Saturday, March 24, 2012

What happened to Saturday?

When I was a child, Saturdays were great. At least, as far as I remember. There was no school, plenty of time to play with friends, and a plethora of cartoons on all the network stations, which consisted of about three or four different networks. Good times.

Now, all of that seems to have changed since my adulthood. I'll be forty years old in April and I feel like I'm turning into that old man down the road all of us kids used to fear and make fun of. The old man who would yell at you, "Keep off my grass!" as he shook his fist in the air and threaten to call the police or your parents. Okay, I don't think I'm really that much of a curmudgeon, but I think I know why most old people become crotchety: they're forced out of their comfort zone with unwanted changes.

I know that's not a brilliant observation from an enlightened academic. Hell, I'm not professing to be some great social psychologist or anything of the like. It's just that as I get older, I realize just how different things are today in contrast to when I was younger. But, I'm digressing.

The reason for this post? Let me give you just a bit of back story first. Although I write novels, I still have a day job. I work as a programmer for an eCommerce company. (I know. There was no such position when I was a kid, not even in high school.) This past week was rough. We were trying to release software and the project had been huge! Every time it went before our Quality Assurance team, they would find some bug or other and kick back to us to fix. Well, since this project was so big, we were scrambling to fix all of the glitches in the system. As one of my colleagues so eloquently put it, it was like shoving three tons of shit through a one ton pipe. I couldn't agree more. And shove we did! Suffice it to say, I didn't have much time (or desire) to do any writing. After all, The Old Royal is in the hands of my second beta reader, so why shouldn't I relax and enjoy some down time?

I woke up early this morning, showered, shaved, and relaxed on the sofa with the TV on. We don't get that many channels, only seventeen or so because we refuse to pay the cable company exorbitant sums of money for hundreds of channels of even more shit. Besides, I enjoy sitcoms and have a few I watch frequently on the few channels we have. However, the weekend (during the first part of the day, anyway) appears to be devoid of entertainment. Well, that is to say, unless you enjoy watching political round tables, save-the-planet shows, half-hour (sometimes even whole-hour) infomercials, kids' shows that are absolutely dreadful (what happened to Bugs Bunny?), and, well, that's pretty much it for the channels I get. I'm sure there's something worth watching on one of the cable shows out there.

Instead of sounding more like the curmudgeon I must appear to be, I suppose I'll work on a Halloween mask sculpture and enjoy drinking a curmudgeon. That sounds relaxing to me. Thanks for putting up with my rant.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2012

For those of you who don't know from my name, I'm half Scot and half Irish. So, it should come as no surprise that today means no more to me other than drinking beer with friends and having a good time. Of course, this is typically how I spend time with friends and I drink at least one beer nearly every day. I don't drink because of my ancestry (I don't think), but because I love beer.

I'm not the type of person who believes in superstitions, but I do believe in leprechauns. Don't believe that they exist? Fine. Here's proof...

In all seriousness, I hope you have a relaxing, safe, and happy St. Paddy's day. I will be spending mine with friends and family at a nearby Taco Mac, where I happen to be a Brewniversity member, working toward my Bachelor's. After all, the Beer-of-the-Month is Guinness, Harp, and Smithwick. Mmmm good.

So raise a glass of Guinness (or Harp or Smithwick's--but please, no Budweiser!) Sláinte!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review (Twofer!): The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale and Two-Way Split by Allan Guthrie

I haven't done any book reviews lately and today seemed like a good time to play catch up, so I decided to give you a two-for-one deal. I am feeling especially saucy since I finished my second round revisions of The Old Royal and handed it off to my second beta reader. (BTW, it should be coming to an ebook retailer soon, so keep an eye out! Of course, stay tuned here and you'll know before anyone else.)

First, let me tell you about Joe R. Lansdale's The Bottoms. I got the paperback from Barnes & Noble because I had heard Joe's name mentioned by some authors I follow on social media. I had never read any of his material and this book's synopsis really intrigued me. It's a mystery that takes place in the south during the Depression. This sounded right up my alley. I'm glad I took a chance on it because I wasn't disappointed.

Lansdale, I discovered, is a fantastic writer. His descriptions are spot on and his character development is phenomenal.

