Monday, January 31, 2011

Why I am not crying over Borders closing.

Why should I be upset? I live in a town with a lot of options for bookstores.


The local Borders is in its last throws of life. I found out it was closing via a friend that goes to the mall (where else would the store be) more than I do. Then Friday coming home, as the bus pulled into the mall stop I saw the signs up: "All fixtures must go!" And I am not upset.

You should be! That is a major chain! They gave us books at great prices! The cafe is wonderful! It's a sign that more people should be reading!

Um, sorry, I'm not. You see in Syracuse, NY, we have local bookstores that will gladly take the shoppers in. And some of these stores are a lot more fun to shop in than a mega chain.

Let's start on James Street. You have two to choose from and they are almost across the street from one another.

One is Books End This is the place were we missed out on a great find. We found a copy of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, first edition, signed by Gary Gygax, and we decide to come back for it. It was gone. Never again! What I like about Books End is the amazing finds. I can spend hours on the floor next to the cookbook section. I have found Polish cookbooks that were written in Polish and English. I have found old fantasy titles long out of print. If you want the rare stuff, this is the place to go.

Just a little ways down the street is Books & Memories. You can never browse properly in a big chain store. Have any of you wandered down one aisle and realized you just spent an hour looking at titles. That is this book store. Sometimes its a mess. The first visit for me, I went into the basement and they were rearrange a section, it felt like a garage sale, but a fun one. I loved the stacks of books. When I brought my husband back, the stacks were gone, but you still had the feeling on going on a treasure hunt. If you want to lose hours, this is the place.

For you comic book lovers, so many choices! But back to the mall for the one that I always go back to; Play the Game Read the Story. They have a great selection of comic books, but the reason I like to go there, is the support they give back to their customers. Now that they are settled in the bottom of the mall, they have expanded their playing area. But its not just for playing RPGs or Magic the Gathering; NaNoWriMo met there last year, a group of people designing a comic book met there, they are willing to share the space with any creative people that need a workplace.

And more, some I have not had time to shop at: Seven Rays Bookstore:  I love their new location on Armory Square. One of my titles is there! Lavender Inkwell; on McBride Street. A Gay and Lesbian themed book store. Second Story Bookstore on Westcott. People rave about the coffee shop.

And there are so many more, that are not connected to large chains.

All this makes me happy, why? One of the things I support is Shop Local. Which is a bit ironic for me, since I work for a nation wide chain. I love to be able to walk into a store and know that this place is unique, you aren't going to find another store like it anywhere. Even my favorite local coffee shop, Freedom of Espresso, they have multiple locations, but each location is different. Local stores bring more money back to the community. And its nice to know that you can develop a relationship with the owners, just by visiting. So at least in my city. Losing one national bookstore is not something to cry about.

I do feel sorry for those people who live in towns were the big chain bookstores forced the little ones to close. Now that the future of Borders isn't too bright, many people will find themselves without a place to buy books, that isn't a department store.

I know ebooks are HUGE, but there is something really nice about going into a store and losing yourself in the aisles. Maybe its time to revisit my vision of what bookstores should be like now. LINK

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I think we need a little more blood.

WARNING: Bloody images ahead.





Gore. How much is too much? And why use it?

If you write certain genres, you have gore. Gore has been part of story telling since the beginning. Case in point, Beowolf:

Their hatred for each other
was boundless. And now
the brute's shoulder
could stand the enormous
strain no longer;
his muscles gave way
and massive stress
snapped his sinews.
Success in battle
was given Beowulf
and Grendel fled,
mortally hurt,
to his marsh hideout,
his dismal abode,
doomed and despairing;
he knew that his hours
were numbered and felt
death upon him.

Pretty gruesome way to die, even if you are the monster.

But when is too much too much?

That's a hard call. Because some readers love the blood and gore, it doesn't have to make sense. The movie 300, very stylish, very visual. But if a person really bled like that, they have a blood pressure that should have killed them long before they were fighting.

