“Business, always business…” -The Greek

Just a reminder that Outliers: The Shape of Things to Come is available for free download. Enjoy our artwork and stories!

Today is my last day at work.

I have a new job lined up on Tuesday of next week, but the next four days are reserved for final edits of five novellas, a host of flash, finishing a short story manuscript, watching the last episodes of Armored Trooper Votoms, morning exercise, completing American Psycho, and just maybe walking the dog too.

Yes. We just published something and now we’re running around to prepare something else for release. What we started is far from finished.

Welcome to life in the fast lane. This blog is probably going on low output for a while… and when it does surface it’ll probably be publishing-business related.

But for you other writers out there, for you fellows working on getting published whether for the first or dozenth time… keep an eye on Outliers. Because this story is going to get big. Bigger than you’d believe. And sooner or later the doors maybe opening for submissions…

Stayed tuned and read on.

The End of Summer

“In a peculiar way, Lovecraft’s work has become culturally ingrained in our understanding of horror, just as we make everyday references to Christian or Pagan concepts in our language, and may not even realize it.”

I’ve been too busy to write blog posts and I’m not sorry for that.

Between work being hard and finding time for writing, blogging had to be cut. Even reading isn’t going at any fast rate, although I am really enjoying my current book far more than I thought I would.

Cthulhu_and_R'lyehSo I’m finally wrapping up the very last of my novella for the quarterly me and the guys are working on. Jonathan thought I was spot on when I explained that the act of making a synopsis robs the actual writing process of some of it’s enjoyment. Something about the act of creation, infusing ideas into words on the page. That’s where the majority of pleasure is in writing. Doing half the creativity in the synopsis does allow for a better paced and plotted story, but it’s no where near as fun as drafting from the hip.

I’ve also been keeping my ear to the ground current events. The unfortunate passing of both Joan Rivers and Robin Williams (rest in peace, and you’ll both be missed), GamerGate, and the new Silent Hill game with Guillermo Del Toro, Hideo Kojima and Norman Reedus. That game alone has pretty much sold me on the PS4, but I’m waiting until October before I buy. I am very much looking forward to playing Destiny in the mean time between then and Silent Hill‘s release.

Speaking of games of intrigue, the new Gauntlet really looks like fun. I’ve really been wanting a four player couch machine, and the fact that it can be played via both couch and online (combined if you want), puts it at the top of my to-get list. As far back as the Nintendo Entertainment System, I’ve had fun memories of Gauntlet. Me and my brother had a lot of fun trying various class combinations to stay alive as long as we can, as back their your health had a dual function as a timer, constantly ticking down. The more hits you took, the less time you had, hence the need for food all the time.

See, I’ve forgotten how much I love couch video games with many friends. Co-op beats competitive for getting everyone to have fun together, and having everyone in the same room is just so much fun. It’s a shame that consoles have gradually moved away from this while… for some reason, PCs have had more indie titles that move towards it. Yeah, I don’t get this trend either. But four-players on the couch are why Mario Kart 8 has done so well. That, and it’s fun as all hell.

A gallery of Cthulu art.

A gallery of Cthulu art.

This weekend, me and my friends are heading to Westport in Massachusetts. I’ve decided to bring this board game with me, Mansions of Madness. This game is built around H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos, an element that has an enduring quality… perhaps more so than Conan the Barbarian. The Cthulu mythos intrigues me as at least a portion of the writing is public domain, so it has subtly entered my cultural knowledge. Shub-Niggurath made an appearance at the very end of Quake. Alone in the Dark borrowed a few of the monsters, including Nightgaunts.

In a peculiar way, Lovecraft’s work has become culturally ingrained in our understanding of horror, just as we make everyday references to Christian or Pagan concepts in our language, and may not even realize it. That’s half my excitement for Mansions of Madness. The other half is that the game walks a fine line between being a pen and paper role playing game and a regular board game. The Keeper, who has elements akin to a Dungeon Master, is also a player and has restrictions to hold his power in check. I could not simply have a dozen Shoggoths and wipe them out. But I have a most excellent array of abilities, ranging from conjuring a variety of monsters to hitting them with traumatic injuries both physical and psychological.

I think this will be a weekend to remember.

Most Lethal Movie Character

Today, the Washington Post ranked the number of on-screen kills actors have had in action movies. They put Arnold Schwarzenegger at number one.

I wish to issue a correction to this. The number one on-screen killer was Slim Pickens who played Major Kong of Dr. Strangelove. At the end of said movie, he rode a nuclear bomb that struck a Russian base, unintentionally setting off a nuclear deterrent weapon that wiped out the planet and all the inhabitants.

That is all.

