Monday, June 25, 2012

The Moral of the Story

Gentle reader, when I was very small, I remember being given a book of fairy tales.  I loved that book.  I can remember reading it over and over.  Puss in Boots was my favorite, and Jack the Giant Killer.  The more familiar tales, Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty, didn't do much for me. Mainly because, at the time, they were 'girl' stories.
Later, though, when I read the original versions of those stories, I found them a lot more interesting. In the earliest version of Little Red Riding Hood there is no woodsman to rescue Red and Granny.  There's just the wolf, who gobbles up the little girl and goes on his way.
The prince in the original version of Sleeping Beauty does considerably more than kiss the sleeping princess when he stumbles upon her bower.  She still doesn't wake until, months later, she gives birth to twins who draw the cursed spindle out of their mother while nursing at her breasts. 
Those stories, I think, are a lot more interesting than the saccharine sweet pap spoon fed to little children.  They're also a lot more ambiguous, morally, from the versions we know today.
So what am I getting at with this post? I'm getting at 'morality.' 
As writers, should our stories have morals?
I think it depends, entirely, upon the writer.  There are a lot of writers out there who write 'moral stories.'  Their characters lead lives of exemplary goodness or wickedness to illustrate a moral viewpoint.  Some of these stories are very well written, but most come across, in my opinion, as heavy handed and simplistic.
I don't set out to write 'moral' stories, but I think it's very important for your characters to have morals.  Characters need ideals and beliefs to make them three dimensional.  They may embrace the Golden Rule and do unto others as they would want done unto them, or their credo could be more along the lines of 'there's a sucker born every minute.' Their morality doesn't have to be nice or conventional, but I think it does needs to exist.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Poem: Not a Poet

I am not a poet.
Words fail me.
As I sit here, my thoughts scatter.
Blown to the four winds.
The page remains blank.
A void, waiting to be filled.
The act of creation is elusive.
Until, suddenly, like that, it isn’t.
Words flow. 
The white page fills with black letters.
I read what I have written.
I am still not a poet.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Hello, gentle readers!  I hope you've all had a wonderful weekend and found yourselves refreshed and ready for the work week when you climbed out of your beds today.
Since it's the beginning of the week, today I want to talk about beginnings.
Where do stories begin? How do they begin? 
A friend recently admitted that she would like to write, but she was hesitant to take the plunge.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because I wouldn't know where to begin the story," she complained.
To me, the answer seemed obvious.  You start the story where it wants you to start it, with a scene or a word or a line of dialogue.
Call me Ishmael.
It was a bright, cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....
I am an invisible man.
It was a pleasure to burn.
He - for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it- was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which hung from the rafters.
Once upon a time....
To me, beginnings are easy.  Beginnings are the trollops of the writing process, hitching their skirts up around their hips and flashing the goods at you. They invite you in, promising a good time, and I always accept their invitations.
They found John Epcott on the beach, sprawled in the sand.
Faith Morgan pushed her fingers through her lank, brown hair and stared at her reflection, in the mirror.
Tobias thought the girl must have been dead about twelve hours.
At night, the firekeeper's tower could be seen for miles.
"Dorothy Gale was a fucking cunt."
The old woman made her way through the growing darkness, a bunch of faded flowers in one hand, a stout walking stick gripped in the other.
If you want to write, just start at the beginning even if it's the end of your story.  Write that first line, see what will hang from it. Even better, take that first step on a trip and see where the path leads you.  Even if you hit a rough patch, the act of getting there will probably be improving.  It will help you establish your own voice, your own style, your own sense of self as a writer.
Just start at the beginning and see where the story takes you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fiction: Wicked?

