Brown River Queen cover art

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Very Good Drugs

Lately, my various internal organs and sundry squishy bits have been the objects of keen interest by somber-faced physicians and the instruments of their curiosity.

I've had MRIs, CAT scans, blood panels, EKGs, electrocardiograms, and a host of other three-letter acronym tests that all seem to involve two things -- slight blood loss and large bills. With needles inserted into your arm, just to remind you who's boss when the bills come in.

Yesterday yet another camera was poked down my throat.  I'm sure that action and the recent renewed interest in the location of missing Teamster Jimmy Hoffa's remains is mere coincidence. First, I never met the man, and second, I don't think anything that size would fit in my esophagus.

But they took another tissue sample, just to make sure, because you know how clever those Mob hit men can be.

I hope yesterday was the last time I need to have anything the length of a nine-iron shoved down my throat.  Not that the people who did the deed weren't friendly and professional -- they were -- but enough is enough.  I promise, guys, there's nothing that interesting going on in there.

As I was coming out of the anesthesia, I apparently told everyone that Sam Winchester left a glowing review on Amazon for The Broken Bell. That's not likely to happen, since Sam is a fictional character on the TV show Supernatural, but for drug-induced hallucinations that's actually a good hallucination to experience.  It sure beats the one about the 300-pound toad with the bag of rattlesnakes and the taser.

Today I'm taking it easy, messing with my iPod, making ready for the arrival of the turntable, that sort of thing.  But I do want to pass along a review of The Broken Bell, flagged just now courtesy of Google Alerts.  Thanks, Naughty Bits, for the kind words!

Click here to read it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Waiting Game


Well, the new book The Broken Bell is out. The Big Three sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Samhain) are all selling copies hand over fist. My Amazon sales rank is holding steady around 16K, which is pretty good for a new book's first day when you're not a household name like King or Koontz.

Now, a seasoned pro in this business would just glance at the various bookseller webpages to make sure everything was running smoothly and get on with the business of writing the next book.  Because really, at this point, the book is going to stand or fall on its own, and there's not much I can do to promote it without making a colossal nuisance of myself.  There are only so many ways and so many times I can wave the 'Buy my book!' sign in your face before you get understandably weary of seeing it.

Maybe one day I'll be that seasoned pro, but it sure wasn't today.

If there's a tech on duty at Amazon's Network Operations Center, he's probably looking at my IP address and shaking his head, because I've been refreshing my Amazon sales page for The Broken Bell all day long.

Take a look for yourself. Click here, then scroll down to the bit that says Amazon Best Sellers Rank under Product Details.

Right now I'm at #16,334 Paid in the Amazon Store.  Which isn't too bad, since it means that only 16,333 items in the entire vast Amazon inventory are selling faster than my book right now.  And since Amazon sells everything from ant farms to zithers, I'm happy with that.  I'll be happier when it drops even lower, but for now, I'm good.

But Frank, you ask, what does that Amazon rank number translate to in terms of actual sales?

Well, I'm glad you asked.  Amazon has steadfastly refused to divulge the specifics of their ranking mathematics, but after my 18th cup of strong black coffee I had a revelation (or perhaps a small cerebral event, same thing) and figured it all out.  Here's how Amazon determines ranks:

Rank = (All the money in the world) times (the number of Jeff Bezos' servers at breakfast) times (the number of self-published vampire romances with the words blood passion in the title) divided by (the combined numeric weight, in kilograms, of all the tears shed at Barnes & Noble when the Fire was released) plus (Planck's Constant, because Wikipedia said so).

Yes.  Yes, it's all perfectly clear now!

Running the numbers -- carry the two, find a common denominator, figure in a seven MPH wind drift, subtract the Battle of Hastings -- aha.

I have sold exactly blue copies of The Broken Bell, with an accuracy of plus or minus ducks.

Um.  Okay, maybe that needs work.

But I'll have to do it later.  Right now I must get back to my refresh button...


The Broken Bell on B & N

All the Paths of Shadow on Amazon

Monday, December 26, 2011

THE BROKEN BELL released Tuesday, December 27

It's very nearly December 27, and that can mean only one thing...

Yes, yes, all right, that means it's nearly Tuesday.  That's not what I'm referring to. And yes, December 27 also marks the last air date of the Carol Burnett Show on CBS, but again, that's not what I mean.

My new book The Broken Bell hits the stands tomorrow, bright and early, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and  Samhain Publishing. This is the sixth entry in the Markhat series, and it's the longest and I think the best yet.

What's The Broken Bell about, you ask?

Well, without giving too much away, I'll say this -- it's about love and hope and fear and loss.  There will be war, and rumors of war. Grooms will vanish, leaving empty altars and determined brides behind.  Dark sorceries will arise. Mama Hog will grumble and stomp. A blood-feud will spill out of quaint, far-off Pot Lockney and come tramping right to Markhat's door.

And through it all, Markhat will muddle ahead, through murder, mayhem, and magic, if need be.

And need will be.  I broke Rannit's peace in this one, boys and girls.  Things will never be same.

To all my Markhat fans, this new one is for all of you.  To anyone who hasn't read any of the series and who's understandably hesitant to dive in, well, why not check out something shorter first, just see if you like the tone and flavor of the thing?  The Cadaver Client is short and a lot of fun, and it's only a couple of bucks (that was the Kindle version; here's one for your Nook).

Still not convinced?  Fine.  Here's the first couple of pages, with helpful links at the bottom, because I'm nothing if not helpful, especially where your money is concerned.


