Saturday, December 30, 2017

Year's End: 2017

2017! An unusual year for me. It started off pretty good, got better, got bad for a while, then picked up again. At the moment I’m feeling pretty good. I sure hope that rolls over into 2018. I don’t live a terribly exciting life. One big surprise was being named as an influence by the new mayor of New Orleans. That was nice. I was also featured a couple of times in the local paper and nice things were said about my writing. Overall, though, it wasn’t a big year for sales of my books, although I didn’t do much to push it this year. I also did not submit as much as I usually do.

On the writing front itself, I did finish The Scarred One, a western novella/novel that I started working on a couple of years ago. I also self published a print version of my western collection, Killing Trail, under the pseudonym Tyler Boone. In October, Cold in the Light, my first published novel, went out of print. I went through it and did a fairly minor rewrite, and will be submitting it and The Scarred One for potential publication in 2018. I’ve also got a novella called “The Razored Land” that I want to submit next year. Finally, I wrote a lot of poetry this year, far more than has been typical of me in the past.

This marks the 5th year that I’ve been keeping a word count on my production. I wrote a little more than 50,000 words of fiction and nonfiction intended for publication. That’s about the same as last year. It’s up from 2015, when I did about 44,000, but down from 2013 and 2014, with 80,000 and over 100,000 respectively. I’d like to shoot for 100,000 next year, but that seems unlikely since in the spring I’m going to be teaching introductory psychology, which I haven’t taught in 20 years. That means quite a bit more work for me.

Word count is actually pretty misleading for me, anyway. For example, I spent a couple of weeks revising Cold in the Light but actually took out words from its original count. How do I figure that into a word count? Also, I don’t count wordage from my blog posts or my journal, since those are not intended for publication. My journal for 2017, which does include my blog posts, is around 40,000 words. That’s down from years past.

Besides writing, everyone here knows I’m also a big reader. I mark my “year in books” from one birthday to the next, but Goodreads, of course, does it by calendar year. According to Goodreads, I read 69 books in 2017, 17,720 pages, at an average of 257 pages per book. The shortest book I read was Goodnight Moon, a kid’s story, at 32 pages. The longest was the SF book, Earth, by David Brin, at 704 pages. My average rating across all those book was 3.5 stars. The most popular book I read was The Girl on the Train, reviewed by over 200,000 people. The least popular was reviewed by 0 folks other than me, and that was Incredible Football Feats, which was published in 1974.

Some of my favorite reads for 2017: My Grandmother Danced, by Eve Brouwer, a wonderful novel told in poetic form. I also loved Visions of the Mutant Rain Forest, a poetry/prose chapbook by Bruce Boston and Robert Frazier. My favorite YA book was The Summer of Moonlight Secrets by Danette Haworth, although I also much enjoyed Lad: A Dog, by Albert Terhune. My favorite writing related book was Bestseller Metrics by Elaine Ash. A really fine, and uniquely written, fantasy novel that I enjoyed was Helen’s Daimones by S. E. Lindberg. A great short horror novel that I read was Dark Hours, by Sidney Williams.

I got back into Dean Koontz in 2017, after a couple of years away, and enjoyed his Frankenstein series. I very much enjoyed Ravenheart and Stormrider by David Gemmell. I loved me some Ed Gorman westerns. Perhaps my least favorite read of the year was Big Lobo, A Nevada Jim Western.

I don’t make resolutions anymore. There are certain things I will try to do. I will try to read and write as much as I can without ignoring my wife and son and other important folks in my world, and without losing my job. I’ll try to eat good food but not quite as much. I’ll try for plenty of naps and walks in nature. I’ll try to be a good person to the best of my abilities. Hope you all have a great 2018.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

For the Love of Negatives

If you think people don't respond more strongly to negatives than to positives, then here's an example. In 2008, I reviewed Hubert Selby Jr's. Requiem for a Dream (the novel) on Goodreads. I didn't like it and made my feelings clear. The book is, in my opinion, all telling with almost no showing, and pretentious on top of that. Selby considered himself above the need to put individual character’s dialogue in separate paragraphs, and preferred such constructions as “Im” and “youre” over “I’m and “you’re.” I’m sure he did these things on purpose, and that makes it far worse to me. But certainly, if people like that sort of thing then have at it. As they say, it’s no skin off my nose.

Interestingly, though, I am "still" getting comments on that review, here at the end of 2017. I got one today. Overall, it has garnered 52 comments, many of them supportive of my views but plenty that responded with personal insults against my intelligence. In contrast, my review of Robert E. Howard's "Sowers of the Thunder," one of my favorite books, has gotten one like and no comments. My review of “The Snow Leopard,” by Peter Matthiessen, which ‘is’ my favorite book, has also gotten one like and no comments.

What is that old saw about which wolf lives, the good one or the bad one? The answer is, the one you feed. I don’t believe we have to avoid negative statements or negative reviews. Folks should make clear if they don’t like something, and why. But I also believe we need to promote what we find good and worthy. That’s why I’ve been doing blog posts about my “favorite” books in various genres—not the worst books in those genres.

What do you love?

