Friday, December 30, 2011

The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays

So if you ever travel across Europe, and layover at the worst airport in the world (CDG) remember, the 24

Euros you pay to store your bags, and the 18 Euros you spend on the train, and all the time you spend trying to see one of the most renowned museums in the world will be wasted if you are doing this on a Tuesday...because unlike every museum in the rest of the civilized world, the Louvre is not closed on Monday, it is closed on Tuesday. I know, serious bummer. If I were smarter I would have planned this out better and checked the website. Instead, I show up like a dumb American asking...why isn't there a line?

Duhh.

The worst part is that in trying to get to my first choice museum on the day they were closed, I totally got behind the other 8,000 people that wanted to go to the Louvre and went there second choice Museum, the Museum d'Orsay, instead.

But hey, I did do a little cafe on the banks of the Seine, and had a cappuccino and a croissant and was dissed by a snotty french waiter, so it's not like I missed out on the whole Paris experience.


The last photo is entitled 'self portrait with jet lag and bed head'

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry Christmas

I hope that you all had a Merry Christmas (or if Eastern Orthodox, will have in about a week). Mine was great, including a whorl-wind trip from Georgia, through the world's worst airport (CDG), two days on the ground with my wonderful wife and kids, and back. I reindeered my way back and forth, spreading as much Christmas cheer as humanely possible...and I even worked on my NIP on the plane, and the train, and sitting on the floor of the terminal of the worst airport in Europe (CDG).

Yes, It was a little cloudy in Paris, but no lines at the tower!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Good listeners

One of the things I enjoy the most about performances in Tbilisi is the audience. Performances that I have attended in the States,ballet, classical, opera have much more staid responses (with the exception of country and rock concerts of course- those people go nuts). But not here, Georgian audiences are really generous. And it's a heartfelt generocity that seems to be part of the culture. I attended a Concert at the Didi Darbazi (Grand Hall) with some friends Saturday night. The 200th Anniversary of Liszt played by Alberto Nose (this is a performance with orchestra in 2005 but last night he was up there all by himself), a well noted Italian Pianist. His performance was great (though I was on the lookout for the Hungarian Rhapsody -how can you have a Liszt concert without that?) but alas, other pieces were played that I didn't know. The audience didn't seem to mind. After the performance they wouldn't stop with the clapping. Poor Alberto came out for four ovations after.

The only thing that would have made it better would have been if my wife could have gone as well, but alas, she's back in the states. I'll join them for Christmas in less than a week. So excited...

Oh, and I'll have the long, long flight, with the long long layovers to work on the WIP. You keep telling me you want to see it done, and I'm trying to be a good listener too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Crunch before Christmas

Another weekend and another Ballet. Yay. I feel so cultured. This one was 'Laurencia', a rousing tale featuring a peasant uprising against the oppressive Spanish aristocracy. It was put together during the Soviet period (you remember that don't you, proletariat's of the world uniting to overthrow the bourgeoisie and install a criminalized despotic ruling class?). But they did put together some very classy music and dance!

My favorite part of the evening was seeing the wave of little girl audience members, in their best outfits, all practicing pirouettes in the lobby after. Very cute.

Most people get to this time of year really look forward to the holiday. Me too, but I also dread the two weeks before Christmas where I try to pack in as much extra work as I can into the short space I have before the holiday weekend, so that I can enjoy it guilt-free. (Probably not much novel writing in my immediate future.)

But I am hoping to make time for a Lizst concert next Saturday here in Tbilisi. The old boy would have been 200 this past October, after all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Infamousness

Seventy years ago today at zero-seven-forty-eight in the morning, a vanguard of ninety Nakajima B5Ns preceded a Tsunami-like wave of aircraft which a swept into Pearl Harbor and changed the course of history. You all know that right, today was Pearl Harbor day, the day that went down in Infamy?

The world would likely be a very different place if not for the events of that one day, that one 'AI' strike on the conflicted, politically complacent, isolationist pond of post-depression America. All those ripples. I wouldn't be here if not for it. Okay that might be a stretch, but my father was an Air Force NCO, and he did go to Germany in the 1960s because America still had troops stationed there, which we had because the Allies won WWII, and while there he met a hot dutch chick, and the rest is my history.

International relations theory teaches us that there are essentially four elements of National power; Diplomatic, Informational, Miltary and Economic (DIME). Nation-states exert power or ensure security through these four means. Primarily. So what motivated the Japanese politico-military decision makers to believe that they had exhausted the DIE and were ready to exert the M? Much good scholarly work out there if you're interested.

And what of the young men that participated? Both sides. What did Captain Fuchida think as he led his men in that loud, slow 'Kate'? If he was like most Aviation Captains I know (or was) he had compartmentalized most everything else and was desperately trying to make sure he didn't screw it up. Keep formation, stay on vector, hey watch your altitude Mitsuo, where are the American planes and ADA, which target should I select, did I arm the Torpedo release squibs...

Little things and big things, eh?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ogres

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to those of you who really know me that I enjoy classical music. You wouldn’t know to look at me, I know, and it doesn’t seem to fit with the kettlebell post, nor the Army experiences, but hey what can I say? I’m complicated. Ogres are like onions, right? Anyway, one of the nice things about living in Tbilisi is that they have a really vibrant arts scene. (I’ve hit 2 ballets, 3 opera’s, 6 concerts and a symphonietta since the end of September!) All lovely, some really good, some a little lame, but I attended another performance on Friday that I really really enjoyed.

I think I’ve mentioned that being notified (in English) of events is a challenge here. The system works for the locals, but not so well for the uninitiated, so I often stumble upon these performances. The Friday performance was like that. I saw a poster on the side of the Grand Hall (didi darbazi-it says so over the door in the picture) of the Tbilisi State Conservatory, (it’s on the same street as my gym) and puzzled out that it was a young lady named Irma Gigani that played piano. Fortunately there was an English-speaking gentleman in line who turned to me, and out of the blue said, “You are American.” How did he know? I thought I was blending in sooo well. Well, I pointed to the poster and asked if he knew anything about the performance. He read it and said, “Some girl is graduating from her high school and this is her performance.”

I thought that would be sweet. I’m a Dad, I’ve been to dozens of my children’s performances, so I thought it would be nostalgic. I got tickets for me and a coworker (and her partner) and we went. It wasn’t what I expected. Apparently Miss Gigani is a 15 year old child prodigy, has played all over the world, comes from an arts family, etc. A far cry from what I expected. She played Chopin’s Piano Concerto with symphony. Awesome job.

I also hit another performance Saturday night. Shuman and Shubert. Also good. I know, I promised not to let these distractions get in the way of the next book (people are starting to ask when it will come out) so I promise to work on my book today, need to get it up over 60K words. There’s a ballet tonight, but it’s interpretive and I think I’m all cultured out. I might have to catch up on an episode of ‘Spartacus; Blood and Sand’ instead... Fit better?

