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Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men… June 25, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in alt history, e-books, fantasy, nostalgia, sense of wonder, serial fiction, Tom Swift, Uncategorized, writing.
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…The Shadow does, of course. I enjoy the old timey pulp fiction for the sheer bravado of the pieces. Logic takes second place to daring fights and even more thrilling escapes. What better combination could there be in a mashup than The Shadow and Doc Savage?

That’s what Will Murray delivered in The Sinister Shadow. An epic battle of titans here, Doc and his “don’t shoot to kill” philosophy and The Shadow blazing away with his twin .45s, killing bad guys left, right and center. The plot deals more with The Shadow than Doc, with some of the alter egos being threatened by the vile Funeral Director. (OK, not as scary as it might be for a villain’s name, but it is descriptive). Lamont Cranston’s niece is kidnapped and threatened and so are several of The Shadow’s henchmen. And along the way Ham Brooks is nabbed, too, but that hardly seemed a bump in the rocky road of bitter fruit of crime.

Murray is undoubtedly knowledgeable as all get out about the pulp characters, but this one seemed strained to me. The good guys have to be at odds with one another (another case in point is Time Bomb, a Hardy Boys/Tom Swift mashup in Ultra Thriller #1.  That there was only a #2 and no more shows how poorly it was received). In the case of Doc and The Shadow, it is more antagonistic and pits lawful vs vigilante. It doesn’t work, not exactly. Fun going along but this is less a Doc Savage book than a Shadow adventure. The Pat Savage book struck me the same way–give me Doc and the fearless 5. The others are minor characters.

Enjoy this one for what it is: A retro plot written in 2015. But the originals are better. (And Murray’s other Doc Savages I’ve read are better, too. His Doc Savage: Skull Island is great, a mashup of Doc and King Kong. But I understand the temptation of having two of the most iconic crime fighters in all pulpdom dancing from your keyboard…)

Time Is Not On Your Side June 18, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in business, death, e-books, ideas, money, sci-fi, science fiction, serial fiction, Uncategorized, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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Tick. Tick. Tock. Cuckoo clock chimes. The weights descend and you are out of time. All a writer (or any of us) has is time. That’s the commodity to hoard and covet and use to its fullest extent.

I come up with a never-ending flood of ideas. That’s not a problem of “What next?” When I get down to writing, there’s not a writer’s block to be seen. No problemo. What is harder is choosing among the ideas to work on next because there is so little time and triage has to be done.

Looking back on 40+ years of writing, I mostly wouldn’t change things, but maybe, perhaps, kinda, one tactic stands out that should have been modified. Writing series books (ie, Jake Logan, Trailsman, Nick Carter) is fun and it paid a lot of bills. But none of those books is mine. I can’t put up new ebook editions or take them down or do anything. They belong to the publisher and are forever deadwood to me. Filling some of the time spent writing so many with my own work would have been a smarter move. I know writers of prodigious output who own almost no titles of their own–they did too many work-for-hires. As a result they have only a handful of titles under their control, ie, to make money now as opposed to when it was written.

Write what you need to stay alive. It’s tough out there and always has been. But do as much of your own as you can. It’s yours and there is never enough time to do “just one more.” Time’s arrow will pierce you and once gone from the quiver, time cannot be recovered.

In case you want some sf about relativity….

Of Cyber and Sound June 11, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in business, review, sense of wonder, Uncategorized, writing.
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Mario Acevedo sent me an honest-to-Ghu dead tree copy of Cyber World, Tales of Humanity’s Tomorrow. It is, as the title suggests, cyberpunk. I’m not much of a cyberpunk reader, and many of the stories herein remind me why. The stories are well done, literate and mostly leave me feeling depressed. The mark of a good story is to elicit a reaction, but the drumbeat of down is a bit much for me to take at a reading, which is the way I tried this anthology. In the afternotes there’s an explanation of what editors Jason Heller and Joshua Viola were looking for. Mixing magic realism with cyberpunk is an experiment that didn’t work for me. Give me the good ole timey noir.

