blooded. “An assassin is given the task of killing a woman who is under witness protection. Instead, something draws him to her emotionally, and he takes on the task of protecting her and her tween-aged daughter from a host of murderers. Who better to save someone from assassins than the coldest blooded killer of them all. This is an exciting thriller, full of brutal action, but not without a sense of humor. The assassin, Nick, is about the baddest bad ass ever. Good characters, good story, good read.” Check Bernard’s stuff out.

Patti Abbott is a versatile writer whose best known work so far has fallen into the noir arena. I read her collection of short story gems called Monkey Justice and reviewed it both on Amazon and on Goodreads. However, her most recent story is a western, which is up over at Beat to a Pulp. One of Patti’s great strengths is her characters and you should treat yourself to some of her writing.

Anonymous-9 lives in the non-writing world under the name Elaine Ash. Several years ago her short story, “Hard Bite,” single-handedly stretched the boundaries of modern noir fiction. Now, Hard Bite the novel is available. Elaine is also a talented editor. Here’s what I said on Amazon about her first collection of stories, which included “Hard Bite.”  “A collection of noir/crime stories that really push the borders of the genre forward. Many of these are award winning or award nominated tales, and the awards are deserved. Definitely not the same old, same old stuff. Full of fresh, if twisted, tales.”

Now for the section where I discuss my latest work.

My latest published work is a novella entitled Under the Ember Star. It was published by Borgo Press, an imprint of Wildside, and included as one half of a “Double,” with my book on one side and The Battle for Eden by Mark E. Burgess on the other. Later, the two novellas were published as separate ebooks.

Here’s a synopsis/teaser for Under the Ember Star:

Ginn Hollis was fourteen when her father's mysterious death left her alone on the planet Kelmer. She's grown up since then. Kelmer is a harsh world, an old world: its people are ancient, its civilization long fallen and dimly dreaming under a brown dwarf sun the natives call the Ember Star. But now, long dormant forces are beginning to stir on Kelmer, forces that could destroy the planet forever...or bring it back to life. One being stands at the center of the turmoil. His origins are veiled, his destiny is unclear. Everyone wants a piece of him. Only Ginn Hollis can protect him--if she can save herself first....

What is the hook? What’s this book really about?

Under the Ember Star is, in many ways, a science fiction mystery. Who is the strange  being who hires Ginn Hollis for protection? What is the nature of those who make the planet Kelmer their home? Who are the architects of the technology that allows life to survive on the planet’s surface. Before the story ends, all these questions and more are answered, and there’s a lot of action in the process.

Here are a couple of review excerpts:

“UNDER THE EMBER STAR by Charles Allen Gramlich is a rousing science fiction tale of a streetwise young woman named Ginn who was left to her own devices at a young age when her archaeologist father was killed. She lives on Kelmer, a distant human colony world, which features a native humanoid species, hostile terrain, an enigmatic past, and a cooling sun that promises to slowly worsen the planet's climate. Ginn is hired by an inscrutable member of the native species for a job that will take her into Kelmer's wilderness, battling human and alien foes who seek to stop their quest, in an effort to learn more about the planet's origins and the involvement of a long-lost alien species. Gramlich's worldbuilding is superb; Kemler never ceases to seem like a real place, and Gramlich's construction of a relatively primitive alien culture in a tense but not entirely antagonistic relationship with human colonists is some of the best I've seen in years. This fast-moving, well-written adventure yarn is an exceptional science fiction story.” -- From Andrew Byers.

