author C.C.Cole's blog

Monday, May 28, 2012

On Dark Fantasy Battles

"Game of Thrones"

All of that write or read Dark Fantasy await the conflict in the story, which most of the time is war.  A King is either threatened or is claiming his ruler to bring peace by benevolent or malevolent law and order.  Most dark fantasy has “good” and “bad” sides, and sometimes huge epics develop a large number of characters revealing that good and evil is not always purity.

As the tension mounts up in Dark Fantasy, readers await the battles.  Minas Tirith in LOTR for the prototype, to the Blackwater Battle in “Game of Thrones.”  Whatever it’s over, wherever it is; sea, land, air, all of the above, magic and brute steel, we read up to the battle as the climax of the story.  We look for ingenuity in the writer for battle strategy, intelligence, weaponry, and use of archers, fire, and soldiers. 

Why are we Dark Fantasy readers so into battles?  What is it about the clash of enemies on a grand scale with the mothers and children hiding while swords and shields clash outside a wall, with all of the blood, fear, and courage it goes with.  Maiming by cuts, blunt trauma, fire, or arrows barely breaches the surface of the horrors of medieval war.  With so much intense violence of war, why is it used so much in Dark Fantasy?

Answer:  To me, the cost of war stands out very powerful in our minds. It doesn’t take a Dark Fantasy reader to understand what we know in history and in current events.  War is a hell on Earth, we readers and writers understand it, we respect it and we writers use it in our stories.  Battles create tension in stories and the outcome brings out emotion.  Change is almost inevitable following war, regardless of outcome.  Writers use the outcomes for protagonist/antagonist ends. 

Does Dark Fantasy war make war more of a “fantasy?”  Not to me.  I think of it as a reminder.  Those of us that write fiction take our stories from research, experience, and imagination.  The biggest driver of fiction is non-fiction.  We write bravery and tyranny, with the realization that such horrors have and do exist in reality.

When I see epic fictional battles, I do get reeled in with the tension of good versus evil.  As readers and writers, unless we’ve experienced war, our imagination is what we’re left with.  That’s not much compared to the real thing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

On the Destiny of Literary Labels


Many times I’ve encountered on blogs and social networking criticisms of many types of literature, including self-published, YA paranormal romance, infamous wizardry, and youngsters in arena battles.  The terms used to describe the bestsellers and non-bestsellers are similar; “crap,” “boring,” “over-hyped,” “don’t waste your time,” and other non-flattering descriptions. 

However, when the above terminology comes from writers, what does that mean?  It could mean the writer read these struggling Indie writers, or any of the YA mega-hits and didn’t see the magic in Harry Potter.  That’s understandable.  Other writers don’t like reading self-published writing, just as some readers don’t, and writers are readers, right?  (Let’s hope so).  But if a writer calls another writer’s work “crap” and has not read it, what is that called?

We Indies understand the self-published karma, so let’s move on to the hits that have risen far above the criticism of any single person, writer or not.  The millions-selling YA series, so popular, made into blockbuster films, and after all that hype, they’re “crap?”  Sure, authors have a right to an opinion like anyone else.  Maybe they saw a film or two and didn’t pick up the frenzy with the rest of the planet.  That’s OK, but someone liked these books.  Millions of “someones.”

None of us can gaze through a crystal ball and see which popular books will become classics in the next half century.  Also, when a book is defined as a classic, is it always a bestseller?  No.  Who decides which books become bestsellers and/or blockbuster films?  Answer:  The audience.  Translation for writers:  The Readers.

As writers, we create literature to be read, hopefully enjoyed by readers.  And some readers may not like our work; I suspect most writers have run into that, certainly bestsellers when I see reviews on amazon.  But an ability a writer does not have is to decide which books will “make it.”  Yes, marketing is very important, but only readers can determine what the short and long term legacy of any story will be.  While new authors can question the taste and decision-making of today’s readers, that’s fine, but that’s not who dictates what the readers do.  Critical authors do not bring a favorable response by insulting readers.