Friday, December 22, 2017

Forgotten Books Friday: Hawk of the Wilderness

Hawk of the Wilderness, by William L. Chester. Ace Books, 1935, 287 pages.

Hawk of the Wilderness is virtually a pastiche of Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It features a white family exploring to the north who end up wrecked in a wild land called Nato'wa, a volcanically warmed land above the arctic circle. They are taken in by Indians, who it is suggested in the book are the ancestors of North America's Native Americans. The husband and wife are killed and their baby adopted by an Indian woman, although he ends up fleeing the tribe and living in the wilderness for many years with bears. He becomes known as Kioga, The Snow Hawk. Eventually, another exploration party arrives and Kioga meets Beth, a white woman. The two fall in love with each other but many things happen to keep them apart.

I would have loved this book when I was in my teens but I'm no longer that naïve reader. There are a number of issues with it that weakened my enjoyment. First, the good thing is that it's very well written and full of wonderful description. There is a lot of action and adventure. The problem is that there's virtually no overall plot. The majority of the book is given over to Kioga's growing up and developing his skills, and this continues at great length until I, at least, grew bored with it. The book is almost 300 pages and should probably have been less than 200. There's a reason why ERB's books tended to be short. Only in the last third to a quarter of the book, after the arrival of the other white explorers, did an overall storyline emerge. It was too late to truly salvage the novel. The plot is what creates narrative drive and there's just not enough plot here.

The ending did have the kind of nice melancholy feeling that leaves you wondering what happened next. Chester did not leave his readers wondering for long. There are three more books in this series, Kioga of the Wilderness, One Against a Wilderness, and Kioga of the Unknown Land. The first one is over 300 pages long, which makes me wary. The other two are shorter. I may try the second book in the series at some point but not right away.

Overall, I gave the book only 2 of 5 stars. I still consider it worth a read, however.

More links to forgotten books over at "Pattinase"

Friday, December 15, 2017

Bill Crider Day

There’s this guy named Bill Crider. You may have heard of him. He’s written a few books.
Well, a whole lot of books

Twenty yeas ago I would only have known Bill through his writing. I still haven’t met him personally. But because of the internet, particularly blogging and facebook, I’ve gotten to know him. Twenty years ago my judgement on Bill would have been: “Solid writer, always entertaining, with a great sense of character and an ability to capture the human qualities of the characters in his stories.” My judgment of Bill today includes that, but much more.

Through the time I’ve know Bill Crider online, he’s suffered through the loss of loved ones and has struggled with severe health issues of his own. He’s up against it now, with those same issues, but I’ve never seen him feel sorry for himself. His basic good humor always shines through. And he has always been the kind of man to give of himself to help others, both fellow writers and plain old fellow human beings.

My favorite book by Bill is Texas Vigilante. It’s a sequel to Outrage at Blanco, which introduced the character Ellie Taine. In “Vigilante,” Ellie is back on the justice trail, looking for the man who has kidnapped the daughter of a friend. I wouldn’t want Ellie on my trail if I were a criminal; I’d want her there if I needed rescuing. A very strong character.

I admire Bill Crider as a writer; I admire him much more as a man. I hope a miracle is in the offing for him. Today, particularly, I'm thinking of him. And wishing him the best. Bill is the best of us. No doubt about that. 

For more about Bill Crider Day, check out Patti Abbott's Blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Charles Recommends: Westerns:

My Sword and Planet recommendations were well received, so, to continue my Charles Recommends feature, I’m going to pick westerns this time.  Again, I’m limiting myself to one book per author. These combine my favorites along with books that I think somehow helped to define or expand the genre. Here are my top recommendations. Feel free to argue or offer your own recs. I’ve got more than five this time. There are a lot more westerns out there than there are Sword and Planet novels.

1. To Tame a Land, by Louis L’Amour: Although I have seen L’Amour slammed in recent years for his supposedly vaunted western accuracy and for the redundancy of many of his tales, he is still “my” favorite western author, and I’ve read just about everything by him. To Tame a Land wasn’t my first L’Amour, but it was one of the early ones. A young boy and his Pa get left behind in Indian Country. The boy grows up to be a gunfighter. It really engaged my imagination and I’ve reread this particular book more times than any other in my collection.

2. No Survivors, by Will Henry: This was the first book by Henry that I read, and I’ve never found anything else by him to match it. It’s written as an autobiography by a man named John Clayton. Clayton fought in the Civil War, then later was present at Custer’s Last Stand. He lived with both Indians and whites. Just a really fascinating tale with lots of historical connections. 

3. Dark Trail, by Ed Gorman: Gorman writes with equal ease in many genres but my favorite works by him are westerns. Dark Trail is #4 in his Leo Guild series. Guild is one of my favorite characters in western fiction. He’s older, more worn, but he rises to the occasion. This particular book has Guild helping his ex-wife save the man she left him for.

4. Apache Tears, by Robert MacLeod: A revenge novel, but one that rises above the standard. Powerful and emotional. It strongly affected me the first time I read it. One of my absolutely favorite non-L’Amour westerns.