“This review is for Under the Ember Star (one half of this back-to-back paperback double); it is also available via e-book as a stand alone novel. Charles Gramlich is an accomplished author, and this tale fully demonstrates his story-telling ability. The strong female lead character, Ginn Hollis, is an orphaned human who has grown up on a distant colony world; part of the population is human, and part is a resident alien species, ancient and mysterious. The planet itself is old, full of brooding mystery as its sun slowly cools in the twilight of its life. Ginn must take on the job of guiding an alien client through the wilds of this world, overcoming obstacles both human and inhuman to fulfill their quest. Gramlich's story moves with pace, but combines the action with strong character development, set in a fleshed-out world that has depth and solidity, making the reader feel like this is a real place with real people and problems. The feel of the book reminds me a bit of Leigh Brackett's work, and she is one of my favorite authors. Great story; I highly recommend it.” --From “AuthorVet”

What inspired the book? Where did you get your idea?

The inspiration for most of my writing comes from the great stories I’ve heard and read over the years. Two particular writers inspired Under the Ember Star.  These were Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore, who both wrote of wonderful characters involved in furious action on strange and alien worlds. Just as such writers gave me many hours of enjoyment, I hope to do the same for a new generation of readers.

What genre is this book?

Under the Ember Star would be considered Science Fiction, particularly under the sub-label of Space Opera. It’s not hard science fiction, but it’s definitely not a fantasy. I put a lot of effort into getting the world and culture right. The science is there and it’s important, but I put more emphasis on the characters and action.

Where and when can I read the book?

Under the Ember Star is available both in print, as part of a Wildside Double with Mark E. Burgess’s The Battle for Eden, and as a standalone ebook. It’s available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Wildside itself, as well as at other online stores.

Wildside Press Ebook

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Few Days Off for Work

Final Grading has hit so I won't be visiting blogs for a bit, probably until Saturday or so. I'm sure everyone will survive.

In the meantime, I leave you with what I think is good news.  The entire Talera series is now out as audiobooks here.  You'll have to search for my name, Charles Allen Gramlich.

When I mentioned this on facebook someone asked me how the experience was and who was the reader. I don't know. The publisher set all this up and I didn't have to do a thing. Being lazy, I'm appreciative of that. Jon Nixon said the books were also available at UK and that the reader was a good one.

See you all soon.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Accentuating the Negative

I was noticing something about myself the other day. I read a ten-point article on creative expression and agreed with almost everything the writer said. However, there was one point I strongly disagreed with. I was talking about the article with Lana and found myself focusing far more of my time during the discussion on the point I disagreed with than on the other nine that I considered sound advice. At first, Lana seemed to think I strongly disliked the article and the author’s viewpoint, at which point I realized I was giving that impression by focusing on the smaller “negative” to the exclusion of the stronger “positives.”

I’ve also noticed that when I’m critiquing student papers that I need to “consciously” make an effort to focus more on the positive aspects than the negative aspects (assuming there are some).  I often find when I go back through a paper I’ve marked that I’ve put far more negative comments down than positive ones, and I adjust for that during my second and third trips through the piece.  

Apparently I’m not the only person that does this kind of thing though. I recently saw a review of a story that I’d also read.  The reviewer gave the story 4 and half stars and said some very good things about it, but he/she also pointed out one “con.”  The reviewer listed the “pros” briefly and concisely, then went on to discuss at some length their “con.” They came back to the “con” during their summary, which gave the impression that the story was almost ‘fatally flawed,” when it seems from their stars and other comments that they really “liked” the story tremendously and were highly recommending it.

Do other folks do this kind of thing?  Do you?  What possible purpose does it serve for us? Might we not all be better off if we didn’t do that?  What do you think?

Monday, December 03, 2012

Affordable Time Travel At Last

In an interview with this dashing reporter, scientist Charles Gramlich, who described himself as only “half-mad,” spoke at length about his years of dedicated work on the time travel conundrum.  His tinkering with wormholes and string theory led nowhere until, in the summer of 2010, he realized he had been approaching the problem all wrong.  “Physics and engineering can only take you so far,” Gramlich said. “The breakthrough came when I finally grokked that only the ‘mind’ possesses the required energy field necessary to generate  a true temporal distortion. It’s also much cheaper,” he added.

