Ladies’ Man

Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth will escape all punishment hereafter.”

~ Jessamyn West

As I have discussed before on a number of occasions, I was raised by women, with very few adult men, and no close contact with them, in my life until my DI introduced himself to me at the age of 17.  Because of this, I feel like I have a unique, or at least a very uncommon understanding of women and the issues they face.  This blog, of course, is about writing, and the fact that I’ve hit a wall in that department, so how does my view of women enter into this discussion?  Well, I’ve been thinking long and hard about why I’m stuck, and I’ve come to an epiphany:  For all of the stories and genres I’ve dabbled in, I only know one story.  Like all statements, that’s a generality, and there are a few exceptions early in my writing, but as I matured as an author I settled into a groove, as it were, and in the harsh light of day, that groove looks more like a rut.  Let’s take a closer look.

The story is about a feisty young woman with an older male mentor.  It begins with my best-known work, and my most popular character, Patience Hobbs of Beyond the Rails, Soldier of the Crown, and Slayer of Darkness. Patience is a young woman in her mid-twenties in those stories under the mentorship of an older male, former commodore Clinton Monroe.  Is she feisty?  Accepted as family by distant cousins in a noble house of London, she has fled to Africa to become an airship pilot.  Having lived in the Big House from the age of six or so, and attended the finishing schools that taught her what was expected of a lady in proper society, she has decided that she has no desire to be a man’s captive trophy, and has left to seek adventure.

Joining her in the first book was Abigail “Jinx” Jenkins, an Australian larrikin with an older male mentor who accompanied the crew on a grand adventure that spanned three stories.  I brought her back without her mentor in the third book, and set up a spinoff, The Darklighters, in which she would be the lead investigator in a sort of Victorian Man From U.N.C.L.E. series, along with an older male, not precisely a mentor, but an older, wiser, and less volatile character who leaves the airship to join her in her crusade against evil.

More?  Consider Possession of Blood, available at one of the tabs at the top of the page.  I left it up because it is a completed story, but it was intended to be the lead story of The Nexus Chronicles, a series about a society of unsung heroes working against supernatural entities for the good of mankind.  The starring heroes?  Bailey O’Keefe, Irish female, mid-twenties, and her older Japanese male mentor, Makoto Nagoya.  Beginning to see a pattern here?

How about The Stone Seekers?  If you guessed that Galena is a fierce warrior in her mid-twenties, and Jevahn is an older male woodsman who is partnered up with her, well, that wasn’t much of a stretch at this point, was it?

In The Orphan Princess, an under-construction epic fantasy, there are two such pairings, Edanna, the titular Orphan Princess, and her loyal bodyguard Vychan, and Jade, daughter of a famous pirate, and her mentor, her late father’s bosun Finch.  I cringe to admit that I may have been setting up a third such paring, members of a loose gang of thieves, an elf girl and an older dwarf.  I have begun to suspect that the reason I can’t make Stingaree progress is that it lacks such a pair, and before you suggest the obvious solution of putting one in, know that it is over halfway finished, and bringing in a pair of new characters now would be tantamount to starting over; that option isn’t on the table!

So it seems to me that if I’m going to do any more writing going forward, I’m going to have to concentrate on one series that contains just such a pair of characters; to continue all these threads that I have named above would be to invite accusations of being a one-dimensional hack . . .  Which may be true, but is nonetheless a label I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing.  I also think I need a new genre, as steampunk is beginning to feel very limiting as far as the way it interacts with my personal writing style.  Another blogger posted a hilarious spoof of a TV pitch for an imaginary SyFy Channel series years ago that I considered exploring, and recently passed along a note asking whether he would mind if I did so.  I have received no reply, and I have to guess at this point that the answer to that is no.  Ideas continue to kick around the big empty space inside my head, and who knows, maybe one will gel.  Lord knows I’ll have plenty of time to think about it by the time I finish posting Chameleon and then Broken English, which I haven’t even started yet.

Poppy as Patience

As an aside to all of this, I want to introduce you to a wonderful lady who I’ve been on-line friends with for several years, since back in the days of The Steampunk Empire.  The name she uses for her public persona is Poppy Appleton, and you can find her on FacebookShe’s one of many on-line friends who I’ve never met, even though she lives in San Diego.  Poppy is a celebrity cosplayer who is well-known at conventions throughout the southwest.  She has a range of characters from steampunk to Star Wars and several points between, and is never too busy to put on a Hollywood-quality rig and turn out at some shindig that benefits children.  Her Facebook page is a treasure trove of photos and videos of the full range of her looks and how she constructs them, and one that I am especially fond of is the one I’ve posted here.  I’m quite certain she’s never read Beyond the Rails, but if she hasn’t channeled Patience Hobbs with this outfit, I’d like to see one closer.  Poppy’s face is more dramatic than Patience’s “cutesy” look, but seriously, this is like my most popular character come to life!

