Monday, September 30, 2013

A Little Bit of Flash

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a fan of flash fiction, at least, not in its current iteration. It's tricksy and false and, usually, leaves too much out. The reason for that is that it's being crafted to be short, and, generally speaking, authors are too busy trying to be clever when they write flash fiction.

And, too frequently, the author has a 3000 word story he's trying to cut down to 1000 words, and it just doesn't work. I suppose what I'm saying is that if authors would let the story dictate the word length, some of these flash pieces, although they would quit being flash, would be better stories.

I do not, however, have an issue with timed writing exercises. These will, due to their nature, lead to what amounts to flash fiction or, possibly, vignettes.

All of that to say that last week I gave one of my creative writing classes a timed writing assignment. We're dealing with setting in that class, at the moment, so their assignment was to take 30 minutes and describe a setting for me. Characters were optional but there was to be no action unless the action contributed to the description of the scene. "For instance," I said, "if you want to describe how a cliff face is crumbly and dangerous, you could do that by giving me a climber and talk about the rocks sliding under his (or her) feet or a handhold giving way or something." Basically, any action had to be about the setting.

It's amazing just how difficult that idea was for the kids. So difficult that one of the kids gave me a total action scene which involved a kidnapping. One of them gave me what amounted to a list of items in a location. One of them wrote up the example I gave, which, actually, was fine. My (younger) son is in that class, and he knew what I meant and wrote up a very vivid description, if short, of a tidal pool (which I'd share with you if I had it available at this moment (but he's at school and I don't know where it is (probably with him in all actuality), so, maybe, I'll share it some other time)). Rendering settings, I can see, will be something we'll be working on at greater length.

Since I had 30 minutes on my hands, I sat down and did the assignment along with them. It's fun, upon occasion, to sit down and see what you can whip out in a short time. And I don't mean how much you can do from a larger work when you only have, say, an hour to write. I mean just pumping out something completely new in a short space of time. So I'm going to share what I wrote. Under 25 minutes. No changes. You're getting it exactly as I wrote it in class. Don't be surprised, though, if this pops up somewhere in the future, because I already have an idea for where this is going, because, yes, what I ended up with was a piece of flash fiction done in the way the name implies: It was written in a flash.

My currently untitled piece:

Leaves rustled and blew down the hard-packed dirt of the trail in the fading Autumn light. Light that was even more dim due to the arching branches of the trees. There were no shadows; it was all shadow with a few scattered patches of light here and there down the path, speckles of light scattered from the hand of some passing giant. Or, maybe, God. Little pieces He didn't need for the unseen sunset.
Up ahead, the path curved to the left and all was dark, the scant light feeding the darkness. Another gust of wind pushed more of the leaves toward me down the path, the rustling and tumbling of the small forms giving them the illusion of spiders scurrying along the trail, brushing my legs as they went by.
Something blew at my face, a leaf caught on the wind, and, ducking, I brushed it aside with the back of my hand, snagging it on my sweater. Although I couldn't feel it, the wind must have been picking up. The limbs of the trees creaked with it and more and more leaves swirled at me down the path. One caught in my hair; I felt it, and I reached up to comb it out with my fingers...
But it wasn't a leaf. It was a spider. A spider as big as my hand. They were all spiders...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Serial Bowl Is Empty

Well... here we are at the bottom of the bowl. One bite left and some milk to sip from the bottom.

This whole thing has kind of reminded me of when I was a kid. Every once in a while, we would just have cereal for dinner. It wasn't one of those kinds of things where my mom would just decide not to cook and we just ate whatever we wanted; it was an actual, declared cereal night. Yeah, it seems kind of weird to me, now, too, so I can only imagine those happened because my mom or, possibly, my dad wanted the cereal. Specifically. Like, "I want cereal tonight." Anyway...

When we had cereal nights, my dad always used one of the great, giant salad bowls to have his cereal in. All the rest of us would be using normal bowls, but there would be my dad with this huge bowl that was bigger than all of the other bowls combined. He'd pour in, like, half a box of cereal and something like a quart of milk. Maybe, it was closer to half a gallon? I don't really know. I think I'd probably have to experiment by making a bowl that big, but I'm quite sure I wouldn't be able to eat all of it.

And I could never believe that my dad could eat that much either. It was so much cereal! But he did always eat all of it. Amazingly. It was rather... impressive. At least it was to me when I was eight.

At any rate, the Shadow Spinner serialization has been more than a bit like one of those giant bowls of cereal, and being here at the last chapter is somewhat reminiscent of watching my dad take that last bite and, then, tilting the bowl back and drinking the last of the milk with whatever crumbs were left behind.

I can't believe it's over... but, here we are at the end.

Not that I haven't given my thoughts previously on the whole serial experience, I figured, now that it's actually over, I should probably sum it up or give final thoughts or... something, so here are some final thoughts (but, really, if you want it all broken out by points and stuff, go back and read that other post):

I think one of the things we're going to be seeing as we transition away from traditional publishing (and, yes, we are transitioning away from it, at least as it is in its current iteration) is more shorter works and more frequent publications. Rather than indie authors writing full-blown novels, we'll see series of novelettes and novellas. Sure, there will still be the occasional epic fantasy piece, and long, literary pieces will probably continue as they are for quite a while (they are the most resistant to change), but I think we're moving toward things that people can sit down and finish in a sitting or two. People just like that.

