Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Spellbindingly Fun Blog Party Spell

The Warlock's vale

Charms like melting ice
Creep beneath the wicked sky
Darkness boils clouds of black
Will someone not right this night die?

Potions brew blue and red
The fire in hearth now churning
I weave my spell so pure
It will leave those touched turning

It starts with tingling in limb and foot
Unsettled fingers upon skin so white
Twitching and giggling will stir within
Laughter will bathe dark night

In bed thou shall find sleep nigh
The tickling unstopped all about
Wicked spectral fingers play
Till wind from lungs are emptied out

Now away you go to sleep in bed
Sheets white, pillows waft
But, when you feel the urge to laugh
This spell you'll find carried by spirits daft

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Energy Scavengers

Book Review:

The Energy Scavengers by Ryan Sean O'Reilly is a short story in the genre of science friction. I was delighted to see that O'Reilly chose an interesting story line and character, as appose to the typical space hero and heroine format. This made the story attractive to me, since it was so different from anything I'd read of late.

The story opens with a robotic probe heading toward a planet. This planet was once dominated by an alien civilization, but now all that is left are the artificially intelligent machines that the aliens had created. The protagonist is a little probe that is sent to check out the ancient alien mining ruins and collect data to help mankind learn more about the aliens.

The author takes the reader on a roller coaster ride from the start as the protagonist must fight for survival in a hostile landscape populated by power hungry robots that have evolved. There are a few rocky spots in the text and some areas that could be fleshed out more - but in all I enjoyed the story very much. I was disappointed when the story ended. On the last page I wanted more, and hope that the author will turn this short story into at least a novella.

If you read The Energy Scavengers, and feel as I do that it should be expanded upon, send O'Reilly an email asking him to do so.

Regards, and until next time - Lawrence BoarerPitchford

Lawrence is the author of such works as Thadius; the tale of a retired Roman General on the trail of a serial killer: Sawbones; the story of a Civil War surgeon who must foil a plot to kidnap the one man who could change the terms of Southern surrender: The Lantern of Dern Blackhammer; Epic fantasy story about a lost relic, and the mad man seeking to enslave the world: In the World of Hyboria; Fan fiction that takes three fresh characters, Robert E. Howard's world of Conan, and mixes thing up with adventure and action: Tales of Mad Cows and Brothels; the story of a Welsh nobleman, an Irish pirate, and a French rogue priest and how they drink, brawl, and stumble their way toward saving a Queen.

Messages From Henry

Book Review:

Messages from Henry is a charming story that has an unlikely central character. This short novella starts out in a small and rural country house. The main character discovers that a close friend has gone missing. The mystery is afoot as the sheriff is involved and a chase ensues.

I found my emotional heart strings being imperceptibly strummed as I read chapter after chapter. I became invested in the protagonist and the message bearer Henry. With each turn of the page I found that I didn't want anything to happen to Henry - that intrepid hero of the story.

When the story finally played out, I was relieved to see that the author did not take a dark turn. I found the uplifting feeling under my wings that carried me to the last words of the story refreshing. There I felt that I'd finished a visit with a dear friend, and sipped tea, and listened to a harrowing tale of mystery and adventure.

The author Rebecca Scarberry delivers a heartwarming and charming tale that is easy to read and fun. In the end I think you'll probably wish to read a little more about Henry and his love - that is if the author revises the characters in another story.

Regards, and until next time - Lawrence BoarerPitchford

Lawrence is the author of such works as Thadius; the tale of a retired Roman General on the trail of a serial killer: Sawbones; the story of a Civil War surgeon who must foil a plot to kidnap the one man who could change the terms of Southern surrender: The Lantern of Dern Blackhammer; Epic fantasy story about a lost relic, and the mad man seeking to enslave the world: In the World of Hyboria; Fan fiction that takes three fresh characters, Robert E. Howard's world of Conan, and mixes thing up with adventure and action: Tales of Mad Cows and Brothels; the story of a Welsh nobleman, an Irish pirate, and a French rogue priest and how they drink, brawl, and stumble their way toward saving a Queen.