Oh and the irony of my pointing out that I find it ironic that others have a preconception about my tastes and abilities, in a post where I had a preconception about a high school students abilities is not at all lost on me…ogres love irony too.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ode to the Kettlebell

A friend of mine mentioned he had seen the picture of the Gym I go to in Tbilisi. Real proud of you, I say. But the subject came up as to what sort of equipment it has. Pretty basic, plates, bars, benches, racks, nothing fancy. Not as good as the gym I have in the loft of my barn, but fine. Oh, my barn gym; I spent a year collecting used gym equipment from the DoD DRMO. DRMO is the place where obsolete or broken DoD equipment is offered to the public (remember those apocryphal tales of jeeps still in the crate?). 'Obsolete' is a silly word to use for cast iron dumbbells and plates that soldiers used over the years. Wire brush the rust, a coat of black spray paint and it's beautiful. And it weighs the same as it ever did.

One thing I don't have in my gym that this gym has is a set of kettlebells. I have two 25pounders, but nothing like they have in the Tbilisi Gym. 16, 24 and 32 kilo Kettlebells. (35, 52 and 70 pounders). Remember we talked about Poods before? 1, 1.5 and 2 pood kettlebells. The reason I don't have more in my gym is that they're too new a fad in the US for me to find used ones (yes, I'm that cheap- but its really more of a sport). There are many here in Tbilisi, as in the US it is called the 'russian' kettlebell.

Anyway if you have a chance to grab one of these, or they have them at your gym (or you have a big coffee can, nylon rope and some concrete) I recommend it. The workouts are great to rotate into your routine. (Check these out) I guess you can tell I just got back from the gym right?Remember though, this isn't a magic piece of equipment. You have to use it. Alot. Consistently. And if you do, the results you realize will be 'owed to the kettlebell'. *

(Ah, I kill me!)

* Just because I linked to a cross-fit vid, doesn't mean I want you cross-fit-fanboys thinking I'm drinking the cross-fit coolaide... even if your workouts are tough they're still silly...and of course predispose you to repetitve stress injuries (torn rotator cuff, torn bicep, herniated discs) and rhabdomyolysis...just sayin, there's a balance between working hard enough and too hard.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Publishing

We all know what happened when the music industry coupled digitization of music formats and the internet: Chaos. (From a business perspective). Napster. File sharing. Torrent. College kids going to jail for sharing their music collections over the web. Anarchy. But the publishing industry seems to have eased into both digitizing books and the web in a little more orderly fashion. I'm not talking about Amazon, or other distributors of paperbooks on the internet, but rather digital publishing and distribution of 'ebooks'. (Which Amazon had a hand in with the kindle, of course).

In the 'olden days' (last year) authors would write a book, seek representation (an agent), find a publishing house, work with an editor and the marketing department, the book would be launched and sell hundreds of thousands of hardback copies, followed by hundreds of thousands more copies when it was released in paperback. Now, not every book went down this path, but this is more or less the Rube Goldberg process. I went down this same road, got really positive feedback from agents (but no representation) shopped my book at the big houses (positive feedback, but no thanks), the medium houses and then small presses (more than one offer to publish each book from small presses). Both STG and GOB were, as you know, published by small presses.

In order for a publishing house of the Old Guard to invest in a book they have to really believe that it will make them money. Cold hard truth; it isn't about literary merit, or the story that is told, it is about being able to move merchandise. (Most celebrity kiss and tell books have very little merit for instance, and their 'authors' rarely actually write much of the book- but... everyone wants a copy of Justin Beaver's autobiography, right?) Every rejection letter I received contained a phrase related to not being able to sell many copies. No sour grapes on my part, they were right. My books have sold in the hundreds of copies, not thousands (combining print and ebook sales). Now with stronger marketing support they might have sold more, but ...

There are other publishing venues. 'Vanity presses' for instance have been around for years. These are publishing houses that you pay to publish your book through. Some authors have done this with the thought selling their books (and there have been commercial successes). I didn't want to go down this path because I think it's easy to get myopic about your own work, and I wanted an external gut check. My Mom liked the book, my friends liked my book, I believed in it and it was the best book I could write at the time I wrote it, but how did it fair as a subjectively ranked, competent work of genre fiction?

Hey guess what? They did fine. Almost universally positive reviews (one guy really panned STG due to the editing- which has been fixed), consistent sales (though not super high) volume, and the people I meet that have read it say they really enjoyed the reading experience. Which is what I was shooting for. Now don't get me wrong, if Baen or Random house wanted to give me a big fat advance to stay home and write books I would be sorely tempted (and externally validated), but most likely I wouldn't quit my day job, as I believe in the work I'm doing in Georgia (but this is a blog about my writing life, not about being a program manager on an assistance program- so I'll get back to my writing point...maybe... perhaps...).

So, dear reader, what does all this have to do with digital publishing you ask? I have told you in previous posts to be patient, I will eventually meander back to my point.

Publishing a print book costs a lot of money. With POD (print on demand) technology it's much cheaper, but there is still a cost involved. With electronic publishing the costs are negligible. So now writers don't have to meet an agent's or publisher's subjective quality threshold (sales being the metric). But they don't really have to meet any threshold, do they? And oh my goodness, there are some self-deluded people out there publishing some real ebook stinkers. But there are also a number of competent writers who have decided to go into ebook publishing on their own, with low prices points, no middle man, and they're doing quite well, in terms of sales (which is a metric), reviews, etc.

Novlr is blog that delves into these issues in much greater detail.

So my point is that I am flirting with the idea of going it alone with my current WIP. I am a member of 'Goodreads', (part of my 'online presence') an online community for book readers and writers and I am being inundated with ebook offers, many free (the idea being to build a fan base just like Randolph Lalonde did).

So I don't know how that would work out in terms of getting my own work out into your hands (or on your eReader device). My motivation is not necessarily maximizing ROI, or sales volume, though I think running off copies of my work and passing it out on the street corner for free wouldn't meet my self-imposed vision of being a competent genre fiction writer. Hmmm, I'll have to ponder that one.

There are many examples of authors who have written competent books and are getting them out to readers with this POD/eBook/Indy renegade author directed publishing movement. Smashwords is an ebook publisher that makes it almost painless... Most likely I will give this a trial run. I have seven short stories that I have sold to various anthology markets, online publications, etc, that I have thought I might like to collect into a small (40K word) anthology of my own. All have my signature hard-boiledish, and mostly manly action-oriented prose, and like I said they were good enough to sell once...(though one sold three times- and funny it was my only short story with a female main character. What does that mean? Do I need to spend more time in the gym? Tell me the truth, do these sweat pants make me look fat?)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The accidental Opera

I have mentioned before my challenges buying tickets for Georgian venues. It's a challenge finding out about things because there's a big word of mouth component here (and I don't really understand the words too well). Then there is the challenge of communicating at the box office (as I will explain).

