Thursday, September 28, 2017

National Poetry Day 2017

Master of his fate. Captain of his soul.
Today is National Poetry Day in the UK.  I’m not a huge fan of poetry, but as a former English Literature major, I’ve certain read more than my fair share (and probably some of your share as well).  I do, however, have a soft spot for a good bit of verse.  Invictus is one such poem.  You might be familiar with it already, possibly from Nelson Mandela's history, or from the Matt Damon movie of the same name (which invoked the poem), but you may not know much about the author.

William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) was a Victorian poet, who suffered—as many did at that time—a dirt-poor childhood and all the pains that go along with that.  One of those remaining “gifts” from his younger years was, as with many others, tuberculosis.  In 1875, when Henley was 26, complications from his tuberculosis cost him his left leg.  The upside of this was that his friend and fellow writer, Robert Lewis Stevenson, based Long John Silver partially on Henley’s jovial character and, of course, the amputated leg.  Stevenson wrote to Henley in a letter after the publication of Treasure Island:

I will now make a confession: It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver . . . the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you.

Further misfortune befell Henley, and his doctors advised that to save his life, his other leg must also be amputated.  As a life-long runner, I can imagine the sheer horror of facing that kind of loss—and Victorian medicine was in its infancy, with prosthetics still rudimentary at best, and always painful.  Henley sought out Dr. Joseph Lister, who was a pioneering surgeon of the time, and although he underwent several painful surgeries over the next few years, his right leg was saved.

While Henley was recovering in the hospital, he wrote an untitled poem, which was included in his first published collection Book of Verses.  Later, the title Invictus was added; Latin for “undefeated” or “unconquerable”. 

With this history in mind, it is understandable why I chose to incorporate the verses of Henley’s Invictus into the titles for Company of the Damned.  Del’s history, that of the characters that surround her, and her current circumstances seem (perhaps arrogantly) worthy of Henley’s beautiful words.  Thus, I present for your reading pleasure the poem, Invictus:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Thank you, Mr. Henley.  Thank you very much.

Please feel free to share the titles and authors of your favorite poems in the comments.

Monday, September 18, 2017


What questions do you want answered?
Although Hell Becomes Her is not yet available, here is a book that was released on the stated due date! Shamelessly stolen (and mildly edited) from Scott McGlasson’s post:

Beyond a simple anthology, QUESTION OF THE DAY is a tribute to one of our own. Andre Polk was a member of the Space Opera and Space Opera: Writers Facebook group and was working on his first scifi novel. He loved to ask the group interesting questions about plot, tech, characters, etc., and would start these posts by tagging them QOTD, his acronym for Question of the Day.

Earlier this year, Andre passed away, removing his positivity, his curiosity, and his wit from our world forever. The members of Space Opera: Writers group have put together an anthology of poems and stories of a decidedly positive spin, shot through with some of Andre’s own Questions. A special thanks to Johnathan Clayborn (Clayborn Press) and Tom Evans (editor), whose pro bono work showed that they have poured their hearts and souls into getting this book published.

From a purely scifi angle, I believe you will enjoy the wonderful talent showcased in this book, but more importantly, all net proceeds from the sales of QUESTION OF THE DAY: THE ANDRE POLK MEMORIAL ANTHOLOGY will be given to his family.

The anthology is available in both ebook and printed copies, so please do your part. Buy a copy and leave a review. My scifi short, Visions of A.R.E.S. is available in this anthology.  It’s a bit of a departure from my normal urban and steampunk fantasy

BONUS: If you buy the book and send me a picture of you reading/holding it, I’ll tell you what A.R.E.S. stands for. Hint: It’s not in the story!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Situation Normal . . .

Need some fast movers?
Sometimes, a SNAFU occurs and results in a FUBAR.  That was my Friday.

Due to circumstances outside of my control, the release of Hell Becomes Her has been delayed.  I apologize to anyone who tried to make a purchase on Friday for the second book.  I’m as disappointed as you are.  I heard from a few of you over the weekend, and I am truly sorry that I couldn’t offer more.

This is a “bad news” and “good news” situation.

The bad news: I’m uncertain when Hell Becomes Her will actually release.  The delay could be as short as a few days, or as much as a week.  Hopefully, somewhere inside those two timeframes.

The good news: The delay shouldn’t (fingers and toes crossed) be more than a week. This time next weekend, you should be able to purchase the book and curl up with it.

