Friday, June 29, 2012

Self-publishing and reviews

We all know from the hype and the articles that come out daily that the self-publishing world is exploding right now. All over the world, people are preparing their works and getting them out there in the hands of readers through places like Amazon's KDP or Barnes & Noble's Pubit! program, not to mention others like Kobo or Smashwords. Yet the problem I keep seeing is that while there are literally tons of blogs and sites that will read and review a traditionally published book to help the end-user decide for themselves if a book is worth their time, there are precious few that will read a self-published title.

The worst part? They rarely (if ever) say why they won't review a self-pubbed book--they just say "Nope."

This doesn't help, and as a matter of fact, it does the reader a great disservice. What I'd like to see is more blogs--like MeMyShelfAndI.com and BengalReads.com--who are willing to take the chance on self-published novels; but, sadly, these "good guys" are too few and far between.

Readers are being maltreated because of an elitism that undermines the culture: that somehow a traditionally published book is and will always be better than a self-published title. While I would agree that the traditionally published titles tend to have more polish on them--better cover art, nicer layout, better blurbs, and tons of marketing know-how--that alone does not make them better than something that was put together as a labor of love by the author.

I have read a great many novels--just as you have--and I bet you that you've found things that are outright terrible and you ask yourself "What the heck? How did this get published?"

And that's a traditional novel. Yes, I've read some self-published stuff that made me scratch my head too, but in the regard of "this is better than that," I call it pretty much a wash.

What I'm hoping for is that the review blogs out there with this policy of "no self-pubbed stuff" will change their mind--because they are missing out on a whole world of goodness, and by not promoting the good--from whatever source--they are doing their viewership a disservice, just as I said.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Five Sentence Fiction – Harvest

The Five Sentence Fiction is a simple idea:
Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week I will post a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the prompt word. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just use it for direction.
This week, the chosen word is "Harvest," and this was a hard one for me. I had to think of things that could be harvested... I hope this little foray into sci-fi meets with some approval. I call this one, "I miss them."

***

Nobody believed it when they first arrived, the aliens; and at first they were gentle, benevolent, and downright fatherly--giving advice and helping us with our technological issues, that sort of thing.

But that was just a ruse, a distraction, and when the horrible truth of their real agenda came to light we were not prepared: theirs was a dying species and needed our women to continue their race.

They couldn't honestly take "no" for an answer, the stakes were just too great--so they took without warning and certainly without asking...I can't say that I blame them.

Millions of women were swept up in giant collecting-machines, turned into breeding cattle for a sick race from beyond the stars, against which our vaunted military was powerless.

In short order, there were no women left and just as quickly as they came they were gone; and we were left alone, us men, on a devastated world without the fine grace of the female touch.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Grande Charade

Not sure where I am going with this...Just sort of popped into my head and had to get it out. But I do hope you enjoy the ride....
The world as you know it does not exist. What exists is a world with two distinct parts, both equal, yet not entirely separate. One is the mundane, boring, everyday world of cars, planes, trains, computers, and our pathetic jobs for which we are sorely underpaid; and the other is a world of pure poetic magic where Sidhe and man co-exist invisibly.
 
The separation of these worlds is like a silent curtain: it keeps the two worlds apart for the safety of both. It is protection, it is shield, it is cover of night, it is the fog that hides, it is the aether of old; and it is what the elders have named "The Grande Charade."
 
This spectral wool is pulled over the eyes of prosaic men to hide the truth, for if they--the many who are unskilled and disbelieve--were to happen to experience the truth or see first-hand the effects of magic, their credulity of the so-called "real world" would be broken and their psyche would shatter like glass. And quite possibly insanity would creep in; and a man without proper sense could do great damage to both worlds.
 
Some born can see the other side and move among the other. They can influence events with magic and are called wizard, warlock, shaman, or a host of other names--many too insulting to list--such as denunciations as freaks, pariah, crazy, or fools.
 
They are none of those degrading things: they are the special few that in ancient times were the most trusted leaders of clan and nation, now relegated to a status of sideshow performers. Yet still their gift remains, and there are those that use this power for the betterment of all Mankind.
 