5. Doc Holliday The Gunfighter, by Matt Braun: This is the first Matt Braun book I've read but I immediately ordered two more. It’s a good introduction to his work. I liked it a lot. Of course, I've always been rather interested in the character of Doc Holliday. Although I don't know the specific history, I'm pretty sure Braun took a lot of liberties with Holliday's life. That's OK. I didn't read it as a biography. The character was well drawn and there were quite a few interesting developments. I did think the book was probably a little longer than it needed to be and sections of it were pretty similar to other sections. Yet, it certainly kept me reading. It actually ends before Deadwood and the shootout at the OK corral. I thought that would mean a sequel but apparently there is none.

6. The Name’s Buchanan, by Jonas Ward (AKA William Ard): I only recently found out that the first six Buchanan books were written by a writer named William Ard. The seventh was started by Ard before he died, and finished by Robert Silverberg. The eighth was written by Brian Garfield and the rest by William R. Cox. I didn't know this when I first read through various books in the series and I judged all of them as by the same writer, not realizing that Jonas Ward was actually four different people. I went back to look at the works I'd reviewed in the series and found that I liked the Ard books considerably better than the later books by another author. This book was the first in the series, written by Ard, and is really a solid four-star work in my book.

7. Appaloosa, by Robert B. Parker. This is the first book in the Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch series by Parker. I liked it very much. I actually read the third book in this series first, "Brimstone," and I liked it but thought it was very weak on description. This first one didn't have that problem. The description wasn't outstanding but it was pretty good and the book wasn't just dialogue, although there was a lot. I thought the action was better in this one too. Definitely a good reason to read the first in the series first.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Dear Diary

Dear Diary:

More books arrived today, many of them undocumented immigrants. Of course, I did not turn them away. I have a big heart and sufficient resources at present to accept them. But I feel the first flickers of concern.

The book population in my house seems to be growing almost exponentially. Already the shelving resources are being strained. Certainly I can double or even triple-up for a while. But what if the present pace continues, or even increases? What will I do then?

There is a further concern as well, a much bigger concern. I haven't had time to get to know all the new books in my home. And I'm beginning to hear rumblings of discontent. I hear whispers, questions about why some books get shelved while others are stacked on the floor, or even placed in boxes in closets. Why are some selected for reading and others not? Dissatisfaction appears to be growing among my population of tomes.

Lately, I have sensed an underlying hostility in some of the whispers. They often cease when I enter the room. Up until this point, I have kept a pretty tight leash on my collection. But I'm beginning to sense a revolution brewing. I would round up the malcontents and send them to book mooch if I could identify them reliably. But I cannot bear to punish one book for the sins of another.

And so I wonder.... How long before they strike?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Holiday Festival of the Arts program

I've been invited to read this Sunday, December 3, at the Holiday Festival of the Arts program in Covington. It’ll be held at the St. John’s Coffeehouse, which is at 535 E. Boston St. Covington, La. 70433. The phone # is 985-893-5553.

The program features a bunch of local authors. Some will be telling stories while others will do brief readings. I’m one of the readers, and will be reading material from “The Adventures of an Arkansawyer,” a humorous memoir of my days growing up on a farm in Arkansas.

The program begins at 12:15 and ends at 4:00. My actual reading will be sometime between 1:40 and 2:40. I’m not sure of the exact moments. The whole program looks pretty interesting, though.

I will also have some of my books for sale during the intervals between events. I’m planning on bringing copies of:

Cold in the Light: $8.

Killing Trail: $5.

Harmland: $5.

The Adventures of an Arkansawyer: $6.

If you’re local, I hope you’ll drop by. Would love to see you. If anyone who is planning to come wants a specific book, let me know and I’ll be sure to bring it.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Plum Tree Tavern

Well, I was off a few days for Thanksgiving and did get some writing done. Mostly, though I got resting and reading done, which I needed and enjoyed. I can't believe that break is already over. I hope your Thanksgiving went wonderfully.

I did have a haiku published at Plum Tree Tavern. Here's the link if you'd care to check it out: Plum Tree Tavern.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dyscrasia Fiction, S. E. Lindberg

Helen’s Daimones, by S.E. Lindberg, IGNIS Publishing LLC, Dyscrasia Fiction
204 pages. Front cover art by Daniel Landerman.

This is the third book in the Dyscrasia series by Lindberg, following after Lord of Dyscrasia and Spawn of Dyscrasia. Here again we find the combination of beautiful language and powerful imagination that informed the first two books. The result is a unique fantasy vision that is both artistic and effective. The “Dsycrasia” novels are hallucinogenic, dream-like, full of wraiths and apparitions. Ideas and images pile one on top of another with an intensity that is far from common in fantasy literature. I admire the author’s ability to maintain that intensity throughout his works; his world-building never stumbles.

This volume also introduces Helen, a young girl who immediately evokes both sympathy and admiration. I liked this touch because it gives readers a very human character we could strongly root for. Most of the other characters are inventive and complex but not entirely human. They are fascinating, but not as easy for the reader to inhabit. I’m looking forward to more adventures with Helen, and at the end of “Daimones” the author hints at things to come. I know there is a fourth book in the works. I’m looking forward to it. Here's the link on Amazon

Friday, November 10, 2017

Charles Recommends: Sword and Planet Fiction

I'm going to start a new feature both here on the blog and on facebook in which I’ll recommend my top five or so books in each genre that I’m familiar with. I'll limit it to one book per author in each of those genres. What I'd love to get back is other folks' recommendations in those genres as well. I'm always looking for new good books to read. Below are my top five recommendations in Sword & Planet fiction.

