Sunday, June 30, 2013


Lana and I have been throwing our food scraps into the back yard since we moved to our home outside Abita Springs. Why throw biodegradables in a landfill when they can at the least make mulch in your back yard, or perhaps feed local critters. Besides the birds, we soon began to attract possums, raccoons, and a fox at times. The raccoons have become our number one customers and for the past three years we’ve been seeing moms in the summer coming with babies in toe. This year, for the first time, we’ve got two mommas, one with two kits and the other with four.

Today, for the first time, we had both mommas and their families at the same time. We’re pretty sure the moms are from among the groups of babies from the last couple of years, which most likely makes them sisters. They are used to seeing each other in the yard and don’t fight among themselves, but I thought there might be fireworks today with the kits in tow. No problem, however. When the second set of kits came out of the woods, several members of the first set went tearing off to investigate and soon they were all playing together. It was fun to see.

Lana and I were both wondering why we find the little raccoons so adorable. Both kittens and puppies exhibit the characteristic big eyes and flat faces of human babies, thus making them resemble us a little bit more. Young raccoons look like miniature versions of the adults, without the flat faces. I think, though, it’s partly the playfulness and kind of goofiness of the young coons that Lana and I respond to. And they have so much energy. They never walk anywhere. They run, and in running they almost hop. They wrestle each other and explore every nook and cranny around them. In that way they’re more like human children.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with a few pics of our cooners for your enjoyment.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sales Report, and Contest

I see authors doing this once in a while, reporting on sales for some of their independently published books. Usually the numbers look a lot better than what I see for mine. Gotta admit that bothers me some. But it’s good to do such evaluations and to read them from others. How do we know if anything is working if we don’t see some numbers.

Here’s the numbers on my noir collection “Harmland,” which I published on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble in April of 2012. It sold 14 copies right off the bat, then sold between 2 and 3 copies a month until August of 2012. At that point it flatlined and there’s not been a sale since. Total sales equaled 30 copies, with 6 of those coming from B & N and the rest from Amazon.

As for getting the word out, I posted on my blog and on facebook initially about the book. I’ve increased my posting on facebook in the last few months in hopes of reminding people of the collection. It hasn’t generated any action. I featured “Harmland” prominently in my first author newsletter, which I emailed out to several hundred folks at the end of October, 2012. I even came up with a “Harmland” chili recipe to include with the newsletter. Since I’ve had no sales since October the newsletter would seem, if anything, to have had the opposite effect to the one desired. I’m definitely gonna have to reconsider the effort involved in putting out a newsletter.

On Tuesday, June 15, I lowered the price of the collection from $2.99 to $1.99. This is for over 21,000 words of material. I announced the sale on facebook and sold 3 copies in the first few hours. None since then.

Today I’m posting about it here, of course. If you’re looking to pick up “Harmland” at its new $1.99 price, the link is here:


I haven't yet changed the price at Barnes and Noble but that link is below: 

As a further initiative to get folks to come read this blog, I’m holding a giveaway. If you comment on this blog, your name will be put into a hat for a drawing of a brand new, unopened copy of “Cut Short,” the first in the popular Geraldine Steel detective series by British author Leigh Russell. Back when this came out, I ended up buying two copies of the book and have had the extra copy sitting around for quite some time. I’m only going to be able to mail the copy to the US and Canada, though.

Hope your day is fun and productive!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Progress on Wraith of Talera, and Other Things

Sunday night I wrote the ending line to Wraith of Talera. Felt good. The book is certainly not done. This is a completed draft but it will need at least one more complete going over from start to finish. After that will come the final editing checks. I'll check to make sure all Taleran terms are used consistently throughout. I'll search for certain words that tend to get overused and make sure I fix any problems up. That actually takes quite a while. Then I will set up the word processing file for the sequel, Gods of Talera, and will write the first scene, which is already in my head. I'll probably let Wraith sit for about a week, though, and work on other things before I start the revision.