And just as truly there are those that use their gift for ill, destruction, and self-gain. These are the thralls of the Sluagh Sidhe--the restless dead--who would destroy for their own amusement or anger. The evil spirits these men serve wish to take back all lands from the living. These powerful foes and their human allies wreak havoc in both worlds in hopes of bringing a cataclysmic merger which would tear apart the foundations of all creation.
 
But do not be fooled, for not all the evil Sidhe are so blunt or serve such a lofty goal: the Leanan who would love you and make you their life-slave. These beautiful women are the devastation of many artists. Acting as muse, they adore utterly; and in their adoration is the magic, and that magic saps the will and strength of the man, leaving him but a slowly dying shell. Yeats called them a malignant phantom--wise words for a human to utter--and any would be well advised to avoid the embrace of such lovely beasts.
 
The Sidhe are not chaotic, for they have their own laws that are to be followed. Among them there is but one authority: their queen, who is named Tamberlyn. Her power is great and her beauty equally so, and of those whom are her loyal subjects her word is law.
 
It was in her court the law was pronounced--do not interfere with the lives of Man. All present bowed gracefully; but not all who were there took her word as their law for it would undo their machinations. And Man, being weak, or so it was thought, was too ripe a fruit not to pluck from the vine.
 
These Sidhe were renegade then in spirit and in action, and they feigned obedience in public; but in the dark wold where none would see they wished in their hearts for the coming end of her reign and a terrible doom for the dominion of Men.
 
As vile as they were they sold their services to an evil more ancient than they, and imbued with additional power the renegade Sidhe assaulted the queen publicly and in secret as well. Yet her eyes were not blind and her ears were not deaf, for she learned of their treachery early and confronted it as a warrior-maiden--in her youth she was often impetuous--but her power was too frail against their combined might.
 
So, in desperation, she sought out champions to aid her; and of those most skilled and worthy, she found but seven.
 
Seven, it was discovered, who were pure and good, was just enough to keep the evil at bay and a stalemate grew. Never was there a decisive victory as the light and the dark warred on. Some victories were taken, some losses were endured; some advances were made, some retreats were hastily ordered. But always there was balance, and as long as there were the seven the queen was safe.
 
But the seven, themselves, were not safe. A candle that burns at both ends may burn twice as bright but burns only half as long--and these knights burned brighter than any other. So much brighter that even their immortality could not resist and end. Thus it was that every seventy years a search had to begin to find a replacement for a knight that would soon be lost.
 
Throughout the entire realm the search would inevitably find a good Sidhe that could become a knight. For many uncounted centuries this hunt would take place, and as always one good soul would be found among the Sidhe--a soul so spotless, so bright, that the knighthood was but a foregone conclusion...until this year.
 
This is the seventieth year, and the search had been going for some time, and of all the Sidhe, not one could be found worthy. Not one could be seen as pure. Not one could be found among all the spirit or fey that could become a knight.
 
And the queen worried, and her worries compounded daily. She would pace the halls, wringing her hands, glancing with eyes of hope and fear with the coming of each new herald and messenger--they that in times past would triumphantly announce the finding of a new knight. But since the beginning of this year no such proclamations came, and her time, she knew, was running short to find a replacement.
 
The dark Sidhe knew this, and waited for the end of the year, for while the knight still lived they had no hope to win; but should the first day of November come without a new knight--the reign of Tamberlyn would come to a climactic, and bloody, end.
 
With a great enchanted reflecting pool she scryed the realm and found nothing. Frantically, she searched high and low, across all the gulfs and mountains, in the glens and dales, through every town and city. No knight--no person that would be able--could be uncovered that could be counted upon to learn the craft, to take up arms, and defend the queen and save the world.
 
In a fit of anger and despair she spun the bowl, turned and wept into her hands. From her eyes the drops spilled into the pool and ripples formed out to the edges. She collapsed to her knees and let loose a cry that no Sidhe had ever made before.
 
Though many tried, none could comfort her.
 
Then began a sound—the ring of a bell--slight at first, then growing louder. It began to fill the chamber, then the hall, and it took the attentions of all who were near. A small flitting fey, who had been silent until then, flew to the pool and looked deep, and her eyes were made wide by what she saw there.
 
"My queen," she began with her tiny voice, barely audible over the ringing and the sobs of the queen. "Look there!"
 