On the other hand in Hellboy. When Rasputian comes back. He is brought back in a pool of blood. He is covered in it. Yet, it doesn't look like gore. It looks primordial. And it is the only time that blood is used in the movie.

How do you measure when you put too much in? Depends on the story, the situation, and what you have established before.

If you are writing a vampire story, readers will expect gore. If you are writing a modern love story, probably not. Also the age of the reader, children can handle gross (vomit, farts, etc), but they should not have to read a detail description of a dead cat in the middle of the road. Young adult, can handle a little more.

Unless you are writing splatter or gore fiction, you should leave a lot up to imagination of the reader. The shower scene from Psycho. Never once does the knife enter the body, but it is edited so well, and the sound effects make you think it is.



The situation; Could the scene you are writing be gory in real life? My husband when he was younger, was the first person on a scene of an accident. The van had slid off the road and into a tree. My husband went up to the van to see if anyone was hurt. The driver's head had been crushed in. He told me that it wasn't until hours later did it register with him what he had seen. His mind would not let him handle the horror of it at the time.

If you were to write that scene, a little description here, a hint there. And then later bring the whole horrible aspect into focus.

Has your story established that it will not hold back? Building up the gore, is like building the tension. Start with simple things. Maybe start with a nose bleed and work your way up to a beheading.

Some writers, and a lot of movies go way over board with the blood. To the point it is physically impossible to happen. Starship Troopers a solider gets ripped apart, if you count the body parts, the man had 6 legs and 3 heads. That example is laughable. But if you go overboard, a serious scene can turn into a parody very quickly.

Monty Pythons "Sam Peckinpah's 'Salad Days'" The gore becomes funny, because there is TOO much.


Confession time: I don't like gore. In the 80's when gory horror movies were the big thing to watch, I could not do it. I liked horror, but I did not like the gore. It was not the gross part of it, it was the gore for gore sake. I would get bored watching the splatter scenes.

So why would I put a scene in one of my stories that involves a man being ripped in half? Because it works in the scene, it is in a genre that expects gore, and it is possible (for a vampire to rip someone in half anyway). I had no problem writing the scene, and no complaints about it either.

Gore is useful, and is a great story device, but don't make people sick. (Unless that is what you want)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Prediction for the Next Big Monster: TROLL!

Some people think the vampire is on the way out. Zombies are popular, but how many stories are there about relentless hordes of the dead. Werewolves popularity comes and goes. So if you write a genre that relies on monsters, how do you find the next "big" monster.

I think it will be trolls.


Why?

One of the biggest reasons; they never have really left us as a monster. Except now you are going to find more of them on the Internet, flaming discussions, then under bridges.
And a new horror film, might make people think about them again. Troll Hunter, looks like a cross between Cloverfiled and Blair Witch. But far more fun.



In Scandinavia, where trolls were born, you have a plethora of metal bands. A few even emulate trolls. Most notably

FINNTROLL

and MORTIIS

So trolls are still out there.
But why would they make such interesting creatures to write about? Because there are so many different variations. You have the giant, dumb, brutal beasts that turn to stone when the sun hits them. And then you have the ones that are almost human. The ones that liked to steal babies and kidnap young men or women.

more of the brutish type above

But how would they fit in, to lets say Urban Fantasy? Remember Hellboy 2; the Troll Market? Great example there. Although most of the troll folklore puts them in the wild. There is nothing stopping them from moving into the cities. Just like some animals that have developed a way to live in the urban centers, trolls could do the same.

In the country, as land is ripped up for strip malls, what if some developer cut down a family of trolls while clearing the land. The revenge story alone would be interesting.

I don't think we have begun to really explore trolls. And I can't wait to see if other writers agree.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

#SampleSunday - Killer: a bit of Chapter 7

Vincent runs to Ogden for help. The vampire Nathan injured a person close to Vincent. We find out a little about Ogden and Nathan here.


