Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Roland Fantasy Series.


Well, as you can see in the book-list column to the right, the second book of the Roland of The High Crags series is out. After a long wait, it finally has seen the light of day. Now--what's interesting to me--is book one of the series has suddenly found an audience. After being out for a few months, suddenly the book has shot up into the rarefied air of Amazon ratings to where it could almost be considered being a fantasy hit.

What I am waiting to see is if there is a kind of tag-team match where the readers who liked the first book bleeds off into the second book and continues to follow the series along. As of yet, that hasn't happened.

Book One is called Evil Arises

Book Two is Treacherous Brethren.

(both can be found in the book-list to your right)

Quickly sketching a summation of both books goes like this. For over a millennia, two sentient species have been raging war against each other. One human--one dragon. Humanity came first and established suzerainty over the entire world. The humanoid-shaped Great Dragon came next. And with them came their dark dragon gods who promised they would one day rise up and destroy mankind. And this would be accomplished through the guidance and leadership of five mythical creatures called The Five Princesses,or sometimes referred to as The Five Sisters.

Four of the sisters have come and gone. The Fifth Sister is alive. But is now only a small child. Not until she reaches adulthood will she fulfill the gods ultimate role; that being the destruction of humanity itself. And as a child, she is quite vulnerable to the ravages of both man and dragon.

I am not going to say more about the story line--leaving that up to you to find out for yourself. But I do have a couple of comments left.

I am currently into writing the third book of the series, entitled Desperate Pawns.  And so, here is comment number one; 

Does the child live or die? 

As a child she is just a child. An innocent creature, albeit filled with unbelievable magic she really doesn't know how to control. But still only a child. She does not become evil until she reaches adulthood. Or maybe not. Her Fate is yet undecided.Those who are trying to save her believe neither in Fate, nor her twin-sister, Destiny. So do you take the chance and hope you can guide the child to adulthood and change dragon prophecy of her becoming evil? Or do you remove her from the scene now, and in doing so, remove dragon prophecy altogether.

My second comment is more a statement. I had planned to make this a 10-volume series. Ten books. But maybe not. It's taken almost six years (maybe more!) to get just two volumes in print. And although I believe ten story lines are there for the taking, I'm not too sure there is enough time to get them done.

I mean, come on! I'm a writer. I've got hundreds of characters, with their own stories, popping around in my head and demanding to be written. So, being human, the concept of Time is finite when it comes to living a life. So who do I pick and choose to free?

Yes, it is indeed an interesting conundrum. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Don't Forget To Add Some Humor

As you may or may not know, I like to write mystery novels. Most of the time, these novels drift toward the dark side of genuine whodunits--the classical novels of the past which offered up deep puzzles to solve filled lots of red-herrings, false clues, multiple suspects, and dead bodies splayed out across the landscape like some madman's midnight garden of murder.

Okay. Dark and grim. But what about inserting a little humor into these nightmares? Not the aching belly-laughs of slapstick comedy. But maybe the kind of humor that might only make you smile suddenly and without warning. Or the kind of humor that offers up a chuckle or two as you tag along with a couple of characters who interact with each other in unpredictable ways. Humor designed to make either the protagonist or the antagonist more human. More interesting to the reader.

Below is the opening few paragraphs of another Turner Hahn/Frank Morales police-procedural novel (yes, I know; I talk about these two characters far to often. I actually DO write about other characters.) The novel will be called Two To Worry About. It'll be the fifth book in the series. And you'll instantly note I've broken one of the cardinal rules about writing. Never open a book fiction novel about the weather (this will lead into another discussion about The Rules of Writing Fiction at a later date).

Here's the opening. Two characters interacting with each other. See if it elicits a smile and stretches your
lips back just a little bit. And consider the thought about how the opening suggests how the entire novel is going to be like.





