Friday, December 30, 2011

7 Points For Keeping the Backside In the Chair - Thoughts on Keeping Those Writing New Year's Resolutions


With the burgeoning number of self-published success stories, and the discovery of new writers going full force in traditional and indy publishing, it's clear the world is filled with people with the discipline to put in the time at the keyboard required for producing finished work.

Yet "Backside in Chair" is always the challenge for writers. The allure of not writing is fierce.

I do pretty good in getting myself to the keyboard at a fixed time every day, but making things meaningful is still a challenge. I thought some techniques and thoughts  I've picked up from a variety of sources might be useful as everyone is setting goals for 2012.

1. Forgive yourself. 
Victoria Nelson, one of my teachers at Goddard College, has written extensively about writer's block. When she offered a session during one of the residencies I attended at Goddard, I was quick to sit in.

I was surprised how many of my classmates were also on hand. I thought I was the one getting a little slower and less driven, but I discovered all those fresh-faced fellow students who I assumed were chipper and devoted and knocking out 20 pages in the morning before breakfast were also wont to creative struggles. The best advice Victoria gave all of us was to be lenient on ourselves.

We all get tired. We all have conflicts that zap creativity. Don't be so demanding on yourself that a walk outside becomes the trait of a malingerer. Be gentle and kind to your creative self. You're nurturing a gentle spirit. You shouldn't try to motivate it by becoming the sales manager from Glengarry Glen Ross.

2. Relax
Sometimes it's good to go with the flow or let the muse push you rather than resisting. I've had a project on my plate that hasn't ignited for me the way I'd hoped.

I recently decided to stop forcing it for a while and do a couple of projects I wanted to work on. I wrote a couple of short stories, and a 10-minute play, which is an interesting thing to try. Having some parameters within which to focus creativity proved invigorating. It was a blank page with a few lines to color inside. That kind of got me ready to focus again on the other project.

If there's a stone in the stream, the water moves around it. Going with the flow can be a way to stimulate yourself creatively. Look for the wanna.

3. Tomatoes!
When the backside, all right the ass, is in the chair, that doesn't mean the fingers are being effective on the keyboard. I learned about The Pomodoro Technique® in a podcast all writers should listen to, KCRW's Martini Shot. Storytelling techniques may differ, but creative foibles are universal as TV writer Rob Long reveals each week.

He mentioned trying the Pomodoro Technique® (means tomato in Italian) some time back. It involves a cooking timer and concentration goals. A timer on a smart phone will probably serve also.

The goal is to stay focused for a set period. Set the timer and then, coffee is for people who've written for 25 minutes. Don't browse your Netflix queue, set a task for your Sims or check e-mail, just write until the tone sounds.  It's a good way to nudge your consciousness into that creative zone where sparks ignite.

4. Just do it.
You have to nurture the spirit, but don't be the malingerer you accuse yourself of being either. Years and years ago in Writer's Digest, Lawrence Block wrote a "just do it column." That's what it boiled down to anyway. It's probably in one of his books on writing as well. They're worth checking out as is is fiction. See No. 6.

Everybody has bad days. Almost anything can throw a kidney punch to the creative spirit. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Let it out and put something on the page. Wipe the blood off it later. Sometimes in writing you're just getting the shapeless clay on the table so that you can begin sculpting.

Another of my Goddard teachers, Selah Saterstrom, had another great metaphor for polishing a first draft manuscript. She called it wrestling with an angel, working to bring a book or work into its best form.

Whatever the metaphor, get something down so  you can hone it.

5. Don't worry about your neighbor's work
Another great podcast from KCRW is The Business. It's usually a mixture of film industry news and an interview with Matt Damon. But sometimes other snippets are woven in, such as advice to film animators collected by an aspiring animator. In a recent 'cast, one animator noted he was always encountering better animators. That only nudged him to be better.

There are better writers than you. There are gonna be better writers. Worse ones exist, too. So what? This really is all about you. Cheer on your compatriots. Celebrate excellence. Look in awe upon brilliance, and do what you can. Be inspired by the great. Don't let any of it hold you back. As basketball coach John Wooden said: "Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."

6. Always be reading.
Goes without saying.  Maybe it's the writer's version of that Glengarry Glen Ross bastard's "Always be closing." E-books have really made this easier. There's good and bad to the electronic universe. One good is that you can have a library in your pocket now, not just one pocket book that doesn't really fit in a pocket. I find it hard to read on a smart phone, so I have some cargo pants. My Kindle will fit into the larger pocket on the thigh.

I try to click through a few percentage points on a book in any down time. I'm not as good at it as my friend Katie, but then she is topped bya friend who puts her Kindle in a zip-lock bag so she can read in the bath.

You learn by reading others. You get inspired by reading others. You figure out what works and what doesn't by reading others. And when you read something bad you think "I could do better" and that gets the backside where it belongs.

7. Always be submitting
Maybe this point is more the Glengarry equivalent. Rejection isn't fun, but it's part of the process. E-mails aren't as much fun as rejection slips used to be. I pinned rejection slips to my bedroom wall back in The Pleistoscene. Michael Avallone once suggested "build bonfires with rejection slips."

Whatever you do with rejections in whatever form, they should serve as a kick in the pants. They're often indicative of one person's taste or a market's particular need.

Or if they suggest something truly wrong with the angel, then it's an opportunity to get back in the ring.

Hope if you found your way here that those are helpful ideas. May 2012 be a wonderful, productive year for all those compelled to create.

Further reading


Image: healingdream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Friday, December 23, 2011

The Red Cardigan

I was slipping on my red cardigan this week, and I realized how long I've owned it, and how long things last even as time marches on.

I also realized that Christmas in my adult life has become a series of fragments and impressions, of moments that come back to me in no particular order.

