Monday, January 28, 2013


The Talera trilogy--Swords of Talera, Wings Over Talera, and Witch of Talera--was published in book form in 2007, although it was written years earlier. In 2008 I started a new arc in the Talera story, a novel to be called Wraith of Talera. I completed 21,000 words on the book over the summer, but when school started I had to put it away for various nonfiction projects that I needed to work on related to my professional career.  Various other fiction and nonfiction projects intervened in the ensuing years, and so the partial has lain dormant on my computer ever since.

Then, a few days ago, I was casting around for my next large scale project and I knew I had two in various stages of completion, the already mentioned “Wraith,” and a work called The Razored Land. The latter is a post-apocalyptic piece and is already at 33,000+ words. When I’d left “Wraith” I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go next with the story. I didn’t have such a clear idea for “Razored,” so I opened my “Wraith” folder first and started to read. Within a few moments I was faintly misty-eyed as I began to recall all the hell I’d put Ruenn and Rannon through. And I realized how much I’d missed these characters.

The upshot of all this is that I’ve started working on Wraith of Talera again. To refamiliarize myself with the story thus far, I’m giving a very close read to what I’ve already got. I’m making some minor changes but not finding a lot that needs redoing. This should take a few days and then I’ll launch into the new material. I’m excited about it.

The book is about a third of the way done and my plan is to keep making at least slow forward progress on the book during the spring semester, then hit the accelerator during the summer and, hopefully, get it finished.  We’ll see if that happens. We are in the middle of a job search at work, and I’m on the committee. The IRB committee, of which I’m chair, has been busier than ever. And Xavier is considering restructuring our departments so that too has to go on the pile. This is not counting my classes. I’m teaching the Writing in Psychology class this spring, which is a major time commitment. If all goes well, though, a new Talera book will be in the can by the end of 2013.

Wish me luck.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Reading Pet Peeve

I've been reading a pretty good book lately but the author occasionally does something that bothers me. I might even call it a pet peeve. He'll start a chapter with some great, eerie, description that clearly suggests that something bad is about to happen. But then he'll short circuit it with some phrase like, "Looking back on it now, we had no idea how bad that night would be."  There are couple of things about this that bother me. First, it's as if the author doesn't trust his prose to convey impending threat and has to "tell" us that there is a threat. This is the equivalent of showing AND telling.  Second, it clearly lets us know that, no matter how bad things got, the person who is "telling" us the story survived. This cuts the suspense.

Now, the story is written in first person so you have a pretty good idea that person survives anyway, but I'd still rather "see" that survival occur rather than making sure ahead of time that I know it.  I actually did this in Swords of Talera and didn't even think about it at the time. Later I wished I hadn't put it in. I don't think it's as big an issue with fantasy as with horror, but it's still something I don't really like.

How about you? Does this kind of thing bother you? Or do you not even really notice it?  If you happened to  read Swords of Talera, did you notice it? It's about mid-way through chapter 1.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Grammar and Gardening

Those of you who have been hanging with me for a long time may know that I have a deep "disrespect" for the book Requiem for a Dream, by Hubert Selby.  All telling, no showing, and characters who I just wanted to die long before the story's end. In addition to these issues, Selby added extra problems for the reader by cramming multiple speakers into the same paragraph and by refusing to use quotation marks. The writing in the book is so pretentious that Selby even refused to use the apostrophe in such phrases as "I'm" and "You're," using Im and youre instead.

My review of "Requiem" on Goodreads still garners a stray comment once in a while. Recently someone else had chimed in that the grammar and punctuation issues made it hard for them to read the book as well. Another person responded that:, essentially, it has to be remembered that grammar and punctuation have "absolutely no implications on the actual story."

Wow, how wrong could that second commentator be?  No implications? I'm definitely not a grammar NAZI and my own grammar isn't top of the line. I make plenty of errors and have to do a lot of careful proofreading on those elements of my stories. But, grammar and punctuation have many implications for story because they provide the framework by which we access story. Imagine a wonderful museum without any kind of handicapped access. A person in a wheelchair isn't going to be able to enjoy that wonder, at least not without a lot of extra effort and inconvenience.

Here's another analogy that occurred to me. Flowers can be very beautiful growing wild,  but landscapers have long known that "arranging" flowers in certain ways increases their impact. The careful use of trellises and beds can enhance the viewer's experience. In the same way, proper grammar and punctuation can be used to better display a good story to its best effect. Grammar errors or problems with punctuation detract from that display. A few errors here and there aren't going to detract too much from a good story, but a lot of them will really throw the reader out of the story. At least they do me.