And a final note here, a format change is in the works.  This blog has become a bit long and unwieldy as I attempt to shoehorn more and more into it, so in the interest of keeping it manageable for both writer and reader, I am going to split it into two separate projects.  Sunday’s posts will consist of whatever “interesting reading” I have managed to accumulate, including my own ramblings about who-knows-what.  Thursdays will be given over to book promotions, or “ads,” if you like, for items that used to go in the Interesting Books category.  So if you favor one aspect of the blog over the other, you will shortly be able to find your preferred reading on a specific day.  Of course, I wouldn’t be offended if the odd reader or two showed up for both of them!

Important Bulletin!

I read this piece by Richard Paolinelli, an admin at the Facebook Science Fiction and Fantasy Creator’s Guild. I’m passing it along here because I have some friends who deal in audio books, but beyond that, everyone who creates or partakes needs to be aware of this:

For members who have either had a book converted into an audiobook – or for any narrators here as well – I discovered four YouTube accounts that had illegally uploaded one of my audiobooks in full and they had been viewed hundreds of times.  These same accounts had other authors’ books uploaded as well.

“I have filed a complaint with YouTube, but also informed Audible about the piracy being hosted on YouTube.  Audible’s legal department has quickly filed takedown notices and is investigating further action against YouTube and four account holders.

“If you have any audiobooks out there, please regularly check (I found mine via a Google search) and make sure yours aren’t out there in the wind, too.  If you find them there or anywhere else, please contact Audible immediately.  They will get after these pirates.”

Be aware of this new (to me) form of piracy, and like they say to every boxer, “Protect yourself at all times!”  Also be aware that these criminals will often block the author from viewing the account, so log out and search as a random user.  Don’t let them steal your work!  His original post can be read on his blog, The Eclectic Scribe.

. . . and an interesting observation

This morning I received the third in a string of comments on my post, My Starfleet Education, that seem to be some form of spam or scam.  All of these comments made brief and innocuous observations about the post and appeared to be from individuals, but when I clicked on the commenter’s name, instead of a person’s profile, I was in each case taken to a commercial website all wanting me to buy something.  Now, nobody’s going to get rich advertising on this blog, and I’m not normally opposed to helping out a person selling a legitimate product, but the comment today repeated verbatim the first few lines of C.W. Hawes’s comment on the same post.  Smelling the proverbial rat, I deleted all three of them as spam, and doing a little research, I found that this particular post has been picked up and repeated on several promotional sites, including Tygpress.com and Shadow.com.  I’m not drawing any hard conclusions here, but if you’re running a blog, here’s one more thing to be aware of.  Illegitimus non carborundum!

Interesting Books . . .

ADeadline

A Deadline Cozy Mystery series by Sonia Parin.  The first 5 books in A Deadline Cozy Mystery series with Eve Lloyd, magnet for murder and mayhem.  Book 1:  Eve arrives on Rock-Maine Island.  The idyllic island has been crime free . . .  Until now.  When her aunt goes missing and a body turns up in the kitchen, Eve becomes a murder suspect.  Not the best start to her new life . . .  Book 2:  Eve tries to be nice to an artist.  That doesn’t go too well, especially when the finger of suspicion is again pointed at her.  Book 3:  An old school nemesis tries to get married on the island – In the end she doesn’t (oops).  Surely Eve doesn’t have anything to do with it . . .  Book 4:  Eve looks after a friend’s house.  Right after she comes up with the bright idea of turning the house into an inn, she discovers a body in one of the rooms . . .  Book 5:  Eve’s on her way to set up an inn.  She has her heart set on a fancy new stove.  Instead, she gets another murder mystery.  99¢ on Kindle.

DevilsSpareChange

The Devil’s Spare Change by Samantha A. Cole.  FBI agent Sean Malone’s homecoming is interrupted by two things—a pleasant surprise from his youth and a deranged serial killer.  The little tomboy who’d followed him and his brothers around is now grown up and drop-dead gorgeous, and he finds himself thinking about her in ways he’d never done before.  Whisper, North Carolina, where she’d spent her childhood summers, is the perfect place for Grace Whitman to open her new business—especially when she finds her adolescent crush has returned as well.  As the two get to know each other all over again, local law enforcement asks Sean to help find the man who has tortured and killed three women.  Will the killer follow his pattern and move on, or has Dare County become his permanent hunting ground?  99¢ on Kindle.

Hippies

Hippies by Gary Gautier.  By 1970, the hippie scene was faltering, a victim of both inner contradictions and external forces.  The Vietnam war resistance, psychedelic drugs, sexual openness, the freedom of the commune – it seemed that everything about the 1960s could be incredibly liberating or wildly destructive.  Against this backdrop, Jazmine, Ziggy, Ragman and a coterie of hippies discover an LSD-spinoff drug that triggers past life regressions as they head toward a dramatic climax.  This epic tale of hippiedom is intimate in the lives of its characters but panoramic in its coverage of the sights, sounds, and ideals of the Age of Aquarius.  Hippies is well-suited to readers of historical fiction, literary fiction, and anyone interested in the 1960s or the history of counter-cultural movements.  $3.89 on Kindle.

