What are the rules of fiction writing? This may surprise you: There aren’t any. Oh, there are established conventions for what constitutes a good story, plot beats, character traits, and the like, but when it comes to what you’re ‘allowed’ to write about, no rules apply. Go way out to the left field fence to find your ideas. You don’t need to recycle popular tropes. The major movie studios and publishing houses have staked out that territory, and are doing it better than you can. No, what readers crave, many without even realizing it, is something original, something they haven’t already read a dozen times under different titles.”
I didn’t write this. I knew who did at some point, but I found it as you see it here in one of those infamous “miscellaneous” files with no source listed. It caught my eye sometime in the distant past for its stellar wisdom, and if it’s yours, send me the source material, and I’ll be glad to credit you; this is very deserving! It captures the purpose of this column beautifully. The infield is a box of 8,100 square feet, and every inch is known intimately to the players who make their living there. But the outfields . . . Every outfield in every park, from the majors to those found at every elementary school, is different and unique, and that is where the best stories lie, the ones that no one has ever told before.
Those are the stories I try to bring you here. Some are by friends, some are by strangers, and I may not hit the mark every time; I may be fooled by the blurb. That is, to a large extent, what blurbs are for, and some might be more deceptive than others, but all week, every week, I keep my eye on Facebook, blogs, newsletters and whatnot, in an effort to provide a wide assortment of books and stories of a sort not seen every day. I hope you’re finding this useful, or at least enjoyable.
Before I launch the book roundup this week, anybody who reads me regularly knows that last Sunday was my 70th birthday, and I just couldn’t resist posting a picture of all the cool goodies that were sent my way!
Steampunk stuff continues to arrive, though I’ve backed off from writing it, and that’s fine; the aesthetic is still beautiful! You’ll see in the picture an incredible industrial-style lamp with clock, and a walking stick. The head of the stick pulls up and tilts, and becomes a spyglass. Very sneaky. The T-shirt is kind of self-explanatory. Wifey got me a beautiful ID bracelet laser-etched inside and out, and the two DVD collections are the Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes, still to my mind the best, and season 1 of Crossing Jordan, a crime drama I enjoyed immensely when it was new, but haven’t been able to get because they used a lot of licensed huge-hit rock songs, and they could never get the bands together to share their copyrights. I don’t know what happened to change that, but I’m sure glad to have it! In the area of Tools of the Craft, I got a very elegant lap desk with a part that tilts, a part that stays flat, and a drawer for pens and such. Knowing I might have a horror gig coming up, they very thoughtfully provided a copy of William F. Nolan’s How to Write Horror Fiction, which should serve to fill in any holes in my skill set nicely. The little tin holds 125 paper-thin book darts for marking pages, and given the way I keep notes, this may be the most useful item I’ve ever gotten.
. . . And then the grandkids showed up, bringing their offering that they all went in on, a very nice utility knife that I can certainly put to good use around here. You’ll note the red handle, and the skull motif. You have to look for it, but when you see it, it’s chill-inducing. Their rationale was that this is very close to the skull logo of the Gears of War series of video games which have long been my favorites. It also goes hand-in-hand with my new horror persona, so hat-trick to them for functionality and appearance. It was really impressive to see the amount of nuanced thought they put into this, and I’m proud of them on every level.
Okay, enough of this crowing. In the words of my granddaughter, a varsity cheerleader at Monte Vista High School, Let’s get this party started!
Leading off this week’s lineup (see what I did there?) is The Last Time Traveler by Aaron J. Ethridge. Robert is a time traveler. In point of fact, he’s the last time traveler. He managed to snag that impressive title because when he comes from has no future. This, as you can imagine, makes it much easier to be the last of any number of things. The current lack of future is due to the mess all his predecessors, the previous time travelers, made of things. It’s Robert’s job to repair the damage they did in the hopes that this will jump-start time. Fortunately he’s assembled the most brilliant team in history to do the job. At his disposal are the best hackers, mechanics, and doctors who ever lived. He and his elite band have to do their best to un-steal ancient artifacts, un-kidnap people of importance, and un-sell advanced technologies while doing as little damage to the timelines as possible. The Last Time Traveler is a rather unique sci-fi romantic comedy. In fact, it’s more like a comedy romance sci-fi if you put things in the correct order of importance. The humor is in some ways rather outlandish and draws on pop-culture a good bit. And all the romance is PG-13. If you’re even the slightest bit curious read a few sample pages. By the third or forth page you’ll probably know whether this is your cup of tea or not. The style stands-out, no question. So, take a couple of minutes and read a few pages. You might just love it. 99¢ on Kindle.
Curtain Call by Ryan Kane. Four years on from moving away from the dangers of New York and Damien is still drifting through life, with a list of ‘to-dos’ that seemed to get longer with each passing day. With a drunken father and overly dramatic mother, who is always threatening to leave, he often prefers to snatch some sleep on his friend’s couch rather than putting up with them. When an old friend, Christa, unexpectedly shows up, bereft at the loss of her friend and co-star in the Broadway show they starred in, Damien is astonished but happy to see her. But she is far from the confident young girl he remembered. Other deaths follow, all of them close to Christa, and Damien becomes suspicious. Is his old friend in danger? Why are people close to her dying inexplicably? Damien is determined to find out what’s going on, no matter what the personal cost will be. Can he get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Christa or will he succumb to the Curtain Call? $2.99 on Kindle.