The Harried Pace

Okay, I get it. We're authors who have it all. We have penthouse apartments in New York, we drive only the most expensive sports cars, and we party until 2am and sleep until noon. Yes - we are successful artists who can do what we want when we the movies, or on television. But, the reality is, most of us who are Indie authors are working class folks who have a driving passion to tell stories.

So, here I am today. I stand overlooking the abyss of publication. I watch as my latest new works hit the Amazon Kindle marketplace. I watch as they are gobbled up by beast that is the market, filled with other authors who stare with my same expression; an expression of fear and anxiety that no one will read the work, that it will just draw cyber dust upon those cyber shelves.

But, there is more to this story. I think you can identify too, if you are an Indie author. There are still miles to go before I can say, "I'm done with this project." Still ahead are marketing, attending conventions, advertising, and the obligatory word-of-mouth through Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads. How can I be in fifty places at once - and yet I strive to do so. I am here the sign reads at the beginning of this journey.

You know the pace. It starts out slow; at least it does for me. I have an idea, which leads to some writing, which leads to an outline, which leads to a project. The project begins with me writing chapters, and ferreting out the plot. I develop characters, their back stories, and who their friends are. Then, when I'm finally in the zone - I'm furiously writing page after page. There is something within me that makes this the most important thing in my life. I try not to neglect my loved ones. But, I do to a certain degree. All the while I write, re-write, shape and polish the product.

I get critique from online sources, and then re-work the project. I sometimes get a devastating critique and have to re-do the whole thing. All the while a tiny clock in my head is ticking. A barely perceptible voice is whispering in my ear, "You'll be a failure if you don't finish, if you don't complete this work." Not to say that I don't from time to time leave the work and start or finish another project, but I know that I'll return... I have to, to complete it.

The pace is quickening, and it made all the more imperative that I finish the rough draft, because I know that there is the next set of trials ahead. A rough draft is not the end, but a new beginning. Here I pair down the content, cut out the fat, try and lean up the work. Then, out it goes to those in my circle willing to review and give me more critique. The second draft comes, then the third, then the fourth... or was it the fifth... I'm losing track. Did I store the copy in file A or file B? I still need to continue marketing what's out there, but all the while I'm thinking of the new project.

It is getting so that I can't even stand the sight of my desk. I can't sit at the keyboard one more second. I need distraction. A walk to the coffee house, a moment in the sun, a ride on my bike to parts enchanted. When I'm back, I'm refreshed, but only for a short time.

As an author, I balance my day job with my unbridled passion for telling stories. All my writing happens on weekends and evenings. Not enough time to feel relaxed. And, still the clock that governs the project ticks away. But, here is the difference. For me, I love writing. The struggle and the reward are more than worth it; it being my internal drive to entertain.

I'm sure that you've felt that pressure at one time or another; that self-imposed pressure. The path that leads from thought to publication is not smooth, and forethought and planning are critical components to the success of any writer. I find it interesting when someone finds that I'm an author. A gleam forms in their eye, the one that says, "Hey, I have an idea for a book." Then, they say it, "Hey, I have an idea for a book." It is that look though, that tells me that they think the process is, write a book, hand it off to someone (maybe a publisher), and sit back and rake in the royalties. That look amuses me, and so I tell them all the parts that I play as an Indie author just to get my idea to market as a book. Their smile turns into a frown. They look forlorn and often say, "Wow, that's a lot of stuff you do." Then, I tell them how much I've made as an author, and how much I've spent. They typically don't want to talk to me anymore. The difference between them and me is that regardless of the struggle, I'm still going to write that book. Regardless of the royalties, I'm going to publish that book. And, lastly, regardless of the critics, I'm going to continue to write books.