Writers write.  Readers read.  The end product of a writer is the story.  The end product of the reader is the remembrance of the story, thus defining its destiny.

On the Value of Facebook and New Authors

"The Social Network"

I remember well when “MySpace” was the thing, the place, for young people to visit that disappeared into thin air.  My promotional “package” opened an account for me, which I closed later for lack of interaction and, well, what can I say, the site didn’t work for me.

I found out about Facebook (after everyone else, of course) by turning on my husband’s computer and seeing it.  After asking him about this dating site, (that’s what I thought it was) he did some explaining.  Someone else told me to get on Facebook, it’s the “thing.”  Though skeptical, I jumped in, and with the 900 million users, there I am, “liking” and “posting” with the rest.

When my first book, “Act of Redemption” was published, advice given to me was to definitely get the book on Facebook.  OK, uh….How?  No answer there.  I opened my page, tried to collect a few friends, and got some awful emails and messages from Facebook threatening to shut my page down for spamming.

Spamming?  OK, well, I thought, FB must be right, after all.  It is the company worth billions and if it says inviting five friends to an author page is spamming, so be it.  I didn’t invite FB friends for a long time.  I did extend my presence on Goodreads and Twitter.  I did seek help on FB about what I was doing wrong, and was assured all FB staff were very busy.

Later, I found FB Ads.  Hey, no spamming there!  Pay for your clicks, and no-spam-I!  After trying this for a few months, my sales were almost as dismal as my pocketbook. (from my Ads article..)  And General Motors just dropped their ads?  Maybe there’s some solace that new authors (this new author, anyway) and auto manufacturers can’t get results from FB ads.

After seeing and enjoying the film “The Social Network,” the question stuck in my mind:  “Why is Facebook worth so much?”  We don’t pay to be on FB.  Some people explained  “venture capital,” which my small mind has trouble grasping, other than exposing our information to companies to channel Ads.  Wait, what?  Ads aren’t cool?  Isn’t that right? 

I still didn’t understand.  I asked many business people why FB was worth so much, because, as a consumer, I don’t buy anything directly from FB.  Amazon, yes.  Twitter, yes, with links usually to amazon or smashwords.  But Facebook?  Maybe (probably) I’m just out of the loop.

This past week’s news didn’t make me feel so badly out of the loop.  For reasons I still don’t understand, investors don’t seem to understand what FB is worth either.  Whatever it’s worth, last week wasn’t a great one.

But here’s the real question:  What is Facebook worth?  Meaning, not monetary worth.  That’s still a lot.  After the initial browbeating, I’ve met great people virtually, enjoy networking, and catch up with friends I haven’t seen in decades.  That’s what it’s worth, and there’s no clear sticker to place on the value of the social experience.

Waiting for Johnny

flight deck of an aircraft carrier

This is based on a factual story told me:

“I worked the flight deck.  Lots of us had to, and it was a job!  We had to get the planes ready, then when they came back, we had to make sure they landed OK, and it was dangerous then if the plane was damaged.  Lots die on the flight deck, either pilots or we workers.

“After a while, we on the deck knew our pilots.  It was part of the job.  When we got them ready to send off, we had to make sure everything was done that we could do so they could come back.  Every face I remember leaving that flight deck.

“One we all knew was Johnny.  He was real nice, good-looking young man, and from a rich family.  We all knew that, but everybody thought the world of him.  Whenever he was around, he said hey to everyone, and the other pilots liked him a lot too.  Everyone liked him.  But really, when we sent those pilots off, we worried about all of them. 

“One day, a plane didn’t come back.  It was the same chill we felt like all the planes, knowing that the pilot was either dead or caught.  When we checked to see who all returned, Johnny hadn’t come back.

“We waited and waited for Johnny.  He didn’t come back.  We just sat there on the flight deck, not a thing we could do.  We waited and waited, hoping he was late.  But he wasn’t late.  Johnny didn’t come back.  We had a gut feeling they caught him.