MagicShow

Magic Show by Lawrence Michaelis.  Gilbert Gilbertson, an inept magic clown whose biggest gigs are kids’ birthday parties, suddenly develops skills in sleight-of-hand and stage illusions that confound expert magicians.  He also begins affecting people in strange ways, as well as winning staggering amounts of money in Las Vegas, which he donates to the Catholic Church.  Jack Madison, an agnostic neurologist, debunker of miracles, and best-selling author, is asked to investigate the matter of Gilbert the Magic Clown.  In pursuing the mystery, Jack becomes the unlikely partner of Joan Firestone, a beautiful Las Vegas detective and expert in casino fraud.  “Michaelis’ tale is not only complex on many levels, but deftly written, topical, and exhilarating.  Michaelis nicely paces both the unraveling mystery and developing love affair, delivering readers an engrossing tale.  This intricate and entertaining tale should appeal to fans of The Da Vinci Code.” ~Kirkus Reviews.  Enter a far-right fringe group within the Catholic Church, convinced that Gilbert is working legitimate miracles—miracles they believe will convince Catholics to return to more conservative ways.  Jack and Joan land at the top of the group’s hit list as they try to figure out how Gil Gilbertson does what he does.  Things culminate in the closing act of a Las Vegas magician’s convention when Gilbert performs what all agree is the greatest magic act of all time—a magic act that has unexpected and dire repercussions.  $3.95 on Kindle.

PendulumHeroes

Pendulum Heroes by James Beaman.  Melvin Morrow has become a barbarian warrior maiden.  Will he be able to escape this new, dangerous world and the chainmail bikini he foolishly chose as his armor or will he and his friends be stuck living their lives as their game avatars?  Melvin’s a black teenage boy not used to being ogled or the real world consequences of wearing a steel bikini.  But the real world has shifted . . . him, his friends Jason and Rich, and his big brother Mike are stuck in character, in a place where danger doesn’t lurk because it prefers to boldly stride out in the open.  Mages import game players like Melvin via the Rift Pendulum.  The reason:  The work is suicidal and pendulum heroes are insanely powerful.  Usually.  Melvin and his friends can be, too, if they’re in the right emotional state to trigger into character.  Melvin’s a one-man, uh, one warrior maiden army when he’s angry but anger’s hard to find with all that mortal danger striding around everywhere.  It couldn’t get worse.  Melvin’s best friend Jason isn’t even human and, thanks to this dangerous world and its axe-wielding inhabitants, quickly becomes not even an archer.  His other friend Rich is 15 going on 50 now that he’s in an old mage’s body complete with untameable gray beard.  Melvin’s brother Mike looks like a chupacabra and he’s really pissed about that.  The road back home lies at the end of a suicidal quest.  Melvin better find something to rage about . . . because being genre-savvy only gets you so far.  Pendulum Heroes, James Beamon’s debut novel, is an adrenaline fueled adventure for anyone who’s spent a little too much time on the character creation screen instead of playing the game, those of us who have thought just how godmode we’d be with mage power, but mostly it’s for all of us who have wondered who the heck installs a portal to another world in a wardrobe.  Check out what happens when The Wizard of Oz meets The Goonies at the crash site of a derailed RPG!  $4.99 on Kindle.

InvisibleMind

The Invisible Mind by M.T. Bass.  A police procedural sci-fi thriller ripped from future headlines!  Now unleashed, the “Baron” is resurrecting history’s notorious serial killers, giving them a second life in the bodies of hacked and reprogrammed Personal Assistant Androids, then turning them loose to terrorize the city.  While detectives Jake and Maddie of the police department’s Artificial Crimes Unit scramble to stop the carnage with the Baron’s arrest, the cyberpunk head of the Counter IT Section, Q, struggles to de-encrypt his mad scheme to infect world data centers with a virus that represents a collective cyber unconsciousness of evil.  “It might not make sense, but the beloved Media tags it ‘Murder by Munchausen.’ For a price, there are hackers out there who will reprogram a synthoid to do your dirty work. The bad news: no fingerprints or DNA left at the crime scene. The good news—at least for us—is that they’re like missiles: once they hit their target, they’re usually as harmless as empty brass. The trick is to get them before they melt down their core OS data, so you can get the unit into forensics for analysis and, hopefully, an arrest.” [excerpt from Murder by Munchausen]  Artificial Intelligence?  Fuhgeddaboudit!  Artificial Evil has a name . . .  Munchausen.  99¢ on Kindle.  Release Date is August 25, 2018

Interesting Reading . . .

Kaidi Wu and David Dunning, writing in Scientific American, explore an area of unknown unknowns (that is, in fact, the name of the article), the science of how not being aware that a concept exists limits your responses when you encounter it, and how the language you speak puts invisible boundaries on what you’re able to perceive.  It is a fascinating article that I have to admit has put me a little on edge.  I’ve always thought that as a writer I have a pretty good command of my language, but now I find that that may not even matter.  Chilling, is what that is, and this is a good read that may at least widen your horizons in exchange for five minutes of your time.

