Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dark Gloves, Bleeding Hearts

Art of Darkness: The Cinema of Dario Argento is one of those books you have to have if you are an Argento fan. I have the oversized softcover, which is overflowing with beautiful color pictures and examinations of the man and his movies. I reviewed it on Amazon a couple of years ago, and I stick by that review. It's not light reading, and it's not meant for the casual Argento fan.

Film books are a bit hit and miss with me. I have a section of my library devoted to them, but I'm fairly picky about what I keep. I'll read just about any one, but if I don't think I'll reference it or read it again, I put it on eBay. I've never put a FAB Press book up for auction, and don't think I ever will. Art of Darkness is why.

When you read this book (and most of the FAB books are much the same in this regard), you don't just read about the films being covered. You relive them. You see them in a brand new light. You learn things, and those newly discovered tidbits make you want to go out and see the movies all over again. And this time you will view them with new, but educated eyes. Few film books can do that. FAB books almost always do.

I can't recommend these tomes enough to fans of cinema. The price and depth of the books means you have to enjoy the director or films being covered, but if you do you will get your money's worth and then some. More importantly, you'll get an education on par with a college course.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Manuscript is Out

I sent out my manuscript last week. A hope and a prayer, right? The word count is less than what the publisher is looking for, but if the story wows it, the word count can be worked around. If it's an "on the fence issue," then the word count will mean rejection.

I could add a few scenes, but it would change the story and the flow. I crafted it carefully. It moves like I want it to. It is short, but sweet, and at this point any additional scenes will probably do a disservice to the overall experience.

We shall see.

I finished Selfish, Little. It was far from pleasant. Gave me two nightmares. Got to hand it to the author, Peter Sotos, for that. His work is not easy to read, but he does have some valid points on the media and how it handles child sex crimes. I've written about it before here and on the Cancerous Zeitgeist blog, so I won't delve into it again. Needless to say I'm onto more pleasant books now. I'm reading about the rise of the Fourth Reich in Jim Marrs book of the same name. From child murderers to Nazis. 'Tis the season, right?

A friend asked me what I would like to come of the manuscript. First and foremost is the book. I want it published. In the past I thought I would never let my books be optioned for movies unless I had some say over them. (Hey, I can dream.) I have since changed my stance on that and have gone the James Ellroy route. Just give me a check. I don't give a fuck what you do with it. The book exists and no movie can change that. Books a book. A movie's a movie. Pretty simple. Ideally, I'd love to get enough to quit my job and write full-time. That would be the dream. Of course, it's been years and that hasn't happened, and I don't expect it to, but I'm trying to think positive. Writing is what makes me happy. It is therapeutic. It can inspire. That's all good stuff. That has meaning. That gives me a legacy to leave my daughter.

(On a related note, John Lithgow was on television last night. I pointed him out and said, "See that guy? He wrote a short story at the same time I did. Amazon published both. Mine outsold his." She told me that was pretty cool that a "normal" guy outsold a "famous actor guy." Damn straight.)

It's a good dream. A positive one. If it happens -- great. If not -- I'll keep trying. I know the story has merit. I would not have wrote it otherwise. I know there is an audience for it, and I know it would make a great movie (I would put Rob Zombie in place as director).

I'll keep you all posted.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Selfish, Little: The Annotated Nightmares

Transgressive author Peter Sotos' Selfish, Little: The Annotated Lesley Ann Downey is what I would describe as not being for the faint of heart. I actually blame it for a horrible nightmare I had ... and I can't stop reading.

It would be easy to dismiss Sotos as a racist pedophile (descriptions that are, I believe, accurate), but you can't dismiss the fact that Sotos has a keen eye to how the media eroticizes missing and abused children. He's candid about his desires, actions and thoughts. The media is not. For him to call the media on this is not only brilliant, it is also a fascinating insight into the mindset of Sotos.

This book was given to me as a birthday present from Mirror. She has wondered if it was the right thing to do. It was. It was actually on my Amazon Wish List, so no complaints. Can I recommend it to anyone? No, not really. After all, this is not I Stand Alone, which at least has artistic merit. That's not to say Sotos' work isn't artistic. It is ... but for a very select few.

Chris Hansen from To Catch A Predator (a show I think is very guilty of the exact things Sotos describes) needs to interview Sotos. I'd love to see the two of them go at it.

Consider yourself warned.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Is This the Future?

I'm currently reading Art to Choke Hearts and Pissing in the Gene Pool by your friend and mine, Henry Rollins. My friend Blue noticed I was reading it and asked why. I explained that I had read Rollins a lot in my teen years and early twenties and was now just reading it to read again. It's always good to revisit the books you like. She knows some of the stress I'm under, some of the problems I'm having, so she asked if maybe I wasn't reverting back to those years. I stated I wasn't and couldn't; I'm a different person now.

At the same time, Celebrity Watchdog George Anthony Watson commented on a comment I left on Mirror's blog (all these names -- sounds like The Usual Suspects). He said my comment sounded like a bad chapter out of one of Rollins' books and then added that they were all bad chapters.

I haven't read much of Rollins' later stuff. I imagine it is in the same place as before. Isolation. Hatred. Rage. Introspection. Questioning society. I don't think those are bad things to write about, as they are constants in society. Yeah, it may show little progression, but should we really progress beyond these things?

I read Rollins now not because I have to in order to stay centered, but to remind myself of where that center is. I don't feel all that he feels. I don't relate to all of it or even most of it, but I relate to it enough and always have to know that reading Rollins can put the world back into the right light for me. It's not about reversion. It's about navigation.