“Johnny did come back, years later.  But I can’t forget the day we waited for him to come back.  It’s in my mind every day.”

May this story be in remembrance of all “Johnny’s” that didn’t come back, suffered as Prisoners of War, or hideous injury.  We honor those that fight and died for our freedom.

Review of “Aftereffects: Zombie Therapy” by Zane Bradley

“Aftereffects: Zombie Therapy” takes the reader into the office of a psychiatrist, who sits, listening carefully and takes notes of his patients afflicted with a problem that he has the cure.  In a dystopian world, a tragic background, and carnivorous dead abound, no place is really safe.  The reader is introduced to a variety of “patients” that do get the kind of assistance only this doctor can deliver in a quiet, skillful way.  Nothing is as it seems as the plot moves toward the ending, leaving the reader with questions about who-is-on-who’s side.  For zombie fans, a must.  For horror fans, still a  must!  Five Stars!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On Zombie Coolness


Typical me, arriving last to the latest popular trends, I’m finally making it to the zombie sensation.  Not that I haven’t had some fondness of zombies, I recall quite clearly zombies in the old “Dark Shadows” series, the “Living Dead” films, and of course needed something for Shevata to practice on in her early history of the Gastar novellas. 

I suspect some of the popular recent films involving walking dead helped move along the popularity of the carnivorous afterlives.  Why are zombies so popular, besides some great hashtags, like #unemployedzombies (who knows me)?

Zombies are answer to vampires, to me, in a way.  They’re not snobby or pretentious.   Ever see a zombie lie to anyone?  OK, so maybe I didn’t read that book or see that film.  But, in general, zombies are pretty honest.  If you get close, you get eaten.  Simple.

Zombies give us a grotesque view of horror and anatomy.  After watching a zombie film or three, I can cut back on my eating for a while.  Consider it an appetite-suppressant.   Also, it’s quite educational, what’s so bad about a bit of Gross Anatomy?  OK, bad joke.  Muscles, tendons, crushing bone, I think I’ll stop there. 

Zombies are classic.  “The Night of the Living Dead” is someone’s favorite classic bad horror film, even if it isn’t mine.  Some films out there, especially in the horror genre, are great because they’re so bad.  It’s like going full circle, one has to admire a film that’s so bad.  All right, let me back off a bit for the real fans, my dearest late sister included.  She loved zombie films; so I’d better be nice before she finds me.

Overall, we dark fantasy readers shouldn’t sell zombies short.  When we call upon them, they deliver.  Be it readily available Armies of Darkness (yes I mean the film “Army of Darkness”, but those were more like skeletons; same difference), cannibals of evil creation, neighbors post mortem redux, zombies are there for us.  Must we always take ourselves so seriously all the time?  Nah.  Zombies help us through the dark times and throw a little darkness in to cheer us up.

On a Touch of Class

writer Elizabeth Marshall

I’m so happy that a writer-virtual friend Elizabeth Marshall joined me on my blog for a little interview.  We are mutual admirers of our literary works (disclosure), and she’s an awesome romance writer.  While I’ve got Shevata pounding out demonic overpopulation in the most un-romantic way possible, Elizabeth writes beautiful classy romantic novels with historic backdrops that take even my hardcore dark fantasy breath away.

As I hand over blog space to Elizabeth, I’d like to acknowledge writers of historical romance.  I’ll admit it’s not a genre I normally gravitate to (see my upcoming review and article of the zombie frenzy), but I really admire these writers.  Romance is an emotion that we all feel at one time or another, and is one of the most cherished to all of us.  Writers that can bring us back to romance bring us to times of our lives we remember the most, true markers of our lives.  I hope to be as classy as Elizabeth someday, but don’t see that happening.  That’s OK, nothing wrong with a role model.