Culture Absorption

Books: My bread and butter. As of late, I’m half way through A Feast of Crows. I understand people’s dissatisfaction with the heavy novel, given that almost all the main characters from the previous three installments get no chapters of their own until the next book. Barely Jon Snow, no Tyrion Lannister and no Daenerys Targaryen.

Instead, we get an assortment of supporting characters with their own chapters. Samwell Tarly, Brienne of Tarth, and a handful of characters in Dorne to speak of events down there. Cersei gets her own chapters, finally gives some insight into her attitude. One has to be willing to accept some slow down of the story in order to enjoy a more robust tale I suppose. I keep trying to slow down since the sixth book is going to be a while, but I’ll probably crumble and just read A Dance with Dragons after this.

I’ve also been picking up and putting down Thus Spake Zarathustra. The reading itself is slow, but the resulting discussions with the book’s owner about Nietzche’s philosophy are stimulating and interesting.

Television: I’ve been slacking on my television. Between the ending of Breaking Bad and the wait for the new seasons of Mad Men and The Americans, I have a period of time to try and catch up on The Walking Dead or polish off Battlestar Galactica or The Wire. I should probably get on with that.

If there was ever a reason to be disappointed with reality television, it has to be the direction that Top Chef has gone. The winner of the New Orleans season was made to appear as a some what conniving, foul tempered fellow whom the show seemed ready to dump several times. And the fact that he was instead the winner was nothing less than aggravating. I feel the show has let something wrong guide it. Even if ‘reality’ television can’t convince you it isn’t fake, it should be entertaining. As of late, Top Chef has failed to do both.

I have however, gotten back into watching Golgo 13. The strange thing about this show is that it’s effectively nothing but episodic flash fiction starring a sniper protagonist. The plus side is that the show is easy to pick up and put down. You miss nothing, there is no ongoing story or events that change anything. Every episode is open and close, making it great for working out too. The downside is that the writers struggle to make the main character interesting. Thus, every two episodes are crap but the third one often has some great ideas in it.

Movies: I saw American Hustle a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it, but I get how people might not have liked it. Some felt the story was too predictable (it was based on true events). Others were probably ill at ease with the story’s themes of infidelity. But I was very entertained by it.

Aside from that, I saw Danny Boyle’s Trance and Prisoners with Jake Gyllenhaal. I was disappointed with the former. Boyle tried too hard to create Inception and while it wasn’t bad, it was filled with needless sexuality and a little over the top with the violence. Prisoners was an all around good movie but just didn’t ring my bells. I can’t complain about it- it was very well done, just not to my taste for some reason.

Looking forward to the new Robocop. Critics be damned.

Games: Still chugging through Red Dead Redemption. Getting lost in the side quests and challenges has slowed me up, so I end up doing one or two tasks, then doing regular story missions. So far, I’m sixty percent through the game. 

Big thing of note is that I finished The Banner Saga: Part 1 for the second time. I kept failing on the last battle, so I decided to go ahead and reduce the difficulty to Easy from Hard and just wrap up the game, collecting a couple of achievements but not everything I wanted. A play through takes about 12 hours, so I can try it a couple of times, then replay it when part 2 nearly comes out.

The thing about the game is that losing a battle isn’t game over. It just grinds on, though you do get thoroughly punished for it. You get less renown (a character building currency), some side characters may die, and then there are injuries. Injury is interesting, as it decreases your characters strength drastically. It doesn’t just happen when you lose, but whenever a character is harmed badly or knocked out. Thus there are Pyrrhic victories, and when you start losing, it becomes increasingly harder to stop. I’ll replay the game on hard later, but I do need to totally rethink my strategies to be more forward thinking.

Rejecting Folks

Shameless sellout: For today only, The Black Wind’s Whispers and Marching Time have had a price cut to dirt cheap. Get it while it’s hot.

I made a promise to myself that, as an editor, I would always send a personalized rejection email to people informing them why they didn’t make it. Sometimes it’s quality. Sometimes it’s circumstances beyond their control. But I’d always tell them why so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes if at all possible.

At the moment, I’ve kept this promise. It’s painful for myself and the people who get rejected, but they have to know. I remember what the early parts were like, getting meaningless rejections. But I also know that as the number of submitters grows in future projects, I won’t be able to personalize every refused piece.

As it stands, this promise has been put to the test. Already, the number of rejections are starting to climb and more are surely on their way. I’m sure sooner or later there’s going to be someone who has got to fight me on the decision. Thankfully it hasn’t happened yet. Most of the people I’ve dealt with have handled their rejections with professional integrity.

The secret I’ve noticed is to always include a few good things to say about the work involved and try to be compassionate if honest. Point out what they’ve done well and where they need work. Tact takes energy and effort, but it sure beats making enemies.

Well, it’s not something I hope to get good at… but can’t hurt.