Babysitting banshees is a nerve-wracking business.
And after a morning with Buttercup, my nerves were not only wracked but wrecked and possibly wreaked as well.
Buttercup is all of four feet tall. She weighs forty pounds soaking wet with a big rock in each hand. And despite what you’ve heard about banshees, there isn’t a mean bone in her tiny body.
But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy a bit of old-fashioned banshee mischief when Mama Hog and Gertriss are away and there’s no one but Uncle Markhat to play with.
Buttercup’s favorite game is to make that banshee hop-step that transports her from place to place without the trouble and fuss of walking through the space between her and, for instance, the top of my desk.
Hop, appear, giggle, hop. From desktop to floor and back again, all in the space of a blink, with my good black hat clutched in her tiny banshee hands.
“That’s my good hat, sweetie.” I put on my most winning talking-to-the-kids smile. Darla claims it looks more like a grimace, as though someone was stepping on my toes, but it’s the best I can do. “Let’s find something else to play with.”
Hop blur, hop blur. She went from floor to desktop, vanished, poked me in the small of my back and was gone when I turned.
Shoes came tap-tap-tapping right up to my door. Not men’s shoes, but female ones.
They stopped. The lady knocked. No hesitation, no furtiveness.
Buttercup appeared at my side. She put my hat in my hand and clung to my leg with what I fervently hoped was purely platonic fervor.
She might be tiny, and she might be a thousand years old, but I’m very nearly a married man, I’m told.
“In the back. Get under the covers. Don’t make a sound ’til I come get you.”
Buttercup doesn’t speak much Kingdom, but she understands it well enough. She nodded once and was gone. I heard my bedsprings squeak through the door Buttercup hadn’t bothered to open.
I put my hat on the rack—right above the new tan raincoat Darla had left there the day before.
Funny. The hat was a gift from Darla too. I wondered how long it would be before my entire wardrobe was the product of Darla’s keen eye for my clothes.
The lady at my door knocked again. Three-leg Cat rose, arched his back and yawned silently before sauntering toward the door, eager to slip outside.
I forced a smile and obliged cat and woman.
Darla stood at my door, grinning. Three-leg dashed between her ankles, circling her once and issuing a rough loud purr before darting away at a three-legged gallop.
 “Mama swears you’ve never risen before noon.” Darla’s brown eyes glinted. She was wearing something high-necked and purple, and the one hand I could see was wearing a silk glove. “Are you sure you’re decent at this unholy hour?”
I made a show of looking at my elegantly rumpled attire. “I seem to be clothed, though by whom I don’t recall. Do come in, Miss Tomas. And bring that picnic basket with you.”
Darla glided in, and the heavenly smells that wafted up from the basket she carried came with her.
The basket wound up on my desk while we greeted each other. Clever devil that I am, I managed to snag a sticky bun from the basket and bring it up and around Darla so that I had a bite ready when we finished the good morning kiss.
Darla turned and laughed and took a bite and then we sat.
I chewed and swallowed. The bun was hot and sweet and perfectly baked.
I took another bite and lifted an eyebrow.
“So, what brings you out with the wagons, Darla dearest?” I asked. “It’s so early the vampires haven’t taken to their crypts yet.”
One of the many things I like about Darla is her utter lack of pretense.
“I’m here to ply you with pastries and my feminine wiles. I want to hire you, Mister Markhat. I want you to find someone for me.”
I choked down my sticky bun. All the play was gone from her eyes, all the mirth from her voice. She had her hands in her lap and she was not smiling. I’d only seen her do this once before.
“Tell me.”

Hooked yet?  Desperate to know what happens next? Have five bucks on ya?

Then get thee to the links below, gentle reader, and welcome to Rannit!

The Broken Bell, for the Nook

The Broken Bell, for the Kindle

The Broken Bell, any other format

One last thing -- if you get the book, and you like it, please consider leaving a review with Amazon, B&N, or Samhain.  We authors live or die by word of mouth, and living is considerably more fun than dying.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Countdown: Four Days For New Markhat!

Four days, boy and girls.

That's the only thing standing, metaphorically speaking of course, between you and the new Markhat book, The Broken Bell.  The release date for all e-book formats is December 27; you can of course pre-order right now, if you so desire, and the book will be delivered with ruthless internet efficiency directly to your reading device of choice the moment it is released.

Here are some links you might follow, based on your preference of format:

Amazon, for your Kindle, Kindle Fire, or Kindle reading app:
The Broken Bell

Barnes&Noble, for your Nook or Nook reading app:
The Broken Bell

Samhain Publishing, for any format, any reader:
The Broken Bell

Hey, is this a series? If so, where do I start?
Frank's FAQ page!

As you can see, we aim to please, no matter what device you use for your reading.  Anyone who prefers printed books may have to wait a bit longer, but as soon as I have a print release date I'll pass that information along to you right here in the blog.

If you're new around here, you may well be asking yourself two questions -- first, why did this guy's blog pop up instead of Fark, and second, who is this Markhat character, and why should I care?

My blog popped up because I pay a hacker who calls himself N3XOS to create random redirects. Markhat is my wise-cracking fantasy detective. And that's three questions, not two, but you should care because I need the measly five bucks The Broken Bell will set you back.

The thumbnail sketch?

Markhat lives and works in Rannit, the largest city of the old Kingdom to survive the War more or less intact.  You've heard the term 'mean streets' used so often in the detective genre it's become cliche. Well, Rannit's best streets are not just mean, but downright psychopathic, even the ones sporting new sidewalks and cheery freshly-painted mansions.

Oh, there are laws in Rannit, and on paper they apply to rich and poor with equal weight.  In reality, though, justice is available only to those who can afford it.

For everyone else, there is Markhat the finder.

For a modest fee, Markhat will find missing daughters, vanished sons, errant husbands, or straying wives.  Markhat makes his living rooting out the sad truth behind the most well-meaning of lies.

Most of what Markhat finds, of course, is trouble.

There are now six books in the Markhat series.  The Broken Bell brings the whole crew back together, for a single moment that will change them all forever.

For fans of the series, I'll throw out this tidbit.  Mama Hog winds up face-to-snaggletoothed-face with a furious sorcerer bent on her messy demise.  This annoys Mama.  Angers her, even.

I had a lot of fun writing that scene.  I think you'll have a lot of fun reading it.

So scroll back up to the links above and grab a copy of your own.  Or, if you're new to the series, head on over to my webpage and click books and visit Rannit for a bit.  I suggest either Dead Man's Rain or The Cadaver Client.  Both are short enough and cheap enough to give you a feel for the series, and if it's not your cup of arsenic-laced tea then you're not out a fortune.

I hope you enjoy the books!  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

DIY Fantasy Art

Sometimes I wish I wrote Westerns or straight-up 1930s detective film noir mysteries or even spy thrillers.  Say I wrote Westerns, for instance.  Then I could hang pictures of horses on the walls and leave a saddle casually draped over the back of a rocking chair and even hang a ten-gallon hat on a peg by the door, and I think all that would help set a mood for writing.

But I write fantasy.  Now, don't get me wrong, there is some fantastic fantasy art out there.  I know, because I own a lot of it.  And I love it.  My study walls are covered with dragons and elves and swords, and that's just the way I like it.

Even so, it's always seemed to me that it's harder to decorate your writing place if you tend more toward Tolkien than Tolstoy.  So much so, in fact, that I've taken to making my own art, based on some of the devices and items in my tales.

Which brings us to tonight's photo session, in which I subject -- er, treat -- you to a couple of things I made when I was, for one reason or another, unable to write.

These are wands, because wands are to a fantasy author what Colt revolvers are to the guy who writes Westerns.  Now, I know the image invoked by the word 'wand' is usually a more or less straight piece of wood, with maybe a few details carved into it.

Not so in my imaginings, though.  Look, if anyone could grab the nearest stick and start working magic just by waving it around and saying "Abracadabra!" you'd have a few millions Dark Lords strolling around any given tract of land.

So I've always imagined that the wands and other implements in my stories are complex, finely-crafted instruments that took hundreds of hours of intense effort just to shape.  Too, I seldom assign my characters one-wand-does all type instruments -- no, if they want to generate heat, they'll need a special wand for that, which won't be the same wand they'll use to stir the wind or call down a few thousand foul-tempered fruit bats.