Elizabeth, tell us a little about your background and your early inspiration for writing:
I was born and raised in the Province of Natal, South Africa by a large Scottish farming family. By far my largest playground was to be found on visits to my grandparent’s farm. They lived down the Natal South Coast where my grandpa owned a banana farm with full views of the Indian Ocean. I can smell it now; the clean air of the beach, the sound of the waves beating against the rocks, the white froth on the water, the excitement of going out onto the rocks to fish.
Then grandpa bought another farm, this time it was inland, around the Harding area. It was an old coaching house, which at one time had been used by travelers from the Cape Province to Natal. Visits to the farm opened up a whole new world of adventure. Grandpa taught me how to pan for gold, he took me for walks in the bush, taught me what was edible and what was not, how to track animals and what the spore of each animal looked like. He showed me how to find water and taught me to always follow the river’s edge if I were ever lost. I played on his tractors, got to ride in the back of his trucks and named the cows, all whilst ruining countless pretty little dresses on thorns and sharp twigs. Granny was, of course, always on hand to patch not only the dresses but my scratched and bruised arms and legs. We bathed in the kitchen in a cast iron tub filled with water from big kettles on a coal-burning stove. Granny was a romantic, a dreamer and a storyteller. She raised five children on a two thousand acre farm in the Natal Drakensberg, survived a bitterly cold and snowy winter in canvas tents whilst my grandpa, single-handed, built them a home and saved her three year old daughter from a snake bite. Her life was not an easy one, but through it all her imagination flourished. Although I have never really considered it before now, I guess the simple truth is that my granny taught me the art of story-telling and my grandpa provided the inspiration to tell them.
The Simon and Corran romance is beautiful. What inspired you to create them?
A few years ago my husband and I took our five children on a winter holiday to Glencoe in Scotland. The morning after we arrived my husband came to stand beside me in front of our bedroom window and, like me, stared in awe at the magnificence of the view.
“What is that island?” I asked.
“I think it’s Eilean Munde,” he replied.
“Isn’t that where the MacDonald brothers buried their father after the massacre of Glencoe?” I replied.
“Yes, I think it is,” Andrew said, softly.
“I want to go to the village, Andy.”
“Well it’s not far from here, we can go after breakfast if you want," he offered.
“I would like that a lot, thank you,” I said, struggling to take my eyes off the island.  A gentle mist hung teasingly above it, obscuring it in parts. I wanted, desperately to brush the mist away, to see what mysteries it hid but unfortunately five children with hungry tummies were calling, so breakfast it was.
A few hours later, we stood on the quiet street that runs down the centre of the village of Glencoe. Great mountains rose up around us as we wandered up a small hill towards the Glencoe memorial.
“Andrew, what date is it?” I asked, in confirmation of my    own opinion.
“It’s the 12th, why?” he replied.
“Well, tomorrow is the anniversary of the massacre,” I said, pointing to a sign on the memorial which read, ‘Massacre of Glencoe, 13th February 1692.’
I looked back down the hill and into the village. Tidy little cottages lined the street. Grey clouds of smoke rose from chimneys and hung poignantly against the clear blue of the morning sky.

Suddenly I could smell it, the sickly, metallic copper stink of fresh blood and death. I could hear the terrifying crackle of flames as they leapt around the walls of cottages. I could see the smoke as it hung thickly and heavily in the air. Cries of panic and terror as families stumbled from their burning homes; the blaze of musket fire, the sulphurous smell of a fired gun and the bodies which lay upon the snow filled streets.
Without realising it, I had found the inspiration for my story.

What is your first publication?
‘When Fate Dictates’ was my first publication.

Do you write mostly historical romance?
Everything I have written has an historical backdrop. ‘When Fate Dictates’ and ‘Beyond Time have more romance than the ‘Highland Secret Series’, ‘Entwined’, which is due for release this autumn, is more fantasy, adventure than romance.