I suspect that there are some of you out there that will identify with this post. Maybe some of you won't. Those of you who do, I'll see you on the highway of hard knocks, and those that don't, you are lucky to be so skilled. To all of you out there - I salute you as you travel along at that harried pace toward that New York pent house, wild parties, and those expensive sports cars.

Lawrence BoarerPitchford

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Indie Author

What is an Indie Author? The general public is relatively ignorant about the workings of the new publishing market - and the new writers’ model. They only care that they get a book, and that book is free of errors, is entertaining, and is worth the $0.99 that they paid. If it isn't, they rail against the author, sometimes delving into personal ranker to quell their sense of injustice or outrage.

I'm an Indie author. Perhaps you are too. I have a day job, and I write in the evenings after I get home. I also write on the weekends, on holidays, and on other days that I have off of work. On my last run of two books, over six months, I made less than thirty dollars; hardly the image of Anne Rice, or Stephen King in wealth. I have two new books to come out in October 2012. Where will that go?

 So, if you are a fellow Indie author, do you suffer the same struggles I do? I have spent some money investing in some marketing and PR. In no way have I recouped that money. If I were a business, I'd be very worried that I won't survive competing in this market, a market of thousands of other Indie authors. Yet, I still keep writing.

 One factor that defines the Indie author is a state of self-reliance that cannot be discounted as amazing. We don't have the luxury of finishing our thirtieth draft and turning it over to our agent, who then adds some polishing comments, and then turn it over to our publisher. The publisher then hands it off to their copy editor, line editor and the like, and polish the product - then spend some money to produce the copies, and market the work. They might have even set up some PR events for the author. That's only in the movies for the Indie author. We do it all. We come up with the concept, make the art, refine it, beg friends and family to help us edit it, and use free or inexpensive resources to polish the work. Then, it is up to us to put it into a book format, purchase the ISBNs, test/proof the copies, create the cover art, test the artwork, and finally put it out there for consumption. Even in this last step, we are at work to find an outlet - who should it be, a web site that sells E-pub, Kindle, or some other? In all, it is possible to spend as much as $10,000 just to see a return of $0.00 to $500.00; maybe.
Why do we do it? Why suffer so and reap so little reward?
Perhaps we're entertainment junkies? Perhaps we love to entertain, and the struggle is just par for the course. After all, I love to write. I love to tell stories that people will say, "I was in the world you created," or "I was swept up in the adventure." I was once an actor, and the thrill I got on the stage with a thousand people clapping and cheering was akin to what I feel as a writer when someone connects with my story.

Therefore, to me the Indie author is a brave sole, whose desires to write dominates his or her good senses. They will stand naked against the fire of critics or hateful customers time and time again, just so they can bask in the healing glow of those few readers who adore them. The Indie author is an industry unto themselves; a means of production that churns out a product that consumers often devour, then with careless thought toss away never to be read again. An Indie author is a person who glows with passion for storytelling, who is constantly shaping their craft, and who dreams that one day, they can write as their primary job. Lastly, the Indie author is a person who flies in the face of convention, writes in multiple genres, thinks outside the box, and defies the corporate publishing house's conventional wisdom of cookie-cutter authors.

The danger though is vast in that low quality work can be produced. There are thousands and thousands of authors out there calling themselves Indie. Anyone with an idea can write it down and put it out on Amazon. When rushed to market, or written by those without the experience to methodically rework their art, reputations falter and the name of Indie takes a hit.

Once, the publishing houses did a service by filtering out the crap, though they also filtered out much of the cream too. But, the one thing they did really well was to ensure quality in their books. Few times does one find egregious errors in their products. For me as an Indie author, I struggle to weed out all the typos, wrong words, and formatting issues. This is time I could be spending doing composition. Yet, it must be done, because my reputation hangs in the balance. Even then, my works have errors in them that slip past the watchful eye of me, family, and friends with good intentions. There seems little substitute for the layers of editing a publishing house offers. Unfortunately the cost of a professional editing staff is far beyond the means of this Indie author. So, I'll have to stick to friends, and family to aid me in my forward movement toward my goal of literary respect.