And, no, I have no data to back that up. It's just my feeling of how things are going. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. This will continue our move, culturally, away from physical books, because the expense of printing tiny 20-30,000 word pre-novels will just be too high.

Personally, I've been pretty happy with the experience. It's a lot of work releasing a book chapter by chapter, especially when if you devote a significant amount of time to author's notes the way I do, but I think it was worth it. I know that I brought in a lot of readers and made many connections that I never would have if I had only released Spinner as a single book.

Yes, I have another serialization some time in the future. But that's the future...

For now, here's the last part of Shadow Spinner along with the list of all of today's FREE! offerings.
"Part Thirty-four: Uri'el" (also FREE! tomorrow, Tuesday, October 1)
"Part Thirty-three: Justice"
"Part Thirty-two: The Gate"
"Part Thirty-one: The Serpent Strikes"
"Part Twenty-four: The Serpent"
"Part Twenty-three: The Harlot"
"Part Eighteen: The Angel"
"Part Seventeen: The Tree of Light"
"Part Sixteen: The Dark Tree"
And that's that. Nine FREE! parts today, which, granted, is not as many as on some days, but, well, I've used up all of my free days for a while. Still... Look for something special coming up round about Halloween. No, I mean it. Something special and not just from me. But that's all you're getting out of me for the moment about that.

For those of you that have been following along with Tib's adventures, I hope this brings this (first) story to a satisfactory conclusion. I'm not saying there will be another story about Tiberius, but there could be. One day. Maybe. Mostly, I'm toying with the idea of the origins of Michael and Edward; I'm just not sure I'll have time to get them down on "paper."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Spirit Well

The Spirit Well is book three in Stephen Lawhead's Bright Empires series currently scheduled to have five books. I reviewed book one, The Skin Maphere and book two, The Bone Househere. The titles of these books are great, and, as I've said before, I  love a good title. Book four is called The Shadow Lamp. Hmm... shadows... I have this thing for shadows.

As I mentioned in the review for The Skin Map, I started out not really liking the main character, Kit, of this series. He was... well, wishy-washy, at best. He spent a lot of that book whining and complaining and, honestly, by the end of it, I was pretty sick of him. If it hadn't been by Lawhead, I may not have continued on.

But I'm glad that I did, because Kit really grew into himself as a character in the second book, which probably had a lot to do with the tragic ending of the first. In the second book, we see Kit take control of himself and strengthen his will and resolve. He becomes a character that takes action rather than just trailing along behind. Of course, he doesn't really know what he's doing, but he means to do it well.

The third book gives us a Kit that becomes strong in body and mind, too. In many ways, he has no choice in the matter considering he gets trapped in a stone age past (but, remember, this isn't time travel) with a clan of cave men. By the end of his time there, he doesn't want to leave. It's interesting character growth and I really enjoyed those sections of the book.

The book, on the whole, centers on character growth and story growth. The plot doesn't really advance, but we do see it filled out and some of the missing pieces from the first two books filled in. There's also a new character, which seems a little late to me for her to be coming in in book three, but we'll see how that plays out. She seems to be important and much of the book centered on her journey to get her up to the same point as the rest of the characters. She's not the only new character, but the rest are characters related to the Arthur story line, so they weren't like bringing in a whole new plot thread.

So, overall, the book kept me engrossed, and I really want to know where Lawhead is going with all of this. There are hints of a larger "quest," "quest" being used in the sense of (King) Arthur's Quest for the Holy Grail, and, in some ways, this is a parallel type story to that. There are definitely Grail Quest overtones, at any rate, not to mention the use of "Arthur" as one of the character names. And, then, there is that Lawhead has actually written one of the best Arthurian series I've ever read, so, I suppose, it would be difficult to escape those things. To say the least, I am looking forward to the fourth book (as soon as it's out in paperback).

One thing, though, these are not in any way individual books within a larger story line. You can't grab book three and expect to understand what's going on, nor can you read the first book and expect a satisfactory ending. There is just one story, here, being told across multiple books. So far, it's a good story.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Old White Dudes and Why I Don't Want To Be One

Last week, I talked about the Cotati Accordion Festival, which is a great event, and I enjoy going to it. Generally, speaking, there's great music, good food, and lots of incredible accordions to look at (because they always have booths where they're being sold), and The Great Morgani and his crazy costumes.
One of last year's costumes.
There were a couple of drawbacks this year, though; one of which was that the music wasn't quite as good as it normally is. The other was that there seemed to be a prevalence of OWDS among  the crowd.

Here's what happened (not in chronological order):

First incident:
There was an old dude that kept taking his clothes off. Now, if it had been like crazy person taking his clothes off, that would have been one thing, but this guy wasn't crazy. He just seemed to think that it was okay for him to change clothes wherever he wanted to. I mean, maybe he thought he was at Burning Man or something, but I really don't think so. He just seemed to think it was okay... for him. Seriously, at one point he just stripped down to his "shorts," pulled new clothes out of his backpack, and put them on. And it wasn't like he went off somewhere to do that. He was right up at the stage while someone was playing. Evidently, he just wanted something more comfortable to dance around in. Another time, he went over and bought a t-shirt, so he just disrobed right there at the booth after buying the shirt so that he could change into it. The guy had a flaming case of entitlement.