1. Swordsmen in the Sky: My favorite fantasy collection of all time. This is the collection that, more than anything, made me want to write Sword & Planet stories. Contains: Swordsman Of Lost Terra by Poul Anderson, People of the Crater by Andre Norton, The Moon That Vanished by Leigh Brackett, A Vision of Venus by Otis Adelbert Kline, and Kaldar, World of Antares, by Edmond Hamilton

2. A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is the one that started it all for me. The first in the Barsoom series by Burroughs. John Carter gets to Mars and has his first adventures. I loved it so much that from the moment I read it I began making up my own stories about this kind of character and world. Eventually, the Talera cycle resulted. I owe ERB so much for the joy he gave me and the inspiration he was for me with these books.

3. A Sword for Kregen, by Alan Burt Akers (AKA Kenneth Bulmer): This is the first Dray Prescot book that I ever read, and it is still my favorite. Dray Prescot meets a better swordsman than he is, which was unique in my experience with Sword & Planet fiction up to that time. The book also involves a game of living chess, or the Kregen equivalent of that, called Jikaida. I still remember finding this book at a small used bookstore in Russellville, Arkansas when I was in college there. Just a great story.

4. Aldair in Albion, by Neal Barrett, Jr.: This is the first in a four book series that has to be one of the most unique S & P works out there. It’s a bit outside the standard realm for S & P fiction because it actually takes place on a future earth. However, the feel of it—to me—is sword & planet with a healthy dose of animal fable. This is a story about a world abandoned by humans but only after they raised many other species to sentience. The main character is an intelligent, upright walking pig. But although that sounds like food for hilarity, the story is full of adventure and excitement.

5. In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, by S. M. Stirling: Stirling knocked it out of the park with this one. A wonderful revival of the Sword and Planet genre, and set on Mars no less. Great action, fantastic and wonderful characters, and a powerful ending. A truly enjoyable experience.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Traveler Series, D. B. Drumm

This is the first in a post-apocalyptic series that seems clearly influenced by the movie Road Warrior. It's credited to D. B. Drumm. It takes place about fifteen years after a "nuke-out," which seems to have occurred in this book's timeline around 1984. That's when the book was written. It features a man known only as Traveler, although we do learn his real last name late in the book. It's Paxton.  Traveler is an ex-special forces soldier who, while in "El Hiagura" (El Salvador) before the war,  was exposed to a very nasty neurotoxin that often causes him great pain but which also seems to provide him with some extra-sensory ability to detect emotions. 

In this volume, Traveler stumbles into a town where two opposing war-lords divide the town between them. Shades of Kuroisowa's "Yojimbo" and Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars." As one might expect, Traveler ends up pitting the two sides against each other. The book also reveals that a man who betrayed Traveler back before the war is still alive, and that he serves the ex-president of the United States, a man named Frayling, who appears to be a rather thinly veiled substitute for Ronald Reagan, who was president from 1981 to 1989. It further reveals that at least one of Traveler's friends from before the war is still alive. These two discoveries provide a set up for the continuing series.

As with most of these men's adventures books of the era, D. B. Drumm was a house name for the series. It appears that Ed Naha wrote this first volume, and he and John Shirley traded off on the books through the rest of the series.

I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit and will look for others in the series. There are apparently thirteen volumes. Although the story is pretty standard, the writing was good and the character interesting. Better done than many in the post-apocalyptic genre. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Free Ebook, Harmland

For Halloween, and for a couple days after, my "Harmland" collection is free to download as an ebook at Amazon. This is a collection of noir and horror stories. There's over 20,000 words of material here, including such tales as "Whiskey, Guns, and Sin," "The Grey Inside," "The Finding," and others.

One of the stories, "The Toad," is about half autobiographical. You'll have to guess which half. There's also a Cthulhu Mythos story called "The Vivarium."

If you read ebooks, why not give it a download. And if you do read it, I'd appreciate a review, of course.

Download here:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sirens Call

The Sirens Call, Issue 35, is out just in time for Halloween. This is a dark fiction, dark poetry ezine that has really good production values and a plethora of creepy/scary stories and poems. It's 144 pages of material, and is free to download. I have three poems in it, "In Wormwood Days of Wither," "Mother Cold-Eyes," and "A Hiss of Angels."

Why not check it out? It costs you nothing. And if you like it there is a place for comments at the publication site, which is here. You just have to click on the magazine cover at the site (not the one below) to download your free PDF.

Monday, October 16, 2017

When a Book Goes Out of Print

Cold in the Light was the third book I wrote but the first to be published. Invisible College Press picked it up in 2002 an it sold modestly. Emphasis on the modestly. This is despite the fact that I believe it was, and is, a really strong thriller. I’m very proud of it.

In September of 2017 I received word from Invisible College Press that they were closing their doors, officially making Cold in the Light “out of print” as of October 2017. The question then becomes, what next?

