Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Just a month...

...left of school. Four sweet weeks, and I'll be able to devote all my time to finishing TILT, the long-awaited third book of the Gatespace Trilogy.

I can't wait.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Oklahoma Jam - August 6th, 1978

I was 17 years old, and I was extremely excited.
I had tickets for the very first Oklahoma Jam festival concert, to be held at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds speedway arena (which has since been torn down).
The roster of bands featured (in alphabetical order) Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, Black Oak (formerly Black Oak Arkansas), Climax Blues Band, Head East, Missouri, Montrose, Rick Derringer, Stillwater, U.K., Van Halen and Wet Willie. There were two full sized stages set up next to each other, so that while one band was performing, the stagehands were able to set up for the next. Best of all, tickets had only been a lousy ten bucks! That was less than $1 per band. The same week, I had tickets to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and The Kinks at two separate shows, and if memory serves, those had cost $8 each.
Needless to say, ticket prices these days, nearly 40 years later, are something I find ridiculous. $75, $90, $115 per ticket to see some of the same acts I once paid less than $10 to see? ‘Fraid not.
At any rate, some of the things I remember about this day are stuck in my mind quite clearly.
Jim Dandy Mangrum of Black Oak, doing his best David Lee Roth… or was that the other way around? Head East, who I only knew by their monster single “Never Been Any Reason,” with its repeated chorus, “Save my life, I’m going down for the last time.” Many years later, I would have the opportunity to see Christian rock giants Petra in concert two different times; their lead singer at the time was John Schlitt, who had been one of the two vocalists featured on “Never Been Any Reason.” Diminutive guitarist Rick Derringer rocked the crowd with his hard rock lead guitar playing. Progressive rock quartet U.K. made an impression on me because I knew who each of the individual members were; Eddie Jobson, formerly of Roxy Music, on keyboards and a fantastic electric violin; John Wetton of King Crimson on bass and vocals, Soft Machine guitarist Allan Holdsworth, and the amazing Bill Bruford (Yes and King Crimson) on drums. Finally the band I’d waited most of the day for, Van Halen, took the stage. I was waiting directly in front of the stage where I could get a good look at this skinny guy, just a few years older than me, that was such an amazing guitar player. I could see them all clearly: Eddie Van Halen grinning and playing his guitar like no one I’d ever heard; Michael Anthony holding down the low end, Alex Van Halen keeping the rhythm going behind the drum kit, and Diamond David Lee Roth screaming, flirting, jumping in the air doing scissor kicks, and keeping the entire audience in his back pocket.
I went home deaf in one ear for a couple of days (Eh? What’d you say?) because I was standing directly in front of the stage right PA mains of stage #1, but it was well worth it.  

And yes, I did make it to those other two shows: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and The Kinks, both at the Civic Center Auditorium in downtown Oklahoma City. It was kind of cool, because I got to hear Van Halen do “You Really Got Me,” and then just a few days later, I got to hear the guys who wrote the song do it, along with “Lola” and “Sleepwalker.” All in all, an excellent week. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

You should be watching this TV show.

Completely in love with this show. Like, Firefly-level love. And the past seasons are on Netflix, so I'm slowly watching those, too. 
--Stephanie Bordeaux-Seeger

My wife is referring to the wonderful BBC series Sherlock, now in its third season (or "series," as they say in Britain.)

Despite the fact that it's in its 3rd season, there are only, what, 11 episodes to watch? So it's a Firefly-class show in terms of the number of episodes, too. 

If you haven't watched it, Benedict Cumberbatch is, in my opinion, the perfect modern-day Sherlock Holmes -- far superior to the guy on "Elementary." (I like Robert Downey Jr.'s version of Holmes as well, but he's sort of a mental Iron Man, whereas Cumberbatch is more of an odd but very effective duck, almost Marfans' Syndrome-like, frustrating in a nearly Sheldon Cooperesque manner. 