I had the sweater when Christine and I were only recently married. I wore it to Christmas lunch with my folks, and I wore it later when Christine and I went for a walk in the (thankfully) cold Louisiana air at our apartment complex. Best guess '91.

I had the sweater the year the highway to my parents house was being resurfaced. You had to take a detour, and it was like going through war-torn territory. A few days before Christmas I drove out anyway and visited around lunchtime. The Bold and the Beautiful was on, and my mom's old Christmas tree glistened beside shots of Brooke walking in the snow. Best guess, '94.

I had the sweater when I worked as a librarian and got low pay but abundant time off. I took several days of leave ahead of Christmas, burned logs in our fireplace, read and relaxed in my sweater. Best guess '98.

I had the sweater after we moved four-hours from my folks. I remember driving home around Thanksgiving then returning on the weekend. Best guess '01.

I had the sweater a little later, the Christmas of the year my old man died. He went into the hospital in late August. As we got him settled in a room, the nurse strangely said, "In four months, it'll be Christmas." My old man didn't make it quite that long. For sure, '03. I'd bought him a series of big band CDs the previous Christmas, the music of his youth. I'd wondered then if it might be his last as his house was filled with Benny Goodman. '02

I had the sweater after my mom was in a nursing home. We went to see her Christmas Day that year and hung out with her in her room even though she wasn't quite sure it was Christmas, but she held up the stuffed animal she'd acquired and smiled. Best guess, '05.

I've had it for Christmas dinners Christine and I have prepared. And for trimming the tree and holiday outings and for Christmas walks we still take if the weather allows.

It's a simple cardigan. Plain, a single color, but it holds a mosaic of memories.

Happy holidays, my friends. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: A Christmas Carol - Classic - Tor Paperback Edition

Charles Dickens is in the public domain, so editions of his classic works are in great supply. E-book editions abound, along with many hard and soft cover editions.

Regardless, I loved the cover on this Tor edition when it turned up in a local store a number of years ago, so I added it to my shelves. It's a nice volume to slip out on the years I don't re-listen to Patrick Stewart's one-man rendition of Scrooge's redemption.





 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Doctor Who Christmas Wallpaper 2011

Happily, the Doctor Who Christmas Special, "The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe" will be airing in the U.S. on BBC America on Christmas Day, as it's supposed to.

Since a lot of people drop by in search of Doctor Who wallpaper, I thought I'd do an updated link for the new special. Wallpaper including a great wintry shot of Matt Smith holding a sonic screwdriver can be found here.

A prequel to this year's special has just gone online also. Happy Who Holidays!







Saturday, December 10, 2011

Holiday Blog Tour: Credible Threat - A Christmas Story


Welcome to my dark little stop on the Holiday Blog Tour.

I love the holiday season and all its trappings, so I was happy to receive the invitation to participate from Icess Fernandez of Writing to Insanity.

As soon as she contacted me, I knew I wanted to offer up a story as a holiday gift.

It's a little grim, though not horror. It's also slightly longer than flash I sometimes post here, so I thought I'd provide it in a format ready for easy digital reading.

Jump to the story on ScribID now.

Or read on to get an idea of what it's about and how it came to be, then jump over to the tale via the button below.

The Back Story
My wife and I vacationed in New York City several weeks back, and the idea for the tale sprang to me as we began our journey home. I sat in the waiting area at my gate, knowing I had a story to write for this blog tour. I began flipping through the battered idea notebook I've carried for many years.

What if it fell into the wrong hands and was read out of context? How would it be interpreted in this paranoid age?

The tale that developed is representative of a kind of dark-humored short fiction I'm writing and beginning to submit in these days of my post-MFA writing life.  It has  reverberations of my early horror writing while going in a slightly new direction.

It's where the muse is pushing me at the moment, and perhaps there'll be a collection of these twisted tales including the one that's in, shameless plug, Soul's Road. A few of the pieces in the collection of my early stories, Scars and Candy, hint at the style, though they're more visceral.

Click below to read "Credible Threat: A Christmas Story," and see if you like it.

And be sure to continue the blog tour tomorrow with a visit to Toni Margarita Plummer, author of The Bolero of Andi Rowe. See all the stops on the tour here.

Credible Threat


Creative Commons License
Credible Threat by Sidney Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at sidneywilliams.blogspot.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://sidisalive.com.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Holiday Blog Tour Has Started



The Holiday Blog Tour mentioned in my previous post has begun. Keep up with all the stops at Writing to Insanity, and be sure to keep up with us all month.

Julia Amante, author of Evenings at the Argentine Club, began technically yesterday.

Be sure to check back here Dec. 10 for my post. It'll be a special holiday gift from me, a twisted holiday short story called "Credible Threat" available for download. I'm working on the cover art now.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf Black Friday Edition: 12 Frights of Christmas - Holiday Horror


I break this book out every other Christmas season or so to re-read a few tales. It includes a real chiller by Robert Bloch plus stories from H.G. Wells, Ramsey Campbell and H.P. Lovecraft in addition to the intro by Isaac Asimov.

Mine's an ex-library edition, so it's tattered a bit, but still very readable. 

Apparently a 13 Horrors of Halloween anthology exists also, but I've unfortunately never run cross that one. Need to look for it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More on the Holiday Blog Tour - The Details



As mentioned earlier, the holiday blog tour organized by my friend Icess Fernandez Rojas  of Writing to Insanity is approaching. 

Icess is a writer and journalist living in Louisiana, where I'm from. So of course, we met in Washington state. Both of us journeyed to Washington to pursue MFA's. You'll find many of our friends and classmates from Goddard College reflected on the tour as well, though that's not all. 

I've been working on a 10-minute play and my story for the holiday tour during my writing time of late, so I haven't had a great deal of time to post here, but let me share the listing of bloggers on the tour for now. 