Even the magic in Markhat's world requires a lot of time and effort, which is the main reason common folk have little or nothing to do with it.  The only piece of magic Markhat routinely carries is his old Army flash-papers, which are just what they sound like.  It's a piece of (by now) ratty paper, inscribed with a hex symbol.  If he tears it in half, and the hex is still active after all these years, he'll release a brief flash of extremely bright light.  That's it.  He can't ever use it again, and the paper burns itself up when the simple spell is activated.  It's not going to reduce whole armies to ashes or knock down city walls.

The magic in Meralda's world is a little more accessible.  I won't say too much about it here, but readers will recognize that her magic behaves much like our electricity.  It can be grounded out.  It can be stored in devices rather like batteries.  It generates (or absorbs) heat when it is manipulated.

But enough blathering, let's look at the wands!

First up is a smallish hand-held wand carved from a nice blond oak.

It's about a foot long (that's nine hundred and eighty seven thousand meters for my Metric friends).  I think I did most of the actual carving in a couple of afternoons; sanding it took much longer.  Both sides look the same.

This is the kind of wand I picture Meralda carrying, or leaving lying on her work-table.  And yes, in the long-established cinematic tradition of this world, it glows a brilliant blue at the end when it's in use.

Here's a closer shot of it. The symbols carved into have deep mystical meanings, or they just sort of wound up that way, I'll leave that determination up to you.

This wand lives on a pair of hooks that hang it out in front of three mystical runes, which together spell out the eldritch phrase "I'd really like a sandwich now."  I like this wand, and I use it mostly to deter Balrogs and, though I probably shouldn't, heat marshmallows. 

Next up we have a wand in a box!  With a carved sigil on the lid, to wit:

Is that a dragon?  Um, yes, as the runes in the body clearly spell out 'dragon.'  Do they really?

Um, sure.  Anyway.  Check out the box, which I also made.  It's oak, and even the hinges are handmade wood.  I was really proud of those hinges...

As you know, having metal around certain wands is dangerous :)

Now let's open it up, and check out the wand!

Yep, more runes.  These spell out the usual arcane disclaimers -- not responsible for intentional misuse, do not expose to oscillating thaumic aether fields, yada yada yada.

And here's the wand itself, which was carved from pecan ...

Pretty nice!  That's a pure copper sphere in the handle, with copper leads spiraling down into the wand. I drilled and twisted and mounted all that while listening to Pink Floyd while a thunderstorm raged outside.

This is the sort of wand I picture the Corpsemaster from Markhat's world carrying.  Or even Meralda, if she'd had a very bad day and someone insulted her hair.  I can see her whipping this out and dealing a little mayhem in that instance.

So that's the sort of things fantasy authors get up to in order to avoid work, i.e., the writing of new fantasy novels.

My next project will probably have a more steampunk bent.  I may reproduce, using simple materials, a radio Meralda is even now trying to perfect as part of the next book.  That would be fun...yes, FUN...

PS: If you just read this and you have no idea who Markhat or Meralda are, well, they're characters in my books.  Here's a link that will take you to all of them!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gift Ideas for Writers

Is there a writer in your life, and are you struggling to come up with that perfect Christmas gift for him or her?

If the first part of the sentence above is true, my condolences, because I'm a writer and I know full well what a morose bunch of budding alcoholics we writers usually are.  I'm constantly staring off into space, oblivious to the world around me until the front bumper strikes something solid and the air bags deploy.

That can't be good company.  I know from experience that the Highway Patrol is seldom thrilled.

Every year, it's the same dilemma.  What to give for Christmas?  What will make your writer's eyes light up, or at least open halfway?

As usual, I'm here to help.  My list of suggestions follows, in order of descending utility.

1) BOOZE.  HOOCH. ROTGUT.  That's right, kids, the Demon Rum himself.  Why?  Simple.

A writer's job is to plumb the depths of the human condition, or at least convince a harried editor that he or she is plumbing said depths long enough for the ink to dry on a contract.  And the first thing you'll learn when you start taking a really close look at the much-vaunted human condition is that doing so induces a sudden, powerful urge to have a drink.  Or three.  Or maybe just leave the whole bottle and start running a tab, because right after the urge to drink comes the realization that it's going to be a long bad night.

2) A THESAURUS. Because nothing works better as a coaster for the drinks mentioned above than a really thick book.  I'd counsel against actually using a thesaurus for writing, because no one wants to read sentences in which characters advance, meander, promenade, traipse, or wend one's way across the room.

3) A CAT.  Hemingway had a cat, right?  He had a cat because aside from certain molds and rare fungi, a cat is probably the only creature on Earth which is more vain and self-centered than the average author.  While other more social creatures might feel neglected or ignored by an author, who is probably staring off into space or rummaging in the cabinets for more liquor, a cat is perfectly comfortable being ignored because it doesn't know anyone else is in the room anyway.  The cat's 'I don't care if you exist or not' attitude is perfectly suited to the author's mindset of 'What? Huh? Who?'

4) AN ELEGANT LEATHER-BOUND JOURNAL.  We all know that writers, and I mean serious professional writers with book contracts and everything, are always prepared to whip out a convincing character or a heart-wrenching plot at the drop of a dangling participle. So give your author the most expensive, ornate leather journal you can find, wait a year, drag it out from under the whiskey-stained thesaurus, and give it to the writer again.  They won't ever know, because each and every page will be as blank as it was the day you bought it.  Seriously, people.  I tried the whole notebook by the bed schtick for years, and I recorded exactly two notes in it, which read:

"Char. A sees the thing, intro. other scene w/char B, str. exc. Plot hole & 9 days."
"Why G. not cld/not E?"

Which explains why Hemingway's cat had six toes, for all I know.  But leatherbound notebooks make pretty good coasters too, and if the glasses sweat on them, you can tell people the stains are from a solo hike through Guatemala which you took to 'reconnect to my muse.'

I don't have a Number 5.  You should probably stop at Number 1, because gift-wrapping a cat is nearly impossible and writers can spot a gift wrapped thesaurus from across a crowded room anyway.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday, Monday

Well, it's been days since I've been insulted by an employee of Square Books.  I thought about wandering inside the store today, just to see if the smirking hipster clerks would gather behind the checkout counter before launching a barrage of heavy thesauri toward me.

But it was raining, and frankly the smell of that patchouli-scented body wash they favor can be a bit cloying in close quarters.  So I oped for walking indoors, instead.

Yes, I'm still steamed about that incident.  In retrospect, I think I should have raised my voice and made a scene.  At least I wouldn't still be stewing over a completely erroneous statement made by some empty-headed punk only minutes out of high school.

But enough about them.  I shall put aside my ire, yea, I shall bury it deep.  A plague of pimples upon them (hey, that part is working already).

The Broken Bell hits the shelves in just 22 days!  Markhat fans, if you haven't pre-ordered, you can do so from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Samhain Publishing.  I really think you'll enjoy this new outing with Markhat and the crew from Rannit.  I'm still chuckling over one part in particular, and though I won't toss out spoilers concerning my own yet-to-be-released book, I will say that Mama Hog is in rare form this time around.

And please don't forget All the Paths of Shadow!  You can get this in glorious print, if you want, in addition to every e-book format imaginable.  Books make great Christmas presents, ya know -- so if there's a kid on your list, or an adult for that matter, consider a copy of All the Paths of Shadow.