After looking  up about half those words in the dictionary, and after getting Professor Gramlich to explain the rest, your distinguished reporter finally understood.  I immediately took a little jaunt through time with the good Professor, visiting first the old American West, and then leaping far into the future to a planet as yet unknown to current human knowledge. Should you wish to follow in our pioneering footsteps, simply read Killing Trail, by the author Charles Allen Gramlich (no relation), and follow that with Under the Ember Star, by the same author.  Both books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

Graham Charleston reporting for the Deerhaven Explicator. Somewhere in and out of time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas, New Year Sale

 As I usually do at this time of year,  I’m offering some deals on signed, print copies of my books for Christmas and New Year. Excellent gifts for yourself or others, you know. J I’m sure these prices still seem kind of high, but that’s the nature of the trade paperback size, and not much I can do about that. I will make the shipping free in the USA.

You can see what I have available and the prices below. If you know someone who is planning on committing themselves to writing in the new year, you might consider Write With Fire, which is my book on writing and publishing. All of these are available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon as well, and many of them are available as cheaper ebooks if you would like. 

To order, email me at cagramlich11 at gmail dot com  

1.  THE TALERA SERIES: Sword & Planet Fantasy Adventure Series
Swords of Talera -- $12.50
Wings Over Talera -- $12.50
Witch of Talera -- $12.50

All 3 -- $32.00

2.  Under the Ember Star (With The Battle for Eden by Mark Burgess) -- $12:50 (Only 2 copies available)

Bitter Steel:  An anthology of Sword & Sorcery short stories  -- $12.00
Midnight in Rosary: An anthology of Vampire and Werewolf short stories  -- $12.00
In the Language of Scorpions:  An anthology of horror stories  -- $12:50

Any two anthologies   --   $22.00
All three anthologies   --   $32.00

Cold in the Light: A horror/thriller--  $8.00

Wanting the Mouth of a Lover: A collection of vampire haiku  -- $5.00

Or $3.00 as an addition to any other order.

Write With Fire: A nonfiction guide to writing  -- $14.00

Works like Killing Trail, Days of Beer, Harvest of War, Harmland, and The Inklings Anthology are not currently available in print but are in ebook format at B&N and Amazon. 

Have a very Merry Christmas and a great holiday season!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Graham Charleston, Newest Report!

This just in!  Charles Allen Gramlich is this century’s Nostradamus. Local pseudoscientist, Les Ramli, has spent the entire past decade examining the epigraphs that Gramlich used to open the chapters in his first novel, Cold in the Light. Ramli presented convincing proof to this reporter that the epigraphs have been predicting important world events since the book’s publication in 2002.  

Consider the following: “The hair stood up on their bodies when they saw the ruins. It must have been the roar of winds through the white canyons of stone, or the cold stroke of ancestral memory.  Maybe it was just the dead passing by with empty eyes.”

Ramli says that this epigraph successfully predicted the rise of the highly popular TV show, “The Walking Dead,” as well as the entire zombie apocalypse fascination that is currently sweeping our country.” How stupid of me not to have figured that out for myself, I thought after hearing Ramli’s comment.  Other epigraphs in the book successfully predicted that Curiosity would find shiny things on Mars,  that the 2012 presidential election would be won by either a Republican or a Democrat, and the 115 pound pumpkin that local farmer Chas Springs grew this very October.  

Learn your future and the future of your world. Buy and read Cold in the Light today!

--Graham Charleston reporting, for the Deerhaven Endeavour.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Everyone who reads this blog regularly knows that my wife, Lana, was diagnosed with cancer this past March. She went through chemo and radiation over the summer and it was certainly the worst thing that either of us had ever been through. Weight loss, hair loss, vomiting, weakness, full body rash, and a hundred other symptoms that made minute by minute living miserable for her. Much of the time she couldn’t even sleep to escape it.

There were many days when I could barely get out of bed myself, and I can only imagine how hard it was for her. Actually, I’m pretty sure I can’t imagine it. Many times she said that she just couldn’t take it, and yet she did. Day after day.

