Looking for writing-related posts? Check out my new writing blog, www.larrykollar.com!

Sunday, September 30, 2012 2 comments

Weekend Fall Mason Blogging

Fall on Planet Georgia is a great time to be outside. After a long hot summer, it’s nice to be able to sit out on the patio with a fire to keep the bugs away. And Mason’s all for being outside…

We went to the corn maze last weekend. He had a blast, running full-tilt boogie through a very complex maze. This wasn’t the kind where you could always get through it by turning right at every juncture.

That way!

Seems like every time we go outside lately, he wants to go into the woods and pick blackberries. We have to keep telling him they came in June and were gone in July. While we have some in the freezer, the persimmon tree just above the mailbox is starting to drop little sweet-bombs:

Snack time!

These are, as far as I can tell, a variety called Fuyu. They’re not the ultra-pucker type, so we’ll find something to use them in.

Oh, and the in-laws have two pear trees. They’re Kieffer pears, which are very firm and have a tough peel, and are meant for cooking or canning. I picked up several bags of good pears off the ground, and the wife and I canned eight pint jars and five quart jars of preserves. She wants me to pick up another bag, to make pear relish. I cooked a few in my crock pot at work last week, just to smell up the office.

We went to visit the wife’s older sister (the not-nutty one) yesterday. With her last kid in college, she’s downsizing and selling her house. We brought home some outdoor furniture, but Mason saw a huge spread of pumpkins at a nearby church and about went nuts. So we got a couple to carve, and Mason found a very strange looking gourd:

So ugly it's cute (the gourd)

He wasn’t too thrilled about the anthill over at the table where they collected the money, especially since one chomped his foot, but a little cream on the bite and he was fine. If only all the hurts he gets in life can be fixed with a little cream and sympathy…

Snippet dropped by on Friday, on the way to see her mom near Jacksonville, with her new boyfriend in tow. Her dad (who’s okay) also showed up. I got a good fire going on the patio and we all sat out there and yakked until we realized we’d forgotten supper. She’s coming back by on Monday, when it’s supposed to be raining heavily. Here’s hoping they get here and gone okay… they’re in his parents’ new car, and I’d hate for something to happen to it. :-P

Friday, September 28, 2012 13 comments

#FridayFlash: Uprising

Source: openclipart.org
Joe leaned over, and threw a couple sticks into the fire ring. Sparks spiraled up, reaching to join their brothers in the sky. A wisp of smoke curled Joe's way in the dark, not strong enough to sting his eyes.

He gave a happy sigh, leaned back in is plastic chair, and drained his Bud. At his feet, his dog Bo echoed the sigh. Joe tossed the empty beer can onto the heap of cans, off to one side, then fished a fresh one out of the cooler next to him.

Popping the can, he paused. Standing across from him, at the edge of the firelight, was a strange woman. Her wrinkled face and dark garb made her hard to see, as if she were just part of the woods.

"Where the hell did you come from?" he demanded, glaring at the interloper. He stole a glance at Bo, who made no attempt to get up.

"I have always been here," the woman replied. Joe thought she had an accent. Something foreign.

"You squattin' on my property?" Joe was incensed. "Bad enough you Mexicans sneak up here and live off our welfare, you gotta squat on land that don't—"

"Where do you get your wood?" the woman cut in, gesturing at the stack, within easy reach of Joe's chair.

"I cut it myself. As if that's any of your business," he growled. "Too many trees, anyway. I'm clearin' out—"

"You have said enough!" The woman took a step closer. Her clothes looked like tree bark. Damn good camo, he thought. Bo raised his head, sniffed, and trotted off into the woods. "By your own words," she went on, "you are condemned, you and all your brethren."

"What's that supposed—" Joe sneered, then heard the snapping noises. He looked around, but never saw the bough that crushed his thick skull and collapsed the chair beneath him.

The dryad raised her arms; around her, the trees whispered in the language of the wind. "This night," she intoned, "we rise up! Join me, my sisters. Let all Nature arise and reclaim what is hers!"