Okay, time for me to get back to work.  And don't you have some shopping to do?  That's a subliminal hint, you know....

Friday, December 2, 2011

I am NOT Self-Published

Blogging while angry is never a good idea.

So I've had my relaxing hot beverage and I've taken the requisite ten deep breaths and I've repeated my Mantra of Peace (Larry Curly, Larry Curly, Larry Moe, Larry Larry) once for every eye-poke in 'Disorder in the Court.'

Hey, you have your rituals, and I have mine.  Anyway.

Karen and I stopped in a certain bookstore during our lunch walk to see if they'd stocked All the Paths of Shadow yet.  After all, they are a bookstore.  All the Paths of Shadow is a book.  I'm a local author, and I've seen this very bookstore promote local authors.

We looked.  They did have a copy of The Markhat Files, another of my titles.  But still no copy of Paths of Shadow.

The helpful young man approached and asked if he could help us find anything.  Karen asked if they had any copies of All the Paths of Shadow.  The helpful young man tapped on his helpful computer for a moment before announcing that he couldn't get All the Paths of Shadow unless the author brought him copies, since that was a self-published title.

A self-published title.  That will certainly come as a bit of a shock to the people at Cool Well Press, who up until this very moment have been blissfully unaware that I own their publishing company.  After all, if I self-publish, and I publish through Cool Well Press, that means I own it, right?

Which means I want all those desk chairs.  And the PCs.  Bwahaha, mine, all mine!

Let me point out a couple of small errors in the helpful young man's statements.

All the Paths of Shadow is NOT a self-published title. Cool Well Press pays its authors.  I've never sent them a dime and they've certainly never asked for one.  Yes, Cool Well Press is a small relatively new press.  That makes it a small relatively new press, not a vanity house.

This was pointed out to the helpful young man, who shrugged and repeated his assertion that, even so, they would only deign to carry my book if I A) brought them free physical copies and B) paid for the shelf space.

In my opinion, that makes this bookstore a tad sleazy.  After all, isn't that the same tactic vanity houses employ? Asking the author to pay?

I won't be giving them any free books. I won't be paying them a cent for their precious shelf space.  They don't want me on their hallowed shelves, fine.  I'm not a huge fan of pretentious douchebags anyway.

But I do object to their toboggan-wearing sales clerks giving out false information.  I wonder how many of my friends and neighbors in this small town have gone into the store, asked for my books, and been told the same thing?

So, local bookstore owners, if you want to dismiss me as a genre hack, be my guest.  Your lack of support won't wreck me.  I won't trouble you again.  Ever.

But do not persist in telling the buying public Frank Tuttle is a vanity house victim.  It's untrue, it's unnecessary, and worst of all it's thoroughly unprofessional.

Larry Curly, Larry Curly, Larry Moe, Larry Larry...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Friday, Blue Monday, Chartreuse Tuesday

Back in the days of yore, when I was knee-high to a grasshopper and a bushel of dimes only cost a nickel, 'Black Friday' shopping injuries were things that only happened in distant, exotic lands such as Newark and even fabled Oklahoma City.

Last week's Black Friday resulted in a knife fight in our very own Walmart.  I am told that the combatants were locked in a bloody struggle over a discounted set of bedsheets.

Yes.  Bedhseets.  I have to wonder, what battle cry does one shout when charging into a life and death struggle over bedsheets?

Do you yell "Percale!" and then wade in, blade flashing?

Even if you know, don't tell me.  I've never felt very passionate about bedsheets, even if they are selling at a <gasp> fifteen percent discount.

The knife-wielding linen enthusiast will be enjoying the dubious holiday charms of the Lafayette County Detention Center, where I seriously doubt any of the guards dress as festive Christmas elves, at least while on duty.  There, the accused may ponder the error of her ways, and perhaps resolve to shop early at Dollar Tree next year (or in two to five, whichever the judge deems appropriate).

I do not partake in any sort of Black Friday shopping.  Face it, people, aside from a half-dozen strategically-advertised electronic gadgets, the stuff on the shelves is priced the same on Black Friday as it was Routine Thursday and as it will be on Just Another Saturday.  People line up at all hours for the same crap they could have ordered two weeks ago from Amazon without missing a single moment of sleep.

This is why, if I was a betting man, I'd put my money on the cockroaches versus the humans in any kind of long-term existence bet.  You don't see bugs camping out in parking lots because they might save a whole twelve cents on a set of cheap bedsheets.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Terror of Blogging

Blogging used to be so simple.  I'd suck down a cup of strong black coffee and rave about the first thing that popped into my head.  Badgers. The wind. Pittsburgh.  It didn't matter.  Everything, including windy badgers from Pittsburgh, has made me angry at some point.

These days, though, I take a more measured, thoughtful attitude toward blogging, mainly because it's been pointed out to me that readers might be put off by forth-mouthed rants, and when readers are put off, to be blunt, they spend their lovely lovely money elsewhere.

And we wouldn't want that.  So here I am, trying to think warm and fuzzy thoughts this point, anything.

I'm really not very good at being the voice of sweetness and light.  You see a basket of kittens, I see a pile of vet bills and probable contraction of ascaris intestinal roundworms.  You see Newt Gingrich, and I see -- well, I can't say what I see, because in that direction lies the Forbidden Land of the Mad-Eyed Rant.

There are only so many heart-warming tales of whatever it is that warms hearts that I can tell.  And to be honest I can't tell those in anything resembling a convincing fashion.  Anyway, wouldn't increasing the temperature of a heart be dangerous if not suddenly fatal?  "Oh look, I just raised your cardiopulmonary temperature to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Why are you lying so still?"

Maybe I should write an Overly Literal Christmas Story and post it here.

Hmmm...I like that!  Stay tuned....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Three Wishes, or a Hot Tub?

If you're like me (and let's hope you're not), you'll find yourself obsessing over the most ridiculous things.

Case in point: State Farm commercials.  Specifically, the ones in which anyone can summon a friendly State Farm agent simply by singing aloud the State Farm jingle ('Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!').

Maybe it's the writer in me, trying to wrap my head around the ramifications inherent in being able to call up a magical, if insurance-obsessed being, just by speaking a few simple words.

I write fantasy, so of course the concept isn't utterly foreign to me.  And there's plenty of mythological and folklorish precedent for such goings-on.  Rub a lamp, summon a genie. Speak the right words, call up a demon, or a ghost.  It's magic, right?

Well, sort of.  But even the most over-used and tired fantasy tropes come with rules.  The genie grants three wishes, and three wishes only.  The demon demands your soul as payment.  Ghosts, well, ghosts pretty much just blather on about family trivia and always wind up being faked by unscrupulous mediums anyway.

But with that State Farm bit, there aren't any rules.  Say the jingle, the agent appears.  Add a few words to the jingle, and that appears too.  In the video, random couch-sitters add 'hot tub' and 'sandwich' to the jingle, and bang, they get them.