The treatments finished several weeks ago and she had begun to feel quite a bit better and was able to eat and sleep again. But we still had to get the full body scan to tell us the final results. Well, she got that scan on Monday and late on Tuesday she got the call with the results. She’s clear of the cancer. We both wept a little bit at that news. Talk about Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Razored Zen Interview: G. B. Miller

I think it’s time to run another author interview. My guest today is G. B. Miller.  I first became aware of G. B.’s work on his Blog, and through a story of his called “Cedar Mountain” that was published over at Beat To a Pulp. We’ve corresponded frequently since then. Without further ado, here’s G.B.  (RZ represents Razored Zen and I’m sure you can figure out what GBM stands for.)

RZ:  Tell us a little about yourself outside of writing.  Home town. Family.  Job.  That sort of thing.

GBM: I have lived in Newington, CT practically all of my life, with my wife and two children. As a matter of fact, I live in the same house that I grew up in. I’ve been working for the State of Connecticut for the past 16 ½ years, with the past 8 ½ being spent slaving away as a payroll clerk. I don’t have much in the way of hobbies beyond walking and bicycling (hand problems), but used to be an active pool player and bowler back in the day.

RZ:  What made you want to write? Is it a desire that’s always been with you?  Or was there some particular event or book that ignited the fire?

GBM: I’m not sure if the desire for the written word has always been there for me. Certainly doing the verbal thing was. I’ve always enjoy creating parodies (both song and non-song) about all kinds of things but sadly never wrote anything down. Sometimes being blessed with a good memory is a bad thing. But yes, a particular event did ignite the fire back in 2006 and I found that writing was the easiest form of therapy there was. While the initial effort proved to be disastrous, prodding from friends and co-workers persuaded me to continue this sometimes quixotic journey.

RZ: Writers always get asked about their influences.  Consider this that question.

GBM: Strangely enough, I don’t think that I had any influences on my writing, at least consciously. I didn’t read a lot of fiction while growing up, basically keeping myself limited to non-fiction and historical fiction. I guess you can say that while no one individual influenced my early writing, genres certainly did, in that I wanted to write stories that would make the reader walk away after reading it with that story still milling about in their head. As for my later writing, certainly cruising other writer’s blogs and e-zines to pick up tips, pointers and advice helped me tremendously.

RZ:   G., you seem to enjoy writing fiction with erotic elements. What is it about that genre that has attracted you?

GBM: It was the easiest thing to perform. Seriously though, sex is one of two elements (in my opinion) that have an unlimited amount of tangents to explore. So when I started to get serious about my writing back in ’09, I choose to combine my strong point of character description with the unlimited potential of sex exploration and try to create something truly unique. A good example of this would be my short story “Red Stripe,” in which I combined the elements of heavy metal, punk and sexual excess to create a truly unique story. Plus, and I know this will sound kind of sexist, sex is the easiest thing to write if you enjoy writing from a female point of view. Sex as a weapon, so to speak.

RZ: Writing can be hard work. What motivates you to keep going?  What inspires you?

GBM: The fact that a lot of people have denigrated me for my writing over the years perpetually motivates me to write. I’ve actually permanently enshrined this little annoyance in the acknowledgment section of my novel. As for inspiration, the world around me does. I know it sounds cliché, but a lot of the stuff and people that I observe throughout my day-to-day activities plant multiple seeds of ideas for me to choose from.

RZ:  What are you working on currently?  And what’s next for you? 

GBM: I’m in a state of flux with my writing at the moment. While I was waiting for “Line 21” to drop, I was keeping myself busy by writing a novella in a genre that I’ve had mixed feelings about for quite a while. Once “Line 21” dropped, I started thinking about a couple of partials that I could work on next. However, by doing a little networking on Facebook, I got a potential publishing lead for a completed novella of mine, so I plan on doing the whole submission thing all over again: editing and writing a synopsis.

RZ: What work is available from you right now, and where can readers find it?  Is there a place online where folks could go to learn more about you and your work?