Bo returned, and sniffed his fallen master. He whined and lay down next to him. Around them, the uprising began.

Monday, September 24, 2012 7 comments

A Fragment of the Great Nothing (pt 2)

Prologue: World with End
Part 1

Galbron looked into the distance, and continued his story.

Source: WikiMedia Commons
After a month of preparation (he continued), Jakrom departed his home in the Middle Latitudes, that pleasant band of eternal afternoon, and set his face north (that is, toward the Edge, as they reckon directions on Thurun). He carried food, a crossbow, a pickaxe, and what money he had. The first part of his journey north were on roads well-travelled, and was uneventful. But beyond the last town, well short of the halfway point, he would enter the Wild Lands. Few ventured there other than prospectors and hunters. Thus Jakrom spent a few days in the last town, and learned what he could of the lands to the north.

He spent much of his money buying drinks for prospectors in the tavern where he stayed. Most of them had the same thing to say: “The best way north is along the river. There is a trail. Sing or whistle as you go, so prospectors know you are not a sneak.”

“But when you pass the headwaters?” Jakrom asked. “What then?”

“Not many of us go that far,” they said, shaking their heads. “But there is a line of mountains that run north, then east. Some say there are gems to be had there, but it’s a long way and those who prospect there never go alone.”

“But nobody has gone past those mountains?” Jakrom would ask.

“What else is there? Only more mountains at the Edge of the World, cold and rocky, then the Great Nothing. What fool would go there?”

“A fool seeking the bride-price of a rich man’s daughter?”

And the prospector would laugh. “Ha! Luck to the bold, as they say. If I see you here again, I will buy your drinks next time!”

Jakrom followed the river northward. Remembering the advice of the prospectors, he sang of fair Rakah and her friendly smile as he went. All along the river, the prospectors welcomed him and invited him to share their sleep-fire. They smiled and shook their heads when he told them of his intent, but wished him luck and sent him on his way after breakfast. As he continued, the camps became infrequent and he often slept alone.

Once, he came upon an empty camp. He called out, and heard an answer from the river. He followed the call to find four dejected men standing in the river, looking at a low bluff that formed the riverbank at this point. “Discover and prosper!” he called, for this is how prospectors greet one another on the river.

“We have discovered,” said one, “but alas, we may not prosper. We have found a vein of gold, but our pickaxe has broken.”

“Then use mine,” said Jakrom, offering them his tool.

They cheered, and invited Jakrom to join them. They took turns digging gold out of the riverbank,  filling five sacks. Later, around the sleep-fire, they opened a jug of wine and made merry. When they awoke, Jakrom left them his pickaxe. “Your broken one will serve my purpose,” he told them, taking it up.

“You must take your share of gold with you,” they insisted. “We will dig some more before we return down-river, and we won’t be able to carry our share and yours. But we will leave you more in town, as thanks and fair trade for your pickaxe.” Thus, Jakrom departed with a heavy burden. But soon, he left the river behind. To his east rose the mountains. His shadow, a little longer each day, led him north. He found a place to bury his share of gold, and left it there with a curse upon anyone who might find and take it away. The curse was an old family heirloom, passed down to each generation, and had not failed them.

Every day, the sun hung a little lower in the sky. The air turned cool, then cooler still. Jakrom donned the jacket he’d bought for this part of his journey, and slept a little closer to his sleep-fire. At last, he spied another range of mountains to his north: the Edge of the World. Game was plentiful here, in a land where people rarely came, yet Jakrom chafed at the time needed to hunt and prepare his meals. He was a young man, within sight of his goal.

A cold wind fell from the mountains as Jakrom drew closer, and only the exertion of climbing kept him warm. He began to seek sheltered places to build his sleep-fire. Fuel for his fires grew scarce on the dim and shaded mountainside, as did the streams and rills which he depended on for his water. For the first time, Jakrom began to have doubts about his goal. But to have come this far? It was a lesser foolishness to press on, so press on he did.

