Sunday, August 13, 2017

What I Learned from a Month off Facebook

So, I spent a month off facebook. Here’s what I learned.

1. I didn’t much miss it on an emotional level. Quite a few times in the first few days I automatically reached for FB to post some comment or update. That went away pretty quickly.

2. I generally felt more relaxed and didn’t miss the drama that is often present on FB. A big plus.

3. I got more writing and reading done, and watched more TV. However, the increase in writing and reading wasn’t anything astronomical. It was substantive, though, and was the best part of being off FB.

4. Sales of my self published items took a nose dive. I sold exactly one thing during the time I was off FB. Generally, I sell more than that. I have no idea about how it might have affected sales of my Wildside and other publisher released books. A big negative.

5. Although I could have called family members and friends, I didn’t make a substantial increase in this. I did some and that was pleasant, and it’s something I hope to continue. However, I still end up wasting plenty of time, just in other ways.

6. I missed talking about books and writing on FB. This was actually most of what I did when I was on it, and I enjoyed it. A negative.

7. I missed some regular interactions with folks that I was used to seeing on FB. A negative.

8. I found that many, many publishers and contests and other writing related projects make FB their main platform and this was a big negative for me. I couldn’t access guidelines and quite a few other sources of writing information that might have been important for me. Most of this is marketing and that in itself can cause problems for production. But still, not having ready access to this material cost me potential markets. One call for submissions that I missed was definitely something I would have submitted to, and a place where I’ve sold stuff before. This was the biggest issue for me.

9. I got back into blogging and did more of that and found that a positive. I did not necessarily have to give up FB to do this, though. I could have simply shifted the time spent on these various activities around.

For these reason, with the negatives outweighing the positives, I’m going to renew my facebook profile. I’ll see if I’ve lost a step there, and let you know. However, I want to spend less time there and try to avoid leaping on and off it a dozen times a day. If I can do that, I can maintain some of the good things of being away from FB while keeping access to other things that I like.

So, see you on facebook within the next few days.



Monday, August 07, 2017

Dark Hours, by Sidney Williams.

Dark Hours, by Sidney Williams. Crossroad Press. Hard copy Print. 183 Pages.


Dark Hours is a relatively short novel but packs a lot of tension and atmosphere into its space—and adds a good amount of action. I would classify it as a horror/thriller. It does a good job of combining the best attributes of both these genres.

Allison Rose is a student journalist at Pine College, a small school that has seen better days. An escaped killer is suspected of hiding out on the campus, where the woman he murdered once went to school. Allison is contacted by someone who claims to be the killer, and he wants to give her an exclusive interview of his side of the story.

But is it really the killer, or someone else playing a sick joke? Along the way to answering that question, we find out that everyone seems to have secrets in this game, and in a savage bout of cat and mouse played through the basement level of the college library, all those secrets get spilled while Allison struggles to survive against a dangerous and cunning foe.

I read Dark Hours in print form, as a hardback from CrossroadPress. It's a very nice physical package as well, with a dynamite cover. The author, Sidney Williams, has written numerous novels, most of which I’ve read, and many short stories as well. I’ve never read any of his work that I didn’t enjoy, and I highly recommend Dark Hours.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Expanse: TV Show

Been watching "The Expanse" on DVD lately. This is an SF TV show from SYFY channel, based on a series of books by James S. A. Corey, which is a pen name for a pair of authors named Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. The novels are well respected and have gotten some Hugo nominations. I haven't read them but quite likely will give the first one a try, "Leviathan Wakes."

I have no idea how close the show stays to the novels. We've only watched the first five episodes, but based on that I'll definitely be continuing with it. There are two 13 episode seasons filmed so far, with a third planned for 2018.

The concept is a three way political struggle between Earth, a strong and independent Mars colony, and "The Belt," which are the independent settlers and miners of the Asteroid belt, particularly "Ceres," the largest asteroid in the belt. Based on the first five episodes, there appears to be a fourth player who is not clear at the moment.

I've always disliked politics and am not much of a reader of political fiction. But Games of Thrones showed that when you match politics with genuine human interest and human characters, and throw in plenty of action, you can have compelling TV. The Expanse TV series is following that kind of pattern and so far it's hooked me.

I didn't realize, too, until the past few years, how much of a difference good acting makes. Game of Thrones certainly illustrated this for me. The Expanse also showcases some good actors doing good work, including Thomas Jane as a hardboiled sort of detective, and a number of actors previously unknown to me. Another bonus is that the cast is very cosmopolitan, with meaty roles for women and non-white characters. I was pleased to see Chad Coleman get a good role here. I enjoyed his work in The Walking Dead.