Second incident:
They had a tent set up with a dance floor in it and zydeco music going on. My wife, her sister, and my daughter went in to dance. Also, the Great Morgani was in there dancing in his old lady costume (so hilarious!). I was standing at the edge of the tent with my left hand on one of the ropes watching them dance (but mostly watching Morgani (because, again, hilarious!)). Someone bumped my left shoulder. I let go of the rope and turned to see who it was, some dude (older than me) with a beer in his hand. Now, the act of turning caused an opening (of sorts) between myself and the rope, and the dude put his left shoulder into the opening so I couldn't turn back to where I had been. Slightly annoyed, I moved over a bit. A moment later, he bumped me again, and, again, I turned to see what was up, and he did the same thing, edging more into the opening I'd made. So I moved again. A moment late, he did it AGAIN, and, instead of just turning to look at him again, I stepped to the side and turned just in time to see him switch his beer to his right hand and grab the rope with his left effectively taking the spot I had been standing in when he first came up. He ignored the fact that I was staring aghast at him and just started bouncing with the music and sipping his beer.

Basically, he had just wanted my spot and proceeded to bump me out of it. If I hadn't known that it would be greatly upsetting to my wife, I would have told him exactly what I thought of his entitlement issues and rude behavior, neither of which he could see. To him, that spot deserved to be his, and he hadn't done anything wrong. But I did know that my wife wouldn't want me to cause a scene, so I moved away from the gashole (that's a new word in our house; it's that thing on your car where you put the gas in), fuming all the while.

Third incident:
The worst one, though, was this dude that was probably actually around my age, so not all that old. Seriously entitled, though. He kept wandering and dancing through the crowd and putting his hands and arms on people and trying to dance them around. By people, I mean women. He was acting all cheerful and cherubic, but it was clearly not welcome attention by many people, including my wife. Now, we'd already been observing his behavior, so when he walked past us and moved toward my wife, she backed away; some women, though, were not that lucky, and, whenever someone brushed him off or pushed him away, he would shrug like it was their problem, not his. He didn't leave the men completely alone, because he would give husbands and boyfriends or whomevers back pats and half hugs to let them know it was okay that he had just molested their women.

When he wasn't doing that stuff, he was walking around like he was the godfather of the festival bestowing blessings on people. And if you're wondering if this was some important dude, don't. It was just some old white dude exercising his entitlement. He had no problems. Any problems were with the other people. After all, he was just having a good time.

So I've used this one event to spotlight these issues, but this is only one example. There was also the recent thing with SFWA and a bunch of old white dudes saying how women shouldn't even be writing science fiction. And there was the deal with the white dudes harassing women at SDCC about how they weren't worthy fans and only wanted to play dress up or some such. And don't even get me started on how white dudes think they ought to get to drive.

In short, we here in the US are suffering from a horrible case of OWDS. Even people who don't have it are being affected by it, probably on a daily basis, much like non-smokers are affected by second-hand smoke. And, like second-hand smoke, being affected by it is worse than actually having it. In fact, people with it probably don't know they have it, wouldn't care if they did know, and would probably think it was a good thing anyway. It's particularly rampant among baby boomers, but there are plenty of signs of the early stages in younger generations.

What is it, exactly, that I'm talking about? Old White Dude Syndrome. It's a horrible disease and usually incurable; however, with proper education and preventative measures most of the symptoms can be minimized. As with any disease, the best prevention is early detection.

Most commonly, this affliction is seen among those we would consider the 1%. At least, that's where we see the symptoms most out-of-hand, especially among politicians. Some current examples:

  • Donald Trump and his unwillingness to shake hands with the disease-ridden poor.
  • Anthony Weiner and his weiner.
  • Romney and his seeming belief (yes, I'm being generous) that half of American citizens want to do nothing more than live off of government handouts. Because they're not rich, see. If only they weren't so lazy, they would be rich, too.
Whereas those are some examples of out-of-control symptoms, we can see the beginnings of OWDS in the entitlement issues that white dudes everywhere have. I mean, come on, since when has it ever been okay to just walk through a crowd groping on women and dancing them around? And that shrug the guy gave was almost as if to say, "It's okay; I'm white."

It's getting to be a thing between me and my wife whenever we see some old white dude acting in one of these entitled ways that I will turn to her and say something like, "Don't ever let me act like that. Just slap me or something, and, if that doesn't work, shoot me." I don't want to be one of those old white dudes. At all. Hopefully, I'm taking the correct kinds of measures to make sure OWDS doesn't take root in me, but, you know, feel free to let me know if you ever see any signs of it coming out. Hopefully, this small bit of educational information will help others onto the path of avoidance and prevention.

No Thoughts Interview

Hmm... maybe that title doesn't sound so good? I mean, that sounds like I have no thoughts... wait a minute, that might be right?

Okay, just ignore me and pop over to No Thoughts 2 Small to see me answer a few questions about Shadow Spinner including what the theme song would be. You can tell me what you think of my choice. That is, if you've read it, you can tell me what you think.