Any advice for us ever-struggling new authors?
Oddly enough I was emailed a few days ago by a young girl called Emily, who lives up in the Scottish Borders. She asked me a similar question, ‘How do you start writing?’
At first I wasn’t sure how to answer her, I didn’t feel qualified to offer her advice, but then I didn’t want to ignore her question either, or worse still brush her off.
So I told her to do what I did, (incidentally she now lives in the house where I lived when I started writing)’ -
'Go sit in your kitchen.  Look out the window in the paddock, see the hills, the sheep, the cows, the pheasants.  Stand outside, by the wall at the gate to your garden, and look out towards the road.  Now look up.  Watch the eagles and the hawks as they circle their prey and think about how it makes you feel.  Then close your eyes and feel the wind in your hair and on your face.  Describe what you have seen, how it feels, what it makes you think of.  Then go back into your kitchen, and write it down. 

That, Emily, is how you start writing:-)xx'
(why can't I write like that?..nevermind....)

What is your writing routine? Sporadic, or organized?
*Smiling* at this question. As much as I would love to say organized I have to admit to having little or no routine when it comes to writing. My children and husband are my first priority and always will be. Writing is something I do if and when there is the time or chance. Organized would be nice but realistically, I have a demanding five year old, organized isn’t happening in my life for a long time to come.

Being in the U.K. and I'm in the US, do you see any differences in marketing challenges for new writers?
The U.K market is a lot smaller than the U.S and far less people own ereaders in the U.K, which makes it a very different market to the U.S. I think U.K readers are less internet driven, although this is changing slowly. The language differences between the two countries can prove challenging for both U.K and U.S authors. I personally love marketing to both countries, mostly because it has provided me with the opportunity to meet with and get to know so many new and interesting people.

What classics do you recommend? (Austen, etc)

Now this is a difficult question because it depends on whom I’m recommending them to. Personally I was never a great Austen fan. I did enjoy the works of Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters, in particular ‘Wuthering Heights’. However, and this isn’t really a classic but, my all time favourite ‘good old fashioned historical love story’ is ‘Forever Amber’ written by Kathleen Winsor.

Any mainstream bestsellers you've been reading?

Yes, “The Magic Faraway Tree” by Enid Blyton, which I have been reading to my five year old daughter for the past week.
When not reading and writing, what are your other interests?

I am quite unashamedly going to confess to a newly discovered love of ancient pubs, which my husband and I frequent every Friday night. All in the name of research for my books, of course.

What's your favorite food? Favorite beverage?
Again, *smiling* I like these questions and just for the fun of it, I’m going to play money is no object. So here goes, hopefully my husband will read this, nudge, wink, Andy. - Olives, Oysters, Fillet steak, Calamari and pink Champagne.

I've visited the UK and loved it. Have you ever visited the US? Any place you'd really like to see (you don't have to say Mississippi)

Sadly I haven’t yet been to U.S. but one day I would very much like to. There are many places I would love to visit, all inspired by books. The first is Virginia, inspired by two books written by Philippa Gregory called ‘Earthly Joys’ and ‘Virgin Earth’. The second is, and yes, C.C. it is actually Mississippi, inspired by Mr Mark Twain and of course I can’t forget North Carolina thanks to the wonderful story telling ability of Diana Gabaldon.

Check out Elizabeth’s work and her site!
While we’re on the subject of virtual friends, so much is stated about the bad about the Internet.  But to put light on the dark, technology made it possible for so many of us to meet under circumstances that weren’t possible twenty years ago.  Overall, sure, bad stuff is there, but there’s also good.  I’ve valued my virtual friendship with Elizabeth, along with many others.  And our lives could not be more different, she’s a romance-writing full time Mom, and I’m a dark fantasy-writing, carb-ingesting, professional DINK.  Thank you Elizabeth, and may your many days be blessed!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On the Semicolon Epitaph

"Empire Records"

I’ve always liked the teen-angst film “Empire Records.”  Though low-rated on the film channels, it’s got a lot of the issues associated with teenage turmoil:  Music fanaticism, celebrity crushes, jailbait (big time), rebellion, financial cluelessness, unrequited love, low self-esteem, grown-up manager still a teenager at heart, and magic brownies.

