Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Top Ten Reasons 2009 Sucked

Even though Top Ten lists have been scientifically proven to be complete B.S., here is why this last year totally sucked.

10. I had to admit that Daughtry is really good.

9. Despite being thankful to still have a job, the bonuses that make up a considerable part of my compensation package have taken a significant decline.

8. The Wii is broken.

7. I've abandoned more writing projects than I've sold.

6. I haven't spoken to my Dad all year for no reason other than we're both apparently pretty darn lazy.

5. I'm on cholesterol medication number three and I can't tolerate the side effects of it either.

4. I couldn't quite think up enough tidbits from this year to even describe ten ways it sucked.

3. I had a chance to go to Thailand with the Marines but blew it because no one told me I needed a passport until I showed up to get my plane ticket.

2. See Number Four.

1. I lived to regret saying, "If an Obama presidency is the price we have to pay to put the final nail in the coffin of the Clinton Legacy, I can accept that."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

If You Love Star Wars AND Star Trek...

This is then equally funny and thrilling.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Two Good Things

First, my religious historical story has found a home with the new anthology by Residential Aliens creator Lyn Perry. "Such Great Faith" will appear next year in While the Morning Stars Sing. This news made me walk around the house for most of last evening with a mildly pleasant grin on my face. (That's a big deal.)

Second, Rage of the Behemoth got another great review by James Maxey over at IGMS that you should check out. If you haven't gotten your copy yet, shame on you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Writing Lessons From Miserability

While 'miserability' might not be a word, I've re-learned a writing lesson during the crafting of my current dragon story. The first encounter with the dragon went relatively well for the heroes and, after some ominous foreshadowing, they went about their business towards the middle of the story. After a couple of stabs at setting up the middle, I realized my problem was that everything was all sunshine and lollipops for them, with nothing really driving the action to the climax. Even though it meant I had to chuck a major idea that would have been part of the middle, I had to ramp up the tension by changing the end of the previous scene and making their situation a little (and by 'little' I mean 'lot') more difficult. With my characters suitably miserable, the middle is cracking along with some drive and drama. Sucks to be them. But after all, that's what they get paid for.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thespians Come In All Shapes and Sizes

First, Daughter Number One had her theatrical debut in a children's musical this morning. As one of King Herod's courtiers, she joined the rest of the chorus in singing about the wise men and their journey to witness the birth of our Lord and Savior. Great fun.

Second, Son Number Three has been watching all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies for the last few days. Now he is convinced he is Captain Jack Sparrow, complete with pirate sword and pseudo British accent. (He's better with the accent than with the sword, and I've got the bruises to prove it.)

Third, Son Number Two has discovered that if he pretends to be asleep long enough, we'll stop badgering him to come and join us in whatever family outing we've planned and he's protested.

So you see, all the world is but a stage, and we are merely actors playing our parts.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Twelfth Night, or As You Will

Seattle Shakespeare Company has put together one of the best performances of the Bard’s inventory that I have ever seen. Twelfth Night, or As You Will is absolutely fantastic. In fact, it is likely only second to their own production of The Taming of the Shrew. (Set in a Texas trailer park, that play was so good it is unfair to use it as a yardstick for anything shy of Biblical revelation.)

The festivities began with the actors caroling, leading us in song, (cleverly, we were set up as a punch line for later in the performance) and a drama class warm up exercise that eased us all into a comfortable matinee. While Wikipedia assures me that this is a standard pre-play tactic used by Twelfth Night directors across the fruited plain, I had never seen it done before and even managed to enjoy it.

The improbable fiction then unfolded before us with Viola’s eerie entrance and we were off and running. Several items throughout the production need to be highlighted. Visually, the best moment was the very close of the first act. Curio and Valentine, played by Sean Patrick Taylor and Carter Rodriquez, have a ‘dueling banjos’ face off with the guitars that they had been plucking on throughout the afternoon. When they reached the crescendo of their duel, they both looked up at the stage lights and blew them out, with a little help from a perfectly timed fader in the tech booth.

The surprise of the day had to come from John Bogar’s completely over the top portrayal of Malvolio, whose stodgy and proper ways crumble to reveal the lunacy of true love. It is a joy to watch an actor so give himself over to a role that all shame and self consciousness disappear like the thin vapor of decorum that we each cling to, fearing one great gust of wind to reveal us for what we are. Not only that, but his operatic singing voice was staggeringly good. I mean breath takingly, room shakingly, Simon Cowell can kiss my buttingly good. Other notables included the Fool, played by Chris Ensweiler as a mish-mash of Jew and gypsy and Bohemian Port Townsend street peddler, who, as is always the case, was the wisest one on stage. His rendition of ‘heigh-ho, the wind and the rain’ began to delve into theatrical magic to end the show. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, played to comedic perfection by Ray Gonzalez and Darragh Kennan, were some of the best drunken sots I’ve ever seen. (And I’ve been 22 years in the Marine Corps. I’ve seen some drunken sots.)

The funniest part of the play came from the sword fight between Viola and Sir Andrew. Each character, convinced that the other is a master swordsman whereas they need simple direction like ‘Front Toward Enemy’ to even pick up a blade, face each other with a hesitancy that is drawn out to its full effect… and then one step beyond. Curio, who was lurking, just visible, behind the set would wait for them to raise steel and then dramatically strum on his guitar like the soundtrack to a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. Each time he did it the characters would pause and crane their necks to figure out where the music was coming from. Comedy gold.

But the best thing about the performance, by far and away, without question or debate, was Susannah Millonzi. She played Viola with a deftness and subtlety that leave me searching for words I don’t often use, like ‘enchanted’ and ‘enraptured.’ (Like I said, I’ve been 22 years in the Marine Corps. I don’t get enchanted a whole lot.) Her believability came through in every quirk of the eyebrow, every twitch of the fingertip, and every slip of the smile that went from adoration to despair to resolution in the same fleeting instant. It was as if no filter existed between mind and body and she had absorbed Viola’s cause as her own. Whether it was comedy, as in the above crossing of swords, or passion, as she looked upon the unaware Duke Orsino, she was quite simply captivating, in every physical and spiritual aspect that word can be used in. As a matter of fact, she played this part so perfectly that she must forevermore stand like Alexander on the Asian seacoast, weeping for there are no more worlds to conquer.

This is the best Shakespeare you can see on the entire West Coast. (And I can say that because I’ve been to Ashland.) Seattle Shakespeare Company in general, and this production in particular, gets my highest possible rating, given only to those few, those happy few, who over the years have impressed me beyond my already high expectations: They know what the hell they’re doing.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Daggers, Duplicity, and Dragons

Here's a quick update on my latest writing project which will probably be called something like 'Cold Valley' or 'The Valley Deep and Low'. I'm at 2000 words and counting. As always, I have no idea where it will end up. Set in the mid 7th century amongst the clashing cultures in the southwest corner of Anglo-Saxon Britain, it involves a travelling Welsh dragon slayer, some frightened villagers, Christian missionaries, Celtic sorcerers, dark and spooky settings, human sacrifice, some violence... and a dragon.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Thing

There's a DIRECTV call center operator out there somewhere who I need to apologize to. Last year, I signed up for NFL Sunday Ticket through some kind of special deal where it was practically free. All very well and good except that I don't remember anyone saying anything about auto-renewal at full price. So here I am wondering why the TV bill has gone up so much lately and I finally grab a statement and read it. Forty-five bucks a month for NFL games that I haven't watched at all. Yes, I should have recognized this sooner but you see, DIRECTV is very clever with the way they bill you. You get an email every month saying that you have a zero balance. How is this? Because they have already charged your credit card so you have to wait for the credit card statement to get an amount. Wife Number One and Only handles the bills so she doesn't know what I've done or not done regarding the TV. When she finally gets around, through no fault of her own, to mentioning that the TV bill seems awfully high I think that it must be some kind of introductory rate that dropped off. Again, oversight on my part but, I think, encouraged by an intentionally obscure billing system.

All this is to say that I was a little short tempered with the guy who answered the phone when I called in to complain and get Sunday Ticket removed and credited. (OK, maybe I was a lot short tempered when he tried to explain 'company policy.') Now my problem is that I clearly owe him an apology but it's practically impossible to find him and do so. So, DIRECTV phone answering guy, if you're reading this... I'm sorry.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to Fall Off a Barn Roof

This one is surprisingly easy. The first thing you have to do is get an eight year old friend. We'll call him, oh, Kurt. It helps if you're also eight years old but that's not necessary. Then find a barn, preferably an old barn with attached side buildings used to store tack and channel calves through to get them into a trailer for auction. Make sure you can climb up a rickety wooden ladder and get up to the roof of one of the side buildings. The roof should be about twelve feet high.

Once you've secured all this preliminary equipment, get a small tree frog. The tree frog is really the critical part of this sequence of events. Don't skimp on the frog.

