Monday, October 16, 2017

When a Book Goes Out of Print


Cold in the Light was the third book I wrote but the first to be published. Invisible College Press picked it up in 2002 an it sold modestly. Emphasis on the modestly. This is despite the fact that I believe it was, and is, a really strong thriller. I’m very proud of it.

In September of 2017 I received word from Invisible College Press that they were closing their doors, officially making Cold in the Light “out of print” as of October 2017. The question then becomes, what next?

I see two possibilities: First, I could seek out another small press publisher who might be interested. Second, I could self publish it. Frankly, because I believe it is really good, I’d like to try another publisher who might have more marketing sense than I apparently have. I’m going to take a bit of time to look around.

Another issue that has arisen though is whether I should update the book. My writing skills have, hopefully, improved since this book was written in the 1990s. I at first just assumed I’d update and started going through it. A problem quickly became apparent. The technology has changed dramatically since the book was published. And not only that, but the geographic setting has changed. When I wrote Cold in the Light, Highway 71 was the main route students took to get to the University of Arkansas. That is no longer true.

My alternatives then became, rewrite the tech and the geography, which will require considerable work, or simply set the book in the past time in which it was originally written. I already have times and days mentioned in the book so I could easily establish a year. What do you think of the latter idea? Have you read books like that? Do you care if a thriller is essentially set in the past? Or do you want your thrillers to be "torn from today's headlines?" Before I make any further changes to the work I need to make this decision. Any feedback would be appreciated.








Thursday, October 05, 2017

CONTRAFLOW SF/FANTASY/HORROR CON

Contraflow #7 is going live this weekend, October 6 - 8, at the Airport Hilton in Kenner, Louisiana. That's part of the Greater New Orleans area for those who aren't familiar. This is a great con with lots of great guests and fun activities. I'll be there as a guest so I hope you can stop by if you're in the area, or going to be. I'll be there as much as I can, particularly on Saturday when I have most of my panels. Here's what I'm going to be doing: 

Fri 5pm, Event One: Opening Ceremonies
Sat 11am, Panel 3: The Representation of Contemporary Reality in the Horror, Sci-Fi, and Thriller Genres
Sat 1pm, Event Two: Narrative in Punk Rock, Black Metal, and Shock Rock
Sat 2pm, Event One: Star Wars and Psychology
Sat 8pm, Panel 1: Dark Fantasy
Sun 1pm, Panel 3: Pulp Returns! (about modern pulps)

If you're interested, check out Contraflow's webpage, and/or their facebook page. 

Hope to see you there!



Thursday, September 28, 2017

National Poetry Day

Today, September 28, is National Poetry Day. I urge you to read a little poetry, perhaps pick up a collection or two. I believed that I hated poetry when I was in Junior High and High School, but that was because I seldom found any that really engaged my imagination. These days I spend a little time every week reading poetry. I find it enhances my life.

Most of what I read would be called "speculative poetry," which generally means that it involves concepts and ideas from literary fields such as science fiction, fantasy, and horror. However, my personal favorite poet is Dylan Thomas, who I've mentioned on this blog many times before. While not specifically "speculative," Thomas's poetry has a certain surreal element to it that I find very lovely and thought provoking.

If you'd like to know what I recommend in the field of poetry, here is a link to my poetry shelf on Goodreads. You can see what I've read and how I rated it.

Although I don't consider myself much of a poet, I do try my hand at the form on occasion. Here's one of mine, the only one I've ever written about my writing "muse." It was originally published in The Pedestal Magazine.


GAUNT

As autumn shadows
evolve into winter nights,
hunger comes sniffing.

Gaunt, the gray wolf has grown.
With yellow eyes.
Her belly snarls a wild music of want,
to match the growl in her throat.

In the spring she fed well
from the hunt.
Her teeth left the green grass
dappled with red.

But summer came warm
and did not warm her.
Heat drove the hunted to ground.
Sickness claimed her pack.

On a hushed and lorn eve,
in a desperate famine,
through cold black woods
she came weak to my fire.

I threw her the carcass
of my feast,
and she became my muse.
In no way domesticated.

With strength returned, she hunted.
Spurning the tame food I offered,
she left me the feathers
of some gutted prey.

Now on occasion she visits.
At edge of fire and shadow,
only her eyes glow.
We judge each other warily.

We will be friends,
a pack of two.
Or one will kill the other.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Robert Frost's Poems


New Enlarged Pocket Anthology of Robert Frost’s Poems: With an Introduction and Commentary by Louis Untermeyer.  Pocket Books: 1971 (29th printing):




My first introduction to Robert Frost came in high school, specifically “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” These are his two most famous poems and probably most people have some familiarity with them. I like them and both spoke to me.  I wouldn’t say they inspired me or influenced my own poetry, which developed much later. In high school I was still convinced that I didn’t like poetry. I came to understand later that I didn’t like poetry with facile rhymes or that simply pointed out an observation, thought or feeling that I already knew well from my own experience. It wasn’t until I discovered Dylan Thomas in college that I began to see the possibility for poetry to transcend and expand personal experiences.