I see two possibilities: First, I could seek out another small press publisher who might be interested. Second, I could self publish it. Frankly, because I believe it is really good, I’d like to try another publisher who might have more marketing sense than I apparently have. I’m going to take a bit of time to look around.

Another issue that has arisen though is whether I should update the book. My writing skills have, hopefully, improved since this book was written in the 1990s. I at first just assumed I’d update and started going through it. A problem quickly became apparent. The technology has changed dramatically since the book was published. And not only that, but the geographic setting has changed. When I wrote Cold in the Light, Highway 71 was the main route students took to get to the University of Arkansas. That is no longer true.

My alternatives then became, rewrite the tech and the geography, which will require considerable work, or simply set the book in the past time in which it was originally written. I already have times and days mentioned in the book so I could easily establish a year. What do you think of the latter idea? Have you read books like that? Do you care if a thriller is essentially set in the past? Or do you want your thrillers to be "torn from today's headlines?" Before I make any further changes to the work I need to make this decision. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Thursday, October 05, 2017


Contraflow #7 is going live this weekend, October 6 - 8, at the Airport Hilton in Kenner, Louisiana. That's part of the Greater New Orleans area for those who aren't familiar. This is a great con with lots of great guests and fun activities. I'll be there as a guest so I hope you can stop by if you're in the area, or going to be. I'll be there as much as I can, particularly on Saturday when I have most of my panels. Here's what I'm going to be doing: 

Fri 5pm, Event One: Opening Ceremonies
Sat 11am, Panel 3: The Representation of Contemporary Reality in the Horror, Sci-Fi, and Thriller Genres
Sat 1pm, Event Two: Narrative in Punk Rock, Black Metal, and Shock Rock
Sat 2pm, Event One: Star Wars and Psychology
Sat 8pm, Panel 1: Dark Fantasy
Sun 1pm, Panel 3: Pulp Returns! (about modern pulps)

If you're interested, check out Contraflow's webpage, and/or their facebook page. 

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

National Poetry Day

Today, September 28, is National Poetry Day. I urge you to read a little poetry, perhaps pick up a collection or two. I believed that I hated poetry when I was in Junior High and High School, but that was because I seldom found any that really engaged my imagination. These days I spend a little time every week reading poetry. I find it enhances my life.

Most of what I read would be called "speculative poetry," which generally means that it involves concepts and ideas from literary fields such as science fiction, fantasy, and horror. However, my personal favorite poet is Dylan Thomas, who I've mentioned on this blog many times before. While not specifically "speculative," Thomas's poetry has a certain surreal element to it that I find very lovely and thought provoking.

If you'd like to know what I recommend in the field of poetry, here is a link to my poetry shelf on Goodreads. You can see what I've read and how I rated it.

Although I don't consider myself much of a poet, I do try my hand at the form on occasion. Here's one of mine, the only one I've ever written about my writing "muse." It was originally published in The Pedestal Magazine.


As autumn shadows
evolve into winter nights,
hunger comes sniffing.

Gaunt, the gray wolf has grown.
With yellow eyes.
Her belly snarls a wild music of want,
to match the growl in her throat.

In the spring she fed well
from the hunt.
Her teeth left the green grass
dappled with red.

But summer came warm
and did not warm her.
Heat drove the hunted to ground.
Sickness claimed her pack.

On a hushed and lorn eve,
in a desperate famine,
through cold black woods
she came weak to my fire.

I threw her the carcass
of my feast,
and she became my muse.
In no way domesticated.

With strength returned, she hunted.
Spurning the tame food I offered,
she left me the feathers
of some gutted prey.

Now on occasion she visits.
At edge of fire and shadow,
only her eyes glow.
We judge each other warily.

We will be friends,
a pack of two.
Or one will kill the other.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Robert Frost's Poems

New Enlarged Pocket Anthology of Robert Frost’s Poems: With an Introduction and Commentary by Louis Untermeyer.  Pocket Books: 1971 (29th printing):

My first introduction to Robert Frost came in high school, specifically “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” These are his two most famous poems and probably most people have some familiarity with them. I like them and both spoke to me.  I wouldn’t say they inspired me or influenced my own poetry, which developed much later. In high school I was still convinced that I didn’t like poetry. I came to understand later that I didn’t like poetry with facile rhymes or that simply pointed out an observation, thought or feeling that I already knew well from my own experience. It wasn’t until I discovered Dylan Thomas in college that I began to see the possibility for poetry to transcend and expand personal experiences.

Because Frost’s poetry spoke of what I would describe as mundane reality, I just never pursued his work further. I don’t mean mundane in a negative sense here. I mean it essentially as “objective” reality. But that’s not what I want to experience in the literary works that I read. I live mundane reality. I want the poetry I read to twist that reality and surprise me. Knowing of Frost’s influence on the field of poetry, however, I did pick up this collection of his poems. I decided I needed to read them. Here are my thoughts.

First, I can certainly agree with the critics that Frost was a superbly talented poet and a keen observer of the world. His poems are typically quite simple in construction, with straightforward rhyming patterns. When they impact me, they tend to evoke quiet and contemplative moods. And now I’ll say, and hope that I won’t be misunderstood, that quiet and contemplative is not what I want from my poetry. I want disturbing. I want rawness. I want the surreal. Frost does not give me these experiences and for that reason he’ll never be as important to me as someone like Dylan Thomas.