Hopefully I'll be back with pithy or profound musings before my holiday post, but in the meantime, browse the blogs below in anticipation of the holidays. 

Visit now:


Dec. 1 Julia Amante
Dec. 2 Valerie R.
Dec. 5 TBA
Dec. 7 Lupe Mendez
Dec. 9 Maria Ferrer
Dec. 11 Toni Plummer
Dec. 12 Mayra Calvani
Dec. 14 Thelma Reyna
Dec. 16 Regina Tingle
Dec. 17 Teresa Dovalpage
Dec. 18 Mirta Espinola
Dec. 19 Kim Brown
Dec. 20 Gwen Jerris

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Holiday Blog Extravaganza Coming Soon

One of my friends has organized a blog event for the holiday season. It will include quite a mixture of participants.

As my contribution, I'm at work on a short story about the holiday travel season, with a few dark turns of course.  It hovers between flash and short fiction, so I'm thinking of offering the whole piece as a ScribID download or something like that, making it a holiday gift.

I'll post details and blogs that will be involved soon.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Signing Az


As mentioned in my previous post, Azarius, my first novel, is rolling out in a new e-book edition from Crossroad Press. As one buddy once put it, it's the tale of an arch-demon menacing a small Southern town. I like the way that sums it up. 

I picked up a personal copy of the paperback the other day in telling a friend of the new edition, and a clipping I'd tucked there long ago fell out. 

I think it's probably my first book signing ever at a Waldenbooks in Alexandria, Louisiana. I think it was fun, but it doesn't quite seem like yesterday anymore. 

I didn't much updating on this book, as I did with some of the later ones that have already seen e-print. It's as it was created in that raw burst of energy as the ideas flowed when I was 26. 

I saw an interview the other day with William Peter Blatty. He said that as he recorded the audiobook of The Exorcist he read a passage and said: "Who wrote this garbage?"

I think every writer does that, finds flaws, longs to change things. I've decided to save the energy of sweating over words and phrases for new work.

As I recall, Az is a good tale. I worked to make it an exciting excursion into the world of demons and darkness. 

Now it's new again.

Get Azarius:












Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

The New Cover for Azarius


Azarius, my first book, will be re-issued in an e-book edition from Crossroad Press any minute. David Dodd did the cover for the new edition. 



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Making of a Halloween Story


I may have mentioned here or on Twitter that travel usually produces creative energy for me. As Halloween approaches, I've been reminded of a Halloween horror story I wrote a few eons back. It's called "Like Candy From a Baby," and it's a tale of an evil man who gets his just desserts, quite literally.

It was eventually slated for an anthology Edward Lee was working on, and he noted it almost made him throw up after he read it. That anthology never came about, but "Like Candy From A Baby" is now available in my collection Scars and Candy.

Dark stories inevitably lead to the question: "Where did you get that idea?"

I don't have a specific nucleus for the story, but it came about after a trip to the World Fantasy Convention in Seattle one year. World Fantasy is always held around Halloween, and I drove down from Alexandria, LA, that year to Robert Petitt's house. He lived in Baton Rouge in those days, before a Louisiana version of the Sons of Anarchy led to his relocation.

From there we drove to New Orleans and hopped a flight to the Northwest, and I read Razored Saddles on the plane, especially, at Robert's urging, Chet Williamson's "Yore Skins's Jes's Soft 'n Purdy He Said."

World Fantasy is a great con, and those were great convention years for me. Tons of friends were always on hand, and activities were non stop.

Robert was always a good traveling companion for me, more outgoing than I and thus better at meeting people. That was the year we met Wayne Allen Sallee, Yvonne Navarro, Beth Massie and many others. Dean Andersson and Nina Romberg were in Seattle that year as well, and many, many cool people were on hand.

When it was over, we headed home, and I was buoyed by the energy of being around new and old friends, kicking around ideas and attending readings and the like.

I'm not sure exactly when the tale sprang into my imagination.

Maybe it was while I slept on Petitt's couch and dreamed, but at any rate, as I started home I had a Halloween tale in mind and I picked up a pocket tape recorder I kept with me in those days and dictated the first lines about an awful man named Frank Church who had insidious plans for a Halloween house of horrors.

It's about an hour and a half from Baton Rouge to Alexandria. By the time I'd made the trip, I had a story on my tape recorder. It was a little verbose and badly worded in parts, but I transcribed and polished later.

Maybe creativity is confluence.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: Straw Dogs AKA The Seige of Trencher's Farm Seventies movie tie-in-edition



I haven't seen the recent Straw Dogs remake yet, but the original is a brutal Sam Peckinpah tour de force with Dustin Hoffman and Susan George. I found this movie-tie-in edition of the film's basis, The Siege of Trencher's Farm, a few years ago.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Back from the Apple


Christine's wanted to spend a few days in New York City for about an eon, but conflicts kept prohibiting until we said "Dammit, we're wedging it in." 

It was a good decision, since NYC is such a smörgåsbord for eclectics. 

Christine's in a bit of a "Colonial-influenced" place at the moment, so we spent a while at the Museum of the City of New York on a docent-led trip through an exhibit called The American Style: Colonial Revival and the Modern Metropolis. That dovetailed into a visit to the MET and the American exhibits where re-created rooms from many eras almost let you step into the past. A room from a Frank Lloyd Wright mansion was a highlight.

We planed a couple of shows, off Broadway's Relatively Speaking--a series of one acts by Ethan Cohen, Elaine May and Woody Allen--and War Horse at Lincoln Center, thinking those represented a pretty nice spectrum. They did, of course. Tight, funny comedy-dramas peopled with stars-you-know make up Relatively Speaking, while War Horse, is, of course, a spectacle that's emotionally engaging from the start and you really do forget those are puppets and not real horses.