I used to read horror. I don’t anymore. Got too dark. Steampunk is more to my liking as a subgenre since it can be upbeat, have heroes … and stories that have a conclusion. Too many modern short stories leave me hanging, as if I lost the last page. “Lady or the Tiger” works fine–once. I don’t mind doing the work to come up with my own endings, and sometimes (!) they are better than what’s there. The stories that simply dangle make me feel cheated out of the author’s notion of what the story ought to be. And this collection is darker than I want to deal with right now. Too much dystopia in the real world for this to be either an escape or series of cautionary tales.

One clever marketing technique with this book alone might make it worth getting. A CD of what I’d call EDM/electronica is included and most listenable. In today’s world differentiating your book from the pack is hard. This works to accomplish that. I’d never heard any of the groups, but Scandroid has 3 songs of the 7 and give songs that are great to work to.

Double Down May 14, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in awards, business, contest, e-books, ideas, Uncategorized, VIPub, writing.
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When you write a story, consider how many different ways you can use it/sell it.  Easiest of all is submitting a story to a contest.  I saw one that is pretty nifty with big prizes.  Futurescapes Contest

Benefits: you write, you win.  You become an award-winning author (and much richer, in this case).  If you don’t win, you’ve got a story that can sell elsewhere.  A story you can use as a promotion for other work (your ebook can contain an entire novel *plus* that story as a bonus).  A story to put into your own collection.  A story that might just fit into the raft of theme anthologies that crop up all the time (but which have impossibly short deadlines–”Sure, I can get you a story by Thursday.”  And you can since it is already written.)  And it’s possible that story can serve as the beginning of a longer work.  A first chapter, if you will.

How many other ways can that single story be used?  Let me know.

Some contests are futile to try, being set up to give specific authors a win.  Beware of those which charge an entry fee.  Those might be used to generate money for the people running the contest and nothing more, but if the reward is big enough and you’re confident, go for it.  Look for contests where your entry is anonymously judged to avoid a judge knowing and hating you (for whatever reason).  Some contests you might have to swallow hard to consider, but there are worthwhile results.  Writers of the Future
might be like that, but the contest seems fair, the judges are well known and respected pros and if you win (and there is a steady stream of winners), you can make a bunch of bucks with your story.

Your story is going to be tied up in the sales process anyway.  A few extra weeks or months can benefit you greatly by putting a contest at the start of the submissions queue.

And another list.

Write on!

Working on the Road April 28, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in Uncategorized.
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I was on the road for a week and away from my secure little cubbyhole where I usually work.  In the past, trying to work on the road has been problematic.  Doing fantasy football copyediting isn’t a problem (and that starts up again RSN, but this year I’ll be at home).  Distractions crop up while doing other work, such as actually *writing*.

I found all kinds of ways to avoid work, which isn’t necessarily bad since I was visiting my mother.  (We did geek out and binge watch most of the FaceOff season up to and including the season finale).  In the off times from visiting, I researched a new western  and notes taken.  Fascinating that lightning storms caused foxfire to dance along longhorns’ horns.  Looking out over that herd at midnight had to be downright scary.  It gets put into the story as an aside.  More substantive is the notion of a herd milling.  A herd crossing a river might begin to turn in on itself for any reason (such as a rabbit on the shore–this gets put in, too, but in a more detailed fashion).  That’s all research but not writing “writing”.

By the time I feel settled enough, knowing the sounds and external disruptions enough to ignore them, I am usually on the road again.  As was the case this time.  Other than the reading and making a few changes to a synopsis, I just couldn’t get down to writing.

Maybe it’s for the good experiencing other things.  I went through my first lock down due to a guy shooting off a guy nearby, then foolishly hightailing it for a grade school.  The town police chief managed to robocall everyone (it’s a small town) warning them.  Oddity, though it is a small town, one of my mother’s nurses said the guy the cops are still after is her cousin.  All grist for the idea mill.

An upside was finishing Jim Butcher’s steampunk novel, The Aeronaut’s Windlass. A wonderful tale and one I will review and dissect for its professional construction later.  A book to learn from, as well as enjoy.