He paints the story in your mind flawlessly. The story is told by an elderly Harry, recounted from memories of his childhood, about discovering the body of a murdered black woman. Harry's father is the constable in their county and begins an investigation to determine who killed the woman. More bodies are discovered and several people are suspected. In addition to the mystery of who the killer is, there is a local legend Harry is faced with confronting, that of the Goat Man.

While this is mainly a mystery, it is also a coming-of-age story about Harry and his sister. In addition, it tackles race relations in the south during the early thirties. Lansdale seems to have really done his research with this book and nailed the dialect in his dialogue without weighing the reader down with unnecessary punctuation, which is a fine line to balance.

I discovered a zombie anthology at B&N that featured a story by Joe and looked up that story in the book. Since this was the only book of his I'd read, I wanted to see if this was just a fluke or if his other work is just as good. Now, I'm not a zombie fan (aside from The Walking Dead, which I love!) as I feel it's been well mined. However, Lansdale's tale in the anthology seemed to be on par with this book. The dialogue was strong as were the characters. I gave The Bottoms 5 out of 5 stars and plan to read more of his work. If you want a southern crime story that will keep you turning the page, I suggest you get a copy of this book!

The second book in this twofer is Allan Guthrie's Two-Way Split. This is a crime drama that takes place in the UK, Ireland to be precise. There are several characters whose paths cross and the plot becomes a tangled web of intrigue. In additions to the superb and engaging plot, there is a central theme on the title throughout the story, which I found to be beautifully executed.

Now, I'm not typically a big fan of British authors because I become distracted by the use of their slang.

It differs so much from ours that I find it difficult to follow and lose interest in the story. That was not the case with Guthrie's Two-Way Split. Sure, he uses quite a bit of British slang, but it's easy to pick up on in the context he uses it. Not to mention, his characters are some bad asses. I really enjoyed the action in this book and the conclusion. Although, there was one small section where I became confused by a character. This, however, turned out to be straightened out further on as I read and completely understood.

It's extremely rare for me to say this about British authors, but I intend to check out some more stories by Allan Guthrie. He did such an excellent job with this book that I want to see what else he is capable of. So, if you want to read a kick-ass hard-boiled crime story from the UK, you need to get a copy of Allan Guthrie's Two-Way Split. I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised.

I hope you'll pick up one of these (or both) books and enjoy it (them) the way I did. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

One of those days

I've been juggling several projects recently. I'm excited about getting through another round of editing for The Old Royal. That just means it's inching closer to publication. I know there are some guys I work with who will be happy to hear that. But, alas...

On the tail of the good news comes some not-so-good news. Work on Rabbit on the Run has slowed to a stop. It seems my motivation to write dries up when I sit down to work on it. I'm still excited about the story. It just seems like Royal is sapping my motivation. Who knows? Perhaps when I get The Old Royal out the door things will pick up for Rabbit. This doesn't mean I'll let this story slip through the cracks. Hear me now and believe me later: I fully intend to complete this novel and have it published this year.

Of course, there is also Lathem's Lament to look forward to. I've already completed one editorial pass on that story, so I don't have to contend with creating something anew. This is perhaps the only occasion when editing isn't such a drag. After much thought, I've decided to release Lament and Rabbit simultaneously. I came to this conclusion after I realized that I was jumping around genres. Since it is a Southern Gothic and Rabbit also has similar characteristics, I've decided it would be best to release them together. That way, I can give my readers who want crime fiction a book while also reaching out to some new readers. Lament is a book I wrote several years ago and I refuse to see my efforts go to waste. Besides, I really like the story and think others will, too.

However, this post wasn't meant to be a status update. I wanted to express my frustration with the state of my writing. On the surface, it seems like I'm not being very productive. My blog posts are lagging, stories seem to be stalling in progress, I'm becoming distracted by external activities, and I've gained some weight. Yeah, I know, that last one has nothing to do with writing. But, it still sucks, especially since I was so good last year and lost 50 pounds.

Now that I give it more consideration, I think I'm just in a temporary funk. My writing hasn't really hit any brick walls. This is just a temporary mental thing that everyone experiences from time to time. I just need to stop dwelling on it and move on. I'm about to meet with a writer-friend for our weekly lunch where we talk about reading, writing, and practically anything else that interests us. I always enjoy our discussions because we're very like-minded. I'm sure it'll be fun and I'll get motivated again. Thanks for stopping by and listening to me rant. I promise, I'll try not to do this very often.