It was raining. And no, pilgrim—not just the polite, early summer rain most prefer to see. This was a hot summer’s rain. A late August thunderstorm with jagged flashes of billion-kilowatt lightning strokes and teeth-rattling claps of thunder. It was like watching the one-eyed Odin opening the flood gates in Valhalla and stepping back and laughing hysterically at what was about to come. It was a biblical deluge straight off the fingertips of a pissed-off Old Testament god.

It was raining. And it wasn’t going to let up until it was damn good and ready.

Standing on the top step of the apartment building, eyeing the rain and the growing Venice-like canals beginning to build in the streets, I was beginning to think maybe I should add a WWII Army amphibious duck to my collection of Muscle Cars from the 60’s through the 90’s. But the cautious opinion changed to a firm commitment when my partner-in-crime stepped up on the top step with me and shook off the rain like a wet husky shaking the water out of his furry coat.

“Just got the word, buddy. There’s a report out a house boat sank on the Patterson bypass near 123rd street. Sixteen people and two monkeys had to be rescued by fire department rescue helicopters. The city’s Emergency Preparedness Office said no one should drive their cars unless they have diving gear in the car with them. You do have life-preservers and a couple of pairs of aqua-lungs in the Shelby GT's trunk, don’t you?”

I half turned and eyed Frank and grunted noncommittally.  

Frank thinks he’s a comedian. And most of the time he can be with his odd, twisted sense of humor. But hard to imagine a six-foot-four, three hundred pound red-headed genetic freak to be humorous. Scary as hell, oh yeah. But funny? His brand of humor—and even the man himself—are acquired tastes. You either like the guy. Or you don’t. I happen to like the guy. Most of the time.

But maybe not today.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Demise of James Bond

 The latest James Bond movie, No Time To Die, has certainly jolted the Bond world to the core and sent avid fans spiraling off into dark chasms  of furious displeasure. Most critics, its seems, did not see the Bond they grew with and loved in this final flick featuring Daniel Craig. Instead, they saw a pastiche of something vaguely mimicking the the true Bond; the true Bond being the misogynist killer who uses women like a chef using a set of dirty crockery pots in his kitchen. An over-achiever who defied all hardships and always came out the victor. A killer who, in all honesty, trusted no one and had no true friends to call his own.

Ultimately, I think this is a sad state of affairs for a movie-buff to posses. In the fictional world a movie fan lives in, one has to ask the question; Do fictional creations live and breathe like we do? Or are they nothing more than ersatz replicas of what most of us wish we were.

Every movie goer faces the decision in one fashion or another. Maybe they don't realize they do--but they do. So let me be the contrarian here. I would like to disagree with the more popular opinion.

I actually liked No Time To Die. And I thought it was a proper and fitting end to a marvelous Daniel Craig run as James Bond.

In this last movie, we see a vulnerable James Bond. A more humane--and human--James Bond. We see a man filled with regrets. With the weight of past mistakes weighing him down mentally. With loves lost--in many respects to his bad decisions--adding to that emotional weight. We see a man who has seen friends, many of his friends, die in front of his eyes. We see, in the end, a man weighted down by his conscience and has become extremely weary carrying that load.

And, in the end, we see a man who realizes he will never acquire the one thing which gives him the fullest measure of satisfaction. The one thing which might hold back the emotional weight bearing down on him that might, just might, allow him to become alive again. 

He discovers he has a child of his own. A child born to a woman he once loved--and actually still loves--but rejected because of  what he truly is. 

Frankly, to me, this story was like a modernized version of a Greek tragedy. The hero of the story is not actually a true hero. In reality, he's a flawed soul condemned by the Fates because of that flaw he has always denied to himself. Until too late.

I can identify with this version of James Bond. A flawed man who knew it was time to accept his Fate. Accept his Fate and allow those he deeply loves to move on with their lives. Without him.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Near Immortality


Forty years ago. 

Forty years ago my novel, Banners of The Sa'yen came out as a mass-market paperback. It was supposed to be the first of a multi-volume series featuring a human forcibly marooned on a planet by some powerful entity. Having a strange name, the locals find him--or to be more precise, he finds the locals and saves them from a terrible death--and they look upon him--mistakenly--as the long-prophesied return of their god of war. And the adventure begins.