That really bugs my inner editor, which is deeply troubled every time it sees magic being used without a price.  Apparently, I'm perfectly all right watching the Second Law of Thermodynamics being violated, but I won't stand for frivolous narrative use of arcane summonings.

The implications of the State Farm world-view are staggering.  What if someone sings 'Like a good neighbor, Sate Farm is there, bringing the entire Sun with them?'

Poof, that's what.  Instant planetary incineration.  The entire Solar System thrown into chaos.

Did I kill an entire alternate Earth out there, just now?

So I reject the whole sing-a-jingle-get-an-agent concept.  It's unworkable even in a fictional environment, because it places no limitations on the scope of the invocation.

State Farm, you are dismissed.

As I said, aren't you glad you're not like me?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rumors, Hearsay, and Unconfirmed Scuttlebutt!

Fans of All the Paths of Shadow will soon have something to be very happy about indeed!  I'm not quite prepared to make any grand pronouncements yet, but I'm very excited about a project related to the book, and I think readers will be too.

I will say that one of the characters from the book will be brought to life, so to speak, in a unique and thoroughly entertaining way.

And that's all I'm going to say about that right now.

Switching gears for a moment, I'm floored by the way the upcoming Markhat book (The Broken Bell, to be released everywhere on December 27) has already been selling as a pre-order.  If I'd known so many people were waiting on the book, I'd have typed faster!

For anyone interested, you can click here to see All the Paths of Shadow on Amazon in Kindle format, or click here to head to Cool Well Press, where you can get any other format.

Want to check out The Broken Bell?  Click here for Amazon, or here for Barnes & Noble, or even here to go straight to the publisher, Samhain Publishing.  Rest assured we have a format for your tastes, including good old print!

Oh, and one last thing, which won't cost you a dime.  I redesigned my website, and I'd love it if you'd go have a look.


Now back to the WIP...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Quote Myself

Today, in lieu of actually writing anything new, I decided I'd post a list of clever things my characters have said.


Because, that's why.

"Deception wears many masks. Take care to remove them all, should you undertake to see the face of truth."
-- Wistril the Wizard, from Wistril Compleat.

"The stuff of legends is nothing but trouble to the persons unfortunate enough to make them. On the whole, I’d rather have been off fishing.”
-- Tim the Horsehead, from All the Paths of Shadow

"You know you're having a bad day when vampires drop by to chat and you're pleased by the sudden distraction."
-- Markhat, from Hold the Dark

Okay, this is a not truly a quote, but an exchange between Markhat and Mama Hog in Dead Man's Rain.  

Mama Hog nodded.  "Cards say she's got a hard rain coming, boy," she said.  "Turned up the Dead Man, and the Storm, and the Last Dancer, all in the same hand.  Dead man's rain.  That ain't good."  Mama grabbed another morsel of sandwich, guffawed around it.  "But I don't need cards to see the sun," she said.  "The Widow Merlat is headed for a bad time.  She knows it.  I know it.  You'd best know it, too."

"Dead is dead, Mama," I said.  "That's what I know."

"There's other things you need to know, boy.  Things about the ones that come back."

"First thing being that they don't," I said.

Mama pretended not to hear.  

"Rev'nants only walk at night," she said.  "It's got to be pitch dark."

"Do tell."

"You can't catch 'em coming out of the ground," said Mama.  "It's no good trying.  They're like haunts, that way. Solid as rock one minute, thin as fog the next."

"Sounds handy," I said.  "Do their underbritches get all misty and ethereal too, or is that one of the things man was not meant to know?"

"Don't look in his eyes, boy," said Mama.  "Don't look in his eyes, or breathe air he's breathed."

"I won't even ask about borrowing his toothbrush," I said.

Mama slapped my desk top with both her hands.

"You listen," she hissed.  "Believe or not, but you listen."

"I've got all night," I said.     

"His mouth will be open," said Mama.  "Wide open.  He's been saving a scream, all that time in the ground.  Saving up a scream for the one that put him there."  Mama lifted a stubby finger and shook it in my face.  "Don't you listen when he screams.  You put your hands over your ears and you yell loud as you can but don't you listen.  Cause if you do, you'll hear that scream for the rest of your days and there ain't nothing nobody nowhere can do for you then."

Silence fell.  Only after Curfew do we get any silence, in my neighborhood.  I let it linger for a moment.

I leaned forward, put my eyes down even with Mama's, motioned her closer, spoke.

--Mama Hog and Markhat, from Dead Man's Rain.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lightspeed Magazine

It's a tough world if you're a magazine.

I can count, barely moving my lips, the number of print fantasy or SF magazines which have survived the last few years.  Realms of Fantasy is gone (again).  Weird Tales has changed hands (again).  Only the venerable mainstays Analog and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction seem to be holding their own.

I subscribe, via my Kindle, to Analog and Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Both feature some great writing; neither publication was ever much for interior art, although both have showcased some great covers.  So the black-and-white Kindle format suits them both just fine.

But now that Amazon has announced the new Kindle Fire ereader tablet, I've been looking for new publications with a bit of art mixed in with my fiction.

Which brings us to Lightspeed.  Lightspeed is a new SF magazine, published monthly, which is now available in Kindle format for only twenty bucks a year.

Yeah, I know, you're thinking 'But Frank, digital magazines come and go faster than mayflies!  How do I know this one is any good, and how do I know they'll be around in two months, much less twelve?'

First of all, it's Mr. Tuttle.  Second, I'm blabbering about Lightspeed because of the people behind it.

The editor is a fellow named John Joseph Adams.  Fans of zombie fiction (and anthologies in general) will recognize the name; he's the man behind The Living Dead and The Living Dead 2 collections, among many other titles.

The rest of the Lightspeed staff is equally experienced.

So, these people know what they're doing.  And from what I've seen, they are doing it exceedingly well.  Each month features a podcast -- wicked cool!  -- and some stunning new art by artists on the rise.

Lightspeed is what the Kindle Fire was made for.  Fiction.  Art.  Audio.  Sign me up!

In other news, it's been a bad week for writing.  I think sometimes certain vital areas of my brain just switch themselves off.  Oh, I can still walk and talk, but whatever it is I need to put the right words in the correct order down on paper just isn't working.  So I sit there and stare and wind up with 45 minute writing sessions which result in sentences such as 'The' and a lot of empty page space.

I hate times like these.  I can feel time slipping away, but try as I might, I just can't produce anything worth reading.

The only sure is to produce it anyway, and delete it when the words start coming again.  But it sure feels like a waste of time.

I'm Mister Sunshine today, aren't I?

Well, you could help by clicking here. Or by clicking here.  Or here.  See how much better you feel?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Going Bump #4: The Supernatural on Sale

Man.  I am in the wrong business.

I write stories and books and hope for enough sales to make pounding away on this poor battered keyboard worthwhile.  Some days it is.  Some days it isn't.  And that sums up the glamorous, jet-setting life of a writer in all its Ramen-noodle, buy-in-bulk glory.  Muggers not only pass me by but sometimes hand me a few bucks just out of sudden compassion.  Nigerian internet spammers send follow up emails that simply state 'Didn't know you were a fantasy author, forget I said anything, hope sales pick up, signed, Prince Alfonse.'