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Another name that turns up here frequently is that of Richie Billing.  Richie is a very knowledgeable writer, admin of a group in which I hold membership, and a blogger of things literary.  This latest installment of his blog contains a lengthy and well-reasoned dissertation on the subject of world building, so if you’re currently delving into that particular aspect of The Craft, a visit there might serve you well.

Troy Mitchell Scott, author of A Storm on Mars, operates a blog called Scott Writer in which he devotes many column-inches to movies and comics as well as books, and this week explores the proposed Star Wars series from Disney.  Definitely worth a look if you’re into pop-culture media.

And that’s 30 for this week.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride and that you’ll check out the links, and I really hope you’ll be back Thursday when I’ll be offering blurbs, pictures, and links to some interesting-looking books including my own.

Envisioning the Unimaginable

As anyone who has read any of my last few entries here knows, I am a bit conflicted about my writing right now.  A bit conflicted, now there’s an understatement worthy of the ages!  At this moment, I don’t know whether I’ll ever write again, and last week I was sure I wouldn’t, but I’ll say a few more words about that at the end.  Right now, I just want to have some fun.

We’ve heard a lot over the past weeks about budget battles, government shutdowns, and the trillions and trillions of dollars being thrown around like we’re talking about some kid’s allowance.  Most people in the modern world have some idea of what a billion is (It’s 10% of an aircraft carrier), but a trillion . . .  We might be talking about the distance to the center of the galaxy for all that means to the average citizen, so I decided to do a bit of research, and see what a trillion might be compared to.  Buckle up, you’re going to love this!

If Jesus had sued the Romans for the way he was treated, and the courts of the day had awarded him a billion shekels (or whatever they used back then) to be paid at the rate of one million per day, it would have taken them two-and-a-half years to finish paying him.  If he had been awarded a trillion shekels, to be paid at the rate of one million per day, they would paying him until the year 2739.  Stunned yet?

Let’s say you won the SuperLotto or a settlement for $1,000,000, and it’s going to be handed to you in crisp new $1,000 bills, crisp and new so they lay close together with no air space making the stack fatter.  How tall will that stack be?  If you guessed 6½ inches, we have a winner!  If you win a billion dollars, you’d better bring a full-size pickup, because that stack will come in at 550 feet, about the same as the Washington Monument.  A trillion dollars?  Ninety-five miles high.  The Space Station will hit it when it comes over.

One more?  All right.  I particularly enjoy this one.  Approximately one billion seconds ago, John F. Kennedy was having his famous presidential debates with Richard Nixon; one trillion seconds ago, man was discovering fire.

And now, the promised few words:  Virtually all that I have completed of Stingaree is up and ready to read, twelve chapters of a prospective 24.  Half of Chapter Thirteen is complete, and will be added probably tomorrow.  That leaves me with half a book to write, and that will be done before I work on anything else.  Stingaree has proven to be one of my more popular endeavors, and if I can’t finish that for the wonderful people who have expressed their appreciation of it, then I won’t leave them hanging while I move on to other things.  Likewise, Chameleon is moving along.  That is complete, as is Broken English, which is coming along behind it, and both will be added a scene at a time.  I have other ideas tickling the back of my mind, but Stingaree first.  Then I’ll see whether I have any gas left in the tank for future projects.

Meanwhile, one thing I’m not conflicted about is what constitutes an interesting read, so let’s get this week’s expedition on the road to those particular discoveries, shall we?

Interesting Books . . .

ThingsI'veLearned

Things I’ve Learned from the Homeless by Glen Dunzweiler.  Glen Dunzweiler is a filmmaker, producer, writer and public speaker.  He started his work with homelessness in 2010 when making his documentary “yHomeless?”  After years of seeing the public bang their heads up against the same homeless issues, he was driven to write this primer.  Things I’ve Learned from the Homeless looks to explain the world that housed individuals are often frustrated by.  The goal is to flip viewpoints on homelessness, to create new dialogues, and to inspire action.  Glen Dunzweiler invites you to get into it with him, so we can all start to figure this out.  Do the homeless anger you?  Frustrate you?  Scare you?  Sadden you?  Confuse you?  Make you want to DO something?  Read this book.  99c on Kindle.

ShadowFiles

The Shadow Files: A Limited Edition Collection of Supernatural Suspense Stories.  Twenty-three novels by various authors.  Follow the lives of your favorite paranormal entities as they battle what lurks within the shadows of their supernatural worlds.  Dance with Lucifer, experience love from beyond the grave, solve a case . . .  Grimm-style.  Join the dark side with vampires, cursed bootleggers, a wicked succubus, a demon prince, and the Devil’s daughter herself.  Partner with private eyes with psychic third eyes, mages who resurrect rebel angels, and witches as they hunt down denizens of the dark.  Take a walk down a mysterious dark alley with a magician as you battle murderers, relic hunters, and Nazis.  And follow voodoo priestesses as they spy on nefarious secret societies and discover the literal heart of a serial killer in hopes of defeating the deadly creatures lurking in the shadows.  Tangle with vampires, discover relics and get ready for adventures more exciting than Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones!  Follow mages and rebel angels as they battle the evil threatening to end magic . . . forever.  All this and more can be found inside these exciting and mystical stories!  99¢ on Kindle.