I was barely in my twenties. I had defied the odds as a writer and had my novel pulled out of the proverbial slush-pile all traditional publishers seems to have and was published. I was in heaven. I just knew the second book in the series would be immediately picked up. I was on my way to become the inevitably poor and infamous paperback writer.

It didn't happen. The publishers rejected the second book and told my that 'fantasy was slowly fading away' and they were looking to change their format. 

But crying over dreams past is not why I'm writing this little diatribe. It's the 'something else' of late which caught my attention about this book.

Forty years a few young teenagers bought the book--and fell in love with it. And, amazingly if you ask me, never forgot about it. One such teenager grew up, became an adult, eventually a parent, and had his young teenage child discover the book stored away in the attic of her home. And SHE enjoyed reading the book!

Recently at least three of these once young teenagers have contacted me indirectly through Amazon by leaving reviews. Yes, the book can be found on Amazon and a few other sites. And yes, you can even buy brand-new copies of the book (although its been out of print for at least 39 years or so.) How that's possible I don't know.

But this is the point I am trying to make. If you are a writer, and you become published, your words linger for generations in time and space. Someone will read your book. Maybe not too many 'someones' who will turn into a rich and famous author. But someone will.

And its possible your words may never be forgotten. More than that--your words may become the catalyst which changes that person's life. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Your words as a writer can give a sudden ray of Hope to those who never expected to experience in their lives. Or they can have the opposite effect. And sometimes, thankfully, these select few fans who have never forgot you, reach through the ether and vast wastelands of the internet and contact you. Returning, in full circle, that little ray of Hope you, so long ago, gave them.

And, of course, asking you to keep writing and continue to the series they so lovingly remember.

Will the Sa'yen series continue? Hmm. Maybe. Maybe not. But I do have ideas. Ideas of maybe kinda resurrecting the Sa'yen in a slightly different setting.

We'll see.

Monday, October 25, 2021

The perfect Anti-Hero

 Let's talk about the anti-hero. Those creations in fiction where the protagonist can't be easily branded as 'a hero'. Nor, for that matter, as 'a villain.' He . . . or she . . . (hmmm, interesting point; do we actually have a female character in literature who could be classified as the anti-heroine?) is someone who is not clothed all in white to represent the Good Person. Nor all in black to represent 'The Bad Guy.'

They are creatures who walk both in the light and the dark. The Good and the Bad. The Ying and the Yang. When you walk on both sides of the color spectrum you are clothed in layers of gray of various shades. Depending on which side of the spectrum you tend to dither in, your clothing can be either very light gray. Or a dark gray hovering on the precipice of sliding into the dark quagmire of being black.

The anti-hero as a character was a really big thing back in the 60's The Counter Culture, the Protest Societies, the anti-Vietnam War rallies--all contributed the the creation of a hero who was not just the do-gooder all the time. But one who didn't mind getting down and dirty when it became necessary. But since the 60's we've seen this slow and inexorable march back to a world where everything is either Light or Dark. Good or Bad--with nothing in the middle to confuse one's mind in the process.

But, if you are a fan of this oddity of a character, all is not lost. Perhaps the best fictional creation ever dreamed up by a set of writers can be found in the character by the name of Raymond Reddington. The main character on the television drama, The Blacklist. James Spader plays the Reddington, and quite frankly, his portrayal is mesmerizing. He lies, he cheats, he organizes, he manipulates people like an evil genius, he keeps secrets he refuses to divulge and sometimes he murders innocent people--but he also does good as well. Sometimes spuriously for no other reason than he wants to do something nice.

In short, he is the prefect representation of the anti-hero.

Reddinton is a very complex character and James Spader pulls this magical portrayal out of a hat magnificently. A simple description of Reddington is impossible. Eight seasons of The Blacklist have flown by with remarkable rapidity. The ninth season has just started on NBC. With some major changes in the supporting characters around him. The question is, has Reddington changed? Is he the same person of old?

