Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Defining a genre: Horror

When I began writing, I wrote what I loved to read: horror stories. My biggest inspiration, which probably sounds cliche, was Stephen King's work. I, like many people, read his books and came away from them feeling that "I can do that, too!" So, I began my writing career by spinning tales of horror. Needless to say, my writing is by no means on par with Stephen King's! He makes writing look easy, but it's not. And, I see I've already digressed.

I say that I wrote horror, but, in retrospect, I wouldn't really categorize many of those first stories as horror. Not in the truest since of the meaning, anyway. Now, I like to think of them as psychological thrillers or noir. You might be wondering why I would make that claim. That's what I want to discuss in this blog post and, hopefully, illustrate.

Stephen King is revered as the King of Horror [nice pun, too], but I wouldn't even classify much of his writing as truly horrific. Sure, his stories elicit an emotional response--typically a strong negative emotion--as all writing is wont to do, but I wouldn't say that they are mainly horror by nature. At least, not according to the definition of the genre. As Wikipedia describes it:
"Horror fiction, Horror Literature and also Horror fantasy is a genre of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, scare or startle viewers/readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror."

That last part, about feelings of horror and terror, to me at least, is a strong statement. Of course, others may disagree because we all have varying thresholds for fear. For instance, in my short story, Hush, Hush, My Love, the main character is talking to a woman he has just finished copulating with. Throughout the monologue, she never says a word. Later, I reveal that she is dead and the man has been engaging in necrophilia. While this is certainly a taboo, it (again, to me) is not horrific. Repulsive maybe, sure. I classified this story under horror, not because of the necrophilia, but because her lifeless corpse reanimates and kills him in the final chapter.

I have other stories that I assembled into an anthology that many readers may label as horror. While I agree that some of them border on horror (When the Dead Whisper and Jason's Last Wish, for example) because they center around ghosts and/or supernatural phenomena, I also claim that many of them are not. I don't feel that they "cause the reader to react with fear" as the definition states. As examples, I would refer you to The Show Must Go On, about a death row inmate's exercise in introspection before his impending execution; Footprints in the Snow, is about a young man who undergoes a strange and life-changing experience on a snowy rural road; and Sweet Charlotte, which is about a special little girl who is caught in a predator's web. I would argue that these are simply dark stories meant to stimulate the reader's mind as well as entertain.

Also, it seems to me that the horror genre has gone through quite a change in recent decades. Perhaps this is due to the influx of so many sub-genres. I will admit, I am not a fan of zombie books (although, I do love to watch The Walking Dead). I think vampire stories have appeared ad nauseum. And, the worst, are graphic stories (labeled horror) that do nothing more than gross out the reader.

Again, all of this may just be my opinion. However, I enjoy a horror tale with a slow build of events that ratchet up the creepy tension. I also enjoy hints as to what is lurking in the shadows or under the bed, instead of fully seeing the creature at the beginning. The lack of description up front allows the reader to conjure his/her own fearful being. To me, the scariest stories are those that can actually happen. I don't believe in ghosts, but a mentally unstable person with a sling blade sneaking into my house would scare the hell out of me!

If, on the other hand, a story is about a bunch of mutated hillbillies who eat unsuspecting campers, or sparkly vampires (*facepalm*), or just a lot of blood splatter to elicit shock, then I don't consider them horror. But, again, that's just me. I've worked as a firefighter and EMT, so gore-porn isn't for me. I've seen real life atrocities up close and personal. As a coping mechanism, I learned to desensitize myself to it like many others in that profession. I think Stephen King summed up the gross-out best:
"I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud."

The most enticing horror stories are those that successfully break new ground in an already well-mined field, with new creatures and situations. Not rehashing the same old tropes we've read time and again.

So, what do you consider horror? I'd like to hear your opinion about what makes a story horrific. You can sound of in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What happened to quality?

I apologize for not posting in a while. Truthfully, I got caught up in some other hobbies and neglected the blog. Also, I will warn you know, this blog post has nothing to do with my writing, but instead, something I've had happen recently that left me sour.

I typically try not to use my blog as a soapbox for anything negative. However, recently, I have had to buy many new pairs of blue jeans. In the past, I was a fan of Levi's brand jeans. In the past six months, I've had about five to six pairs malfunction--I know that doesn't sound appropriate for describing a garment, but believe me, it is in these cases.

