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I am not much into ebooks (as I have blogged on here before). I know they are the wave of the future, and it is very cool to think of being able to carry around a virtual library with you wherever you go. I will not deny how neat that is nor resist this continuing change.

I also see a better future for writers with greater ease in publishing and greater ease for readers to access that output. It is not as costly to electronically publish, but it does still cost. Life still continues to cost, too. Authors gotta eat, yo!

This trend from the general public for artistic endeavors (writing, painting, photography, music, etc.) to be free or almost free needs to stop. This whole thing with ‘do it for the exposure’ is a load of crap.

Ebooks are not expensive. The vast majority of them are less than $10, many of those less than $5, some of those less than one dollar! Yet, there still seems some uproar about why they should be distributed freely. Please consider my earlier sentence about the costs of living and artists needing to eat. As lovely and rewarding as creating may be, it still doesn’t fill the belly.

I have ebooks in my collection I will likely never read. I just bought them to show support, because they are so affordable. Let’s all show support. That’s much more satisfying than complaining.

Thank you.

My Amazon Author Page

Poetry Slam

When I was in my early twenties, I lived in Austin, and I wrote a lot of poetry. I wrote a lot in general, much more so than I do now. It felt like this beastly urge that just had to get out. The creative push has not left me, but it is less aggressive.

The poems I wrote were generally dark, provocative, and strange. I did not shy from graphic content, and really, I think I fancied them as lyrics to some industrial rock songs. I wrote of things that bothered me, that lurked in deep recesses of my contemplation, and I wanted to share them.

There was a thriving live poetry scene in Austin at the time. I have no idea what it’s like now as I have not lived there in twenty or so years, but you could find poetry readings happening nearly every night of the week back then. There was a poetry ‘slam’ coming, one of many, and the grand champion would actually get to read their work at Lollapalooza. This was big stuff.

I really didn’t know what poetry slams were. I had this idea that they were intended to be somewhat intentional and heavy trading of blows between poets by reading things potentially controversial. Maybe some are, but this one was not. This one was just like the others I came to know – people took turns getting up on a stage and reading their poem aloud.

I had some theater and public speaking training, but it had been a long time. I also wasn’t entirely sure how to present my poem. The one I had chosen was somewhat long and filled to the brim with graphic content. It basically was one of many I wrote that metaphorically dug at the controlling aspects of society and organized religion via the telling of a violent and pornographic mass.

We were timed. They had selected some random girl to keep the watch, and then she’d signal some buzzer when we were done. I knew how long we would get, and I had practiced and even pruned my poem a bit. I was just at the maximum allowable, and I knew it. I got up there, and I began reading this contentious content in a monotone voice. I had chosen this method of delivery for two reasons. One, I felt it would add a creepy, discomfiting underscore to the subject matter, and two, I was very rusty in my public speaking.

The buzzer went off a couple of lines before I was able to finish. I figured I had taken too long in my delivery. It took me a moment or two, but I also finally noticed the reaction spreading through the small crowd. My poem had set off something of a volatile response. I walked to the bar, taking a seat and making ready to order a drink, and I looked back on the gathering to see what else was happening.

I had not gone up first, but no one else had elicited this type of response. People were chattering, some arguing. The judges, comprised of the owner of the place and some other somewhat randomly appointed people, were listening and then participating. I heard someone say the timekeeper had rung me out too early. This was getting more interesting, and I watched, passively.

The voices became louder, people arguing about the content of my poem, others saying there were no rules against that sort of thing, freedom of speech on all sides, etc., etc. I am not sure how this happened, but the girl doing the timekeeping was one of the most vocal against me. Someone said something about my being brave enough to get up in front of everyone and speak, so if she had so much to say, she needed to get up on stage. She did.

I, of course, don’t remember her exact words, but it was something like this –

She got up there, looking awkward to be in this position. “I don’t know. I didn’t like it. It felt bad against women, and it made me think of having a yeast infection.” Then she babbled and mumbled some more with people challenging her, and she gave another ‘I don’t know’, and she flipped up her skirt and flashed us all her panties.

This blew my mind.

Yes, there were several bad things in my poem that happened to women. There were also bad things that transpired against men. And yet, she punctuated her argument by giving a cheap panty-flash to the audience. This seemed to undercut anything she might be saying in defense of women. My poem was not meant to be anti-female, and I knew that. I just observed, very curious.

My girlfriend at the time (who I would eventually marry, then divorce, but that is an entirely different story) felt compelled to get up and defend me. I am proud that she did. Her response was much more articulate and focused, though she was wrong when she declared why I had written that poem.