Next, take the frog and your friend Kurt up the ladder, walk out onto the roof and set the frog at the edge. The frog will likely do what it is that frogs do. If it doesn't, poke it in the rump with your finger. Lean forward to watch the frog fall.

(I know what you're thinking. But this is not quite the part about falling off the roof yet. Wait for it.)

Squeal with maniacal eight year old glee and swing down to the barnyard on a handy Douglas Fir branch that is perfectly positioned as a method of reaching the ground quickly and safely. Retrieve the frog.

Climb back up on the roof and repeat the process, only this time letting your friend Kurt push the frog. Squeal with glee. Retrieve the frog.

At this point, since it is clearly your turn to make the frog jump off the roof, you should ensure that you are the one to retrieve the frog. Failure to accomplish this simple task will inevitably lead to the following:

Kurt gets the frog and claims that he's going to take your turn. You don't want to believe him but since possession is nine tenths of the law you realize that you could very soon get screwed out of what is rightfully yours. You follow Kurt up onto the roof and see his happy face turn back to you and repeat that he's going to be the one to push the froggie off the roof and that he's apparently going to delight in intentionally stealing your turn. You explain in brief, eight year old language that you disagree with this course of action, but are powerless to do anything about it because you're watching Kurt run away from you across the roof. You chase him.

Here's where things get interesting. You watch Kurt turn his head and check where the edge of the roof is. He then turns back to resume taunting you while still running at a pretty good clip. You follow, still pleading your case but beginning to accept that as he gets closer to the edge it is more likely that he will, in fact, take your turn. At this point your heart begins breaking because you really, really wanted to push the froggie off the roof and Kurt has done stuff like this before so you're really at a loss for what to do and you begin to reevaluate your position in the universe and wonder how God could be so cruel.

Watch, dumbstruck, as Kurt runs right off the roof at full speed. Stop running and go to the edge to see Kurt sprawled out on the dirt, sucking in air for a pretty good cry if he could ever get it out. Swing down, using the quick and safe method described above, and stand helplessly as Kurt flops about like a dying fish. Run to go get the babysitter. Spend the next couple of hours in the Emergency Room, telling this same story to several different people.

And that's how to fall off a barn roof.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CSFF Tour Participants

Some pesky computer issues have been worked out and I've got the list of tour participants for Curse of the Spider King. Since Technorati doesn't count links in a sidebar any more I'm posting them here. It makes more sense anyway because the month to month participation keeps changing. My current plan is to keep adding new people to the blogroll on the right even if they don't take part in the tour every time. That will give the sidebar a semi-historical purpose and continue to allow for inter-month cross posting.

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Tina Kulesa
Melissa Lockcuff
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Nissa
John W. Otte
Cara Powers
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Curse of the Spider King

The CSFF keeps rolling with great titles. This month we feature Curse of the Spider King by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. These two guys are like planets that have been orbiting each other for a while and finally collided in a moon creating sort of way. The excerpts I've read prove that this is a book filled with exactly what a great YA fantasy is supposed to have. Plucky kids, villainous villains, and magic both foul and fair. In the hands (and imaginations) of these two, this book is a sure hit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How to Fall Off a Roof

This last weekend I was putting a roof over the slide-out portion of our trailer. At an altitude of about 8.5 feet I embarked on a journey of discovery that I now relate to you, the huddled masses. I was on top of the slide-out and trying to climb back onto the step ladder by reaching out with my foot and shifting weight onto it. (You know the spot, that tippy top part where there's big red writing DO NOT STAND.) It began to move a little, which I expected, but then began to move a lot, which I didn't expect. When I tried to pull my leg back I realized, like Wile E. Coyote running off the cliff, that my body was too far over the edge and that I had just purchased a one way ticket to the ground. A few decisions had to be made at this point, and made quickly. I could jump for the ladder and hope that it didn't topple over but a brief benefit-cost analysis suggested that I might not like the result of that. I could let my other foot slip off and try to bend back and grab the roofline but there was a lot of plastic sheeting and a not-quite-yet-stable 2x4 frame that I had halfway nailed together and I knew there were a lot of sharp, pointy things in that direction. So, with very few good alternatives available to me, and with the power of gravity frustratingly not following the Warner Brothers acceleration curve, I decided to just go straight down. It is, clearly, the fastest way to resolve the situation. My descent took me past the ladder and thankfully kept any stray arms or legs from getting caught up in the rungs, which would have been bad. On the way down my shoulder got into a test of wills with a small running light on the side of the trailer. The running light put up a valiant effort but in the end was just outmatched. It snapped off and died a heroic death. After that encounter came the 'contact with the ground' part of this story. That event began with my foot, which had forgotten to retract itself from its position of proximate cause and still thought it was reaching for the top of the ladder. My weight came down on it and it did what feet do when asked to support that much stress that quickly: It gave up and let the ankle take it. Stupid foot. By then the rest of me was finishing up the journey begun .372 seconds before. That's when I discovered two things. First, wet and loamy forest ground with a coiled up hose on it is not a bad thing to fall onto. Second, I'm a genius for cleverly arranging random bricks to be 6 to 18 inches away from me rather than directly under me during this event and break a rib or rupture a spleen.

And that's how to fall off a roof.

Friday, November 06, 2009

How Northwesterners Handle the Outdoors

Whether it's hanging out on a windswept, rocky beach or holding your head high when the rain comes sideways, people in the Great Northwest have a unique way of enjoying the natural beauty all around us. Take me and the family last night. Raining at the campsite, check. Temperature around 53 degrees, check. Pop up canopy and parkas, check. The result: Perfect campfire weather!

It's Family Fun Night in Western Washington.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Finished

"The Granite Strand" finally reached its conclusion this morning, clocking in at 17351 words. Now comes the work, of course, of critiques and rewrites and editing and such. But it is always nice to have a completed rough draft to provide the boundaries within which to operate. Until you get to the end you really don't have any definition and can move in any direction that comes to mind. That's how the story grew to the size it is. It will be interesting to see what it becomes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Greetings From Zombieland, Wish You Were Here!

Zombieland is living proof that greatness can be achieved if you set your sights low enough. (Or maybe I should say 'unliving proof'.) I shuffled into the dark with little or no expectations of an amusing next two hours. What I got was a big sack of gore (In a risky diversion from zombie protocol, this movie has the unmentionables going for your intestines more often than your brains. Must be easier to get at since they all seem to have bad teeth.) and a whole lot of laughs. I'd say this movie is done very tongue-in-cheek but the living dead have a noticeable absence of cheeks so it's really more tongue-lolling-between-gnashing-teeth but you get my drift. The characters are awesome and over the top, the CGI zombie mayhem is well done, and Bill Murray plays himself. All in all, a very good movie if you like that sort of thing. Not only that but there are lots of handy pointers on how to survive and thrive in the Zombie Apocalypse, which are surprisingly relevant for today's pre-zombie world. Or maybe... we're not so pre-zombie as we think.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stalking Esterlyn

While this would be a great title for a new thriller/horror/police procedural novel it's actually what me and the family did last night. We packed the little ones into the minivan and drove up to Calvary Chapel Lake Stevens where Esterlyn was stopping for their Open Your Heart Tour. Any time Esterlyn is in the area we usually find a way to go see them. How many times? Well, let's just say I've now noticed that their trademark collection of lamps sitting out all over the stage have seen better days.

It was an excellent evening of worship songs and a message on serving Christ by bringing His word into your everyday life. At least, that was the part of the sermon I heard before Son Number Three got a little fidgity and I had to excuse myself to wander the halls with him. Pastor Bob Caldwell is from Boise and is touring churches with his son who headlines the band. The guy is hilarious and cuts quickly to the Meaning of Life which is glorifying God instead of trying to glorify ourselves.

If the tour ends up in your area it would be a very good idea to do some stalking of your own and see what's going on with them. And stop at the local dollar store to buy them some new lamps.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reviews and the Rogue Blades

Rogue Blades Entertainment gets profiled at Christopher Marshall's blog in November and you should all go there often to see what he has to say. Unless, of course, he says something bad about my stories, in which case you should protest him and stick pins in home made voodoo dolls.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You Can't Take the Sky From Me

While this may be true if you're Malcolm Reynolds, it's apparently not true here in the American reality we've elected ourselves into. Here's an interesting article on the government capping pay for bank executives who lead companies that took TARP money. This should be disturbing to everyone, even those who cheer for the rich to be humbled. Put very simply, when the government is encouraged by the masses to target and punish a minority group (and they actually do it) we are heading down the road to tyranny.

From a liberty standpoint, this move only highlights that when liberty is reduced anywhere, it is reduced everywhere. What happens to the next target of the wrath of the masses? What happens when we run out of minority targets and we start in on other groups within the majority? Eventually, my friends, they will come for you and your salary.