One of my favorite scenes is the fake-suicide attempt by the troubled Deb, with the others around, talking about her like she’s dead.  My fake-funeral:

I’m going to miss her; she was a nice virtual friend.  Smile

She was a good writer too.  Her books were good.  Smile.  Aww!

Well, for a new author, a pretty good writer.  I mean, not a “good writer” like George R. R. Martin.  She didn’t describe roasted swans garnished with berries, served with sweet red wine and lemon cakes.  That’s OK.  I’ll leave the food descriptions to Mr. Martin.

She didn’t write about gratuitous sex.  If Shevata got laid, it would help her attitude immensely.  Oh, God….I think I’m really dying now.

Shevata was a good kick-butt; she was a bitch.  Smile.

I think Shevata was mean to the vampires.  A “Twilight” fan.  OK.

I didn’t read her books because I don’t like reading about demons.  Thank you for being a non-audience reader and not reading my books.

The formatting of her books is strange to me.  Ah, an editor.  I never know what that means.

But what’s going to happen to Shevata now?  I think she and Zermon will fall in love and get married.  WHAT?  (High decibels in my mind).

Her blog was good, except that stupid article called “Time” using the Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” album cover.  She took it down, thank goodness.  OK.  I deserve that.

I don’t like her book reviews.  What’s the deal, a five-sentence paragraph?  Grr..I probably reviewed one of your books.

Why is everything so dark? I mean, that’s kind of weird.  “Heart of Darkness,” “The Dark Knight,” she was into dark.  I think she was a little crazy.  Aww, that’s so sweet!  (teardrop!)

Why did she always bring up her vast hard science educational background?  Like we care or something?  Point taken.

I think she was a big a film addict as a book addict.  Aww.  They know me.

Since she was so educated, she could have learned basic punctuation.  I’ve never seen so many semicolons in my life.  Grr!  (I sit up)  “That’s it!  Say what you want about my books, my blog, my reviews, my weirdness, but when it comes to my semicolons, store the attitude!” (I stomp away)

Stupid funeral.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review of “Damned” by Chuck Palahniuk

“Damned” is the story of Madison Spencer, a thirteen-year-old girl who narrates her story from hell.  She is a “generation Y” child of wealthy celebrity parents.  From the underworld, she points out the wrongs of the world she left behind as she saw it, from fake Coach handbags to illegal immigrants’ rights to do skin care for rich people.  Like many young teenagers, she’s more knowledgeable about some things than her parents realize and clueless on other issues that they take for granted she understands.  Her first-person addresses to Satan are with all of the honesty, haughtiness, and dark humor expected of the author of “Fight Club.”  While the story bogs down in a few places, it’s entertaining, disturbing, and darkly funny at the same time.  For readers that can handle the dark, twisted, brilliance of this author.  Four stars!

On the Darker Inner Concepts

"The Dark Knight"

As a longtime fan of comic books, when the Burton “Batman” came out many years ago, I was there with the masses.  I liked the film, but I’m not really a DC Comics person (blasphemy, I know) favoring Marvel, especially Spider-Man since I was a kid.  My favorite line from the sequel was “I was my parents’ number one child and they treated me like number two.”  (something like that).  Afterwards, I was done with Batman films forever.

After “Spider-Man,” I felt vindicated that film industry finally brought my favorite comic book to the big screen.  It’s about time, I thought.  Now I can enjoy Spider-Man and I won’t be dragged back into comic book films Redux times one hundred.

Enter “Batman Begins.”  While surfing MSNBC entertainment, I found it interesting that actor Christian Bale would be cast as Bruce Wayne.  Wow, the guy that played Laurie in “Little Women,” starring Winona Ryder?  My respect of Bale’s acting didn’t intrigue me enough for the film.  My husband explained to be about “The Dark Knight” comic series and I listened as a good wife should and said, “No.”  Batman has been done to death.  I slammed the Batdoor of my mind and locked it with a Batlock.