How about you?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Executive Orders

I like my colleagues. We work hard and I think we do a lot of good things for our students, but we also have fun.  When I was chair back many years ago now, I used to send out the occasional “executive order” addressed to the “Workers” of the Psychology Department. These might require things like posting a photograph of me on all walls, or the requirement that all members of the Department purchase a motorcycle for transportation, or 100 other things.  I often referred to my small red book of The Sayings of Chairman Gramlich. There were lots of German jokes, in keeping with my name.

Recently, our current chair, Elliott Hammer, was going to be out of commission on a couple of Fridays, leaving my friend, Lisa Schulte as acting chair one Friday, and me as acting chair the next.  Lisa and I got together and decided that she would issue an executive order that I would then rescind as soon as I took “command.” 

Lisa’s Executive order read something like this:

From the Office of Dr. Schulte-Gipson:
Day 1 of the New Departmental Order
To all workers of the Department of Psychology
Executive Order #1718A

"Henceforth and in perpetuity, all eggs used for any purpose, such as cooking, shall be cracked only at the small end of the egg."

 My executive order won’t go out until next week but will read:

From the Bunker of Dr. Charles Gramlich
Day 1 of the New New Departmental Order
To all remaining workers of the Department of Psychology, henceforth to be known as Department Q
Executive Order 78483838027817304721639964151

Part A: All previous executive orders issued by the previous chair in exile, whose name shall not be mentioned here, are rescinded.

Part B: Henceforth and in perpetuity, all eggs used for any purpose, such as cooking, shall be cracked only at the large end.

I don't know about you, but I got a laugh out of it.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Big Bang Theory

I've been a fan of the show The Big Bang Theory for a little over a year now. I've caught most of the episodes in reruns, although once in a while one pops up that I haven't seen. Lana is also a fan, and is the one that got me started watching it.

I heard yesterday that "real" Geeks and Nerds don't like the show because of its portrayal of them. I was pretty much amazed at that. I definitely consider myself a "real" Geek and Nerd and I like the show. What Nerd Cred do I have to show as proof?  I can watch the first two minutes of any Star Trek (original series) and tell you the title of the show. I can quote volumes of Kirkisms, Spockisms, Bonesisms, and even some Scottyisms. I know the difference between Trekkie and Trekker and think that "Trekker" is a bit pretentious.

I watch most of the SF/fantasy movies that come out each year, providing they come to our library where my wife, Lana, can get them for free. We had a free movie channel weekend this last weekend and I watched John Carter three times!  I've read just about every Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard book, and know what ERB, REH, CAS, and HPL represent. I was in a Robert E. Howard fandom group for years and wrote thousands of words about him. I just reviewed three REH related graphic novel projects for a scholar journal dedicated to Howard. I go to Science fiction conventions. I even write SF and fantasy and all kinds of weird stuff.  Ich bin ein nerd, and I'll take a back seat to no one in that regard.

Lana is perhaps slightly less Nerdy than me, but not by much. She likes Big Bang Theory too. She watched the John Carter movie this weekend even more than I did.  She's painted unicorns and dragons, for goodness sake. I do not question her nerdiness either, at risk of getting a Bat'leth to the spleen.

So, what is that supposed "true" Nerds do not like about the show? Of course it is not a 100 percent accurate portrayal of all nerds. Nerds are quite varied creatures, even if we do have much in common. No show could capture the whole breadth and depth of Nerddom. But what the show does is let us have a good laugh at ourselves while employing plenty of inside jokes that Nerds and only Nerds would snicker at.

I am a Nerd!  And I stand up for The Big Bang Theory.

Friday, January 11, 2013

School and Writing

School has started again and I’ve been swamped. Classes actually don’t begin until Monday but there are many, many things teachers have to do before that first class period.  That’s why I haven’t been visiting blogs for a couple of days. I got around to some this morning since it’s been relatively quiet.  

The Fiction Techniques Freebies are over now. I gave away 255 copies of Fiction Techniques #1: Creating Suspense, and 297 copies of #2: Characters Wanted. Sold 9 copies of #3: The Twist Ending. I did notice that someone bought Write With Fire also. At least, the numbers improved on it for a while. I hope people find the articles useful.  For those of you who checked the “Techniques” articles out, tell me honestly what you thought of the covers.  I know they aren’t highly salient but I wanted to make the connection to the ebook publishing revolution so that’s why I used screen shots. I hope they don’t look too cheesy.