Heads Up

Some of my followers may have gotten a heads up about a post called “Feminine Independence and Revenge?” It’s not available because I wanted to put it up and easily bounce ideas and thoughts off of a few friends, then revert it to a draft stage. It’s a piece detailing a lot of anthropological and economic thought, correlated to the Drunken Ultimatum and dating stereotypes. It is not a rant or anger piece.

If you received an email about it, I apologize. When I posted, I forgot about the alerts that sometimes go out to followers. It was a work in progress that needed more input to improve.

To quote Matthew McConaughey from an awesome if totally crazy movie, “Better be late and be right than be first and be wrong… boy!”

Between Scylla and Charybdis

Scylla and CharybdisA distant person amongst my circles of friends chose to take his life last week.

I won’t be releasing any details about this person, but it has shaken up my friend who was closer to this person than I was. As I heard the news, the only relevant question we ask ourselves in any tragedy is “Why?”

In Greek mythology Ulysses, during his trip home, had to pass between the monsters Scylla and Charybdis.

Scylla was a beast with six heads and twelve limbs, long tentacles that ended with hands. Her ravenous hunger led her to feast on sailors who passed by her island, six at a time. Opposite of her was Charybdis, a beast that was little more than a titanic mouth, whose thirst led her to swallow the sea three times a time. This created a whirlpool that would destroy both ships and crew entirely.

While it’s easy to imagine Ulysses’ struggle to pass these beasts without arousing either, it’s less obvious to suspect an underlying metaphor for common human strife.

You see, I’ve often felt that depression is just a result of impotent rage. Anger is a sign that something is wrong in our lives, but what can one do when they cannot change or cure the source of their fury? That impotence can be a nullifying sorrow, a true pit one cannot escape.

And I’m left to wonder if maybe, all along, Scylla was the symbol of rage in that it can hurt one and those around us, but is less likely to destroy us than Charybdis. In the end of the tale, Ulysses had no choice but to choose Scylla over Charybdis. He had tried to sail the narrow line through both but failed, and chose to risk six men than all of them.

Perhaps all along, Ulysses fight was an internal one. Perhaps what might of really happened was Ulysses was encourage to fight his own men to release his anger than to succumb to self loathing in his failure to return home. Heroic tales have a tendency to make all struggles seem less mundane and more larger-than-life.

A healthy human being tries their hardest neither to feel either depression or fury. It’s only in the former that I could see a person taking their own life, in that hole of insurmountable desires that cannot be met. But I fear… I fear that as a society, our aversion to anger may leave many with no outlets for a critical emotion that needs appropriate expression. With no outward direction, it will turn inward. If we do not turn towards Scylla, Charybdis will swallow us.

 

The Next Big Thing

I received an invitation from Alec McQuay to answer a selection of questions about my current writing workload. Behold the horror…

What is your working title of your book?
There’s actually a couple of projects I’m working on. I’m just sticking to short stories because it’s easier to finish up. I may start my first novel next year.

But for the time being, I’m working on a short story for Narrativium’s Marching Time anthology, simply titled Ragnarok for now. I am also pitching two new stories to Cruentus Libri Press. I can’t tell you about the new one I’m hacking away at, but the latest submission is a horror piece set in World War I, between the French and Germans.

Where did the idea come from for these stories?
For the Marching Time piece, I really can’t remember. No one had called out vikings, so I decided to do that. But then somewhere, I got this idea about how to make it a hero epic piece. For some reason, I really relished the chance to do the olde tyme thick epic, so I got started.

As for the WWI piece, that took considerable evolution. It originally began as an alternate history horror piece set in WWII. America was invaded by a hodge podge army of zombies. I can’t tell you more, but there was more depth to the tale than endless and pointless fighting. This WWII was started for a different publisher, but I changed my mind towards the end and wrote a mad scientist piece set during the storms of Dustbowl. It was a slow, building story that wasn’t particularly pulpy.

After the mad scientist piece was rejected, I returned to the original idea. During this time, I was getting ready for a trip to England, and was brushing up on my French and German with a girl who knew both. Somehow, this inspired me to try a WWI story, with several twists on the original tale. The zombies were removed, but I added a different foe. It’s called On Ne Passé Pas! but that title is subject to change.

What genre does your book fall under?
For the Marching Time piece, there are elements of sci fi and medieval style war in it. I tie large, important themes of Norse mythology into it, but I must remind the reader that during the Viking age, this was a religion and a few concepts of faith. All of this is very central to the story.

My other stories are primarily horror. Horror has been a great starting niche because it generally gives a lot of freedom, and horror literature lovers by no means expect feel good endings. But horror by itself isn’t a great genre. The best horror tends to blend itself with another genre. Horror fantasy (Berserk), horror crime, so on. A really important thing to remember when writing horror is that the horror elements should be hinted at or introduced early. Readers do not like last minute genre-bending, like Steven Spielberg’s A.I. They hate it, and I’m no fan myself.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’ve given no thought whatsoever to who I’d want to play my character for the Marching Time story. I would be open to no name actors, particularly from Swedish cinema. A few Swedish movies and shows have started making their way to the states, either original or remade. And they’re pretty good!