I really hope people do not take this as some kind of “dislike” of Frost, or that I’m saying he’s not a poet worthy of study and consideration. I don’t mean it that way. I’m talking about my own very personal and visceral (or lack of that) reaction to his work. Perhaps the best way I can say it is this: I have a bookshelf where I keep copies of works that inspire my own writing, or that have in some way shaped my philosophy on life. Dylan Thomas’s poetry is on that shelf. Some of Ray Bradbury’s is on that shelf. Robert Frost will not be on that shelf, though he may well be on “your” inspirational shelf.  And if that is the case then I salute you.

Moving from my general response to Frost’s work to this specific collection, I’m not sure I’d recommend it. The poems are well presented, of course, and I generally liked the overall organization of the book. However, I just did not care for, or find useful, the commentary by Louis Untermeyer. Untermeyer was a well respected poet and critic, but I found his comments about Frost’s poetry to be long on hyperbole and low on information. Here’s an example, from page 168.

“The poems of Robert Frost have a way of uniting opposites. They are casual in tone but profound in effect, teasing and intense, playful yet deeply penetrating.  Even when they seem to be about a particular place, they suggest ideas unlimited by space.”

This is a good example, to me, of saying nothing while seeming to say much. I would much rather have had information about when and where the poetry was written, and information about any historical connections that the poem may have had. I bought this collection, in part, because I felt I needed some commentary to help me experience Frost. I think now that this was a mistake and I should have come to the poems without any filter. To those of you who are interested in writing poetry and want to study Frost for that reason, I’d suggest a collection with no commentary. For those of you who are making a more literary study of Frost, this collection might be useful but I don’t think it would be a good starting point. Something that places Frost’s work better into the context of his times would likely prove more useful.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Summer of Moonlight Secrets

Summer of MoonlightSecrets: By Danette Haworth, 2010, Walker and Company, 273 pages.

Allie Joe and her family manage the Meriwether Hotel in Florida. It was once a grand place frequented by movie stars, but it has seen better days. Some of the upper floors are closed. There are places where the windows are broken out and stray cats and kudzu slip in. But for Allie it is the perfect place, full of secret passages and hidden nooks and crannies. Allie Jo is intelligent and imaginative, but she doesn’t have a lot of friends. This summer will change that.

Chase arrives with his father, a writer, to stay at the hotel for a while during the summer. He breaks his arm in a skateboarding accident the first time he meets Allie Jo, but the two strike up a friendship. Soon, they meet a mysterious young woman named Tara, who says that she is a runaway and has nowhere else to go than the hotel. She reveals that she’s hiding from someone who wants to control her. Allie Jo and Chase are caught up in solving the mystery of Tara, and in helping her defeat the plans of the man she’s hiding from so she can return home.

The Summer of Moonlight Secrets seems perfect for anyone who enjoys young adult stories. Its target audience is kids but it certainly held the attention of this 58-year-old, and took me back to my childhood when summers were magical and lasted forever.

The book is fast paced. It’s told in short, alternating chapters from Allie Jo and Chase’s points of view, with an occasional chapter seen from Tara’s perspective. I thought it was a lot of fun. I’ve already read a previous book by Danette Haworth, Violet Raines almost got struck by Lightning, and I enjoyed it very much as well. I’ll be picking up others by this author so I can take an occasional trip back to my younger self.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

In a world of books

Sometimes folks seem to think I lead an exciting life. Well, I do. But not in the way they think. I live most of my exciting adventures through books. And I always have. I became addicted to reading very early and have never broken the habit. I typically three 2 to 3 books at a time, of varying types. I'm reading a pulp western, a collection of Robert Frost's poetry, and a children's book right now.

I got almost all of my early reading through the library since we didn't have money for a lot of books. But I actually kept semi-decent records of what I read as a youngster and as an adult I have purchased many of those old books. Now I've taken pictures of those and will share some of them here. Among the books I read in my pre-teen and teen years were books about:

Football. I wanted to be a running back for the Arkansas Razorbacks growing up, and then go pro with Green Bay. I did play in high school but weighed only 132 pounds when I graduated so I never played college ball. I lived many football adventures with Joe Archibald, though. Here are some:

I also loved animal stories and that probably made up the bulk of my early reading. Jim Kjelgaard and Walter Farley were staples in those days:

I loved novels but I also enjoyed reading of real life adventure and non fiction. A favorite series for me were the "You Were There" adventures. Here's two that I remember fondly.

Soon, I began to branch out to westerns, science fiction, and fantasy. But that's for another post.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


I offered the tender of my heart
to suborn the hag of life’s kisses.
And I have stood in winter
against a morn dreadful and vicious. 

Warped as a cinder,
burned alive,
unshriven and unshorn,
I have stood and given
until the blade is worn.

Do the bones of my smiles
not show the bruises?
Wear I not the blisters
of weary miles?

Is there a scream
I have not loosed?
Is there a blood
I have not shed?
Why do you think 
I dream in red?