I have been writing since the start of the New Year. Most of this has actually been revision of earlier materials, though I have produced a couple of new flash fictions. In the next month or so I’m going to publish a collection of twisted flash fictions and my working title for that is “Micro Weird: Tiny Tales of the Strange.” After that I will turn my attention back to some short westerns, and then begin work on a longer project. I have at least two long projects in various stages of completion, although who knows where inspiration will take me.

Here’s hoping everyone’s New Year is off to a good start!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Fiction Techniques #2: Characters Wanted is Free

Fiction Techniques #1: Creating Suspense, is no longer free (.99 cents), but Fiction Techniques #2: Characters Wanted, is free now for a few days. If you're a writer, these should be of interest to you. 255 free copies of #1 were picked up, so I hope I'll hear from some folks about it and whether it was helpful.  I also noticed that the numbers for Write With Fire, showed improvement so it looks like someone picked up my writing book as well.

I'm not planning on making Fiction Techniques #3: The Twist Ending, free. It's just 99 cents, though. It's a brand new piece that goes into detail about how to create twist endings, for both stories and for novel chapters that can be used as cliffhangers.

Anyway, if you are interested in writing and haven't gotten your copy of "Characters Wanted," it's up free right now, and will remain that way a couple more days.

Have a great day!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Fiction Techniques #1 is Free

On my last blog I mentioned uploading three articles for Kindle in what I'm calling the "Fiction Techniques Series.  The first one in the series, Fiction Techniques #1: Creating Suspense, is free today and for the next two days.

The second one, Fiction Techniques #2: Characters Wanted, will go up for free after that for a few days. These are both expansions on material that was included in my nonfiction book on writing, Write With Fire. The third one, Fiction Techniques #3: The Twist Ending, is brand new so I probably won't make it free. It's just 99 cents, though.

If you're a writer, why not try the free one and see if you find the series helpful. If folks do find them helpful, I may write more.  And there is always Write With Fire, which has many other articles and essays on writing, including tip pieces and marketing pieces.

Happy New Year

Friday, January 04, 2013

A Little Push to Start the Year

Someone new came to our writing group yesterday, although she is someone I’ve known for a number of years. She brought along a copy of Write With Fire, my book on writing, and asked me to sign it. I was surprised, flattered, and probably a little bit flustered since that doesn’t happen to me often. I had actually been thinking about Write With Fire for a while and trying to think of some way to give it a push since sales have pretty much flat-lined for it.

I decided last year to write a few “tip” articles and put them up for the Kindle as a way of promoting Write With Fire. I completed the formatting for these and did the covers over Christmas and they are now up at Amazon. There are three of them, each with more than 4,000 words of material, and I’m calling them the “Fiction Techniques” series.

The series includes:
Fiction Techniques #1: Creating Suspense
Fiction Techniques #2: Characters Wanted
Fiction Techniques #3: The Twist Ending

The first two, “Creating Suspense,” and “Characters Wanted,” are substantial expansions on material that actually appeared in Write With Fire. The “Twist Ending” piece is brand new. If they do what they are supposed to do, I’ll probably write more for the series. I enjoy doing this kind of thing and it really helps me clarify my own thinking and understanding about the writing process.

If you’re not a writer, these are almost certainly not of interest to you. I will make both #1 and #2 free for a few days at some point in the next week or so. (I’ll announce it here and on facebook.) That’s why they are published exclusively on Kindle for now.  So if you’re a writer and want to get them you don’t need to buy them. (I would appreciate some “likes,” though.)  I probably won’t make the third one free since it’s brand new.

As for the covers, I thought to do something to reflect our modern world of “Direct to electronic” publications and the ebook revolution. They’re basically screen shots of the works in progress. (I kind of thought it was inventive.) You can see the covers below, although not very well. If you click on the links, without having to buy the piece, you can see the images much better, and can use the "look inside" feature to get a flavor for the works.

Have a good un!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013 is Here

It seems weird in a way that I woke up this morning with such a lift in my mood of late. Rationally, the change to the new year is a completely arbitrary one that has nothing to do with actual reality. Yet, the lift is there, and I know it’s related to leaving 2012 behind and moving into a new year, no matter how arbitrary those designations are.

I’ve noticed in the past that something about the changing year initiates feelings of hope and reignites dreams in me. This year the feelings are even stronger, which is no doubt a tribute to how rough 2012 was. Psychologically, I think all humans need on occasion to experience a sense of rebirth, a sense of cleansing of the past and looking forward to the future. Or maybe it’s just us sinners that feel that way. J

I hope you all have a great year. I hope we have a great one together! The picture was taken by the incomparable Lana Gramlich at the Abita Springs Fireworks display last night. We had fun. 

Happy 2013.