As he scrambled up a rocky face, near the summit, he stopped for a moment. He’d heard something, like a faint cry. He cocked his head, and this time he heard another sound: a cough.

“Is someone here?” he called.

“Well?” Chelinn rumbled. “Was there someone?”

“Sadly, my wineglass has emptied itself,” Galbron sighed, looking at his friend through the glass. “If only it could fill itself anew.”

Sarna laughed and took up his glass and hers. Ethtar met her with the jug, and filled both glasses with a smile. Sarna returned with the freshened glasses, and sat closer than before to Galbron. She looked up at her adopted father and grinned.

Galbron took a long sip. “Ah, better. Perhaps I can continue now.”


Sunday, September 23, 2012 4 comments

Weekend Mason blogging

Or, “what I did on our vacation…”

Y'all can call me Shady!

Hey, these floaties keep me out of the water!
Time to go for a swim…

Yes, wearing ice cream is half the fun!

Man, it's been a long day… I guess
I'll rest a minute… ZZZzzzZZZzzz…

Friday, September 21, 2012 14 comments

#FridayFlash: Poltergeists in Space

This is a continuation of an earlier #FridayFlash, Ghosts in a Can.

The spirit guides paused in their chanting to confer. “Fifteen,” one said on the general band. In other words, fifteen ghosts on board. “Please proceed with repowering.”

Construction Engineer Paul Temberson checked both ends of his tether, then kicked off the hull of Deimos Salvage VI (aka “Sweet Six”). In a few seconds, he touched the space-weathered outer hull of the can once known as Paradigm Industries Number Four (“Para-4”). This was his third salvage run, and he found he liked the work. Tearing down is always more fun than building up, an old friend once said, but he was describing his ex’s approach to relationships.

Paul found the diagnostics hatch and pried it open. Looking at his wristpad, he punched into the maintenance band. “Looks like a standard D-7 diagnostics port,” he said. “Telemetry receive ready?”

“Let ‘er rip,” Narayan said. Narayan was a Diagnostics Tech, and a damn good one. He and Paul had hit it off right away on his first run. Narayan hadn’t kept Paul hanging in vac at all—third time was the charm. This guy was a keeper.

Paul checked the fuel cell one more time, then sorted through the pigtails on the ancient Atlanta Instrumentation box. His first run, he’d been surprised when they handed him this fossil, but it matched up well with the cans they were recycling. He found the D-7 plug and connected it to the panel. “Applying power,” he said. Several amber lights on the panel started blinking, then turned green, one by one.

“Self-tests passed,” said Narayan. “Ah. Looks like the last one out turned off the lights behind him. Good form.”

“No surprise there,” said Paul. “The solar panels are folded in. I’ll bet the pivots are vac-welded.”

“A bet you’d likely win.” Narayan laughed. “Batteries are depleted, as usual. Try applying evac-level power.”

“That’s all this fuel cell can do,” said Paul. He punched a button on the diag box, and more amber lights went green on the panel. Several others lit up, flashing amber. “Evac power applied. Fuel cell has thirty minutes.”

“Confirming emergency lighting. Thank you, Paul. Narayan.” That was Steven Crescent Moon, one of the few spirit guides who tried to acquaint himself with the rest of the crew. “Primary activity is in Sections Two, Five, and the bridge. The salvage crews can begin their work in the other sections at any time.”

“They’re isolated, then?” Paul asked. Ghosts rarely used a power connection to invade a salvage ship, but it had happened. Such events brought little danger, but much disruption. Spirit guides worked to prevent the possibility.

“They should be, by the time you’re ready to plug this can in.” Paul could hear the grin in Steven’s voice through the general band.

“Roger that. Whup, got a visitor here.” Paul felt the adrenaline surge that accompanied a visitation. Lights flashed at random on the diagnostics panel. Clattering noises came over the general band.

“Poltergeists, poltergeists,” one of the spirit guides said. “Paul, cut power.”