Legends of the Dragon Cowboys brings you two weird western adventures by authors David B. Riley and Laura Givens. Their heroes ride boldly out of the Far East to find their way in a mythic land of danger, romance, and adventure. In The Venerable Travels of Ling Fung by David B. Riley, a wandering businessman encounters a Mayan god, crooked enterprises and Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, when all he really wants is to open a gun store. Ling Fung is not any ordinary Chinese entrepreneur – he’s highly skilled in Kung Fu and he can shoot good, too. While his heart is set on business, providence seems to have other plans for him. Laura Givens brings wily acrobat Chin Song Ping to the Wild West in search of adventure and fortune. He finds little fortune, but plenty of adventure. Chin Song Ping is a scoundrel, a gambler and a trouble magnet. His heart of gold lands him in schemes to outwit would-be gods, cannibal ghosts, insane robots, Voodoo despots and the ultimate evil – bureaucrats. But he is a romantic, and the love of his life is the true treasure he seeks. The odds are always against him but if he survives he will become the Western legend he always was in his own mind. The Wild West just got a lot wilder! $3.99 on Kindle.
Spineless by Amy Langevin. The cycle of abuse is a tale as old as time, and always unfinished. That is, until Slade gets hold of his clients’ abusers. Operating in secrecy, Slade rips out their depravity, numbing abusers’ minds until he quells their aggression. For years, his clients send only gratitude. Then a recent client, thirteen-year-old DG, tells Slade that, while his abuser no longer makes his life a living hell, he, DG, is compulsively cutting and torturing himself — and he can’t stop. Now Slade must invent a new treatment to break the cycle of abuse — one that does not damage the personality in the process. Spineless tells a story of double lives, human experiments, psychological evolution, and matchless friendships. Through his own heart, daring, and inventiveness, Slade discovers how to free DG and other self-abusers from the weight of psychological trauma so they can live freely. But there are others, abusive and depraved, who want to continue their cruelty, hidden, and so must stop Slade, must kill him. $2.99 on Kindle.
Terror in Texas by C.A. Hoaks. A biological attack on US soil spreads anarchy and death. Adding to the confusion, the dead reanimate and attack the living. Unlikely heroes amid the chaos are a young mother, a disabled veteran, and a hopeless alcoholic. Who will escape San Antonio to see friends and loved ones again? Will the infection sweep over the entire nation? Liz Jameson and her daughters separate while attempting to leave the city. While trying to find her daughters, Liz is rescued from certain death by Viet Nam Veterans who then volunteer to aid her in her quest. Struggling to remain sober, Matt Monroe and fellow soldiers, rescue an unusual group of survivors during their trek across the state. Steve Benton, a double amputee, faces multiple dangers and not all are undead as he attempts to guide his small band of survivors. It’s a race for safety and not all will survive. $1.99 on Kindle.
I usually confine this feature to books, but an exception is going to creep in now and again. I refer, of course, to Richard Schulte, who I mentioned recently had announced that he was going to concentrate more on writing, and less on photography. Richard’s talent is to tell a simple little story that seems like fluff until you read deeper and realize that there’s so much more going on than first meets the eye. This week marks the beginning, and he does not disappoint. You can read A Monument to Remember and Climbing Higher at the links. Free of charge, and very much worth your while.
Fractured Horizons by T.E. Mark. In this fast-paced, fanciful tale, a young, English science student, who dreams of changing the world, will indeed be awarded his chance. But first, he must learn a valuable lesson: The responsibility of science. Robert Davie is 17, and would like, more than anything, to follow in the footsteps of his idol; Sir Isaac Newton. On his way home from school one Friday, Robert will meet a girl with the powers to propel him through time and space with the mission of training him for one very important moment in Earth’s history. Their adventures from that moment will be meaningful, enlightening, often humorous, and will change Robert and the world forever. 99¢ on Kindle.
Releasing tomorrow is Night Shift by B.K. Bass. In New Angeles, crime is part of the daily business of running the city. But when a routine murder investigation starts turning up more questions than answers, homicide detective Harold Peterson finds himself unraveling a decades-old conspiracy that leads him to the highest echelons of the mob and the city government. As various threads start to come together, the big picture is revealed to be more than he ever bargained for. As bullets start to fly from both directions, the only thing Harold knows for sure is that he isn’t being paid enough to deal with this. $2.85 on Kindle.
Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced by R.J. Garcia. Mystery surrounds the town of Summertime, Indiana, where fifteen-year-old Tommy Walker and his little sister are sent to live with relatives they’ve never met. Tommy soon makes friends with Finn Wilds, a rebellious local who lives with his volatile and abusive stepfather, who also happens to be the town’s sheriff. Finn invites Tommy to late night meetings in the woods, where Tommy gets to know two girls. He forms a special and unique connection with both girls. The meetings become a place where the kids, who don’t fit in at school or home, can finally belong. As the group of friends begin to unravel clues to a cold case murder and kidnapping, they learn the truth is darker and closer than they ever imagined. Even if they live to tell, will anyone believe them? $1.99 on Kindle.
And that’s 30 for this week. Join me Sunday when I’ll be offering up some fuel for your muse along with an unusual tale that we were a part of just a week ago. Don’t miss it!