From an economic standpoint, this is national suicide. The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money. We say we'll only tax the rich in order to pay for all these wonderful government handouts. How can we tax the rich when we systematically destroy their wealth? After a time, what's left to tax? Eventually my friends, they will come for you and your income.

It's staggering to me that people are actually applauding this move. They clearly can't see where this is headed. To quote Star Wars: So this is how democracy ends? With thunderous applause?

We live in interesting times.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Haunt of Jackals

This month's CSFF tour brings us the coolest title in a long while. Haunt of Jackals is a new christian horror novel by Eric Wilson. It's the second book in the Jerusalem's Undead trilogy, and the entire premise is amazing. I love the idea of taking some passages within the bible and adding a little what-if to them. Throw in some action and danger written by someone competent, and you got yourself something wonderful.

Here's the list for the rest of the tour:

Brandon Barr
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Nissa
John W. Otte
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher

Monday, October 19, 2009

Marcher Lord Select

This is an interesting new thrust in the publishing world. Marcher Lord Select by Jeff Gerke, the creator of Marcher Lord Press, is a contest to let readers judge and select a book to be published. It's interesting because I think it just might work. When Amazon.com tried something like this I was stunned by the horrid offerings of dreck and drudgery. Reading some of those submissions was just painful. Gerke knows his way around an editor's desk so I'm thinking that the final entrants will be genuinely worth reading.

Here's a bit from the news release:

"Marcher Lord Select is American Idol meets book acquisitions," says publisher Jeff Gerke. "We're presenting upwards of 40 completed manuscripts and letting 'the people' decide which one should be published."

Of course, I have nothing ready to submit even though "The Granite Strand" is over 16,000 words for a total of 47.7K in the saga so far. Right now I'm still content to keep them as individual short stories but I'm seeing possibilities to keep on going. Maybe next year there'll be an MLS II.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Yahoo! Still Sucks

And I can't say that it's growing on me. In fact, the more I try to use it the more I find ways for it to suck worse than it already does. Does anything on the new interface actually work twice in a row or does everyone else get the error message so often that it burns a pattern in your CRT? They must be trying to get into Guinness's for colossal suckism.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I Aim To Misbehave

Recently I watched the movie Serenity for the first time. Then a couple of weeks later I watched it for a second time. Now, thanks to hulu.com, I'm watching the series Firefly. It's something that I'd heard of and knew there was a rabid fanbase for but knew little more than that.

It's frakkin' awesome.

Just about everything in Serenity was perfect. Spaceships, blazin' bullets, swords, humor, darkness and light... it had everything you need. The libertarian in me loved Captain Mal and his instinctive refusal of government control and 'meddling'. The whole story arc of little guys bringing down the system with the truth was fantastic. Characters were real and flawed and heroic. Summer Glau kicked more butt in this movie than she did in the whole series of Terminator.

Me, as a guy who's not crazy about big government (Remember: A government that is big enough to do anything for you, is powerful enough to do anything to you), who bristles at the sight of red light cameras, who shakes his head at the never ending parade of seat belt laws and helmet laws and cell phone laws and smoking laws, and who cries at the sight of people floating down to their local welfare office instead of evacuating the city like they should have loves Malcom's line that is the title of this post. There may very well be a huge and growing government that thinks it has the right and the obligation to control everything I do in the name of what's 'good for me' but my general response to that is...

I aim to misbehave.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Triond: The Cash Flow Juggernaut

Once again Triond has sent me oodles and oodles of residual income. Destined to sustain me for the rest of my life, this month's payment of eighty two pennies is one of the biggest, most rewarding paydays I've yet to pull down with them. You too can be bringing in the copper! Just come up with some clever articles like my Life Lessons From the Marines and let the glorious round metallic windfall shower you with goodness. (I feel like mixing up some fruity drinks with umbrellas in them even though it's 53 and cloudy here.)

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Sequel of Life

After church yesterday I attended the memorial services of a friend's wife, who had been struggling against a degenerative disease for some time. The service was intimate and brief and moving, especially when my friend's daughter stood and told us what a great mom she'd had over the years. It's times like these that make you think about the mortality of your own loved ones. I sit and look around the downstairs play room and wonder what the future holds for everyone that I hold dear.

My friend said something interesting, both sad in a good way and sad in a sad way. He said that life is like reading a book. You're just reading along and turning the pages, enjoying what you have in front of you, and then all of a sudden you turn the page and there's no more writing. You stop and you think, 'Oh. That was it. That was the last page.' In his wife's case he now thinks back, 'Wow, what a good book that was.'

I'm not sure of his or her religious views but I know that, as for me and my house, when the last page is turned and we're all left staring at a blank piece of paper, there's another book sitting on the shelf. Beloved, the sequel of my life has already been written. It just hasn't been released yet. It is rich and full and it's a whole lot longer than volume one. And so I look around the downstairs play room and I'm comforted that God has a plan in place. He has the next book of my life tucked under his arm and He is waiting for just the right time to hand it over. That's a good feeling to have. I pray that all of you feel the same way.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

It Ain't Shakespeare

Bang! Zoom! Heroic Fantasy Quarterly does it again with three powerful stories that lovers of powerful stories will love. The Hand of Afaz is a tale of delivering justice no matter where it takes you, easily one of the best stories I've read in years. Monster in the Mountains, whose title is also its plot, is tough and gritty and would have been a great addition to Rage of the Behemoth. The Waking of Angantyr has a plot of revenge and ghosts and blood magic and hot chicks with magic swords; all the things that make for a rousing tale that not even the Bard could have come up with.

The editors of HFQ have not missed their stride at all with this sophomore edition and I think we have nothing but good things to see from them in the future.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rekindling Old Flames

Years ago I ran the sound board for my church at the time, Pacific Church of Irvine. It was a time of rapid set up and tear down, sound checks while tuning up, and Lance Brown having more hair. Then we left active duty Marine Corps life, moved a few times, and ended up back in Washington. We've been going to our current church, Calvary Fellowship, for about 9 years and I've finally decided to volunteer for the sound board again. My, how technology has changed.

They have a completely digital board with switches, buttons, and doo-dads that have a different function depending on what mode the little touch screen has up. They have wireless whatchamathingies and matrices and mixes and on and on and on. While I love the art of sound mixing and the curious route of troubleshooting that are staples in the field, I'm a little overwhelmed by the knobology. I suppose gone are the days of on and off; gain and volume; low, mid and high. Still, I get to listen to the worship sets twice and that's a good thing. Plus, it's just fun. And if you're not having fun, you're missing the stinkin' boat.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Vanishing Sculptor

On the bookshelf for the CSFF this month is The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul. It belongs to the same world as her DragonKeepers series but is not truly connected so it is a great place for new readers to start. If you're able to dive into a fantasy story and pick up the background story as you move along, you should have no problems with this book. Mrs. Paul has been publishing for a while now and knows how to tell a good tale so those reading in the Christian fantasy genre will enjoy this.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Has Beens and the Haze of History

I was driving past the Emerald Queen Casino yesterday and saw the marquee trying to distract me from the importance of driving at a high rate of speed. Let it be known to all the land that Billy Squier is headlining soon and all are invited to attend. I had to think for a moment. Billy Squier? Didn't he have like one hit song back in the mid 80's? What the heck is he still doing around and why on Earth should he rate such advertising glory? Then, of course, I realized that with so many entertainment outlets sprouting up all over the country, they need entertainers to fill them with. This is an odd phenomenon. I seem to remember not liking the one song that he had on the radio but now I'm to believe that he was some kind of 80's rock god. It's very interesting to see what a few years and a few cloudy memories will produce.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Granite Strand Report

"The Granite Strand" has recrossed the 10,000 word mark (again) as I re-craft the ending to be moodier and more dramatic. What better way to do this than turn an otherwise sunny day for the characters into a dark and stormy night. Lightning! Explosions! Squished peripheral characters! It's turning out to be a much better tale this way.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Good Review for Thunder Canyon

Yay! Rage of the Behemoth got a good review from The Cimmerian and Thunder Canyon was mentioned positively which would make me do a happy dance if I was the type that did happy dances. Since I'm not, I'll just have to type 'yay!' again. I loved the complaint about the name of my bad guy, Skurge. In truth, I couldn't think of a name while I was typing so I went with an old place holder that I've used before. Then I kind of liked it so I let it stay. Oh well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Offworld by Robin Parrish

This month the CSFF is highlighting Offworld by Robin Parrish. Parrish is a solid and dependable writer who once again delivers up an intriguing tale. In the near future a group of astronauts return to earth to find everyone gone. Completely. This is the sort of bizarre, Twilight Zone twist that I love. Fascinating and well reviewed, if you're a sci-fi mystery type of reader this is a book you should read.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Facebook: The Un-Great Equalizer

I figured out what my problem is with Facebook. (Other than that most of it is just inane.) In Facebookland everyone is a 'friend' and we're all very friendly doing friendly things. My problem is that I don't have or want that same relationship with everyone in my life. I move through different worlds. There is the work world, the Marine Corps world, the church world, the writing world, and the friends & family world. They all require different sides of me and they are not interchangeable. Shoot, even my friends and family have different relationships with me; my children are different in status than my parents, etc. There are things that I do and ways that I act that my boss and my commanding officer do not need to see. There are exchanges between friends that my Marines and my employees do not need to see. We are not all equal.