Afterwards, the block-exploder sequel, “The Dark Knight” opened to the world except me.  Again, my husband assured me that the film was excellent and it would fit my dark fantasy taste.  “No!  It’s Batman!”  I reinforced my Batbrain with a Batneuro-blocker to open-mindedness.   Yes, Heath Ledger was a favorite actor of mine (RIP, miss you!).  But made to look like an ugly Joker?  Hello?  Again, “Noooo!”

While at home with a migraine, months after it was on HBO repeatedly with four stars, I finally decided to give it a chance.  When my husband got home, I was on my third time to watch it.  Now I have the DVD and I really don’t know how many times I’ve seen this film.  Now my husband calls me Batbrain with an entirely different meaning: Bat-addiction.

What turned my opinion on this franchise is what I think turned everyone else; I was just the last to figure it out.  One can see the film and it’s Batman with unlimited money, unlimited gadgets, and unyielding loyalty to Good against the ugly, evil Joker.  If one looks closer, something else arises from the story; a darker part of society represented by the supporting characters and pointed out by the protagonist Batman and antagonist Joker.   The line between good and evil often isn’t drawn with a straight line, but with a gray paintbrush.  Society is complicated because people are complicated. 

When a comic book film can bring out darker inner concepts, it’s a winner.  Even if I’m the last to know.

On Blog Writing vs. Book Writing

"Julie & Julia"

As I written before, my writing journey began with the death of my sister due to a domestic violence incident.  After many years of writing, putting down, changing computers from small floppy discs to CDs to current outside storage devices, I published “Act of Redemption" in 2009.

With my non-cheap promotional “package,” a wordpress blog and a separate website was set up for me.  I had no idea how to blog, found the website as uninteresting as everyone else, so I threw both out of cyberspace and started over.  To give credit where it’s due, “The Blog Farm” educated me more on blogging than anyone else in those early days.

Now, two books and over three hundred blog articles later, I’ve found myself being three writers:  1) dark fantasy writer 2) book reviewer 3) blog writer.  I didn’t plan this.  Logically, it makes sense for writers to be readers.  How am I supposed to justify myself as a writer of anything without reading?  And how am I supposed to improve my writing without reading?  Reading is essential to writing.  And besides, I love it.  As I read more, I believe in supporting other new authors, so I post reviews.  I don’t write lengthy reviews because I’m still a novice and am spoiler-weary.  Learning is part of the journey.

My blog writing emerged from advice given to me:  Provide original material for your blog.  So I started writing articles.  Pre-2009 I would’ve never imagined myself having a blog posting regular articles, but now that’s a large part of my writing energy.  For me, it’s energy put to good use because it keeps me writing regularly and interacting with readers.  Books don’t do that.  We write them, publish them, market them, and hope for the best when it comes to sales and reviews.  There’s some interaction, but to me not like with blogging.  In blog writing, it’s a different mindset, challenging in a different way.  Bloggers usually have a general “theme” like reading/writing (my theme), and the posts reflect various aspects of the theme, be it book reviews, hideous publishing experiences, cooking, computer software, or the experience of parenting, just to name a few blog topics out there.

Does book writing “trump” blog writing?  Yes, books are published and have a longer life of readers, so of course it makes sense that writing books are the better long term investment of a writer’s time.  Blogging is “for today.”  But in these days of the ebook revolution, so many books are out there; no new writer knows what their hard work will become.  Blog writing keeps us going by making writers use their minds and skills and be shown to the public almost daily. 

Does every new author need to be a blog writer?  No, since no size of anything fits all and blog writing is time consuming.  Do new authors need to review books?  No, that’s no more a fit for all than blog writing.  Do new authors need to read?  Answer:  Bestselling authors know the answer to that question.

Friday, May 18, 2012

On the Voice of Evil

Before you write me off as totally mad for posting anything about this infamous genocidal madman, hear (read) me out.  As we define good and evil in our minds, part of it is realizing good and evil in history, and part of recent history is the latter definition.