Ogden's mansion sat in the snow covered lawn like a Christmas painting. Vincent solidified at the front door and rang the bell. He almost rang it again when it was opened by a slender, dark-haired woman.

Another Hindu, Vincent noticed. She was dressed in a feminine cut business suit, her hair pulled back in a long braid. She did not smile or show any emotion as she opened the door.

“I need to see Ogden,” Vincent said.

“He is indisposed,” she said. Her voice had a slight accent. Boston? Vincent thought.

“Tell him Vincent is here.”

“Anula,” Ogden's voice rang from the top of the entry hall. “He is an old friend. Let him in.”

Anula stepped away from the door. She watched Vincent enter the hall. Shutting the door behind him with a sharp click. Ogden stood at the top of the stairs.

He motioned to Vincent. “Come up.”

Anula picked up a briefcase by the door and walked across the hall, ignoring Vincent. He climbed the stairs, feeling like he was under-dressed. Ogden waited for him at the top and opened a door.

Vincent entered the room. It was a large, semi-circular library. The cabinets were filled with books, most of them with hand-written titles. The old leather-bound volumes weighed the place down. Not just by the amount in the room, but the size of the tomes as well. At one end of the large library sat a table surrounded by a few cushion chairs. Ogden sat at one side of the table and motioned Vincent to sit at the other.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” Ogden said. “I take it this is not a social call.”

Vincent told Ogden everything, except that Chuck was a werewolf. Ogden listened, his fingers steepled before him on the table.

When Vincent had finished, all Ogden said was, “Hm.”

“Well?” Vincent asked.

“Mr. Stout has no manners,” Ogden said. By the look on his face he was still trying to sort out everything Vincent had said. “And his writing style is almost childish.”

“You've read his books?”

“I stay current with all the fiction about our kind, a guilty hobby of mine.”
Ogden stood up, straightened out his smoking jacket, and walked over to a bookcase that held the modern books. He pulled out Ashes at Dawn.

“The cover is interesting,” Ogden said, handing the book to Vincent. On the cover was a forlorn looking dark-haired man holding a woman close to him. The painting was done like every romance novel Vincent had seen. Except in this one, the woman was not looking up to the man with lust in her eyes. Her eyes were closed, giving the appearance of her sleeping or that she was dead. The couple stood in a graveyard.

“Of all of them, that is the most original of the series,” Ogden said. “The main character is a vampire named Stephan Ashington. Supposedly an old English lord, but that is one of the biggest works of fiction in this story. He had become a vampire during the reign of Elizabeth the First. He lives fine for a few centuries until he mets a woman named Angelica.” Ogden paused and rolled his eyes. “Then it turns into a horrible romance. He wants to change for her. She gives herself willingly to him. She ends up dead at the end. There are two chapters at the end that deal with his mourning her death.”

“Sounds dreadful,” Vincent said.

Ogden grinned. His fangs just peeking out of the corners of his mouth. “When this book first came out, no one had read it. I think I was one of the first. They did not become popular until some talk show host suggested it for some light reading.”

He sat back down. “That is one of the first editions. It might be worth something in a few decades. Look at the book jacket.”

Vincent opened it up to the photograph of Nathan. This was not the Nathan that Vincent had met. Gone were the Victorian clothes and the close-shaved beard. Here, he looked more like a poet in the style of Lord Byron.

“He told me he never had any pictures taken,” Vincent said.

“Later editions that is true,” Ogden said. “I found it interesting that the more his books became popular the more he didn't lie about what he was.”

“You knew?”

“All stories have a pinch of truth,” Ogden said. “But the biggest clue for me was his description of some of the military campaigns the main character had been on. There was one in particular that sounded very familiar to me. Just a small skirmish with the Thuggees in India.”