The defects seem to be typical, from what I can tell by conducting an Internet search. Either the zippers split and become useless, the belt loops break loose, or the crotch rips out. There also seems to be a problem with holes forming from the upper corners of the pockets, but I personally have not experienced this. All of the aforementioned problem did happen to me!

At first, two belt loops broke free on a pair of my jeans. The second incident occurred at work when I went to the restroom and the zipper split open. I replaced those jeans with new Levi's, this time, opting for button-fly. When the crotch ripped out and more belt loops tore off, I sat down and wrote a letter to the company. After all, this tactic seemed to work when we exercised it in grammar school. I received a reply back from their Quality Control department asking me to return the jeans (I think it was a maximum of three pairs) so they could determine whether the defect was due to faulty construction or natural wear and tear. Apparently, I was supposed to send my jeans on my own dime. Instead of that route, I threw them away and bought two more pair. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment, but I actually convinced myself that I just got a defective batch or something.

When the crotch of one of these next pair ripped at work as I was getting into my Jeep for lunch, I knew something was drastically wrong with the quality of Levi's jeans. In the past, Levi's were billed as strong and durable. It was a reputation cemented in years of proof. However, when a pair less than six months old rips as I am getting into my vehicle, then something is WRONG! Maybe one could argue that there was significant wear and tear from my job. But, that doesn't hold water when you consider that I sit at a desk all day long. Not to mention, I come home and sit on the sofa. The most strenuous activity my jeans see is me putting them or taking them off.

So, last weekend, while visiting my friend, I went shopping for new jeans. This time, I bought two pairs of Lee jeans ($30 a pair) and one pair of Sears's brand, Roebuck and Co. ($15 a pair--there was a sale). Compared to the Levi's, which were $45-50 a pair, the Lee and Roebucks are a hell of a deal. While it's too early to tell how durable my new jeans are, I can assure you that they are quite comfortable.

The reputation Levi's once had is quickly deteriorating, much like the jeans themselves as these links will indicate. It's sad that a company with a once great product would sacrifice their reputation to save a little bit of money by moving production to other countries just to save a few bucks in production. In the end, I think it will be a costly mistake for them and I predict that if they don't do something to save their image, they too, may go the way of the Twinkie!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Just in time for Halloween!

Halloween is nearly hear, so I decided to publish some of the short stories from my anthology. I didn't want to publish all of them in the collection. If I did that, what would be the point of buying the anthology? Since there are eight shorts in the collection, I said I would publish four of them...well, kind of.

One of those short stories has been available for some time, long before the anthology. Anyone who has been following my track record knows that tale is Hush, Hush, My Love, which is one of my favorites for several reasons. The other three that I've selected are: Footprints in the Snow, Jason's Last Wish, and Sweet Charlotte.

The reason for this is simple. I wanted to offer readers, who hadn't heard of me, a chance to sample some of my work. What better than to offer up some of my strange and disturbing short stories in time for Halloween? Of course, chances are, if you're reading this blog, you've already heard of me and probably read some of my work. If that's the case, perhaps you'll do me a solid and introduce someone new to my work. Start with baby steps. Tell them they can purchase the short stories as a trial to see if they like my writing. I'd appreciate it. Below are links to the various distributors where my stories are for sale. Thanks for stopping by!

Footprints in the Snow at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Jason's Last Wish at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Sweet Charlotte at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Finally, falling into place

I know it's been a while since my last post and I apologize. As you may know, I wasn't up to blogging, much less, writing. I reported that I was floundering on my writing projects, unable to settle on a specific story and stick with it. Luckily, that's over. Not only have I settled into one story, but I am currently working on two! Yes, you read that correctly.

One of the stories I am currently working on is a young adult Halloween tale in the spirit of Ray Bradbury and Clive Barker. The other is a psychological horror story in the same vein as Hush, Hush, My Love. I'm very excited about both of these stories and work at them fervently.

In addition to this news, I have some more good news. Friday, I ordered a Schecter Hellraiser Special electric guitar, which should arrive on Tuesday. I have two bass guitars and have been tinkering with playing bass for several years. Honestly, I'd say I'm fair at playing the bass. I've owned two electric six-string guitars in the past, but never for very long before I got rid of them. The first (a cheap little Squire), was sold not long after I got it (thanks to my now-ex-wife), and the second (a pretty blue Ibanez) ended up going to my son after he expressed an interest in wanting to learn to play. Now that I can afford to, I've decided to buy myself a nice guitar so I can learn to play. Whenever I think about it, I get super excited about the prospect.