But we also wanted to be flexible and open to opportunities. We watched a good chunk of the Columbus Day Parade, and, on a whim, we managed to catch John Lithgow being interviewed (by Bill Moyers) about his memoir Drama: An Actor's Education at the New York Public Library. That opened with inspiring remarks from NYPL's president about keeping ideas and knowledge accessible to all in the digital era. 

We  spent a morning at James Robinson Inc. as well getting deep insight into the history of silversmithing from one of the proprietors. 

I've been a bit creatively fatigued of late, so it was really a wonderful trip that worked without a hitch or hiccup. It was nice to let everything inside relax a little, let my brain decompress and just absorb for a while. 

I enjoyed getting familiar with the subway again, with hoofing it through neighborhoods and along the edge of Central Park and through shops in Soho. 

I don't have anything eloquent or profound at the moment. It's just good to recharge in a spot where the energy is so high. 

Further reading

Friday, September 30, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: Miss Finney Kills Now and Then




I've seen a different cover on this book. The edition I own's a second printing, I believe. The inside credits indicate the tale is based on a screenplay by several writers working with Al Dempsey, though I don't believe a film exists.

Monday, September 26, 2011

When Darkness Falls - The New Cover


Here's the cover for the e-book edition of When Darkness Falls, originally published by Pinnacle in mass market paperback. Love the mood it evokes.
It's done by David Dodd from Crossroad Press and really captures the fog-shrouded small town/rural setting of the novel.

It makes me recall the writing of the book. More than ever I felt immersed in the setting during the writing. It was like I knew every turn and storefront in the little town. When the book was finished I felt a little sad that I wouldn't be visiting the shops and houses there any longer.

Crossroad will be posting the book wherever e-books are sold this week. Look for it on Nook, Sony, Kindle and at Smashwords

Here's the original cover:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Trailer of the week: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (U.S. book trailer)



My week's been a little off kilter, so I didn't hit any of the post days I've been trying to maintain. Let me round things out with a post.

As you know if you drop by here often I'm a huge fan of Haruki Murikami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

1Q84 is his new book coming soon to the U.S. Looks exciting.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: The Devil Rides Out and Gateway To Hell - Thirties and Seventies Horror

Early and Dennis Wheatleys novel are brought together in this hardcover. They're both entries in his Duke de Richleau series. The movie version of The Devil Rides Out starred Christopher Lee as de Richleau.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trailer Tuesday: The Night Shift


The Night Shift Trailer by FightingOwlFilms

I just got word of an indy film that looks interestingly pulpy, fun and off-beat, so, of course, it seemed right for Trailer Tuesday.

It's described as a "supernatural-adventure-comedy" called “The Night Shift.” It's being distributed by R-Squared Films and will be released Oct.  25. It's also available for pre-order on Amazon, hence the associates link.

The Synopsis
Here's the blurb: “The Night Shift” is a supernatural-adventure-comedy about Rue Morgan, the undead night watchman at Pinewood Oaks Cemetery.

Rue, along with his buddy Herb, a limbless corpse, spends his nights trying to keep the cemetery’s cantankerous residents in, and his days dreaming of a date with hard-nosed day-shifter, Claire. It’s an okay afterlife until a scourge of supernatural occurrences leaves Rue not only watching the cemetery, but also watching his back!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Loudon Wainwright III No Sure Way

I've mentioned it in past years on the anniversary of 9/11, but Louden Wainwright III's "No Sure Way" still captures the way we felt the hour, the day, the week, the month after and now 10 years after.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Flash: Come Sunday - Rural Noir

(I wrote this as an entry for a small-town noir contest. They  apparently had a lot of entries, so I thought I'd share it here. They offered a photo as a story prompt,  a '30s-era mug shot of a female inmate. I've done a few pieces of flash, and I've been interested in experimenting more with affecting tales in very brief form, so I decided to give it a try.)

Come Sunday

I don’t think they got my good side when they snapped the photographs. The cop at the camera didn’t have a lot of patience. Neither did the detectives.

Maybe the photographers from newspapers and magazines will do better. I’m going to be in there some day. Wait and see. Won’t just be some sob sister write up. I’m no Bonnie Parker, and small town girls who kill their drunkard husbands aren’t that rare. Tough times we live in, but this is not all there is to me, locked up here in this little cell while they try to decide what to do with me.

I expect they’ll have the women come talk to me, ask me what went wrong. They might even get the preacher, but he knows what was haywire twixt me and Harold Walters. They all know.
Harold was my second husband. I married my high school sweetheart Gerald Bailey right after we left school, and he got a job driving a log truck from Hampton Mills. Papa didn’t want me to, but I was crazy about Gerald.

Then this tramp Wanda Denton came along, and he got sane about me and crazy after her. He came back a few months later, but I’d moved back home, and Papa ran him off when he tried to see me.
They got some papers drawn up, then Papa had the preacher over one Sunday after church. He brought Harold with him, all dressed up.

Sixteen years older than me, he was, but he needed a wife cause his had died of consumption or cause she wanted to get away from Harold. Upstanding the preacher said.

He couldn’t wait to get ahold of me, not at first. Papa and the preacher were serving him up quite a little dish. I was eighteen. He was never tender, but he was satisfied about two years, until his funds started drying up, and I was fool enough to ask for new dresses.

Punches made me reconsider. He knew how to put them where they couldn’t be seen. I took it for a while. Then I went to see the preacher. Told him I wanted to run, maybe go places like in the big magazines, or like you saw in the movies. He said I couldn’t leave a husband. That wouldn’t be blessed, and he had the ladies of the church give me a good talking to. Had them tell me I had responsibilities and that I was expected to stay with my husband.