GBM: My commercial debut for Line 21 is available at Solstice Publishing; and at Amazon. Also, you can find my short story “Cedar Mountain” at Beat To A Pulp (in the archives for 2009), and my short story “Red Stripe” at The Cynic Online Magazine.

I can be found at my main blog Cedar’s Mountain; and on Facebook.
And you can check out the book trailer for Line 21 on You Tube.

 G., thanks for visiting Razored Zen.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Strange Experiment

In 2002, researchers Alexander and Hines, found that young male vervet monkeys preferentially preferred to play with a car and a ball while young female vervets preferred to play with a doll and a pot.  It is well known that human children show gender differences in toy preferences but many researchers thought this was primarily a function of early socialization.  If male and female monkeys show the same preference, however, then we have to give biology another look.  What could possibly account for the differences in toy preferences among vervet monkeys?

The difference is likely to be in the “nature” of the toys rather than what they represent in human society.  Cars and balls are essentially moving and movable objects. Toy cars have wheels that allow them to be pushed. Balls fit the hand nicely for throwing. From day one, young male humans show a greater preference for moving objects than females do.

On the other hand, dolls represent figures that evoke a connection with other living beings. From day one, young female humans show a preference for faces over moving objects. And young girls show a greater affinity for babies than young boys do. According to this thinking, the doll represents the possibility of “nurturing” behavior to the young vervet females. I have no idea what the “pot” represents in this situation, although perhaps it represents a nest-like “place” to put the doll.

We humans are different from each other in myriad ways. Some of these ways are biologically and genetically based, but that doesn’t mean they are “correct” in any grand scheme of things. Nor does it mean they are “invariable.”  The wonderful thing about nature is its diversity, and in humans we see the same kind of variability. It is a thing to be celebrated, not bemoaned. I am fascinated by the opening up of my thoughts after reading about the vervet monkey study. To paraphrase a much wiser fellow, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, or mine.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Graham Charleston, New Report, and Vlad Dracule!

In a recent issue of the Deerhaven Journal of Psychotherapeutic Effectiveness, Dr. C. Gramlich, a prominent local psychologist, identified three cases of a new cognitive disorder that he refers to as Bored-reader’s Syndrome, or BrS. BrS is a potentially non-fatal disorder that attacks the central nervous system, producing difficulties in concentration, loss of mental focus, and loose stools. Fortunately, Dr. Gramlich also published a simple cure for BrS in the same article.  At 99 cents, it also happens to be the cheapest cure ever for a psychological dysfunction. Simply purchase and read “Harvest of War” by Charles Allen Gramlich (no relation).   – Graham Charleston reporting, for the Deerhaven Extreme.

I don’t always read vampire stories.

But when I do, they’re from “Midnight in Rosary,”
By Charles Allen Gramlich!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Graham Charleston Reporting

Dr. Charles Gramlich, professor of psychology at a prominent New Orleans University, has made the extraordinary claim that reading the three books of the Talera fantasy series, Swords of Talera, Wings Over Talera, and Witch of Talera, will actually help you lose weight and maintain a svelte figure.  Gramlich says that, “those who read the slender volumes of the Talera series, which are quick and exciting stories, develop a speedier metabolism, allowing them to burn calories more quickly. This effect lingers for weeks after the books are finished,” he adds, “and can easily be prolonged further by consuming another book by the same author.”  When asked whether that author, Charles ‘Allen’ Gramlich, was any relation, Dr. Gramlich abruptly yelled “Fire” and left the room.  Nevertheless, this intrepid reporter believes Dr. Gramlich’s statements regarding the weight loss effects of the Talera series. Surely such a handsome and kindly looking fellow would not lie – Graham Charleston reporting, on the beat for the Deerhaven Examiner.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Recent Movie Reviews

Lana is back to work at the library and has been bringing home movies for us to watch. We saw The Grey the other day, starring Liam Neeson. A plane crashes far to the north and a small cadre of men survive, including the Neeson character, who was hired to protect the men from wolves while they worked. Now the pack come after the group and the Neeson character is without his guns and is left with only his knowledge of the ways of the wolves. Although I enjoyed the northern scenery in this one, it left me fairly flat. 