As for the WWI piece, this is going to blow your mind. I’d be open to having Sacha Baron Cohen for the lead role. I know, I know. You probably know him for his low brow comedies, like Borat, The Dictator and Brüno. But he’s also done somewhat more serious roles, like Hugo. And he has a part in the upcoming Les Misérables that I’m looking forward too. Sometimes, certain comedians are actually outstanding actors underneath the comedy mask, like John Leguizamo.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Ragnarok: When the gods march to their doom, for whom will you fight?
On Ne Passé Pas!: They have surrendered in droves to escape their own country…

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Ragnarok: To be honest, neither really describes it. It is technically self-published, but it was a large, group effort by just under a dozen talented individuals. It’s our first effort together and I really hope we can do it again soon. Just like The Black Wind’s Whispers.

On Ne Passé Pas!: If Cruentus Libri Press accepts it, they will. If not, I may put it on the back burner and figure out what to do with it later.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
For the MT anth, it’s still being worked on. The writing is thick and requires considerable care. For the other story, that is debatable. Its first real draft took only a week, but the idea evolved over several previous iterations over the course of six months. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Beowulf comes to mind for Ragnarok. The plot, I’m trying to think if and where it has been borrowed before. Probably from elements of historical acts involving religion.

For On Ne Passé Pas!, I really wanted to draw inspiration from the movie All Quiet on the Western Front. But there was a lack of trench warfare to it. I’d say more came from The Dirty Dozen.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
For Ragnarok, it might have been Dan Abnett with the 40k book, Prospero Burns. The Space Wolves, a group in the 40k universe, have been stereotyped as barbarians, but there’s more to them than that. Real life vikings, on whom the Space Wolves are based upon, have many similar misconceptions and falsehoods about them. I don’t know how much of an eye opener Ragnarok is going to be, but if I can set the records straight on a few historic facts, I will.

On Ne Passé Pas! was inspired by a woman who has helped me with my French and German, and a dash from my high school history teacher. Who, according to other students, was certifiable.  

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Because I’m not in charge of these books overall, I’m really not sure yet. I’m helping as an editor for Marching Time, so when first drafts start pouring in, I’ll have a better answer.

Here are a few other author’s (and links to their blogs) you should watch carefully.

Alec McQuay

Sarah Cawkwell

James Swallow

Kim Krodel

Stranded

My car died in Philadelphia.

It’s already been towed to a storage place where it will be taken to a shop a little later this morning. The problems occurred just as we were leaving last night. We were fortunate that the car came died while we were looping around the same hotel we stayed at.

The tow truck guy showed me part of the issue. The battery was dying, but not yet dead. For a while, the inside lights, power locks and features still worked. He shook the power cables, pointing out they were loose. We still couldn’t get it started. 

Best case scenario, we need a jump and the cables need to be tightened. Second best is the cables just need replacement. Bad situation is the alternator needs replacement. Worst case? Starter too. Though I doubt that. We know for certain that the battery will need attention at least, so we’re not in the dark on this. 

Finishing my draft will be held  up. But there’s still time. Will have to spend the next few nights hacking away at it.

A Question of Quality

A friend of mine dropped out of the anthology we’re putting together. I read his reasons, and I understood. I understood very well.

My chum didn’t enjoy writing the story. He worried about the quality of it. He has an artistic integrity for his work that demands he only apply his name to his best work. I understand not just because I see his viewpoint, but because I’ve been there myself.

There are two competing values.

The first is that both he and I want to write good material. Even if things like horror or romance aren’t someone’s forté, just about everyone appreciates good work. My mother, for example, detests violence. But she’ll put up with it whenever the movie or the story are particularly good. Sometimes, the quality of what is made is enough to breach existing stereotypes and biases.

In the same light however, reality has a tendency to make demands of us that, though we may loathe, we have to respect. We have to eat, sleep and breath. On top of that, we have to produce things whether we do so for ourselves or sell them to others in exchange for our needs. We have due dates. 

Quality work demands time and effort, but time waits for no man.

That last point is what frustrates me about a recent anthology submission window. I finished what is best described as a draft of an idea that has value. A solid concept, but the execution is not up to snuff.

Regardless, I sent it just in time. But even as I write this, I feel I’d have to request it’s removal from the slushpile. An author’s literary reputation is important. I don’t want to see my writing average pulled down by publishing something before it’s ready.

I don’t have the luxury of a forgiving fanbase who wants to read just about anything. I don’t have much of a reputation at all, save my name associated with two published works. A single black mark can really hurt that.