I believe that in 200 years from now, Rollins' books will still be in print and still be relevant. There may be college classes focused around them. It seems insane to say that now, but I do believe it. I believe that his writing touches on something in a set group of people (larger than anyone can imagine) that isn't being written about today -- and definitely isn't being written about in that way. One of the closest things I can think of that came close to capturing some (not all) of that spirit on a mass level was the film Fight Club. Too bad most of the people who saw it misunderstood it, but that doesn't dilute the message.

And that is why I'm rereading him. The message got diluted. This clears it up.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Newer Kind of Pulp

There are people who think I only read serious nonfiction. Of course that isn't true. I have my guilty pleasures. One of those is are the books about Mack Bolan, The Executioner. These books, that are firmly in the men's adventure genre, are really the Conan novels of the modern era. Bolan is a warrior. He kills those who deserve it, beds gorgeous women and is a bit of a loner. For those who don't know, he's also the inspiration behind the Punisher character from Marvel Comics.

I first got one author Don Pendleton's books back when I was a young boy. Bought it at Laneco. It was Stony Man Doctrine. I ate that up and then bought as many as I could, with culminated in finding about 100 of the novels a few years ago in a thrift store. Two tubs of them. Ten bucks. A steal.

Yeah, that is a guilty pleasure. I've always had a thing for pulp fiction, and this is current pulp at its finest. Yeah, there may not be demons or supernatural villains or even witches, but there is tons of violence, stereotypes and bare breasts. I think that fits the definition.

I'm still missing quite a few of the books, so it's a quest I'm constantly on. The earliest one I'm missing is number five in the series. I think I will snag it some day at a fair price. Until then, however, I have quite a few to read yet before I'm out of stories.

Sometimes the guiltiest pleasures are the finest.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Manuscript Problems

I've been, as chronicled before, doing a new edit of the "cannibal manuscript" and the formatting is driving me nuts. I'm using Open Office and nothing seems to stick or work right. To say I'm pissed is an understatement. I rarely have time to write, and when I do I'm stuck reformatting and reformatting again ... and again.

It's enough to drive a crazy man crazier.

I've cut and paste. I've used my template that I have for manuscripts. Nothing is working. I may have to do it all manually, which will really drive me up a wall.

Just had to vent.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day Dreamer

Dreamer of the Day, Kevin Coogan's book on Francis Parkery Yockey, is an eye-opener, especially if you love Reagan. Gotta love crazy Nazi sympathizers who commit suicide, black magic, and fascistic homosexuality. Coogan obviously packs a lot in, and it is a fascinating read for anyone interested in such things ... and it's nonfiction.

A lot of people get some strange looks on their faces when they see what I'm reading. They usually ask a lot of questions of nonfiction works, which is fine by me. I believe in being fairly well-rounded when it comes to things, but I can understand their surprise when they see the guy who had been reading about Japanese gardening is now reading a book on fascists. It throws them for a loop.

I have been gathering books on the unusual for close to twenty-five years now, so I've amassed quite a collection of esoterica. I have sections on my bookself for cannibalism, media, paranormal, UFOs, true crime, art, anarchism, film and more. People who love books seem to take some pleasure (tinged with a little fear sometimes) in viewing my shelves. It's a pleasure for me to talk about the books, which ones I like, which ones moved me and so on. Usually this invokes a good conversation.

Someday I will have an entire floor of a house devoted to books. My own mini-library if you will. That's my "day dream," as if that isn't corny enough. Rest assured, though, like Yockey, I'll be engaging in plenty of dubious activities and kinky sex when I'm not reading, however.

Sometimes you just got to balance things out.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Joys of Not Getting Published

I've finished my latest draft of what I always call "the cannibal manuscript." I sent it out before and the publisher I sent it to rejected it because the ending was too downbeat. I would argue that it's realistic, but I don't think any publisher wants to hear that line of reasoning.

After getting that feedback I did something I never did before -- I let people read it. Friends from all different backgrounds with all different tastes. I wanted different opinions. I wanted honesty and brutal comments. Most of what I got back, though, was positive and fit with what I was trying to do with it.

So another rewrite was in order, and I did it. Added some stuff. Took out a tiny bit. Polished it. Now I wonder what will happen when I send it out again. Rejection is a given, but what will the reason be? Will I find a publisher? Will I self-publish? Should I?

I've wanted to be a writer since I read The Shining. I'm proud of my achievements. Not many people can say they outsold John Lithgow, caused a web site to get more hate mail then it had ever previously received, or have their daughter walk through a bookstore and say, "There's my dad's book." I've caused a major moral majority group to forgo a planned speech and instead attack an editorial I wrote. That attack lasted an hour. I've caused people to leave the room during a public reading of my fiction. I've done less than some writers, more than others. This manuscript, however, is one I want out there.

I feel good about this (but I always do). I feel like it could change things. All it needs is a chance. All it needs is a publisher to believe in it. All it needs is one person to give the nod, and I think I will be set. I won't be rich, but it's not about that. It's about being able to make a living off something only I can do. I'm the only one who can write my stories, tell my tales. Me. That's it.

When people say I should relax and take it easy, not work so much, it's obvious they don't get it. If I don't write these things, they don't get done. There is nobody there to pick up my slack. Hell, there can be no slack.

I want this one to get published. I want it to bother people. I want movie options. I want interviews in magazines and newspapers (it was cool to get interviewed by my old hometown paper during my lunch hour when my poker book came out).

I want it.

I will get it.

Or die trying.

