Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tales of a Youthful Brewmance

Here's what the brews themselves are saying about Charles Gramlich's memoir of his beer drinking days.

“I thought I could have been treated better,” says Bud Weiser.  “It hurts not to be loved.”
“Lies.  All lies,” says Coors.  “He drank a lot more of me than he lets on.  And he liked it.”
“Come back to Canada and we’ll Eff you up really good this time.”  --The Molson Brews.
“I don’t always like being drunk by humans,” says Dos Equis, “but when I do I prefer it to be by Charles Gramlich.”
“Only 99 cents, he’s charging for this.  Meshuggah!”  --He’Brew: The Chosen Beer.

Get your copy of "Days of Beer" today.  Before it goes stale. 


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Writing Woes

I started a new story today, called “Witch of Ashes.”  It’s a sword and sorcery piece and I liked how the opening section came out.  I wanted to try and “speed” up my process and get the story down faster than I typically do.  It didn’t work. The second section came easy but after rereading it I realized it was more of a “Skyrim” adventure than a Gramlich original.  I had to rip pretty much all of it out.  I think I was able to save a couple of lines.

The problem for me when I “write fast” is that the first image that pops into my head is almost always one I’ve seen before.  And since I’ve been playing so much Skyrim the images that kept popping up were general variations on that theme.  To write fast you have to let the unconscious do most of the work, but when I turn the work fully over to the unconscious I get the commonplace instead of the unusual.  Conscious evaluation of images takes time and, it seems for me, there is no substitute. 
Anyway, here’s the opening to “Witch of Ashes.”

The northern wind was quiet for once. The polished surface of the tarn shown like a black shield beneath the ringed moon. To water’s edge came Krieg, on silent boots with a battle-axe of ebon steel in his fists. He lay flat for a moment, drank his fill, then rose to ghost along the shoreline. It was almost as if he had a purpose.

A shadow jutting into the lake from the shore resolved itself into the fire-ruined hulk of a dragon ship. Krieg paused. He knew what had happened. A great warrior had fallen in battle and been laid atop a bier on his finest warship. The trophies of his greatest victories were placed beside him.  Perhaps his woman was chained alive at his feet; perhaps she went willingly. Soaked with pitch, the ship had then been set adrift and aflame. It had burned to the water-line. The remnant had lodged itself here like a splinter in the flesh of the world.

 Krieg studied the hulk, studied the bleak shore upon which it lay. Someone else had been here before him. Even in the dark his keen gaze identified naked footprints in the soft loam. They were small and slender, such as those made by a woman. There was only one line of prints, coming from the burned ship to the shore.

Intrigued, Krieg turned to follow them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Harmland Goes Live:

Harmland is now available on Kindle and Nook. It’s been largely finished for a while. I had trouble with the cover and trouble deciding on the “about the book” blurb, which is very important. I still don’t particularly like what I’ve got but I can always change it later and I wanted to go ahead and get this up before it got any older. Or I did. 

Since adding more ‘eyes’ to the Harmland cover didn’t seem to help, I simplified it and used the subtitle of “dark tales.”  However, Amazon has changed their requirements and I had to make the cover much bigger than in the past, which seems to have hurt the resolution.  I’ve uploaded a new one but it seems to take several days for that to go through, so in the meantime it’s still wearing the original cover.  Hopefully it will still attract some human eyes.

I decided on $2.99 for the price.  There are nine stories and over 21,000 words.  Here’s the table of contents:

PART ONE. Whiskey, Guns, and Sin: Noir Stories

1. The Finest Cut…  
2. The Grey Inside… 
3. Whiskey, Guns, and Sin…
4. The Gift… 
PART TWO. Mouth Wet with Rain and Leaves: Hauntings

5. The Finding…
6. Mouth Wet with Rain and Leaves...
7. The Toad…
8. The Vivarium…
9. A Hiss of Angels

Some of you have read the original version of “Whiskey, Guns and Sin.”  This is an expanded version with a different ending.  The rest of these are brand new, including “The Vivarium,” which is my first foray into the Chtulhu Mythos world of H. P. Lovecraft.

If you want to have a look, here it is on Kindle

Here it is for Nook

Monday, June 18, 2012

New Magazine, Old Book

Some of you may be aware that White Cat Publications has announced a new magazine called Insatiable: The Magazine of Paranormal Desires. It'll be debuting in October but they are looking for submissions for the initial issue now and are paying excellent rates. Here's the link to the submission guidelines

While you're there, check out the other offerings that White Cat has.  This is a dynamic publishing organization, new and hungry.

I also got my royalty statement from Invisible College Press today, and am happy to note that the publication of Cold in the Light in ebook has given the work a new lease on life.  Cold in the Light was my first novel publication and I was, and am, immensely proud of it. It's currently discounted at Amazon at $2.84 for the ebook.  The link is here.

It's also available on Nook, at a little higher price,  here.

