Sunday, December 26, 2010

Robert T. Bakker and The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek

"Stegosaurus was common only on well drained, dry soil."-- Robert T. Bakker, Author and Paleontologist.

Bakker's novel, Raptor Red, always reminds me of my favorite dinosaur novel from my childhood, The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek. I guess as a kid I read quite a few books, but there weren't a lot of them that I read and reread and reread. The novel by Evelyn Sibley Lampman is one that I did.

That it wasn't founded in solid science didn't matter to me. The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek was a great book of adventure, where to children encounter a holdover from the Jurassic living out in the empty wilds near their desert ranch. It caught my imagination.

As an adult, Bakker's Raptor Red, a novel about a year in the life of a Utah Raptor, did catch my attention and interest. It is founded in solid science and scientific theory, making it an interesting mix of fiction--historical fiction from the early Cretaceous period.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rudolph & The Godfather

Maybe this reflects my sometimes twisted sense of humor, but I find this parody of one of my favorite Christmas programs as a kid to be quite funny: Raging Rudolph

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wordle of Flank Hawk

Wordle: Flank Hawk
Click on the picture to view the Wordle image created from using the back cover description of Flank Hawk.

Kind of neat. Learned about this website during a recent inservice at Upper Valley JVS, where I work.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

E-books: Are You, the Content, and Your Actual Reading being Tracked?

On the way home from work I listened to this report on NPR: Is Your E-Book Reading Up On You?

A lot of the report's content I just assumed--Like, if you purchase through a Kindle or Nook, they track the purchases you make, when, where and for how much. But it apparently goes much further than that. If and when you read the book, what pages you stopped on, how long you spent on a page or chapter, and even where you did your reading is all part of the return data stream recorded. From Google and Apple, to Amazon and B&N, they're all apparently less than forthcoming about the data collected, for how long it is saved, and its use.

Can your reading and location be used as an alibi in court, the NPR report asks?

The report also discusses how such data could be useful for authors, among other things. Stephen King even provided some input on this.

It does appear to me to be a version of 'Big Brother' looking in and tracking one's every literary move. It sounds a little intrusive to me. Unlike purchasing a book at a good ol' brick & mortar store, if you pay cash, nobody knows what you purchased...well I guess if you belong to a loyal customer program of some sort, you'd be tracked...and I suppose if they had a surveillance system and kept the tape/digital file, what you purchased would be known. But if you gifted the book or magazine, lent it out, kept all to yourself and read it--when and where included--would not be known.

A sign and direction of the digital times.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why a remake of True Grit?

Why a remake of True Grit? The original 1969 Western starring John Wayne, in which he won his only Oscar, is a classic that stands on its own without the need for being revisited and, as Hollywood in its wisdom apparently believes, improved upon.

I think the remake will do ‘okay’ in theaters and even in DVD/electronic download release, but not because it’ll be that spectacular of a movie. The acting, cinematography and music present in the remake won’t be noteworthy enough to carry the piece to serious profitability on its own—not without leaning on the name both of and behind the original. I believe a major portion of any success the remake garners will be due to the legend it uses as a crutch. I suspect the executives and investors behind the remake are counting on it. The True Grit storyline isn’t so remarkable that a comparable script couldn’t have been written for a modern-shot western. Lonesome Dove and Unforgiven are two prime examples. For translation into film, it isn’t the storyline but what the actors within bring to the final product—in this case, what John Wayne brought to the original.

I’m a big fan of Westerns, but this 2010 remake is one I won’t be supporting. I will, however, always support the original:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bonny Portmore: Inspiration for a Scene's Backdrop

`I recently finished writing a scene for Blood Sword (sequel to Flank Hawk) where music on stage in an auditorium takes place. Although not named or arranged as shown, this short video of the traditional Irish folk song helped give direction to the scene where Krish/Flank Hawk watches over Grand Wizard Seelain as she enjoys a concert during a diplomatic mission to the Reunited Kingdom.

Take a listen through the video below. Loreena McKennitt, I think, is quite talented--understatement.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Must Mutter Interview

Stuart Aken was kind enough to interview me on his blog, Must Mutter.

Click on over and find out some details of what's in store for Flank Hawk, some writing advice, and some interesting odds and ends (or at lest Stuart and I thought so).