I stayed as long as I could and started smoking like a train. When I couldn’t take it no more, that’s when I put the rat poison in his coffee.

And here I sit. I won’t say much today, but come Sunday, that’s when they’ll take notice. When they’ll start wanting to take my picture like that trunk murderess Winnie Ruth Judd or somebody.

It’s communion Sunday, so they’ll be pouring everybody a little taste of the wine I fixed up, just like Harold’s coffee.

(Thanks to Small Town Noir for the use of the prompt image. Read the true story behind it here.

Get more of my dark fiction in my collection Scars and Candy, available on Kindle and wherever you buy e-books. You'll also find my story "Telephone" and more in the collection Soul's Road.




Coffee Image from Clipart For Free

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Farewell to Michael S. Hart - Project Gutenberg Founder

I was sad to read this a.m. of the death of Michael S. Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg. I've found many hours of reading material on the site over the years.

I think the first e-book I ever read, most of it online anyway, was The Monster Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I worked for a while as a reference librarian. When I was on the night shift, I kept the e-text open in one browser window, reading a paragraph here or there when things grew quiet between helping patrons.

I found The Beetle and The Green Mummy on Gutenberg as well, along with a host of classics, the stories of John Silence, The House on the Borderland and more.

I guess never thought much about the man behind it all.

He kept a lot of books alive.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: To The Devil A Daughter - Fifties Horror

In the days before e-Bay, I didn't stumble across many books by Dennis Wheatley. That's odd considering their popularity plus the movie adaptations, but it was true. I found this 1972 edition of Wheatley's 1952 novel in a used shop sometime after I saw the Richard Widmark/Natashia Kinski Hammer release by the grace of VHS. 


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Trailer Tuesday: Since Noon Yesterday

In following through on my look at Ed Noon and Michael Avallone, here's a slightly different Trailer Tuesday.

Toward the end of his career, Avallone wrote a final set of Ed Noon novels that took his hard boiled private eye in all new directions. He'd been a private eye, a spy and in the final novels, some unpublished, he faced an alien invasion.

His son, David Avallone, is a film maker, and he adapted the final books into a web film. I missed it on Atom Films or whichever short film site it debuted on. Happily now it's on My Space films, and below is the teaser or prelude.



Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: The Doomsday Bag - Sixties Espionage

This week's sort of a sequel to last week's Biblioholic's Bookshelf post.
During the sixties spy boom, Michael Avallone's fifties private eye Ed Noon began to get assignments from the president. This edition was one of the first Michael Avallone books I  found when I haunted used bookshops back in the day. It must have been a really popular entry in the series, because I saw in several shops after I bought it.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Interview: - Aidan Minter, author of the true crime memoir Carved

I encountered Aidan Minter on the Kindle Boards when I put the word out for authors who had a couple of books under their belt. Since the Robert Lory interview was popular here, I was thinking of doing more interviews that covered several books by writers old and new. Aidan, who works in the computer game industry, noted that while his first book was about to come out, he hoped it might be of interest since it was a personal memoir.

It did seem to be a dark and compelling true story, and I read more of the case to which Aidan was exposed. New developments in the investigation were being reported earlier this year. It is a sad and unsolved crime known as the case of "Adam" for many years in Great Britain because the victim was unidentified.

I'll let Aidan, in his answers, tell more about the case and express his experiences related to it.

Could you give me a brief bio and a little information about your book?


CARVED is a memoir of sorts, a short but very personal account of my experiences of finding the torso of a murdered boy in the river Thames 10 days after the 9/11 attacks on New York. This year will be the 10th Anniversary of the event, and I thought it would be a way for me to get a degree of closure in writing about my experiences of that day and the subsequent police murder investigation which was one of the largest in UK history.

Where can your book be purchased or when will it be released?

The book will be published by Orb Entertainmant and will be available on Kindle, Smashwords, Nook B&N, Createspace and Overdrive from September 11th.

Since this is a personal account, could you tell us a little about how you found the River Thames victim? You were walking on the Tower Bridge? How did you come to be there at that moment, and how did you see the body?

I was on my way to a creative meeting with a design agency, the river was coming in from the estuary and it was high tide, because it wasn't long after the 9/11 attacks there was nobody around, normally at that time of day on a Friday afternoon the bridge is full of tourists and commuters but I guess the attacks on New York had shattered peoples confidence in standing near large landmark buildings. Looking out towards the East as I crossed the bridge, I noticed a pallet and some drift wood moving quite fast in the flow of the river, beyond that about twenty feet away was what I thought was a beer barrel because it was rounded and bobbing in the water. I had stopped on the bridge by this point right at the point where the bridge opens to let tall ships pass and looked over; it was then that I could clearly see that it wasn't a barrel or a tailors dummy but the torso of a small boy, his head, arms and legs had been hacked off and he was dressed in a pair of orange shorts.

I know there had to be a considerable emotional impact. Was it difficult in the time immediately after the discovery?

Funnily enough no, straight after wasn't so bad, I gave a statement to a detective who drove down from Catford CID and the body had been recovered from the water somewhere close the Globe theatre. I was offered counselling in a sort of half hearted way, due to the Stephen Lawrence case the police were obliged to do more for victims of crime, but I declined it initially. It was years after the incident when my own problems began, much of it was triggered by the traumatic birth of my daughter which unbeknown to me acted as a sort of a trigger to the Thames case, I was ultimately diagnosed with an acute form of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and sought help with the Priory clinic.

Has it been frightening given the strange and ritualistic nature of the death?

Not really, although for a very short time I was wary that if the murder was linked to child trafficking or sex crime. I had a young daughter and I was concerned someone might convince me to look the other way if things went to court. By this time the case became such a high profile one and the police investigation was huge to the extent that figures like Nelson Mandela became involved that I'm pretty sure that whoever killed the boy had gone to ground and the inevitable wall of silence started to hamper the police investigation from the outset.