The only people who have it tougher are the owners of small presses.

But, as I said, I've just discovered I'm in the wrong business.

I thought I'd troll eBay for a Halloween lark, and see if I could find a few goofy 'occult' items for sale with descriptions worthy of some gentle lampooning.  Protip, kids -- that's what writers do to conjure up blog content when they have headaches and the dogs won't stop barking and they're on diets so there's no more comfort to be found in a quick run to the refrigerator.  They make fun of eBay.  It's a sad but universal truth.

But what I've found listed on eBay amazed me.  Confounded me.  Astounded me.

Because it appears there is serious money to be made even here in the 21st century in the magical trinket business.

The first question that sprang to my mind upon seeing some of the items and prices I'll be linking to below was 'Who buys this stuff?'

The second question was 'Why wasn't I told?'

I can snag  faux-antique rings from sellers in Hong Kong and claim they have powerful mystical qualities.  I can hit the local antique stores for costume jewelry rings and claim each contains the spirit of a mighty djinn trapped inside.

I can afford eBay's modest listing fees.

What am I blathering about?

Well, let me part the magical curtains of internet commerce and show you, gentle reader, just what kind of magic your money can buy!

First, let me point you toward this Magical Ring of 6 Djinns, which is said to be omnipotent!  And since it is after all omnipotent, $9,999.99 really isn't a bad price.  Keep in mind they are throwing in free shipping.

What does your ten grand get you?  Well, honestly, it's a bit hard to say.  The item title claims there are 6 djinn (aka genies) contained in the ring.  The description claims an additional 3,111 powerful entities, but since command of English isn't one of the ring's many splendid powers I really can't be sure.

The ring itself appears to feature a pewter or pewter-colored band on which a gemstone of finest hard plastic is set.  An inscription in the reddish stone is either a single character of faux Arabic or Tolkein's Elvish for 'Wilt thee kiss me in the dark, baby?'

But I'm sure the buyer can have the ring transformed into something more tasteful after his or her purchase.  What the buyer, despite being suddenly omnipotent, cannot do is return the ring, because once you buy 3,111 powerful genies, baby, they are yours.

Magic rings not your thing?  Well, perhaps I can interest you in a device which melds magic and technology to bring about your deepest wishes!  I give you the Haunted Psychic Unit Power Paranormal Activity Item!

What is the Haunted Psychic Unit Power Paranormal Activity Item, or HPUPAI?

Depends on your world-view, I suppose.  Some people might see it as a mystical tool for actualizing their internal desires.  Others might see it as the dial from an electric stove stuck onto a plastic box which sports a bit of copper tubing.

But what isn't influenced by your belief system is the price, which is actualized at a firm $999, no returns.

I'd be a little less skeptical if every listed wasn't followed by a sternly-worded NO RETURNS policy.  Look, you either have confidence in your Hanuted Psychic Unit Paranormal Activity Item, or you don't.  Also, the device doesn't appear to be UL Listed, which is a must for anything with dials, really.

Still no takers?  Being omnipotent or having your every wish granted with the turn of a dial doesn't interest you?

Tough crowd.  But okay.  Maybe what you're looking for in a little less intangible.

What you want is this.

No.  Wait.  For the love of all that is holy, back out of that link.  Sheesh, look at the eyes on that thing.  If that isn't touched by the spirit of pure evil, I don't know what is.  Who paints flowers on something's face and then glues a cowboy hat to it?  Look at that expression in the photo.  That expression says 'Yeah, I'm going to wait until you are fast asleep and then slit your throat and roll in your blood and that's exactly what you deserve for bringing this into your home.'  And even that runs you five hundred bucks.

Instead, check this out -- a haunted phone.  The seller isn't sure whether this fine specimen of 2003 telephone technology is haunted by a ghost, a demon, a genie, or the Patron Saint of Grubby Fingerprints, but he's sure that smudge in the faded LCD display is evidence of something.  I agree, but I suggest it's evidence of a household in need of a rag and a bottle of 409 Cleaner.  But heck, it's only $399, so who am I to quibble?

That's probably enough trolling for one entry.  I barely scratched the surface -- haunted dolls, haunted rings, haunted toys, you name it, it's out there, it's haunted, and it can be yours for a price.

Happy shopping!  Of course if you really want something cool check out the Naked Spinning Angry Widow Ghost Djinn Demon Ring of Ultimate Power.

Buy one for your mother!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Broken Bell

Yes, the seaons are a-changin.'  The leaves are turning, there's a chill in the air, and Amazon just opened the new Markhat book The Broken Bell up for pre-orders!

Which is a bit of a relief for me.  I'm such a self-absorbed hog for attention that I routinely Google my own name (and yes, I'm sure a therapist would present a raised eyebrow and a knowing nod at this revelation).  So when Barnes & Noble put up their pre-order page for The Broken Bell and then Amazon UK put up their pre-order page, I expected Amazon here to quickly do the same.

Days passed.  Calendar pages flipped off the wall in a wind, just like in a dozen old movies.  Flocks of geese flew south, then north, then south again.  Snow fell, melted, washed down the river as a spring flood, and was then bottled and sold to yuppies for four bucks a pop.

I despaired.  I wept.  I bought the geese a year-round bus pass.

But finally, today, the pre-order page appeared.

Which means two things -- first and foremost, of course, you can order.  In fact, go ahead.  I'll wait.

Done?  Thanks!

As to the second thing -- I can finally show you the cover, which was created by artist Angela Waters! Check out her website, which is a thing of beauty.

Inquisitive types can even spot certain clues concerning the book's contents in the cover image.  I love this cover, and I hope you will too.

I'm really excited about The Broken Bell.  It's the longest and most ambitious Markhat book to date.  I'll say this, and no more -- the peace Rannit has enjoyed is over, and nothing will ever be quite the same.

So ogle the cover and click the pre-order, faithful readers.  Markhat is coming for Christmas!

And in the meantime, why not try All the Paths of Shadow?  Meralda isn't Markhat, but then again, Markhat isn't Meralda.  And if Kindle format isn't your preference, well, we have Nook and print too.

Okay, that's enough blabbing for now.  Back to work on Brown River Queen.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

And the Winner is....

Ding ding!  I have a winner, folks, to the contest I announced last week.  Jennifer gets a signed copy of All the Paths of Shadow, and....

What's that?  I promised a video reveal?

Um, well.  About that.  I did, but I really should have checked my aging video camera first, because it won't power on.  I mean nothing.  Not a red charging indicator, not a flicker of the screen, not even a tell-tale buzz when I plug it in.

So, with that in mind, pretend I'm on your screen, right now.  Dressed in a tailor-made tuxedo, in tasteful black, of course.  I'm standing in a spotlight (I have a *huge* special effect budget in this version of the video), my chiseled frame accentuated by the perfect fit of the $8,000 tux.