Ogden motioned for the book, Vincent handed it over. Ogden opened the book. He read.
“We went out on that humid, heat sickening day, looking for the vandals that were attacking travelers for their heathen goddess. The officer in command, an arrogant aristocrat named Major Ogden Phelps, led us into the god-forsaken jungle. I did not know what was the bigger danger, the tigers that watched us with hungry, hazel eyes, or the dark heathens with their plans of murder for a false goddess.”

Ogden paused. “He goes on and on like that. The thing is, I was a major in India. We did go into the jungle to find the Thuggees.”

“Are you sure?”

Ogden nodded. “He gives details that did not appear on any official reports. I think I remember him. But he was not a vampire then.”

“Who was he?” Vincent asked.

“A frustrated journalist.” Ogden waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “Old history. But your friend, she is the one that needs help now.”

Ogden stood up and walked to the blackened windows, he stood there a moment in thought. Then he turned around, rubbing his chin. “There maybe a way. If you can get her to come here tomorrow, I will try to do my best.”

Vincent nodded. He stood up to leave and felt the stupor start to take him. Dawn was coming now? He leaned on the chair, fighting the exhaustion.

“I will show you to a room,” Ogden said.

He led Vincent to a small room with no windows. The bed had an ornate iron frame around it. The stupor overtook Vincent. He fell into the bed. He heard Ogden close the door, then nothing.



Killer is out now. Check the Buy Buy Buy tab above.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Update on the Minstrel novel and a question.

Rejection, again.

Honestly, it's getting to the point that if or when I get an acceptance, I don't know if I will be happy about it. Relieved, maybe.

Bad side, the number of agents in my list is dwindling fast. So I should add more.

Here's the question: What would be the definition of Gay Lit?

The reason I ask is that one of the major characters is gay. It does play a major part of the plot. I never actively pursued agents of that genre.

Why not? That's harder to say. The main reason, I never thought of it. The character that is gay, that came out in the writing and really brought some points together after it did. It's not a big deal to the people close to him (except for one, and its a bit ironic when you read it).

Also, I don't want people to focus in on it. For me, being gay for him was just like the piper knowing everyone. It was part of their character. Nothing big, when I wrote it.

But I have had some people tell me to send it out, because he is one of the heroes of the story. I can see the reasoning.

Readers more familiar with the genre, what do you think?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

#SampleSunday: Patriarch - Meet Perun

Remember Patriarch is its first stages of editing, so this will might be wrought with errors and the like.
Story so far. Steopa feels the urge to find someone. He explains to Rebecka as they run. Perun makes his first appearance.



“Rebecka,” he said. “We must go. I have to explain on the way.”

Rebecka nodded. She let him take the lead. How could she understand? Steopa thought, start at the beginning.

“As you know, I had a daughter,” he said. The feeling felt stronger as long as he faced the east. Steopa used it like a homing beacon.

Rebecka nodded.

“I spent some time with her, after she had married. Her husband was an intellectual. To him, I was just a puzzle of nature.”

They came to one of the high schools. Steopa cut across the football field. Their paths cut through the fog on the field like a knife.

“She had three children. Then one day she was thrown from a horse. A day later she was hunting with me.”

Rebecka stopped. “Whoa, she became a vampire?”

Steopa nodded. “As did two of her sons. Her daughter moved to the United States.” Steopa pulled Rebecka along again. “From that family line, more vampires came.”

“So every time one of your descendants dies, they become a vampire?”

Steopa shook his head. “Only the ones that die in accidents or have untimely deaths.”

An overpass came into view. It showed the unofficial dividing between the city and a large forest called Greenwoods. Steopa paused under the overpass. He stood for a moment and closed his eyes. “I have lost count of how many of my family are vampires now.”

The feeling had became stronger. He could almost sense who they were. This descendant felt young. Steopa got the sensation of water. He or she wasn't drowning, but there was water around them. Soon, Steopa could feel that death would come to them.

Steopa grabbed Rebecka's hand and ran across the road. He followed a deer trail into the woods.

“What does this have to do with us running?” she asked.

“When one of my family dies and becomes a vampire, we can feel it. Somewhere near here, I can feel one.”