I saw a poster for the Georgian Symphonetta hosting a dutch oboe-playing soloist. I fortunately also found an English language version of the same poster near the Tbilisi-State Conservatory. I went to the box office on Friday, to buy the ticket for Saturday night's performance. Well, having thought I achieved success, I looked down at my purchase...it was for an opera on Friday night. That night. I went back, and knowing that an exchange was beyond my communicative talents, I opted to buy another ticket. The box office lady clearly thought me daft, but I was successful. Two tickets...So what did I do with the opera ticket? Well, I went. No idea what it was, who wrote it, but it was Italian, and cute. I am calling it the Accidental Opera.

I also made it to the Symphonetta and saw the oboist perform his solo. Mozart, Bach, Gluck and Boyce. Good seats; I sat right behind the First Lady of Georgia. (Should have figured she might come, as she's dutch).

I can also report that I have put the Thanksgiving holiday to good use, and pushed well through the middle of the WIP. Sitting squarely at 56K words, it feels like when you're on an old wooden roller-coaster and you're clank-clank-clanking up to that first big drop, the first car is nosing over the edge, the last car just finished with the chain and you get that slowly-speeding-up-as-you-go-over-the-top feeling...knowing it's going to be a wind in your face, stomach-losing dash...that's what getting through the middle feels like.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pushing through the middle

There are many tough spots when writing a novel. Getting started, feeling like you have the characters, the basic story arc, this takes a while but really isn't that tough. Getting over the 30K word hump is a bit of challenge because that's the point at which I feel the novel is really establishing the 'voice', I know the characters, I'm getting confident with where the story is going, the basic 'vibe' is there. Often I'll tweak and futz, and cut, and uncut, and recut, and reuncut, and reorder, and insert and delete, and change, and use the 'find' function alot to make sure idiosyncracies of dialog, or naming conventions are consistent, and...and......and at some point between 25K and 30K I'll say...yah, that's what I wanted.

Then there's the middle part (about 45K-55K) where I start to second-guess myself, I can see the tempo of the story (I like the vibe, but is there enough action, do I spend too much time on character or scene development, not enough? is Cooper's subplot too overdeveloped, etc) but I reevaluate if this is really what I was thinking about for the story arc in that brief flash of inspiration several month's to a year ago, and...well that's where I am now; pushing through the middle.

As you know (if you've been following the blog) I've taken an expatriate assignment managing a project in Tbilisi, Georgia and it's a bear of a job. Overseas, new area of business, trying to meet family obligations (I know wahhh...). But the reason I bring this up for this little essay is that I'm writing much more slowly than I did in my two previous novels, so this particular angst-ridden patch is telescoping on me.

But it's not all bad, spending more time with my inner-author-insecuritites has allowed me to spend more time with the characters too, and one of the things I have realized is that my bad guys really need a voice. I've struggled with this for a while because the alien's voice, or the alien itself maybe, comes across as a Lovecraftian villain, and this inherently conflicts with the more hardboiled/pulpy/sparse voice with which the rest of the novel speaks.

The military scifi novel features an expeditionary infantry battalion investigating a seeming natural disaster (series of meteor showers) on a colony world. The 'natural disaster' is actually an alien invasion and told from the POV of Salome (a colonist), Captain Vogel (a pilot) and Sergeant Cooper (a Grunt), with a few cameo POVs. The 'alien' invaders are based on Dictyostelium fruiting bodies, and through them I explore some of my thoughts on memes, identity, 'self' and the nature of conciousness (but don't worry- there's lots of gun-play, gallons of testosterone, a strong and independent female MC, a romantic triangle and not every body dies at the end, almost not everyone...). I've been strugling with how to convey the alien POV here in the middle of the book (see, stay with me, I usually have a point!), so I decided to include the enemy as a POV character...hey, it's a big step for me, I don't just give up my POV to any character that comes along with a winning smile and a catchy line.

Anyway, I think I've reached a compromise that works, but you, dear reader will have to be the judge.
I have also include for your amusement, a snapshot of my Tbilisi Gym.

Through a dark alley, down a rickty flight of stairs, in a moldy sub-basement, thousands of kilos of mismatched plates, dumbbells, kettlebells (measured in Pood), is my lifting heaven. These are the bench presses; two vertical pipes sunk into the concrete floor, welded rebar supports hammered into the wall, and bolts to rest the bar upon. Simplicity in form and function. Now all you have to do is pick the bar up off the pegs, lower it to your chest and put it back...many, many times.


And the tough part for me, right?


Yes, you guessed it... pushing through the middle part.




Saturday, November 19, 2011

No really...

The second thing I have to say after I tell people I went to the ballet.
The Tbilisi Ballet put on a production of
Minkus' Don Quixote at the Griboedov Theater. It was my first time at the Griboedov, lovely place, great dancers, I had never heard of Minkus before but most of the music I enjoyed.

The funnest part of the whole expedition was trying to buy the tickets. Once you know how, where the box office is, the hours of operation and how to communicate in pigeon Georgian for the purchase of 'erti tiketse, baletze, didi madloba' , it's a breeze. It took some doing, and the help of a Georgian coworker but I had it all worked out...until I got to the box office.

The little old lady at the counter was not impressed. I even tried my winning smile. Nada. She rebuffed my feeble georgian-ticket-purchasing overture and raged at me in staccato Russian..'Ar vitsi rusuli' (I don't know russian) I pleaded. Again, the same Russian sentence, but slower and louder (see it's not just we Americans who feel that if you speak your native tongue slow enough and loud enough to people who don't speak your language they will suddenly understand you).

I caught a single word in the phrase; 'djevichka'. 'Djevichka?' I said. "GoGo?' (Georgian for Djevichka) and she nodded, 'Da..russian..russian..russian..djeveichka..russian..' finger wag from outside to inside. Ah...I was getting it, 'Gogo modis?' (the girl is coming) with finger point. 'Da' said she, and shook her head at me like I needed an entrance application to a state program for the feeble minded.

Well, I waited patiently and sure enough, the djevichka/gogo/girl came in and saved me from mission failure. When I got back to the office, one of my coworkers had let me a text that he wanted me to pick up 2 tickets for him as well. The next day I went back, and getting the tickets was almost a breeze.

As I said the ballet was enjoyable, Dato and Nato and I went to the Marriott had we two boys had no desire for white wine spritzers (proof that we weren't panziefied by the experience). But just to be sure I spent an extra hour working on one-rep max bench press at the Gym the next morning. You can't take chances with these things.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Things you take for granted

There are many things I took for granted when I lived in the states. I have a very long list. But the one today is 'US Post Offices'. I know, post offices you ask? The institution that inspired the term 'going postal'? Those? Well, yes, you see the US system is Nirvana compared to our Georgian Postal service.