“Cutting power.” Paul flipped the main breaker on the diagnostics box, then disconnected the cable. The indicator lights flickered for a few seconds, but died out. He listened to the noise on the general band. “Everyone all right?”

“So far,” said Steven Crescent Moon. “Everything’s tied down, they’re just throwing dust around right now.” A chunking, snapping noise came over the radio. “What’s that?” one of the other spirit guides asked.

Motion above Paul caught his eye. “Holy… it’s the solar panels! They’re trying to get them open!”

Captain Li’s lilting voice joined the chatter. “Clear the can. Clear the can. Evac Protocol Three.” That was one level above a drill: orderly exit, leave nothing behind.

Paul buttoned up the diag box and kicked off the can, back to Sweet Six. The airlock door was closed. “Knock knock!” he called.

“Sorry, Paul,” Dikembe’s voice chuckled in his ears. We were in the airlock when the captain called the evac. It’s clear to cycle now.”

“Roger.” The light went green, and the door swung inward. He secured the diag box inside, then stood in the open door, waiting for the spirit guides. He watched the vac-welded arms on the solar panels twitch, as the poltergeists tried to pull them open.

“Whoa. Incoming,” a spirit guide said. “We’re leaving!” another barked, her professional serenity under severe stress. “Watch behind,” Steven said, “they might try throwing whatever that was again.”

“Are you in danger?” the captain asked.

“Not much,” said Steven. “As long as they don’t have power, they can’t activate anything.”

“Better hurry, then,” Paul told him. “There’s a little play in the arms.”

“Block ‘em at the diag panel, then!” the stressed spirit guide—Mary Alice something—suggested.

“Negative, negative,” several voices chorused with Paul’s. “Evac protocol. I need to be here to catch your tether.”

“We’re at the lock,” said Steven. “You ready?”

“Do it!” Paul soon saw a blinking light—the tether end—approaching. About halfway across, it suddenly deflected. “Damn!” Again, he checked his own tether, then dived after it.

“What happened?” the captain called.

“Poltergeist knocked the tether end off course,” said Paul. “Got it.” He snapped it onto his belt, then attached it to Sweet Six as he returned. “Secure. Come on home. Better move it, they’ve about got the juice back on!”

“Four fish on the hook,” Steven called. “Reel us in.”

“Roger.” Paul started pulling.

“Look out!” Steven yelled. The others shouted. “Keep pulling!”

“They knocked Steven off!” Mary Alice yelled.

“Hang on!” Paul snapped, and hauled hard. In seconds, three shaken spirit guides stood in the airlock. Paul took the loose end, and dived out. “Steven!”

“Here.” Lights on Steven’s suit raced back and forth, marking his location. Paul kicked twice to deflect himself, and reached Steven with a meter of loose tether to spare.

“Gotcha,” said Paul. “You okay?”

“Just shaken up.” Steven clipped himself on. “Let’s get home.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 5 comments

Writing Wibbles: The "Look" Challenge

Just as I was about to start thinking about what I wanted to wibble about this week, Patricia Lynne tagged me with The Look Challenge. This one is fairly easy: find the word look in your WIP and post the paragraphs.

Seeing as I finished the first draft of Pickups and Pestilence last week, it’s definitely a work in progress. I was going to post a teaser anyway… so I searched for look and it appears twice in the Prologue. Perfect! Here it is, with both instances of look underlined…

The gypsy—so Cody assumed—laid three cards on the table between them, the first one sideways. Cody’s gaze was fixed on the table; all he saw were her hands and the cards she dealt. “The three pestilences,” she said. “One is past, yet all three are to come.” The sideways card was WAR. From its center scowled the grim visage of the late Rev. Carlton Worleigh, huge desecrated Bible in one hand, huge pistol in the other. A bullet hole in his forehead, and a pickup bearing down on him from behind, completed the picture. Cody remembered well.