Link: Interview with Terry Ervin at Must Mutter

Friday, December 3, 2010

Interview on Sarah M. Eden's I Need a Friend Friday

I had a really fun interview with Sarah M. Eden, where I got to be her Friday Friend. Click on over and give it a read--we discuss hats, continents and best of all, The Princess Bride.

Don't hesitate to comment and of course, admire the artwork Sarah drew.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Disney's Tangled is Well Worth the Ticket Price

Went to see Tangled with the family the other day and I would have to say that Disney did very well with this story. It's fun, action-filled with a few unexpected twists and turns, and packed with humor for children and adults alike (but not in that all too common 'adult innuendo' sort of way).

If you go to see it, or already have, let me know what you think.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Book Signing at Around About Books, November 27th.

I and a number of other authors, including Stephen Hines, will be at Around About Books (in Troy, Ohio) from 2:00 until 4:00 pm signing copies of our novels.

A book is a great Christmas gift, and a signed copy is even better!

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Two Ends of the Pen Review of Flank Hawk

Debra Martin at Two Ends of the Pen reviewed Flank Hawk
where it earned a 5 Star rating!

Click on over and see what she had to say: Review of Flank Hawk

Saturday, November 20, 2010

One Year Under a Million on

Tracking sales isn't something I obsess over, but I do follow a few trends. One of them is the Bestsellers Rank (for print).

Certainly Flank Hawk isn't going to be a NY Times Bestseller, and the odds of it cracking's (or even Barnes & Noble's) Top 100 Sellers are very, very, very long. But, for a title released by a small publisher (in this case Gryphonwood Press), sales must be decent and steady to keep from rising above the 1 million mark. The exact formula and impact of individual and multiples sales isn't something I've tried to solve. In my estimation, however, a sale can drop (improve) the ranking to around 100,000, with multiple sales being increasingly required to drop the number further--there is a definite steepening curve. It would take about 10 to 12 days to rise above one million, depending on the briskness of sales at I also think with increasing numbers of books available, the increasing use of online purchases and the march toward the Christmas season, the rate of slide upward in ranking has increased since Flank Hawk's release in late October of 2009.

For those interested, the lowest (best sales rank) Flank Hawk ever achieved was 27,171. The highest was 936,329. I check once a day, and not always at the same time, so the highs and lows may have been slightly higher or slightly lower. And from what I can tell, the rank increases about 100,000 per day when an apparent sale isn't registered.

I know those stats aren't great, but I think they're respectable. Each sale equals another reader who gave Flank Hawk a chance. What prompted me to post on this today (I have another post in the bullpen, but it will obviously be delayed) is that when I checked this morning, Flank Hawk was down to 64,817. It hasn't ranked that well since November 25, 2009, one month after its release.

So, to those readers out there today and since Flank Hawk's release , whoever you are, a BIG THANKS from me and I hope you enjoy(ed) Krish's tale!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Iorich by Steven Brust

It's been on my shelf for some time and I knew it'd be a good read when I could get to it. I finally did, and wasn't disappointed.

As usual, Brust's story has snappy dialogue and a fast paced way of telling the story from Vlad Taltos' point of view. Another mystery that he shows up solve. As of late, his novels have low body counts--Vlad is more on the run these days than doing work (assassinations).

Many of the old favorites play a part in this novel, from Morlan and Sethra Lavode to Cawti and Kragar (I always look forward to him having a part in the story).

Unlike some of Brust's novels, Iorich isn't a good choice for a reader to begin the series with. As always, I'd suggest starting with The Book of Jhereg.

One thing I thought was really neat was the "Deleted Scenes" Steven Brust included at the end. Very neat and very funny.

Next up is Tiassa, scheduled for a late March 2011 release.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

7R's Independence Day in November

Click on over and take a look at Seven Realm's Independence Day--Celebrating Independent Publishers and Authors! Find ou thow to win a prize!

There's a whole bunch of great authors from a number of independent publishers participating, with Flank Hawk as one of the featured titles.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lonesome Dove: An Excellent Novel that Translated with Equal Splendor to Film

Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is one book that accomplished a rare feat: The film version was equally well executed.

The novel is set in the 1870s where two retired Texas Rangers set out upon one last adventure: A cattle drive from Texas to Montana to establish a ranch there.

The characters and story line's adventure is about the best I've read. Maybe it's because the original concept for the novel was based on the authors original screen play that wasn't brought to film until years after the novel's success.