Of course, you say, just limit the friends you have on Facebook. What's the problem? OK, you turn down your boss's friend request three times and see what happens next evaluation season. Teh internets are changing our society in ways that aren't fully understood yet and I'm not so sure I like the change.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Granite Strand Undergoes Massive Rewrite

"The Granite Strand", story four in the ongoing saga of Rath and Cairrg, had been developing weakly and had sputtered to a stop. Now, with the help of my critique group's comments on story number three in the series, I've gotten the ideas and impetus to make major changes. Characters are coming together, the scene list for the remainder of the story is firming up, and I'm going back over the whole thing to give it a darker feel. Of course, this necessitated the chopping of a thousand words or so but they will be replaced with better words so all is well.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Writing Lessons From Errant Kitchen Knives

The other day I had a run in with the wrong end of a chef's knife. It started to slip out of my hand and like an idiot I whipped my other hand up to grab it. The resulting slash across the side of one of my fingers (which strangely ended up in a cool looking Z shape) bled more than any other cut I can remember. I mean, blood was literally pouring out of it in a steady stream. It took all day of clamping down on it with a dish towel before the bleeding slowed enough to put a regular Band-Aid on it. So that made me think about all the grievous wounds I regularly apply to characters I write about. While I try to be a bit more realistic in my injuries and try to stay away from John McClane style bloodshed, I still write about people who get banged up a great deal. Now I think I may have to tone it down even further and get more mileage out of the real ramifications of open wounds that just keep bleeding and reopening.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

New Yahoo! Sucks

Just so you know, the new version of the Yahoo! home page looks horrible. Consider this a public service announcement.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Some Raging Reviews

I've been a little remiss in my duties as an owner of Rage of the Behemoth. Since I've already read most of the stories in it, I've let it sit aside for a while. Here are some of my opinions. "Black Water" by Sean T.M. Stiennon is just as good as I remembered it. An excellent father-son story with a very unique hero. "Passion of the Storm Lord" by Robert A. Mancebo is very well written with an Arabian flair and a chillingly portrayed Djinn. "The Beast in the Lake" by Kevin Lumly is the most interesting to read so far because it is the most changed from when I first encountered it. The main character has been completely changed both in name and in motivation. The setting and the climactic fight have been altered. All these changes have tightened up and improved the final product.

The book charges on and I shall give more of my impressions later.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Hello, My Name Is Inigo Montoya. You Killed My Father. Prepare to Die.

Just saw The Princess Bride this evening and it was better even than I remembered it. The movie has moved up several notches on my top-ten-movies-of-all-time list. A story of true love, violent revenge, swords, flaming swamps, and rodents of unusual size... what's not to like? Since it's been fifteen some years since I saw it last I was particularly taken by how it followed the hero's journey while Wesley fought to regain his true love, Princess Buttercup. The tests and trials, the allies and threshold guardians, death and rebirth. It is a marvelously told tale all the way around and everyone should be so lucky as to see it every few years or so.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Starting Off

Well, "Dead Debutantes" has its first 600 words on paper (or otherwise fixed in a copyrightable format) and I've come to the first change and the first decision point. First, our protagonist's name needs to be changed because it's too similar to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It will likely be changed to Jeremiah Grey. I've also got two ideas for the plot that unfortunately seem to be at logical odds with each other. So for now, I'm heading in one direction because it holds the most promise for a fun story. And instead of an entire ballroom of dead bodies there is only a medium sized sunroom with a dozen debutantes in two dozen pieces.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dead Debutantes

No sooner than did I mention publicly that I've had no meaningful creative inspiration didst such spark upon me arrive. I've come up with another potential story that I'd like to write called "Dead Debutantes". It's amazing what your mind can come up with while listening to the radio on a drive through Redmond, WA. The scene opens with the wholesale slaughter of an entire debutante ball in England, circa 1600. Gruesome, yes, but necessary to introduce the protagonist, a one Mr. Jonathon Grey. He presents himself as an investigator of the peculiar and unusual and sets about solving the crime. Very soon, though, we realize that Mr. Grey has an agenda of his own and the successful resolution of the murders is entirely secondary to his main goal.

Many things are still swirling through my brain on this and I'm in the process of knocking ideas around and seeing which ones are keepers and which ones need to recede into obscurity.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Haven't Been Doing Anything

Normally I come along from time to time with word counts on my latest story or clever descriptions of things I've read or places I've gone or maybe regale you with a witty observation on the human condition. I have none of that for you now.

Truth is, I haven't done much of anything the last few weeks except play Medieval II: Total War, which has taken the place of Civilization IV. I haven't written much if anything at all. I haven't gone anywhere exciting like Korea or Hawaii. Looking back, life has been pretty much a long drawn out episode of regularity. I'm not even sure I can come up with a snappy ending to this blog post.

(Thinking... thinking...)

Nope, can't even do that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Enclave by Karen Hancock

This month the CSFF brings you The Enclave by Karen Hancock. It's a science thriller (if there is such a genre) with a Christian perspective and Karen is growing as a respected writer so you should make the effort to check it out.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Shakespeare and the Glory of White Trash

Saw a version of The Taming of the Shrew last night by the Seattle Shakespeare Company. We've seen several of their productions and always enjoy them. They pick non-traditional settings as a backdrop for the plays, a modern, Yugoslavia style war zone for Romeo and Juliet, a 50's Chicagoland gangster supper club for A Midsummer Night's Dream, and this time they really hit a home run by setting Shrew in a trashy southern trailer park. Shakespearian dialogue delivered in hillbilly drawl is hilarious. The whole thing was brought together by the juxtaposition of the run down trailer park and the talk of fancy estates and large dowries. You see, true white trash have a delusional sense of self importance and that was played to the hilt. The part where Petruchio finally brings a meal to Katherine has the actors scrambling over a box of KFC chicken, considered by many of the trailer park set to be 'fine dining.' And when Petruchio delivers the line, "Come on, kiss me Kate!" while wearing a dirty white T-shirt, raggy jeans, a John Deere ball cap, and a cheap beer in his hand it takes on a whole new dimension. It was masterfully done and if you're in Seattle you should find a way to see them.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bad Review Up On Tangent

I was very glad to see the folks at Tangent get back into the swing of things because they are a vital part of the short fiction scene. I was still glad when they reviewed "The Witch of the Westmoors" in Abandoned Towers #3. The review is generally negative, with the reviewer expressing disappointment at my failure to really bring them into the story. What can I say, it was a flash fiction piece and I struggled to get it in under 1000 words. Not a lot of room for world building. But as a wise man once said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

File this under 'Not So Good Things For July.'

Thursday, July 09, 2009

More on the Clarion West Reading

There were other interesting things about this author reading than just the audience. (One was the shockingly high price of textbooks, but that's not relevant right now.) The most important one is that it confirmed in my mind that written fiction is meant to be read to oneself and not heard by someone reading aloud. This has nothing to do with the goodness or badness of the piece that Bear read from. What I'm talking about is the way we internally pronounce things as we read, the way our internal cadence and rhythm develops, the voices and accents that we assign to characters. You know, all the stuff that we do to fill in the blanks and really enmesh ourselves in the fiction. This cannot come across during a reading unless the author is also an excellent actor.

This brings me to the next point. A reading, to me, seems to depend on a reader's performance capabilities and less on their ability to write well. You've heard it said that the best actor can make the worst dreck ever written sound good. That's probably true in every case except Eragon. The thing is, reading out loud tends to pull someone involuntarily into performing the piece instead of just reading it. That seems to distract from everything. It distracts from the author's written work, which is visual in nature and we cannot see the paragraph breaks and interrupted dialogue and other clues that writers give to readers so that they can understand better. It also distracts from my internalizing the piece and living vicariously through the protagonist because I'm more intent on watching the reader than reading it myself.

All this leads me to believe that there must be another purpose beyond the enjoyment of fiction that lurks behind author events and readings. Not that they are bad, because I had fun and enjoyed it, but they just must have a different reason for being.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Clarion West Author Event: Elizabeth Bear

Tonight I entered the Special World of the Seattle Literary Community by attending a reading by Elizabeth Bear at the University Bookstore next to UW. It was the first author reading I've ever attended and it was right in line with expectations. There was a large crowd that necessitated the moving of bookshelves and addition of seating; I was lodged semi-comfortably in the back row with my head brushing against stacks of books.