“That's where we are going?”

Steopa nodded. “The closest family member tries to come when the change happens.”
He lead the way, using the feeling in his head to guide him. He could feel water surrounding who ever it was. He paused.

“Is there a lake in here?” Steopa asked.

“No, just the swamp.”

“Where is that?”

Rebecka pointed down the path. “We are heading the right way.”
Steopa started to hurry down the path, when a large deer came out of the brush and stood in his way. It had green antlers. Steopa cursed.

“Not now, Perun,” he said.

“What?” Rebecka asked.

The deer lowered its head. Then changed into an average sized man with wild brown hair that had sprouts growing along the twisted masses. His green eyes glowed in the moonlight. He smiled. The width of his grin seemed to split his face in half.

“It has been ten years since you came for a visit and you don't have time to say hello?” Perun laughed. “Ah, you have a woman.”

“I am sorry, but I have pressing matters.”

“You are here for that car crash.”

“What car crash?” Steopa asked.

Perun motioned with his head. “I heard the crash. I was going to see, myself.”

“Show me.”

Perun ran a little further ahead. Rebecka caught up with Steopa. “Um, What's up with his feet?” she asked.

Steopa glanced down as Perun bounced over the ground. He had forgotten about Perun's feet. His feet were stretched out and elongated like a dog's.

“He is a leshy*.” Steopa said.

“A what?”

Perun glanced over his shoulder. “A leshy. I watch over these woods.”

“I've never heard of that, I mean him,” Rebecka said.

“You never told her about me?” Perun asked. “Were you scared she would want me?”

“Perun,” Steopa said.

“Good taste. She's got great tits.”

Rebecka stopped, her mouth fell open in surprise. Steopa grabbed her hand.

“Perun, the car crash.”

Perun giggled. He bounced ahead of them. The path went up a small rise. A strange light glowed. Illuminating the open ground beyond the rise. Steopa smelt gas, oil, and melting plastic. They came to the crest of a drop off. The sides rose up sharply, but not sharp enough to be a cliff. The sides of the ravine were not deep. It surrounded a large bog.

In the middle of the bog, an overturned car's lights glowed through the gloom. The path the car had taken could clearly be seen. Branches had been ripped off the trees. Two large trees showed signs of the car ramming into them.

Rebecka pointed to the other side of the bog. “There is a road over there. My god, how fast were they going?”

Perun shook his head. “That gunk from the car is poisoning the water.”

“I have to get down there,” Steopa said.

“What's the rush?” Perun asked.

Steopa didn't answer. He made his way down the steep hill. Rebecka followed him. Perun changed into an owl and flew over to the car. Steopa stepped on to the moss. He did not sink into the bog. He made his way across the bog using the vegetation. The standing water did not get disturbed as he stepped over the small pools of water.

The impact of the crash had buried the roof of the car into the wet ground. It sank slightly as Steopa approached. Perun flew off and then changed back into his human shape. He stood on a tuft of moss.

Steopa got down on one knee and looked inside. There were three people in the car. The steering wheel and the air bag had pinned the driver to his seat. The impact had forced his head down. The steering column smashed his face. The roof of the car had been crushed in, pinning his head in place.

On the passenger side a woman hung from her seatbelt. Steopa could hear her breathing. When she took in a breath, he heard a gurgling noise. The passenger side window had broken and made a deep gash in her upper arm and upper chest. Her once blue blouse had turned a deep purple with her blood.

Neither of them were about to turn into a vampire. Steopa moved so he could see the back seat. The young man in the back had been tossed to the side. His seat belt had stopped his body from sinking into the water that was filling the roof of the car.

Steopa pulled the back door off and reached inside. He grabbed the leg of the young man. Except for the rib poking out of his chest, the young man looked as if he was asleep. Steopa pulled him out of the car.

He stood up, cradling the young man in his arms. He noticed the young man did have the familiar features that seemed to bless all his descendants that turned at death. The straight hair, the square jaw, and large hands.