Adventure, Love, Courage, Villainy, Friendship, Hardship, Loyalty, Wonder, and Loss. If you're looking for an engaging read you won't forget, and/or a wonderful mini series-length movie, you can't go wrong.

If you have read the novel, or viewed the film version, or both, let me know what you thought. If you haven't, give it a shot and let me know.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Flank Hawk Sales Data: First Year

For those who are interested or curious, I have the last quarter of 2009 and the first three quarters of 2010 for sales sales of Flank Hawk.

A few observations:
Print Sales = 84%
Ebook Sales = 16%

Although there is an apparent trend: The 3rd Quarter of 2010, Print Sales = 48% and Ebook Sales = 52%, the vast majority being through Amazon Kindle. Sales through Smashwords and the Nook have been minor in comparison. In any case, ebook sales began to climb in the spring of 2010.

Sales through Barnes & Noble and Brick & Mortar bookstores outpaced sales of print through in the 2010, a slight reverse of the trend from the first quarter of 2009.

I don't know what this says, if anything. But in the end, I hope all routes do well. A sale is a sale, because it means someone else gave Flank Hawk a try.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gryphonwood Author Anthology - FREE for Halloween!

DARK PLACES: A Gryphonwood Anthology is available for free at through October 31st 2010 (the exact time it ends depends on your location, so order early!)

Here is the link: Dark Places: A Gryphonwood Anthology at Smashwords.

Here is the coupon-code for 100% off: AD94N (It is not case sensitive).

Some great stories, including two of mine: "The Scene of My Second Murder" and "Skull Face Returns."

Podcast versions of stories in the anthology are also free and available at: Gryphonwood Press Podcast (several stories are up now and more will follow).

For those who are interested, the Anthology is available now and will remain available (including at for 99 cents at: Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Give the stories a read and let the authors from Gryphonwood Press know what you think!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ghost in the Machine Podcast

I was interviewed by Gail Z. Martin (author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series) for her Ghost in the Machine Podcast.

Click on over and give it a listen: Interview with Terry W. Ervin II

It was fun, but phone interviews don't seem to be one of my strengths.


Monday, October 25, 2010

ThrillerCast--Story Length

Authors David Wood and Alan Baxter have developed a pretty interesting and fast moving podcast titled ThrillerCast. The episodes run about 20 minutes each, filled with interesting discussion and useful information for readers and writers alike.

Take a listen to the most recent edition (which discusses in part length of genre fiction works, including past and current trends--and the reason behind them) and see what you think:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Quotes: General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

"Do what is right, not what you think the high headquarters wants or what you think will make you look good." --General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

If you ask me, an attitude like that can't lead one down a wrong path. It will certainly keep one's conscience clear.

In Flank Hawk, and in the current work in process (Blood Sword), when writing Krish and his actions, doing what is right, what friendship and loyalty demands--at least as he sees it--is what guides him.

I think that's a main reason why readers enjoy Krish's story and it's why characters in the novel trust him.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Humor: King Tut

A funny Steve Martin routine--with cameo by Henry Winkler

Link: King Tut

Good enough that I've recalled it over the years. Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Backyard "Arthropod Titans"

Here are two standouts:

The praying mantis pictured measured about 5 inches in length (last year's specimen).

This orb-weaver spider's abdomen is about equal to a nickel in size (this year's specimen).

No stag beetles of note this year. Maybe next year.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Presenting at the Y-City Writers Conference, October 9th

For those who might be in the area, I'll be one of the presenters at the Y-City Writers Conference where I will be discussing Dialogue.

Maybe I'll see you there!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review of Flank Hawk at WebbWeaver

Yesterday WebbWeaver posted a review of Flank Hawk.

If you get a chance, click on over and see what they had to say, and maybe leave a comment if you're so inclined.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Can you identify this critter?

To the right and below is a picture of a friendly critter that, in part, plays a part in Flank Hawk? (Hint: It's closely linked to one of the main characters).

My first encounter with one of these little mammals was along the crick that ran behind my grandparent's house when I was a kid--maybe 5 or 6 years of age. I occasionally spotted turtles there too! :)

Test your North American fauna knowledge.
Do you know what the pictured animal is?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"If you value your lives, be somewhere else."

One of the memorable quotes from Babylon 5--a series which I very much enjoyed, even more so in reruns and DVD.