We also saw Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the girl from the Twilight movies.  It also had Charlize Theron as the wicked witch, and she certainly stole the movie as far as I was concerned. I liked the special effects in this one quite a lot, and there were some very cool images that actually entered my dreams over the next couple of nights. I also thought that Twilight girl, Kristen Stewart, did a better job as Snow White than many people claimed. She certainly was not going to be the “fairest of them all” when Theron is around, though. This one had great promise but there were quite a few places where it fell flat in what it attempted. Or so I thought.

We saw The Cabin in the Woods, which also starred Thor, and had an appearance by Sigourney Weaver. I was actually fairly disappointed in this one. The way the plot turned meant that the whole movie was so self-referential that you never felt any real fear. Lots of plot holes as well, and some slightly underhanded tricks, I’d say. The special effects were cool and there were some neat scenes with monsters in them.  I think it was a bit too hip for its own good.Weaver was good.

We saw Wrath of the Titans, starring Liam Neeson as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as Hades. They are brothers in the movie and I’ve always thought they looked enough alike to be brothers in real life. This was the most enjoyable of the movies on my list here. I actually found myself feeling some tension for the main character, Perseus, who was played by Sam Worthington. (I can’t believe it wasn’t Thor.)  Except for an ill conceived minotaur, and an Aries who had daddy issues, this one was pretty well done.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

A Tool of the Writing Trade

In 1989, two psychologists, (Nemeroff & Rozin) introduced college students at the University of Pennsylvania to the “Chandorans,” a made-up tribe who supposedly hunted wild boar and marine turtles as part of their cultural behaviors. Half the students learned that the Chandorans hunted boar for their meat and turtles for their shells. The others were told that the turtles were hunted for meat and the boar for their tusks.

After reading the two different descriptions, the students were asked to judge the Chandorans on various characteristics. Students indicated that the Chandorans who were described as turtle eaters lived long lives and were good swimmers. Students told that the Chandorans ate boar meat judged the tribe as aggressive and as more likely to have beards.

The judgments the students made are indicative of something called the “representativeness heuristic.”  A heuristic is a mental short cut that allows humans to decrease the mental effort required to make a decision. It does not guarantee that the decision will be the correct one, but its ease of use makes it very common. The representativeness heuristic is based on the concept of “like goes with like.” Marine turtles are long lived and are good swimmers, so the people who supposedly ate the turtles were thought to have these characteristics too. You are what you eat according to this thinking. Because boars are aggressive and hairy, those who supposedly ate boar meat were also judged as aggressive and hairy.  Like goes with like.

Although the Chandorans were made up and, thus, there was no connection between their eating habits and characteristics, and despite the fact that this kind of relationship does not generally hold up where ‘real’ populations are concerned, human beings routinely make this kind of connection. And because they do, writers can exploit the tendency to add depth to their cultures and characters. Consider the Vhichang from my Talera series of fantasy novels. The Vhichang are bipeds with feathers and a beak-like facial feature. Also on Talera we find the Nokarra. The Nokarra are bipedal, too, but furred, clawed, and with bodily characteristics that are more similar to those of big cats such as lions and leopards than to birds.

Because of these simple descriptive characteristics, readers will be inclined to accept without question that the Vhichang are better than the Nokarra at controlling the “saddle birds” that people on Talera ride.  They will accept that the Nokarra are more physically impressive warriors than the Vhichang, and that they have heavier bodies, even though I specifically say that the Vhichang do not have hollow bones like earth birds do.  If, however, I wanted to convince my readers that the Vhichang were far better warriors than the Nokarra on a physical, one on one basis, I’d really have to work at it. And, many folks would still ‘feel’ as if it were unbelievable, even though it’s all made up fantasy and they wouldn’t know ‘why’ it seemed unbelievable that a Vhichang could easily best a Nokarra.