SavingGrace

Saving Grace by Hannah Howe.  The Western Mail, 2 August 1876:  Sensation in the Charles Petrie Case!  “Readers may recall that a young banker, by name Mr Charles Petrie, with every opportunity of succeeding in his profession, and commanding a not illiberal income, returned home after riding his horse to dine with his wife, Grace, and her companion, Mrs Quinn.  During and after dinner he had nothing to excite him save the receipt of a letter which somewhat annoyed him, and that his wife consumed rather more wine than he considered to be good for her health.  Immediately after retiring to his room he was seized with symptoms of irritant poisoning, and despite every effort made on his behalf, he succumbed to its effects.  An inquest was held, which vexed the minds of the Coroner’s jury to a degree without precedent in Coroners’ Inquest Law, and an open verdict was returned.  However, the matter will not rest there, for after questions in Parliament, a second inquest has been called under suspicion that Mr Charles Petrie was murdered.”  Who poisoned Charles Petrie?  Dr James Collymore, a man familiar with poisons, a man harboring a dark secret that, if exposed, would ruin his career; Florrie, the maid who supplied Charles with his bedtime drink; Bert Kemp, a disgruntled groom, who used poisons in his work, who four months previously had predicted Charles’ dying day; Mrs Jennet Quinn, a lady’s companion with a deep knowledge of poisons, and a deep fear of dismissal; or Grace Petrie, Charles’ wife of four months, a woman with a scandalous past, a woman shunned by polite society.  With crowds flocking to the courtroom and the shadow of suspicion falling upon Grace in the shape of the hangman’s noose, could dashing young advocate, Daniel Morgan, save her?  99c on Kindle.

RogueStar

Rogue Star by Jasper T. Scott.  A dead star is headed for Earth . . .  The shift in Earth’s orbit will unleash a new ice age . . .  And this summer will be our last.  Logan Willis’s life is falling apart: he lost his job and found out that his wife is cheating on him all in the same day.  Thinking that his world has ended, Logan checks into a hotel and turns on the TV to see that he’s not far wrong—radio telescopes have detected mysterious signals coming from inside our solar system, and the source is moving toward us at over 500 miles per second.  The media concludes that these signals must be of an alien origin.  Still reeling from the news, Logan gets a phone call from his brother-in-law.  Richard is talking crazy about the end of the world again, but this time he doesn’t sound so crazy.  Meanwhile, Richard, who is an astronomer working with the James Webb Space Telescope, is at the White House briefing the president to announce what he and the government have known for almost a decade: aliens are not invading, a frozen ball of gas is.  The so-called rogue star is predicted to make a near pass with Earth, disrupting our orbit and unleashing an ice age, the likes of which we haven’t seen for millions of years.  Government insider, Billionaire Akron Massey, has received a steady flow of funding over the past decade for his company, Starcast, to put a colony on Mars.  Over the same period he’s been using his personal fortune to create a colony closer to home where he plans to ride out the coming storm along with a thousand of the smartest people on the planet.  Humanity will need seeds to plant in the ashes after the chaos clears.  When the true nature of the threat becomes known, the nations of Earth prepare to fight over all the warmest parts of the planet.  But as war fleets set sail and armies begin marching south, a stunning discovery is made that will change a lot more than just the weather.  $2.99 on Kindle.

Mysteria

Mysteria by David Hayes and friends.  Be prepared to be spooked, but also be prepared to expect the unexpected.  These are written to come at you from an entirely unexpected direction.  There is more than a touch of the Gothic and macabre about these stories.  In fact they are steeped in it.  They are flesh-crawlingly delicious, and a treat for devotees of the paranormal.  This is a collection of short stories.  They are long enough to grip the reader, but brief enough to be read in a tea break or on a train – but why not treat yourself to a good spook-fest, and read them in the comfort of your armchair as the rain patters against the windowpane, and the wind howls its mournful tune – well, you get the idea.  Read it wherever you feel most comfortable (or uncomfortable!).  Just for good measure, I have also included a handful of stories (and a poem) from other authors who are friends of mine.  You will find these scattered throughout the book at random intervals.  So if you see the story title, and then a name, this will be a story from one of my friends, so watch out for Bernie Morris, David Clarke, Ann Perry and Lesley Hanson. See you on the other side!  $2.99 on Kindle.

SinfulCinderella

Sinful Cinderella by Anita Valle. I’m not who they think I am, a docile girl who meekly obeys her stepmother and stepsisters.  Some kind of sick angel who cheerfully bears their mistreatment.  That’s what I WANT them to think.  Because then they won’t suspect what I’m really up to.  The ball, the prince – it’s all part of my plan to come out on top.  Stepmother and her demented daughters will pay for every floor I have scoured, every sneer I have borne.  They don’t know about the white magic, how I use it to enhance myself.  They can’t see that my heart is black as midnight, rotten as a poisoned apple.  They’re about to find out.  99¢ on Kindle.