The first time I went to the main Tbilisi Post Office was in response to a little slip of paper that showed up on my desk. All in Georgian script, now I could puzzle out how to say many of the printed words (the handwritten Georgian- no way) but I was no closer to understanding what it meant than I was when I first picked it up. Defeated, I asked one of my Georgian staff.

"You have a package at the post office," she said.

I broke out into a cold sweat. A Georgian post office! I hadn't know there was such a thing. A few days of looking at the little slip of paper, steeling my courage, girding my loins, doing my daily affirmations, and I was ready. I found a cabby with reasonably good english (as my Georgian can get me most common menu items, the check, directions to the water closet, and pleasantries in an elevator, it is NOT up to wrangling a package from a post Soviet civil servant).

After dodging in and out of traffic, up and down small alley ways and side streets, we made it.

It was a mad house.

One thing to know about living in Georgia is that you realize lines are primarily a western covention. Here they understand there's a place you want to end up, and there's the place you start, but all those people milling about between you and the front- who are they?

I eventually made it to the front of the line and proudly handed my slip of squiggly line paper to the four young women sitting on folding chairs, I was rewarded with a postit note with a number on it and a finger pointing me to another line (to pay the 15 lari to get the package out of hock). I went through a confusion of line negotiating, gave my money, got my receipt and a finger pointed me back to the first line. Another shuffle, block, shuffle and I got back to the front of line one, gave a different one of the four girls sitting on a folding chair my receipt and was handed a slip of paper for my trouble ... and sent to another line. Patiently I waited and finally a little old man showed up with a santa sack full of packages over his shoulder. He dug through the bag and I was rewarded with my mail.

All in all, only an hour of my life and a lesson in how postal delivery is done 8,000miles from home. And what did I get for my troubles? Our US-based Company President had mailed 10 pounds of Peet's Coffee! (Georgian Coffee isn't really that good. They really like Nescafe...).

Well today, a Georgian postal neophyte no longer, I received another little slip of paper. No fear. No anxiety. I sprang into action, negotiated the mean streets and alley ways of Tbilisi, and was in and out of the post office in fifteen minutes. And what did I get for my trouble? Seven kilos, two hundred grams of Oreo cookies (no Oreos in Georgia either).

And it only cost me ten lari, a 'didi madloba', and a smile. (Smiles work here too).

Thanks Steve, I'm almost down from post double-stuft sugar high...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The season

I think I mentioned that the Tbilisi Opera season is in full swing here in Georgia. There's a performance of some kind almost every weekend. Last Weekend I drug some friends with me to see the Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater Symphony play a few Mozart Pieces, the internationaly renowned Turkish pianist, Zeynep Ucbasaran, played one of the piano concertos. It was pretty cool.
This weekend we fast forwarded some fifty odd years where the same symphony presented Verdi's
Attila. They did the whole opera, with glass-shattering singers and all, but presented as a stage rehersal (no props, no running around the stage, just standing there and belting it out). It was pretty cool. Later this month we have the Don Quiote and Gizelle ballets.

I will now provide you all with a cogent post comparing and contrasting the late Baroque to the mid-Romantic periods in classical music... nah, I don't know anything about about any of that. (And though it doesn't stop most people..politicians, critics, etc, from writing I try to stick with what I know).

On the WIP front, I was struggling with a turning point in my mil sci fi story. Struggling for me means I end up not trying as hard to carve out writing time, and hence, slow progress. If you've been keeping track about 3000 words in the past 10 weeks (more or less). Pathetic. Ah...but I pushed through the transition for the characters and am now driving through. Yay.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Promoted

I just heard yesterday from my Reserve Commander that I was selected for promotion from LTC (05) to Colonel (06)in the Army Reserve. This is sort of a big deal, and the selection rate this year was down in the one selected for five who went before for promotion board. Slim pickens for promotion as we reshape the force,pull our soldiers back from ten hard years of war, redefine our National Security objectives and how the Army can support that on a smaller budget.
Glad to Still be a part of it, and it's a daunting challenge in my new rank.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gonio and the Black Sea

We traveled to the Georgian Black Sea Coastal towns of Kobaleti and Batumi this past weekend. Batumi is the summer destination of choice in Georgia, and the place really hops from the beginning of July through the beginning of September; jazz festival, operas, Sting even came thi year. October though, is pretty quiet. Batumi is in the Adjara region of Georgia, a contested peice of property for the past few thousand years, from Colchis to Rome, to Byzantium, to Georgia, to Ottoman Turkey, to Russia, and finally back to Georgia (and those are only the big players, there have been numerous small land grabs).

Lovely place with an entertaining mish-mash of architectural styles.


I mention Colchis, most people don't realize that the destination of Jason and the Argonauts was the faraway land of Colchis, and the quest for the golden fleece. That was Georgia. There are regions in Georgia where one still pans for gold by laying a weighted-down sheep fleece out in a bend in the river, the gold flakes gather in the wool, and the panner dries and burns the fleece, sifting the gold from the ash. There is some contention that this is the source of the golden fleece myth. Batumi has embraced this and erected a statue to Medea (the colchis princess that helped Jason out).

No visit to Adjara is complete without a trip to Gonio. This is a remarkably intact Roman fortress, circa 50AD. It was established here around the same time the Apostle Andrew was preaching the gospel in the west of Georgia. Also alleged to be the site of the martyrdom and burial of the apostle Mathias (Judas' replacement) though every Georgian I asked said it wasn't true, he was killed north, probably in Abkazia...

I really enjoyed the fortress. They have a very nice little museum with artifacts from Colchis, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman occupants. The archeological excavations have been ongoing for about 15 years, though not much before. During the Soviet occupation the grounds of the fortress were a tangerine orchard! This in spite of the fact that Henrich Schleimann (the guy who found Troy) did some intial digs back in the 19th century.

Another cool fact about Gonio (not found in wikipedia- for shame) is that it used to be named after Apsyrtus, the brother of Medea. As local legend has it, this is the spot where the peices of his body were brought to be buried (after Jason killed the poor guy, chopped him into pieces and threw his body into the sea- making poor king Aeetes of Colchis have to stop in pursuit of his treasure and wayward daughter to bury the guy. When told from the the other side, Jason seems more like a thug and pirate than a hero, doesn't he?).

The border for turkey (last picture) is another ten minute south and west past Gonio. Georgian's can go across easily (there's a slow line) but Americans need a visa that they can get at the border. Comin gth eother way were hundreds
of turkish trucks, shipping goods all over Georgia.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Review & Interview

A new review of Succumbing to Gravity is out on the LL Book Review(Review number 245)by Carrie Hunt.