It's a good book.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Very Different Movies

Last night I watched two movies: Gattica and Drive Angry

Gattica was a movie of ideas and message, a near future science fiction story with a very Brave New World feel.  The main character, Ethan Hawke, is born the old fashioned way in a world that is becoming increasingly focused on genetic engineering and eugenics. As a “non-valid,” the Hawke character is deemed fit for only manual or menial labor, but he dreams of more and ‘buys’ the identity of a “Valid.” 

Drive Angry was almost a live action cartoon. The main character, Nicholas Cage, escapes from hell to save his granddaughter from being used in a Satanic ritual to bring hell to earth.  There are fast cars, gratuitous nudity, and various numbers of explosions and gory deaths.  Cage teams up with a young woman who is driving a 440 Magnum Charger, and is pursued by “the Accountant,” who is the death character and who wants to return Cage to hell.

I liked both movies.  On the down side, Gattica was quite slow moving and made the future look very staid, boring, and respectable.  Maybe that will be true; I don’t know.  Drive Angry had some pretty ridiculous looking special effects during the climactic battle scene.  Generally, though, both movies met the goal of keeping me interested. 

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed Drive Angry a little more.  And one reason was the young female co-star.  Besides exhibiting the required level of attractiveness, she got the best lines in the movie and could conduct herself believably in a fight.  In fact, she voiced what has now become my current favorite tough “guy” line in the movies.  When the villain told her in his southern drawl that: “I’m going to kill you, and then desecrate your corpse.”  She responded with, “Well, between now and then, I’m gonna fuck you up.”

Now there’s a line I wish I’d written.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

John Carter: A Review

Ever since I read A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs I’ve had a love affair going with Sword and Planet fiction. There’s a reason why three out of the four novels I’ve written fall into that genre (The Talera series).  There’s a reason why I’ve spent hours upon hours of my time drawing maps and making up worlds for my own Sword and Planet concepts.  As I’ve said before, I consider the genre to be the purest reading fun one can have. 

And so I was eager to see the first big-budget adaptation of ERB’s seminal novel.  Lana and I watched John Carter on pay-per-view last night.  Here’s my thoughts.

First, I want to be clear that I enjoyed the movie and consider it well worth the price I paid to see it.  I thought there were some very good things about it.  There were also some things that didn’t work as well, and a few things I didn’t understand.

Characters:  Generally, the characters worked.  Dejah Thoris was well cast.  She came off a bit too modern in her dialogue to me, but that is to be expected considering the book came out a 100 years ago.  I also liked the casting for John Carter himself, although I didn’t care for the attempts early in the movie to reframe him as a kind of anti-hero.  I see that as a nod to modern young audiences and I didn’t think it was necessary.  Tars Tarkas was a wonderful character for this movie, but was, perhaps, only about seventy percent the Tars Tarkas from the books. I also liked the Sola character and the loveable Woola!  Kantos Kan was well cast as well, but didn’t have enough to do in the movie.  They changed the basic way in which love develops between Carter and Dejah Thoris, and I thought the novel did a better job with that.  Still, I bought the love affair and thought it ended up being very touching.

Plot: A Princess of Mars was a very open ended adventure novel and I knew they’d have to change that for the movies.  They needed a more coherent plot. The one they chose, having the Therns as super science types who are manipulating the politics on Barsoom, was pretty thin, but there was ‘some’ justification for that in ERB’s Martian series. They could have done better at explaining why the Therns were doing what they were doing, though. I’m still not quite sure on the matter.  That said, I liked how the movie brought that plot around at the end to explain how John Carter returns to Mars.

Scenery:  Beautiful scenery.  I totally bought the world and both the ancient and modern cities.  I thought the flying ships were very well done, and the ‘wildlife,’ such as the White Apes and the Thoats were believable. This was a solid strength to the film.

Action:  The action was good and generally believable within the context of the story.  John Carter’s jumping skills didn’t always seem to be equivalent from one section of the movie to another, but I was OK with that. I would have liked to have seen more sword fights. John Carter is the best swordsman on two worlds after all. A little more “Errol Flynn” would have been good with me.

Missteps:  I was a little irritated early in the movie at how they changed up the character of Powel and how they came in contact with the Apache.  It seemed a little tacked on.  I also didn’t like the addition of a dead wife for Carter.  That was just far too cliché.  They made good use of the idea later in the story but it would have been better without that element.

All in all, though I wish it would have been better, I still liked it a heckuva lot and found it much more enjoyable than most of the movies I’ve watched lately.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


My critique group consists of folks with a wide range of reading tastes and writing styles.  We frequently have minor issues during critiques over what amounts to the literary versus genre debate.  One popped up the other day when several lines of one member’s story were deemed “melodramatic” by another member.  There were suggestions that the writer should “tone it down.”

This got me thinking on the subject.  And thinking on my part often leads to a blog post.  Here it is.