The queen rose slightly and looked into the pool and saw that she had accidentally turned its scrying gaze to the human world, and its focus had fixated, unyieldingly, upon an unsuspecting person, whose face was obscured beneath the black, bat-like tarp of an umbrella's dome all while the world around was awash from a pummeling rain.
 
"A human!" came the small faerie's cry.
 
"The knight!" her majesty realized.
 
"No human could ever serve as a knight, my queen--" a royal advisor chimed in.
 
"Find this human!" came the order, and all present obeyed, bowed, and gathered to discern who it was that would be the hope of them all.
 
But one of them, who did bow and gave a semblance of obedience, did so not because of her command; rather, he did so as to gather information for his dark masters, for the dark Sidhe were also not blind or deaf, having set loose a spy in the middle of the royal court.
 
And he mouthed to himself the very same words, "Find this human," but did so for very much different and far more sinister reasons.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Avengers

Y'ARR! Matey, there be spillers ahead! Turn ye about to continue on unbothered!

Ok, that's out of the way. Whew. Over the weekend I saw "The Avengers," finally. Yes, yes, I know, I'm slow on the uptake, I'm sorry.

Anyway, one of the things that happen in this roller-coaster of a movie is that Agent Phil Coulson of SHIELD dies at Loki's hand.... Or does he?

Look, I have been reading comics for a very long time, and most of those were Marvel comics; and in those particular comics, there is a strong rule that is very rarely broken: Nobody dies, but if they do they are not dead for long.

We hear (off screen)--and mainly for the benefit of the Avengers themselves--that Coulson is hurt badly, and that the paramedics have "called it."

That's really vague, isn't it?

Also, Nick fury outright pulled a fast one on the Avengers with the whole Captian-America-Trading-cards-were-bloody-and-not-in-Coulson's-locker gambit. Why did Fury lie? To give the team a rallying point--a reason to gel together--a reason to Avenge.

Couple this with the simple fact that SHIELD is in possession of some really advanced stuff, it is not out of the realm of possibility that they either (a) froze Coulson until such time as he could be healed; or (b) he's fine, recuperating, but fine, and will reappear in either Iron Man 3 or Avengers 2. And everyone will be all like "WTF? You died!"

Coulson will simply state something like, "Come on, this is SHIELD, we have certain abilities that you are unaware of."

But by that time, it won't matter--the team will have come together, for good or for ill, and they'll have bigger fish to fry (Thanos, anyone?) and won't worry too much about a little ruse on Fury's part.

Coulson will return. He's too cool to just lose like that.

You'll see.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Five Sentence Fiction – Faeries

The Five Sentence Fiction is a simple idea:
Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week I will post a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the prompt word. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just use it for direction.
This week, the chosen word is "Faeries." Now, I don't know a ton about them, even though they are my wife's favorite mythical being, so this might be hard for me, as I have to please her as well. Enjoy!

***

Fireflies are not the only thing children might catch in the waxing twilight.

Sometimes, if you are careful you can see them, the faeries, as they loft their tiny lanterns so they might find their way home.

In the meadows and fields, far from our cities, is where you will most likely find them as they flit here and there in the dark, guided by the glow of their lamps, as they look for the tell-tale signs of their own homes in the fungal rings that often surround the ancient oak trees.

There, protected against the predations of Man, they weave wonders in the night that we find in the coming morn, for they are the mist-forgers and fog-tamers who bring down the waters of the sky--much to our delight and wonder.

So, not all that is a-glitter in the dark, as with everything in our world, is quite what it seems.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Siren's Song: a poem

Upon a bed of roses her body lay

T'would have been a lovely scene

Were it not for the loss today

She'd appear almost serene
 

She died victim of a broken heart

From loss of love so far away

Lover's loss overturned her apple cart

And lost herself along the way
 

His wounds shackled him to time and place

Hers inflicted on herself

He fell wearing a soldier's face

She took the poison off the shelf
 

Returning home resolute

Flag draped with honor guard

Slow moving march and grand salute

To continue on far too hard
 

In the hours burning bright

Cries and tears echo strong

None could keep her from the night

Or from departed's siren song
 

Churning inside starts to rend

Emptiness, cold, and darkness follow

Nor does the inner torment end

Deep inside she's rendered hollow
 

So from the bottle she does take

As he lay inside a grave

She drifts away and did solemn make

The chosen road they both did pave

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Work-In-Progress progress report