I became a fan of WWI history in the 1990’s from the documentary “The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century.”  (Going back to my vast hard science educational background, I’ve got to get my history education where I can).  After years of becoming a “History Buff,” understandably my interest flowed into WWII.  Everything historically about WWII is about WWI and though many families were involved in the Great War, so many more were affected by WWII, my reading escalated far beyond watching the awesome series “Band of Brothers,” or the heart-wrenching film, “Schindler’s List.”  (Amongst others, for “The Longest Day” fans, love that one too).   I spent a lot of time reading about the Holocaust atrocities from historical text.

The question entered my mind, knowing that hindsight is 20/20:  Why didn’t the world know what Hitler intended to do?  Was it not obvious that he intended to murder millions?  His now infamous book, still banned in some countries, “Mein Kampf,” was published in the 1920’s.  Did any world leaders read his book, which is a dictation of his life and beliefs, years before he rose to power?  What sort of mind would do the things he did?

I didn’t want to be shallow and blame the world for Hitler during a time that I was not a part of.  I read about the appeasement years, and people with decision-making capacity have the ability to make either right or wrong decisions.  In world events, it would be nice if it was simple, but I doubt the world was simple then and it is not simple now.  I wanted to understand why the atrocities in WWII happened.  In a nutshell, I wanted to understand evil.

I don’t know many that have read “Mein Kampf” (meaning “My Struggle,” and please, I’m not a political expert) but it’s hardly light reading.  Hitler speaks in his voice (as above, it’s a dictation) about his hideous childhood, his overestimation of his artistic talents, his theories about socialization, and last, but not least, his eugenics theories that come up throughout.  If I could sum up Hitler’s theory simply, without the racial-purification, I’d say he was obsessed with physical space.  He believed in making “room” for the “real” people to “grow” in a country, thus “removing” any people that don’t “belong” there.  I read his opinion and saw in my mind Anne Frank and her family arrested and put on a train.  It makes me sick.

Evil is the uncaring for the safety and suffering of others.  Hideous individuals like serial killers enjoy making others suffer and die.  Others, like Hitler, purposefully eliminate populations because he deems them unworthy to live.  Whatever the package, true evil is something difficult to understand. But that’s part of the lesson; that is what evil is; there is no consistent shape, no form, and no consistent warning sign that it’s coming.  If evil was so easy to see at a distance, it wouldn’t exist.  Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way.

I see “name-dropping” of Hitler often in today’s cyber-space.  People can write whatever they want, but my preference is to understand the person behind the name.  I don’t compare people to Hitler.  He told me what he was in his book, along with the dying millions that echoed behind him.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson and Reg Keeland

I’ve long heard how great this trilogy of books is, and I couldn’t help but cheating by watching the Swedish trilogy of films first.  But I know books are usually better, and this one was no disappointment. 

The reader is introduced to the lead character, a veteran journalist of a controversial magazine that is ruined professionally and financially by losing a lawsuit.  During his time of loss, he is hired privately by a wealthy man of a large but obscure family to solve the disappearance of his sixteen-year-old girl missing since the 1960’s. 

Enter the title character, a girl that lives outside of a world of editing newspapers, company parties, wealthy people who is eccentric but extremely intelligent, and if nothing else, deliberate in everything she does.  For a woman victimized by society on one way or another her entire life, by no means is she a victim.

By the time the journalist and the title character meet, together they begin a complex journey to solve a series of atrocities committed against women for decades.   The story twists and turns enough to show that all is not what it seems; therefore, the ending to me is not the predictable “whodunit” template.

Afterwards, the girl with the dragon tattoo begins to grow within herself, realizing she can trust other people.  As she tries to change her life, it may be immediately as she planned, but she knows there’s good out there and she’s on the way to finding it.  All around, this is a mesmerizing read that’s entertaining, with an excellent backdrop for violence against women.  Five stars!