Monday, January 31, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What You Don't Know

We have all heard the classic advice “Write What You Know” and that’s great, I milk a lot of personal experience and knowledge into my writing, and we should always have those truths in our writing regardless of genre…BUT…I am also a firm believer in writing what we don’t know, of opening that Pandora’s box and letting a story take us somewhere we have never been. Meeting characters and having experiences we might never...EVER want in real life.
I argue this point for the sake of not forever covering ground we have already trod, the idea of taking us somewhere new and uncharted. A multitude of our favorite works wouldn’t have been written IF they had stuck with only writing what you know.
I am personally open to the possibility of spiritual inspiration helping awake something in us, helping us chart these things we don’t yet know, and you can call it whatever you like-I also like the racial memory that Robert E. Howard wrote about or following the Muse as mentioned by Steven Pressfield or Homer. Be open.
I urge you to jump right in and TELL THE STORY, don’t get hung up on what you don’t know, what you haven’t researched yet or whatever else holds you up. Daylight is burning.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review: Sha’Daa: Last Call

Sha’Daa: Last Call by various

From the tag line description~Once every ten thousand years, the veils between the planes of reality grown thin. Evil things, lurking just beyond the light of day scrabble and claw their way through the veil and seek to overtake the Earth. For 48 hours, all the stands between utter destruction and the innocent citizens of the world are a handful of courageous men and women.
And one unlikely hero - a salesman known only as Johnny.
Sha'Daa: Last Call is the second book in the two book shared-world anthology series from Michael H. Hanson and his team of world-class authors.

I love the apocalyptic, supernatural concept. In addition to the twelve tales are interludes where we get to know Johnny, 'the salesman' a little better as well as Bak and Maribel, the proprietors of the the Triple-Six Tavern. I believe Michael Hanson the godfather of Sha'Daa wrote these in addition to his two contributing tales. Some of the interludes grabbed my attention more than others-I especially liked Bak meeting H.P. Lovecraft, the suggestion of the door you sometimes see in bars (and sometimes don't), as well as a big confrontation between Johnny and some very bitter demonic gods toward the end.

Edward F. McKeown edited and contributes two tales to Last Call the opener - I Kill Zombies, is a bit tongue in cheek and while I feel like I know what McKeown was going for it didn't really grab me, but his next yarn Chapter 7. Hellbeast does. Some troops in war torn Iraq, driving a tank recovery vehicle and with the help of an Italian reporter must defeat a ravenous Jinn. Whereas I thought 'I Kill Zombies' was kinda juvenile, 'Hellbeast' struck me as brave-the actions and dialogue were unexpected, the morals touched on by this tale really surprised. How many tales have you read with an Al-Quaeda member performing something noble?

A Question of Faith by Arthur Sanchez and As You Sow... by Paul Barret chapters 2 & 3 respectively, are openers as well because the Sha'Daa is just getting warmed up. Each has the common man overcoming terrible odds-and as always Johnny is there to barter and prod something to help at the last minute.

Chapters 4 & 8, The Road Forsaken and Iron Girl are by Michael H. Hanson. 'The Road Forsaken' is a quintessential Twilight Zone of a tale-I love The Twilight Zone. The mystery has been building for ages and the reveal at the end was terrifying. 'Iron Girl' pits a Iron Man triathlete against a vengeful volcano god/demon of Hawaii. It was pretty gruesome but I liked the indomitable will of the handicapped protaganist.

In the Chamber of Skulls by Sarah Wagner has a Native American angle with the closing of a demonic gate. The Voyage of the Eris by T. Anthony Truax has the launch of a super ship and the chess match of a demon lord and archangel.

Silent Hunter by Deborah Koren stood out to me as probably the most entertaining submarine story I've read since the Hunt for Red October - granted Koren's sailors are dealing with a Leviathan rather than a Ramius.

My pal Bruce Durham's tale Deathstalk is next. Members of the Canadian Navy find a seemingly deserted ship and are somewhat taunted by Johnny as to the nature of things. I liked the references Bruce sprinkled in relation to other tales especially 'Silent Hunter'. This was a scary one, with a demonic portal in the bowels of the ship and the dedication/sacrifice of the team. I had to wonder at how Bruce might have turned this into a Mortlock tale~but that's another tangent. Oh, and the very, very end of this one-excellent! Bruce leaves you wondering about things just right so that the story sits with you long afterward.

Reach in the Acid by Jordan Lapp, is probably my favorite tale in the collection. The hostile futility of investigating the disappearance of personnel on the moon strikes me as frightening-again with the Twilight Zone type scenario here. Jordan sets Johnny up as a little colder, perhaps more hostile and sinister than I think Hansen envisioned but still it works very well.