I flash an incandescent smile at Camera Two, and tear open the envelope with a well-muscled flourish, and as Pink Floyd (live, behind me) fills the air with music I read aloud Jennifer's name.

The crowd, some eighty thousand strong, goes wild.  Roses are cast upon the stage.  Confetti and bright balloons fall onto the stage.  Overhead, a flight of fighter jets swoop down and drop fireworks, which explode with thunders and flashes.

Not bad for the presentation of a 17 dollar book, huh?

You don't see John Grisham snagging Pink Floyd as a back-up act, do you?  Ever seen Stephen King in a European-made tux?  No?

I didn't think so.

So, Jennifer T., I salute you!  I'll get your signed copy of Paths of Shadow out tomorrow.  Thanks for entering, and for all your support!

Oh, and now I'll have the cast of  'NCIS' read the winning entry, and the runners-up!

Jennifer's Entry:  The Cross-Eyed Caterpillar

Mug was a large green cross-eyed caterpillar in the first version of the book.  Such prescience must be rewarded, so Jennifer wins!

Entries of Note:

The Thinly-Veiled Attempt at Cashing In On Harry Potter
This is Not a Markhat Book
Man, Just Look at This Cover
All the Subplots of Confusion
Book One of Three

I'm glad to see I have some seriously snarky readers.

Thanks to everyone for playing!  Um, can someone pony up for all that jet fuel?

All the Paths of Shadow on Amazon

All the Paths of Shadow at Cool Well Press

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Last Chance for Lennox

Long-time followers of my blog are already aware of my disdain for the Belfast City Council and their puppy-stomping minions, the Belfast City Council Dog Wardens.

It all started last year with the (illegal) seizure of Lennox the dog.  Certain breeds of dog (along with a goodly number of personal hygiene products and, apparently, common sense) are banned in merry old Belfast, you see.

The fact that subsequent DNA testing proved Lennox is a Lab / bulldog mix and NOT a prohibited pit bull did nothing to secure his release.  No.  The Belfast Dog Wardens had declared Lennox a menace, and as proof of their assertion they were quick to point out that Lennox was (gasp) a big black dog.

To make a long sad story short, Lennox was imprisoned in a tiny wire cage where he was surrounded by his own feces.  Now, I understand this arrangement with fecal matter on the floor is probably considered quite chic among the households of the Belfast Dog Wardens, but the photos of Lennox which leaked out were horrific to most humans.

But that's where poor Lennox has been, for over a year now.  His 'case' has been heard by a handful of judges and 'dog experts' who can most charitably be described as somewhat lacking in the higher mental functions.  Seriously.  I'm not sure how one becomes a judge in Belfast, but I'm beginning to suspect the process involves picking the short straw, or perhaps being the last man standing in a no-holds-barred grain alcohol drinking contest.

Regardless, one after another, these paragons of legal wisdom and frequent all-you-can-eat buffet patrons  upheld the original assertions that Lennox, who had never had a complaint spoken against him, who had a proper license, and who was a well-loved family pet, was actually a slavering, bloodthirsty beast in disguise.

The 'dog expert' was the most idiotic and laughable of the bunch.  One of the Dog Wardens even perjured herself.  But at the last hearing, none of that mattered - -yet another pinhead judge, eager to curry the favor of the City Council, sentenced poor Lennox to death.

Yesterday, at the very last moment, a stay of execution was ordered, as Lennox's family makes one last stab at getting him set free.  Here's the link to the story:

Last Chance

So take a moment, if you will, and spare a prayer or two for Lennox, a big black goofy dog who just wants to get out of that tiny cage and go home.

Oh, and Belfast City Council, and Belfast CC Dog Wardens?

Screw the lot of you. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Story in New Horror Anthology

Goot even - ing, Gentle Readers.

Igor.  Close the door.  We don't want them to escape.  Ahem.  I meant, there is a draft.

Tonight, I present to you a new collection of terrible tales, entitled Shadow Street.  Inside these pages you will find a number of unique and lingering horrors, each with an address on the Street.

My home away from home in entitled 'The Knocking Man.'

What is that?

Why yes, it does feature a mortuary.  And a cemetery.  How perceptive of you.

And yes.  Both show signs of neglect.

But beware, for they also show signs of recent and, shall we say, enthusiastic use.

Those of you who prefer Nooks to Kindles may prefer to shop here.

Igor will see to the lighting of the reading lamps.

I hope you survive -- er, enjoy your journey down Shadow Street.  I trust it will not prove too dangerous.

Still, we advise you to walk with caution, and above all else, to look both ways...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Usual Nonsense, Plus Markhat News!

First of all, don't forget to enter my contest!  The grand prize is a signed print edition All the Paths of Shadow, shipped right to your door, stronghold, lair, or orbital battle platform free of charge.  Entering only takes a second, and requires only a small amount of bone marrow, so please enter.  Or else I'll wind up looking very foolish giving away a book to myself.

Next, I would be remiss indeed if I failed to remind everyone that tonight is the night for the second season premiere of AMC's brilliant The Walking Dead.  If you've never heard of the show, click the link.  If you have, watch!  It promises to be quite a ride, as the survivors flee the destruction of the Center for Disease Control lab in zombie-infested Atlanta.

And now, about the new book.  Hey, don't look surprised, you knew it was coming.  I'm talking of course about All the Paths of Shadow, and before I say anything else let me present you with a few links, to ease and encourage your shopping experience!

All the Paths of Shadow in Amazon Kindle e-book format!

All the Paths of Shadow in print!

All the Paths of Shadow in epub and mobi formats, for your Nook or other device!

So one of the above should set you up.

So far, Paths has 8 readers reviews on Amazon, all of them good ones (seven five star reviews and one four star).  So it seems people like it.

On the Markhat front, Barnes & Noble have already put up the latest Markhat novel, The Broken Bell.  You can pre-order it for the Nook now; it will be released on December 17 everywhere, including Amazon and the publisher's site, Samhain Publishing.  even if you don't own a Nook, you can sneak over to Barnes and Noble and check out the sweet, sweet cover on  The Broken Bell.  It's worth the click.

That's about all the news I have right now.  I'm feeling fine and have hardly any traces of rigor mortis, so it's a good night for The Walking Dead!

Take care, zombie fans.  Keep your doors locked, your car keys handy, and of course, safeties off....


Friday, October 14, 2011


It's time for another contest!  Yes, Gentle Reader, you can win a signed print edition of All the Paths of Shadow in all of its stunning 484 page glory.  You get it all -- paper, ink, verbs, numbers, the whole works, nothing held back.  To make matters even more dramatic, I will announce the winner of the contest in my first-ever Web video, so that all and sundry can point and laugh.

And what must I do to obtain this most coveted of prizes, you ask?  Read on...