First, my general rule on writing literary versus genre fiction is that, if you’re writing literary fiction, “tone it down,” if you’re writing genre fiction, “turn it up.”  Of course, literary writers like Cormac McCarthy turn it way the hell up.  (Read Blood Meridian.)  Ray Bradbury, who recently died but who was accepted as a “literary” writer by the establishment, turned it up, at least in works like The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

A key, though, is that a work has to have coherence.  One reason Bradbury’s prose is accepted by the literary establishment is because it was so clearly a total package.  His prose was bright, surreal, powerfully dramatic, but it was also consistent throughout.  Such prose is a problem only if it is “mixed” in with more restrained language. 

Say I wrote for example: “Tom stared out his window at the drizzle that fell steadily from a gray sky.  He didn’t like the rain.  He’d never liked it.  It changed his mood for the worse.  It made him feel empty.  And when he was empty the depression tended to find him.  That depression was like moving into Satan’s apartment in the black bowels of hell, where the only light was the scarlet screaming of blood and sin.”

The last line is way over the top from what came before, and I certainly consider it melodramatic.  However, there are several issues to be considered with that line. 1: While it’s over the top to me, not everyone would necessarily agree.  2: Even those who agree that the line is over the top are likely to remember it, and being remembered is generally a good thing.  You don’t sell books by writing material that isn’t memorable.  3: In a differently styled story, with a different kind of build up, that line would fit perfectly and wouldn’t be judged as over the top at all, at least not by the folks who read (and buy) that kind of fiction.  (Like me.)

Melodrama lies in the eyes of the reader.  Many readers prefer what I will call “restrained” prose to unrestrained prose.  Others do not, and there is little doubt that restrained prose sells less well than unrestrained.  Consider “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a very non-restrained work.  You should use the “look inside” feature at Amazon to read a few excerpts from that.  And it sold in the millions.  No one remembers or talks about “restrained” fiction.  

I think what writers have to do with their stories and prose is to seek a consistency across the entire piece.  If your language is generally heightened, then more pedestrian phrases will call unfortunate attention to themselves.  But if your prose is restrained, then heightened phrases will clearly stand out and likely evoke cries of “melodrama.”  

In other words, and seeking to be memorable at the risk of being called melodramatic, I’ll say: Set your prose mower wherever you like, high or low, but then leave it the same for the whole piece. 


Wednesday, June 06, 2012


Lana's 2nd chemo treatment is tomorrow.  Her first seems to have worked wonders on the cancer site, which has shrunk dramatically.  The doctor told us today that he wanted to start radiation therapy in about 2 weeks and, hopefully, that will knock this thing out.  The radiation treatment will be a major pain in the ass, with her needing to go five days a week for treatment, for six weeks.  The treatments themselves will be short but it's a  little less than a 2 hour round trip for us.  But if that is going to do it then it's a tiny price to pay.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Skyrim: A Player's Perspective

A couple of summers ago I bought myself an X-Box.  A student of mine actually gave me my first game for it, called Doom.  I'd played earlier versions of Doom on other systems and loved it.  I played this one and loved it too.  I also played a Halo version that came with my game system, and tried a racing game.  Halo was OK, thought not up to Doom quality, and the racing game left me cold.  Then I discovered Red Dead Redemption, a western role-playing game, and I liked it as much as Doom.  It took me longer to finish it because it was much more complex, and I had long stretches where I didn't play at all.

Then Lana brought home Skyrim, which is a fantasy role-playing game.  Lana was a Dungeon Master for a Dungeons and Dragons game in Canada and was interested in perhaps playing Skyrim herself.  It's the same kind of set up in a video game.  We each set up characters and began to play the first day.  Lana didn't really like the fact that when things happen in the game you often get vibrations shooting through the handset.  She decided to watch me play a while and enjoyed that.  And I was hooked.  I've spent many hours playing already.

The game is incredibly complex, far more so than Red Dead Redemption.  There are many more weapons that can be used, and a huge world to explore.  You can take one of three basic routes, warrior, mage, or thief, although you end up combining all of them to some extent.  You also can have followers and own homes.  You can learn smithing and alchemy and magic.  The open endedness is extraordinary. By now I'm carrying a range of weapons that I enchanted myself, and many different kinds of potions to be used for specific tasks. I've fought many dragons, as well as mages, pirates, walking corpses, shades, bandits, and demigods, not to mention sabertooth cats, cave bears, wolves, and giant crabs and spiders. 

I have to say, this is the most engrossing video game I've ever played, although it doesn't have the moment to moment intensity of Doom.  In Doom you are always pretty much on the verge of being attacked.  There are peaceful moments in Skyrim.  I've found I really enjoy the Smithing aspects.  Maybe I was a frustrated blacksmith in another life.

And Lana is enjoying the game vicariously through me.  She watches when I end up going through some tough dungeon and she has saved my bacon many a time with her knowledge of the whole role-playing game concept.  She catches traps I miss, locates things I can't find, and in emergencies, goes online to find information that I can't discover on my own.  If I ever beat the game, which seems a long way off, it'll be a team effort.