Because Frost’s poetry spoke of what I would describe as mundane reality, I just never pursued his work further. I don’t mean mundane in a negative sense here. I mean it essentially as “objective” reality. But that’s not what I want to experience in the literary works that I read. I live mundane reality. I want the poetry I read to twist that reality and surprise me. Knowing of Frost’s influence on the field of poetry, however, I did pick up this collection of his poems. I decided I needed to read them. Here are my thoughts.



First, I can certainly agree with the critics that Frost was a superbly talented poet and a keen observer of the world. His poems are typically quite simple in construction, with straightforward rhyming patterns. When they impact me, they tend to evoke quiet and contemplative moods. And now I’ll say, and hope that I won’t be misunderstood, that quiet and contemplative is not what I want from my poetry. I want disturbing. I want rawness. I want the surreal. Frost does not give me these experiences and for that reason he’ll never be as important to me as someone like Dylan Thomas.



I really hope people do not take this as some kind of “dislike” of Frost, or that I’m saying he’s not a poet worthy of study and consideration. I don’t mean it that way. I’m talking about my own very personal and visceral (or lack of that) reaction to his work. Perhaps the best way I can say it is this: I have a bookshelf where I keep copies of works that inspire my own writing, or that have in some way shaped my philosophy on life. Dylan Thomas’s poetry is on that shelf. Some of Ray Bradbury’s is on that shelf. Robert Frost will not be on that shelf, though he may well be on “your” inspirational shelf.  And if that is the case then I salute you.



Moving from my general response to Frost’s work to this specific collection, I’m not sure I’d recommend it. The poems are well presented, of course, and I generally liked the overall organization of the book. However, I just did not care for, or find useful, the commentary by Louis Untermeyer. Untermeyer was a well respected poet and critic, but I found his comments about Frost’s poetry to be long on hyperbole and low on information. Here’s an example, from page 168.

“The poems of Robert Frost have a way of uniting opposites. They are casual in tone but profound in effect, teasing and intense, playful yet deeply penetrating.  Even when they seem to be about a particular place, they suggest ideas unlimited by space.”



This is a good example, to me, of saying nothing while seeming to say much. I would much rather have had information about when and where the poetry was written, and information about any historical connections that the poem may have had. I bought this collection, in part, because I felt I needed some commentary to help me experience Frost. I think now that this was a mistake and I should have come to the poems without any filter. To those of you who are interested in writing poetry and want to study Frost for that reason, I’d suggest a collection with no commentary. For those of you who are making a more literary study of Frost, this collection might be useful but I don’t think it would be a good starting point. Something that places Frost’s work better into the context of his times would likely prove more useful.








Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Summer of Moonlight Secrets


Summer of MoonlightSecrets: By Danette Haworth, 2010, Walker and Company, 273 pages.


Allie Joe and her family manage the Meriwether Hotel in Florida. It was once a grand place frequented by movie stars, but it has seen better days. Some of the upper floors are closed. There are places where the windows are broken out and stray cats and kudzu slip in. But for Allie it is the perfect place, full of secret passages and hidden nooks and crannies. Allie Jo is intelligent and imaginative, but she doesn’t have a lot of friends. This summer will change that.

Chase arrives with his father, a writer, to stay at the hotel for a while during the summer. He breaks his arm in a skateboarding accident the first time he meets Allie Jo, but the two strike up a friendship. Soon, they meet a mysterious young woman named Tara, who says that she is a runaway and has nowhere else to go than the hotel. She reveals that she’s hiding from someone who wants to control her. Allie Jo and Chase are caught up in solving the mystery of Tara, and in helping her defeat the plans of the man she’s hiding from so she can return home.

The Summer of Moonlight Secrets seems perfect for anyone who enjoys young adult stories. Its target audience is kids but it certainly held the attention of this 58-year-old, and took me back to my childhood when summers were magical and lasted forever.

The book is fast paced. It’s told in short, alternating chapters from Allie Jo and Chase’s points of view, with an occasional chapter seen from Tara’s perspective. I thought it was a lot of fun. I’ve already read a previous book by Danette Haworth, Violet Raines almost got struck by Lightning, and I enjoyed it very much as well. I’ll be picking up others by this author so I can take an occasional trip back to my younger self.


Sunday, September 03, 2017

In a world of books



Sometimes folks seem to think I lead an exciting life. Well, I do. But not in the way they think. I live most of my exciting adventures through books. And I always have. I became addicted to reading very early and have never broken the habit. I typically three 2 to 3 books at a time, of varying types. I'm reading a pulp western, a collection of Robert Frost's poetry, and a children's book right now.

I got almost all of my early reading through the library since we didn't have money for a lot of books. But I actually kept semi-decent records of what I read as a youngster and as an adult I have purchased many of those old books. Now I've taken pictures of those and will share some of them here. Among the books I read in my pre-teen and teen years were books about:

Football. I wanted to be a running back for the Arkansas Razorbacks growing up, and then go pro with Green Bay. I did play in high school but weighed only 132 pounds when I graduated so I never played college ball. I lived many football adventures with Joe Archibald, though. Here are some:
                                                
                                           

I also loved animal stories and that probably made up the bulk of my early reading. Jim Kjelgaard and Walter Farley were staples in those days:




I loved novels but I also enjoyed reading of real life adventure and non fiction. A favorite series for me were the "You Were There" adventures. Here's two that I remember fondly.

Soon, I began to branch out to westerns, science fiction, and fantasy. But that's for another post.