I'm liking it!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Krieg

In the last couple of years I've come up with what is so far my favorite sword and sorcery character. I call him Krieg, which is the German word for war. I've created quite a few other S & S characters over the years--Thal Kyrin, Jaal Harkest. Jedess of Seth-Loeril, Jys Martel. Most of them can be found in Bitter Steel, which collects the majority of my older S & S stories. But Krieg has become my favorite. If I had to compare him with any other heroic fantasy character out there, I'd say he was closest to Karl Edward Wagner's Kane. But Krieg is not Kane. He's the product of many years of reading heroic fantasy and striving to write it. He's his own man, so to speak.

I hope to write many adventures for Krieg. So far I've completed three. Only one has been published, A Whisper in Ashes, at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. The other two, "Where All the Souls are Hollow," and "The Rotted Land," have not yet been submitted. I'm looking for the right place to send them. One of the things that I've done to characterize Krieg in these tales is begin each one with a short poem that describes the character from the point of view of an outsider. Below are the three openers that I've got so far. What do you think?

A WHISPER IN ASHES

Down from the death-lands of snow
came a warrior with eyes
like scars.
No one knew his origins.
None could foresee his end.
He had no name.
The barbarians called him Krieg.

WHERE ALL THE SOULS ARE HOLLOW
Out of choking dust and black smoke
came a warrior with eyes
like broken blades.
Wherever he journeyed,
war followed.
None could say why.
The survivors called him Krieg.

THE ROTTED LAND 
He arrived on a fetid wind,
with eyes black as fractured onyx.
Blood flowed the paths where he walked.
Some thought him angel.
Others claimed him demon.
Only the whisperers named him   
Krieg.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson

As a biological psychologist, I certainly consider myself a scientist. As a teacher, I strive in my classes to make science interesting and attractive to my students while not glossing over the hard work that it entails. I want humanity to have a positive future and believe that science can provide us with the ways to get there. In my own small way, I try to be a proselytizer for science. I want people to love it the way that I do.

In my generation, Carl Sagan was the primary spokesperson for science. I remember being captivated by his Cosmos, and it led me directly into a fascination with astrophysics. I read a lot of other books in the field, including more of Sagan’s own work as well as the work of Stephen Hawking and many others. I don’t profess to understand it all but, if there are ‘big’ questions then astrophysics is the place where they most frequently get asked, and sometimes answered.

I would say that, for the current generation, Neil DeGrasse Tyson has taken up where Sagan left off, and I know he fully credits Sagan for his own involvement in science. I recently finished Tyson’s book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. It’s definitely not a “title” for people in a hurry but the book does exactly what it claims to. I finished it over a weekend and it was very straightforward, with clear explanations of tough concepts. It was well written with quite a few touches of humor. I came away with a good capsule history of our universe. I also learned a few things that I didn’t know, but I’ll let you discover those yourself when you read the book. I highly recommend it.








Sunday, July 23, 2017

Odd Bob's

We happened to be in Foley, Alabama today (Sunday), and stopped by a place called Foley's Indoor Flea Market. While Lana wandered around through much of the place, I went straight to Odd Bob's, who is a book guy among other things. (He also sells toys and a lot of vinyl records but I don't care anything about those.)

What I cared about was a simply huge selection of all kinds of books, SF, Mystery, History, Westerns, and much more, including a lot of comics. I only had an hour or so to spend there so I barely scratched the surface of what he had available, but I did find a few books that I'll share with you here.

"Drifter," by William C. Dietz is the first in a series. I've been looking for it for a good while and already have the other two. The Ray Bradbury collection of plays is not something I've seen anywhere else. I didn't know it existed. I've been intending to write a play myself. I also picked up a Babylon 5 tie-in novel by Peter David.

I also found several series books that were new to me. I got #1 in Donovan's Devils, #2 in the Man from U.N.C.L.E. series (which I had at least heard of), and copies of series books for The Guardians and UFO-1 that I'd never heard of. I was familiar with James Axler from his Death Lands series, although this "Earth Blood" is not from that series.

I picked up a collection of fables from Richard Adams, who I've found myself interested in again of late, and this rather odd book on the right called "The Alphabet of Manliness." It looks to be pretty funny. Never heard of it before. 



Finally, we also got the poster shown below, which is Star Trek related. For those of you who love Trek, no explanation is necessary. For those of you who don't, no explanation is sufficient.

If you happen to be in Foley, do yourself a favor and stop by Odd Bob's. He had a lot of Burroughs, a lot of L'Amour, and much, much more. You can find out more at his website, including his location. I linked it in line 2 of this post.