That about covers what's been going on with me since my last post; well, the interesting stuff anyway. I hope to deliver more good news later regarding my newest writing. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a couple of videos that demonstrate the sound of this sweet guitar I bought. Thanks for stopping by; I hope you enjoyed your visit.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Reader's Paradise

Fall is finally in the air. We slept with the windows open last night and the ceiling fan going. It got cold and the blankets were warm. It was awesome! But, the more important thing is that I am no longer flailing with my stories. I've finally settled on an idea and started working on it. I've decided to just power through any obstacles that crop up. I don't know why I couldn't do that earlier. Maybe it was just some deep-seated mindset or something. That's not really what I wanted to talk about in this post, however.

Lately, as I was struggling with indecisiveness, I pondered the new publishing paradigm and my place in it. In the beginning, when eBooks began to change the publishing landscape, I was ecstatic. Finally, the gates and gatekeepers were becoming a thing of the past. Any author could publish their book themselves and reach readers directly, without the elite publishers standing in their way. I'm still excited about that. If not for this revolution, so many great authors would go unnoticed and that's a shame, especially for the readers (myself included).

Now that I have a few books out there, I've begun analyzing my place in the publishing world. I've had some success, but nothing like I was expecting. I follow several authors' blogs, tweets, etc. to know how they are doing. I lurk on eBook boards and keep up with some of the latest success stories of breakout indie authors (those who find themselves in the top 100 Kindle Books and sell hundreds, if not thousands, of books a month). To tell the truth, I'm baffled.

I can't help but wonder how these authors (many, still, with day jobs) manage to stumble into such luck. Of course, many of them deserve their success because of their writing. In the end, it always boils down to the writing that separates the good from the bad and good from the great. In trying to better my own marketing efforts, I usually obtain a copy of some of these authors' books to see how well they write. A lot of them are good. Sadly, some of them are not very good (although, I will admit that reading is very subjective, as is any art-form). The part that baffles me is how these mediocre writers manage to be so successful? The only thing I can come up with is that they either know some highly successful writers and ride on their coattails, or they are geniuses at marketing. But, I didn't really want this post to be about me commiserating about other writers' success and my lack of it (Well, I kind of did).

There is a former mid-list author (mid-list is pretty much gone since the eBook revolution) I used to follow because I was in awe of his success despite his horrible writing. I'm not about to mention who he is, but he writes primarily zombie books. I bought several of his books and discovered the writing to be sub-par. Yet, he was vetted by the publishing industry and had built a career on that writing. Obviously, he was doing something right because he was successful. I knew there were enough readers out there who enjoyed his books enough to keep coming back for more.

That's what I wanted to emphasize with this blog post. No matter the level of writing, there seems to be an audience out there for the story. Since the gate keepers have been circumvented, so many more authors can publish their material. A reader can find just about anything that appeals to them. Just look at the Fifty Shades of Grey series. It's spawned a whole cult following and enough writers coming out of the woodwork hoping to jump on the erotica bandwagon so they can earn a slice of the success pie. No matter your reading tastes, chances are, you can find plenty of stories out there that will interest you for quite some time. Sure, there might be a lot of garbage out there you have to weed through to find that diamond. Just remember, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

With that, I'd like to leave you with a shameless plug. If you're looking for something scary or weird to read this Halloween, may I suggest my Adverse Anthology? I think you'll enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

--Insert Witty Title Here--

Sorry I haven't posted anything lately. I kind of feel at loose ends with my various projects; like I'm being pulled in several different directions. It may sound like I'm overwhelmed, but the truth is, I'm not. I'm more lost than anything, just drifting. Hence the title of this post. It seems to sum up my feelings pretty well.

With my writing, I am floundering. I have so many ideas and they all appeal to me. At least until I begin working on them, then the plot seems to hit a brick wall or simply fizzles out. I feel like I'm searching for the Higgs Boson and while I'm examining a theory, something shows me I'm headed in the wrong direction, so I stop or change course with uncertainty. This is the longest I've gone between stories without a definite course. There's only one thing to do, however. I need to pick a story and power through it. But, that's easier said than done. Currently, I have my sights set on a YA Halloween tale in the vein of Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree or Clive Barker's The Thief of Always, both great books.

