Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What Fresh Grading Hell is This

I've been pretty much of a recluse since Friday, grading, grading, grading. Final papers in my writing class, exams in all my other classes. That's why I've been out of touch. I finally got the senior grades turned in today and promptly had a nap. Taking an hour or two off this evening, although work will begin again tomorrow. By this coming weekend, however, I should have the majority of the school work behind me and can begin to think about living again, and perhaps even some--dare I say it--writing!

Speaking of writing, Wayne Dundee over at Dundee's Desk has a great review of Mage, Maze, Demon up. There are some other good reviews on the site as well. Check it out. And thanks to Wayne!

I'm hoping to get back to visiting some blogs in the next couple of days, and dealing with a lot of other things that have piled up while I was in grading hell. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Reviews: Torn and Frayed, and, HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. II

Here's a couple of reviews I put up on Goodreads lately. I also posted these on Amazon but they took off the HWA one, probably because I have a poem in that collection. Because of that, I thought I'd go ahead and run it here, in addition to my review of David Cranmer's latest: Torn and Frayed.

Torn and Frayed, by David Cranmer . Drifter Detective Series, Number 7. Beat to a Pulp Publishers.

Torn and Frayed is the seventh offering in Beat to a Pulp’s Drifter Detective series. It’s a novella length piece. This is the first in the series written by Cranmer. Previous installments have been written by Garnett Elliott: 1. The Drifter Detective, 2. Hell Up in Houston, 3. The Girls of Bunker Pines, by Wayne D. Dundee, 4. Wide Spot in the Road, Elliott again 5. Dinero Del Mar, and by Alec Cizak, 6. Between Juarez and El Paso.

The main character in this series is Jack Laramie, who is the grandson of Legendary US marshal Cash Laramie, created by Edward Grainger. Jack Laramie is a WWII vet who roams post WWII Texas in a rickety DeSoto with a horse trailer hitched on the back. He is an occasional PI. Jack Laramie has many of the characteristics of his grandfather,  although perhaps a bit less of a total bad ass. He takes on a case, gets into a mess, and somehow extricates himself, although it is seldom pretty. Along the way, he gets beat on and does some beating back, and the series seldom ends with a clear cut: “good guys win” scenario.

Torn and Frayed follows this general pattern. Jack decides to take a break from the road and PI work and takes a job as a ranch hand. Turns out the rancher has a past that is coming back to haunt him, most specifically in the form of a daughter who is not what her father thinks she is. A lot of unpleasant history gets revealed along the way.

Like most in the Drifter Detective series, Torn and Frayed does not tie the story up in a nice pretty package at the end. There’s messiness and ugliness and it’s hard to say that anyone really wins. They survive, at a cost. But this series has real sense of realism running through it and Torn and Frayed fits well into this pattern. I much enjoyed it. There is, in addition, a bonus story at the end, “Missing,” which features Cash Laramie himself.

HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume II, Edited by Peter Adam Salomon, Published by Horror Writers Association.

This is a wonderful collection of dark poetry. It also contains tributes to two respected members of HWA who have passed away recently. The work begins with a tribute to Rocky Wood, long-term president of HWA. I didn't know him but have heard many great things about him. The work ends with a tribute to Tom Piccirilli, and with one of Tom's fine poems, "Protected," which was the last poem he completed before his death. I knew and respected Tom through his work.

The poems here are meaty and all of high quality, ranging from the creepy, to the gory, to the thoughtful, to the humorous. There are too many really good ones to mention individually. Some really nice efforts from the likes of Bruce Boston, Marge Simon, Kathryn Ptacek, and Corrine De Winter. Some others that particularly moved me were: The Cry of Autumn Stars by Mark Fuller Dillon, Fiend by Annie Neugebauer, Into Old Mill Creek by Ian A. Patton, The Tune by Lance Davis, Midnight at the Hub City Cafe by Lynette Mejia, and The Man Who Disappears by Robert Perez. I also have a poem in this collection, called R.O.A.D, which stands for The River of Angel’s Dreaming. I was very happy to be included in this collection.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Collection of Dreams

My collection of dream based stories is moving closer to completion. I’ve now completed drafts of all the stories that I’m planning on including. Some more polishing is in order and then the cover and other materials. Most of the tales will be horror based, although there is one fantasy and one that sort of defies categorization. Here’s what I’m looking at:

Thump, Thump, Thump – A man take shelter from the rain in an abandoned shack and meets the wife he didn’t know he had.

She Fled, Laughing – Called to the scene of a brutal mass murder, a homicide detective finds a survivor who doesn’t want to be rescued.

Rainbow’s Fall – What happens when a rainbow shatters.

A Dream of Fire – Left behind with the baggage train, an aging warrior finds one last battle.

I See Your Night, and Raise You Hell:  What happens when two psychos meet?

Child Labor – If he’d only had more patience.

And the good news, for me at least, is I've got plenty of dreams to make a volume 2 if I want. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Genesis of Mage, Maze, Demon

        It's probably part of my OCD characteristics that I tend to keep fairly detailed notes about every story I write. When was it written? Where did the idea come from? Did it undergo major changes from the draft form or not? Where was it published?

        I usually include this information in books I publish through Razored Zen Press. However, the answers to my standard questions are a little different than normal for the story Mage, Maze, Demon, which was recently published by Beat to a Pulp. I thought I might share them here.

    First, the catalyst for writing Mage, Maze, Demon did not come from within but from without. A couple of years back, I got an intriguing email from David Cranmer, the editor at Beat to a Pulp. He was thinking about publishing some stories in honor of Kyle Knapp, his nephew who had died, and was looking for writers who might develop tales based on prompts from Kyle’s dream journal. The prompt he was considering me for was: “I was a barbarian warrior trying to escape a maze.” I liked the idea of developing such a piece and decided to give it a go.

David said there was no particular deadline so I worked on the story off and on during the fall of 2013 and showed it to my writing group in December. I put the finishing touches on it in early January of 2014. Often, stories spring into my head with many of the details already laid out, but that wasn’t the case with Mage, Maze, Demon. The plot underwent several alterations and title changes before I settled on the final version. The name of character also underwent some changes. Since the root of the story came from Kyle Knapp’s journal, I wanted a character name to evoke that, and finally settled on Bryle.

In early 2016, Mage, Maze, Demon was released as an ebook by Beat to a Pulp, and this was followed in April 2016 by a paperback release (Out Now). The print version has two excellent bonus stories included, “The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform” by Chris F. Holm, and “Babylon Heist” by Garnett Elliott.

I was very pleased to take part in this project and am happy with how the story turned out. Bryle became a character that I liked very much, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his adventures don’t continue somewhere down the line. 

Thursday, April 07, 2016

A Fresh Review

David J. West has a great review of Mage, Maze, Demon over on his Nephite Blood, Spartan Heart. Hope you'll check it out. Thanks, David!

After Easter break, the final sprint to graduation began and I've had very little time for anything other than school work. So, so looking forward to summer. I've got all kinds of writing plans. Now I just need a bit of time.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

A Review and a Talk

Prashant, over at Chess, Comics, Crosswords, and more has a great review of Mage, Maze, Demon up on his blog. Thanks much to him. Check it out.

In other news, I’ll be at Mac’s on Boston Street in Covington today, April 3, from 4-6 PM, to give a talk entitled “A Few Words on Reading.” This is presented by the Northshore Literary Society for their “Sunday Salon.”  The address for Mac’s is 324 East Boston Street, Covington, Louisiana. I’m going to talk about why people read the kinds of fictional stories and books that they do. Thanks to Cheryl and all the Northshore folks for inviting me!