I think she liked it, ending her review with "So if you haven’t read this, you need to, and let’s see if you read the last line of the book and yell: “F#@k Yeah!” like I did."

Carrie is a talented author in her own right (write? HA! I kill me...) and also does book reviews on the side for LL Book Reviews(on her own website as well). She asked me to do an interview and I was happy to do so. It's right here.

Uplistsikhe

Another weekend in Georgia and another outing.
This trip was to Uplistsikhe the 'castle of God', about an hour to the west of Tblisi, Georgia.

The site is carved into the rocks above the Mtkvari River that flows through Tblisi and has been occupied since 'olden times'.
At one point the capital of Iberia (old georgia, not spain) was located here, and it was abandoned for the last time after Tamerlane swept through Georgia in the 14th Century... olden times indeed.
To the right is an example of the carvings on a stylized ceiling.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bednieri Tblisoba

This past weekend the Tblisoba, or city celebration for Tblisi. The 32nd annual celebration of the city's founding some 1500 years ago. Man, but that's old.
The weather was great and the city puts on a nice street festival. Something decidedly different from what you will find in the states.
I also pushed over the 50% mark on my WIP (45K words). Yay. This working thing really has been cutting into my writing, I must say...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

End of an era

In 2007 the US Army entered into a contract with Rosetta Stone to provide distance learning of language to service members. As a Reserve officer I was entitled. But they cut the contract 24 September, 2011, so no more 'djevochka yest yabloko' or 'velosiped imyeet chernyi tsvet'...with the catchy little 'bing' if you got it right, for me. But it means I'll have more time to write if I'm not trying to figure out that the cyrillic C is an english S, and all those gender specific russian language thingees, right?
Bummer.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tblisi Symphony

You can tell how busy work is by how frequently I post. Work itself is actually pretty steady (busy), it's the overflow (work taken home) that really cuts into Blog and (break-out) novel writing. I did push over 43,000 words last weekend, but mostly revisions and only a few hundred words of new text.
I did take the evening off to go to the Symphony. Contrary to popular belief, I am not JUST a knuckle-dragging manly man. I had to cut the after-work trip to my old-dungeony-Russian Gym short though, and endure the ridicule of my fellow knuckle-dragging gym inhabiting troglodyte buddies (the English speaking ones, the Russian and Georgian only speakers I couldn't understand their ridicule) in order to go, but it was worth it.
The Tblisi Opera and Ballet State Theater Symphony Orchestra did a lovely job, and the venue, the Grand Hall of the Tbilisi State Conservatory was a big and stately old building.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Horror Fiction Review, Review

A new review of GOB on the horror fiction review was posted.
Read it HERE. (it's a September 2011 review).

Colleen Wanglund reviewed calling 'an excellent story'...and 'a character study worth reading'.
Doesn't that make you want to zip on over to amazon and buy a copy?)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

GOB Review

Chizine posted a new review of Gift of the Bouda, by Stephen Studach (the review is by steve, the book is by me...).

Postitive but fair, a good read that would make a good B movie (if B movie were good, which they can be). Pretty much what I envisioned it as; a pulpy noir tale (but a little deeper, and a little better researched, I would hope) of monsters, and the men they become.

You can read it here.

He also had me do an interview, you can read that here.

Soccer Match

This weekend I attended the Soccer (football) match here in Tbilisi between Georgia and Latvia. (Unfortunately Georgia lost 1 to zero- boo).

It was a great match, the Georgian's dominated but a head-in from a Latvian corner kick made the difference. Georgians take their football pretty serious (as do most Europeans, South and Central Americans, Asians..well most people that aren't from the US.


I've included photos of the stadium in daylight, the opening ceremonies and me at a tense moment.
Work on the NIP continues at a blistering pace, I know, why am I going to soccer matches when I should be writing? Ummmm...background..

Sunday, August 28, 2011

St. Anton's Monastery

For those of you that weren't aware, the Country of Georgia is a largely Christian nation. Their Christian traditions date back to proselytizing by the apostle Andrew in the west of Georgia in the first century. But the large scale conversion (as best I tell) came from a number of missionaries from Cappadocia (a region in Turkey where early Chrisitans fled Roman persecution). The most important of which was Saint Nino who converted the then Pagan Queen Nana and King Mirian the third, in the fourth century (see my blog post from April 2011 about the trip to Ninosminda).




There was another large group of Cappodocians who came to Georgia in the sixth century to expand Chrisitanity, found churches and monasteries, all lead by St. John of Zedazeni (with Saints; Anton, David, Shio, Ise, Joseph, Zenon, Abibos, Stephan, Isidoros, Piros, Michael and Tadeoz). Most of the interesting old things to see in Georgia are tied to their Christian heritage, and it has regained support as Nationalism in Georgia also seems to be tied to their faith tradition. So, it was to the monastery founded by Saint Anton of Martkopi that I visited this weekend.

Gorgeous location in the mountains about 1/2 hour from Tbilisi, fabulous vistas (but as it was a cloudy, rainey day so I didn't take any pictures of that). We saw St. Anton's grave in the small church, attended the consecration of a man in the church building where the relics were kept (Gvtaeba), and were fervently prosyletized in Georgian by one of the monks. Dissapointed when he discovered I was not 'orthodoxy', but rather presbyterian, which he somehow assumed was like the 'baptisyists'-not exactly, but I couldn't explain the nuances of the calvinist reformation and the ninteenth century great awakening in my pigeon Georgian.

Finally he found this delightful old monk who spoke much more English than I spoke Georgian, and he wanted to convey two things: first, God is love. That one was easy. Second, he struggled with a rendition of the 10 edicts, of doing wrong and one is not better nor is it worse than another. It took a few rounds of back and forth, but I finally said, "Do you mean that in the eyes of God, all sin is equal?" (A very basic Chrisitian precept). He almost fell over, "You have heard of this?" We went on to talk about a few small points of the congress of Nicea, religion in general and faith, the primacy of grace (although, I don't think I sold him on this one). I certainly did my part to dispel the notion that American Chrisitanity is populated by a boatload of snake charming folks who don't actually read the bible.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A nifty tweaking

Sheila Merritt posted a Review of GOB on the site Hellnotes.

Click here: Hellnotes Review to have all your questions answered.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Roadtrip

My WIP is still in progress. I spent much of the past (busy) month picking over edits, rewriting scenes, basically getting it to where I wanted it to be with a total of 1 month worked and 400 words added.




After a Saturday morning run, a trip to the gym (I joined a very old-school Russian Style Gym here in Tbilisi...I am getting pretty good at estimating the weights: "100 kilos, umm...it's heavy, umm...like 220 pounds"...see, pretty good), and a few hours on my NIP, I went on a roadtrip to Kojori, about 1/2 hour from Tbilisi.