The second card was LOCUSTS. They walked on two legs and carried tiny jars. The third was VERMIN. On it, rats, flies, and other creatures chewed garbage and gardens alike. Behind the vermin, another pickup lurked.

“How—what—” Cody began, but the gypsy’s left hand swept the cards from the table as her right hand laid a new card in the center of the table, face down.

“Behold the King,” she said, tapping the card with a lacquered fingernail. He turned the card over: the King of Clubs. The King’s hair was dark and straight, and hung long on the sides. It framed a thin, familiar face, one he saw in every mirror.

“I thought I’d be the joker,” he said. He tried to look up, but the table held his gaze.

“The Joker is among you.” The hands, old and bone-thin but not gnarled or spotted as he would have expected, laid three more cards to the king’s right: the Queen of Hearts, sideways; the Queen of Clubs, upright; the Ten of Hearts, beneath the first queen. “The queen who was. And the queen who will be.” Sondra’s homely face, the one he longed to see again, lie in repose. In her hands, she clutched a scepter… or was it a rifle? His vision blurred a moment, hiding the face of the other queen. The third card needed no explanation. She’ll get over it. Or not, said the fallen Queen, with a snicker.

Before Cody could respond—dreams have no pause or rewind—those hands were in motion again, arraying cards to the King’s left. “You will know her by the blood on her hands.” The Queen of Spades, whose hard young face had seen too much too soon—and indeed her hands were red. Instead of a crown, a diamond gleamed between her breasts. To her left, a haughty King, sideways, a sword piercing his chest. Peeking from underneath the Queen was a Jack. “Beware the one who will try to draw you to her, for her consort will stand aside. That way lies discord. Destruction.” The Jack seemed to slide even farther under the Queen, not wanting to be seen. “But stand firm, and her children will be of your realm.”

“What?” But now the hands laid four cards above the King that was himself. They were marked A, and Cody at first thought they were Aces. But instead of suits, the faces of Tina, Reverend Patterson, Ben, and Jason looked back from the center of each card. “The Advisors. Neglect their wisdom at your peril.”

“Wait a minute!” Heedless, the hands were a blur of motion, dealing cards beneath the central King.

“The Knights of the realm and their Ladies.” Again, these cards were not part of a normal deck; the men were marked Kn and the women L. Most of the faces were familiar: Tim and Sara, Johnny and Rita, Cleve and a grinning Elly. The fourth Knight carried a bow, and was younger even than himself. Although Cody had never seen his face, he immediately recognized this Knight as one of his own tribe. There was no Lady next to this card, but the Ten of Hearts lay exactly between the center King and this new Knight. As he realized this, the gypsy tore the Ten in half. “This one is torn, only thus to be made whole.” She laid the halves together, and it was at once torn and whole. “But these things are uncertain, and this one thus exists in both states until the day the question is resolved.”

“What question?”

No response but a flick of the wrist. A card floated among and above them all: the Joker. But this was no ordinary Joker. A grey hood, supported by the bill of a ball cap, shadowed all but an enigmatic smile. Orbs like juggling balls circled the hood, spinning and tumbling, even as ink on paper. The Joker is among you, he thought, and the dream dissolved into a chaotic jumble.

And now, the hard part: tag five more people. Fortunately, there’s a lot of writer friends working on a lot of different things, so I don’t have much trouble coming up with five:

John Wiswell, at The Bathroom Monologues
Fel Wetzig, at The Peasants Revolt
Helen Howell, at Helen Scribbles
John Xero, at Xeroverse
Craig W.F. Smith, at The Fantasy/Reality World of a Writer

Five people, four continents—not bad!

Monday, September 17, 2012 6 comments

A Fragment of the Great Nothing (pt 1)

This is really a continuation of the #FridayFlash, World With End. Read it for context. Chelinn, Ethtar, and the rest will wait…

Source: WikiMedia Commons
Chelinn was again watching the storm at an open window, when the chamber door opened. The wind found its way in, through the window, drenching the big warrior-wizard. He shouted something into the night, and flinched back. A peal of thunder answered him as he pushed the window shut and turned away.