In addition to my writing, I also have some other projects I'm working on. It's that time of year when my mind becomes distracted by the approach of fall, and with it, my favorite holiday, Halloween. This means I'm trying to create some cool silicone masks. I managed to sculpt a cool design a couple of weeks ago and then made the mold for it. When I finished the mold I went ahead and made two different casts. For those of you that don't know, a cast is when you pour in the silicone, let it dry, and then pull out the finished product. The first cast was too thin and ripped in several places. This is not uncommon. So, I poured another cast, making sure to double the amount. When I pulled it out, I had less rips, but still, that cast was unsuccessful. I haven't gone back to try again...yet.

My last distraction is my photography, which has come more to the forefront lately since I started trying to sell some of my work. I'm also pleased to announce that I am working on several new techniques. Last night, I experimented with something called light painting. When you light paint, you set up your camera in the dark, focused on a specific scene, and use a light source to highlight an area of the scene. I was pleased with my initial results and want to do more of these types of photos for my gallery. Also, there are some more techniques I want to try, but I'm waiting for the right time to try them.

Now for a confession: I made a major purchase this past week. I made the leap from my current camera (a Canon Rebel T2i) to a more professional-grade camera (a Canon 5D mark II). With the significant price difference, I did not arrive at this decision lightly, but I feel it will allow my pictures to really pop. Time will tell. In the meantime, I need to focus on something and see it through to completion. If you want to help me out, please buy one of my books or one of the photos from my gallery. It would certainly go a long way to lifting my spirits. As always, thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Once in a blue moon...

There's a blue moon tonight. There won't be another until 2015--in June, I think. Since blue moons are so infrequent, I thought it would kind of be symbolic for me to post my last post of August on the blue moon (since I can't seem to be regular with my posts).

There's not a lot exciting going on, not for the couple of blog readers I have anyway. Not only is today a blue moon and the end of August, it's also my oldest son, Robbie's, birthday. He turned 22 today. Happy Birthday, Robbie! (Of course, I highly doubt he reads my blog. He's probably never glimpsed it.)

We're on the cusp of a three-day weekend since Monday is Labor Day. In other news, I received a new lens filter today in the mail, so I'll be using it to take some more pictures that I hope will be worthy of posting in my gallery. Speaking of that, if you haven't yet checked out my online photography, I hope you will. Also, please tell your friends about it, especially if they're looking for pictures to hang on a drab wall. (BTW, my prices are highly--if not absurdly--competitive with the other photographers out there!)

At the moment, my wife and I are relaxing while we watch Ghost Adventures. The locations they visit are interesting, but really, does anyone actually believe this host? He reminds me of someone I work with (whom I find tiresome--enough said about that). Also, for anyone who doesn't yet know (where've you been?), I'm a huge skeptic of anything supernatural/paranormal. But, like I said, the locations are cool. I so want to go visit these places. :)

In the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Everybody Loves A Compliment

I came across something today that really pisses me off to know. Just this weekend, my friend Mark Mans and I were discussing books, publishing, and how elusive success is. We were commiserating that it seems like all the self-pubbed authors around us seem to be getting rave reviews, which in turn leads to lucrative sales, right? Both of us are slow to turn out stories because we deeply care about creating the best work we can for our readers. In a nutshell, we care about quality over quantity. Meanwhile, many authors (successful authors, I might add) are releasing books in as little as once per month! Some even claim to write some of their books in a single week. I'm not making this up people. :(

I've got two novels available: Majoring in Murder and The Old Royal, in addition to an anthology, An Adverse Anthology. I can assure you, I did not write any of those books in a month, let alone two. Each of those books took me several months to write. The short stories in my anthology took less time, but it did take quite a while to gather enough for a book. The reason the process takes me so long is because I have to edit them. When I finish editing them and feel that they are ready for someone else to read, I always consider the feedback of no less than three beta readers. At the end of that process, I usually go back through it one last time myself and release them into the wild. It's a tedious process, but in my opinion, it's completely worth it for my readers. After all, I want to create the best story I am capable of producing. Now, I'll admit that I know not everyone will like what I create. Writing is very subjective and I am aware of this.