Kojori is the site of a Medieval Fortress, a battle between Georgian Nationalists and Soviet invaders (circa 1921), and a pleasant mountain get away from the hustle bustle and smog of the Big City.

The Fortress is to the right. A very impressive location, built right into the rock. It might be difficult to see, but there is a winding, rusted, and partly fallen down staircase that leads to the entrance (covered by a 'murder hole' in the castle entry).

The stairs were in a sad state of disrepair, and required a little effort to negotiate. Missing treads, sheer cliffs, it was awesome, but no where near OSHA approved. Most of the treads seemed to have broken at the weld points, so I carefully tested before I went up.

From the top of the castle the views were phenomenal. In many ways the topgraphy and climate of this part of Georgia remind me of the foothills of California (think Placerville, not Santa Barbara).

We met a young Georgian butcher on a bird watching trip at the top of the fortress. Like most people we meet he was hospitible and engaging and he told us a little of the history of the fortress in halting english (which was an order of magnitude better than my pigeon Cartoli). We also heard a howling in the distance that sounded a bit like a warbly coyote bark and a dog howl to me. After a bit of back and forth, searching for the word, he told us the howling was from the Jackals. Hmmmm...might be a story in there?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Give Away at Good reads


I know how much you all really want a copy of one of my novels. And I know it's soooo hard to go to Amazon and get one, so the good people at Goodreads.com are sponsoring a book Give away for STG and GOB.


















(Enter early, enter often!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First GOB Review

The first review of 'The Gift of the Bouda' appears in Carrie Hunt's Blog (Here). Carrie is an author as well and a member of "Goodreads", she also posted the review there as well.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Been Busy

It has been a while since my last post. I have been a tad busy. For those of you who don't know, I am still an actively participating officer in US Army Reserve (Lieutenant Colonel). I spent much of July in Carlisle Barracks, PA, finishing up my Masters Program with the US ARMY War College. Yay,

The degree is technically a Master of Science in Strategic Studies, but I prefer 'Master of War'. It's also the Military Education Level 1 course, or the LAST SCHOOL I have to go to as a soldier, ans d qualifies one for promotion to General Officer rank. I'm just hoping for Colonel (my promotion board already met, but I won't know what they decided until the results are published in November).

On the writing/reading front, I'm at about 30K words on my WIP. I polished off a John Ringo book on the plane, Dance with the Devil. For those who like scifi with a military flavor, Ringo is great. When I posted about his first book in this series, A Hymn Before Battle, I mentioned that I enjoyed it and could also see the junior NCO coming through. I thought I might explain because I saw it here too.

Every unit in the Army blames their next echelon higher for all their problems. It's true. The bosses are usually screwed up, they don't understand the 'ground truth' , they have it easier, yadda yadda. When I was an enlisted soldier (helicopter mechanic) the platoon leader and company commander were all 'jacked up'. When I was commissioned and became a platoon leader (attack platoon leader in a cobra helicopter company) the company commander and the Battalion were screwed up. When I was staff, it was the line company that didn't understand, when I was a company commander the BN commander and staff, as a troop commander it was the squadron commander that couldn't get his shit together. When I was a Battalion Commander it was the brigade commander and the brigade staff that caused all the Cluster F*cks. You see where I'm going with this? You can often tell what level a fellow rose to, by who the fellow blames and nature of the complaints.

I'd also like to think that when I jumped to the next node in the chain of command, my direct reports didn't blame me for all the problems in the world. (I'm kidding myself- they did, but one difference between a good leader and a bad one is the ability to recognize that, listen to the gripes and try to explain why they have to do the stupid shit your making them do).

I can honestly say that I have seen many of the problems with higher ups that Ringo points out. There were many careerists, selfish or lazy commanders. But these are few and far between and tended to 'crash and burn', unless they were really talented. The most common 'bad' commanders I have experienced, both in peace and in Iraq, were the people that lacked critical thinking skills (and most of these were slaves to outdated doctrine) or the ones that worried too much about what their boss would think. It's important to follow doctrine, but it's a guide and if you have the ability to think critically about what the mission dictates and the tools you have available. The people who worried about their 'evaluation' were the ones I couldn't stand. "What impact will this have on my annual report (OER)?" is something I rarely ask myself, and it comes well after; does this accomplish the mission adhering both to the letter and spirit of my orders?

But without question the leader I detest the most is the one that doesn't care for his troops. When Mr and Mrs mainstreet America entrust the welfare of their son or daughter to you, the Army leader, you need to take that responsibility seriously. I could wax philosophic or give bullet point lists for hours on this one.

I picked up a copy of 'Kaboom, embracing the suck in a savage little war' by Matt Gallagher. It's based on the blog he wrote while a cav scout platoon leader in Iraq. Peppered throughout are examples of the points I make above. He refers to his company commander in a mildly disparaging manner, while the Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major are known as 'LTC Larry and CSM Curly', don't know who Moe is (3 stooges). My experiences were both the same and different. I was a Major, and an operations officer for an Aviation Task force. We didn't break down doors, or drink tea with 'Haji' (it was well before COIN doctrine was articulated, in 2003-2004). But I have no doubt there were company level pukes that had listed me in their top ten most stupidest list for the things I made them do. But 11 months, 350 missions, no casualties... just sayin'.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beast Within 2; Predator and Prey

The Beast Within 2; Predator and Prey was released today by Graveside Tales (Yay), edited by Jen Brozek.

My story, The Long Road to Sanctum, (a Cormac McCarthyesque tale of werewolves, a road, and an ursanthrope in the post-apocolyptic west) appears somewhere in the middle.

Buy it at the publisher (Graveside Tales) or Amazon.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Me and Joe

I visited the town of Gori, Georgia last week and stopped by the
Joseph Stalin Museum.

Something that I didn't really appreciate before coming to Georgia was that Stalin was from Gori, born Loseb Jugashvili.(aka Koba)


The Stalin memorial has a nice park, a big museum and the house in which he was born. The rather modest house of a nineteenth century Georgian cobbler has had this elaborate columned structure
(reminding me a bit of the Parthenon) erected around it.


Incongruity personified.

The museum is chock full of Stalin-memorabilia, knowledgeable staff (some of whom speak English for the tour).

No deep thoughts about one of the more infamous premiers in history, just a comment on the landmark.
And no, not much progress on the NIP.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A walk

Things I really enjoy about a place are the unique history, the cultural heritage, the use of space. I notice these things where ever I go, and every place has a story to tell.

Tbilisi, being old, at the crossroads of so much of history and then being sort of mired in the Soviet time-capsule, has these things in spades! Tbilisi is undergoing a bit of Urban Renewal, investors are coming back, I meet US banking agents exploring 'emerging markets' at local eateries. (How can you tell they're American? Seriously, we stick out. Our clothes, our mannerismsms, our persistence in the belief that if you you speak English slowly and loudly enough these foreign people have to be able to understand you...).