Also, don't forget, "Part Thirty-three: Justice," the penultimate chapter of Spinner is FREE! today!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lego "Justice" (a Fair post)

So, okay, you got me. There's really nothing to do with justice and Lego (by the way, did you know that "Lego" is the plural of "Lego"? (I think I mentioned this before, but I don't feel like checking)) in  this post. At least not together. I suppose if this was a Lego Batman post, we could talk about Lego and justice together, but it's not. No, this is about the Lego exhibit they have every year at the Fair. (We'll get to the justice part in a bit.)

The arts and crafts stuff at the Fair always includes a fairly large Lego exhibit which is something we spend a lot of time at. At least, we spend a lot of time at it in comparison to the other arts and crafts. Mostly, this is the fault of the boys. Actually, my wife and my daughter usually just glance at them and go do something else while I hang out with the boys while they examine every piece. Okay, not every piece, because my younger son has incredible disdain for kids who send in their boxed kits as their entries.

And I get it. It's supposed to be original creations. But, you know, how do you tell that to a six-year-old? Or to his parents that don't really know the difference. Or the judges who are almost certainly old(er) people that barely know what a Lego is. Yeah, I know I'm generalizing and stereotyping, but, since the contest is supposed to be about original creations and (at least) half of the entries (including some that win prizes) are just kits you can buy at the store, I have to assume that these people don't have any working knowledge of Lego.

Anyway... there have been some really incredible builds the last few years. Some guy made a huge model of a scorpion (and, when I say huge, I mean somewhere in the 3-4' long range not counting the tail) from the technic type pieces and, I'm assuming the same guy, some other similar type bug thing another year. I wanted to share pictures of those, because there was nothing quite so impressive this year, but... well, I can't seem to find those pictures. [They got put into storage (off my computer) at some point, and I don't know where they are (probably because we moved since I did that). And I did, actually, spend several hours looking for those discs to no avail.] All of that to say, you'll just have to be satisfied with the pictures of this years' creations (and hope that I find those other pictures at some point in the future).

My son assures me that these are not from kits (and I don't know of any kits of these, but they are so well done, I thought, maybe, there was some older line of military vehicles or something that I didn't know about). As you can see, they won first place in their category.
Yes, someone touched the plane on the left. My son really wanted to fix it, so I had to remind him about his feelings on the subject and whether he'd want someone he didn't know fixing it if it was his creation.
(I wanted to fix it, too.)

And, now, for the most impressive thing this year
(which is nowhere near as impressive as the things from the last couple of years).
That's the Lego show from this year.

My son always wants to enter something, but, when presented with the knowledge that he would have to submit the piece for judging at some point before the Fair starts and that it would be on display for weeks (where other people could touch it and potentially break it), meaning that he could be without his Lego for more than a month, he always decides he'd rather not. Then, he walks around grumbling about how his thing was better than this-or-that thing. Except he never said that about those Lego creatures. That just made him want more Lego so that he could build something that big. I told him when I sell a million books that we'll talk about it.

Speaking of books!

Today is the penultimate release of the Shadow Spinner serialization! Yes, the end is almost here! Want to find out what happens to Tib, Michael, and the Man with No Eyes? Well, this is your chance to do it. Not to mention the Serpent and... the Angel, Uri'el! This is one climax you don't want to miss! Grab "Justice" today!
Here's your list of today's FREE! offerings:
"Part Thirty-three: Justice" (FREE! Monday, September 23 and Tuesday, September 24)
"Part Thirty-two: The Gate"
"Part Thirty-one: The Serpent Strikes"
"Part Thirty: Called in Judgement"
"Part Twenty-four: The Serpent"
"Part Twenty-three: The Harlot"
"Part Twenty-two: The Undying"
"Part Seventeen: The Tree of Light"
"Part Sixteen: The Dark Tree"
That's only nine parts this week, but, hey, running these things for FREE! every week uses up the free days pretty quickly. Next week: "Part Thirty-four: Uri'el" and, maybe, something else new!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's Time For More Accordions

As I have mentioned (though not in a while), my daughter plays the accordion. She's closing in on three years of playing and is busy practicing her Christmas music right now. It's kind of driving her brother crazy as he is somewhat offended by the need for Christmas music in September. But, at least, it's not like all of the Christmas stuff that will soon start appearing in stores. If she wants to be able to play Christmas music this year at Christmas, she has to practice now. But I digress...

The 23rd Annual Cotati Accordion Festival was back in August, and my daughter played onstage there for the second time as part of their Future Accordion Stars segment.
It's not a long set or anything, but, still, it's playing in front of a crowd. She was a little nervous, but she did a great job. And, well, hey, it just makes me proud to watch her up there playing.

Beyond the Future Accordion Stars, however, the acts, overall, were not as good this year as last year. I feel confident saying that since we were there for huge chunks of time both days this year. For instance, there was a guy that played for a full hour right after the Future Stars, and he just did what I'm calling free-style accordion playing. I suppose it was somewhat akin to jazz, but, mostly, it just sounded like a lot of noise. To me, at least. A lot of people seemed to like it. There seemed to be a lot of that kind of stuff this year, which really didn't appeal to me.

But there were some good acts, too. For instance, my daughter's aunt's band played (yes, that would be my sister-in-law, but I'm framing it as "my daughter's aunt" because it was her aunt that inspired her to want to play the accordion (completely on accident)), and they're really good and have played private parties for the likes of Coppola. They put the lie to "If you admit you can play the accordion, no one will hire you in a rock and roll band."