Friday, October 16, 2009

On the Border

Borders. Not the best book store going, but not the most evil, either. Every time I need to ask a clerk for something, though, it becomes a nightmare of retail proportions. This day was no different. All I wanted was a copy of Apocalypse Culture for a friend's birthday. She likes studying the dark side of humanity, so I thought she would enjoy it.

The clerk, a bespectacled young man who looked like he enjoyed the musical stylings of Hootie and the Blowfish, walked over to a computer and typed the title in. Of course, he spelled it wrong ... a few times. "I don't think we have it," he told me.

"You might want to spell it differently."

"It's not spelled the normal way?" he asked.

"No. It is."

He shrugged and tried it another way. It was wrong, but close enough to get the title to come up on the screen. Bingo.

"We don't have it in stock," he said. "We can order it."

I wanted to tell him I could order it, too. Possibly even find it new and cheaper on eBay. I just thanked him, however, and told him I would look around instead. He answered with a shrug.

Getting competent help at Borders has been a problem for me for far too long. I'll usually ask for a title of either a book or DVD and will be told to look in some section that has nothing to do with the title, or have it typed into the computer (usually misspelled), or be told no such thing exists (that's my favorite). I don't know what it is with the staff, but that is usually how it goes.

I'm not a fan of big book stores, and this is one of the reasons why. I'll still shop there when I need something right away and nobody else has it, but if I can avoid it I will. Like all book junkies, however, I can't stay out of there. There's something about a book store ... the smell ... the way they look on the shelf ... the possibilities ... the comfort in knowing I will never run out of things to read.

The staff still sucks, though.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

The Anarchist Cookbook is suspect at best. There are a lot of things in there I wouldn't try. The politics are spotty, and some have said this book is a front, kind of a dangerous bit of disinformation. The controversy behind it, though, made me want it, and many, many years ago I obtained it ... but not without some problems.

I first tried to order this book from Waldenbooks. I asked the clerk to special order it for me. She looked it up in her system and said that their distributor blacklisted the book and would not sell it to any of the bookstores it supplied. Fair enough. A distributor doesn't have to carry anything.

I then took my business to a different, smaller bookstore -- one with balls. When I told the clerk there of my problem with Waldenbooks he said, "That's bullshit. We have the same distributor, and I can order that for you." And he did. Within days I had my book. Disappointment followed.

I never found out why Waldenbooks, which I never had much of a problem with previous to this, didn't want to order the book. I can only imagine there was some kind of corporate liability scare and instead of owning up to it, employees were instructed to put the blame on the distributor. It was a coward's act, and I lost all respect for the book chain after that.

Again, the book itself is nothing special and not worth the controversy associated with it. Every few years it shows up in the news when some criminal some place is found to have it in his possession. Yawn. Any book that has that kind of a reputation, however, needs to be checked out if only to see if the hoopla has any teeth to it. In this case, it really doesn't. And as for it being disinformation, I kind of think there is some truth to that, and that alone makes it well worth having as a piece of history.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Like Pulling Teeth

Halloween 2 by Jack Martin. I bought the book at the mall. I had the first book. Was fucking thrilled to get this one. Yes, I was still a kid, but my parents didn't have any hesitation when it came to the books I read. I could read anything I wanted, and I wanted this. The cover alone was worth any price I had to pay.

So I sat on the couch and dived into it, and it was tense. Very tense. I started playing with my tooth out of nervousness. I had just started to come loose. By the time I was done with the book my tooth would be gone and my mouth would be bleeding horribly. Yes, I tore my own tooth out while reading this because I was so into the story that tore out my own tooth and didn't feel a damn thing. I remember not only pulling on it, but twisting it. Back and forth. Forwards and back. I was doing my best to tear the thing from its housing in my gums, and I didn't taste a drop of blood.

It's amazing that a book can so thoroughly transfer to some world where you don't even feel pain. Looking back now, I doubt the story was all that great, but to my young mind it was the exact thing I wanted to read. I loved the movie, but the book took me into Haddonfield far more deeply than the film ever could.

My copy of the book is back East somewhere. I doubt I'll ever see it again. I'll never forget, though, looking down at the tooth in my blood-slick fingers (I was careful not to get any of the red love on the pages) and thinking, "Wow. How did I do this?"

Maybe I should go find a used copy somewhere ...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Electric Frankenstein

I finished Electric Frankenstein! High Energy Punk Rock & Roll Poster Art and have to say I came away impressed. Besides being an art and punk fan, I'm also a fan of Electric Frankenstein, so buying the book was a given. Getting such great art inside by the likes of Coop, Dirty Donny and others was icing on the cake. Bookending that art was an introduction on how artwork fits into the music scene and a history of the band. Again -- a must buy book.

Books like this are my decadent reads. Stuff that is there only to enrich me culturally. No heavy thinking or lots of introspection. I use them to get inspired and become exposed to new things. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. When I want the heavy reading, out comes Chomsky. When I want something light, any novel will do really. When I want to indulge, though, I pick up a book like this.

I bought this book when it first came out, but it has sat on my shelf waiting for the right time, which was just a few weeks ago. I cracked it open, sniffed the pages. They were still fresh. I took in the colors, the bands (Electric Frankenstein has had some incredible stage partners like Nashville Pussy and the Misfits) and the story. It was a short read, but highly satisfying.

I do that sort of thing a lot ... leave books on the shelf like trophies to be read when the time is right. I'm sure I'm not the only one, either. Some people, like those rabid Dan Brown fans, get a book and read it right away before the cancer claims them. I can understand that, but to me a book is something to be savored. Just glancing at my shelf now I can see Born Under a Bad Sky. Have had it a few months. Have yet to read it. I'll read it when the mood strikes. I won't rush it. Like wine, it should be sipped slowly.