Has there been a long term impact on your life?

Well I'd like to say it hasn't but I'd be lying, you put a different perspective on life after something like that, because the event took place only ten days after Sept. 11. I thought that there couldn't possibly be anything worse than seeing those American Airline planes being flown into the World Trade Center live on TV, unfortunately I was proved wrong.

The discovery was in 2001. How closely have you followed the case over the years?

The police contact me every so often, they called me in March to check I could still be reached and the case had been active for 10 years so I got an update of sorts to how things had progressed. A detective called John Weyhill is in charge of the investigation after the original detective retired.

What was your first thought when you heard new information had developed?

Well what people don't realise is that police embarked on some amazing forensic work on this case that had never been used before in a murder case. This was London's worst crime involving a child for more than forty years, in the book I explain what some of those processes were and its truly amazing that they can identify where you come from just by what we eat.

How did you decide to write about the case?

The tenth anniversary of the case comes up in September and I was looking for something that would give me a sense of closure on it, the boy was called Adam by the police because he didn't have any identity and when his name (Ikpomwosa) was revealed in the news earlier this year I thought it might be interesting to tell my side of the story.

What period does your book cover? The immediate time after the discovery or the entire case until now?

The book starts from the day I discovered the body and then goes through the investigation and primarily covers the key events in the police investigation, its a novella size so it's quite an easy read.

Anything else to add about the case and your experience.

Only that I'm glad his (Ikpomwosa) identity is now known, the mystery of who he once was is finally over.

Do you see this as a one-time memoir, or do you have plans to do other writing?

As a memoir yes, I don't lead a life of wanton adventure and wrestle sharks or climb mountains for a living, but I do have a fictional novel that's nearly done called Patriot Down about Navy Seals in Afghanistan, that's nearing 70,000 words on the first draft so that still needs a fair bit of work to get into shape and has taken me about three years so far.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: The Tall Dolores, Fifties Private Eye

Michael Avallone was a prolific writer under his own name and a host of pseudonyms. He wrote many, many movie and TV novelizations including tales of The Partridge Family and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  I first encountered him because of a tape he did for Writer's Digest, So You Want to Write a Mystery Novel. He offered great pointers on suspense, while referring to a host of his books including Tales of the Frightened and The Tall Dolores.

I had to look a long time to find Dolores, the first adventure of Avallone's hero Ed Noon, who has some fun poked at him in Gun in Cheek. Adapting with the paperback times, he made Noon a spy in the sixties, and most of those titles were the ones on the used book shelves when I started shopping. Happily I found this edition in a catalog a few years back. Like Stand In For Sex, it's on my shelf because of the piece Avallone played in my learning experience. It has a great first line. "I'll begin by telling you she was the tallest girl that ever came into my office."






Addendum
Killer Covers - A look at the cover for The Voodoo Murders plus an alternate Tall Dolores cover.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Trailer Tuesday: Zombies of the World

A series of short films were produced to promote Zombies of the World. This is the teaser, and more are available on You Tube. It's a fun way to promote a book, and the clips are fun and entertaining on their own.



Monday, August 22, 2011

Fright Night Impressions

(Warning: Includes spoilers! Read after you've seen it.)

I was pleasantly blown away by the Fright Night re-make, just as I was pleasantly surprised by the fresh and silly excitement of the original back in the day.

The 1985 film, as I recall, came along during a time when there weren't any fun chillers of its ilk.

The new version, penned by Buffy showrunner Marti Noxon, sets a new tone of  zaniness tinged with chills and excitement and carves its own niche.

Colin Farrell's a great Jerry the vampire. David Tennant, formerly The Doctor, makes for a great update of Peter Vincent, a Vegas stage magician more relevant to these times than Roddy McDowell's late-show horror host that was a bit nostalgic even in the eighties.


Set pieces
It's a trio of set pieces that really provide the remake its own energy, however.

Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) realizes fairly quickly in this outing his neighbor's a vampire. His attempt to rescue an imprisoned victim produces a surprising and dazzling result that also establishes some of the vampire ground rules that are in play.

In the original, Charlie's slightly smitten mom invites the vampire into the house. When Jerry fails to gain entry this time around, he takes matters in a new and explosive direction.

The final confrontation and how of killing Jerry provides some cool surprises. You can't just wrap a movie up with the staking of a vampire these days, and Fright Night doesn't. It's a blazing finale to be sure.

Conclusion
Those familiar with the original are still in for plenty of new fun. Those with a taste for horror who are coming to the material cold should really enjoy it, and as the new version of Evil Ed notes, it's not Twilight. Thumbs up from me anyway.

I saw the 3D version, and I do agree with the assessment many are making that, except for a a couple of spots, it's not that much of a plus for the extra bucks.

As I've said before, we need collectible, branded glasses instead of a new set to recycle at each show.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: The Phantom - The Mystery of the Sea Horse - Seventies Comics Novelization

The Phantom has always been a favorite of mine. The mythology is pretty fabulous: a long line of heroes, starting in the 16th century, all donning the same guise to fight crime and evil. Superstitious types could only assume The Phantom or Ghost Who walks was immortal.

I had many different incarnations of The Phantom comic books as a kid, even a pretty good stack of Charlton issues, which weren't the best.

I found only this installment in the series of novelizations in the spots I bought books as a kid. It's based on the original Lee Falk stories but penned by Ron Goulart a prolific author and adapter. He did several of The Avenger titles and the Vampirella novelizations.