I took yesterday off, visited with my niece and her family in the French Quarter. They are traveling through the area on a trip. Then I watched the movie Serenity, the move that closes off the Firefly TV series. Finally, I restarted my game of Rage since I beat it over the weekend and now I'm replaying to see if I can find stuff I missed the first time.

As for Serenity, I liked it very much. Both Lana and I teared up a bit at one particular place, and it's because we have developed genuine affection for these characters. Firefly was really well done and I'm sorry it lasted only one season. The movie was good but it didn't really tie everything up. I liked it somewhat better than Lana did. 

I'm still using google reader, by the way, although I have downloaded feedly. Google reader will disappear July 1 so I may have an adjustment period and miss some stuff for a few days. I suppose we'll see.

In sad news, I learned that Richard Matheson died yesterday. He was a writer I much enjoyed, especially his short stories, and he wrote some of the great Twilight Zone tales. It was sad to hear of his death.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Problem of Pastiche

Jury duty is over. Thankfully. I didn’t get called for a jury. In fact, I did nothing for three days but sit around on my butt and read. I love reading but even I was getting a little stir-crazy by the end. I’m free today, though, so time to catch up on a little blogging.

I read quite a few good pieces while sitting around and will review some of them here in time. I’ve reviewed most on Goodreads already. But I read one yesterday that was not so good. I’m going to talk about it a bit here because of the writing lessons it provides, but not give the name because I know who the author is, though it’s not someone I correspond with or anything. I also believe the author genuinely loves the Conan character and is enthusiastic, even if he didn’t get down on the page what he was probably hoping for.

Anyway, so here I am reading a Conan pastiche that I got free from Amazon for the kindle. It picks up where the original Arnold movie left off, which is OK. The first pages aren’t too bad. I’m starting to settle in, when the problems begin. First, Conan and his companion stumble upon the tale’s evildoers. They are cave dwellers mostly, degenerate, etc. That would be fine but they are described as “gnomes.”  I know that “gnomes” have undergone a lot of changes over time but I’m afraid I had a problem seeing them as anything more than garden gnomes from then on. Although the description of them was of something pretty nasty, it was a bit of a problem for me. I could have handled that.

Second, the anachronisms began, and this was quite a bit more of a problem. Conan is supposed to live in the Hyborian Age, far in the past before recorded history. Yet, the author used terms like “mania,” “electrified,” “bronco,” and, worst of all, “cop-out.”  At one point Conan yells “Happy Holidays” to his foes. Sarcastically, I think. These terms really destroyed any sense of realism for me in the tale. The writer is supposed to strive to become invisible behind the flow of the prose, but when you throw in phrases like “cop-out” in a story like this, you are putting the writer front and center.

Fiction is a very carefully crafted lie. As soon as you see through the veil, anything else that is remotely a problem starts to jump out at you. The whole “house of cards” rapidly comes tumbling down. If it hadn’t been for the anachronisms, I might not have noticed other issues with the prose so clearly, most notably the overuse of alliteration, particularly with “G’s,” and the weird use of terms. The author obviously had a pretty large vocabulary but frequently seemed to slightly misuse terms. One example I remember is the phrase “relentless tunnels.”  Endless tunnels maybe. But I couldn’t follow “relentless tunnels.”

Another issue for me was that the character was not anywhere close to the Robert E. Howard character. This Conan was a pure selfless hero, with none of the nuances that Howard brought to the character. In this way, the character didn’t even match the Arnold-portrayed Conan from the movies. This was not a particular problem with the writing. Had the character been called something else it might have worked just fine.

How about you? Do anachronisms bother you? Do you notice phrases like “relentless tunnels?” How do you feel about alliteration?


Monday, June 17, 2013

Jury Duty and Father's Day

Josh came up for Father's Day and we had a good lunch at Outback with Lana, then came home and did little other than talk and play some of my video game, Rage. Josh showed me some of the drawings from his architecture classes. Great stuff. He's working hard and enjoying himself. It was good to see him.