Also, there was this band called Sweet Moments of Confusion (great name, right?) that was really quite good. They played all original music based on various folk styles. I wish they had been playing instead of the other dude that wasn't playing anything that had been composed.

And, of course, returning for his 14th year at the festival was The Great Morgani. He really is just a lot of fun. Like last year, I only managed to get pictures of him in one of his costumes (although we did get to see him twice, this year (and the costume for the show I didn't get pictures of was hilarious)).
I don't think I'll ever understand how he can play in all of these elaborate costumes, but he does. Even when his shoes start to "sink," which his monster shoes did. He had to warn us that the foam was settling so that if he suddenly fell over backwards we'd know why. Here's a picture of him walking around in the crowd after playing:

My official opinion is that the accordion is an under appreciated instrument. It's too bad, because it can do a lot and requires a lot of talent. People think it takes a lot of work to do something like play the piano, and it does, but my daughter is just picking up the piano as a side-effect of playing the accordion. You can't just pick up the accordion as a side-effect of the piano. I'm glad she's chosen an interesting instrument to play, something that stands out, even if getting hired in a rock-and-roll band becomes more difficult.

One last picture of a band whose name I don't remember:
(It took me a while to get that the red and green was about the Italian flag and not Christmas. heh)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Following Anne

If you were here on Monday, you'll know that Briane Pagel is both promoting his new book,

Temporary Anne, and writing a "story on the go," as he calls it. It's kind of a choose your own adventure kind of thing except there are no choices other than the ones the audience comes up with. Part one of that story is here. Part two, wherein Stephen King dies, is here. You will find part three (and Anne) over at Laws of Gravity today, although I would imagine that Anne doesn't really have to follow any laws of gravity. At least, not anymore.

If you want to know what I mean by that, go grab Temporary Anne for the low, low price of less than one dollar! And, remember, within the virtual pages, you will also find the story of "The Magic Cookies," worth the price all by itself! Just don't tell Anne that I sent you. I don't want her looking for me.

And since Amazon puts limits on the number of days we can offer our books for FREE! and, because of that, Briane couldn't give Anne away today (as if she'd let him), he has made another one of his books for FREE! today only: Eclipse
I reviewed Eclipse some time ago, so check that out and, then, pick up your FREE! copy. It's one of my favorites of Briane's books.

Today, I'm over at Crystal Collier's. She asked me about cheese and made me tell a lie. Go over and see if you can figure out what the lie is. There's a prize involved!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Unexpected Applause: Temporary Anne

One of the things I like about the writing of Briane Pagel is that you can kind of see the questions that must be going through his head that inspire the stories he writes. So, like, with the After, you can see the questions about Heaven and the nature of Heaven that inspired the novel. And, so, Temporary Anne

seems to me to be a logical extension of his exploration of Heaven into an exploration of Hell. And what an unsettling exploration it is.

And, actually, in this instance, I'm glad I can't see what's in Briane's head to give him ideas for all of the horrible monsters he creates for this book. And they are. Horrible, that is. And fairly disgusting. But, you know, when designing minions from Hell, they ought to be.

However, as repulsive as his creatures are, they do not approach the level of repulsiveness that his main character attains. I don't think I've seen a truer example out there of the anti-hero. On the one hand, she's trying to escape Hell, and, well, it's Hell, so you are kind of wanting her to do that. But... well, the "but" is full of spoilers, but there comes a point when the idea of her escaping for any longer is not something you want to see happen.

And, as bad as she is, she is not the worst character in the book.

From a train wreck perspective, reading this book is like watching one. And it's fascinating. If you like horror, this is definitely a book worth reading.

However, there are editing issues. Some of them, most people won't notice. Like the punctuation stuff. But the verb tense mistakes might catch some people, although I'm not convinced that most people will notice.

Overall, I'd give the book a B. Maybe a B- because of the editing issues. Definitely worth $0.99, though.

BUT there's more!

Included at the end of the book is a series of short stories by various writers including one by yours truly. So here's the thing there: I was going to release "The Magic Cookies" as an individual story for $0.99, so, of course, I think the $0.99 price for Temporary Anne is more than worth it. And, hey, "The Magic Cookies" is a funny story, and you should all read it.

I'd review the other stories included except that I haven't quite gotten that far. I finished Anne because that was my priority, but that's it. However, Rusty has a story in there that is, at least, part of one that I've read. I'm not sure if it's the whole thing (because it looks too short from what's in the table of contents), but, however much of that story that's in there (all or part), it's also well worth the read. What all of this says to me is that for less than a buck, this book is a steal.

[Note: Once I finish the short stories, I will post an update with short reviews of those. Except "The Magic Cookies." I can already tell you that that one is GREAT and you should run right out and read it. Oh, wait, you don't need to run anywhere. Even better!]

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Temporary Anne and "The Gate"

Briane Pagel is here today pimping his new book Temporary Anne.

I'll have a review of it later in the week (possibly tomorrow?). As I'm writing this, I haven't, yet, finished reading the book, but I fully expect to have finished it by the time this posts. So far, I have nothing but good things that I could say about it, but I have to leave open the possibility that the author could spoil it at the end since I've read more than one book that went along swimmingly (ask Anne) right up until the end, when the book suddenly drowned. Of course, in Anne's case, the swimming happened first, but I'm getting ahead of the story, I think.