The way the scripts parallel the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories is wonderful. In the original, Dr. John Watson, British Army surgeon, is sent to Afghanistan during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-79), is wounded and sent home to England. On their first encounter, Holmes takes one look and remarks that Watson has been in Afghanistan, astounding him. In this show, the same thing happens after Watson has been in Afghanistan with the modern-day Coalition forces, and when he and Holmes meet, Holmes eyes him for a moment and says, "Afghanistan, or Iraq?" Wonderful writing.

Martin Freeman is Holmes' foil and sidekick, Watson. If you enjoyed the way Bilbo Baggins got rattled and frustrated with Gandalf, Freeman brings that same sort of air to Watson. 

***** Five stars. Watch it at your earliest opportunity.

The Importance of Being Edited

(Originally published at FreeBooksDude.com, January 27, 2014) 

I've been a voracious reader for decades, pretty much from the time I could read. My parents used to tell me about how we were driving down the street one day when I was very small. I looked up at a sign we were passing, and asked, "B-O-W-L-I-N-G... does that say 'bowling'? 

I'm not sure how apocryphal that story is, but I do know that I have loved to read ever since the days when I could only handle "The Poky Little Puppy." By the time I was 11, I had read Heinlein's "Red Planet" and "Have Space Suit, Will Travel," among others; shortly thereafter, I tried to read J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit," although I confess that I didn't succeed in making my way through it until I was about 17. That is also about the time that I read Stephen King's "The Stand," which continues to be one of my very favorite books of all time. I always have to have something to read in my idle time -- if I don't have my Kindle or a book or magazine, I'll read whatever I can get my hands on; women's magazines, cereal boxes... you get the picture. 

Along with loving to read, it wasn't very long before I began trying to write as well. I can remember filling spiral notebooks with scribbled stories when I was about nine. Despite that, it was rare that anyone got to read any of my fiction until I published "PINBALL" in January 2013.

My experience as senior editor of a weekly online newspaper from 2005-2009 made me realize that this sort of work was not only something I loved to do, but it was something at which I was excellent. When I got my first Kindle in 2010 and began reading independently published books, I realized that while there are a lot of excellent indie books on the market, there are also a lot that should never have been published in the first place. In between, there are those that have good plots, great characters and everything else that a good book needs, but there's a certain something lacking. Perhaps the author isn't good at punctuation, or maybe spelling is her weak point. One author may not know how to write realistic sounding dialogue, and another may be long winded and overly detailed in his narrative or simply have poor or clumsy sentence construction. 

Whatever the problem, I realized that I could help. 

I began reaching out to the authors of different books that I had read and enjoyed, and eventually one of them hired me to re-edit his book. When I was done, his reaction was very positive and I went on to edit several more for that same author. Since then, I have done the same for several others. 

So as an independent author, why should you hire a professional editor? 

It's important, first of all, to let someone else lay their eyes on your manuscript. After you've labored over the love child that is your book -- especially if it's your FIRST book -- for perhaps hundreds of hours, it's easy to get to a point where you no longer see the issues that are present in your manuscript. I call it reaching your mental saturation point. Letting someone else read your book allows a fresh perspective that will often reveal problems such as as doubled words (you see what I did there?). 

So why pay someone to do this job? Well, I believe that not just anyone can or should be editing your book. You need to seek out someone with a bit of a track record. For example, in the year since I published my own first book, I have done a dozen proof-and-edit jobs for others in addition to heading up a horror short story anthology project, "13 Bites," that was published shortly before Halloween 2013. All have been well received; so far as I know, all my clients are happy ones. 

So what should you look for? First of all, find someone who understands proper sentence construction, but also has an ear for how real people speak. Both are important. Typically, your narrative will contain "proper" English, while your character dialogue may or may not, depending on who your characters are and their station in society. If the person is a Wall Street executive, he may speak in complete, well constructed sentences. If he is from a small town in the "hollers" of Appalachia, he may not even know what a sentence IS. "Whut's a sin tints?" he may ask, "Is that like when ye turn all brown from bein' out in th' sun?" 