In the evening, after he headed home, I even got 1000 words done on Wraith of Talera. I've been averaging about a 1000 a day over the last few weeks and that is very good for me. This is the longest stretch I've ever kept up that pace, and several days I've done over 1500. I'm over 62,000 words total now and should be writing the last two scenes this week. Then it will be time to go back over the whole thing and put on the final touches. I'll probably put it up for a few days to get some editorial distance.

Unfortunately, starting to day I've been called for Jury Duty so I don't know how much I'm going to get done this week, and whether I'll do any blogging. Typically here, Jury Duty is a five day commitment, unless you're chosen for a trial and then it might be longer.

So, if you don't see me around the blogs, this is why.


Friday, June 14, 2013

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard:  Del Rey. 2008.

This is a massive, 500+ pages compilation of pretty much every horror tale Robert E. Howard wrote. If you’re a fan of REH you’ll surely love it. If all you know is his fantasy, his Conan stories, then it will enlighten you on the man’s tremendous range. I actually started reading this a couple of years ago and chose to read it slowly and savor it, just a story here and there. Many of these stories I’d read before but they were all worth a reread.

I read one review of this collection that said it wasn’t “horror.” Well, not if your idea of horror has been defined by Stephen King. There are vampires, ghosts, and werewolves here, but the bulk of the stories either have Lovecraftian elements, or are of a type I might call southern campfire tales. By that, I mean the kind of tales rural southerners tell each other on dark nights when panthers are screaming in the woods and the fireflies flash like dead souls haunting the piney woods. Tell one of these around a campfire and no one will want to leave the light to go gather more firewood. The only thing worse would be to let the fire…die down.

Another thing about Howard’s stories is that, as a writer, REH found it basically impossible not to include a high level of physical action in his tales. Some people think that moves a piece away from horror. I don’t. Action and horror are a great mix. There’s plenty of it here.

Among my favorite pieces in this collection are “Dig Me No Grave,” “Old Garfield’s Heart,” “The Black Stone,” and “The Thing on the Roof.” I think the masterpiece of the collection is “Pigeons from Hell,” which creeped me out pretty badly.

This collection strove for completeness and that means not every piece in here is a masterpiece. There are also some fragments at the end that I wish Howard would have finished. Generally, though, I really liked this work and gave it five stars on Goodreads. I wish I'd written a bunch of these.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Books in the House

Although I buy quite a few Kindle books on a weekly basis, it’s been a while since I put in a big order for print works. One thing of interest came in last week and a bunch more today. So here’s where I spent some money:

1. Warbirds of Mars, edited by Vaughn and Gilmour. This is a collection of connected short stories about the human resistance to conquerors from Mars.  I love the concept but haven’t started reading it yet.

2. This is Gonna Hurt, a book about music, photography and life by Nikki Sixx. I’ve already read this. Not a lot of new stuff if you’ve read his Heroin Diaries, but it certainly held my interest. He has apparently really gotten into photography and has sprinkled quite a few odd shots throughout . It also has quite a bit of his philosophy of life in it, things he’s learned from his experiences. I’m not much of a fan of such things; they generally appear pretty self-evident. I learned a little more about his childhood and his music, which is what I was most interested in. Most of the music stuff had to do with Sixx A.M rather than Motley, which is not particularly what I care about.

3. Proactive Contrition: A Meta-Memoir, by Wayne Allen Sallee. Wayne is an extraordinary short story writer. I’m not quite sure what to expect from this “meta-memoir,” though, but I know it’ll be surprising, entertaining, and will make me think.

4. The Saga of Dray Prescot: The Lohvian Cycle books 1 and 2, by Kenneth Bulmer.  This is a two volume set, each of which collects three of the Dray Prescot books that were not originally published in English during the original run of the series. They were published only in German. They have since been brought out in English in ebooks, which I bought already, but I wanted the print copies. Each volume has three books in it. I’ve read the first two from book one but still have four more complete novels to go. Looking forward to getting into these.  The cover below is for volume 1 but 2 is the same cover with II on it. Interestingly, the second volume includes a “compendium” much like I was thinking of adding to Wraith of Talera.

