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!