The video clip with this blog's title quote occurs right after a major space battle where the space station Babylon 5 has been heavily damaged and more enemy destroyers (Earth Fleet Ships under the corrupt President Clark) have arrived to finish the job. The background music works to make the scene even better.

The special effects were top notch for their time--and remain respectable by today's standards. If you're interested, below is a link to the highlights of the battle that preceded Delen's quote.

Civil War has broken out, Babylon 5 stands with two Earth Destroyers, opposing President Clark's forces: Battle from Severed Dreams.

What I really enjoyed about B5 was the character development and the solid story arc, elements weak or lacking in so many other SF series.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"It Was a Mistake" published in Rubber Lemon

My short story, "It Was a Mistake" is now available for reading in Rubber Lemon, a United Kingdom online magazine.

The website is a bit odd to navigate (at least in my browser). Just select the Second Issue (on the bottom left). My story covers pages 15 thru 17.

Hope you enjoy the read and let me know what you think.

**Went back in to check today (9/15) and they reformatted the site so it's easier to navigate, and issue two is right up front. :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Top Ten Kindle Author Interview

My interview with Kindle Author ranked in the Top Ten for August.

Thanks to all those who clicked on over and gave it a read! I hope you found it interesting.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Applefest of Shelby County

I will be participating in the Applefest's Local Authors Sale and Signing. The authors will be located in the County Courthouse, along with a county photo display and more.

The Applefest runs from Friday September 10th through Sunday September 12th. I'm scheduled to be there talking to readers and signing copies of Flank Hawk and Distant Passages Volume II at the following times:
Friday, September 10th from 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm.
Saturday, September 11th from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm.
Sunday, September 12th from Noon until 5:00 pm. (My arrival depends on when church services at UMC of St. Paris let out.)

There are tons of other events to visit and enjoy from crafts and laser light shows to bands and blacksmith demonstrations. And of course, food. (Here's the Official Schedule of Events)

I'm looking forward to seeing you there.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Classic Humor: Who's on First?

What do I find funny--and memorable?

I think it's a classic.
Give it a click and then let me know what you think.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Flank Hawk: Reader Comments

I am like many authors. I write because I have what I believe are interesting stories to share. One thing authors appreciate is when a reader takes the time to indicate what they thought of a book or story--verbal or written.

I figured I'd share my most recent emailed comment (I mentioned David in a previous post):

I got Flank Hawk from you last weekend at the Yellow Springs book fair, and just finished it. Fantastic book, and I cannot wait for the sequel. I love the world you created, it has some great possibilities.
Looking forward to seeing more from you.

Sure, there's something to money motivating a writer...hey, it helps pay the bills. But meeting a reader's expectations--that motivates a writer to do a better job next time out even more.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Agnostic's Prayer from Creatures of Light and Darkness

One of the things I enjoy about Roger Zelazny's works is the unique characters he creates, including their voice revealed through dialogue.

The short prayer which is the topic of this post comes from his work Creatures of Light and Darkness, published way back in 1969 (Okay, not way back for everyone--but I was pretty darn young when it first came out). I first picked up a copy of the novel for a dime from a used book cart at BGSU's Jerome Library after long evening working in Government Documents. The paperback's pages were yellow even back then (1986), but I still have the book. And recently it's been re-released!

The prayer is not referred to as "The Agnostic's Prayer" in the novel, but it comprises one of the more famous quotes from one of Zelazny's characters. Creatures of Light and Darkness is a fun and interesting SF novel with a definite Egyptian Mythology twist. It's not as good as Lord of Light, in my opinion, but close and well worth the read.

In any case, here is the prayer a the character named Madrak utters at the request of a bit part character who is about to commit suicide for money--to be given to his family.

An interesting 'prayer' to be sure. Let me know what you think.

The Agnostic's Prayer
"Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen."
(Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness, © 1969)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Yellow Springs Book Fair, Follow-up

Well, I got to the sight of the Yellow Springs Book Fair a little after 7:00 am to set up. No, it didn't take me that long to set up for the 9:00 am official starting time, but I wanted to get a good spot under a tree to avoid direct sunlight on a long hot day or for a bit of protection against rain. Getting there early also gave me a chance to pitch in and help others set up. Although I brought sunscreen, the large umbrella I also brought came in more handy. It sheltered me and the table, protecting copies of Flank Hawk and keeping things dry.