The Four Horsemen by James I. Wasserman rounds out Last Call bringing the demonic denouement whole. A detective investigates four agents of destruction and finds herself in the jaws of the Sha'Daa.

Johnney Perkins, (who I am familiar with from his work on the Rogue Blades Entertainment covers) beside doing the cover here, also contributes a black & white pic for every tale inside.

Overall an entertaining dark fantasy apocalyptic horror thrill ride. You can get a copy here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What to Keep and Forsake

I recently watched the absolute classic Samurai movie "Yojimbo" its one of my all time favorites, afterwards I watched "Fistful of Dollars" Sergio Leone's spaghetti-western take on the same story. As much as I love Clint Eastwood and the "Man with No Name" I was almost dumbfounded at how much I preferred the original (we will not even discuss Bruce Willis's Last Man Standing version)-same thing with Seven Samurai versus Magnificent Seven both are great but the original is better.

I started pondering for the sake of storytelling why is that? What makes those better? It's not what I saw first-I saw the western adaptations first. I don't think its the cinematography, score, actors or directing. Its all the nuances, the little things the story itself tells you-or doesn't tell you. And you have to have the right balance. The right amount of wonder and resonance. Leave too much out and the audience is lost and left wanting, tell too much and the audience gets bogged down.

I recently read a story by a friend of mine Bruce Durham and I was struck that the things he didn't tell me (in the right way) were what made me think about the story after I put it down. Another friend had the same thing to say about Cormac McCarthy's The Road which I also love.

I can't put in a blog the magic key to the right things to leave out, Elmore Leonard famously said "I leave out the parts people skip".
I'll know it when I see it. I don't think its something you can fake-I write historicals and I leave things out that don't have to pertain to the story itself-But I know the background, I know why they are or aren't there. IF I didn't know I think the astute reader would recognize the hollow spots, as Hemingway called them. Its like the iceberg, most of it is hidden-but its there supporting the rest.

I remember during the edits for Heroes of the Fallen, the manuscript was 130,000 words. It needed to be cut, I cut a good 15,000 words and the book is better for it. Blood of Our Fathers is currently at 117,000 words and I have more to write to flesh out a few key scenes-and yet I know I will be going back in and cutting-hopefully with a scalpel and not a chainsaw. I'd like to think I've learned enough the last couple years that my editor won't need to do more than a few stitches and transfusions.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Strange Sights of the Week

More of those weird foreign comics.

The thawing of the great snowy one.

I don't really wonder what happened to this guy. I'm pretty sure I already know.

I suspect a lot of us have felt like doing this to him.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Read Just Lately: HELLBOY

My usual batch of 5 or so books for the read lately pile got skewed because of one I just started, the first HellBoy graphic novel Seed of Destruction.

I am seriously kicking myself for not picking these up a long, long, long, time ago. I was so hooked by Seed of Destruction I had to go to the next, and the next and the next until I read all of them that I got for Christmas (thanks to Aunt Janet & Uncle Gary for the gift card)

Seed of Destruction, by Mike Mignola and John Byrne
I have known who Hellboy was for quite some time and I wonder if I resisted reading him sooner because I wasn't that impressed with Spawn, who has received so much acclaim from comic circles. With Spawn I thought yeah McFarlane has great art but I never really bought the story-and here's why-IF you are a demon with powers granted from the devil how and why are you going to be usingthose to pretty much fight against him-real "A House Divided Against Itself" stuff. And I am not about to get into a 'No, dude he was only fighting other rogue demons like Violator' I'm not going there because my point still stands-Spawn never captured my interest-the best thing about the Spawn movie was the eclectic dual soundtrack like Crystal Method & Filter performing "Can't You Trip Like I Do"
great song.

but I digress...

I was somewhat aware of the Hellboy enough to want to see the movie-which I liked and even the sequel Golden Army-and then the two animated movies which in my opinion were even better - Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron both were excellent.
So I suppose I can only chalk it up to procrastination.
Here is the difference to me of Hellboy to Spawn, Hellboy may be a demon but his power doesn't hinge that it came from the devil-he just is-and he was raised by good men who taught him-thus he is a hero and not an anti-hero. Anyway
Seed of destruction has a brief origin that ties into the current story dealing with how Hellboy was summoned to earth by the Nazi's/Rasputin as a final weapon. This occult angle has appealed to me since Raiders of the Lost Ark, especially since its just crazy enough to be true (about the Nazi's not Hellboy)
Mignola's art is different, stark shapes and a lot of shadows but it works, like the excellent mood work of Karl Edward Wagner it evokes the right atmosphere for the tale.