“Paying homage to the Windlord, Chelinn?” Galbron asked, standing in the door. “I knew there was a reason your life is so charmed.” The priest grinned at his wet friend.

“And how did you receive your Windlord’s blessings without a thorough drenching?” Chelinn asked, then muttered something in a language only Ethtar understood.

The spindly wizard feigned alarm and made a warding gesture. Lightning flashed, and the Protector’s keep shuddered to the thunder, bellowing on the heels of the lightning. “Chelinn, you should not tempt the elements with your blasphemies,” he laughed.

Chelinn chuckled, not at all chastised. “I wasn’t sure that the elements could understand that language,” he said. “That you know it, Protector Ethtar, is somewhat of a surprise in itself! But I was asking Galbron how he stayed dry while opening his arms to the wind.”

“I didn’t.” Galbron smiled and crossed the room, pouring himself a glass of wine from the open jug. His hood fell back, revealing his drenched black hair. “I did wear one of those jackets the local sailors make, and that kept much of the rain off me. My boots, I left with the apprentice, and exchanged them for my sandals.” He lifted one foot and wiggled it. “Did I miss anything of import?”

Chelinn’s daughter Sarna moved over on her divan and gestured to Galbron to join her. “Nothing important,” she said. “But Protector Ethtar did tell the most fascinating story, about a world Made as a half.”

“Thurun’s world?” Galbron asked, surprising the others. “Oh, yes. Our Order knows that story well. As we tell it, Thurun begged the aid of the Windlord to establish that world’s weather patterns.” He sat down next to Sarna, getting a wary look from Chelinn that amused him. “He told you about the Makers? And the Great Nothing?”

“That I did,” Ethtar nodded. “But that is all I know. As I explained to the others, what the Protectors know, we have kept to ourselves. We are attempting to break Termag’s habit of hoarding knowledge, beginning tonight.”

“Ah.” Galbron sipped his wine several times, pondering. “Then I should tell one of our own tales. It concerns an ordinary man, on an extraordinary journey, across a most extraordinary world.” He sipped once again, then began.

Once, in the time of Camac That Was (Galbron began), on the world called Thurun, lived a man called Jakrom. The son of a common laborer, Jakrom was not thought to have great prospects, yet he was bold and clever. Many such young men have started with even less and yet prospered in the end.

Now Jakrom had in mind to woo Rakah, the younger daughter of a prosperous merchant named Larbam. As Larbam had no son to claim his inheritance, many poor young men sought the hand of either Rakah or her sister Arah. Larbam would listen politely to these suitors, then set them an onerous task; that was usually the last he saw of them. So when Jakrom came calling, it was the same.

“Very well,” said Larbam after Jakrom made his proposal. “I will give you Rakah, if you can prove your worth. Go to the Edge of the World, and stand on the Great Nothing. When you return, if she is willing, you may marry her.”

“If that is the price, I will pay it,” said Jakrom. “What shall I bring you as proof? I would not want to make such a long journey to have you say I only made up a story.”

Larbam cocked his head, for all other suitors only walked away when hearing of the bride-price. “A perceptive question,” he said at last. “You have the quickness of mind needed in my business. I make a counter-proposal: with no journey, I offer you the hand of Arah—again, if she is willing. It is only fitting that the older daughter marries first. Do this, and you will be my right-hand man and my heir when I pass on.”

“Arah I know not,” said Jakrom. “I have done business with Rakah, buying your spices, and she knows me by name and always smiles when she sees me. I am sure she will be willing to take me as her husband. For her I will go to the Edge of the World and bring you proof.”

Larbam was struck by an idea that made him smile. “Bring me a fragment of the Great Nothing,” he said. “Do this, and both of my daughters and my good name are yours.” Larbam knew that certain rich folk would pay a great price for a fragment of the Great Nothing, a price far beyond any gemstone or exotic spice.