“We should get out of the mud,” Perun said.

A voice came from the car. “Hello, we have registered an air bag deploy, is every one alright?”

Steopa stared at the car. Perun looked inside. The voice had sounded like it had came from the radio.

Rebecka smirked. “It's a service some people pay for,” she said. “It monitors your car. They will be reporting his accident soon.”

Steopa jumped with the boy in his arms. He landed at the top of the ravine. He laid the young man down. The young man's breath rattled. A few more moments at the most.

“Do you have any idea who he is?” Rebecka asked. She had gotten down on her knees next to the young man.

Steopa shook his head.

Perun twirled his hair in his fingers. “He's changing.”

Steopa could feel it. The young man's breath rattled, then stopped. Then the only sound in the ravine was the car sinking into the bog below them.

* Leshy: In case you want to know: Wikipedia

Saturday, January 1, 2011

OMG 010111

I got up this morning. Not much of a partier the night before. When you get up at 4 am to work and don't nap, midnight is zonked out time.

But as I was waking up and doing my morning routine on the computer I noticed this: Todays date is 01/01/11,
Cool, I posted on twitter that.
@BigWords88 posted "It's binary day!"

So being the geek I am, I worked out the binary of 010111 to 23.

Big deal.

NOPE:

You see there is supposed to be a phenomena that is tied to the number 23. According to Wikipedia The 23 Enigma is that most events are related to the number 23. Including a Jim Carrey movie. The interesting fact is that the author William S Burroughs was the first to point out the oddity of the number 23. If you know about William S Burroughs, you can make of that fact as you will.

Thanks to that Jim Carrey Movie New Line cinema put out this list:

1. Each parent contributes 23 chromosomes to the DNA of a child.
2. It takes 23 seconds for blood to circulate throughout the entire body.
3. In humans, the 23rd chromosome determines gender.
4. There are 23 letters in the Latin alphabet.
5. Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times when he was assassinated.
6. Earth's axis is off by 23.5 degrees.
7. The Knights Templar had 23 Grand Masters.
8. William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564.
9. William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616.
10. The ancient Egyptian and Sumerian calendars begin on July 23.
11. The Titanic sank the morning of April 15th, 1912 (4 + 1 + 5 + 1 + 9 + 1 + 2 = 23)
12. The Mayans believed the world will end on December 23, 2012 (20 + 1 + 2 = 23)
13. Jim Carrey's production company is JC23 Entertainment.
14. John Dillinger robbed 26 banks, but only 23 for money.
15. The distance from the center of Mars to its nearest moon is 23,500 km.
16. 230 people died on TWA Flight 800.
17. Kurt Cobain was born in 1967: 1+9+6+7 = 23.
18. Kurt Cobain died in 1994: 1+9+9+4 = 23.
19. The Number 23 began filming on January 23, 2006.
20. The letters in Joel Schumacher and Jim Carrey's names add up to 23.
21. The letters in Virginia Madsen and Jim Carrey's names add up to 23.
22. Charles Manson was born on November 12th (11 + 12 = 23)
23. The Number 23 opens in theaters on February 23rd, 2007.

There are some older and more interesting examples at The hidden roots of the 23 Enigma
My favorite example from that page is:

"Stahl rides city motorcycle No.23 which bears city licence No.23 And between 2 and 3 p.m. Monday he rode to the headquarters of the local draft board in the Armory of Battery F of the 123rd Field Artillery to see what number had been assigned him. It was No. 2323."

So 23 is not really a bad thing, just something to keep in the back of your mind. Of course skeptics will say that once you start to think that certain events happen in relation to an object or number, you will start to see more and more connections. So? Still kind of cool.

But what gets me is this: As much as the Internet loves to point out strange and weird things like that: No one has made a big deal of this. Personally I think 2012 has overshadowed any other strange dates.

So enjoy the New Year and see if the number 23 plays a part!