To my left was a young lady who had an outgoing and expressive personality of the kind that one immediately finds enjoyable but would likely wear thin on a cross country trip in a station wagon. She was, however, fun to trade witty rejoinders with. On my right was another young lady who sat down with a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I, of course, being the sophisticated and cultured individual I am, immediately exclaimed, "Wow, that's like the coolest book!" I then went on to gush about just how cool it was with all its dagger wielding pleasantries and brain munching goodness.

The rest of the crowd was about what you'd expect at a Seattle literary event. Lots of sweaters, beards, and piercings. People with oddly dyed hair who knew more about The Shadow Unit then I could ever hope to. A guy who looked like he lived in his mother's basement claiming that he hated science fiction that treated the audience like a guy who lived in his mother's basement. In all, I'd say the crowd was a fifty-fifty split between Normals and Angsty Urbanites.

I would have stayed longer to chat and stalk some other people I know only through the blogosphere, like Jordan Lapp and Cat Rambo, but I had to return to the Ordinary World of messy diapers, dirty dishes, and tunafish sandwiches for dinner.

(More on the literariness of the event in a later post.)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Something Else Good About July

I've been waiting to see the opening salvo from Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and now that it's here I have to say I'm impressed. There are three very strong stories offered in their first issue. "The Black Flowers of Sevan" has a couple of great characters, the dialogue is perfect, and the story resolves nicely. Speaking of clever resolutions, you'll love the story of the Dragon Slayer in "Man of Moldania." Then wrap it all up with an intriguing tale of betrayal, revenge, and sorcery most foul in "Beyond the Lizard Gate." The editors sought to bring us a hard hitting collection of heroic fantasy and I think they have a smashing success.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Good Things for July

Not only has Rage of the Behemoth hit the stands but 1 July is also the official publication date for Abandoned Towers #3 which includes my story "The Witch of the Westmoors." That, coupled with the fact that the Mariners are above .500, starts July on a very positive note.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rage of the Behemoth

Rage of the Behemoth is available for the eagerly awaiting public. I am absolutely thrilled to finally see it hit the shelves after being a part of its creation for the past nine months or so. Verily I say unto thee, this is a rock 'em sock 'em collection of bruising, bashing, slamming, and smashing! Bone crunching blows and spine rattling bellows! Blood! Flying body parts! And yet, a tender side. All this and more!!

You need to get a copy. Now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vanish by Tom Pawlik

This month's CSFF book is Vanish by Tom Pawlik. It is the first book in a series and the second book, Valley of the Shadow, has just been released. These look like impressive entries into the growing field of Christian suspense, which has the chilling spookiness of good horror without the offensive tendencies.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies II

I actually had time during lunch to stop by B&N and read some of this today. Abso-freakin'-lutely hilarious! Seth Grahame-Smith is a genius when it come to interweaving the new 'ultraviolent zombie content' with the original text. Take these two first lines:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."

But that's just to get us started, in the pages that follow are reference upon reference to musket cleaning, dagger sharpening, the warrior code (as when Elizabeth, marginally insulted by the aloof Mr. Darcy, reaches for the dagger under her dress and follows him with intent to open his throat) and ballrooms suddenly aflutter with the calamity of party crashing unmentionables who promptly seized and feasted upon those guests unlucky enough to be too near the windows. And after said party the original text reads:

"The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice..."

Undaunted by the enormity of the balancing act he must perform, Grahame-Smith simply adds to the beginning, "Other than the dreadful attack," Masterful!

(Added bonus: I hear that later on in the book there are ninjas!)

You must read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

River of Bones v3.0

"River of Bones" has received another work through and now stands at 14,400 words. It's still the longest thing I've ever written and the whole collection of connected stories is almost at 40K. I've added a scene and smoothed out some unclear parts and tried to bring the whole thing together. That was one of the problems I was facing with something so long; I could never find the uninterrupted four hours that it takes to read it and make corrections. Without that kind of concentrated effort, I was always forgetting where I had put a certain bit of information or key revelation. That kept screwing up my continuity as I tried to rewrite a scene only to forget what the characters knew at any given time. When you get little bits of writing time, a half hour here, forty-five minutes there, keeping your thoughts straight gets difficult. But I've got it in what I would call the penultimate draft form and it does not need any more work plot-wise. From here on out I'll just be working on fluid sounding prose. Version 4.0 should be the last.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

For the last few years or so I've been increasingly aware of a whole sub-genre of sci-fi/fantasy fiction about our newest demographic minority: Undead-Americans. Of course, that's the way they want it. Regular people must remain clueless about their amazingly high reproductive rate and the coming Zombie Apocalypse for as long as possible. Not only does it guarantee success by creeping past the point of no return while we watch Dancing With The Stars, it sells more books. I mean, who wants to read zombie fiction when you can simply look out your hastily fortified windows at a poorly dressed, unhygienic horde that's just sniffed out your sweet, sweet brains?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fighting Roars

Son Number Three toddled out to see me off the other morning. I got him a juice cup and laid out a handful of dry cereal on a plastic plate and went about gathering up my stuff. He followed me down to the front door and asked where I was going.

"Well, I'm going to work, little boy."

"You going to work?" he asked. "Why?"

"Because I've got to go to work, little one. The family needs me to."

"Are you fighting roars?"

In our house, monsters and spooky things and everything else that's out to get you and eat you and destroy you are called 'roars.' He looked up at me and took a couple of sips.

I stared down into his innocent eyes and thought about all the future dreams and successes that I pray he'll have. It only took me a second to answer.

"Yes, little boy, that's exactly what I'm doing"

Monday, June 08, 2009

Come With Me If You Want to Live

Terminator: Salvation is a great sci-fi action movie. I'm not sure it's a great Terminator movie but that's not relevant right now. One of the things that has become part of many continuing movie series is great bits of dialogue that show up again and again. Like in T4, John Connor has the "I'll be back" line. Star Wars of course has "May the Force be with you" but it also has "I have a bad feeling about this." In the same way, Star Trek has "Are you out of your Vulcan mind?" These lines are ways to connect the movies in the minds of people who've seen the others.

I'm thinking now of how to do that in the stories I'm writing. Maybe put in some bit that keeps happening or some other continuing inside information. Of course, with my stories the line most likely to be used is "Hulk smash!"

Friday, June 05, 2009

How to Start a Story

Long time readers will know I'm a fan of The Dresden Files, the books about the wizard Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher. These things are quick, fun to read, and have a way of growing on you. Harry is a character who does the right thing no matter what gets in his way and no matter how likely it is that he will not survive. And he grumbles about it the whole time. Anyhow, the books always start right in the middle of the action and the reader just has to catch up. This is something that I've consciously tried to get better at over the last couple of years. I particularly loved the way book 6, Blood Rites, opens with the following first line: The building was on fire and it wasn't my fault. Right away you know that Harry's in the thick of it and he spends the rest of the chapter running from purple flaming monkey demons. That's the way to start a story.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Feorhmaegan Flies

Like an arrow from the mighty Sagittarius, Othren's latest tale of Pecht smashing goodness is on its way to the publishing world. When it resounds with a solid and satisfying thunk into the grey matter of a particular editor I'll let you know. Until then, continue to mill about smartly.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Title Decision II

The title I've finally decided on for Othren's origin story is "The Feorhmaegan." Here's how I arrived at that.

The world Oth lives in is a pseudo Celtic-Gaelic mishmash of non-researched images and notions that I've essentially made up out of whole cloth. The prize he's searching for in the story is the power over life and death. So I start with an Old English online translator and find words for life, death, and power. The coolest sounding word for life was 'feorh'. That was a keeper. Death was a little different, I came up with something like 'leger'. That wasn't nearly as cool. Power gave me a few possibilities like 'miht' (which we get 'might' from), 'weald' (which has all kinds of compound words in Old English), and 'maegan' (which means 'authority'). So here's the brainstorming list that I scratched out, trying to see what I could make of all this. Imagine these words in a cloud like pattern on the top half of a scratch pad. The bottom half has a list of stuff to buy at Costco but that's not relevant right now.

Mih
Mithfeorlek
Mihtfeorlekh
Feorlegh
Feorhlekhmith
Mihtfeorlegere
Feorhleger
Feorlegweald
Onwealdfeorh
Maeganfeorh
Feorhmaegan

After mulling these over for a while I settled on the Feorhmaegan as the name of the macguffin and also the title. It doesn't quite line up with the other two stories in the series, The Battle of Raven Kill and The Witch of the Westmoors, but I like it. It also sets up the ongoing struggle between good and evil that I think the series will bend towards. But to understand that you'll have to read it.