But at the gate between hawk
and dove,
on all the roads that scars chalk,
still I seek a compass that points to love.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Little History

I always sort of assume that the readers of this blog know me and know about my job, but lately there have been a few new people stopping by so I thought I might take this post to introduce a little about myself and my work. If you already know it, feel free to skip. I'll try to be brief.

I was born in 1958 and grew up on a farm in Arkansas. I got a bachelor's degree in psychology from Arkansas Tech University, then an MA and PhD in psych from the University of Arkansas. I started teaching at Xavier University of Louisiana, in New Orleans, in 1986 and have been there ever since. This is my 32 or 33 year. It's a lot anyway. I teach experimental psychology courses such as Physiological Psychology, Psychology of Learning, Evolutionary Psychology, and Writing in Psychology.

For the last ten years or so I've been able to take summers off to write and pretty much all of my book publications have come in that time period. I do write during the school year but I am seldom able to complete long projects during that time. My job keeps me pretty busy. In addition to teaching, I'm also chair of the Xavier University IRB, which processes any research project carried out on campus that involves human participants. It is a "very" busy committee. 

I also tend to blog less when school is in session, so you may note a slow down in my blog posts and visits over the next few weeks. Faculty meetings and registration took place last week, and classes start today. I came in very early to get all my stuff ready for class so that's why I have a few minutes to blog this morning. 

Anyway, enough about that. I'm off to try and visit some blogs before the first students start coming in. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

What I Learned from a Month off Facebook

So, I spent a month off facebook. Here’s what I learned.

1. I didn’t much miss it on an emotional level. Quite a few times in the first few days I automatically reached for FB to post some comment or update. That went away pretty quickly.

2. I generally felt more relaxed and didn’t miss the drama that is often present on FB. A big plus.

3. I got more writing and reading done, and watched more TV. However, the increase in writing and reading wasn’t anything astronomical. It was substantive, though, and was the best part of being off FB.

4. Sales of my self published items took a nose dive. I sold exactly one thing during the time I was off FB. Generally, I sell more than that. I have no idea about how it might have affected sales of my Wildside and other publisher released books. A big negative.

5. Although I could have called family members and friends, I didn’t make a substantial increase in this. I did some and that was pleasant, and it’s something I hope to continue. However, I still end up wasting plenty of time, just in other ways.

6. I missed talking about books and writing on FB. This was actually most of what I did when I was on it, and I enjoyed it. A negative.

7. I missed some regular interactions with folks that I was used to seeing on FB. A negative.

8. I found that many, many publishers and contests and other writing related projects make FB their main platform and this was a big negative for me. I couldn’t access guidelines and quite a few other sources of writing information that might have been important for me. Most of this is marketing and that in itself can cause problems for production. But still, not having ready access to this material cost me potential markets. One call for submissions that I missed was definitely something I would have submitted to, and a place where I’ve sold stuff before. This was the biggest issue for me.

9. I got back into blogging and did more of that and found that a positive. I did not necessarily have to give up FB to do this, though. I could have simply shifted the time spent on these various activities around.

For these reason, with the negatives outweighing the positives, I’m going to renew my facebook profile. I’ll see if I’ve lost a step there, and let you know. However, I want to spend less time there and try to avoid leaping on and off it a dozen times a day. If I can do that, I can maintain some of the good things of being away from FB while keeping access to other things that I like.

So, see you on facebook within the next few days.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Dark Hours, by Sidney Williams.

Dark Hours, by Sidney Williams. Crossroad Press. Hard copy Print. 183 Pages.

Dark Hours is a relatively short novel but packs a lot of tension and atmosphere into its space—and adds a good amount of action. I would classify it as a horror/thriller. It does a good job of combining the best attributes of both these genres.

Allison Rose is a student journalist at Pine College, a small school that has seen better days. An escaped killer is suspected of hiding out on the campus, where the woman he murdered once went to school. Allison is contacted by someone who claims to be the killer, and he wants to give her an exclusive interview of his side of the story.

But is it really the killer, or someone else playing a sick joke? Along the way to answering that question, we find out that everyone seems to have secrets in this game, and in a savage bout of cat and mouse played through the basement level of the college library, all those secrets get spilled while Allison struggles to survive against a dangerous and cunning foe.

I read Dark Hours in print form, as a hardback from CrossroadPress. It's a very nice physical package as well, with a dynamite cover. The author, Sidney Williams, has written numerous novels, most of which I’ve read, and many short stories as well. I’ve never read any of his work that I didn’t enjoy, and I highly recommend Dark Hours.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Expanse: TV Show

Been watching "The Expanse" on DVD lately. This is an SF TV show from SYFY channel, based on a series of books by James S. A. Corey, which is a pen name for a pair of authors named Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. The novels are well respected and have gotten some Hugo nominations. I haven't read them but quite likely will give the first one a try, "Leviathan Wakes."

I have no idea how close the show stays to the novels. We've only watched the first five episodes, but based on that I'll definitely be continuing with it. There are two 13 episode seasons filmed so far, with a third planned for 2018.

The concept is a three way political struggle between Earth, a strong and independent Mars colony, and "The Belt," which are the independent settlers and miners of the Asteroid belt, particularly "Ceres," the largest asteroid in the belt. Based on the first five episodes, there appears to be a fourth player who is not clear at the moment.