1) Contestants, hereafter referred to as 'contestants,' must originate from Earth or within five light years thereof.
2) Entry into the Contest shall consist of three parts.
3) PART ONE: The email to, with
4) PART TWO: The subject line PATHS OF SHADOW CONTEST, and
5) PART THREE: In the body of the email, include an alternate title for ALL THE PATHS OF SHADOW.  Be funny.  Call it MY SOCKS ARE FILTHY AND I DON'T CARE.  Call it ANOTHER GENERIC FANTASY BOOK HO HUM WHERE IS MY STEPHEN KING.  Call it anything you want.  Be bold and use lower case.  Anything goes here, people.  But extra points will probably be awarded to people who have read the book and who choose to lampoon either the subject matter or the writing style.
6) Myself and a panel of distinguished judges (read that as a roomful of sleepy dogs) will choose what we consider the funniest entry and award that submitter the signed book.  The revelation will be made via video on my website on Halloween night.

That gives you plenty of time to enter.  And yes, you can enter as often as you like.  I hope to get a lot of entries, because I'll probably post them so we can all get a chuckle.  If you'd rather I not post yours, say so in your email, or I'll assume it's okay.

So put on your writing cap and enter!  Be as mean or as snarky as you want.  That's what I'm looking for!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Box O' Books!

Today was a Post Office holiday, but that doesn't stop the big brown UPS trucks from their appointed rounds.

One such truck delivered to me a heavy box filled with books so new I could smell the ink.  That's right, boys and girls -- All the Paths of Shadow is now out in glorious three-dimensional hold-it-in-your-hand  print!

And boy does it look good.

Here's another shot!

These photos just aren't doing it justice.  Behold, the open book, and the pages thereof!

Did I mention this is a thick book?  Because it is.  484 pages, baby.  This is a fat thick book --

That's right, you get nearly two full inches of text!  According to the calculations of resident mathematician Fletcher (shown below), that is, um...

Two billion, four hundred million, five hundred and eighty-seven thousand words.

Okay, Fletcher is a dog, and that's probably not an accurate figure.  But this is a big thick book and it looks stunning in print and I cannot thank the people at Cool Well Press enough for all their hard work and professionalism in bringing All the Paths of Shadow from manuscript to market!

There are few thrills which equal or exceed that of opening a box of new books.  This box certainly exceeded my expectations!

Look, e-books are great.  That's pretty much all I buy these days, with a few exceptions.  This book is worth the exception.

I'm going to go stare at the covers for six or seven hours.  Have fun!

All the Paths of Shadow

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pics and Sundry

I finally caught Thor in a calm mood, and got a couple of pictures of him and his pal Petey.

Here's a couple of Thor, who is openly suspicious of my camera:

Below is Petey, who has become Thor's new best friend.  Petey has always been a very shy dog, so it's good to see him coming out of his shell!

Finally, here's a snapshot of my desk, from whence all my writing springs.  Or is typed.  Anyway, yes, it's too dark, but that's because the camera's batteries died as I took this.  It has nothing to do with all the dust revealed by the flash.  Nothing at all.

And yeah, I built the desk right into the room.  It's nothing fancy -- 2 by 4s and 3/4 inch plywood.  You can tapdance on it, if you want, and it won't budge or flex.  

In other news, All the Paths of Shadow is up in print format from Amazon!  So if you don't have an e-reader but you want to read the book, click here!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Going Bump #2: The Phantom of the Yocona River

When asked, I usually tell people that I've never seen anything I can point to and say 'I believe that was a ghost.'  And that's true.  Try as I might, I just can't sneak up on a Class IV Free-Floating Vapor, or catch a poltergeist lounging in front of a TV.

Which is not to say I've never seen anything I can't explain.  I have, and since this is October it's time to spill the beans.  Maybe some of you will have insights into the matter, because after pondering this for some thirty-three years I still don't have a clue.

I was, I believe, 15.  And let me preface this entire recounting by noting that no alcohol or other recreational substances were at all involved.  Honest.  I know that may sound unlikely, but it's the truth.

So, I was 15, and the snake-infested banks of the Yocona River beckoned.  The Yocona is a slow, muddy river which winds its way through the hilly woods of north Mississippi, and as a wild and dangerous place it was a natural magnet for all the kids who lived near it.

One fine August evening my good friend John Redmond and I decided to camp out on the River.  We spent a lot of time on the River, and knew its perils well.  So we loaded his pickup with supplies and an aluminum boat and set out.

We pitched camp on a sand bar not far from what everyone simply called The Structure.  The Structure was actually a concrete waterfall built by the Corps of Engineers to halt the Yocona's erosion of the fields on its borders.  I can still hear the roar of the water rushing over it today, on still nights.

But on that night, John  Redmond and I saw something neither of us can explain.

It started sometime after midnight.  We both saw a light of sorts playing among the boughs of an enormous old water oak about two hundred yards upstream.  It towered up above the outline of The Structure and was silhouetted against the night sky.

We sat and watched, considering the source of the light.  Our first thought was a flashlight.  We quickly rejected that, as it became obvious that what we were watching wasn't merely a projected beam of light being played amid the branches, but a glowing, moving mass that spun about the tree as though tethered somehow to the trunk.

Swamp gas, we decided.  Even though the tree stood on high, dry ground.  But as we kept watching, we rejected that too, because the light, whatever it was, grew brighter and began to change shape and color.

This is where it gets weird.

And let me remind you again that no drugs or alcohol were involved.

The glowing thing began to morph into recognizable shapes.  Faces.  Outlines.  Now a perfect yellow sphere.  Then a scowling red face.  A half-moon.  A flying man, arms outstretched.

No noise.  Just the light, changing, moving, orbiting that oak for purposes unknown.

Were we frightened?

Um, yes.  We're on a sand bar miles from anywhere.  It's far too dark to risk a panicked flight through the water moccasins and the copperheads and the tangles and the snags.  We're observing an inexplicable light show which, for all we know, is both being presented for us and is the preamble to something more sinister.

So we do what any reasonable pair of fifteen year olds would do -- we turn the boat on its side as a shield, arm ourselves with clubs and knives, and hunker down until sunrise.

That glowing thing, whatever it was, danced and flew all night.

We darted out briefly, now and then, to replenish our campfire with driftwood.  And we watched the clouds sail past while the lazy sun took his time in rising.

When the skies did finally begin to lighten, our visitor dimmed, made a final blurred circuit from the bottom of the tree to the top, and then simply shot up into the sky, where it vanished.

We stamped out our fire as soon as it was light and made haste in getting out of there and we never ever camped on the Yocona again.

As far as I know, nothing like what we saw was seen before or since.  There's nothing particularly sinister about the spot.  No old murders, no hangings, no drama of any kind.  It was just an oak tree.

So, what did I see, that night more than three decades ago?

I have no idea.

As I said, I can still hear the River pouring over the lip of the Structure on still nights.  Sometimes I listen to the dull distant roar and wonder if a certain old oak tree is being lit by a whirling, changing light, or if what we saw was meant only for John Redmond and I, and only appeared that night.

If so, what did it mean?  What did it want?  What were we supposed to take away from there, aside from mosquito bites and sand in our britches?

Still don't know.  Probably never will.

So that's my tale of the Yocona River, and the flying light.

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