Again, I apologize for the delay.  I only found out about it 24 hours ago, and wasn’t in much of a position to get this news out.

Thank you so much for your continued support and patience.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

International Read an eBook Day/Weekend

Tomorrow’s the day!

Hell Becomes Her re-releases in ebook and print formats.  In celebration of this and also International Read An EBook Day, you can get BOTH Tears of Heaven and Hell Becomes Her at 30% OFF from Zumaya Publications, along with many, many other fine books.

To receive your 30%, go to Zumaya Publications, fill up your shopping card with books you like, then use the Coupon Code: 2017IEBD.

That’s it.  You’ll get Tears of Heaven and Hell Becomes Her at a whopping 30% off the normal price.  You’ll be well prepared for the release of the third and final book Company of the Damned.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Knockaround Fans

How many fans can you trust with your fandom?
Forty years.

That's the number I figured when I was a kid. Forty years of fandom, and you could consider yourself a legitimate fan. You need them for experience. To develop leather skin when naysayers start their neighing. When actors start to phone it in, or they get to direct The Final Frontier as part of their contract so they’ll appear in the vastly superior The Voyage Home.

So, I got started.

Movies and TV shows filled my eyes and ears and, sometimes, blew my mind apart with the creativeness and exploration of the human condition.  Bladerunner still has me asking questions, despite what Ridley Scott has claimed. Star Trek: The Next Generation at first appeared to stumble, but then started firing on all dilithium crystals, and BAM we get episodes like “The Inner Light” which played prettier than a Ressiken flute!

What are we gonna do now, man? What are we gonna do!?
Of course, along the way you stop thinking about being a fan and you just enjoy what you’re being shown. The world—the universe—is wide open.  The Matrix, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Tron, and The Terminator, and Aliens.  Those are just the big names.  Forbidden Planet, Metropolis, and The Day the Earth Stood Still and Dark City still resonate, and in some cases hold up incredibly well.

That’s when you hear: “Lucas is going to write and direct the prequels!” That kid who started out wanting to be a fan, he totally buys into the hype, the advertising. After all, you saw Star Wars in 1977 in theaters (because your parents ROCK), and you remember when Lucas said there would be no more movies. But, here he is, changing his mind.  So, you do your Happy Dance with wild abandon.

Then you watch each prequel film, in succession, and the disappointment starts.  No, not all at once, and not instantly, to be sure. A Phantom Menace has some really cool lightsaber action. Darth Maul!?  Wow! But the rest? Anakin is a toddler!?  Sure, it lines up with what Obi-wan told Luke, but it doesn’t gel! It’s like Lucas moved the headstones to build his shiny, new vision, but he didn’t move the bodies.

Did you hear who they got to DIRECT!?

So, the doubt creeps in, messes with your world view. By the time you’re watching Revenge of the Sith you realize Lucas was a BIG IDEA guy, but he couldn’t really deliver on the execution. Once he made his name, his fortune, he could take his hands off the wheel, and others—stronger, faster, more creative—made it awesome.  You can see that A New Hope was really a mess, and if it hadn’t been riffing on so many other, better concepts, it probably would have been a disaster. Empire, that’s the real genius, where Lucas had the pull to bring in Kasdan, Brackett and Kershner. 

Being a fan stops being the point.

Being entertained, that’s the thing.

Whaddya mean only Rob remember who I am?
Fandom discussion boards and chatrooms and Facebook groups start to pop up.  You “meet” like-minded people, share interests, and make friends (and enemies).  Then, you find the trolls. Folk who are there not for the joy of the thing, but to drag down anyone who finds even the remotest connection to a film or a TV series.  Sometimes they don't even know they're trolls, so lost in their own troll-dom.  Studios and writers and directors and actors and remakes are announced and are quickly shot down by “fans”. Boycotts are called and mud is slung in every direction.  There’s no chance you can stay clean. You get embroiled in the smallest points of discussion, and have every aspect of your character called into question because you liked something long, long ago in what feels like a galaxy far, far away.

Forty years.

You get past the silliness of it all. J.J. Abrams is tapped for Star Trek and then for The Force Awakens. He delivers. It may not have been YOUR VISION of the franchises, but Abrams opens the door and lets everyone run inside and play around with glitter and glee.  Yeah, it's a rehash of A New Hope, but A New Hope was itself a rehash.  The fun, the magic, the Force is with him. He renews interest in these 40+ year old concept pieces.