So far, my stories have various reviews on several different distributors; some good, some bad. For instance, at the time of this post, on B&N, my short story Hush, Hush, My Love has received about 22 ratings/reviews (unfortunately, not everyone leaves feedback, just a rating). 10 of those ratings are 1-stars. You can view them yourself here. I'll be honest, it hurts to have those one-star reviews, but the five-stars more than make up for them. On Smashwords, the same story has 5 four-star reviews! I can't explain the diversity between the different distributors. I can tell you this, as an author, those reviews mean everything. Writers need validation for their work. Also, the more positive reviews we get, the better our work looks to other potential readers. It's that word of mouth that tells the next customer that our book is worth reading...or, so I thought. (Before I continue, I will tell you right away that I continue to be hands-off when it comes to my books' reviews).

As I learned today, not all authors have any scruples. I want honest reviews of my work. If someone I know reads one of my stories and feels compelled to leave a review, I always plead with them to be honest. I don't want them to leave me a glowing review because we're friends and they feel obligated. For instance, I received a 3-out-of-5-star rating from a colleague at work because my descriptions "didn't take him there". You know what? I thanked him for his candor and I respect the fact that he was honest with me. However, it seems that there are many authors who participate in cliques that go around leaving one another positive reviews to help each other out. When I learned of this, it made my blood boil. But, today, I learned that some go farther than that: they actually pay third-party services who leave glowing 5-star reviews without ever reading the book and they don't even know the author.

So, while some (possibly only a small subset of us) authors are trying to become successful by truly honest methods, others are simply bypassing the traditional method of producing a quality product in order to fool readers with tens (or hundreds) of purchased, dishonest favorable reviews. This not only pisses me off because they are cutting in the line to success, but it also devalues the honor system that reviews provide while, at the same time, deceiving readers. It makes it harder for me and the rest of the honest writers to succeed. I'm so mad, I don't even know what else to say on the matter without resorting to cursing and breaking something. Below is the original source for the article. I'll let you read it for yourself. As always, thanks for stopping by!

Original article: The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy - The New York Times

Saturday, August 18, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different

As the title suggests, this post is a divergence from my usual posts where I pimp my writing. For those of you who don't already know, I dabble in amateur photography in addition to writing novels and short stories (as well as creating silicone masks and creating photo-realistic drawings, but I digress). My photography started out just being for me, for fun. I bought a Canon EOS Rebel T2i and began experimenting. As I became more familiar with the camera, I purchased more expensive gear to take more interesting photos (star trails, etc.). However, my hoarding the photos I had taken didn't sit well with the rest of the family, who complained about me not uploading them to Facebook or giving them over so they could do it. After all, I had taken many pictures featuring them.

Recently, after visiting an art gallery in La Veta, Colorado, my wife suggested I sell my pictures. She said, "Yours are every bit as good as any of these." Many of those photos hanging on the walls were very good and I highly doubted mine measured up. (Did you know I am extremely self-critical?) I expressed my doubts and she responded by saying she would try to sell them herself if I would give her some of the photos. So, I did. We went through some of the thousands of pictures I have stored on my computer and selected a fraction of them to sell. I uploaded them to a personal portfolio online with a website called Smug Mug.

After researching some other, more established photographers' prices, I set my prices to be very competitive. After all, I'm not looking to get rich (or even quit my day job) by selling my photos. Although, it would be nice and a guy is entitled to his daydreams, isn't he? I simply hope to offer my photos to anyone who thinks there is a place on their wall for something I captured. That would be enough. For instance, a large (24x36 metallic) print was around $300.00. I thought that was ridiculous (although, a metallic picture looks awesome!) and wondered who would part with that much money for a picture. So, I cut it down to just over a hundred dollars! I know, right? That's incredibly cheap compared to any of the other artists.

With all of that said, I hope you'll go check out my portfolio. If you see something you like, something that would look good hanging on your wall, go ahead, get it. Even if you're not in the market to buy art, please, leave a comment on my gallery. You can even leave comments here, good or bad, but hopefully constructive. Lastly, if you're not looking to buy anything, but know someone who is, I would greatly appreciate you passing on word of my pictures. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

40 Whacks!

I'm in a morbid mood, so those with weak hearts may want to skip this post. Well, actually, this post isn't really all that gory. I just discovered that it was 120 years ago today that Lizzie Borden supposedly killed her mother and father.

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

I've been working on a sculpture for a new silicone Halloween mask today, so I'm in a morbid, Halloween state-of-mind, I guess. Anyway, I couldn't help not posting this. Anyone who is familiar with this story is probably just as attracted by the nostalgia of it as they are the morbidity. There's something about really old crimes that pique a certain curiosity in us. Lizzie Borden's case is one such incident.