It seems strange to write about something like this when it comes to a band known for playing fast, short songs. That's the nature of the written word, though. It can be about the most fast-paced subject, but is most enjoyed when you take your time with it.

And in a few more years I'll look at it again. For now, though, I'm wading through Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Asus to Enter E-Reader Market

Asus is set to introduce an Eee-reader this year to compete with Amazon and Sony's e-readers. For people like myself, who think e-readers are less romantic ways to read a book (changing it from art to mere product, much like MP3s and CDs did to music), this is just another annoyance in the constant stream of publishing woes. To others, this is a significant sign that the e-book is nowhere near dead.

I don't like reading anything but short pieces and news on my computer. I enjoy the feel of a book. The paper pages, the way a new book smells, what it looks like on my shelf. I have a library. Over 900 books. Yes, it takes up space. I don't care. Readers know that the first thing they look at in someone else's home are their bookshelves. A shelf with four lonely paperbacks on it can tell you a lot about someone. So can multiple shelves with books of every ilk resting upon them. The e-reader doesn't exactly do away with such things, but it is one step in that direction. Yes, it's easier to carry one e-reader containing dozens of books if you are going on a trip, but how many people take more than one or two books on a trip? (And if they run out of reading material they often buy another.)

When you can just download things with a push of a button it takes away some of the magic. The thrill of the hunt changes. No longer are you intrigued by a book's cover or spine, but instead by a small picture on a computer screen. It turns what should be an artistic quest into something more like shopping for school supplies.

Asus is not a bad company, and nor is Amazon or Sony. In the end, this will help publishers and authors ... most likely. (I have my doubts that people who don't read books now will pick these products up. Why would they?) Any way to get these two groups more revenue is good in my mind. I just wish the consumer journalists would question the necessity more. I wish they would challenge the veracity of such a thing. I also wish the people covering these stories would stop saying this will change/save publishing. It won't. What will save it is more readers, plain and simple. These products will not produce that.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Holding a piece of plastic is not the same as holding a book. It's not even close. I don't think I'll see a day when books aren't published, but I do think I'll see a day when the big publishers have vastly changed what they are and smaller publishers dominate the shelves. That will actually be nice, but it won't be brought about by these machines. No. It will be brought about by the major publishing houses being unable or unwilling to figure out how to get new readers.

That, my friends, is also our job. Readers and small publishers are essential to this goal. Small publishers offer niche products that appeal to a small but adamant group of people. Current readers can turn non-readers unto these things.

A machine can't do that. Can't even come close.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Book Review Up On My Other Blog

My other blog, Published and Unpublished Works, is where I reprint or link a lot of my (duh) published and unpublished pieces. It's obviously a work in progress.

Today a posted a piss-poor book review I did back in 1995 for Da Qiang Ji. You can read the review here, if so inclined. The book was published by Paladin Press (link in my links section of this blog). Here's an interesting footnote to all this.

I published this review in a 'zine I was doing at the time, Married Punks. Paladin was happy to supply us with books to review (and I welcome any publisher that wants to see its books reviewed here to contact me) until one day they cut us off. The reason? We were too extreme politically. Go figure.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Death Of Work

Bob Black's The Abolition of Work and Other Essays is when of those books you read when you're mad as hell and you just can't take it anymore (or so they say in the movies). Inspirational. Angry. Funny. Black, who has been the target of a lot of hate (some rational, others misplaced), may not appeal to everyone but he should be read.

In the essay "Let Us Prey!," Black hits something right on the head. "The liberals and leftist in contrast are dithering, defensive conservatives -- Weimar paralytics unwilling to do unto others what's being done to them." You can easily see why he has his share of critics in the left, and with the health care debate degenerating into a gun-toting lynch mob you can just as easily see he has a point. This is why I like him. This is why you probably hate him.

Toward the end of his book there is an essay called "Anarchism and Other Impediments to Anarchy." It is one of those essays that will either have you pissed off at him or possibly even agreeing. Personally, while I think Black is often a little full of himself, I also think he brings up some good points in this essay (and many others). They are uncomfortable truths -- of that I am certain -- but they are also worth examining. I won't go into his full argument but he is inspired in thinking that anarchists might be one of the prime reasons anarchism hasn't become society's norm. (He states that many anarchists are "incapable" of living in a co-operative and autonomous manner and also declares that many aren't very "bright." Yeah, there is something to that, and I would classify myself as an anarchist.)

Love him or hate him, Black is what I would call Autumn Reading. Everything is dying outside your window, and this is the perfect read to that backdrop. Plus, it could inspire you to quit your job and take up the lost art of creativity.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why I Write

The easy answer, the only answer, is to stay sane. Writing has always been my anchor to sanity. Fiction writing, really. In my fiction I can act out my fantasies, see how certain situations could play out if things went a bit differently, take out my stress on characters I don't like. In my fiction writing I can take destroy and create and have no real life consequences. As to be expected, my fiction tends to be of a darker nature, and I fear that is why much of it doesn't get published.

Writing non-fiction helps me make money and hone my craft, but it doesn't satisfy the same way fiction does. Non-fiction is masturbation. Fiction is the orgy. When I don't write fiction, I start to get a little strange. I haven't been writing much of it lately do to time constraints, work, personal life, etc.. I have to devote more time to it, though, because it's the only way out of my situation, and that makes me think I may have to even further my isolation. I was planning on going out tonight and hanging with friends, video games, etc.. My daughter isn't with me tonight (when she's with me all my time is devoted to her and I refuse to change that), so I thought it would be nice to get out. Now I think it would be nicer to isolate, get the cannibal manuscript done, and get it out there.