Wake the Devil, by Mike Mignola
Picks up after Seed of Destruction and throws in new events that still tacitly relate to the Nazi's plots and Rasputin's further machinations (as you can tell I'm reluctant to tell too much) It was great to read these stories as Mignola first wrote them because events from these two first graphics are played out in the movies (even the animated ones)and it the mythology/pulptastic action hits my sweet spot.

The Chained Coffin and Others, by Mike Mignola
This one was different in that it was more of an anthology of Hellboy tales, some longer than others and they bounced around in continuity (not that that was a problem by any means) Again there was a variety of locations and the action is top notch and have I mentioned how I adore the use of regional legends and myth-Irish, Romanian, Russian, English, local legends are mixed and it works.

The Right Hand of Doom, by Mike Mignola

More short stories, this time assembled throughout Hell boy's life and placed according to early, mid years and as of late. I especially liked reading the growth of the character since Mignola shows his inexperience early in life working as an agent for the B.P.R.D. (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) and gradually becoming more capable and savvy. It was also cool to read 'HEADS' since this short becomes a part of the Sword of Storms movie. Right Hand of Doom, gives more insight into Hellboys origins than had yet been revealed and I am still craving to read more.

The Troll Witch and Others, by Mike Mignola, Richard Corben, P.Craig Russell
Keeping with the anthology theme, these tales skip around in continuity and give various glances at a wide margin of Hellboy's life. One thing I really like about the Hellboy universe that mixes Lovecraftian Outer Gods and all manner ghosts, vampires, mad scientists, werewolves etc etc - it still doesn't shy from Hellboy carrying a rosary and the power of Christ, it would be easy to avoid that but I think it would be all the weaker if it didn't address it at least a little. That's part of why I have yet to read Gaiman's American God's-he couldn't face the Christian aspect while attempting to grab all the other gods-Odin, Jinn's etc versus current technology or whatever (I'm basing this off of other peoples review I have read)
So, I am going to get the rest of the collection soon as well as the B.P.R.D. series, this has become my favorite graphic series in quite an age.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"The Dig" in IN SITU

A short tale of mine, a dialogue taking place in the early days of World War Two, between tomb robbers, (well Dr. Andrea Forester, a cultured English aristocrat who became an archaeologist and is investigating the ruins of fabled Keshan ((points if you know where I got that)) ~ and then Capitano Santini moves center stage as one of Mussolini's would-be Ethiopian conquerors and of course he wants a piece of the treasures of Keshan) throw in a wacky neighbor* and we have Lovecraftian inspired GOLD.

OK, only a portion above is true-but I hope I have intrigued you a little.

The Table of Contents for the Dagan Books upcoming anthology IN SITU was just posted.

"Jason Andrew, “Recovery”

Greg Burch, “In The Grid: The Assemblage of the Aeolian”

Carrie Cuinn, Editor, essay “A Brief History of Art Historical F@%k Ups”*

Paul A. Dixon, “Planned Obsolescence”

Mae Empson, “Vessels of Clay, Flesh, and Stars”

Sarah Hendrix, “Rachel’s Journal”

R.S. Hunter, “Jewel of Tahn-Vinh”

Ken Liu, “You’ll Always Have The Burden With You”

Rebecca Lloyd, “The Stone”

Ben Wright McGee, essay, “Xenoarcheology”

D. Thomas Minton, “Hoodoo”

Jacob Ruby, “Seeds”

Steven James Scearce, “The Eye of Africa”

Alex Shvartsman, “The Field Trip”

Kelly C. Stiles, “Relevant Information From The Tel Najmah Site”

Graham Storrs, “Salvage”

K. V. Taylor, “Chennai 5″

Dawn Vogel, “Donning the Helm”

David J. West, “The Dig”

Cover art by Oliver Wetter, interior art by Galen Dara and Fiona Zimmer

We expected to release the book at the end of the spring, 2011."

Wish I could see the cover, Wetter does some wonderfully scandalous stuff, but it hasn't been posted yet.

* and by wacky neighbor I mean some unspeakable horror.
* yes, I edited my editor

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Discipline and Free Pie

My first introductory post is up over at the Man Cave Author Blog. I wax a little philosophical about how long it took me to get going on writing-even when I always knew that was what I wanted to do, that and I am the guy who always got free pie. Ah, writing at my old haunt back in the day. I think I am showing Jaime something I wrote and I am doing my drunken Hemingway face for Tiesha.
Is it really so strange that just a couple weeks after these pics were taken I met my wife (she also served at the writing haunt) So now I still get discipline and free pie all the time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nyarlathotep Essay

Whilst googling for information about the Lovecraftian phenomenon that is Nyarlathotep, I came across this below.
Obviously a spam hoping to cash in on whatever subject you want a essay on, it struck me funny.