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Biblioholic's Book Shelf: Stand In For Sex - Sixties Sleaze Noir

I believe I'm telling the truth on this. Bee-Line Books was a sleaze imprint that grew into the first incarnation of the more legitimate Pinnacle Books, the incarnation that kicked off The Executioner, The Destroyer, The Death Merchant, The Dracula Horror Series and a host of other titles. 

Pinnacle was bought by Kensington Books back in the day, and my early books were published by that incarnation.

That's why I picked up this title, copyright 1967, for the novelty and six degrees or whatever. Lynn Martin is byline on several Bee-Line titles including one called Sin Girl. My guess is that it's a house name, though I've read message boards that wonder if it's the same Lynn Martin who was a friend to Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia. My supposition is no, but it would certainly be ironic.





Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Trailer Tuesday: Restraint With Stephen Moyer

I'm going to depart from book trailers this week to share a trailer for an interesting New Zealand flick I discovered via Netflix. It's an interesting three-character crime thriller with Stephen Moyer of "True Blood" as an agoraphobic.

It has a little bit of Shirley Jackson flavoring and reminds me a little of a tale called Half Broken Things by Morag Joss, which was made into a British TV movie. It's clever, dark and has lots of dark twists. It also stars Teresa Palmer of The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sunday Interview - Jeff Rutherford of Delabarre Publishing

Jeff Rutherford and I met at one convention or another more years back than I can count on my fingers. We've been in and out of touch over the years, talking books and writing and the like. We recently crossed paths again via the miracle of social media. Since he has many interesting things going on including the release of a book by the great crime writer Clark Howard, I thought he'd be a great person for a Sunday interview.

A little about Jeff
Jeff worked in traditional publishing for 3-4 years in the 1990s with the Denise Marcil Literary Agency, Inc. For the past 15 years, he has worked in public relations - managing and developing PR campaigns for digital lifestyle companies at the intersection of technology, media, and publishing. In 2010, he founded Delabarre Publishing, an independent publisher of quality eBooks. In addition, Jeff has recorded 43 episodes of the Reading and Writing podcast - where he interviews writers and authors about their latest books, their writing habits, and what books they love and enjoy. In addition, he is revamping and recording new episodes of the Book Marketing podcast which examines how publishers and authors are using digital strategies to market and sell books.

A father of two, Jeff lives with his family in the hills of Western Massachusetts.

Tell us a little about how Delabarre Publishing and what you’re doing in the realm of e-book publishing.

I had long dreamed of starting a small publishing company over the years. I've observed and participated in the publishing industry intently for the past 20 years. However, the financial costs of traditional publishing (print and production costs, the returns issue) stopped me from jumping in.

I've long been fascinated by eBooks. In 2000, I bought a Gemstar ereading device. It was a clunky, early, early predecessor of the Kindle or iPad. The screen wasn't all that bad, and I read several books with my Gemstar device. I moved from that to downloading books for my PalmPilot and watching the business models and success of companies like Fictionwise. So, when Sony launched their eBook devices and then Amazon made the big splash with the introduction of the Kindle, I knew that eBooks would have a huge impact. I don't think I would have predicted the traction this quickly, but I think Amazon made a very, very smart move by pricing current titles at $9.99. While traditional publishers tried to figure out a strategy and response, Amazon built a sustainable business in 18 months or so.

Then, when these various eBook platforms began introducing self-publishing programs, I knew I wanted to participate as a publisher. I've written fiction, and I've won some prizes and published some of my short stories. However, I just didn't feel that my own fiction efforts were ready for prime time as eBooks.

I started thinking about how and what type of books I could publish electronically. I knew that whatever I published, I wanted to emphasize quality - quality in the writing, quality in the production/formatting, and quality in the cover design. I have a 7-year old son who loves riddles, puns, and wordplay. One day when I was in a bookstore with him, I glanced at a shelf of joke books, and I knew that those could work really well as eBooks. I went home, researched the current market for kids joke eBooks. Then, I contacted a friend who is a freelance writer, and paid him an advance to write 101 Short & Hilarious Jokes For Kids.

After working with a cover designer and an eBook formatter, I published my first eBook in August 2010. Since then, I've published a wide variety of kids joke books, including 102 Hilarious Jokes for Kids, 103 Hilarious Halloween Jokes for Kids, 102 Hilarious Christmas Jokes For Kids, 500 Hilarious Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids, 101 Hilarious Animal Jokes, 102 Hilarious Jewish Jokes For Kids, 101 Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes for Kids.

What are your thoughts on cover art? How do you develop the cover for a title you’re going to release?

I've worked primarily with one cover designer, and we have a great working relationship. She has developed a very consistent style and tone for the joke books. But that's not all I'm publishing. She's also designed covers for novels, travel books, etc.

I'm not a graphic designer. I've never used Photoshop. But over the years, I've looked at literally thousands of traditional book covers, and I think I have a gut feel for what looks good and "pops" as a cover. Thankfully, the designer I work with, can take my ideas and turn them into eye-catching covers. When I email my designer initially, I usually try my best to describe the tone and feel of the cover artwork I have in mind.

I know you have a title from Clark Howard, Hard City. How did that come about? Were you an admirer of his work at the outset?

After the kids joke books began selling well, I knew that I wanted to expand my eBook publishing to include a variety of titles and topics, including fiction. I've read many of Clark Howard's novels, but Hard City was the first novel of his that I read. It was purely by accident. In 1990 or so, I was in the library at the University of Georgia. I spotted the title Hard City on a new release shelf, grabbed the book and read the first page or so.

The book is an amazing coming of age novel - based on the real-life story of Howard's troubled childhood living on the hard streets of Chicago in the late 1940s. Over the years, I bought multiple copies of Hard City, and I re-read the novel four or five times over the years.