StoneSeekersFront

The Stone Seekers by Jack Tyler.  The Settlements clung precariously to a hostile shore where the very ground opposed them.  The people, fleeing a vicious tyrant, had crossed an ocean to get here, and had nowhere else to go.  They bore with them a parting gift from a powerful mage, the Wellstone, an artifact that could locate clean water among the vile poisons their new land offered.  When it is stolen in a raid by creatures of the surrounding forest, there is no choice but to go in pursuit.  But with who?  The entire combined militia of all the towns haven’t the power to overcome the forest denizens, so a skilled tracker and a savage warrior are sent to achieve through stealth what cannot be accomplished by force.  What possible chance could two people have?  No dwarves, no elves, no sign of Tolkien’s vast shadow.  99¢ on Kindle.

Interesting Reads . . .

Richard Paolinelli, writing on his blog The Eclectic Scribe, begins this week’s offerings on a chilling note, as he discusses the aftermath and possible future course of events following the assault on Jeremy Hambly at last fortnight’s GenCon 2018.  The background situation he describes is news to me, but it bears looking into.

I was followed over the weekend by an entity known as Inmate Blogger.  I still have a great deal to learn about how they work, but they seem to be a clearing house for blogs written by inmates of our penal institutions.  Their intro states,

This site is a collection of blogs written by inmates. It serves as a platform which allows them to share their individual stories, opinions, talents, and their inner thoughts. You can lock up a man, but you can’t lock up their mind. We support, understand, and believe that writing can be a great source of rehabilitation, growth, and healing.”

I’m fairly certain that convicted criminals aren’t given free access to computers, so this may be an earned privilege, I don’t know.  I also don’t know whether you can expect replies when you offer comments, but these boys and girls don’t blog about their favorite little themed coffee shop or the latest hair trends for tweens.  There is some heavy stuff here.  Heavy and often amazing.  If you’re up for some of the more advanced reading to be found on the web, a few samples from those I received this morning are Introducing Michael Sammons, Forever Young, and Father Figure.  The grammar and spelling may not be up to the standard we published authors are accustomed to, but the power and feeling present in every sentence are often overwhelming; we could take lessons . . .

Richie Billing, another name that gets a lot of play on these pages, takes his readers deep with a study of the many sub-genres of fantasy.  From High to Low, Epic to Grimdark, come see what all the buzz is about in what is arguably the widest-ranging field in all of fiction.

Charles Phipps, prolific independent author, blogging on his United Federation of Charles site, lays out his 15 Tips for Indie Authors, very much worth a read if you’re still a babe in the woods trying to make sense of the complete, unfettered freedom available to you as an indie.  It’s a world with no rulebook, quite literally none, but there are some unwritten guidelines that it’s worthwhile to follow, and Charles touches on a lot of them here.

I’ve been contemplating writing some horror over the past couple of months, and in a timely coincidence, Ruthanna Emrys, blogging for NPR, writes about the modern function of the horror genre.  This is a wonderful read, and is highly recommended whether you’re thinking about looking into it, or are already steeped in the lore.

And that’s 30 for today.  Be here next Sunday, when I’ll have more brilliant reading for you, my own and that of others.  See you then!

The Ketchup Bottle Sage

Caution: ketchup has kick!

~ Heinz advertising slogan

KetchupLabel

A new but cherished friend told me last week that I could still be a Writer Emeritus while suggesting that my work is at least as interesting as the label on the back of a ketchup bottle, and I laughed until I cried!  I have to tell you, that is the coolest thing I’ve been called in a long time. . .  Since Blimprider, in fact!  And so true.  Allow me to indulge you in an ancient Oriental morality fable that I just made up.

Some time ago, when monkeys formed a fair portion of a certain region’s diet, every village had its hunters, and in one particular village, one hunter outdid all the others even though he used neither net, nor spear, nor bow.  He was famous in all the villages in the region, and no one could figure out how he did it until, from his death bed, he divulged his secret.

In many of the trees near the village, he had strapped down heavy urns, and into these he placed baseball-size fruits particularly attractive to monkeys.  A monkey would reach into the narrow-necked urn, grasp the fruit, and with his hand wrapped around it, found it too wide to pull out.  The monkeys would never relinquish their hold on the fruit, though the trees around were laden with food for them, and they held on to that which they didn’t need and couldn’t use until the hunter came for them.

Well, not this monkey!  I’m letting go of this fruit that is doing me no good whatsoever, and getting on with my retirement.  It’s so relaxing not to get up every morning and stick my nose in the notebook and try to create.  It’s almost like I don’t have a job!  I also find that I’m sleeping longer, and I have fewer headaches; a guy could get used to this.  Of course, I’ve gotten used to all the wonderful friends I’ve made on-line, too, and I’ll continue to service this blog for as long as you continue to hang out and converse, but the blog itself is my writing now.  I promise I’ll try to make it interesting.  Who knows, hang around here long enough, and you may even learn something!  And don’t forget to read the latest installment of Chameleon on its tab above; I’d love to hear what you think.