Which means I've got to start sending it out for publication. On to Ralan!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Physician, Heal Thyself

An interesting thing happened when my writer's group got hold of the newly finished tale of Othren Four-Scars. They pointed out a few places where the language in the story was too modern. This is interesting because that's something I can usually pick up on very quickly when I'm reviewing someone else's work. So I looked back through it and sure enough, I've got a few lines in there that display a certain modern sensibility that would be absent an iron age warrior who routinely clubs his enemies to death.

So now the story is molding itself into second draft form and I can hopefully get it sent out. Of course, before I do that I have to come up with a better title. The working title is currently "The Valley of Eternal Shadow" but, as a friend pointed out, that sounds like every other heroic fantasy piece. I may have to resort to some random Wiki and Google searches to come up with something cool and ancient sounding. It won't be the first time and it won't be the last.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Witch of the Westmoors Lives

I received the .pdf version of Abandoned Towers #3 and my second story set in the world of Raven Kill is alive and well. Scheduled release date is 1 July 2009 and I know you will want to buy multiple copies. (At 1000 words you won't be able to line your bird cages with it if you don't.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuck Reviewed

Tuck is the continuation of the King Raven Trilogy, a retelling of the legend of Robin Hood. It sums up the fight that Rhi Bran has been engaged in since the early pages of Hood. It also cleverly explains how the Welsh legend got himself transferred to the woods nearby Nottingham in later tellings. In short, I really enjoyed this book. The writing is clear and compelling, the story resonates with all the trappings of the hero's journey, and the characters are deeply drawn. You root for Rhi Bran and his quest to correct the injustice stemming from his father's death. The princeling who began as a self absorbed cad becomes a leader of men and a true hero. In all, the series is both a clever retelling of the legend and a great story in its own right.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuck

The CSFF is promoting Tuck by Stephen Lawhead this month. I absolutely love this series but I am pressed for time so the review will come tomorrow.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Speaking of Othren Four-Scars...

Finished the new story on his origin over the weekend. I also figured out what the macguffin was and of course there is a good deal of rewriting that I have to do. As is typical, I get new ideas as I go along and usually just write them in as if they've been there all the time. Anyhow, it came out at more than 6000 words and will likely remain about there. Now to think about where to submit it...

Friday, May 15, 2009

What Can You Do

I was talking to some friends yesterday about the stories I'm working on now. When I said I was working on another story about Oth from Return of the Sword one of my friends looked at me sort of puzzled like. "Didn't he die?" I scrunched up my eyebrows. "No, he didn't die. He's immortal. He gets to choose the moment of his death." My friend didn't seem convinced. "I thought he staggered off and closed his eyes like he was dead." I pondered on this for a moment. "No, I'm pretty sure I remember what I wrote and he just sat down at the rock." That was when my other friend chimed in and said that he thought Oth died as well.

So today I pulled the story up and printed off the last page for them. It's quite clear that he does not die. Just another example of writers writing one thing and readers reading another.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Interesting and Timely Review

This review from The Cimmerian comes out at an interesting time:

“The Battle of Raven Kill” is a last-stand story from Jeff Draper that, despite some weak points background-wise, ends with some satisfyingly defiant bloody glory reminiscent of “The Valley of the Worm” and “The Children of the Night.”

The 'weak points background-wise' were due to trying to maintain Oth's immortality as a secret until the end. That's exactly what I'm trying to explain now in the new story.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Walking on Shifting Sands

Well, the last week has been marked by mounting frustration over the direction of "The Granite Strand." As I said before, I've got a lot of moving parts and they are not meshing together as neatly as I'd like. Most of the difficulty lies in me not having a clear idea of what the motivations are for two key characters. One is very key and I will have to come up with something and the other is not so key and I will have to decide if I want to keep him. Decisions, decisions.

On the other hand, the new Oth story has progressed solidly into the middle with a blast of action and I'm pretty sure I know how to slide into the ending. That's encouraging. Still haven't thought of what the Important Thing is so for now I'm still just typing [macguffin]. Something will come to me. It always does.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thunder Canyon Reviewed

While Rage of the Behemoth will not see print until June 1st, the advance reviews have started to come in. John Ottinger is first up with a review at Grasping For the Wind. Here is what he has to say about Thunder Canyon:

"Thunder Canyon" brings monster and man together against something much more evil. The hero Rath is seeking revenge for the death of his lost love, in a very Braveheart fashion, though with a more positive ending. Draper writes a good tale of friends found and revenge taken.

It's always nice to get positive reviews, especially because I really like this story. I tried to capture the essence of that old Klingon proverb, 'Revenge is a dish best served with an 8" blade through the throat.' (Or something like that.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Difficult POV

The final clashes in "The Granite Strand" are an interesting mix. The party splits into three operational units and each has their action happening at the same time as all the others. In that way, it's sort of like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. One of the POV characters is not human and has amazing powers of accurate perception. This provides some POV challenges to the writer. The character can see, hear, feel, and sense all kinds of things at once, process those inputs, and rapidly come to a decision much faster than a human can. The trick is how to write it. If I list everything that he's able to do, the pages would go on and on while describing only a few seconds of a fight scene. What's normal for him is overwhelming for us. So my idea of really getting inside this character's head, for the first time in the series, might have to be scrapped in favor of a smoother narrative. Maybe the rewrite will provide some insight but for now, I'm not sure how well it works. Of course, I could just blaze ahead with whatever idea comes to mind, heedless of any reasonable restraint or justifiable plot devices. In that way, it would be exactly like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Roping the Wind

Several irons in the fire for me at this time. "River of Bones" has received some critiques and is getting molded into its final form. "Broken Rocks" is next up for my writing group and it needs to go from rough draft to first draft. "The Granite Strand" had some new words added to it this morning; it's up to 9000 and rocking and rolling through the climax. The origin story for Othren Four-Scars is percolating along at about 1500 words and I'm still in development mode with that one. We also have two family functions this weekend on Friday and Saturday nights that we have to prepare for. (Or rather, Wife Number One and Only prepares for while I make my best attempt at looking busy.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blaggard's Moon

This month the CSFF brings you Blaggard's Moon by George Bryan Polivka. Not only will you be blown away by the cover but the writing is top notch too. You got to love a story that starts out with a main character who's unconcerned about being tied to a post suspended above a seaside lagoon. 'The piranha, now, they were somewhat vexing.' That's good stuff. And a great way to start a book.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Facebook: The Black Hole of the Digital Age

Nothing can escape the gravitational attraction of Facebook. Not my family, not my friends, not my professional contacts, not some random guy I might have spoken to while buying a Coke from the local 7-11. Despite my best efforts to engage Ludicrous Speed and escape the inevitable I have slowly been sucked into the vortex. Just in the last few days I've been bombarded by friend requests. While I politely agree to them, I can feel the overload of superfluous information beginning to crush me already. Please. I love you all but I don't need to have that much contact 24/7. (Don't even get me started on Twitter.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Triond: Big Money, Hot Cash, Massive Income

After checking my Triond account for the first time in a few months I've discovered that they've upgraded the dashboard and made it easier to see which of my Life Lessons From the Marines articles are being viewed and how much money they've made. Two amazing things came of this. First, I'm up to about seven bucks now in total income over the last two years. Maybe I'll celebrate by throwing all that money on the floor and rolling around in it. Second, one of my articles has amassed nearly 1900 views in all. It's way above the hit rate for all the others. Not sure how it happened but it can be seen here: Improvise, Adapt, & Overcome. Other crowd favorites are The Nature of War (Life) and Combined Arms. If you'd like to unscrew your life then I highly suggest you read them all. (And share them with everybody who's life is a pathetic mess.) The link can be found over on the right.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Othren Four-Scars and the Search for the MacGuffin

The new story about Oth from The Battle of Raven Kill is at 1300 words and has some interesting developments. First, I've decided to use his full name which I didn't do in RotS. In this story he's younger and a bit more full of himself. The name denotes skill and cunning and he wants everyone to know it. (Since William S. Preston, Esquire, had already been done, I went with the idea I'd had before but never used.) Second, I launched into the story not knowing what the quest object was. Usually I'll get to the point in the tale where some kind of goal needs to be revealed and sit back until I think of a cool sounding name. When nothing came to me I just typed [macguffin] and moved along. I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've actually written a story that way. Many thanks to Alfred Hitchcock for giving us a more interesting way to refer to The Thing That Drives The Plot.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another Story Started

I had an idea that seemed to be coming to fruition so I've started another story at the same time I'm finishing The Granite Strand. Ever since I wrote The Battle of Raven Kill I've been thinking about how the protagonist got his immortality. The follow up flash fiction piece goes into it a little bit but I knew I really wanted to write an origin story and that wasn't it. So over the last week or so the images have really gelled in my mind and I knew it was time to start typing. More updates will of course follow when I have more to update about.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Generation E

So I'm downstairs listening to my kids and I realize they are forming The E Generation. Then I whip on some Google Fu and find that I have not coined a new phrase. While there may be a few different definitions to it, I believe it stands for The 'Entertained' Generation. These people cannot go five minutes without some kind of Thing (usually electronic) to occupy their grey matter. It's a constant need for diversion and it is a little bit troubling. Now, granted I am seldom more than ten feet away from my laptop but there was still a day where I was perfectly content to sit and stare at nothing. (As a matter of fact, I still do this quite often while waiting at gate S9 in the SeaTac Airport.) They cannot seem to do that. Car trips are becoming absolute misery with incessant caterwauling about not being able to play Roblox or Guitar Hero IV. What's staggering is that Son Number Three can now navigate around on the Wii using the wireless controller. I swear there are times when I want to throw my gladius against the arena wall and shout, "Are you not entertained?"