Forecasts indicated the rain was supposed to arrive in the late afternoon. Well, shortly before 11:00 am, episodes of sprinkles came through. The light rain continued off and on and by 1:00 I packed it in, just before serious rain settled in--lucky timing. Many of the other vendors and the other authors had already left, or were leaving. Books do not react well to rain, although most sellers had plastic to cover their tables of books. In any case, the crowd had died down to hardly a trickle by then.

I'm glad I attended the event and held out through the sprinkles longer than most. I made some sales, so Flank Hawk found more readers. I also met a lot of neat folks, which is one of the best parts of such events. I met some people affiliated with bookstores and selling, a couple authors, a host of casual to avid readers, including some readers interested in writing themselves. I got some advice from a a young guy named David on a book or two to read (add to my list/stack) and I met a pilot named Gary who is a real history buff and sent me some links to WW II websites and picture albums.

Speaking of pictures, there are none of this event--although me sitting with my umbrella over the table might have been an interesting pic. I didn't bring a camera and my cell phone is the most basic of sorts. My wife was going to drive down to take the girls to the nearby Young's Jersey Dairy, but I was packing up when they called to check on the weather.

After driving home, guess what? I took a nap. Two days of meetings, inservice and classroom prep at work for the new school year starting on Monday, and I was up well before 6:00 am to get to Yellow Springs, so I was tired. I know, for many people, 5:40 am is regular wake up time, even on a Saturday. After this blog post I'm going to work on getting files and lessons ready, so I'd better end.

Even though it turned out to be a shortened and drizzly-day event, it was worth it and I'm looking forward to next year's book fair.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

30th Annual Yellow Springs Book Fair

I'll be one of the authors and sellers participating in the Yellow Springs Book Fair this Saturday (August 21st). It runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Free and open to the public.

200 S. Walnut Street (Downtown Yellow Springs, Ohio)
On the grounds of Mills Lawn School

The book fair is sponsored by Dark Star Books and Super-Fly Comics and Games.

For more information, visit the Dark Star Books website.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Quotes and a Favorite from Winston Churchill

Sometimes what others have to say resonates within the times the words were spoken. Sometimes those same words remain relevant beyond the year or decade they were first uttered. I find this true of many things Winston Churchill said.

Here is one of his quotes that stuck with me. It resonated back in the 1940s and remains relevant today. While the quote can obviously be applied to world politics and conflict, I think it also can be applied to smaller venues such as local politics or personal situations in one’s life.

"If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves." --Winston Churchill
Also, this quote is one of the items that sparked the writing of my short story "Seconds to Eternity" which will soon be released by Aberrant Dreams and their recently revamped website.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Interview: Kindle Author Blog

Click on over to the Kindle Author Blog and check out my interview, and don't hesitate to leave a comment.

Interview: Terry W. Ervin II

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bookstore Restocking

Copies of Flank Hawk are on the shelves of various local and semi-local shops and bookstores. Every four to six weeks I either make a point of stopping in or I contact the stores to check on how sales have gone. Some staff and owners prefer calls, others prefer emails, but none mind a polite visit. Some sell signed copies on consignment, some ask me to bring copies they purchase at a discounted rate, and others order through Ingram/Baker & Taylor. For the latter, I go in and sign after the copies arrive. Yes, I keep a list, including numbers and rates and preferences.

Stating the obvious, placement does make a difference. Face out is superior to spine only (I thank the wonderful cover art from Christine Griffin for that). Height is important too. Eye level placement is best. I'm not sure if there is a difference between above or below eye level. The thing is, there are a lot of books out there competing. Not every one can be at eye level or face showing, or otherwise prominently displayed. Even luck has a place in this, especially as shelving is usually by alphabetical order.

Another observation is that each owner has a different strategy. Some place Flank Hawk in the YA section. Others in the adult science fiction/fantasy section. Some copies show up on the staff picks or are placed on the local author shelf. Some bookstores even place copies in two or more places. A few shops that don't focus on books carry Flank Hawk and place it next to gift cards or knick knacks.

No store or venue that I've approached has declined to carry Flank Hawk. And none has been shut out, but some do far better than others. Maybe there's a reason--certainly how hard they push it. Their regular customer base is certainly a strong factor. I'm sure there's a little luck in the mix as well.

Usually when I stop in, I plan ahead and do some shopping. There's always a card to send someone or a book to read or give, or even some candy to pick up for my daughters. Beyond being polite, I'm cognizant that the places that carry Flank Hawk are businesses. Sure, they're making a profit with each copy they sell, but it is taking up space on their shelf. Something else could be there. Besides, supporting a business that is supporting you only makes sense.