MINIMAL, has just tipped the scales at ~54000 words. Just finished chapter 29. Naturally, this is all rough-draft crappy at the moment, but getting there is the key. So, technically, this is a novel length manuscript now...and I still don't know how far it will need to go to be done--but I'm getting there. :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

A small poem: Wind Through The Trees

God is blind and thus cannot discern,

The intensities we share or our hearts as they burn,
 

We labor, we pain, we suffer...we grow,

We learn, we love, we hate...we know,
 

But He, high above us, takes no notice of our passing,

Indifferent to even the great, His sympathy is lacking,
 

Evil abounds! Yet silent, does nothing,

Hatred blooms! While we're off praying for something,
 

Silence in the heavens and in the Earth below,

Gives pause for man to rethink Him as the star of the show,
 

So I reject the notion, and its powerful commotion,

No heaven, no Hell: Only Earth is my token,
 

Do good, do not hate, live life, love, then perish,

These are the only commandments I cherish,
 

But if there's a God, He'll reward my good deeds,

If not, I'll be gone, like the wind through the trees.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Five Sentence Fiction – Medicine

The Five Sentence Fiction is a simple idea:
Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week I will post a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the prompt word. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just use it for direction.
This time, we are given the word "medicine" to guide us. So, here's my entry, I hope you like it.

***

The doctor laid out my options: do nothing and I will die; do something and I might live.

I hated the cold, unbreakable logic of it all--that even with the treatment there were no guarantees.

His trying-to-be-a-calming-influence voice faded into a mumble--a low whisper of a rumble--as I pared off in my thoughts and struggled to comprehend it all.

I looked at him, with his white lab-coat and over-brushed smile; he'd finally stopped talking, which is fine because the decision was clear.

"Do something."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What suffering have you brought me today?

This is just something that sort of "hit me," I'm not sure if it's in its final form, and just like the subject, it can change at a whim. Not sure where I was going, really, or what lesson my whacked-out brain was trying to teach me with it, but here it is, a short story about something we all chase unrelentingly.
"What suffering have you brought me today?"

Sitting on a throne of bone and gristle, that dark demon pondered what gift I brought him. Having sent me out into the world of Man to find a morsel worthy of his might, I have brought him much horror in the past, a thousand thousand forms of anger, hate, malice, destruction...all a feast for him. I yearned to be able to bring him something new--a delight upon which he could feed for ages.

Each meal I brought him, surely fitting, was becoming commonplace for him: He-Who-Eats-Sorrow was growing bored with what wares I could muster.

As I approached his dark dwelling, he leaned over his hideous forearms, squinting to see what it might be that I had in tow. My prize, as it were, squirmed in a burlap bag, and would remain hidden until I chose to reveal the wonder within.

"My Lord," I began gracefully, while I struggled to pull the heavy weight I bore, "I bring you a tart of such delectability."

Huffing, I pulled steadily; all the while he stretched his gnarled neck in hopes of catching a glimpse that might reveal more than I wished.

"This meal," I continued as best as I could through my tired breath, "is one you have not seen before; or perhaps, not one you've had in a long while."

This caused him pause, "New, you claim?"

"Yes, master, or at the least rare."

"Bring it closer so I might smell it."

I brought my bundle as near as I could, and eventually I could carry it no more so I halted and collapsed in a limp lump beside it; and just as he said, he sniffed the air around the parcel. The deep smell of flower and perfume must have filled his noxious nostrils, for it did the same to mine when I encountered this find.

"What suffering smells so sweet? It sickens me!"

Yet even with his protestations, he continued to inhale in hopes of discovering my prize before it was unwrapped--a game he enjoyed greatly.

"Is it, Loss of child?" he puzzled.

"No, not sour enough."

Another breath closer filled his lungs, and he worked desperately to not wretch.

"It could be the anguish of defeat," he regaled; but just as quickly dismissed his own idea with "No...too commonplace. This is something truly different."

Stepping closer, he poked the bag with a bent, black finger. It gave way in a squishy dimple, and the whole mass pulled from his touch and moved away.

"Interesting! It is an animate thing! Rare, indeed, this find!"

This praise, from someone so loathsome, felt as hollow as his compassion. He was soul-less, and his words mocked the very meanings as he intoned them.