Public spaces. They're all over the place and filled with the sort of old world monuments Americans rarely see. To the left top, is Shota Rustaveli (1172-1216), on Rustaveli avenue. The Georgian Shakespeare, author of 'The Night in the Tiger Skin' (I have a copy I'm picking through). And right next to this icon, yes, another, this one decidedly American.



As one of the first peoples to accept Christianity (they were beaten out for the title of 'first' by the ancient Armenian Kingdom, but most Georgian's will contest this fact...), the town is also filled with these iconic cruciform Churches. Little old ladies in black (widows) sit on the steps with cups. Everyone makes the sign as they cross. A very different place from what an American is used to.


And yes, I'm still plugging away on my next book. Working title 'Mission First'.



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Happy father's day to all of you guys that had the good fortune to take on the most important (guy) job in the world.

We have a family tradition on father's day that I managed to uphold sans wife and progeny. You see, (almost) every father's day my wife and kids make a point of taking me somewhere that I would enjoy. As a Dad, I've done hundreds of trips to___ (insert place you have to go as a Dad, and are happy to do so, but wouldn't pick if it were up to you: training bra shopping, the thirty seventh T-ball practice, any amusement park, parent teacher conferences, chuckee cheese-you get the picture).

So On Father's day, my wife and kids make a point of finding something that I would like to do and take me to do it. They get bonus points if they wouldn't have picked to go on their own. Airshows, zoos, museums of any nature- the geekier and more obscure the better here, classical music venues, brew pubs.. the sky is the limit.
Being alone in Tbilisi, I started the day with a scavenger hunt. The fam had hidden a treasure trove of gifts while they were here, and emailed me the locations last night. Coffee mug, check, Georgian Nataktari Beer Stein, check, box of chocolates check, cool statue of the Svan towers check. All that was missing was the geeky venue- which I supplied myself.
The Georgian National Gallery. Yes a museum.

The first picture is of the exterior. An old building bulit in the the 1890's when Georgia was part of the Russian empire. The second is of the interior. Notice it says National Gallery in Georgian and English?

(Actually in Georgian it says erovnuli galerea, which I assume means national gallery. I am getting pretty good at reading Georgian Script, okay, that's relative, 95% of the five year olds in Georgia make me look stupid, but it's coming along. It's pretty phonetic once you know that wavy squiggly line that looks like a fishhook means 'ah', or kh', or 'dz', but just because you can sound the words out doesn't mean I have any idea what the word means.)

It was a very nice gallery (or galerea). Many, many people whose names end in shvili, dze, or eli, who toiled away during the russian and subsequent soviet occupations trying to express themselves and give meaning to what they saw. If you're ever on Rusteveli avenue in Tbilisi, with nothing to do, it is 5 lari ($3) well spent.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Movie

I have never done a movie review on my Blog, so I won't break that trend. But I did go out to see an English Language version fo five days in August.

So? You say. What's the big deal about a movie in English? Well, it's a big deal in Georgia! They have their own language here. Georgian. I know big surprise not everyone in the world speaks English.

I enjoyed the film. It tells the story of the Russian/Georgian war in 2008 from the pov of a few journalists, a few Georgian's and a few diplomats. I've been to almost all of the Tbilisi sights in the film. In fact many were within a kilometer of the Theater.

I encourage you all to see it. Big news earlier this month when Andy Garcia brought Sharon Stone to premier the film, the same theater in which I saw it ...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Out of place at the ballet?

I went to the Georgian National Ballet last night. I know, me at a ballet? Well truth be told, I have gone to more ballet's than I care to admit. The vast majority were to watch my post-toddler daughters in cutsie little ballet recitals, but some grown up ones too. When I told one of my staff here in Tbilsi that I was going, the response was 'what's a troglodyte like you going to a ballet for?' 'Well,' I responded, 'I'm a knuckle-dragging manly man on the outside, but on the inside...well, I'm sensitive, and I've got feelings. Really. So shut up.'

The ballet I went to was actually a dance troop that performs traditional Georgian dances from the dozen or so sub-groups and regions of Georgia. It was actually really fun, and the ulterior motive was background for my WIP.

If you've never seen them you can check them out on a plethora of You Tube videos. Like this. And FYI, ballet with daggers is certainly troglodyte approved.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

WIP Word Count

This blog is primarily meant to be a commentary on my writing life. Should what I write be of interest, it's meant to be a place to get a little bit of the 'rest of the story'. It's unfortunate that my work life has intruded to such a great extent that my writing has been slacking off. But, between now and my great American Novel, I have to keep food on the table, don't I?

I've been working in Tbilisi, Georgia now off and on for a year. Moving here full-time (for a year) starting last January. The program I manage is a US government-sponsored, primarily public health support program. It has kept me quite busy, and unable to read much, or to make much progress on my WIP (work in progress, come on we talked about this!). My family was here with me as well for the first three months. But they have had to return to the world, and now I'm here alone.

I have writing friends that keep word counters for their WIPs in order to help keep them focused by displaying their progress for all the world to see. I thought I'd try it. If you don't see it move much, it might not be working.

The hyena has nothing to do with it. I just like hyenas (check out my second novel: Gift of the Bouda).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hyena Behind the Bars

I went with the family to the Tbilisi zoo a few weeks ago, and there was a pair of spotted hyenas (and a sleeping striped one - if only there had been a brown one and an aardwolf- the hyenedae would have been full represented). In honor of my recently released book, (Gift of the Bouda) I posted it here.

My first experience with a Hyena, close up, was at the hyena colony at UC Berkeley, after a conference at which I presented a paper.

Up close they were much more impressive than the skulky scavengers of animal planet or the cartoon buffoons on the Lion King.

The image of the heavy, not quite dog-like carnivore crunching through a horse femur on the other side of a chain-link barrier, stayed with me until I put it down in my short story, gift of the Bouda (and book).

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Beast Within TOC

I posted that I was accepted to an 'invitation only' anthology,
The Beast Within 2; Predator and Prey,
edited by Jennifer Brozek.

The anthology is being put out by the folks at Graveside Tales.And the participants are:
Solitary Instincts by Wendy Wagner ...
The Strange Affair of the Viennese Mathmatician by Joshua Reynolds ...
The Adventure of the Missing Trophy by Mark Coulter* ...
Blood Will Tell by JG Flaherty ...
Vanessa McAvoy's Statement by Kelly Swails...


Ties of Silver by James Sutter
The Long Road to Sanctum by Richard Farnsworth*
Masako's Tale by Michael West ...

Help Wanted by Lydia Ondrusek ...
Act Natural by Tyler Hayes ...