“I will,” said Jakrom, then he departed, already thinking about what he would need.

“That suggests,” said Chelinn, “that the folk of Thurun seldom visited the Edge.”

“Of course,” Galbron agreed. “Thurun's weather is opposite our own, torrid at the pole and frigid at the equator. Its pole faced the sun; there was a vast steaming ocean surrounded by a tropical shore. Most folk dwelt in between. So Jakrom began his journey…”


Saturday, September 08, 2012 5 comments

Interview: Xan Marcelles of Crooked Fang

I bet you don’t too many interviews like this in the blogosphere. Today, I turn the blog over to none other than Cody Sifko, the hero of White Pickups. He’s interviewing Xan Marcelles, the vampire bassist of Carrie Clevenger’s Crooked Fang. In cases like this, it’s best to just get out of the way and let the interview proceed…

Cody Sifko: So yeah, my writer says, “Go interview this guy. He plays bass in a metal band and he's a vampire.” Whatever. What's your story?

Xan Marcelles: My story? Oh, you mean Crooked Fang. I never said I was a vampire, did I? Okay maybe. But that’s between you and me, kid. We’re not exactly a metal band either. We’re a house band that plays covers, that’s popular/previously recorded songs resung and performed by us. Basically, we’re an amplified version of karaoke.

But that’s not exactly the point to the book. I’m not sure what is. Me trying to stay secluded and mind my own business while trouble practically falls into my lap? Never really went looking for trouble. Shit just happens. A lot. It actually starts out with some punk that sends this weird vampire-zombie looking thing after me. He knows what I am and pretty much wants to sell me to Hell, as he puts it.

And then there’s this girl, getting pushed around by her boyfriend. She’s kind of sweet and I hate seeing women mistreated. You don’t hit a female, that’s just how it is.

CS: Figures. My writer has a bad habit of not paying attention. Anyway, my dad would have called that a “bar band.” I know what you mean about shit happening. I tried to learn guitar, but I suck at it. I'm lots better on a skateboard. When did you learn how to play?

XM: Eh, guitar isn’t too hard to play. I started while in school because Dad wanted me to have a constructive hobby instead of getting my ass in trouble. He bought me a bass. A right handed bass because it was big and I’m big but I’m also left-handed, so that was kind of like, figure it out or quit. I figured it out.

CS: What's the deal with Pinecliffe, Colorado? Is there anything to do out there besides drink your ass off? Any good skate parks?

XM: It’s out of the way and barely can be classified as a town, but there’s Pale Rider there, and yeah. You can do more than drink your ass off. There’s the lake, or fishing, or swimming. I think there’s a campground over in the national park nearby. Woodsy outdoorsy things. And what the hell is a skate park?

CS: What kind of songs do you play? (Let me guess. Death metal. Haha.)

XM: We play covers of songs that were popular mainly 70s-90s. Our target audience ranges from college-age to maybe around fifty. The older ones can’t stand the shit and go to Allen’s Landing, the bar across the lake.

CS: You have any videos of your band on YouTube? The Internet's down for good here, but my writer said he'd send me anything.

XM: No vids on YouTube of us since we’re a fictional band, but I do have a playlist of songs I post on Twitter as @crookedfang.

CS: How'd you turn into a vampire? Yeah, I know, you swapped blood with another vampire and all that shit. I mean, how did you hook up with a vampire and when did it happen?

XM: Brave little guy, aren’t you? Hey dude, when did you die? How was it? Fine. I’ll level with you.

In 1985, I went to a bar called Nightflier’s to have a beer. I ended up necking with one hell of a fine chick in red leather pants. She took me home. [actions redacted] I was dropped up at home. I died. I was buried. I was dug up by my new vampire sire. The rest is history.

CS: Who's after you? I guess your girlfriend's ex, yeah. Anyone else?

XM: Considering my previous reputation as a thug for my sire Zeta, I think I’m on just about every vampire’s shitlist. Feared or admired. But that’s not the point of this book either. In this one, it’s people. People that think they know about vampires. People that see me as a monster. I mean seriously…do I look like a monster to you?