Before I hand things over to Briane, I should add that Briane has taken my idea of including stories from other authors and run off with it. In fact, he ran off with one of my stories, a story that I had planned to release all on its own for the same price as Briane's book, so, hey, it's like two stories for the price of one. AND I'm not the only one with a short at the back of Anne. You can also find stories by PT DillowayRusty Carl and Nigel Mitchell. So, actually, that's FIVE stories for the price of ONE! What a deal. So go pick up Temporary Anne for the low, low price of absolutely nothing (because today it is FREE!) and read "The Magic Cookies." I guarantee you that it's not the kind of story you've come to expect from me.

All of that said, here's Briane!


This is DAY TWO of the release tour for my newest book, Temporary Anne.
Temporary Anne is a horror story about a woman so desperate to avoid Hell -- the fate for the evil she's done during her life -- that she makes things infinitely worse after her death.
To celebrate the release, I'm doing a blog tour in which I'm writing a short story, LIVE, with your help!  At each stop, I'll do an installment of the story and you can suggest where it goes next!
Below is PART TWO of the story.  PART ONE appeared on Tina Downey's Life Is Good, and if you didn't catch it, click here to read that first before going on, maybe, so the story makes more sense to you!
But it was no good, as before I could speak, Stephen King -- the man himself! The legendary author! The guy who once had threatened to punch my lights out in an alleyway, or so I told people back home! -- suddenly shot up out of his seat.
You would be forgiven if you thought I, as a writer, was merely using descriptive language to demonstrate how Stephen King stood up suddenly, perhaps to storm onto stage and announce that he would let me finish but really Dean Koontz should've won this award, but I assure you, I am in no way exaggerating.
As I said "I", Stephen King rose several feet above his seat, lifted in the air and his legs flailing and arms grappling towards his throat but not reaching it, Stephen King levitating above the assembled, dignified-but-suddenly-shocked crowd, a crowd which had figured on simply sitting through boring speeches before cocktails but which now suddenly was treated to a spectacle!
They seemed to enjoy it, for the few seconds that Stephen King was merely writhing above their heads apparently pantomiming being strangled by a being much larger (and meaner! and more claw-ish and fang-having than they were, although they did not know that!) than he, but their enjoyment quickly faded when first Stephen King's left, and then Stephen King's right, eyeball was pulled from his head as if by a vacuum cleaner.
Can you imagine? I, and the Vice President of the United States, and the assembled dignitaries, need not imagine what it looks like, but you may not have read all of the news accounts, many of which were not so graphic, so I'll describe it:
Stephen King's eye -- the left one, first, remember-- begins to bulge out.  As though he were a cartoon wolf, looking at a sexy cartoon sheep! It bulges, rounder and rounder and then, if you were looking closely at it, you'd see the lens about to tear off but the optic nerve must break first, and the eyeball -- still whole! Still whole! -- POPS! from the socket, the squishy rip of the nerve pulling off being overshadowed by the sucking sound the orb makes as it disappears into the invisible maw of the beast only I can see.
I can see all of them.
I saw the beast as it walked through the aisle, not betraying its presence by touching anything until it reached the third row.  I saw its slimy tentacles stretch above Stephen King, nearly brushing the Vice President's ear, and I saw it lift him up.
"Um..." I said, and covered my surprise with a sip of water from the glass on the podium, putting the glass down as pandemonium broke loose upon Stephen King's unfortunate (for him!) demise.
After the eyes, the head appears to collapse inwards on itself-- only I know that it is one of the three arms of the Beast that has used its claws to puncture the ears on each side before crushing the skull.  Only I can see the tentacle then fling Stephen King's lifeless, nearly-headless body, at the now-screaming seats of dignitaries, dignified no longer as they scramble for exits, avoiding the security guards who have rushed in to -- too late!-- to protect Mr. King.
Only I need not fear this Beast, as it turns upon the security guards.
Tentacles grasp and pull, guards' guns stop firing, guards hearts burst from the squeezing pressure.
From its seven mouths come seven tongues, tongues that are lined with needles, like a cactus, but only if that cactus had been grown in Lucifer's own garden plot, and even then only by a particularly malicious gardener!
Three arms waving, five legs stomping, seven tentacles grabbing, too-many-heads-having, the Beast dispatches the guards.  Only a few of the audience have been crushed by it, although some probably will die from having been lit on fire by its breath.
In the melee, I close my eyes, but even then, I can still see the Beast.
It is looking at me. 
"YOU!" a voice says.
It is not the voice of the Beast.
YOU get to help Andrew pick what happens next!  I'll leave it wide open and see what you, and Andrew, come up with.

*Promise not valid in the 6th, 14th, and 17th dimensions.

--Briane Pagel
"That's a lot of infinity!":

"I sometimes call him Pumpkin Pie.":

"In my defense, I didn't know what whores were" :

This has been a production of the Vince Lombardi fanfic group:

 So you heard the man. Leave suggestions in the comment section about where the story goes from here. I'll pick what I like best and pass it on to Briane. Part 3 of his story on the run will appear on Laws of Gravity on September 18. Make sure you check it out!