Desperate Housewolves by Eric Scott de Bie ...
Life Decisions by Dylan Birtolo ...

Papa Pirana, by Angel Mccoy ...
Deserter by Gabrielle Harbowy and Marie Bilodeau ...

Corvidae by Kerrie Hughes ...
In One Stride Comes the Dark by Keneth Hoover.


*authors who had stories in the first Beast Within also,

GST is looking at a Late June release.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bouda, the Playlist

Most novels have a characteristic vibe, or tone. Especially Noir and Hardboiled (Like..oh, say Gift of the Bouda -I think). One challenge I found in writing my book (over the course of a year+) was that it was hard to just turn that vibe on. You work all day, play with the kids, do your chores, have dinner, put the kids to bed, and then....then.. you sit down and crank out a few hindered words on your breakout novel. (Okay, maybe it won't breakout- I'm stretching, but it's my blog, so I can reimagine any way I'd like)..


Anyway, so over the course of the year, how can I just 'get in the zone'? Well, my way was to have a play list. I selected a few songs that I liked, that captured the vibe I was going for (a little melancholy, fast paced). I sat down, hit my iTunes tab and started by rereading, and lightly editing (sometimes chainsaw editing) the thousand or so words previous to where I started back in, and viola! Vibe inducing...


So what was the playlist? Here it is. After you read Bouda, let me know how it worked for you?


Sandman, Metallica

All These Things I’ve Done, The Killers

Under Pressure, Queen and David Bowie

Immigrant Song, Led Zeppelin

I Love Rock and Roll, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Fight for Your Right, Beastie Boyz

Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gift of the Bouda- released

My second Novel, Gift of the Bouda has been released by Salvo Press. Though the release date says June 2011? Is this a prerelease? Not sure.
Cover looks fine- another red book.

It was a bit of a surprise, the editor hadn't told me it was going out yet, but I'm not sure it has exactly, so sorry to surprise you all (but imagine my surprise).

Salvo (pre) released it on Amazon as a paperback, kinlde, nook, you name it.

It's a little grittier than STG (I know, grittier than a heroin addict-fallen angel). Werewolves, strippers, mafioso, all in the biggest little city in the
world. You'll love it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Twelth of twenty-seven

So, I haven't seen it posted, but I don't think I made the Stoker cut with STG.

Of the 27 first novels recommended by Horror Writers, I was number twelve. Not too bad. They usually take the top five, members vote, and the most popular wins. So...12th...top five...I'm thinking no? But a good showing none the less. They don't have a category for best second novel, so I have to compete with the big boys next time. Yikes! Vote early vote often for The Gift of the Bouda, coming this spring.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

New review

Another review for STG at fantasy book critic. Yay.

Not my strongest review, and a bit rambling and hard to follow, but over all Mahir thinks I wrote a good book that could be better. A true statement of just about everything, isn't it? (And at 'goodreads' he rated it four out of five stars.) But to be candid, I had a lot to say and STG was the best book I could have said them in at the time I wrote it.

I was also happy to see that the critic hit on several of the things I wanted to say in the book (themes....ooohh no, literaryness). STG is a story about flawed people making choices. It's about living with those choices and realizing that the choices you make don't have to define you for the rest of time. It's about relationships, it's about faith, and it's about doing what you think needs to be done, even if you know the outcome won't be in your best interest. (think 'cowboying-up')

Several of the critics also picked out the stylistic components that I was shooting for; noirish, epic themes on a personl level.

This has also been a criticism; 'angels and demons? Where's Armageddon, why such a 'small' book?'

My answer to the smallishness was that most of us make personal decisions that in the grand scheme of things are pretty small scale, they don't change the whole world, most people don't even know we have made them. But that doesn't make them unimportant. In fact the small decisions we make everyday, to show humanity, to do the right things, to be a positive and uplifting influence- rather than making the selfish or thoughtless choices, are the decisions that I think are the most important of all.

If this doesn't make sense, I suggest you read the 'Screwtape Letters' from CS Lewis, then get back to me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

iBook and Nook

STG will be coming out soon as an iBook and in Nook format. Yay.
The publisher also went through and reedited the manuscript. So all future copies (as of today) should be cleaner copies, Also Yay.

I had two reveiwers that commented on the quality of the eiditing- great book too bad it wasn't edited better. Now, before I point fingers at the publisher, these errors were in the original manuscript I sent in. One would expect them corrected, but it's hard to point to someone else for not fixing what I broke in the first place. But no more. All future editions are clean....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Gift of the Bouda, the Novel

The novelization of my short story, 'The Gift of the Bouda', named imaginatively enough by the same name, has been sold to Salvo Press!

Yes, very cool.

I received the first .pdf proof of the edits and did another line edit. It was fun, after not having looked at the manuscript for six or eight months to go through it again. Like visiting an old friend. (I did spend a year writing it, after all, and got to know the characters rather well.) This book tells the story of John Rogers, a GWOT SF Officer bitten by a were-hyena (Bouda) and now back in the states dealing with his affliction. He drifts up to reno where he works as a part-time bouncer at a strip joint and runs afoul of a werewolf pack. Great fun. I wrote it as a noirish horror story (not crime-noir, but noir in the tight prose, but events for the MC keep deteriorating out of control) and hope you will all enjoy and buy many copies.

The novel is my second, following STG. Salvo is also a small press (like the press STG went to). Been around longer, better distribution, some books have made it big, so cross your fingers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Beast Within 2- The Beast Unleashed

I just heard from the anthology editor today that my short story, 'The Long Road to Sanctum' has been accepted for inclusion in the Beast Within 2- the Beast Unleashed. Yay.

This is a slightly unconventional werewolf story, written as a postapocolyptic western. I had originally written this for the first Beast Within, but they accepted the Gift of the Bouda first and don't ussually accept two stories by the same author. So I shopped it around a bit, improved it with each rejection and when Beast within 2 posted, submitted again.

It will be worth the wait, as this will be a good anthology. Jenn Brozak is the editor (and top drawer), and the anthology was all invites (me too).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Review

Well, I have certainly been neglecting this blog, haven't I?

Work has been a Lot-O-Busy, the holidays, the War College (I'm doing a Masters in Strategic Studies through the US Army War college as an Army Reservist), family obligations, and of course farm chores. Oh, and I have a host of other lame excuses, if you'd care to hear them.

In the past two months I've continued to flesh out the WIP (work in progress) a little, okay barely, but I have scratched away at it. I finish the masters in July and plan to begin writing again in earnest, after that, promise.

But what I really wanted to tell you about was my new review from the Deepening. (Click on Deepening) Overall it's pretty positive, but there is a negative about the editing. And of course the editor takes time to underscore that negative, but he's right. No excuse for writing a good story and then editing it poorly.