I wanted to pass along a few promos for my own stuff.  Two “Karl Lassiter” westerns are going to be reduced in price starting May 1.  Check out China Jack and especially Drifter.

The fantasy novel Glass Warrior is free.

Confirmation Bias May 4, 2014

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One of the hats I wear at this time of year is working on the editorial staff of a four-play of great fantasy football magazines. One of them won best fantasy football magazine of the 2013 (beating out such also-rans as Sports Illustrated and Rotowire <g>). One article that just passed through my computer this year takes the usual fantasy selection process to a new level by discussing confirmation bias.

This started me thinking about how confirmation bias enters into fiction writing overall. In a nutshell this is (subconsciously) looking for information that supports your own beliefs.

Everyone filters what they choose to read simply because there isn’t time enough to read everything. If I write a book a month and you can read it in a day, you have 29 or 30 days free–but there are hundreds of authors also publishing a book to take up that schedule. Read 3 a day–there are more than that being published. And I’m just talking f&sf. Throw in mysteries and westerns and romance and nf and all the rest, you’d have to read faster than the speed of light. So of course you need to pick and choose (call it discriminate, if you will). You read space opera with a touch of other sf? You still have to figure out how to best spend your time. Favorite author? This is music to my ears if my name is on that mental list because it means I write what you like.

Here is where confirmation bias can be both good and bad. It’s good that you read for enjoyment what entertains you. It’s stupid to force yourself through a book that isn’t delivering the groceries. All you have in life is time and you must make the most of it. The same goes for being a writer. I pick and choose what interests me to write. Confirmation bias supports my choices since I need look at only the bits and pieces that reinforce my foolish belief I can sell what I write. Would something outside the box (I am beginning to hate this cliche) be better? Maybe, but not if it doesn’t spark my interest. I love reading about physics and my bias is in that direction. That’s not to say civil engineering wouldn’t add to my store of info, but mostly I don’t care about asphalt roads or designing parking lots or see how a story about them would be fun to write. I would rather find another article on the Alcubierre warp drive.

Confirmation bias supports my beliefs in fiction reading and writing. Making decisions that involve life and death situations certainly require examining your beliefs to be sure they aren’t doing great harm or are just not right. What if the accepted mass of the electron was wrong, maybe just by a tad? Such “absolutely known” numbers need to be verified and are never “accepted science” in real science.


Merry Christmas y Feliz Navidad December 24, 2012

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Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas from along the Cenotaph Road. Thanks for being alongside this past year and may we continue for a long time into the future.


Your Only Excuse For Not Being There Is Winning the Lottery June 12, 2012

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I am talking about the Albuquerque Comic Expo, of course. You should have been there and you missed out big time unless you were collecting the big Powerball prize.

The guests were super, the exhibits topnotch, the costumes were many and varied. And here is the booth Scott Phillips and I shared.


And through Scott’s myriad connections in the indie film world, I managed to get a booth babe to help out this year. Ashley Bryce spent the day Saturday drawing in potential book readers. Some of them might even have diverted their eyeballs to the printed word, but I don’t fault them if they didn’t. (Ashley on the left, Sarah on the right).


Meeting fans such as Luis makes such a weekend worthwhile. Talking with all the artists and watching the guests go about their work amazes me. Jim Kelly was indefatigable. Katee Sackhoff was everywhere, on the floor talking to fans when she wasn’t signing pictures. Dean Stockwell was an unannounced guest, but I only saw him once. Guests, even last minute ones, ought to be advertised. Comics mainstay Stan Lee let folks take his picture out on the display floor. I just wasn’t fast enough or close enough to get my picture taken with him, alas.

Marvelous costumes abounded but my skill using a cellphone camera are nil. Here are a few that actually turned out ok.