The astute among you will have noticed that Stingaree has returned to the tab line above while The Darklighters has disappeared.  Stingaree is a steampunk crime drama that I had abandoned, having just passed the halfway point of the narrative.  I reopened it at the behest of photoblogger and good friend Richard Schulte, who describes it as an “interesting read.”  All right, one thing I’ve learned on the journey is never to disappoint a fan, so all of it will be transcribed to the page over the next week or so.  That will slow down Chameleon, but they’ll both get done.  Case in point, Chapter Seven posted Friday; it’s at the halfway point and moving nicely.  And should there be enough comments of an encouraging nature, I may be persuaded to finish Stingaree; that would almost certainly be my farewell opus.  The Darklighters, on the other hand, is at this point vanishingly unlikely to be continued, and I see no sense in teasing readers with a story that is part of a series that will probably never be picked up again.  That’s where it stands as of today; by next week, things will probably be completely different, but I hope not.  Fingers remain crossed . . .

Interesting Books . . .

Incite Insight

Incite Insight by Robert New.  Incite Insight is a speculative crime thriller.  Newly promoted ‘Country Boy’ Detective Brad Thomas is put on the case after a number of mysterious deaths – the victims’ brains appear to have melted.  Brad and Detective Sally Summers discover that the victims are linked by a strange tattoo that reveals membership of a secret organization.  Brad uncovers an intelligence raising program created by the first person to die from what the media dub the “Melting Brain.”  Believing that this program is the key to solving the deaths, Brad works his way through its levels and finds his own thinking being transformed.  Soon, he is invited to join the secret organization that has been spreading the program – The Network of Freethinkers.  He finds himself becoming involved in their plan to alter the way the world is run and create what they call the age of the Philosopher King.  Will he help change the world?  99¢ on Kindle (reg. $3.99).

SavingDragons

Saving the Dragons by Catriona MacRury.  Dragons are dangerous but that does not mean they need to be hunted to extinction.  To save the dragons, 18 year old Tharill and his younger brother Rory will find themselves thrown into the middle of a scheme of deception and misdirection.  On their journey to uncover the truth they will find allies in unlikely places, build friendships bound to last a lifetime, test their own family bonds and meet a feisty, strong willed young lady like none they have ever encountered before.  This is a fun adventure story filled with unexpected twists and turns.  It is a great read for young adults and those that are young at heart, looking for an unusual take on the lives of dragons and the people that interact with them.  99¢ on Kindle.

Guardian

Guardian by Taylor Ash.  The terrorist cell was hiding from the F.B.I.  But it’s high school freshman Madison Jennings they should have been worried about.  Madison is America’s most-well known survivor of one of the country’s worst terrorist attacks.  After six years in hiding, her parents send her to a public high school where she’s supposed to conceal her past, be normal, and keep a low profile.  But on the first day of school, she jumps into a fight to protect a student from a gang of bullies.  A series of ill-advised right hooks to their faces threatens to expose who she is to those who still want her dead.  But when Madison discovers a hidden pattern tied to the abductions of young women in the city, thoughts of her own safety are forgotten.  Now, she must turn enemies into allies to discover the truth before the missing turn into the murdered.  Young adult.  $3.99 on Kindle.

TakerOfMorrows

A Taker of Morrows by Stephen Paul Sayers.  R.G. Granville has his whole life in front of him . . . but only twenty-four hours to live it.  Beyond life’s boundaries, an enduring battle between good and evil determines the fate of earthly souls.  Here, ‘caretakers’ guard and protect against the evil and vengeful ‘jumpers’ who slip back and forth between worlds to prey upon the living.  For one man, news of his impending demise sets off a deadly chain of events fueled by a jumper’s burning vengeance.  Now he’s in a race against time to stop an unrelenting evil unleashed upon the earth.  And if he’s to protect his family, and the world, he must breach the tenuous boundary between life and death to confront a killer—and a shocking secret from his long-buried past.  99¢ on Kindle.

18thShadow

The 18th Shadow by Jon Lee Grafton.  The Graphene Prairie – Kansas – 2082.  The North American Union comprises all of Mexico, Canada and the antique United States.  93% of citizens live with a nano computer consentually embedded in their skull.  Alcohol is banned, cannabis is mainstream.  Holograms fill our eyes, drones float above the city hovstreets and the Office of the Architect watches everything and everyone.  Everyone, that is, except for a particular group of shiners, hand-picked outlaws protected by canine war cyborgs and a charismatic and mysterious telepath named Daxane Julius Abner.  Mr. Abner has a purpose.  That purpose is freedom.  He and his shiners make America’s black market vodka.  And they are the only heroes left.  Three-book set, free on Kindle (reg. 99¢).

