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.