A few final observations to share. I've always given at least one copy to the owner or a staff member to read. When first approaching owners, I often suggest they read Flank Hawk and see if it's something they want to carry. Sometimes they've taken the copy I handed them and immediately looked it up and made sure that they could order it. When they're seeing if it's in the system, they're also looking to see the discount rate they can purchase it at, if it is a POD book, if it can be returned, and even if it's from a press they've not been impressed with in the past. Sometimes at that moment or upon my return (when they've had a chance to read Flank Hawk), the owner comments on how they've been burned with stocking really horrible self-published and vanity press novels. And some small presses haven't impressed them either. Beyond that, an author can learn more than a bit from a bookstore owner or a staff person who's been around a while.

I'm half way through my current round of checking. Flank Hawk is continuing to do slow but steady sales. As always: One sold here, two there, occasionally three, and sometimes none a place or two. Maybe it's not a NY Times Bestseller rate, but it means readers are giving my novel a try, which is why I write: I believe I have interesting stories to share.

It also makes me wonder what would happen if my publisher had strong marketing and a reach into bookstores across the country like major NY houses do--Would my writing sell, without that personal connection with bookstore owners and staff? Does the signed edition make a difference?

Maybe someday I'll know.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Local Places: Hocking Hills State Park

My older daughter and I made our second annual trip to Hocking Hills State Park here in Ohio. Pretty neat place. Our trip was delayed as my daughter had injured her ankle earlier in the summer. Make no mistake, there's lots of hiking, climbing and all around traversing oddly shaped rocks and ledges and near ancient steps carved from the rock. We visited on a Tuesday, avoiding crowds of visitors.

We mainly explored Old Man's Cave, Rock House and Conkles Hollow.

Included are few of many pics. My skills with the camera are anything but legendary--what would've been really really cool ones didn't turn out.

It was still early in the morning, for example, when we visited Rock House. Adding that it was cloudy, pictures in the huge cave-like formation was kind of difficult.
It's truly a great experience. If you've not visited Hocking Hills State Park and ever get the chance to, don't pass it up!

Oh, and for you writers, a great place for ideas and settings.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Five Considerations Before Joining a Crit Group

Based on emails received, the article linked to below is one of the more popular ones I've written. I think it stems from the difficulty writers encounter while seeking not only readers for their works in progress, but also trying to find effective ways to improve their writing. A solid crit group can do that, and provide networking and other support. With that in mind, remember that all crit groups are not created equal, and some are counter productive with respect to a writer's improvement and success.

If you're a writer out there and seeking an established crit group, Elysian Fields, an online group I moderate, has an opening. Contact me for details (see bottom of page for the Elysian Fields link).


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Five People You Meet in Heaven: A novel not to be Missed

The Five People You Meet in Heaven, a bestseller by Mitch Albom is a novel that if you haven't had a chance to read, you definitely should.

It is a short novel (I'd estimate 50,000 words) and it's an engaging story from start to finish. The lessons learned by Eddie, an amusement park maintenance worker who believes his life was a waste, I think will resonate with just about everyone.

I would break it down to five main themes:
1. Everyone is connected. What you do affects people, in ways you may not realize.
2. Sacrifice, it's something to aspire to.
3. Forgiveness: one must be able to forgive yourself and especially others.
4. Lost Love is still love.
5. Everyone has value and no life is a waste.

Sounds like common sense, but do you really believe those statements? And if you do believe them, do you know someone who doesn't?

It is one of the novels I have taught to seniors where I teach. Almost 90% indicate after reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven, that they really enjoyed it and, better yet, got something out of it.

If you're interested, here is the study guide I use: Study Guide Packet: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

There is a movie version available on DVD (Starring Jon Voight), and it is a good view after reading the novel. The content and order of the novel is ordered better and adds depth a film cannot. As in many instances, while the movie is good, the book is far better.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Unicorn song

Those raised in the era MP3s and digital downloading to iPods and other devices may not appreciate the difficulties more than a few years back when I was a kid, and one had to listen to the radio, hoping one of your favorite songs made it to the airwaves. Technically, one could call (dial) in and request, like everyone else, but when this song came out I was too young for that.