The one costume that blew me away I didn’t even get a blurry shot of. If anyone can supply a good picture, I’ll send you an autographed copy of Steampunk’d. The lady had on (obviously from the prize) a steampunk outfit, mostly white motif with red highlights, with an incredible lens over right eye/cog face piece. I told her I’d get her picture when she returned for a copy of Steampunk’d. She never came back and I missed a final chance Saturday to snap a picture as she probably rushed out for the costume contest (which I understand was incredible but unfortunately missed–there are downsides to manning your own table)

Tonight begins the Western Writers of America conference (and this morning I got the great news that I’d sold 2 more westerns–this makes the remainder of 2012 very very busy). I leave you with more pictures from ACE 2012 and high praise for Greg, Mike and Craig for putting on such a fun convention.



Strategy vs Tactics and Knowing The Difference in Writing May 19, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, money, Uncategorized, writing.

Marketing stuff. Writing stuff. How do you keep them separate? Ans: you don’t. You shouldn’t. VIPub (Vertically Integrated Publishing) means you’re doing it all, so it is one huge stewpot. But knowing the difference between what goes into the stew and the pot itself is important.

A VIPub author needs to create a brand. A reader has to look at a title, see your name and think “good experiences before.” The brand is like that pot. It holds everything together. That’s your strategy, to create the brand. This is the all encompassing purpose of your career. The big picture. The brand.

How do you mix up the stuff in the pot? That’s the tactics. The little stuff all added together to be confined by your brand/strategy/stewpot. What goes in can be a lot of different genre, though it is likely you ought to make smaller pots (strategies) for different ones. This is one reason I sue pen names. A reader of a Karl Lassiter or Jackson Lowry title shouldn’t expect science fiction. The branding should cry out “Lowry writes damn fine western fiction!” Holding it all together are the tactics of short stories and novels and autographings that give the taste to the reader. Not sure if it is possible to have a strategy that works without good tactics. IOW, good branding is accomplished by producing good writing.

But good writing isn’t enough. You need that strategy of how to market, where to market, who ought to be your market to best sell what’s boiling around in the pot. Without the strategy, a writer without a surprise “fairy godmother time” breakout book won’t get noticed–the brand hasn’t been established. Consistently good work is the goal but this is only a tactic on the way to branding.

Know what you’re aiming for. Strategy for an overall writing career is necessary; your name becomes a brand. Getting to this point requires tactics. A solid body of work, ways of finding your audience and enticing them to read your work until branding is achieved–that’s tactics. Twitter and FB and Goodreads and autographings and all the rest are tactics.

Set your sights on the goal (strategy) and start firing (tactics).

On Geekery June 8, 2011

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I am at a loss to explain why people (good friends, even) like Big Bang Theory. It’s about geeks, right, and we’re geeks? SF fans are geeks and this is about us! I don’t see the show that way (though I admit I have only seen 3 or 4 eps, mostly waiting to see something good).

That the show is about geeks seems to be all that matters to people liking the show. I find it unwatchable since it is a “laugh at the geeks” show like you’d laugh at the antics of a monkey at the zoo. It wouldn’t surprise me if one BBT episode wasn’t about throwing poop at their inferiors.

So are there good geek shows? Definitely. Check out Eureka. The geeks aren’t freaks, they are real people who do smart things to correct things that go wrong and are more competent. In the case of some of them, they are *a lot* smarter. Who wouldn’t want to hang with Henry? This guy can do anything and is a super genius. He’s better than Tom Swift Sr and Jr rolled up and tied together with duct tape.

Even the laugh at ‘em crazies like the now gone Jim Taggert were competent and people you’d want to call if you had trouble.

SF in the early days (ok, the pulp era) piled on the competent geeks. They were super geniuses pitted against super evil geniuses–and they won. The Lens series is an example (of the lot, Worsel is more human but he’s still a geek). You didn’t laugh at them because they were smart or competent, you rooted for them because of that.

BBT brings out a superiority “I may be dumber, but look how Asperger *those* fools are” response. You don’t want to be like them because you pity them, feel superior in spite of them being smarter. That’s not a good thing.

Give me Eureka any day. Who wouldn’t want to actually know Tess or Allison, Zane or Chris or, yes, even Fargo? You geek, you.