Monday, April 23, 2012

Bits and Pieces of News

A couple of interesting bits, at least for me.

1. My first novel, Cold in the Light, is finally available as a Kindle ebook. It's $4.99, but that is for something like 140 thousand words. If you're interested, it's HERE. It's not up on Nook yet. Not sure when the publisher will put it up. The back cover blurb is below:

Where the beings known as the Whoun came from, only a few know....
What they're going to do next is anyone's guess....

But in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, where a decades old conspiracy has started to unravel, a cop and a doctor are about to find out. Against an enemy from their nightmares, the two will have to fight, to save the life of an unborn child who isn't human, a child that will change their world forever.

In the brooding forest, they'll learn what it means to fear the dark.
...And the light.

It's a darn good book if I do say so myself.

2. Paul R. McNamee has reviewed some of the latest Orc short stories released as ebooks, including my own "Harvest of War." Check out what he has to say. (Thanks, Paul.)

"Harvest of War" is just .99 cents on Amazon, HERE.

3. I got word that my space opera, "Under the Ember Star," will be released soon. Not up yet, though. I'll let folks know. I'm excited about it, though.

4. Finals are beginning here. I get my final papers today and am giving multiple tests over the next week. May not be around all that much. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Evolution of Gossip

I won’t claim to have always been innocent of gossiping. I’ve done it, though I generally despise myself after. In most cases, I’ve gossiped when I was frustrated with the actions of one particular person, and I don’t believe I’ve ever told a ‘lie’ while gossiping. But gossip doesn’t have to be a lie to be effective in changing people’s behavior.

This last week, though, I discovered an interesting thing about gossip. I picked it up from my Evolutionary Psychology book by David Buss. Gossiping may well have been selected for by evolution because it can carry certain benefits for the gossipers. Here’s the story.

People gossip primarily about the “relationships” of others (who is sleeping with who), and about behaviors or events that are potentially dangerous (who assaulted who, who stole from who). People also gossip more about people who are higher status rather than lower status, which explains why people gossip about presidents and celebrities more than about their servants.

But how could this serve an evolutionary purpose? Well, first consider a primitive hunting/ gathering society, which humans lived in far longer than we’ve lived in our modern technological world. In such a setting, you might be a member of a tribe of 50 to 150 individuals. Since you have a limited number of potential mating opportunities, it can be very important to know who is hooked up with who and who is potentially available. A breakup might be just the news you were waiting for, because it creates an opportunity that you didn’t have before. In that primitive society, over a period of 100,000 years or more, those who paid attention to such ‘information’ and were able to act on it to increase their mating opportunities, might have left a few more offspring than those who didn’t pay attention to this kind of thing. Any ‘slight’ increase in reproduction levels leads to an evolutionary advantage.

Similarly, the hunting/gathering folks who listened to the gossip about who is hurting someone else, such as abusing a mate, or neglecting offspring, might then have avoided linking themselves with that person, thus improving their own reproductive successes. Again, a small change might have led to an evolutionary advantage over a very long time.

Consider Crod, a hunter in my tribe 100,000 years ago. Crod goes hunting every day but seldom brings back meat. Then my friend BabYaga whispers to me that Crod never really goes far when he hunts, but just finds a quiet, shady spot and goes to sleep. She saw him when she was gathering berries. I tell my other friend, Bam-Bam, that Crod appears to be lazy. Bam-Bam tells me that Crod has been making eyes at his sister, Pom-Pom. We decide we better make sure Pom-Pom doesn’t mate with Crod or her children won’t have enough to eat. We whisper in Pom-Pom’s ear and she listens. She becomes the mate of Hukk instead, who brings home much meat every day. Pom-Pom has 11 children, 9 of whom grow up to have children of their own. Crod has one kid, with Takky, who, it is rumored, will even mate with a Neanderthal. Maybe that kid isn’t even Crod’s. And what chance does it have to grow up and have kids of its own?

Crod loses; Bam-Bam and Pom-Pom win. Gossip has served an evolutionary purpose.

I still don’t like gossip, but I sure understand it a lot better now than I did before.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What the Genres Taught Me: Or Tried To Anyway

Everything we experience shapes us. That includes the stuff we read. I got to thinking recently of what the books I read in my youth taught me, or tried to teach me. I thought I’d analyze it by genres, which is often the way I think about my reading. Let’s see if your experiences differed.

Westerns: (Example: Louis L’Amour: To Tame A Land). Taught me about being honorable, about standing up for what you believe in and what is right. Taught me to yearn for natural vistas and to enjoy a night out under the stars.

Y/A fiction: Animals stories: (Example: Walter Farley: The Black Stallion). Taught me about the bonds that are possible between humans and animals. Taught me to respect the strength and courage of our animal companions, and indeed of all animals. Taught me to see animals, not as humans, but as unique beings in their own right.

Science fiction: (Example: Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles). Taught me about wonder, about the glories of strange landscapes, and about the nature of humanity’s fears of the unknown, and our abilities to adapt to that unknown. Taught me about the beauty of language to express what no one has ever actually seen or experienced.

Fantasy: (Example: Robert E. Howard: The Conan stories). Taught me about being independent minded, about not following the herd just because that’s “the way it’s always been done.” Taught me to think about the things I was told rather than accept them blindly. Also taught me about honor and about establishing one’s own sense of ethics.

Sports stories: (Example: Joe Arichbald: Hard Nosed Half Back). Taught me about getting up one more time than I’m knocked down. Taught me about perseverance, about preparing yourself for your chance rather than just waiting for luck to find you.

There are other genres I read. Maybe I’ll talk about them later. But this is enough for one blog post. I’m sorry I’ve been absent so long. Last week was, to put it mildly, “full.” Lana had her tonsils taken out, which from what the doctor said appears to be the source of her cancer. There is still the issue in the lymph node but we are supposed to see him next week about that. I’ll keep you informed.