I said nothing throughout all of this, and funnily enough, no one asked me anything. The bartender looked at me during it and gave me a supporting comment about good poetry being controversial. Then the judges gave their scores. I received a perfect ten from the owner of the place, and a flat zero from another. No one else the entire night received anything so extreme on either end of the scale.

Needless to say, I did not win, but it was a very interesting, eye-opening experience for me.

Deities & Demigods Cover

I owned one of the original editions of Deities & Demigods. For those not in the know, this is a companion book for the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. It basically provides detailed information on various entities from mythology and more creative fiction, allowing them to be used in the game.

Within the 144 page hardcover book are some great illustrations and interesting information.  I never used any of it in the game, but as a budding aficionado of mythology, fantasy, and speculative fiction, I just enjoyed reading through the entries.  There was information on mythology you’d expect like Greek and Egyptian, along with some you might not expect like American Indian and Central American. And tucked inside all of these appeared listings on the Cthulhu and Melnibonéan Mythos.

It turns out that TSR’s (the publisher) understanding of the copyright on these two intellectual properties may have been a bit off, and the inclusion of their information brought about legal action or the threat thereof. It was all worked out, of course, but subsequent editions saw the removal of those listings, thus making the first edition a more valuable collector’s item.

Of course, back then, I had no idea. I just thought it was a neat book. I also thought skateboarding was neat, so a few years later, when I was saving up for all the parts to build my own board, I decided to offload a bunch of “stuff” in a garage sale. Yes, this book was sold at that sale for some god awfully low price.

It still pains me to this day to have lost that book. I could probably find a used version, and from what I can tell, it is not prohibitively expensive, but I still wish I had my original one.

Lesson learned.

 

I love to leave references in my work, Easter eggs, as it were.  Some of them are much less obvious than others.  The name of one of my protagonists, Lilja Perhonen, is one, a big one.  I also leave clues that are sort of homages to writers that have had a large impact on me.

Take this excerpt from my second book, Sword of the Butterfly:

“Wilbraham?” came the inevitable summons, the professor moving his head around as though in search of whom this may be, though nearly all of the small body of the class had by now been announced.

“Here, sir,” he finally spoke, his voice an odd mixture of deep, gruff, but with a scratch of break, as though of pubescence or merely suffering from some chronic allergy.

“That is a good, old name from England,” Professor Edwards remarked with utmost sincerity, then consulting his list, looking back up, “Pothos? That’s your first name?”

Pothos nodded, slowly, almost laboriously.

“Your parents must also be students of mythology to give you a great name like that,” the instructor carried on, letting his dark, bushy eyebrows rise as though throwing a question mark onto the supposition.

That alludes to what becomes a huge Easter egg.  It also references an experience I had back in college, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to figure that out.  The layers do begin to get a little complicated, and sometimes I forget why I crafted things the way I did.  Still, I think it adds to the journey, and I hope there are those who discover these things and feel the same.

If you’ve read my work and think you have some guessed, please leave a comment.  If you have not, then grab a book and begin the hunt!

My Amazon Author Page

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Whitby After Dark Book Cover

Lenore Lee is a troubled, young girl.  She endures abuse.  As her family has yet again moved to a new place, she opens this tale ready to meet her new school mates.  This progress rapidly from there.  The story proves a very short read that even finds enough room to end with some poetry.

I was stymied by noticeable errors right from the start.  There were even inconsistencies and over-usage of italics.  It made things confusing in some parts but not enough to severely hamper.  What I found more of a challenge was how swiftly things moved and even how oddly characters seemed to act.

The story is an interesting one, charming, positive, and not entirely unlike a fairy tale.  The subject matter at its core is very serious.  The presentation, though, is not.  I felt that the brevity of the novel (55 pages) swept everything through too quickly and neatly.  Things felt to resolve so fast that I wondered that everyone hadn’t already gone through this before, such was their seeming preparedness, adaption, and even sudden ability.  The reader is subject to revelations at a rapid fire pace, and I, for one, was left wanting to know more.

Whitby After Dark (Amazon Link)

Iniquity Book Cover

Darkness has come unto the land.  What is left of earth’s civilization is concentrated into towns, reduced to living a life like that of the middle ages, but this is in the future.  Demons have risen from beneath the surface of the earth and plunged humanity into a serf-like existence where modern comforts are only remembered by the oldest still living.  The demon overlords of each village decide the “destiny” of every woman when she reaches twenty-one years of age.  What befalls Athena, the protagonist, proves unexpected and monumental.