Forty years as a fan.

But then, after, you realize that's what you are. You’re a bona fide, legitimate fan.

You’re going to sit in that theater when the credits roll for Episode IX and you’re going to smile.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Star Wars, Brains and Books

And then . . . Aliens!
Brain: You should post something.

Me: Why?

Brain: You have a book re-releasing this week.

Me: They already know that.

Brain: Some of them may have forgotten.

Me: If they did, it’s because they already bought the book.

Brain: Or they found out JJ Abrams is going to write and direct Episode IX.

Me: . . .

Me: . . .

Brain: You didn’t know?


Brain: I’ll be over here.

Thank everyone!  Hell Becomes Her drops in all fine ebook and paperback retailers Friday, September 15th.  Get yours before they’re all gone, and they have to make more electronics . . . or something!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Baker's Drive-Thru Parking Lot

Yep! I hand-graffitied it MYSELF!
Yesterday, as I was driving to the high school to teach the kiddies how to argue and speak publicly, I went through the Baker’s Drive-Thru, as one does.  Baker’s is right on the way to the school, and if I don’t pick up something for dinner, then I won’t get anything until 8 to 9pm, depending on how late the practice runs.  I’ve been doing this for about six years now, and it works reasonably well.

Unfortunately, this particular Baker’s is somewhat slow.  I’ve learned that if there are two or three vehicles in the drive-thru, I might as well go on down to the other fast-food restaurants, as it will actually save me time and frustration.

Last night sorta took the cake.  I risked the two cars already in the drive-thru, so I was braced for waiting—and man, did I!—but when the server asked if I wanted to “power size”, I said, “HELL YEAH!”  I love me a big Dr Pepper, and always want the largest.

Except . . . damned if what I was handed wasn’t their medium.  I didn’t realize it at that exact moment, as I needed to get out of the drive-thru and on with my life.  When it registered, I pulled back into the parking lot and popped in with my receipt where it said “Power Size” right on it.  I was sure that it was just a minor error. 

Guess what?  It wasn’t!

Nope.  “Power Size” to Baker’s is the medium.  To get the large, you actually have to say “large” which apparently is even more money than the $3 fountain drink I’d already paid for.

I mean, none of this is Earth-shattering and certainly a First World problem.  I generally don’t bother to make a formal complaint, because meh.  But the labeling by Baker’s is misleading.  Who hears “Power Size” and thinks, “Yeah, that’s gotta be a medium for sure!”

So, I went on Baker’s site and filled out their comment/complaint form.  I hit send and got: Failed to send your message.  I figured I did something wrong and tried again.

Failed to send your message.

Baker's: Now Failing at Taking your Complaints!

So here’s the message, friends and Baker’s.

I'm afraid that I have two complaints—one about this particular location, and the other about your current labeling.

This particular location, at Blaine Street, is incredibly slow.  I've spent up to fifteen minutes sitting in the drive-thru with only one or two cars ahead of me.  This is not a rare occurrence.  I often go to this particular restaurant on my way to the high school, and if there are more than two cars in the drive-thru, I will pass and go to the Carl's Jr. That drive-thru is a further drive, but it's simply not worth the wait.  The store has been like this for several years, so clearly there is something wrong with the management or training here.

Second, the "power size" option on your menu.  This makes it sound like I'm getting the largest available options.  However, it was explained to me that "large" is actually the largest, while "power size" is something like medium.  This is very confusing and frustrating.  Your labeling should be intuitive by your customers.  "Power size" is an unreasonable labeling for a medium option.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Editing, Releasing and More Releasing

If only I was a tenth this awesome.
Apparently, it’s been a couple weeks.  That’s what happens when you put your head down and get to some serious editing.  Company of the Damned is coming along nicely, and getting close to complete (from my side).

A few more Beta reviews, and it’ll be good to go to the publisher—where we start the editing process again!

So fun!

In other news, Hell Becomes Her—which you can preview here—is getting ready to release on September 15th, just in time for Fall!  Nothing better than curling up with a cup of hot chocolate, a warm fire, and a good book.  Or, failing that, a glass of absinthe and Hell Becomes Her.

In addition, Question of the Day: The Andre Polk Memorial Anthology will be releasing with many, many excellent authors, and—for some reason—me.

For now, that’s all the news that’s fit to print.