Heuristics are such a common and unconscious part of human thinking processes that most of us don’t even realize when we’re relying on them. But being aware of them can help a writer create a sense of things being “true” for readers even when they are completely made up.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Frights of Halloween

Shadows do not remain in their places. Tonight.

Leaves crackle, and you ask yourself what strange feet are treading them under.

The wind moves in the trees and around the eaves of the house. Why does it sound like voices? And what are they saying?

In the summer, a cool breeze is a friend. On Halloween, it is something else.

What lies beneath all those costumes? Are they really children? From what parents?

The moon has been staring at you for a long time. You begin to wonder why.

Why are all the cobwebs empty? Where have the spiders gathered? Is it someplace close by?

None of the movies you watch on Halloween are true. Are they?

Why is it on Halloween, when you finally go to bed, you hear sounds in the house you never heard before? Where have they been hiding?

Was the door to that closet closed the last time you looked?

Could the wind be alive? Could a house be alive? What if they are? And what if they are friends and don’t like you very much?

But now forget all these silly thoughts and questions. Why don’t you have a nice, hot, relaxing shower. What could possibly go wrong?

Have a happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recent EReads and Acquisitions

I went through a couple of weeks of heavy school work with very little time to read, but finally turned on my Kindle yesterday and began reading some of the shorter stuff I’ve downloaded, as well as finishing up one book I started previously. Here’s my report on said stuff.

First up, I bought Blood and Tacos #3 several weeks ago but finally got around to reading the story I bought it for, “Blood & Sweetgrass: This Rez is Mine,” by Chris La Tray. I love the characters in this, and the high intensity action. I really am looking forward to seeing more about these characters. I will be reading the rest of this magazine as time permits.  This looks to be a very fine magazine and I’ve been remiss in not reading it until now.

Next, I picked up Savage Blood, a western novella from James Reasoner, featuring a one-armed gunfighter named Brodie. Brodie has been drifting since he came home from the war to find that his wife had left him for another man. But now she’s calling for his help, and Brodie responds, to find that she’s in a dirty fight against powerful foes. Soon, they’ll learn that hell hath no fury like a warrior scorned.

Like in all of Reasoner’s tales, you find an excellent mix of characters and action that pull you straight through the story until the end.

I also picked up a very strange item free from Smashwords called Skull Face Revealed, by Roberta E. Howard, which is billed as a “gender switch adventure.” I have heard of this writer before but have no idea who they really are. There is a picture of her at Smashwords, but I don’t know if this is the real author or not. I picked this up because it was free and I was curious.  Ms. Howard apparently writes tales that use Robert E. Howard’s  basic plots, settings and titles but reverses the gender of the hero. Some titles include “Red Nails, Polished,” and “Queen of the Black Coast, Recrowned.” I have started reading the one I have and will say the writing is certainly decent. I don’t really know what to make of this whole thing, though.

I picked up The Unexplained, a collection of terror tales from Christopher Fulbright, and The Fantastical Acquisition of the Sword of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna by Angeline Hawkes.  Fulbright and Hawkes are both writers whose work I have enjoyed before. Haven’t started reading either book yet, but they look intriguing.

I got a copy of “Fuckin’ Lie Down Already” by Tom Piccirilli. I’ve read a couple of Tom’s books and stories and enjoyed them, and Tom has recently been going through some serious medical issues related to brain tumors. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt his mood to find his books climbing the charts, and no doubt the royalty money would come in handy as well. At Amazon, his author page is>here>.

I also got Hard Case, by Bernard DeLeo. Looking forward to reading it since I’ve really liked some of the other books by him I’ve read, such as The Defenders and Cold Blooded.

There are a lot more I could talk about but wow this blog post is starting to get pretty long so I’ll cut it off there.