Anyone who writes for the same reasons understands this. Anyone who works as a writer knows you have to devote time to it. If I want to achieve fiction success, enough so that I don't have to work this horrid job anymore, I need to take hours every day and get shit done. As it stands now, I used to just write in the morning and night. Then it became just the morning. Then it was when I had time. Lately I've been doing more at night and it feels good. It gets my mind off my mind, and I feel like I'm making a difference in my life. Music is playing. TV is off. Ideas are flowing. And I don't feel like killing everyone I meet.

I haven't decided how to pull off this balancing act yet. Don't know if I'm able to, quite frankly. But I want this manuscript published. I want a book deal (would not turn down a movie option, either). I want to give my notice, buy a place where I can't see any other houses around me. I want a ten foot high wall, and groceries delivered. In other words, I want this book published so I can get the hell away from people and crank out another one.

I have a variety of manuscripts in various stages. I have not had much luck in placing them, and that is discouraging. I'll leave some sit a year or two before going back to them and tweaking them more. (I totally scrapped one that was finished after about eight years of not being able to place it and getting so tired of reading it that I realized I don't ever want it published.)

I may or may not go out tonight. If I do, I can be back early enough to get some writing done, some quality writing, and that won't be a bad thing. I would like to see my friends and perhaps socialize a bit, but maybe not.

For my sanity ...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Her First Book

My daughter wasn't even a year old when I started reading to her. The first book? Alexander Berkman's ABC of Anarchism, a classic from 1929 reprinted by AK Press and obtained through its excellent Friends of AK Press program.

My parents would have been appalled.

My daughter is five now, and I still read to her on a regular basis, though she's nowhere near as interested in reading as I was at her age. She's slowly getting it on her own, though, which I think will improve her interest level. I've got around nine hundred books in my library and let her know when she can read she can read of them she can reach. (With that one exception.)

That first book, though, was important to me. I know none of it stuck, but I wanted a seed to be planted. I wanted to, when she would ask me years later, be able to tell her that her first book was an important one, and why it was important. It's essential reading for anarchists and the politically minded in general. I don't exactly expect her to have the same political values as mine, but I know she won't learn the proper things about anarchism in school, so I wanted to get first dibs on that.

Perhaps in the future, when she's been reading for few years on her own, she'll delve into the first book I read her. Maybe she'll have questions. Maybe she'll dismiss it as leftist garbage. If I can get her to question it, though, then I have done my job. You see, I don't think a parent's goal is to get their kid to think like them. It's to have the child question the parent as to his or her beliefs. That should be what every parent strives for. Anything less is unacceptable ... and in some cases dangerous.

Let's hope this first book set the gears in motion for her to be on the right track. At the very least it's better than Limbaugh.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

These Guys Can't Die

Here's the problem with books of licensed fiction, such as any novels set in the Star Wars universe: Authors are often limited by what they can do with the characters. That's not always the case (remember Chewbacca), but it is especially true if the book in question is set before a movie starring one of the characters. Once you take away the notion a character cannot altered in any major way, it takes a bit of the bite out of the conflict.

Competent authors can work around this. Excellent authors can make you forget it. Hacks make it very clear they are trying to trick you. It's not the most of ideal playgrounds for a writer to operate in, but it can have its rewards (namely in having your name attached to something like the Star Wars or Star Trek universe). There's a built-in fan base, all kinds of exposure, and all kinds of hatred that can be thrown a writer's way if he or she screws up.

Quite frankly, I'm not sure I'd ever want to deal with any such problem (not that that looks likely).

When a reader encounters a character that can't be changed in any notable way, it puts a lot of pressure on the other characters in the story, and those characters had better be able to hold the reader's attention or the writer is screwed. That's why I think a writer faces an almost no-win situation when it comes to the craft (but not exactly to the writer's status). Most people who read stories that are licensed are reading them for the characters they know and love. Most of the focus should be on those characters ... but not much can happen to them because everything must be status quo at the end (the same problem exists in comic books). If the story bombs, it bombs hard. If it succeeds it's just another good story. The writer may gain infamy or fame, but he or she is so constricted that in the end the art of writing has to suffer somewhat.

This is obviously not every situation, but I've read enough licensed fiction that I know it is a problem. Anyone can see it. Writers want to write stories where characters change. Franchise owners want their characters untouched so that they don't drive fans away. It's why Superman can never stay dead or James Bond can't suddenly turn gay. It won't work, even if it would serve the story.

I don't blame authors for taking these jobs. They pay well, and often the writer is already a fan of the franchise in contention. Hell, there's a part of me that would love to write a Daredevil story or Batman (and I have a really good idea for that) or even Star Wars, but I know my ideas wouldn't fly because I believe what makes these franchises great are the characters and any story that is driven by characters better have some sort of character pay off. Incidentally, that's why most licensed fiction is situational based. Often you could plug any characters in there, but readers want to see those characters they know and love. The Star Wars films have dealt with the character changes (and to be fair the licensed fiction set after the movies has had the characters progress, which is fine, but the stuff set prior to the films has its limitations).

I wouldn't want to see these stories end, because I'm guilty of enjoying them. I just feel a bit bad for the writer. Say what you will, but it is almost a thankless job, but one that has some great ego rewards ... as well as monetary.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blame This One

I was nine. Loved horror movies. It was summer, if I recall correctly. The trailer played on the television. The Shining. It looked terrifying. The fine print in the ads encouraged me to read the book. I encouraged my dad to make a run with me to 7-11. I told him I wanted ice cream. What I wanted was the book.