To continue on with the FREE! stuff, today is also the release of "Part Thirty-two: The Gate"! Oh, we're so close to the end, now; can't you taste it? Okay, please don't do that. Seriously, get your tongue off of your monitor. Do you know how dirty that thing is? Yeah, I see that those dried coffee spots where you sloshed your coffee two weeks ago and didn't bother to clean it off. And that other thing... oh, man, I don't even know what that is! Don't you ever clean your monitor? It's not a science experiment!


Here is the list of today's FREE! Shadow Spinner offerings:
"Part Thirty-two: The Gate" (also FREE! tomorrow, Tuesday, September 17)
There you go, twelve FREE! parts, today. And don't forget to grab Anne while you can!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Tour with a Camera (a Star Wars post)

If you've been following me for any length of time, you will know that the Lucasfilm offices and Skywalker Ranch are not places unfamiliar to me. There have been two problems with this:
1. Not owning a cellphone (and, thus, an always on hand camera), I have not ever had a camera with me when I've been. Usually, this isn't an issue as we're not going to be any place really cool, anyway; however, there have been a few events where a camera would have come in handy:

  • the premier event for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull -- lots of cool props on hand at the gathering after the movie
  • the premier event for the debut of Star Wars: The Clone Wars -- since it was animated, there were no props, but there was a lot of the pre-vis models and sketches and stuff
  • that time George Lucas said "howdy" to me -- okay, so a camera would have gotten me in trouble that time, but since I didn't have one with me...
2. I've never actually been on a tour of either facility. Wait a minute... had never.

So, yeah, I finally got a tour of the Lucasfilm offices down at the Presidio in San Francisco and I took my camera with me. Although that was kind of scary. You have to sign a non-disclosure agreement before getting to go in (and get a security badge and all that) and that includes not taking any pictures. I  hadn't met up with my friend, yet, as I was getting my badge and stuff, but one of the main reasons for the tour is that I wanted to get some pictures, so not getting to take any would kind of defeat the point. Not that it would be a reason not to get the tour, but, you know, PICTURES! But I signed the agreement and went looking around for my friend. No, no, not in the building. Back outside, since I figured he was looking for me (and I couldn't actually go in without him, anyway). Once I found him, I was, like, "Dude! I just signed a thing saying no pictures. Does that mean no pictures?" And he was, like, "Well, I don't think so."

Yeah, that put my mind at ease.

But we stayed to, basically, public areas where there was no sensitive Episode VII stuff going on, so we're pretty sure the pictures are okay. And a couple of the security dudes seem to think it was okay, too, so, finally, I have some pictures. However, if you never hear from me again, you'll know what happened. I just hope they put me in a cell not connected to one of the garbage compactors.

Until then, here is your (partial) photographic tour of some of the cooler things I saw there:
Yeah, you have to pretty cool to get your own Lego head made for you by the Lego company.
The most famous blaster in the galaxy.
A statue to Ray Harryhausen, possibly the "Father of Stop-motion photography."
The Yoda fountain.
He's offering me cookies. (Recognize the shirt Briane?)
What? You thought it was all Star Wars?
Okay, it's a lot Star Wars.
But this is not Star Wars. (Knowing might win you points in my so far unimplemented point system.)
These should look familiar to at least some of you.
This guy kept trying to sell me stamps.
This is so sad.
Anyone recognize these guys? They don't come with batteries.
Well, that's about it for the pics (that I'm going to share), so everyone
"Beee goood."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Long Hard Times To Come (an Indie Life post)

I'm not sure of the precise reason, but, when I think of the life of the independent author, this is the song that comes to mind. Okay, the actual reason, the apparent reason is a great part of it: "On this lonely road, trying to make it home... I see them long, hard times to come." It really says it all, even if there is more than just that in the song that resonates with me and this path.

The life of the indie writer is a long, hard, lonely road. Well, unless you just get lucky right at the start. Most of us, though, will not get lucky and any success we achieve will come at the end of a long, hard road.

Right now, I am feeling that long, hard road, and it doesn't feel as if I brought enough water along.

But I knew what I was getting into, or onto, when I started this journey; I do not, however, think a lot of writers who choose to go the indie route really know what kind of journey they're starting. At the beginning, there is some hold-your-breath expectation to be one of those lucky few that have the stars align and light your path with gold-showered success as soon as you step onto the path. You learn very quickly, after that, to breathe... or pick yourself up off of the ground after you've passed out.

And the real problem with the indie road is that it's not, yet, well-trod, no matter how many people are on it. The paths of traditional publishing are well established, paved even, not that they are any less long and hard these days. The buses and limos that used to pick authors up along the way on the traditional road are becoming fewer and fewer and more and more authors are being forced to walk that road rather than catching a ride. But, still, it's clearly marked, and it's hard to get lost.

The road for the indie author, though, is more like a big field, a huge field, with people wandering around in it trying to figure out in which direction to go. There are what amounts to game tracks here and there where several authors have gone before, but those paths fade away and become unclear and harder to follow as the terrain becomes rough. We're just out there trying to figure out which way to go, full of questions without answers, so much so that we forget the questions.
This journey's too long, I'm looking for some answers
So much time stressing, I forget the questions
The real issue is that too many people set out without an actual destination, a goal, in mind beyond that vague hope for fame and fortune. Fame and fortune, though, are not a destination. It may happen but not because there's a road that leads there. Not a seen road, anyway; it's more like an unseen highway that may or may not coincide with the road you're on. If you are, in fact, on a road and not just wandering around hoping to find fame and fortune as if you are in an Arkansas diamond field.