"I worry, Lord, that this meal you cannot eat. See how it eludes you now?"

True enough, as he approached, the whole moved to a new location on the crumbling courtyard.

He sent me a look that pierced like javelins. "Any sorrow I can consume!" Perhaps my words injured his infernal pride?

Again, he played his game: "This must be longing?"

I think he was trying to see if I would accidentally give it away. Naturally, longing would be sweet, yet longing this was not, the bouquet was wrong--longing is not nearly as strong as this. I smiled coyly, I knew how to play his game as well.

In a huff he exploded in frustration, "If not that, then this can only be..."

He trailed off, perhaps he didn't know, or perhaps he guessed it finally; whichever the case, when I unveiled my masterpiece-capture he was in awe.

"I present," pausing for dramatic effect, "love."

And there, in the dimmest of light in the darkest circle of Hell, fueled by the power of hope itself, sat amorphous and contemplative, yet forever changing, love.

"Fool! This is no sorrow, I cannot eat this!"

"Oh, is it not?" I replied. "Look, see deeper: Love is worry, it is concern, it is anger, it is argument, it is pain, it is loss, it is fire from within, it is need, it is envy, it is pride, it is lust, it is all this and more. Forever changing, forever different one moment to the next, this is a suffering unimaginable that lay before you! This is the end of all suffering and yet the cause of so much!"

He looked at it with eyes that did not blink; he listened and stood only. His rage diminished as my words echoed throughout the hall.

"Here it is, the thing that will sustain you forever with its unending, unyielding complications!"

He then tried to grasp it, but could not, for it moved, changed, and slithered away from him. Love has no defined form and it changes often, which darkened his mood considerably.

For one such as he, love cannot be caught--it is chased and never found. That is how I left him, seated before a meal he was unable to eat; and his own sorrows multiplied within until he succumbed to them utterly.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Five Sentence Fiction – Lost

The Five Sentence Fiction is a simple idea:
Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week I will post a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the prompt word. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just use it for direction.
This week it's all about the word "Lost." How can one be lost? What can be lost? What does it mean to be lost? There are just as many possible answers to this as there are people who can be asked. This entry is mine... I hope you like it.

***

The last proctector of his once-mighty king inched forward through the battle.

Clad in black, two enemy knights approach in staggered steps and leaps.

Swords held high while taunts and fears engage -- the swing and clash of mental steel resonate as foes collide.

A pause, that brief interlude in the pain of war is welcome; yet the enemy does not press the attack, but why?

He turns to see his king is toppled: the pawn stands alone.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Help Christian Hurt

The Christian Hurt Files

Each of you knows pain and injury. You've seen it upfront and personal. Nobody I know is without it. Each of us wished for help when the dark day came--and not everyone received it. I'm asking everyone to at least follow the link by clicking the image above (or below). Together, we can make a difference.

Lets all sign up to do good. Real good. And in the end, you might be the recipient of good in return. The prize that is being amassed is of EPIC PROPORTIONS and you WILL want to get in on this! I know I am!

So, come on...lets do good. Lets help Christian.

Me, My Shelf and I

Friday, June 1, 2012

June 6th, 1944: 68 years of respect.

There are days that echo throughout history where men stood up, and in the face of insurmountable odds, fought against tyranny and evil. June 6, 1944, is perhaps the most important of those days. We call it "D-Day," but for those scared men who waded to shore hoping to bring an end to the Nazi stranglehold on Europe, no single name for the event could adequately convey the meaning behind it. These men, showing a level of courage none should ever have to muster, opened up themselves to certain death--so that others might live.

Many died; yet their sacrifice was not in vain, nor could it be ever so. Their good fight, with good men, for a greater cause against genocidal fanatics brought not only peace to Europe, but also brought forth the possibility of future generations of descendants from the persecuted masses who otherwise would have been wiped from the rolls of the living. These D-Day soldiers bought life with the currency of their own blood.

It is for this reason nations will stand together on June 6 and salute the remaining men--whom we are lucky to still have with us--that stormed the beaches of France.

Pause, reflect, and consider the ramifications had they failed. 68 years ago is a lifetime; yet not so long that we should dare to forget.

In the name of Liberty and Life, though I wore no uniform, and am unworthy to do so, I salute those men who on that terrible day settled a due for us all--a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.