This is the setting for an interesting and personal journey as the tale is told entirely from Athena’s perspective.  She is an inquisitive, stubborn, and practical young woman, and she never strays far from her ultimate goal – somehow restoring the light to the surface and hopefully displacing the despotic rule of the demons.

The story is intriguing and deals not only with these strange situations but also more mundane matters. It is all woven against the overwhelming backdrop of humanity’s new existence beneath its powerful masters.  The story paints a picture of depth, even as it dances with cliché ideas that would be welcome in a fairy tale.  I liked that these tropes were sometimes inverted or presented in a not so clean context.  The tale is not clean; it is, just like life, complicated.

I will confess I grew somewhat impatient during some portions.  The setting pulled me in with wonder as to what had happened and what would befall this poor girl.  Things never calmed for her, but things sometimes felt tiresome.  I will say that this was well indicative of Athena’s plight, though I did feel myself eager to get on with it.

As the story progressed, things changed, alarmingly, and we’re met with another sort of beginning.  It does not take long for everything to become more and more threatening for our unique heroine, and though we are again met with a potential cliché in the end, things are not at all going to be left “happily ever after”.  A tremendous revelation comes to light, and we’re shown how things will be very different and dangerous going forward.  I am eager to continue the story in volume two.

Iniquity, the Ascent, Book One (Amazon link)

Finding Books

Posted: December 4, 2017 in Blog
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Have you ever read a book just for the cover or title?  Have you ever just randomly grabbed a book and decided to read it?  I don’t usually do that.  I tend to over-research when I am looking for something new to buy.  If I don’t go that route, it is usually a recommendation from friends.

One time, though, I was in a large book store (I forget which, but it was a big one like Barnes & Noble), and none of the books on my to-buy list were there.  Rather than leave empty-handed, I decided to look over the spines and pick one that lured me.  I found Noir by K.W. Jeter.  Now, this may illustrate my own failings since before then, I did not even know about K.W. Jeter.  Allow me to apologize for this.  But I saw the title, the aesthetic of the cover, and I thought, ‘if it’s called Noir, it had better be good.’  I figured the author was pretty ballsy to use that title, so I felt it was worth the chance.

It did not disappoint.  I was blown away, and it has become one of my favorite novels.  Not only that, but it obviously led to my learning of Jeter, and I have since gotten more of his works.

I am somewhat cynical when it comes to covers, but I am less so regarding titles.  In my opinion, the titles and cover should be representative of the contents of the story; however, it’s an abstract.  The results of this will vary from person to person.  Some publishers also have control over the cover image, title, blurb, etc. so it may be a less sincere marketing effort.  Of course, we have to glean new readers somehow, right?  Titles and cover art work in that effort.

So, do you ever just randomly pick a book?  If so, how do you make your choice?


Books on Shelf

 

Karma?

Posted: November 9, 2017 in Blog
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I am not much of a believer in karma; however, I did witness an interesting experience once that does give the idea some credence.

Many years ago, and I met a guy at work who had moved from Arkansas. He had family back there, waiting for him to discern if this was a good move, so he was living in an efficiency apartment until he made up his mind. We hit it off and became friends, and in conversation about what he did for entertainment, it came out that he did not do much. Obvious, really, considering he had upended himself and gone alone to a new place just to check out a job prospect. I offered to have him come along with me and some others on an outing to a nightclub we frequented. He agreed.

Just to add some flavor, I will mention that this guy was relatively normal-seeming. This is just my commentary and not judgement. He did become friends with me, after all, so he could not have been that normal. We were headed to Numbers, which is not only Houston’s longest-lived nightclub but also has a reputation for being a bit “different”. I have been going for years, and I feel right at home there.

The guy from my work (let’s call him “Mike”) really took to the place. He loved the music and was really enjoying himself. Let’s just say that there was much dancing and drinking. At one point, he said he had to go to the bathroom. The restrooms at Numbers are notorious, even more so back then than now, so I decided to accompany him. He was clearly tipsy, at least, so I felt compelled to be something of a guide.

The men’s is small, two urinals and three stalls. And the condition is usually horrid. Sometimes, there might be a nice, shallow sheen of liquid waiting in the stall area. You might find other substances in there, too, some ready to go in, others having come out. There might be more than one person stuffed into those stalls. When we showed up, there was a small line of guys waiting, thought a urinal was open. You can imagine why there was a queue for the stalls and available urinals. Mike looked around, a bit confused, and I waved him to the open space.