In the meantime, what did your reading teach you?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Self Publishing Report:

Well, “Harvest of War” was free for five days and there were 466 downloads in that time. Seems like a respectable number, but I’ve never done this before so I’m not sure how it ranks. I picked up some very nice five star reviews on Amazon, as well as mentions around the blogosphere, including Ty Johnston’s kind comments, here. Thanks, Ty.

In order to make it free, I signed up with Amazon select, which means it can be offered only at Amazon for 90 days, about 82 more days, I guess. After that I’ll put it up on Nook too. It’s way too early to see if this had any effect on the sales of any of my other books. The Talera trilogy is also fantasy and folks who liked “Harvest” might like those books. Closest to it in mood, though, are the stories in Bitter Steel.

This makes three items I’ve self-published for ebook:
1. Killing Trail, Summer 2010 – Has been a relatively steady seller each month, although in small numbers.

2. Days of Beer, December 2011 – Sold respectably the first couple of months and then has dropped to zero.

3. Harvest of War, April 2012 – remains to be seen, although I’ve sold one more copy since the free period ran out.

My experience has been that self-publishing is a useful outlet for stories and novella length material and collections. I don’t believe it replaces the need for or the pleasures of mainstream publishing, even at the small press level, and it appears to me that you have to have some kind of name, or you have to promote your ass off to make any headway with it. Certainly there are some amazing success stories. I’m not one of them.

I’ll continue to offer an occasional work this way. One of the pleasures is having complete control over every aspect, from content to cover. And it’s nice to be able to see sales results almost in “real time.”

Friday, April 06, 2012

Red Dead and Harvest

I've done too much mindless stuff on my break, or maybe just enough. I've played a lot of my video game, Red Dead Redemption, and actually completed it. The ending was rather bittersweet but I suspect it had to end the way it did. It was memorable at least. I almost immediately started over again from the beginning and this time I'll do all the challenges and side missions I skipped last time. Lana is helping me. I've already found three treasures I wouldn't have found without her.

I finished some school work but didn't do any writing. I tried one day and quit after about a half hour of spinning my wheels. The emotional energy required for writing is considerable, and I'm not to the point of being able to, or perhaps needing to commit it.

Harvest of War is still free, and will be for two more days. The icon below will take you there if you haven't gotten your copy. It's been downloaded 365 times as of now. I hope that's a good sign. It's garnered very good reviews so far, including a great one over at James Reasoner's blog. Thanks James. I'm glad people are enjoying it.

Well, that's about it. I think I'm gonna try and get out and enjoy some sun today. Happy Easter Weekend to those who celebrate.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Much News: Even Some About Writing

We left the house a little after 8:00 this morning and got back a little before 7:00 in the evening. Lana had an appointment with another doctor about her cancer and they ended up doing another needle biopsy. Before they could do that, though, I had to run to a couple of other hospitals to pick up some of the scans she's already had. It made for a nice little 200 mile or so round trip, but the news was generally encouraging in that we are being told the cancer cells appear to be encapsulated, which is a good sign. We celebrated, if that is the right word, with dinner at Red Lobster before coming home.

A couple of nice things happened in the blogosphere today too that I want to mention. Over at Adventures Fantastic, Keith has a very nice review of "Harvest of War." He picked up on some of the elements I was particularly happy with in the story. Thanks, Keith. I appreciate it.

Then, out of the blue, Jess, over at Praise, Prayers and Observations did a post called "C is for Charles." I'm pretty humbled by that, and very appreciative. Thanks for the kind words, Jess.

Lastly, Harvest of War is now FREE for Amazon Kindle. This should run for about four more days so if you have any interest in the story, or think you might at some point in the future, now is the time to get it. Since the story is dedicated to my niece, Tammy Kalb, who died of brain cancer only a few days ago, I wanted to make sure the piece was free at some point so her family could download it if they wanted to.

Thanks again to Keith and Jess, and also to Scott, Tom, and Randy, who also did reviews of "Harvest of War." I'm lucky to have all of you as friends, and everyone else in the blogosphere who has been so supportive of me.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Things I’ve Noted of Note:

Been a while since I’ve done a post about stuff that’s happening of note in the world. So here it is.

1. The excellent werewolf novel called “Tainted Blood, by Ferrel D. Moore, is going to be free for the Kindle for the next few days. It’s not started quite yet but you can check it out here.

By the way, I understand that my piece, “Harvest of War” is gonna be free soon too for a few days. I’ll post about that. So if you haven’t bought it, hold off for a day or two and you may be able to get it for nothing.

2. The spring issue of White Cat Magazine is out and looks to be a great one. Check it out free here.

3. A new musical release that I’m tremendously excited about is now officially debuted. It’s the first CD from American Falcon. I’d heard several songs from this in rough format, and one in particular, “Tallulah Black,” is just awesome. My copy arrived today. I'm listening to "Tallulah" now and it is every bit as good as I remember. Damn but this rocks! If you like good hard rock I think you should too. You can check it out: here.

4. Patti Abbott is running the results of her flash fiction challenge, with her own story up and links to others. For some good free reads, check it out.

5. I’m also wondering how I’ve missed the band called “Clutch.” I heard a song by them the first time the other day and loved it. I’m on YouTube today playing as much as I can find by them. Here’s Mr. Shiny Cadillackness.

And on the ridiculously lame side:

6. Rick Santorum has referred to President Obama as a “Government Nig”ger. I think it’s pretty clear if you listen to the first part of this. The fact that it is looped irritates me but it looks like this is the real thing. Is it possible for this guy to get any more ridiculous?