GorgonBride

The Gorgon Bride by Galen Surlak-Ramsey.  The gods are funny.  Except when you piss them off.  Then they suck.  They really, really suck.  Alexander Weiss discovers this tidbit when he inadvertently insults Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, and she casts him away on a forgotten isle filled with statues.  Being marooned is bad enough, but the fact that the island is also the home of Euryale, elder sister to Medusa, makes the situation a touch worse.  The only thing keeping Alex from being petrified is the fact that Euryale has taken a liking to the blundering mortal.  For now.  What follows next is a wild, adventurous tale filled with heroes, gods, monsters, love, and war that is nothing short of legendary.  $5.99 on Kindle.

WorldWarForever

World War Forever by Harold Bloemer.  In this action-packed sequel to the dystopic thriller Highway To Armageddon, teen bounty hunters Lance, Boom Boom, and Krystal continue their blood-drenched, suicidal mission to prevent all-out nuclear war between the United States of the Americas and the Republic of China.  In order to inhibit this nightmare scenario, the trio must hunt down and assassinate the most powerful and dangerous woman to have ever walked the face of the Earth, United States President Angela Klaxton.  In essence, in order to achieve world peace, the president must die.  But things become much more confusing and chaotic the deeper down the proverbial rabbit hole the trio travel.  As Boom Boom, Lance, and Krystal traverse the world looking for their elusive target, they quickly realize China has no intention of backing down from a pending invasion, even if they do manage to take Klaxton out (which is no sure thing).  That means the key to warding off nuclear Armageddon may entail joining forces with their most despised enemy in order to thwart a much more treacherous foe.  The question is, are Lance, Krystal, and Boom Boom willing to work with Klaxton in order to save the lives of billions?  For Boom Boom, at least, that may be a bridge too far.  As she’s said several times before, perhaps the world does deserve to burn.  Free on Kindle until Wednesday (reg 99¢).

Addle-Plots of the Eternal Twilight by William Jackson is a clockpunk world with a rococopunk core.  This is the universe of Zaer.  Long ago, the universe ended.  In its place came a finite one, held inside a translucent polyhedral force.  At the center is a planet of life, of gigantic trees, and one royal line that has ruled in ostentatious splendor.  But high above, where the weird magnetic pole draws in asteroids and has formed a turtle-like shell, others live . . . others not so fortunate.  Free on Wattpad.

Interesting Reads . . .

Kelton Reid of Copyblogger offers his insights on 5 Things Only Serious Writers Do.  Yes, we’ve heard all the bullet points before, but his discussions and explanations of them are crisp and insightful, and I’d be willing to bet that you’ll find something new there no matter how long you’ve been at it.

Speaking of insights, C.W. Hawes, a prolific writer in multiple genres who is featured here often, takes on the reasons for writing in a deep and introspective article that challenges many of the platitudes that have been offered by successful writers as advice for those of us who haven’t yet made it, and goes so far as to disagree with Stephen King himself.

Laurie Bell takes to her blog, Rambles, writing and amusing musings, to share her method of one-page outlining.  Plotter or pantser, we’ve all had that great idea strike out of nowhere at the most inopportune time, only to have it evaporate by the time we can get to our writing sanctuary.  By keeping a pocket notebook and an understanding of Laurie’s method with you at all times, that disaster need never happen again.  Check it out today!

David Lee Summers, the book-writing astronomer, brought a bundle of good news this past week.  Besides announcing a promotion, a great bit of personal news, he has posted some spectacular photos taken through his personal 8″ telescope.  To top off a banner week, his employer, the Kitt Peak National Observatory, now carries his novel Solar Sea plus two of his anthologies in the visitor center.  Read all about it on his web journal.

Stephanie Kato, another name that gets dropped here a lot, operates a blog called Looking Toward the Future, and this week she has posted an informative interview with Mystery and crime writer Christopher J. Lynch.  They discuss indie vs. traditional publishing, his iconic character, the sinister One-Eyed Jack, climbing mountains both literal and figurative, and the life and times of Eddie Haskell.  A very entertaining read, I must say.

And finally, I’m not a real big fan of post-apocalyptic literature (it’s seeming more and more like Current Events!), but if you’re a writer in the field, or have been thinking about trying your hand, an article from Bloomberg arrived more or less randomly on my newsfeed that could be a gold mine of ideas for anyone contemplating a journey into the not-too-distant future.  Have a read if there isn’t enough depression in your life already!

Pensacon 2019, Feb 22-24, 2019

Pensacon

Pensacon, Pensacola, Florida’s comic convention, will be in full swing, as you can see, in the latter part of next February.  Writers and artists wishing to exhibit need to submit their applications soon, and I’m here to provide the links.

Artists apply here.                              Writers apply here.

Of course, you never have to wait for me to track down interesting reads for you; the sidebar is full of them.  Anytime you want to have your funny bone tickled or your mind challenged, just pick one at random and dive it.  These all come with the Blimprider Seal of Approval!

And that’s 30 for today.  Join me next Sunday, by which time I’ll have had a week to come up with something interesting; who knows, I might even manage it!