CS: Huh. Hell no. So if you got one do-over, what would you use it on?

XM: Pointless to think about it. There is no reset in life.

Sure, I could say I wish I’d never stopped at Nightflier’s, but then I’d be what, fifty-three? Maybe on my second marriage, couple of kids, usual American mountain of debt. Or maybe I’d continued with my bad habits and ended up dead-dead. I guess everything happens for a reason. It is what it is.

And, that’s a wrap. Once again, that website is Crooked Fang, if you want to find out what happens to Xan.

You can find the author, Carrie Clevenger, on Twitter. And other places, of course!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012 3 comments

Writing Wibbles

“A” is for Apology (and Awesome)

A couple weeks ago, author Sue Grafton (she who writes the alphabet mystery series, beginning with “A” is for Alibi) stepped on a landmine while doing an interview with her local newspaper. When asked what advice she had for aspiring authors, she said (in part) that self-publishing is “as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.” When the interviewer mentioned the success of John Locke, who also lives in the Louisville area, she doubled down:
The self-published books I’ve read are often amateurish. … a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. … Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts.
As you can imagine, the indie/self-published world launched a thermonuclear strike. One author suggested the opposite is true: “Self-publishing means finding your own proofreader, finding your own editor, finding your own cover designer (or designing your own), doing all your own marketing and sales work, etc. Having a publisher is lazy as all you need to do is write a half-acceptable book and allow your publisher's editor to make it sales-worthy.” Along with the vitriol, several indies took the time to educate Ms. Grafton on the new paradigm.

And, instead of locking herself in an ivory tower, Ms. Grafton took the time to listen. She had a look at what’s really going on outside the traditional publishing world. Then, instead of issuing a “sorry that offended you” non-apology, she gave us a real one. I’m quoting at length below, but go read the whole thing.
[It] wasn’t my intention to tar anyone, if the truth be known. … I am uninitiated when it comes to this new format. I had no idea how wide-spread it was, nor did I see it as developing as a response to the current state of traditional publishing, which is sales driven and therefore limited in its scope. I understand that e-publishing has stepped into the gap, allowing a greater number of authors to enter the marketplace. This, I applaud. I don’t mean to sound defensive here…though of course I do.

I don’t understand the mechanics of e-publishing and I still don’t understand how you can earn money thereby but I realize now that many indie writers are doing well financially and netting themselves greater visibility than I had any reason to believe.

My remark about self-publishing was meant as a caution, which I think some of you finally understood when we exchanged notes on the subject. When I’m asked for advice I warn many writers about the charlatans lurking out there. … It’s clear to me now that indie writers have taken more than their fair share of hard knocks and that you are actually changing the face of publishing. Who knew?! This is a whole new thrust for publication that apparently everyone has been aware of except yours truly. I still don’t understand how it works, but I can see that a hole has been blasted in the wall, allowing writers to be heard in a new way and on a number of new fronts.

I will take responsibility for my gaffe and I hope you will understand the spirit in which it was meant. I have always championed both aspiring writers and working professionals. I have been insulated, I grant you, but I am not arrogant or indifferent to the challenges we all face. I am still learning and I hope to keep on learning for as long as I write.
Talk about grace under fire—this lady (and I don’t use the word lightly) has it! Personally, I wasn’t much offended by the original comments; I simply dismissed them as the griping of someone too lost in (or too tied to) the old paradigm to see how the landscape was changing right under her feet. I was pleasantly shocked to see her take a look around and adjust her footing. I can only hope I’m that nimble when the next change comes around.

So while “A” may be for Apology, it’s also for Awesome Author. Perhaps the traditional publishing industry has currently veered into the weeds, but there are still lessons that we can learn from it. One is to accept bad reviews, whether for our novels or newspaper interviews, fix what we did wrong to the best of our ability, and get back to writing.


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