Brown River Queen cover art

Friday, February 24, 2012

Care for a Quickie?

Gird thy loins, gentle reader, against this brief but patently self-serving blog post, in which I hawk Passing the Narrows.

If you're an Amazon Prime member (and if you bought a Fire in the last 30 days, you are), you can get Passing the Narrows for free, but only for the next 30 days.  Yes, I said free. Gratis. No charge.

I'm pricing Passing the Narrows at just 99 cents for anyone who isn't a Prime member but who might want to read it anyway.  Just click here to grab a copy for less than a buck.

What is Passing the Narrows about, you ask?

It's about the steamboat Yocona and her crew of defeated Confederates, who are forced to dare a haunted stretch of the Yazoo River on a dark and moonless night.  It's about loss and letting go, about triumph and redemption. It's about 5000 words, so you can read it in a single sitting.

Still not sure?

Here's the opening to Passing the Narrows:

      The Yocona surged ahead, paddle-wheel churning, cylinders beating like some great, frightened heart.
     "Dark as Hell and twiced as hot," muttered Swain from the shadows behind the clerk's map-table.
     A ragged chorus of ayes answered.  The Captain checked his pocket watch; ten o'clock sharp.  Old Swain and his hourly announcements hadn't lost a minute in twenty years.
     The Captain snapped his pocket watch shut and peered out into the darkness.  There, to port, loomed a hulking mass of shadow twice the height of any around it -- Cleary's Oak, last marker before the riverboat landing at Float.  "We're an hour from Float, Mr. Barker.  Notify the deck crew we'll be putting in for the night."
     "Aye, Cap'n."
     "She won't like that," said Swain, whispering.  "Fit to be tied, she'll be.  Full of fire and steam."
     "Who, Swain?"
     "You know who.  The wand-waver.  The Yankee."
     "Go back to sleep."
     "I heard her talkin' while the boys were hauling me up the deck," said Swain, gesturing with the stump of his missing right arm.  "Said she was aimin' to make Vicksburg 'fore the moon came again.  Said she
had orders, and papers, and -- "
     "I give the orders here, Swain.  Not any damn Yankee wand-wavers."
     Swain cackled.  The Yocona churned past Cleary's Oak, picking up speed as the Yazoo River turned narrow and straight. The Captain rang three bells, and the thump-thump-thump of the pistons slowed.
     The Yocona’s running lamps began to touch the trees on each bank of the Yazoo River.  Shadows whirled and twisted, caught mid-step in some secret dance before fleeing back into the impenetrable murk beyond the first rank of trees.  Some few seemed to run just ahead of the light, capering and tumbling like
shards of a nightmare given flesh and let loose to roam.
     The shadows reminded the Captain of Gettysburg and Oxford and a hundred other haunted ruins left in the wake of the War.  The Yazoo River was the only safe route through the countryside now, unless you
were a sorcerer, a Yankee, or a fool.
     "Eyes ahead, boys," said the Captain, softly.  "They're only there if you look."

If you want to keep reading, just go here.  It's a good story.  And free or 99 cents, you can't go wrong.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Video Blogging: The Future is Now?

Everyone is doing it.

No, not metabolizing oxygen or that other thing (hoarding great hoops of Colby Jack cheese).  I speak of the newest, bestest, most wonderful-est way to blog -- the video blog.

Now, once upon a time, making a video blog would be the stuff of nightmares. And even if you managed it, you'd just enrage your viewers, who were stuck with AOL dial-up and leg-warmers because I am freaking old.

But hey, in these whiz-bang hi-speed wireless broadband satellite wonder days, making a video blog (called a 'wentzencrapzenjammerzenhooplaflangbangbangduck' by the kids) is child's play.  Heck, it's so easy even I can do it.

My question, though is this -- should I?

And my initial gut reaction is thus -- NO.

Why no?

Look.  I'm pretty good with words.  People have even been known to pay for them.  That's because I can type them out, letter by letter and space by space, and no one sees them until I am bloody well ready for them to be seen. That might mean hours or days or even weeks of fiddling and re-writing and staring and sighing. But no one sees that part.

This allows me to create the illusion that I'm good with words.  Anyone can appear to be good with anything if you've got all the time in the world to work unseen on the presentation, right?

Putting my big fat head on video, though, that's something else entirely.

For one thing, there's my accent.  Now, I know everyone out there believes I speak in a James Bondish brogue, but I was born and some say raised in Mississippi.  I have an accent so thick it can, in a pinch, be used as a blunt instrument suitable for opening stuck doors or loosening frozen bolts.

Take the sentence "I'm going to the store for some milk," for instance.

You read that, quite correctly, as I'm going to the store for some milk.

But if I were to read that harmless little sentence aloud, it would sound like this:

Ahm goin' tu thuh stor fer sum beer.   Editor's Note:  There is no word for 'milk' in the dialect I speak.  

That's how I sound.  I can minimize my accent with conscious effort, but I cannot eradicate it entirely.

The Southern accent bit works pretty well if you're William Faulkner and you're writing about the American South.  People love it.  It's also a good mix with crime fiction, unless your books are set in New York (Nuhe Yoke).

But I write fantasy.  Some of it traditional, some of it YA, some of it hard-boiled detective stuff.  But it's all fantasy, and I'm just not sure people are going to find my voice compatible with the genre.  I don't want to present anything that will jar you, the reading public, out of the comfy little worlds I try to create in my books.

Which might well be a stupid thing on my part to even worry about.  It's the books that people like, right?  I'm not really a part of the picture.  What does it matter, who I am?  People read the words in their own voices, imagine things how they want, and that's how it ought to be.

But still.  I'm leery of the whole video blog concept.  So, if I do post a video blog one day, and I appear on your monitor as a square-jawed fit young man with a newscaster's generic Midwest accent, you'll know I've hired an actor.

Now I'm off to find some supper.  Good evening, all!

(Na-ow ahm awff ta fine-duh sum chitlins. Ya'll hav yorselves ah gud un!)