Did she do it? No one knows for sure and if anyone did know, they're long gone now. Lizzie's story is one for the history books and fodder for fiction writers.

Another, lesser known, axe murder that was never solved was that of the New Orleans Axeman. If this sort of thing gets those synapses firing, go read about it. It's quite interesting, and disturbing. Thanks for stopping by!

Time to make some masks!

It's getting to be that time of year again. There's slightly less than three months until Halloween, my favorite holiday. That means it's time for me to start making some masks. I began sculpting today on one of my ideas, a bust that was supposed to me made entirely from human hands. Can you say difficult?

Well, that idea was quickly abandoned once I realized how difficult it is to sculpt hands. In addition to the actual face, I realized I would have to mold the various hands to place all over it to make it look like they formed the head. I still intend to sculpt this mask, but first, I will need to get some more clay. I'll also need to spend plenty of time on it. Anyone who knows me will tell you that (sometimes) I am not very patient. Well, this is one of those times. I want to see results fast.

I abandoned the hand-head mask for now and ordered another armature so I can do more than one sculpture at once. I removed the couple of hands I had already sculpted and set them aside, then began wracking my brain for another idea. I settled on an impish demon. I can see the image in my head and I am excited about it. It's a big change from the clowns I normally make. Here is a picture I took of the preliminary sculpting session from today (about three hours worth).

I expect another one or two days of sculpting before I'm ready to start the mold-making process and then begin casting. There are some other ideas I had while I was working on this bust, but I think they will require a stiffer material, so I'm considering buying some urethane rubber to make them out of. Keep checking back as I post more pictures of my progress. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Stop the Insanity!

I debated (briefly) about posting on this topic. I wanted this blog to be used strictly for promoting my books and talking about my interests and hobbies. I never intended to use it to discuss any political issues. My wife said, "You may lose readers if you take a side." That may be the case (and maybe all three or four of those readers may leave me), but sometimes you just gotta take a stand. That's what I'm doing now. If you're a Chick-fil-a supporter, let me forewarn you: you might want to leave now.

So, today was the big support-Chick-fil-a day. I didn't eat there. Instead, I ate at Subway. Regardless of the whole controversy, I probably wouldn't have eaten there anyway as I rarely go to Chick-fil-a. A few people where I work went to Chick-fil-a. Seeing who they were, it was no big surprise. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are some of our Constitutional Rights. I served in the military and I believe in preserving those rights. I also believe that anyone who chooses to boycott an organization who wants to deny marriage equality and discriminate against a group of people for different beliefs/practices has every right to do so. After all, it's their right.

I am against discrimination of any form. Regardless of one's race, age, gender, or sexual preference, they should be judged by their character and not for the aforementioned traits. Those do not define who someone is. What really gets me heated are all of the people coming out in support of this blatant discrimination. Do people not think for themselves anymore? As a US citizen, military veteran, and former public safety worker, I feel qualified to say that it really disappoints me to see the way our country is being taken over by people unwilling to think for themselves and treat others as people based on some misguided beliefs. If something isn't done soon, we may resort to burning people at the stake again. Things are getting out of control and it's time for the runaway train to stop!

Okay, I need to stop now. *Whew* I'm beginning to get heated. Heated because there's nothing one person can do to stop the stupidity. After all, stupidity has been around since the dawn of time. It'll always be around. But, I felt like I had to at least say something and I did. I may not have changed anything but I feel a little better for getting that off my chest. And, I hope that maybe this little rant will cause some to stop, step back, and examine their actions more carefully. People should be treated fairly, like we want to be treated. I hope you aren't offended if our ideals differ. It just illustrates the diversity that comprises our nation and gives us something to discuss rationally, like civil people should. Regardless of your thoughts, I still want to thank you for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Vacation in Colorado (with pictures)

I want to apologize to my couple of readers for not posting as frequently as I should. The reason: I'm on vacation at my in-laws' house in Colorado. I've never been to Colorado, so I'm trying to soak it all in. My in-laws have been very hospitable in this area by taking me on hikes to various mountains, buttes, streams, lakes, etc.

While here, I planned to make some progress editing one of my trunk novels, formerly titled The Shadow People, but unfortunately, that has kind of fallen by the wayside. Instead, I've been snapping pictures like crazy. If you could see the scenery here, you would probably understand. I did manage to sit down for about two hours and work on the story though. I've since renamed it Consuming Darkness since I discovered my original title was not at all unique.