Yes, eventually there were records, 8-track tapes, then audio cassettes, later to be banished by CDs. They were expensive and I was a kid and, unless a favorite tune was on the radio station's regular play list, I was out of luck. Maybe that's why I don't really care much for music these days.

One song I do remember from the early 1970s was the The Unicorn by the Irish Rovers. I cannot remember exactly what show it was--a Lawrence Welk type program where they performed it. I did eventually pick up a cassette tape with the best of the Irish Rovers back in the late 1980s.

Here it is: The Unicorn song.

Maybe you remember it too. I guess it suggests my interest in reading and writing fantasy taking root even at an early age.

Around Christmas, I'll relay another favorite--but this one my mother would occasionally play from a vinyl LP record. There's also a Disney memory or two for future posts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quote: Darwin on Shakespeare

I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.” – Charles Darwin

I know there are more than a few modern high school students who have similar feelings. Shakespeare's plays can be taught in the classroom, but not by simply having students sit and silently read them--which is how I suspect Charles Darwin went at it. Sure, a student with an active vivid imagination can pull it off, but Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be viewed and heard by the audience, not read.

There is a reason that novelizations of movies are written, based on the script, and sold, rather than simply printing and binding the script for readers to purchase and enjoy.

Not much of a point, maybe. Maybe Darwin was commenting on Shakespeare's sonnets? Just an observation based on a quote of one historically famous person (Darwin) on another historically famous person’s works (Shakespeare).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Readers (of Flank Hawk)

One thing that has really helped me improve my writing and led to publishing successes is having great readers--folks who will take the time to read my writing and provide solid input.
From experience I can say that not everyone who shows interest and says they'd like to read and provide input on an unpublished work--sometimes they even ask to be a reader--actually follows through. There are a number of reasons they don't, but I firmly believe it's foolish to hold it against them. Oddly or, more accurately, sadly I've encountered some writers who do.
I think it's also important to try to match a reader's interests with what you've written. This is somewhat easy for me as, at least with my short fiction, I write in a variety of genres. Beyond that, it's important to have a variety of readers with varying experiences, both life and reading. To be sure they have to be individuals who won't hesitate to tell you what isn't working, in addition to what is. Praise is great and motivating, but constructive criticism makes an even bigger difference.
I do consider what each reader has to say. Often the readers provide written comments and feedback, but whenever possible I also like to sit down and talk with the reader. And while I do consider each reader's input, I don't always agree and their suggestions are not implemented. That's okay as the readers know my stand on this. However, if several come up with the same concern--it's definitely time to revisit that aspect of the novel or short story.
Today I'm going to highlight on those readers who provided input for Flank Hawk before I began submitting it. Of those below, all have provided input for other works, published and as of yet unpublished.
I count on each reader for their unique view and opinion, each having strengths in different aspects of a story's contents. All are well-read and provide in depth analysis in a number of areas, and I'm only highlighting a narrow scope of what they provide as readers. In any case, they deserve some recognition for their efforts in helping Flank Hawk make it into print.
In alphabetical order:

Dora Archer (above): Has a good eye for characters and characterization. Some of this comes, I believe, from being an author herself. Equilibrium is her debut novel. It also comes from her travels and experience.

Sandy Daily (above): Has a good sense for atmosphere, tone, and character consistency. She reminds me that sometimes my story might be getting too dark or grim. Sandy has read more books than can count, and that background is something I can count on when discussing my writing efforts.

Joanne Detter (above): Has a good eye for plot consistency, wording, and action sequences. She also gives some input on grammar ;) Joanne is one that I enjoy discussing authors and novels we've both read, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, which I am able to incorporate into my writing efforts.

Stephen Hines (above): A talented YA author who is an expert at suggesting what is lacking in plot, structure, dialogue, and where I fall short with description. And yes, he is a major Steelers fan, but I don't hold that against him.

Jeff Koleno (above): Has a good sense for internal logic of how 'things' work, including world and plot consistency. In addition, Jeff answers a lot of my scientific questions, especially in matters of physics and mathematics.

Julie Roeth (above): Has an eye for character interactions, symbols, foreshadowing and overall story arc. Julie is well-read and has a wide variety of knowledge and experiences that makes her a font of insight and advice.

Bill Weldy (above): Has an eye for what works in an action scene along with overall pace and story direction. Bill has written a few short novels himself. They're pretty darn good and I hope he finishes his revisions and submits them some day soon.