            The old woman made her way through the growing darkness, a bunch of faded flowers in one hand, a stout walking stick gripped in the other.  At her back, the village was alive with flickering lanterns.  A good-sized crowd of men had gathered outside the pub, to lift mugs of free beer to the new king’s health.
“Drunkards and hypocrites, the lot of them,” muttered the old woman.
She stepped off the road, onto a footpath so overgrown with weeds that it was practically invisible.  It was certainly forgotten by almost everyone else in the village.  Besides herself, the old woman reckoned that only the village priest knew the path still existed, and what lay at its end.
The sun had set by the time the old woman arrived at the graveyard.  Stone markers shimmered in the gloom.  Here and there, an iron cross could be seen, aged and rusting, rising from the long grass like islands in a sea.
Carefully, the old woman made her way among the graves.  The footing here could be treacherous; the last thing she wanted was to fall and break a bone.  If that happened, she would be just another corpse, lying among the unhallowed dead.
By the time she had crept to the intended grave, the moon had started her long climb across the sky.  The old woman settled herself on a log and sighed.
“Hello, poppet.”
In front of her, a stone slab was barely visible beneath long, twisting creepers.  At its head, an iron cross was hammered into the ground.  The grave was unnamed and unmarked.
“It’s been a long time since my last visit, I know.”
Sighing, the old woman wiped a rheumy eye.
“I’m not as young as I used to be and times have been hard.”
She remembered the flowers and tossed them atop the grave.
“They’re not much, but they’re the best I could do, poppet. You always liked the last flowers of the season. Do you remember? We would go gathering the last blossoms when you were just a girl, from the valleys behind your father’s house.”
The old woman leaned on her stick, peering through the gloom at the stone slab.
“The least they could have done was carve your name into the stone.  You were still a queen, poppet.  They could have shown you that much respect.”
For a while, the old woman sat there in silence.  A cool breeze began to blow.  Dark clouds skittered across the moon’s face.
“Do you know what’s happened, poppet?  Do you know how your enemies have been brought low? All those sanctimonious do-gooders, the ones who spoke so poisonously against you, are all gone now.  Wherever you are, my dove, I hope you know.  I hope you know and you rejoiced when they were knocked off their pedestals.”
She grinned; it was a grin of savage glee.
The girl had been the first to be brought low.  They could have explained away the pregnancy, could have said the child was just early.  If the child had been normal that would have happened, but the child hadn’t been normal.  It had been a twisted runt.  Its mother had lived long enough to know her shame, before dying in the birthing bed.
Despite priestly objections, the king had ordered the child abandoned in the forest.  If dwarves had fathered the creature, then dwarves could raise it.  The fate of that twisted infant remained unknown.
The charming prince’s love for his bride hadn’t lasted long after the birth.  It was hard to love someone who had made a fool of you.  Rumors spun that the princess had cuckolded her princely husband, that she was known to every stable lad and baker’s boy in the castle.
First, love went away and then, quietly, insidiously, the prince lost his charming luster.  Embittered, he grew twisted and violent.  No more the charmer, the servants whispered, but a dark prince with dark appetites.
He marched off on a crusade and returned ten years later, drenched in blood, lacking any fine sentiments.  Upon the old king’s death, the prince assumed the throne and ruled with an iron fist.
In the graveyard, the old woman cackled.  “And they thought you were wicked, my dove!”
The Dark King had shown them true wickedness.  Blood ran like water in the gutters of the castle.  Everyone suffered in equal measure, the highborn and the low, beneath their Dark King’s rule.
“Was it any wonder then, my poppet, that they rose against him? Priests and lords and commoners alike! All united!”
Lowering her voice, the old woman leaned forward, spoke softly for there could have been unfriendly ears, even in this place.
“They poisoned him, my dove.  A bit at a time, little by little. It took a long time for him to die, but he did.  That fine prince died like a mad dog, foaming at the mouth, wild with pain.  I’m sure it was glorious!”
She drew back, sighing.  “They’re all gone now, the ones who wronged you.  All the ones that matter, at any rate.  The dwarves are probably still out there, lurking in the deep woods.  But who cares about dwarves?”
In the dark woods, an owl hooted.  Overhead, the clouds parted, revealing the full face of the moon.
“I don’t think I’ll be back, my poppet,” said the old woman.  “It’s a miracle your old nurse has lived this long.  The reaper will come for me soon, I think, and I’ll be glad when he does. I’m tired of life, of outliving all the ones I love.”
Standing, she drew her tattered cloak close and leaned heavily on her stick.  The moonlight washed over her weathered face.
“Maybe the next time we speak, you’ll be able to answer me, my poppet.”
She turned and walked away, back along the path.  Clouds slid across the moon, concealing its face, and the old woman vanished into the darkness.
# # #
The inspiration for this story came from that old expression, "History is written by the victors."  That's probably a universal truth, so, with that being the case, how many of those happily ever after fairy tales would really have ended so happily? How many of those stories could be trusted? And, most importantly of all, how many of those dastardly villains would be as thoroughly evil as they were portrayed?