My parents never really denied me books. They said no to toys, candy, animals. But rarely did they say no to books, and this was no exception. They didn't care that it was out of my age range. Later my mom said she was probably wrong to let me read it at such a young age, but I disagree.

Stephen King's book terrified me. It freaked me out. It had me jumping at every stray noise in the house. It also inspired me. I knew then and there that I wanted to create that same feeling in people, and it was when I finished that book that I knew I wanted to be a horror writer.

I still have that book. It's seen better days. There was a time when I was more superstitious and believed it caused my parents to fight. (They seemed to have massive arguments whenever I read it, which was usually once or twice a year.) It has tape on the edges, and try as I might not to bend the covers too far, the spine has stress wear. Hell, I've had it thirty years. You have to expect that sort of thing.

I am not anywhere near what I'd call a successful writer, but I've accomplished more than most ever thought I could. I have a book, a few short stories published, and enough non-fiction out there to destroy a city. I want more, and will never stop, and I blame that book.

I think every writer has one of those moments. One of those experiences when the light bulb just turns on. It's a beautiful feeling, and it puts your mind at ease because you suddenly know what you were meant to do.

I hope to someday thank King. I wrote him once, but I don't know if he ever got it. If not, consider this my thank you. If it weren't for your imagination, my imagination would have never had a place to go. Thanks to you, I'm not killing people ... at least not for real.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The One Book ...

It's the one book in my library I suggested my ex-wife never open. Its words and images are enough to cause PC readers convulsions of the highest order. It is badly written rage, hatred, disease courtesy of Randall Philip.

Extermination Zone.

Tales of child sex abuse, images of deformed people and other transgressive surprises await inside. Philip, who lived in Philadelphia and was involved in all kinds of nefarious stunts, is an outsider among outsiders and his book proves why. It's not something easily digested, and nor should it be. But should it be taken seriously?

Yes and no.

There's no doubt in my mind that Philip is a dangerous individual. There's also no doubt that a lot of what he writes about is mere fantasy meant to be shocking in the most base way possible. He succeeds beyond measure, but it comes with a blow to his credibility.

This isn't a book you see on a lot of shelves, and I don't even know if it is in print anymore. I received it as a review copy many moons ago. I looked Philip up on the net recently and couldn't find much of anything either (though I didn't look too hard), so it's quite possible he's dead, in jail, or went on to change his name and form an acoustic hippie band. Either way, the book is out there, haunting readers with its child sex slaves and paranoia. Sublime art? Sick performance piece in written form? Delusional mind outlet? I don't know, but it's not for the innocent or even the tainted. Read at your own risk.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Harry Potter Boy Genius

The Harry Potter movie opens tomorrow, and I assume it will do well at the box office. In the world of books, the boy magician pulled off a remarkable feat: getting kids excited about reading. You can't dispute that regardless of what you think of the books. I haven't read them and have no desire to, but plenty of people did, including those who never read. That speaks volumes.

By all accounts, the books are "good." Not great, but "good." I could care less, however, because it got people lining up outside bookstores for each new volume. When's the last time you can remember that happening ... at a bookstore? Exactly. If "good" books get people this excited, imagine what would happen if they discovered "great" books.

I have heard some people blame the Harry Potter phenomenon on herd mentality. If these were movies instead of books, I would tend to agree. Books are an emotional investment, though. The herd doesn't have the patience to engage in that prolonged of a frenzy. I believe the people who stand in line, dress like the characters and can quote passages (and often do), are genuinely excited about the books. Since that's the case, I can't really poke fun at them, but can instead applaud them for being as open possible with their love of the written word. I thank you, and every person concerned with the future of books should thank you.

So, to all the Harry Potter fans: Thank you. Your love of this book restored some of my faith in humanity.

I'm still not reading them, though.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Humboldt County Library Cuts Hours

Those living in Humboldt County now have to deal with the Eureka branch (and possibly others) cutting five hours a week out of its schedule. This was done as a "proactive" step in light of California's ongoing budget crisis.

As anyone who follows these things knows, libraries are quick to be victims of budget cuts. In this case, the powers that be decided one of the best things they could do would be to cut the hours to save money in their reserves in case anything happens. Whether that's good or bad really depends on what you think the outcome of the budget crisis will be.

Patrons of the library are used to this sort of thing, and while I use the Eureka branch of the library, I doubt the time changes will affect me all that much. For others, however, this could be a major inconvenience. They will need to decide if five hours spread over a week, however, is better than the library either closing for full days (more than it is now) or closing period.

If you love your library and think it is vital to your community (which it is, if only as an information source), let it be none now. As California goes, so does the rest of the country.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Huge Book Sale!

From AK Press:

Friday, July 3rd: Fuck the Fourth Sale!
4–10PM, AK Press warehouse

It's that special time again! Everything in the warehouse 25% off, with hundreds of titles marked down to $1–5! Snacks and refreshments on us! Tell your friends!

I'll have my daughter that day, so I won't be there, but if you are in the Bay Area and you consider yourself politically minded, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Sounds to be spectacular.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Investigating The Walk

Talking the Walk: A Communications Guide for Racial Justice is an important book with a lot to say if you are involved in any kind of activist group (race-based or not), but I have to wonder if its message is a little lost.

The book, edited by Hunter Cutting and Makani Themba-Nixon, gives activists the tools to effectively deal with issues of race when it comes to things like dealing with the mainstream media. It teaches people how to fashion the debate, how to get issues into the public eye and so on. Honestly, I could see this AK Press book being used in colleges, as it is that thorough and set up to do that very thing. Any questions about the book's validity are also addressed by the use of examples where the described tactics clearly worked. But, again, does it matter?