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So I suppose among their sources, they must have access to an unabridged Necronomicon. I also like that while the paper will look at his advantages and disadvantages it will focus on Nyarlathotep's fallacies-because that's where a lot of people get tripped up.

I'm actually waiting at the moment to hear back on a very short Nyarlathotep story I wrote. If it gets rejected, I'll know its because I didn't do the coursework from Miskatonic University properly.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Man Cave Authors Blog: No Doilies Allowed

Some friends of mine have just put together a writers blog, I suppose in answer to the many women's writerly blogs out there and it has been proclaimed the Man Cave Authors Blog, so now four other authors, Michael Young -The Canticle Kingdom, Jason Morgan - The Hidden Sun, Dan Harrington - Who's at the Door?, Frank Cole - Hashbrown Winters,and I are sitting round the fire there to grunt (discuss) this and that.

So between all of us we have = Young Adult, Fantasy/Romance, Memoir/Journalism, Middle Grade/Humorous, and Historical/Speculative ~ that about covers it.

I appreciated that Dan the founder wanted to use something I told him once as a byline ~ "Writing can be solitary, but success isn't."

I will make it a point to have some actual writerly advice (like making up new words) posted there semi-often.

So for perhaps another perspective on writing and such, head on over to the Man Cave Authors Blog for some red meat about writing. We are just getting it started, so hurry over follow or grab the feed, spots are going fast, or your money back.

No doilies allowed. Man Cave Authors

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No Uplifting Sunday Afternoon Read

Jennie Hansen, author & reviewer at Meridian Magazine just reviewed HEROES OF THE FALLEN and said it,

"is no uplifting Sunday afternoon read, but it does make the final Nephite/Lamanite confrontation unforgettable. Though billed as historical, it's as much speculative as historical. It's also brutal, gory, and depressing, but then it's all about one of the most evil, corrupt periods of history the world has ever known."

I like that because this was never intended as a Sunday school read, it was intended to be the Book of Mormon historical that had teeth. Brutal, gory and depressing?~I never thought so. Yes, it is a grim time period, but part of the concept behind Heroes of the Fallen is just that-the Heroes, those beacons of hope against the night-black wall of opposition.
Going on...

"The wickedness that prevails at this time may be more than many readers wish to grapple with. I don't doubt the book's realistic portrayal of evil people and evil acts are very close to the true events of that time, but I suspect there is a sound reason Moroni didn't dwell on those events in the graphic manner West does. Readers accustomed to reading the more violent and graphic science fiction novels of our day will likely feel more comfortable with this depiction. The same is true of the magic and occult practices of the priests and Gadiantons which are highly reminiscent of some of the current fantasy novels of our day."

Yeah, I do think readers of fantasy will get more out of HEROES than the usual B of M romance readers-that's the way I wanted it.

"West has a rapid fire style that keeps the action moving at a fast pace and since this novel is expected to be the first in a series, there are many incidents that do not reach conclusions and characters introduced whose stories go nowhere in this volume. The events of this historical period as portrayed by West are clearly speculative, but plausible because of similar occurrences among other corrupt civilizations that have been destroyed at other times. There are few errors in the text of the type commonly found in self-published books."

Definitely, I have to have that rapid fire to keep things moving-that's my biggest problem with Robert Jordan's later works too slow, too bogged down-but I sure don't believe that any characters story is going nowhere? We know where everyone is by books end and we know roughly what they are about to do, nobody is left holding the train ticket to nowhere. I'm also glad they were few errors in the text commonly found in self-pubbed books considering I'm not self pubbed~thank you very much.

"This book will appeal primarily to men and to those women who enjoy violent, action-packed science fiction and fantasy. Those who read for pleasure or enlightenment may not be comfortable with this novel, neither will those who prefer scriptures straight without imaginative enhancements."

I'd like to think people who read for pleasure and enlightenment are not always comfortable, and really read scriptural historicals without there being any imaginative enhancements present? I'm calling you out historical romance authors.

But I am very pleased that Hansen ends with,

"But make no mistake, West is a talented writer and whether a reader ordinarily picks up fictionalized scripture novels or science fiction, once embarked on this novel readers will find it nearly impossible to put down."

So what are you waiting for? Pick it up.

The full review can be found here. I almost forgot to add-Jennie Hansen did give me 5 stars on Goodreads.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Strange Sights of the Week

This time of year we could all use just a little more Mordor Money.
I'm always on the lookout for deals but I ain't picking these up.
I was told the bear was only on loan.
Your Honor, if I might quote BOC.

Hope all your after Christmas shopping is done-Happy New Year.