Monday, June 11, 2012

A much-needed break

Good afternoon, gentle readers.  How is everyone doing this fine Monday? 
Have a rough day?
Poor thing.
I can commiserate.
This past weekend, I did a two-day free promotional giveaway of my first novel, Dawnwind: Last Man Standing.  Every hour on the hour I was promoting the heck out of it. By the time the promotional giveaway ended, Dawnwind had clawed its way to the #25 position on Kindle's Top 100 Free Sci-Fi Books.
Today, I am mentally exhausted. I'm taking a Twitter sabbatical for the day.  I'm trying my hardest not to log into my KDP account and see if I've had any additional purchases.  Most difficult of all, I am resisting the urge to check my book's page every fifteen minutes to see if anyone has left a review.
Writers, gentle readers, pray for reviews the way a farmer prays for rain.
No, today, I am taking a break from promotion and writing.  I am going to rest and, hopefully, rejuvenate some brain cells.  Perhaps, by tomorrow, my eyes won't feel like fried eggs any longer.
Maybe I'll even manage to read a bit and refill the word-tanks.
So, that's the plan.
If your Monday has got you down, I really hope you can do something similar.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Review of Snow White & The Huntsman

Gentle readers, this afternoon I went and saw Snow White & The Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron.
This movie has had a lot of good word of mouth reviews, and I was curious to see what it would be like. So, off I went to the theater.
The first thing to strike me about this movie had nothing to do with the actual film. Rather, it was the audience.  I have hardly seen such a diverse crowd attending a genre film.  There were senior citizens, teenagers, men, women, and children.  Shamelessly eavesdropping on the conversations around me, most were there because, like me, they had heard good reviews of the movie.
Sadly, I don't think the film deserves such glowing accolades.
Part of the problem with the movie is that the story is already so well known.  We all know how the film will end, even before we go into it.  The only thing that could shock us would be the path the writers took to get from A to Zed.  Sadly, instead of offering us something new and different, they stick to the tried and true. Sure, they give us a glimpse into the Evil Queen's motivations, and there's some nice CGI work with fairies, but otherwise? Dull. Boring. Predictable.
The performances are, likewise, nothing to write home about. 
Charlize Theron's Wicked Queen is dull. There is no genuine sense of menace from her, at all. Theron strides around a cold stone room, exuding all the life and vitality of a marionette.
Kristen Stewart's Snow White is even worse.  During the entire film, she delivers a one-note performance, that of a saintly princess who is about as interesting as a bowl of plain grits. She's pretty enough for the role, but there's nothing in the character to inspire men to fight for her.
Of all the cast, Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman is the only one given any opportunity to develop. That development, alas, is formulaic. 
The less said about the dwarves, the better.
Overall, Snow White & The Huntsman left me feeling bored and disappointed. The story is entirely predictable and the characters remain two-dimensional.
On a scale of one to ten, I would give Snow White & The Huntsman a three.  Save your money and wait for it to come out on Pay-Per-View or DVD.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Good morning, gentle readers.
This blog entry is a day late, 'cause it's hard to be a pimp.
Don't worry, I'm not running a string of prostitutes. I'm not selling sex, just trying to sell my book.
When you set foot on the indie author's path, there are a lot of things that you don't know when you start out. Like the degree of time you'll have to devote to promoting your writing.
Unless you've got bags of money, like that little guy from the Monopoly game, you can't afford to hire a reputable publicist to handle promotions.  You've got to do it yourself.
Which means using Twitter and Facebook to get the word out re your work. It means contacting ebook reviewers and websites that will promote your ebook.  Some indie authors with Facebook pages for their work, pay for targeted ads. I've heard of some using Google ads, as well.
It's a time consuming process, not for the faint of heart. I've heard from other indie authors how much they hate promoting their stuff.  No one seems to like doing it, but, depending on how well you want your book to sell, you have to do it.  It is a necessary evil.
Unfortunately, one can spend so much time pimping the stuff you've written, that it cuts into the time you'd normally spend writing new stuff. 
I've just released my first full-length novel, Dawnwind: Last Man Standing, and am starting on the sequel, at least, in my head.  I haven't had time to start physically writing it, because I spend a fair amount of my time promoting my earlier stuff!
There are rumors among indie authors, Internet legends whispered in the dark forums where we tend to congregate, of other indie authors who have Made It.  Writers who have achieved success marketing their books, leading to an almost supernatural groundswell of perpetual sales and thus, eliminating the need for them to do such intensive self-promotion.
I don't know if I believe this story, but if it's true, I really hope it happens to me.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dawnwind: Last Man Standing

Gentle readers, my first full-length novel, Dawnwind: Last Man Standing, is now available for purchase exclusively through

When the benevolent Junians came to Earth, they were shocked to discover humanity decimated by a worldwide pandemic.  They found only one survivor, a man named John Epcott. The Last Human.
When the Junians left Earth, John Epcott went with them.
This is his story.