Now that Obama is president, I've actually heard people say the country is no longer racist. And then there are those who use his race as the butt of jokes (which I've covered on the Cancerous Zeitgeist blog). These two groups are the extremes. There are those who think racism is gone, and those for which it will never go away. Yes it is important to get both groups to hear messages that racism exists and it should be eradicated, but you have to wonder how you can effectively get it through their heads. This book claims to show activist groups how.

On one hand, repeating a message over and over will eventually cause it to sink in and become effective. That's something this book understands.

On the other hand, you spend a lot of time and effort appealing to morons. Time spent on them is time not spent on something else.

Racist messages in the media and from the government must be fought and countered. I don't think any progressive thinking person would argue otherwise. Knowing how to fight and counter is essential, hence the need for the book. I just have a problem taking the fight to idiots.

I am conflicted when it comes to this book. I can see its importance (and it is very well written), but it is not something I would pick up for casual reading. (I actually got it because I'm a Friend of AK Press, which is something everyone should look into.) The only parts of the book that actually interested me were the media situations that were presented (such as Katrina) and how they were dealt with by activist groups. That was interesting.

I've always been a firm believer in letting people drown in their own stupidity and ridiculous beliefs. I understand that when it comes to issues such as race, that stupidity becomes a huge problem for other people. On some level, however, it becomes a gay marriage problem.

The gay marriage problem is simple. Homosexuals want to be treated like heterosexual couples when it comes to marriage. They want assimilation. I would argue that assimilation is a bad thing (look at how well it worked for Native Americans). Equal rights, freedom, and all that comes with it is important. Assimilation destroys cultures. Asking for the right to marry isn't as effective as somehow taking it. Asking to be treated as equals when it comes to race, isn't as effective as demanding it. That's why I always loved the Black Panthers over say King, Jr. When you demand, you don't lose your sense of self. When you ask, it's akin to begging your master for a treat.

This book walks that line, but it often strays into the demanding side, which is why I feel it was worth reading. I just wish most of the focus would've been on creating your own media instead of using the enemy's.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

More Book Sales

I was walking through Borders today. It's not my favorite book store, but it does in a pinch, and there is far too much stuff I want in there. Anyone who loves books feels that way at just about any book store. Too many books. Not enough time.

Anyway, I went by the local author section, where my book sits on the shelf. Lo and behold, I've sold a few more copies. That's always a good feeling, though I've already seen the royalties from the copies our Borders purchased. Still, if it sells out I can only hope the store would order more.

I got to tell you, it's kind of cool to walk through a book store with your kid and have her say, "There's the book you wrote!" I can't even describe what that is like. It was neat seeing it there for the first time (and it was just as cool learning it was the #8 best selling gaming book on Barnes and Noble's website), but to have your kid acknowledge it is amazing.

I hope to get this cannibal manuscript published next. That would really make me happy, as this is one of my babies. I think it would sell better than the poker book, and I think it would be generally well-received. Hell, I'd even do an in-store signing for this one, unlike the poker book.

Here's to hoping ...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Proud To Be A Moron

I got an e-mail from a friend telling me that Kanye West, that humble musician, was releasing a book. Not surprising when you think of it ... except that West seems proud of the fact that he doesn't read.

I run into people who are proud not to watch TV. I always found them to be kind of pretentious, as television isn't total garbage. It's like anything else. The majority of stuff found on it will be garbage, but there will be gems there. I can understand people not wanting to watch television, though, and being proud of that, as many people think television rots thy brain.

What I've never been able to understand, however, are the people who take pride in not reading. Is there any other proclamation that can make you seem more ignorant? No. Declaring that you don't read is the same a declaring, "I don't really think a lot." I find these people suspect. Why are they proud of their ignorance? Is that some kind of badge of honor? Who respects that? Would you really want those people respecting you?

To proclaim you don't read while at the same time talking about a book you've written ... well, that just about seems right. (Apparently West's book features blank pages and some pages with just one sentence. At least that's what the e-mail said.) Who would buy this book? A bunch of non-readers. Why would they buy this book? Because they don't read and West doesn't read, but West said he wrote it, so buy it. Sheep.

I don't play a lot of attention to hip hop, but I'm thinking of cutting an album. I wonder if West thinks that's a good idea? I mean, if he can write a book ...

On an unrelated note, I'm still thinking of going the print-on-demand route. I'm looking into things. I want to get more of my work out there, and since publishers aren't busting down my door, this seems the best way possible. If anyone has any experience with this, please let me know.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

For Those Interested ...

It looks like I will be reviewing books once again for Fearlessbooks. I'm kind of excited about that, as I was exposed to some really interesting reads. I'll post more info on this later. I have to update my bio this week, so I think this will start happening in the next few months.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I finished Conan the Warrior and thought: Was Robert E. Howard a racist? I don't know a lot about his personal life, and I realize the three stories in the Conan book were written in 1935 and 1936, but I have to wonder. Is he a racist, or does his Conan character show his contempt for "civilized" culture?

The realist in me says Howard thought blacks were inferior. The way they are written about as being savages and lusting after white women makes me think the author was just playing into the common stereotypes of the time.

The optimist says Howard was using Conan as a critique of white "civilized" culture. To buy that you have to say the stories are seen mostly though Conan's point of view. Leaders are indulgent, overweight, and ignorant. They have lost track of the enemies at their door,and when they do find them, they look down on them. Conan sees this and hates these people. Black characters are still savages, but white culture doesn't get off any easier.