But then the kids would likely just say, "Cool, do it again!"

Monday, April 06, 2009

How Writers View the World

The other night I was catching up on the Terminator episodes that were recorded while I was gone. There was a great shot at the end of one that had John Connor sitting quietly on the couch between his mother and the hot Terminator babe that his future self reprogrammed and sent back through time to protect his past self. (For those that don't know the premise of Terminator: In the future, machines destroy almost all life on Earth. John Connor inspires the remnants of humanity to fight back and win. The machines discover time travel and send human looking Terminator cyborgs back to both kill young John Connor and ensure their own creation. John's mother, Sarah, has to keep him alive and train him to lead the future resistance.) The episode we'd just seen was a fairly intense one and the conflict between Sarah and the Terminator is brewing. I looked at the way that last shot was filmed and chuckled to myself. "He's caught between the two of them," I said. "One's teaching him to be human, the other's teaching him to be a machine. And you're not really sure which is doing which."

Wife Number One and Only rolled her eyes and said, "Some people just watch a TV show without coming up with all kinds of elaborations." She shook her head and muttered, "Writers."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Clash of Rogue Steel

Now that Rage of the Behemoth is on final approach and solid in the glide path, RBE has made this announcement about their next project. It's a new series of anthologies in a more direct relation to sword & sorcery of old. That leads to an interesting discussion on the genre.

Fantasy has very broad horizons. The average bloke on the street immediately says, "Oh. Like Lord of the Rings type stuff?" (To which it is easiest to respond, "Yeah, exactly like that." Otherwise if you keep talking you reveal 2d8 Geek Points per round.) But we all know there are differences amongst fantasy's various tentacles. The two on display at RBE right now are heroic fantasy and sword & sorcery. Both have standard fantasy trappings: the existence of magic, action oriented plots, and pre-industrial, pseudo-medieval technology. They can be hard to tell apart. I think the difference is in the protagonist.

A typical S&S hero goes through little or no transformation. They do what they do without much deeper meaning to it. Kick down the door, slash open the bad guy, now where's my beer kind of thing. The typical heroic fantasy protagonist usually has a personal transformative arc that carries him or her along. Reasons and motivations are explored and fulfilled. You could say that heroic fantasy is the thinking person's S&S. (Further up the genre chain is epic fantasy, in which several major characters on their own arcs move through a larger world with larger stakes and create an overall societal arc to the story, but that's not relevant right now.)

So best of luck to Rogue Blades Entertainment on these endeavors.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Me. For over two and a half friggin' hours. I, like a lot of people, left the theatre thinking, "What the heck did I just see?" It's not that it was a bad movie, in fact it was very good, it's just that it was a bit confusing. Right when you thought you knew where the thing was going, it would veer off and spend fifteen minutes exploring some other plot line. Thinking back on it, the movie was really a twenty hour mini-series crammed into a time frame that would allow two showings a night.

The characters are fascinating, the violence is brutal, the special effects are seamlessly integrated into the story, and there are plenty of cultural references for those of us who came of age during the 80's. (Like when the bad guy is explaining his motivations, the elevator music in the background is "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears.) Of particular interest to me was the episodic storytelling style which relates to the stories I'm writing. Each new event that occurs in the movie has some kind of tie-in to previous events and leads to some new event, all while remaining separate. That's the thing I'm trying to capture while still driving towards a crescendo. Watchmen does this very well both on the macro and micro level. In short, if you like this sort of thing then this is the sort of thing you will like.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pavement Drawings

I just discovered these drawings by Julian Beever. They are absolutely mind blowing.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The End of the Day by John T. Bien

Another story I'd like to highlight from Abandoned Towers #2 is The End of the Day by John Bien. This is an 'angel of death walks the battlefield' fantasy story about a pair of mercenaries and the aftermath of "the bickering of Kings" which ended up with thousands dead. The angel is very well handled and gives the story a spooky, twilight world feel. I enjoyed it and I think you will too.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Fall of Rome by Bruce Durham

As expected, Bruce tells a captivating story with an alternate history of ancient Rome. It is one of the high points in Abandoned Towers #2. The characters are very well drawn, very Roman, and very distinct in their viewpoints of the battle they've just finished. Set about 700 years before my own Roman tale, this one details a fascinating 'what if?' scenario that will make any student of history smile and think, "Yeah, that would've been cool."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flight of the Flight of the Conchords

While flying from here to there and back again, I saw a 'short programming feature' on the overhead screens while trying to ignore the overhead screens and read Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson. The guy on the screen seemed to be singing something and was kind of goofy looking with thick rimmed glasses and an unkempt mop of hair. I kept thinking, "I know this guy from somewhere, but I can't remember where." Later on (yesterday) I realized that he was with Flight of the Conchords and they had a couple of hilarious songs on YouTube. My very good Canadian friend, Jackie, had pointed me towards them a year or so ago. I've posted my favorite piece from them, "Jenny", below. "Business Time" is also very good and the rest of their stuff, mostly PG-13, will not disappoint. If you think your sense of humor mirrors mine (scary) and you have a spare 7:20, click on the video.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back in the Saddle

OK, I'm back in wonderful, rainy Seattle. (Although even I was a little miffed at going from swimming in the ocean at sunrise to freezing my butt off in the baggage claim of SeaTac airport because I wasn't thinking and packed my jacket in my checked bag.) It's good to be here. After the time away from the family over the last couple of months it's nice to finally settle in to 2009.

'The Granite Strand' is now up to 5600 words. There was some deleting and rewriting as the story coalesced in my mind but that is normal. A scene that was written in haste and didn't really do anything has now been rewritten with a purpose and some action. It was a fun scene because the intrepid hero, Rath, wound up on the wrong end of a whuppin'. No lasting harm but it was kind of amusing and helped build up the characters.

I also realized that I had a couple of stories sitting around that should be out on submissions so I've put some concentration towards that as well. All in all, a good last week or so.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

There's Something Special About Hawai'i

...to which most of you would say, "No kidding." But it's not just the line fed to you by the tourist industry. It's not just the beaches and water and gorgeous scenery. It's not just the Loco Moco plate lunch at the Rainbow Drive-In. (But that's close.)

No, it is much more elusive than that. When you're here there just seems to be less to worry about. It's in the air or something. It's the casual way people talk and move. And when you're sitting on a beach, newly risen sun over your left shoulder, and you're fat, dumb, and happy with a Loco Moco in your belly, well, you'll feel it too.

America without Hawai'i is sort of like a sundae with no cherry. Sure it tastes good, gives you high cholesterol, and it's better than all the other desserts out there. But it's just not right.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow

I'm in Korea with limited internet access but I do have to get in a plug for this month's CSFF Tour. The book to check out is Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by Christopher and Allan Miller. It's a YA fantasy 'gateway to another world' story that's got some great reviews.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Military Intelligence

This one was priceless. In the never ending quest for the perfect Power Point presentation (side note: Dilbert comics are spot on when it comes to Power Point) the U.S. Army has now taken to providing the commander with the "Bottom Line Up Front" for their important slides. Instead of starting with the explanation, the briefer starts with the impact and then explains how it came about. This is something I'm not opposed to. However, because the Army is like they are, they need to present everything as an acronym. So today when I sat in the back of the room and watched a Power Point slideshow given to a Major General I saw the following: (sort of, it was a classified slide)

BLUF: Beginning the XYZ option will save Unit ABC three days of deployment time.

I turned to the officer sitting next to me and asked, "Hey, has anyone noticed that when we give the C.O. the Bottom Line Up Front we're really just bluffing?"

Sunday, March 08, 2009

New Link- Jordan Lapp

I've added Jordan Lapp's blog, Without Really Trying, to my blogroll on the right. Pay attention to what he does and says; life will be better for you because of it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sunset at the End of Empire

My story is now available as part of Abandoned Towers #2! The adventures of Apollo Valerius Delphinius and his not-quite-perfectly-legal tactics are in black and white for all to see. And buy. You should probably buy two copies; one to cut up and laminate and the other to store in a hermetically sealed vault so fifty years from now you can sell it for a fortune.

(This post would have happened sooner but for the last two days I've been traveling to Hawai'i and Korea again.)