So how do you find your way?

Find your mountain. Pick your point on the horizon and go towards it. You don't have to worry about anyone else's path that way. If you find a path that is going in the same direction, great, but, if you find what looks like a great path but it's leading in some other direction, don't take it. Stick to your path, your road, no matter how long and hard it is. The only question is, "What is your mountain?"

Mine, right now, which is only like a foothill in the overall picture, is finishing Brother's Keeper. That's my point on the horizon. Of course, right now, I'm still working my way off of the path that was called Shadow Spinner, and I have to finish crossing that plateau now that I'm on the top before I can start climbing the next hill, but I am ready to start on that next hill.

So, yeah, you climb your first mountain and find out that it was only just a foothill of a much larger mountain, but, you know what, that's okay. That's the way it goes. And you keep climbing. And you keep climbing. And you keep climbing. You make it past each peak, and you keep going, and, one day, you find that you have reached the top, the real top, and you cross over to the other side, the side with all the people, and they see you come across in the sunrise, you who have never been there before, and they look up at you and wonder about your "overnight success," because, remember, you weren't there the day before, and you look down the long, long, slope behind you, you look back at the hills and valleys, all of which you crossed, and you kind of smile because you know how long "overnight" really was. But it's okay, because you're there.

Or maybe not, because, for you, maybe there is another mountain, and you see that the long, hard road keeps going and that there are more "Long Hard Times To Come." But that, too, is okay. You rest a bit, refill your water bottles, and set your feet back on the path and keep going.

(This post has been brought to you, in part, by Indie Life.)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Monday That Will Be and the Monday That Is

The Monday That Will Be

As many of you know, I am not big on cover reveals or book debuts. As I've explained in probably more detail than anyone was actually interested in reading, this is due to the idea of promoting something that I have no actual experience with, and I don't want to be telling, or even suggesting, anyone to buy something that isn't actually a worthwhile product. On the other side of that, I don't actually ask people to promo my stuff before they've experienced it, either. I figure that's a fair trade.

However, I am participating in Briane Pagel's tour for his newest book, Temporary Anne.

I'm making an exception to my rule for two reasons:
1. I like almost everything Briane writes (sorry, the Stupid Pineapple failed to grab me (that's not me calling the Pineapple stupid; that's the name of the story)). I'd strongly suggest Eclipse; it will warp your mind as you try to figure out what's really happening. Or happened.
2. It's not really an exception as Briane sent me promo copy of Anne, which I'm reading right now so I should (assuming nothing catastrophic happens this week) have a review ready for my stop on the tour. That would be stop #2.

Here's the full tour list:

  1. life is good -- Friday, Sept. 13
  2. StrangePegs -- Monday, Sept. 16
  3. Laws of Gravity -- Wednesday, Sept. 18
  4. The Blutonian Death Egg -- Friday, Sept. 20
  5. Nigel G. Mitchell -- Monday, Sept. 23
  6. Jessica Bell -- Thursday, Sept. 26
  7. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan --Monday, Sept. 30
  8. Jess's Book Blog -- Thursday, Oct. 3
  9. Lara Schiffbauer's Motivation for Creation -- Monday, Oct. 7
  10. P. T. Dilloways' Blog -- Thursday, Oct. 10
At any rate, Briane is someone that gets overlooked a lot because of the length of his posts. He's the only guy around (that I know of) that consistently has longer posts than me (not including John Scalzi, who does, also, sometimes have longer posts than me, but, also, puts up tons of posts with almost no words a all). Briane is well worth reading. Although his posts are often rambling, they are generally full of all sorts of insight and frequently make me LOL. In fact, my wife has come to expect that if I am LOLing while blog reading that I am reading one of Briane's posts. She's probably correct about 99% of the time.

Briane's books, on the other hand, while frequently philosophical in nature (though not always), are not rambling. He tells good stories even if he does sometimes need an editor to help him with punctuation and stuff. He does not need an editor to help him with his stories. At all. And his books are all less than a buck which is almost nothing so they're well worth picking up. AND reading.

So, yeah, come back next week... just don't let Anne catch you.

The Monday That Is

Look! It's another Monday and another Shadow Spinner release! The end is near...
Here's the list of today's FREE! parts:
(NEW) "Part Thirty-one: The Serpent Strikes" (also FREE! tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 10)
"Part Thirty: Called in Judgement"
"Part Twenty-nine: Loss"
"Part Twenty-eight: The Shadow Place"
"Part Twenty-three: The Harlot"
"Part Twenty-two: The Undying"
"Part Twenty-one: The Chase"
"Part Twenty: The Sword of Fire"
"Part Sixteen: The Dark Tree"
"Part Fifteen: Food of the Garden"
"Part Fourteen: Anger and Laughter"
"Part Ten: The Broken Window"
"Part Nine: The Shadow of the Tree"
"Part Eight: The Cold and The Dark"
Well, that's only 14 FREE! parts this time, but I can only make available what Amazon allows me to make available. Remember, the first collection, "Shadow Spinner: Collection 1: Tiberius (Parts 1-5)" is available!
"Shadow Spinner: Collection 2: The Man with No Eyes (Parts 6-12)" will be coming soon.