Thursday, May 30, 2013

So Long, Jack Vance

As a teen I once read an Ace Pocketbook my dad left lying around entitled Eyes of the Overworld. This fantasy tale was set on a future Earth beneath a weak red sun threatening to wink out momentarily. Life is precarious in this dangerous time when science and magic have crossbred. "Overworld" chronicles the doings of a crafty rogue named Cugel who burns every bridge he crosses and often falls prey to his overly clever schemes.

I rushed through the book, then read it again, the writing so compelling, the language so rich and unique, that I immediately became a fan of Jack Vance.

Vance was born the same year as my father and died Sunday at age 96. For over sixty years he wrote science fiction, fantasy and mysteries. He  won Hugo awards for The Dragon Masters and The Last Castle back in the day—both favorites. But my top Vance tales  remained those such as "Overworld," set in a time called The Dying Earth.

As authors go, Vance was quite a character. A blue collar guy who lived in Oakland, California, he believed the sci fi author's role should be muted in terms of publicity so as not to impose his personality between the reader and the world the author had created. He claimed to be in it for the money and never read science fiction. -

 Looking back on my own stories, I often find a turn-of-phrase, an ironic description, a subtle underselling of scene or character that are stamped into my writing genes thanks to many decades of reading Jack Vance.

So journey well, Jack. You were a guy who just wanted to turn a buck telling tales.

I should be so fortunate.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kurt, T.J. and Other Departed Warriors

This Memorial Day I again think of Kurt and T.J.

Imagine you knew a man from Cleveland, Ohio.

This man had one sibling, an older sister.

During Vietnam, he volunteered for dangerous assignments, operating far behind enemy lines.

After the war, he battled drugs and alcohol.

Eventually, he sobered up and went to work for a vending machine company.

For many years, he traveled in a van around Los Angeles fixing coffee and soda machines.

Now imagine you knew two men with the exact same history.  (But different vending machine companies.)

I was honored to have been friends with a pair of guys whose backgrounds meshed in such odd intimate ways. Once I introduced them at a party, figuring they'd have lots in common, but after a few polite minutes they separated.

They'd experienced stranger things.

Kurt served in Marine recon. Based out of Khe Sanh, he operated in Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail on operations so secret that the Americans who died there were never officially acknowledged. Kurt had extended his service to go to Vietnam. He was wounded twice, decorated, and returned home only to be attacked in a bus depot by a man angry over the war. (The man didn't fare well against Kurt who beat him into a fine mist.)

T.J. originally fought with the 12th Infantry near Dak To. He loathed the eerie randomness of combat—here one second gone the next and decided his odds would be better in the  LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol). Instead of waiting to be hit, TJ  crept around North Vietnamese base camps in the Central Highlands making the enemy nervous. He returned to serve out his last few months at Fort Knox, conducting tours of the U.S. Gold Reserve. One night while watching a TV show he started shaking and broke into tears.

Years would pass before he learned about PTSD.

In 2002 I made a business trip to Vietnam. I brought Kurt back a little Buddha and some red clay from Khe Sanh. TJ collected Buddhas so I picked him out a honey in Saigon: a big, fat happy Buddha, smiling like he'd just won the Power Ball,  holding up the Pearl of Knowledge. 
In the end, Vietnam finally claimed them both. Health and psychological problems shortened their lives. But they did the best they could with a bad hand and I value the times we had together.

This weekend I remember them and all who gave their lives in service to the country.

(Based on a post from 2009.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thanks David Linden for the "Death Honk" Nod

Years pass and I gradually remember my manners. My short story about the nature of job interviews as told through a struggle between clowns and bears has been experiencing a small revival since publication in 2010.
At the time, I failed to credit scientist and author David Linden for recommending "Death Honk" to his blog readers. I remedy that now. Thanks, David. Be on the lookout for a companion piece involving rednecks and plague-infested monkeys. 

Number 2 on Google But Why?

Briefly this morning I held the number 2 rank on Google for Wattpads, a position I neither sought nor refused. Curious ranking for a man with generally microscopic page views. What would cause this?

UPDATE: Customization was mentioned as a possible reason. But to what end? I wanted Wattpad, not any mention I ever made about Wattpad.  Ah, but it's gone now. Were it not for the screen shot I would doubt my sanity in this matter.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Work Backwards From Your Deadline


This and other useful tips on wringing the most from your writing time are available courtesy of the Publication Coach.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thanks to Stefan Blitz and Forces of Geek

Did you ever read any? All of them contained words.
In my hustle, with generous doses of 'bustle' thrown in, I have forgotten to thank Stefan Blitz, Editor-in-Chief at Forces of Geek. From November of 2011 to March of this year he was kind enough to post my "Reviews of Films I Have Never Seen." And while the reviews started small and gradually became unseen in their own right, I nevertheless had good, sound fun writing them. Because of my astounding schedule, I have cut back on everything including sleep and time spent on the Russian-Girls-Want-You website. Thanks for the platform, Stefan, and may your page views swell to an appropriate fullness.  

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Elmore Leonard's Rules of Writing

Image: Listmaker
Tips from a guy who has written a couple of novels including a book on writing.
  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
  5.  Know that if you're me, anything you write will be made into a movie. Anything. Seriously, anything.  (I added this one.)
And, of course, his famous advice:
"If it sounds like writing, I re-write it."

Thursday, May 02, 2013

My Writing Schedule

Since it now consumes the bulk of my day, here's a peek into my authorial life:

1. Get up around 4:45 and write down my goals for 2013, including publishing 3 ebooks on by Dec. 1.

2. Write for an hour before breakfast.

3. Write four to five more hours.

4. Go to the gym.

5. Write another hour.

6. Spend an hour researching the ebook biz.

7. Eat dinner.

8. Watch an hour of reality show crime TV.

9. Go to bed by 9:30.

That's five days a week, with only two hours of writing and one hour of researching on Saturday. On Sunday I clean off my desk, pay the bills, and write out the next week's schedule. I will have three finished ebooks—probably two novellas and a novel—written by Thanksgiving. No one is making me do this. No one is paying me to do this. But there has never been a better time to be an author. Ebooks have changed the publishing landscape. I'm climbing on board before head implants replace the Kindle.