The Born Queen Reviewed

I finished this book a while ago but have been letting it digest before writing the review. Ever since I read The Briar King I've been a huge fan of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series and have eagerly awaited and thoroughly loved the first three books. I was confident that when the fourth book came along I would be able to proclaim this series the best epic fantasy series of all time. Unfortunately, I can't do that. It is a good book but does not continue the greatness that was leading up to it.

The Born Queen suffers from two major problems. First, while it is a well known writing axiom that characters are supposed to change by the end of a story no one ever talks about what happens when the characters change into something you don't like. Two of the major characters, who happened to be two of my favorites, complete significant transformations by about halfway in. Yes it was interesting to see the fruition of their long arcs but they simply turned into people I didn't care for and had a hard time rooting for.

Second, the book finally reveals what the whole story is about. There are three sources of power in the world that rise and fall with the centuries and it's that time again. One is religious and spiritual in nature, one is magical and represents human advancement (not always a good thing), and another the world of nature and is embodied by the Briar King. This is all very cool. But I lost track of which was which and why they were important. I think this comes from the authors attempts to create a rich and varied cultural background where everything has two or three descriptions depending on which group of people are talking about it. This has worked marvelously before but becomes just too jumbled by the fourth book.

So The Born Queen did not live up to my incredibly high expectations. Overall the series is very good and has some of the best writing I've ever seen. The world created here is very rich and full. And as this book moves through its paces there are a few spooky and creepy scenes that alone make it worth reading but in the end this series will have to settle for second place.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Story Behind the Wen Quaar

OK, so I hinted at this a few days ago and here it is. One of the characters in Thunder Canyon is a thirty foot tall stone giant from a race called the Wen Quaar. Where did I get this name? Like I said, I stole it from myself. Several years ago I was stuck in New Orleans for a year thanks to the Marine Corps Reserve. After realizing that I was going to be activated for a while, I thought 'what a great opportunity to write a book.'

So I started with grand hopes and ended with dashed hopes. 300 pages into the story it all fell apart. It was an epic fantasy tale of a spy trying to save a woman spy, and her small daughter, whom he caused to be compromised. They ran from bad guys and several people died and then I just couldn't keep the thing moving. But that's not the important part.

Along the way I had them running through some mountains and thought a group of ogres would be a good thing to have appear. But after some more thought I didn't want to just call them ogres so I came up with the name Wen Quaar. The name came from a sort of free thinking combination of the Wendigo and the Sasquatch. You know, you just keep rolling the words around in your brain until something connects. I wanted something with a sense of mystery and remoteness. Something set apart, just barely, from our world. Entirely after the fact I realized that I could accomplish that with the juxtaposing of 'Men' and 'Wen' as if they were two races that diverged somewhere in the mythic past; one a shadow of the other. (And you don't really know which is the form and which is the shadow.)

Well, since that story never went anywhere I felt perfectly at ease with stealing the idea and the name and labeling my mysterious stone giant a Wen Quaar. In the story and its sequels, I play up the differences and similarities between the two races. I also refer to the Wen as 'Men of Stone' and 'Sons of the First Stone' as a way to make them more spookier and mysteriouser.

And that's How The Leopard Got Its Spots.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Above Average is Better Than Nothing

A new review of Return of the Sword is up at a long running fiction review site called Not Free SF Reader. I'm happy to say that "The Battle of Raven Kill" scored 3.5 out of 5. Also, be sure to watch Abandoned Towers for a follow up story set in the same world.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thunder Canyon

This is the announcement that Thunder Canyon will be appearing in Rage of the Behemoth this summer along with a whole host of other excellent authors of heroic fantasy. I'm thrilled to be a part of it, mostly because I've seen it build from the ground up. Some of the more astute of you may raise an eyebrow at how an RotB slush reader just happens to get past the slush pile and accepted into the anthology itself. Well, in the words of Michael Westen, "Let me tell you a story."

Through my involvement in Return of the Sword, I was asked by the newly formed Rogue Blades Entertainment to read the submissions for the next anthology and pass up my comments and thoughts. Clicking on the Rage of the Behemoth tag to the right will give you all the details of that situation. I was asked to read slush because I shared the vision of the final product with editor Jason Waltz. In the course of reading I kept getting frustrated that the stories were not capturing two important things: 1) Rage, and 2) Behemoths. My thoughts quickly coalesced into the exact style of story I thought should be accepted. At first I resisted but as the characters began to form I could hold back no longer and I wrote Thunder Canyon in secret. So I suppose I had a bit of an advantage in that I knew what wasn't working but personally, I was ready to write the type of story that was needed. Luck is the intersection of opportunity and preparation. So I submitted the story (read by other slush readers) and it fell favorably upon Jason's eyes.

Now for the story itself. It is the tale of Rath, a simple blacksmith who never asked to be a hero but is plunged into a situation that requires steely determination, brutal and unrelenting anger, and a sharp blade. Here is an excerpt from the opening scene:

"Rath slid a knife between the guard’s ribs while holding the man’s mouth shut from behind... His revenge had begun."

The other prominent character in the story is the behemoth, a thirty foot tall stone giant from a hidden race called the Wen Quaar. (The origin of the name is a blog post all its own. Suffice is to say I stole it from myself.) The giant is also in a position he doesn't want to be in and looks forward to correcting it and enacting a little revenge of his own. So the basic plot is: Anger + Large Things + Target Rich Environment = Blood + Wreckage.

All that and a love story as well.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cyndere's Midnight

This month the CSFF brings you Cyndere's Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet. This book continues the story began in Auralia's Colors which you should also check out. If I'd had more time between Hawaii and Korea next month I would have done a better job of prepping comments but Overstreet is a pretty competent writer so if these books fit your agenda you should go for it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hawaii in the Rear View Mirror

This morning finds me back on the mainland (where we spell Hawaii correctly) and safely returned to normal life. As usual, it's like I never left. All the same stuff is here. All the same issues are still moving along their prescribed paths. There's the same comfort of a beautiful family and the same space downstairs where I spend weekend mornings writing. All in all, Hawaii is nice but I'd rather be here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Granite Strand

The next story I've begun in my current series is called "The Granite Strand" in keeping with my theme of including a word from the world of nature in the titles. The current stories within the series, which I still can't give a whole lot of details on, are:

Thunder Canyon
River of Bones
Broken Rocks
The Granite Strand

I'm 2000 words into this story and reaching an interesting point in the overall tale as a whole. The stakes are increasing, the complications are complicating, and the cast of characters is expanding. The more the hero continues on his quest, the more things get in his way. (Usually to their detriment.) While this poses challenges to the writer it is also a more fertile ground for cool story elements. For example, the Granite Strand is envisioned as a massive, miles long terrain feature of rock that fractures and separates into towers of granite along the seacoast, with water moving around them like a flooded cityscape. Throw in a ship with precious cargo, angry warlock hunter-killers, merchant lords with their own agendas, a hero who has to watch his back, and a surprise special guest… shoot, you've got yourself a party.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mini Interview Up At RBE

As part of Rogue Blades Entertainment's continuing support of Return of the Sword, I've got a brief interview posted on their site. If you wish to know more stuff about me (that I may or may not have already blurted out on this blog) you may go here.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Weekend In Hawai'i

Tired of being cooped up in my room or in an office all week, I decided to get out and see the island. Driving up to the North Shore with the sun overhead and reggae music on the radio was a blast. (Interesting side note: Reggae is an amazing musical form and I don't just mean the constraints of the melodies. Every song is either about never ending, blissful devotion to your one and only love... or violent revolution. Ain't a lot of middle ground in Jamaica, mon.)

The beaches at Hale'iwa are very nice and I had a good time watching surfers do their thing, and do it impressively. This is no Waikiki. These guys were sliding down into pipelines created by ten to twelve foot waves. According the the movie Point Break this is like riding on the nose of a freight train, and I believe it. Then back down the valley, with a stop at the Dole Plantation (which seemed interesting but is really just a way for Dole to get tourist money) and that mostly wrapped up Saturday.

Sunday started early with another sunrise swim in the ocean and then I went off to find two of the most important historical spots on Oahu. No, not the Arizona Memorial. No, not Diamond Head. No, not the Ford Island airfield. No, not the USS Missouri. Come on, people! I'm talking about Robin's Nest from Magnum P.I. and Da Kine Bail Bonds!

For those of you who loved Magnum, you'll remember that long, lonely stretch of road that the red Ferrari always drove in and out of the driveway on. Well, 20 years later it's not so lonely. I can see where they always filmed from one direction because the other way has several houses and fences along it. As for Dog the Bounty Hunter, their bail bonds shop is just a simple door and window on the street as part of a larger building complex. Funny thing, they're right next door to a church.

So that was the weekend of being out and about. I wisely got back in to the room before noon because I'm half a mile away from the Pro Bowl and traffic was already getting crazy.