The book itself is excellent. Howard's writing stands the test of time. It's as bloody as it is creepy, and he knows how to turn a phrase. That nagging bit about the untamed black men lurking in the jungle, though, doesn't play as well in 2009.

When it comes to writers from a less enlightened time period (Nietzsche is another who comes to mind), you have to take that era into consideration when analyzing their work. Granted, there have always been people who aren't racist or sexist, but are still products of their culture. An open-minded reader should be able to go into that type of story without those values ruining the experience. A less-than-open-minded reader will have a real problem getting through it.

I really suspect Howard is a bit of both things. He was the aforementioned product of the times and a bit racist, though he probably didn't look at it that way. But at the same time he has little respect for "civilized," white culture. We have gotten too soft, which is even more true these days.

It doesn't make Howard any less a writer. In all honesty, when all the normal smoke clears, I think you will find that Howard is actually stronger for it. His work still stands the test of time, and he is still popular. His Conan character thrives in other media (the recent Dark Horse Comics series is one of those), and while the racism is downplayed for modern audiences, Howard's original stories still containing the equal bit of contempt and attraction to the unknown and misunderstood.

If Howard were put on the stand and asked under oath if he thought blacks were inferior to whites, I'm not a hundred percent sure what his answer would be, but I do think that somewhere in it he would describe how all culture has become a mockery of anything rational. He would say that all the trappings of modern (for that time) society has robbed mankind of its survival instincts, and I think he would praise the "savages" for their ability to thrive and conquer in such a world, though he would admit that the blacks of his culture were vastly different than those in his stories.

Make no mistake. I'm not saying Howard is a David Duke type (who wrote racist books under a pseudonym). I'm saying he was, if nothing else, a man writing of his time, but wishing he were in another era, and it all came out in Conan.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sharks In The Water

I read this Hunter S. Thompson book while on the bus out to California. It's not a light read by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's often pretty brutal, but also equally hilarious. It was the perfect thing for a bus trip filled with psychotic lizard people.

I consider Thompson a genius on some level. He made political writing fun, he brought anger to new levels, and he wasn't shy about his drug use. Reading the good doctor made me want to be a better, more honest writer. I was already an angry writer by the time I started reading his work, but he made me be more direct. The Great Shark Hunt was my beginning. It was not the end.

When I heard the news that Thompson had died, I was saddened. Not shocked. I had been expecting it for years. I did feel, however, that the world lost someone who could never really be replaced. When we lose Grisham (hopefully any day now), some other writer will take his place. When we lost Thompson there was a void, and nothing has rushed in to fill it. Actually, nothing can really fill it. Some can try, and they may be partially sucessful at it. They won't replace the man, however, and I don't think any of them worth their weight would want to do that.

The legacy the man leaves behind is not only one of great journalism, it's one of inspiration. I rest easy knowing that on any given day some kid is going to pick up one of his books for the first time and become inspired to be a writer. This is as inevitable as the rising sun, and it is the legacy that I think means the most.

Cheers, you swine.

(Click here for Thompson books at Powell's.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Social Pariahs

Ah, the joy of reading in public. Unfortunately, reading in public is treated kind of like masturbating in public. If someone sees you do it, they are stunned. Some brave souls will talk to you, but the conversation inevitably goes something like, "What are you doing?"

"I'm reading."

"What are you reading?"

"A book." You show them the title. Now you would think that the solitary act of reading, would clue people in that you aren't looking for a conversation. Not so. Normally, the inquisitive chap will continue to talk to you. This often happens at bus stops and laundry mats. I don't know why.

Seeing people read a book should not be that uncommon of a sight. It seems like it is, though. And the larger the book's page count, the greater the chance someone is going to think you are reading it for college or some other institute of learning.

And then there are the people who proudly tell you they either don't read or can't remember the last time they picked up a book. I imagine this is supposed to be impressive. "Look at me! I'm ignorant!"

And watch their reaction when you tell them you are reading for ... wait for it ... pleasure. That will really make you feel like a social pariah. How dare you? Are you molesting children, too?

Some books are perfectly acceptable to read in public. Anything with Harry Potter (which I've never read) comes to mind. Those vampire books for teen girls are pretty safe, too. Try reading Necessary Illusions or some Beeline smut novel and see what happens, though. People take your boldness as a personal attack and they are more than happy to let you know it.

Yet they remain curious.

I've done a lot of reading in public. Most all of it has been for pleasure. I've noticed that magazines don't earn the same reaction (photos make it seem okay in the average joe's eyes) as books, and graphic novels really puzzle people. Such is the nature of the beast, I guess. When far too many people have never stepped foot inside a book store, you have to expect such things. There's not much we can do about it, we reading elite.

Of course, you could always put on headphones, too, but that starts a whole other conversation ...

Monday, April 20, 2009

AK Press

For all you political/social junkies of a left bent, I have to recommend AK Press' Friends of AK Press. For $25 a month, you get everything AK Press publishes for that month for free. You have to sign up for 3 months minimum, but it is worth it. You get every book, DVD and CD that the anarchist publisher does, and you get like 20% off all items in the catalog.

This month I got two books that averaged $18 a piece, so you can see it's a good deal. That said, if you don't like political/social books from a leftist/anarchist perspective, this is not something you should do.

I have friends who have done it after hearing me talk about it, and they seem to like it. Check it out if you think it may be for you. It's a damn good deal, and you'll be neck deep in quality books in no time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Introductions ...

This is my blog dedicated to books. As a writer, books are kind of near and dear to me. I don't think enough people read, and when they do read, they read crap (John Grisham comes to mind). I'm going to focus on what I like to read, book news and so on.