Hopefully, I'll carve out some more time to work on the next book. After all, it's been hibernating in a desk drawer for about seven years! Also, it was the first novel I ever wrote. I think it will be worthy of publication after plenty of editing. Look for later posts where I will tell more about it.

Today, we are planning to visit a brewery. I can't wait! In the meantime, let me leave you with some pictures I managed to upload to the interwebs. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review: Incognito

I apologize for not posting recently, but I've been getting my geek on. As per my last post, I've been indulging in learning more about scientific things that interest me, which includes reading books on astrophysics, math, physics, and neuroscience. In addition to this, I am spending time with my youngest son who is visiting me this summer. So, I hope you'll excuse my absence.

During my quasi-sabbatical, I read a book that I felt needed mentioning. Recently, I finished reading Incognito: Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman.

I first saw Dr. Eagleman discussing some of his research into the brain's mysteries on an episode of Nova ScienceNOW with my hero Neil deGrasse Tyson. Dr. Eagleman was conducting experiments to learn whether our brains perceive time differently during traumatic or scary events. This piqued my curiosity a great deal. Not to mention, he seemed like an extremely intelligent and laid back scientist, which is non-stereotypical of the field.
While recently browsing the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble, I saw this book and immediately remembered watching that episode on TV. I took the book down and quickly looked through it. The concepts outlined in the table of contents sounded very interesting.

I know many of you might think that reading a neuroscience book about our brain functionality seems anything but interesting, but, I have to disagree. For instance, Dr. Eagleman tackles subjects such as how we actually experience what we perceive to be reality; how our consciousness is only a facade for the neural subsystems that really drive what we do; how our brains can easily be fooled by illusions; and, how mental illnesses affect our actions, among other things.

If you're at all curious about how that three pounds of gray matter in your head controls who you are and what you do, I highly recommend this book. I promise, you won't be disappointed by the discoveries waiting for you between the front and back cover. In addition to the rich subject matter, Eagleman writes in a way that doesn't leave the average layperson wondering what he's talking about as many scientific books can.

Unlike most of my previous book reviews, I want to finish this one by leaving you with a video of Dr. Eagleman discussing his book. As always, thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Love to Learn

For those of you who don't know me personally, I am a huge fan of learning and education. After all, I'm married to a college professor. Recently, we subscribed to digital cable and I've discovered some great shows on the Discovery Channel and the Science Channel. My two favorite shows are Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman (on the Science Channel) and Head Games (on the Discovery Channel).

In my youth, during high school, I didn't apply myself. In fact, I hated school. I thought education (at least in an academic setting) was pointless. In my naivete, I thought trigonometry and calculus wouldn't help me in any career I could imagine for myself. In addition, I didn't see how any knowledge of Chemistry with its periodic table of elements, or any knowledge of Astronomy would be beneficial in the business world at all. Math and I didn't get along well, either. I'd say math was, single-handly, my worst subject, although, I did ace, go figure.

However, as I've gotten older, I've learned how stupid my mindset was in my youth. Since serving in the Army, I came to realize how important education is. One of the skills I learned in the military was not only how to be self-sufficient, but how to teach myself. Since my discharge, I've taught myself computer programming (and embarked on a career as a software developer)! I read voraciously, both for entertainment as well as to further my knowledge.

Recently, I've purchased books by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, David Eagleman, and Stephen Hawking to name but a few. I also purchased an introductory book on Chemistry and some books on mathematics to help me develop a better relationship with my old nemesis. I want to learn! Education is an equal opportunity friend. It doesn't discriminate based on age. No matter how much you might've hated it in your youth, as I did, education is always there, waiting for you to embrace it. That's what I hope to do now and until the end: embrace education and learn all that I can.

It saddens me to meet someone who embraces ignorance. I hope you're not one of those people, that you also feel a love for education. This might seem very disparate coming from a guy who writes fiction, but not only do I strive to write entertaining stories, I also try to invoke thought in my readers. In my latest novel, The Old Royal, I touch on the aspect of time travel and the various problems one might encounter if we could visit the past.

In my previous post, I apologized for not posting recently and explained that I was attempting to brew some beer during my absence. In fact, I'm doing a lot of different things. I've got several irons in the fire, as they say. With learning math, Spanish, some Chemistry, et al. I've been a busy guy. Hopefully, I won't neglect to post on this blog any time soon. I hope you'll forgive me. In the meantime, if you haven't already gotten my novel, The Old Royal, perhaps you'll indulge me and pick up a copy. Also, let me leave you with a couple of videos. They're quite eye-opening...and fun! Thanks for stopping by!