I thought about Hard City as a potential ebook, and I confirmed that the book was not available as an eBook. In fact, after its initial hardback publication by Dutton, the book was never even published in paperback. I tracked Howard down through Mystery Writers of America and sent him an email. A few weeks later, in January of this year, I was at home on a Saturday afternoon, and he called me to discuss publishing Hard City as an eBook. That was a very exciting day, and now Hard City is available as an eBook for a new generation of readers to enjoy.

And, now, Howard and I are collaborating on publishing a multi-volume collection of his many, well-regarded and award-winning mystery stories. Stay tuned for the first volume later this year.

Also, I want to add, that thanks to working with Clark Howard to publish Hard City, that opened the door with other, established writers to discuss publishing some of their backlist. I've also had the great privilege to publish two young-adult novels written by Bill Crider, the popular mystery writer. Crider's A Vampire Named Fred is now available, and we'll soon be publishing A Werewolf Named Wayne. A Vampire Named Fred was previously published a small, defunct publisher, but the sequel A Werewolf Named Wayne is previously unpublished.

Any dream authors you’d like to publish or any particular book you want to resurrect in an e-edition?

I'm in discussions with several authors currently. Some I can't discuss publicly at this point. I will add that regardless if I publish them or not, there are plenty of series that I think warrant eBook publication. For example, I know that some of Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective novels are available as eBooks, but not all of them. That's a series that's ripe for eBook publication. Also, I've always been fond of multi-volume definitive collections of short stories. I'm not in discussions with them, but I think all the great science fiction collections that NESFA has published over the years would make wonderful eBooks. The same goes for the current Subterranean Press multi-volume collection of Robert Silverberg's short stories.


Tell us about your joke books and developing those. Are there more on the horizon. I know the supply of humorous public figures is almost infinite.

In addition to the kids joke books, I have published 2 collections of "political" humor - 99 Sarah Palin Jokes and 101 Donald Trump Jokes. Those haven't sold quite as well as the kids joke books, but I do have plans for other adult and political joke books.

What else is on the horizon for Delabarre?

I've got a lot of eBooks in production. I haven't even mentioned The Italy Plane Reader. I partnered with GoNomad, a great online travel site that features travel articles about destinations in the U.S. and around the world. The Italy Plane Reader, as the name suggests, is an eBook featuring numerous articles about Italy - the perfect read on the plane ride to Italy for your travels. In partnership with GoNomad, I'm going to be publishing more "Plane Readers" including eBooks about Central America, Cuba, and a guide to nudist travel and resorts - Travel Naked.

I will also be publishing - very soon - the eBook of a book that I sold to HarperCollins in the 1990s when I worked as a literary agent in NYC - 50 Great College Drinking Games by Ross Bonander. Ross has also written another book that I'll be publishing which I'm very excited about - a quote book similar to a Bartlett's-style collection. But, Ross' new book is collecting strictly quotes from the 2000s. We haven't settled on a title yet, but it's moving close to production.


You’ve worked in traditional publishing and now you’re part of the e-book revolution. What do you see down the road? Any predictions?

Predictions. Hmmm. I'm certainly immersed in book publishing, but I'm never confident about my own crystal ball of predictions. Nonetheless, here are my predictions:

1. I think there will be many more independent publishers similar to Delabarre Publishing. Traditional publishers aren't moving fast enough to publish their backlist. In some cases, they don't have electronic rights to their backlist. And, when they do publish their backlist, they price the books too high, because they're working from a traditional pricing structure.

2. With traditional publishers, I just don't know. I've been struck recently at several industry events that I attended where publishers, authors, and editors spoke, and there was almost no discussion about eBooks and the impact of eBooks. While they may not be discussing eBooks, I'm certain that the accountants at major publishers are discussing them. How do you continue along as if nothing has changed when you're selling fewer hard copies of books, and the pricing pressures keep going lower?

And, I want to point out, very strongly, I have no animosity whatsoever towards traditional publishers. I love publishing. I love books. I have a house filled with books (too many according to my wife). But, it's inarguable that the business model is changing much faster than any publisher ever dreamed it would.

3. Bookstores. Used bookstores will continue to exist. However, the outlook for bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble is grim. Yes, B&N has moved aggressively, much more so than many publishers insiders ever dreamed, with the Nook, but again with pricing structures, they're making less money on lower-priced eBooks. And, they're selling fewer print books. With Barnes & Noble, I think in 5 years, they'll have half the stores they do now - if not less.

4. Writers will continue the rush to publish self-published eBooks. The vast majority will sell only a few copies. Unfortunately, many authors write their books, but then they're willing to settle for sub-standard formatting and cover design. If they settle for poorly designed covers and formatting, their books won't rise above the flood of self-published books. In addition, the ease of self-publishing as an eBook is just too much of a temptation for many aspiring writers. They're going to publish poorly edited drafts hoping to be the next John Locke or Amanda Hocking, and they're only going to sell a few copies.

However, the good news is that there will be A LOT more successful self-published writers. eBooks and self-publishing technology have democratized book publishing. If writers spend the necessary time to write the best book they're capable of, and pay an editor for valid editing, and spend the time to design an eye-catching cover, there's nothing stopping them from succeeding very well.

5. Reading and books overall. I'm excited and ecstatic! To quote that song, "The future's so bright I've got to wear shades." As more and more backlist titles are published, the rich depth of novels and non-fiction will be available to just about anyone with the click of a button, including libraries as Amazon rolls out their library lending plans later this year.

6. While optimistic, let’s not forget the digital divide. If there are fewer bookstores, there will be communities that are underserved by having books readily available, and those same neighborhoods don’t have the affluence for teens and adults to run out and buy a Kindle or an iPad. I don’t like the idea of two Americas – haves and have nots – and I think it’s something we all have to be mindful of as technology races ahead.
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