I've always disliked politics and am not much of a reader of political fiction. But Games of Thrones showed that when you match politics with genuine human interest and human characters, and throw in plenty of action, you can have compelling TV. The Expanse TV series is following that kind of pattern and so far it's hooked me.

I didn't realize, too, until the past few years, how much of a difference good acting makes. Game of Thrones certainly illustrated this for me. The Expanse also showcases some good actors doing good work, including Thomas Jane as a hardboiled sort of detective, and a number of actors previously unknown to me. Another bonus is that the cast is very cosmopolitan, with meaty roles for women and non-white characters. I was pleased to see Chad Coleman get a good role here. I enjoyed his work in The Walking Dead.

I'm liking it!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


In the last couple of years I've come up with what is so far my favorite sword and sorcery character. I call him Krieg, which is the German word for war. I've created quite a few other S & S characters over the years--Thal Kyrin, Jaal Harkest. Jedess of Seth-Loeril, Jys Martel. Most of them can be found in Bitter Steel, which collects the majority of my older S & S stories. But Krieg has become my favorite. If I had to compare him with any other heroic fantasy character out there, I'd say he was closest to Karl Edward Wagner's Kane. But Krieg is not Kane. He's the product of many years of reading heroic fantasy and striving to write it. He's his own man, so to speak.

I hope to write many adventures for Krieg. So far I've completed three. Only one has been published, A Whisper in Ashes, at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. The other two, "Where All the Souls are Hollow," and "The Rotted Land," have not yet been submitted. I'm looking for the right place to send them. One of the things that I've done to characterize Krieg in these tales is begin each one with a short poem that describes the character from the point of view of an outsider. Below are the three openers that I've got so far. What do you think?


Down from the death-lands of snow
came a warrior with eyes
like scars.
No one knew his origins.
None could foresee his end.
He had no name.
The barbarians called him Krieg.

Out of choking dust and black smoke
came a warrior with eyes
like broken blades.
Wherever he journeyed,
war followed.
None could say why.
The survivors called him Krieg.

He arrived on a fetid wind,
with eyes black as fractured onyx.
Blood flowed the paths where he walked.
Some thought him angel.
Others claimed him demon.
Only the whisperers named him   

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson

As a biological psychologist, I certainly consider myself a scientist. As a teacher, I strive in my classes to make science interesting and attractive to my students while not glossing over the hard work that it entails. I want humanity to have a positive future and believe that science can provide us with the ways to get there. In my own small way, I try to be a proselytizer for science. I want people to love it the way that I do.

In my generation, Carl Sagan was the primary spokesperson for science. I remember being captivated by his Cosmos, and it led me directly into a fascination with astrophysics. I read a lot of other books in the field, including more of Sagan’s own work as well as the work of Stephen Hawking and many others. I don’t profess to understand it all but, if there are ‘big’ questions then astrophysics is the place where they most frequently get asked, and sometimes answered.

I would say that, for the current generation, Neil DeGrasse Tyson has taken up where Sagan left off, and I know he fully credits Sagan for his own involvement in science. I recently finished Tyson’s book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. It’s definitely not a “title” for people in a hurry but the book does exactly what it claims to. I finished it over a weekend and it was very straightforward, with clear explanations of tough concepts. It was well written with quite a few touches of humor. I came away with a good capsule history of our universe. I also learned a few things that I didn’t know, but I’ll let you discover those yourself when you read the book. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Odd Bob's

We happened to be in Foley, Alabama today (Sunday), and stopped by a place called Foley's Indoor Flea Market. While Lana wandered around through much of the place, I went straight to Odd Bob's, who is a book guy among other things. (He also sells toys and a lot of vinyl records but I don't care anything about those.)

What I cared about was a simply huge selection of all kinds of books, SF, Mystery, History, Westerns, and much more, including a lot of comics. I only had an hour or so to spend there so I barely scratched the surface of what he had available, but I did find a few books that I'll share with you here.

"Drifter," by William C. Dietz is the first in a series. I've been looking for it for a good while and already have the other two. The Ray Bradbury collection of plays is not something I've seen anywhere else. I didn't know it existed. I've been intending to write a play myself. I also picked up a Babylon 5 tie-in novel by Peter David.

I also found several series books that were new to me. I got #1 in Donovan's Devils, #2 in the Man from U.N.C.L.E. series (which I had at least heard of), and copies of series books for The Guardians and UFO-1 that I'd never heard of. I was familiar with James Axler from his Death Lands series, although this "Earth Blood" is not from that series.

I picked up a collection of fables from Richard Adams, who I've found myself interested in again of late, and this rather odd book on the right called "The Alphabet of Manliness." It looks to be pretty funny. Never heard of it before. 

Finally, we also got the poster shown below, which is Star Trek related. For those of you who love Trek, no explanation is necessary. For those of you who don't, no explanation is sufficient.

If you happen to be in Foley, do yourself a favor and stop by Odd Bob's. He had a lot of Burroughs, a lot of L'Amour, and much, much more. You can find out more at his website, including his location. I linked it in line 2 of this post.