Through the Wormhole: Is Time Travel Possible?

Chemists from the University of Nottingham explain the element Sodium and its reactions:

The Joys of Brewing Beer

Sorry I haven't posted anything lately. I've been busy doing things with my son who is visiting me for the summer. Typically, I think my son occupies his free time playing video games and not much else. In an attempt to interject some variety into his adolescent life, I decided to let him help me brew a batch of beer.

For my birthday, my wife bought me a beer brewing kit. The kit she selected was a chocolate milk stout from Craft-A-Brew. Below are a few pictures I took of the initial process which only took about an hour and a half to complete.

Steeping the hops:

Fermentation (with carboy):

Another shot of the carboy:

Fermentation with carboy and overflow tube:

I haven't taken any pictures since the initial fermentation process and I'll admit that I think I did something wrong somewhere along the way. The fermentation process went well, I think. The overflow tube bubbled in the glass of water, letting the gases escape and I got a nice build up of suds. However, the suds died down after I installed the breather cap (I think this is supposed to act as a relief valve of sorts). I added the cocoa nibs a week ago per the instructions and have another week to go before the beer is supposed to be ready. However, there doesn't seem to be any carbonation in the carboy and I can see a small layer of sediment in the bottom, which leads me to believe I've screwed up this batch in some way.

I guess I'll find out in a week's time whether or not I screwed it up. If so, I'll purchase another kit and try it again. In the meantime, I have some professionally brewed craft beer in the refrigerator to enjoy. I hope I can eventually create a batch that I've brewed myself as it would be cool to have created some fine beer myself.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's official: The Old Royal has been released!

Yes, you read that correctly. I have finally released The Old Royal. The release that seemed like it would never happen finally did.

Currently, The Old Royal can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, and, for those of you who prefer a physical copy, a paperback edition is available at CreateSpace. Barnes & Noble, as usual, is dragging their feet. I uploaded the necessary files yesterday, and still, they haven't gotten around to making it available. I promise, as soon as B&N gets around to releasing it, I will update my webpage for The Old Royal.

As a special bonus for my readers, I've created a discount coupon over at Smashwords. The coupon will save you 80% off the cover price ($4.99 US), which means you can have a copy for the low, low price of a buck ($1 US)! When checking out, just enter coupon code KN34M to save some dinero.

The Old Royal is a story about Anthony Jessup, a daydreamer working at a dead-end job as a helpdesk technician. Anthony dreams of becoming a famous novelist like his idol, Roger Kurrey. However, Anthony's stories only receive rejections from editors he submits them to.

When Anthony receives an antique Royal typewriter as a gift, Anthony soon discovers that the typewriter has the ability to send him into the past. Anthony devises a plan to turn his dream into a reality, but it comes at a price!

If you could change the past, would you? If so, at what cost?

I hope you'll take advantage of the coupon and grab yourself a copy of The Old Royal. If you enjoyed it, I encourage you to tell your friends and, hopefully, leave a review wherever you obtained your copy. It would certainly help me out. As always, thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury - truly one of the greats

It seems like I've done several remembrance posts lately. I'll be honest, I don't like doing them; they remind me too much of my own mortality.

Today, we lost one of the truly greatest authors of our time, Ray Bradbury, who died at the age of 91. I was first introduced to Ray Bradbury when I was a kid. I didn't read one of his works, but rather, I watched a televised version on Ray Bradbury Theater. That story, Mars is Heaven, has stuck with me ever since (also, I've included at the bottom of this post. Although it's in 3 parts, I encourage you to watch it). The only story since then that has taken its place on my mental pedestal was Octavia Butler's Bloodchild, a truly spectacular work of art!

Since watching that TV episode, I have read several of Bradbury's books throughout the years. I love Fahrenheit 451 as a futuristic dystopia, and sometimes fear that it may actually come true. In addition, I enjoyed Something Wicked This Way Comes, both the book and the movie! There are still some of his stories I haven't read and, in memory of Mr. Bradbury, I may just have to move those up in my reading queue.

So, as promised, here is that version of Mars is Heaven. Please, take the time to watch all three parts. I promise, you won't regret it. Thanks for stopping by!

Mars is Heaven, part I

Mars is Heaven, part II

Mars is Heaven, part III