We'll have to ride along to find out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Do book-trailer videos work?

 That's the question. Do book-trailer videos work? How, and where, do you post these videos in order to spread the message out to the widest range of potential readers? How long should a video be? What sites are out there expressly designed to help authors who delve into this medium?

I haven't a fracking' clue.

To say I am taking baby-steps in exploring this venue would be mind-numbing understatement. But I'm looking into it.

So far, I've had three videos created for me. Two .30-second ones, and one a little over 1-minute in duration. All three, I think, came out pretty good looking. I'm going to share with you the longer of the three. It is your task (if you so choose to take the mission, Mr. Phelps)  to tell me if it feels long enough, or if it is too short. Should I stick with just music as a background flashing over text? Or should I find a narrator to read voice it appropriately?

Here goes. The ad;

If you want to see the .30-second ads, go to the right and click on the book face for Evil Arises, or the one for Murder Is Our Business. On the Amazon page, scroll down until you see the video and hit that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Art in a Bookcover's Art

 Let's talk about the art in a book cover's art. I . . . we . . . have talked about this before. But it's always good to cycle it around and delve into it a little more. Or maybe I should call it the science in the art of a book cover's art.

The question I am asking is simple. What exactly is it that art in a book cover is supposed to convey to the reader?

Now this is not as simple as it may sound. I can hear your guffaws and raspberries now aimed in my direction. Obviously, you said, for an answer to the question, something like this; "The art in a book cover is supposed to capture the attention of a potential reader."

Fair enough. On the surface of the issue, it is an adequate answer. Yes. Art on a book cover is supposed to attract the attention of a potential reader. But my contention is this . . . merely attracting a potential reader's interest is not enough. Nice artwork can be very attractive. It can rouse a modicum of interest in all of us. But was the art designed to compel the potential reader to stop and seriously consider looking deeper into the possibility of purchasing the book?

Look at the above black-and-white image of one of my characters. What two images attract your interest the most? The character above is a a hit-man named Smitty. I asked the Spanish artist, Javier Carmona, to create an image of a man with hypnotic eyes. Eyes that would make you-the-reader pause and seriously look at. And then I asked him to put splotches of blood, in livid color, splattered across his face.

The eyes and the blood made you stop and look. And they made your imagination catch fire as to who this person is and how dark will be the story found within.  Or . . . at least, that's what I am betting on.

Here's another example. I write another series about an art thief who steals masterpieces of art and replaces them with exact copies. An art thief who is serving in the Royal Flying Corps of World War One. Art history, military history, and an intriguing character. So how do I package that all together?

By doing this.

Scottish artist, Jay Stringer created this image for me of a RFC fighter flying in the cloudy, rain-filled skies of France fighting German fighter planes. I asked specifically for this kind of image, knowing how many, many, many readers out there are armchair military history buffs. I'm betting on the possibility the reader will first be attracted and drawn into a rip-roaring tale of military history. And discovering a secondary delight in finding a character who is an art-thief and accomplished adventurer.

Here's another example. Another series I write (yes, I know . . . perhaps too many series to write in such a short period of time. But what the hell. The plots and characters keep popping into my head. What else am I supposed to do?)

The main character is a retired Army Ranger coming back to the only place he ever called home. A home filled with mostly bad memories. But with a few good ones as well. A home situated in the heart of probably one of the emptiest places on earth--the wide open plains of the Texas Panhandle. Necessity compels him to go to work as a county deputy sheriff. Where the county's emptiness and loneliness is further enforced within his psyche

The emptiness of his home county, the stillness of the air--the loneliness of  his life--all have to be projected into the book cover's artwork. Creating the image to fulfill those requirements takes planning and imagination before the actually image is created. But if it is done correctly, the image alone my tip the scales and compel the potential reader in becoming an actual reader.

Like maybe this image by British artist Jon Stubbington created for me in this cover.

The conclusion to my theory.

The artwork must be exceptional. But the planning before the artwork is created must be well thought out and imagined first within the writer's mind/