Where does that leave us? The Indie author is a mutant, a creature of mythology that defies the giants, but is fragile in nature. If I had one word to describe the amazing quality of the Indie author, I’d say dogged, for there are few better examples of the underdog who strives against impossible odds to live out a dream. And, there are few arts where the power of creation shapes complete worlds filled with the human condition.

So, let that dogged animal roam, lo his or her struggle be vast. For, in this time in history, the Indie author gives humanity a true choice. That choice is to view into the beating heart of creation where those who desire to write can, and those who crave the written worlds of creative invention consume and collide (in that big bang, stars will be born). Or, humanity will remain disillusioned by the Indie author, and shut their eyes tightly, making a dark age of stagnation their dwelling.
Lawrence BoarerPitchford

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Detail in a novel

I for one enjoy fantasy stories with complex systems of magic, and flawed and detailed characters. But I don’t care for too much detail in a story. I know this sounds like a contradiction, but I have to be honest. Too much detail is like not enough detail. To me they become boring. There is a razors edge that a writer must walk to provide enough detail to make their character’s interesting, believable, and complete, and not over kill us with every little mundane thing.

 This goes for science fiction for me too. If a writer bogs me down in the minutia, I lose interest pretty quickly. Frank Herbert did that to me, as did Asimov at times. Niven walked that thin line, but didn’t stray over it for me. I wonder what limits you – my humble readers put on your pleasure reading. Do you have criteria too? How much detail is too much for you? Do you have a problem with too little detail? Who are the authors you think really have a good balance between not enough and too much?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Science Fiction and Fantasy are two genres that have the power to create. Often times, the author is engineering a whole new world, new races, new sights, sounds and smells. But, the goal of every author is to in some way, reach into the reader and touch them emotionally. So, with this in mind, let us take a moment to look at some classic authors and their ability to emotionally connect with their audience.

 Edgar Rice Burroughs took us on a fantastic trip to Mars, where the reader is liberated from all earthly convention and thrown into a complex landscape of four armed aliens, and desperate natives. In this, the audience of his time, the early twentieth Century could identify with the ideals of chivalry, firearms, and the end of empire. Also, his Tarzan series of books freed the reader from normal convention, allowing them to imagine a world where a man only has to hunt and fish, and live by his wits, yet is also a bridge to the refined and honorable nature of man.

H.G. Wells kept us at home, but stirred the fear within us regarding the coming twentieth Century’s industrial growth, reliance on machines, the loss of humanity. In War of Worlds he gives man reason to fear when aliens from Mars come to Earth to reap havoc. Humans, helpless with all our technology and hubris, only to find that the cold virus trumps man’s greatest technologies. The readers emotions are pulled at while the aliens destroy civilization – then we breathe a sigh of relief and see the irony when the aliens fall victim to nature.

Robert E. Howard plunged us into the world of Hyboria, where Conan evolves from savage to King. Again, the reader is left to fantasize about a simpler time, when a man could wake with the dawn, hunt, fish, and sleep where he may, unchained by civil convention.  In his worlds there is no regret, no conscious sense of law – yet justice is done, and with honor and reward. Emotions are tripped as Conan romances a woman pirate who is as hard and unyielding as himself. Conan faces dangers from Pics, Aquilonians, Stygians , all the forces of civilization, and learns to finally come to terms with his own evolution to become King.

These works are timeless, because they strip away our day to day lives and allow we the reader to take on the mantel of another’s life. Be it a future where humans are endangered, or a past where complex civilization collides with barbarian simplicity, what makes science fiction and fantasy great is how it touches each and every one of us who read it.

What do  you think? Who’s your favorite science fiction author and/or fantasy author? What type of SciFi and fantasy do you like read?