Speaking of Wraith of Talera, sitting on my desk right now is the contract from Borgo Press, as an imprint of Wildside Press, for the book.  I wrote a lot of rough draft and outlined the last few chapters yesterday so I expect to have the book finished and turned in by August. Since this one will be part of a duology, I am considering starting the next one immediately after Wraith is done. That one will be called Gods of Talera

Friday, June 07, 2013

The Need for Cognition

A friend and colleague of mine at Xavier and I often get onto the topic of “need for cognition” in our discussions. What “need for cognition” means is that some people, and academics are often among them, have a chronic and near constant need to “think” about things.  He and I both have this quality, but neither of us believes that this need is present in everyone.  Many people, it seems, are rather happy to let their brains idle.  It’s not that these folks are stupid by any means; it’s just that they don’t exert themselves with thoughts when those thoughts are not directly related to the task at hand.  In quiet moments, their thoughts are also relatively quiet.  For me, it is often in the “quiet” moments that my thoughts race and twist the most.      

I’m reminded of a time in graduate school when a friend of mine and I were at a local drinking establishment partaking of more than a few alcoholic beverages.  My friend’s girlfriend came in, somewhat miffed that he had blown off plans with her to, instead, go drinking with me.  She asked, in a rather exasperated voice, why we felt the need to occasionally drink too much.  And both of us said at the same time, without any prior rehearsal or even discussion of the topic: “to stop our heads from thinking.”  What we meant, or at least what I meant, was that sometimes I wanted my thoughts to shut the hell up, and once I’d gotten enough alcohol in me those thoughts would obey. 

As an adult, I’ve found that playing a video game or chess has much the same effect as alcohol.  When I’m caught up in the game my thoughts are all focused.  They’re not wandering around yammering at me about this or that topic, and this can be a great relief after a day of cogitating.  I wonder whether writers in general are more likely to come from the folks who have a “need for cognition.”  Does part of the drive to write come from the very fact that writers’ thoughts are constantly yammering at them?  Or am I projecting my own mental state onto others.  What do you think?


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Of Ant and Humankind

A few days ago I noticed a dead snake on the dirt road around the corner from our house. I expected it to be gone the next day but it’s still there several days later. I noticed this morning that an entire ant hill has been built up around it. It made me think of human boom towns, when a vein of silver or gold was discovered, or when oil was found, and how a town might spring up almost overnight with everything dedicated to mining that vein or drilling for that oil.

I wonder what will happen to the ant town when the snake is gone. Human boom towns often died out when the ore was depleted. The people moved on to the next strike. I’ll have to keep an eye on the ants to see if the same thing happens.

It made me think of a fantasy story idea, of boom towns built up around the death site of a dragon perhaps. Ants and humans ain’t that different it would seem.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

To Appendix or not to Appendix

I’ve passed 47,000 words now on Wraith of Talera, the fourth Taleran book. This will mark the start of a new duology. By now, as is probably common with Sword and Planet kinds of series, I’ve built up a tremendous amount of information about the planet Talera. I keep what I call a “Taleran Encyclopedia,” which has details on characters, races, plants and animals, language, cities and countries, games, religions etc. I need it to keep everything straight.

At some point in many fantasy series, the author includes an appendix or two at the end of a volume providing at least some of this kind of information to the readers. It’s in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Alan Burt Akers did it for Kregen. There’s something like it for the Barsoom series by ERB. I personally like it when such things are included and was thinking about adding such an appendix to this fourth book. Here’s  an example of a potential entry, as it exists in my current “encyclopedia.”

Curse words and phrases:  There are many more:
    Dahh – Generally translated as Damn.
    Dihmus vishka – Possible translation is “god in heaven.”
    Krutt – Used as a curse because the habits of the insect are so disgusting to many.   
    Lart – Rodent (You Rat).  Generally considered a mild curse.
    Ruck (Ruckers) – Worthless ones.  
Est Yaal shei = go to hell.
Ivid Yaal shei = What the hell?
Sae Yaal shei = Oh hell, or, by hell.

What do you think? Would you enjoy such a thing? Does it seem superfluous, or like an interesting element that increases the believability factor for the stories.