I killed time, since I didn’t need to use the facilities. Another guy came in, and he balked at the crowd, doing a little jig and declaring he really had to go. He glanced around, then went right for Mike, probably because he was the least threatening or most normal looking in there. I wondered what was going on, so I paid close attention. They exchanged a few words, then Mike finished up and let the guy have the urinal. Apparently, the guy had been so pressed he had cut in line and convinced Mike to pass the torch, as it were, giving him quick access to relief.

We left, and my friend was laughing. He showed me that the guy had slipped him a few bills to ‘buy’ the cut in line. Considering the others were waiting on stalls, this was even more amusing. We got back to the bar, and Mike unfolded the crumbled currency – two one’s and a fifty.

I was shocked. Clearly the guy had not intended to give him $52. I encouraged Mike to go find him. The club was very crowded, so that did not happen. What did happen was Mike managed to somehow lose a lens from his glasses while dancing. We looked around, but that thing had escaped. It cost him fifty dollars.

I am not sure if some bizarre universal sense of fairness invoked its power that evening, but it sure was an odd, interesting, and fun experience.

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Well, we’re almost done with October. Let’s see what we have as we draw toward a close.

22: Publishing Tales – aside from some very rudimentary self-publishing and the occasional feature on a webpage, I did not get published until recently. I submitted queries to a handful of publishers, and before I could even figure out who would be in round two, I was lucky enough to find someone to publish my first novel. Thank you, Optimus Maximus.

23: TBW – To Be Written – I have several irons in the fire, as it were, which is usually the case. Once I complete the third (& likely final) book in my Butterfly series, I have two other novels to work on, probably three, maybe more. The two are vampire related, though they are not connected. Both deal with different ideas of how vampires began. I am looking forward to working on both. The third deals with wizards and dragons, but it is not a typical fantasy tale.

24: RP:Rejection stories – I made a lengthy post on this. You can read it here.

25: Horror Story – I grew up with asthma, horrible asthma. It nearly killed me once. I was in a hospital emergency room, and they were losing me, so they life-flighted me from that hospital to another one more suited to handle such trauma.

26: Scary-Awesome Bloggers – Nicolajayne Taylor, Meghan at  The Gal in the Blue Mask, and Patricia Statham at Books to Curl Up With.

27: Best Writing Candy – if I am going to eat candy while I write, it needs to be some kind of dark chocolate, maybe with ginger or chili in it, but definitely dark chocolate.

28: Book Babies – I don’t know what is meant by this prompt, soooo, I am going to skip it.

And there we are! I’ll wrap up Oct next week and bring us into November. Thank you all for being here, and if you are interested in my writing, please visit my Amazon Author Page for my books.

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I have been doing the #IGWritersOct, which, ironically, is primarily an Instagram thing, but hey, let’s think outside the box. It has been an interesting effort, and today’s prompt is “RIP:Rejection stories”. I have a lot of those.

The first time I ever formally submitted was back in the early 90’s. I was in the throes of basically churning out pages and pages that were deeply derivative of Lovecraft’s work. I will call them weird fiction, but they were really more my finding my own voice within the appreciation of another author.

This was back in the days before the internet, and I was mailing off my submissions to various magazines. I never got published this way, though I came close once. One of them asked me to cut a story down a great deal, and I labored over it, finally getting to the length they wanted only for them to reject it a second time.

I did not submit again until some years later, throwing together a query letter for a novel. I had a copy of the Writer’s Market, if I recall correctly, and this thick, hardbound book set me back a decent amount. I put together many letters, SASE’s (how many people today even know what those are?), and the envelopes upon envelopes I licked. I went to the local post office with stacks of sealed-up hopes. I received letters from most of these, and none of them were successful.

I then tried again some time later with another novel. This one epic, beastly in size (nearly a thousand pages), and I tried sending my queries this time to agents and publishers. As before, I received many replies, mostly all form letters, all rejections.

I let my interest subside. I still wrote, though not as much. It took more than a decade for me to realize I had nearly abandoned a great creative love of my life. I remember driving up to Barnes & Nobles once, and I turned off my car and sat there. I looked at the store, and I thought of all the books in there. None of them were written by me. I felt a wave of depression hit me. My fairly routine desire to go in and find something new to read had fled, and all I could think about was my own lack of publication. I left.

Fortunately, I found new inspiration and wrote my current series (still working on the third). I was lucky enough to find a publisher, and now you can find my books out there if you are so inclined. And I hope you are.