No matter what you decide about your dialogue, punctuation is still vitally important. Do you use an ellipsis or a semicolon, and when is each one appropriate? When do you separate clauses with commas? These and many other punctuation issues are a major problem for many authors, and I love fixing them like a zombie loves brains. 

Find an editor that understands what kind of book you are writing and how to work with you to make it exactly what you're shooting for; trust me, when the project is finished, you will be as happy as one human being can be with his clothes on. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New music is in the works

After almost two years without certain necessary equipment that I needed to be able to properly make high quality recordings, I have ordered a new Focusrite 2i2 audio interface which should be here next week. 

I have so much music bubbling inside me. Hopefully I can buckle down and get some of it crystallized. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Still Believe

When I was a kid, I went through a phase where I doubted the reality of Santa Claus. It started when I was six, and my mother took me to see Santa at the department store, along with the requisite photograph. I sat on his lap in my blue corduroy hooded coat, my blue eyes wide, and waited for him to ask me The Questions:

“Have you been a good boy this year?” and “What do you want for Christmas, little boy?”

I assured him I’d been good, and I knew exactly what I wanted: a James Bond game. No, not a game for the XBox or the PS3; there were no such things in those days. This was long, long ago, in the days before Nintendo, or Atari, in the days when a game came in a large, flat box, and had a board and game pieces, and names like Monopoly, or Sorry, or Candy Land. I had seen the commercials for a board game that let you be a super spy like James Bond, who, of course, in those days had Sean Connery’s face and none other.

“A James Bond game,” I repeated.

Assured that if I had been as good as I claimed, Santa would take care of me, I was sent back to my mother and we went on our way.

The days crept by, but Christmas morning finally arrived and I awoke full of plans to be 007. I ran into the living room, discovered a pile of presents with my name on the tags, and tore into them. There was the usual stuff — clothes, coloring books, stocking stuffers… ah! As I ripped the paper off one of the boxes, I was rewarded with the revelation of the 007 logo. Yes!

But something was wrong. As I tore the rest of the paper off, I discovered that Santa, the blithering old fool, hadn’t brought me a James Bond game — he’d brought me a James Bond gun! And it wasn’t even the proper Walther PPK that every Bond fan knew that he carried (although, admittedly, I probably didn’t recognize that until some years later), it was a Luger. Only Nazis carried Lugers, although, admittedly, I’m sure I didn’t recognize that at the time either.

The gun and its accessories were pretty cool, though, I had to admit. It was actually billed as the James Bond 007 Attache Case, and included quite a bit of cool stuff: a hard plastic briefcase containing a “Bullet-Firing Luger Gun & Attachments” that would turn it into a sniper rifle, 12 plastic bullets, a hidden dagger, a ‘Code-A-Matic’ machine and code book, a wallet with a passport, six business cards, and a stack of play money.

It had some neat tricks, too; you could fire a bullet from the attache case without opening it, and there was a secret compartment that held the dagger where you could get to it in case you were attacked suddenly, plus the locks on the case would explode if an enemy spy tried to open it without the correct security code.
Overall, not a bad Christmas present, and I soon grew to love playing with it, but it continued to nag me: Why had Santa brought me a different gift than what I’d asked for? Did he think he knew better than me what I’d like (entirely possible), or did he not hear me correctly… or was it possible that the old man in the red suit that I had talked to at the John A. Brown’s department store wasn’t the real Santa — worse yet, was it possible that there was no actual Santa at all?

I had heard rumors.

At any rate, a year passed, and we were at my grandparents’ house, just a few miles from our own, having Christmas dinner. I got a few presents, ate until I was as stuffed as a seven-year-old boy could be, and then we headed home.

We lived in a different house by this time; we’d moved from the rental house we’d lived in the year before to a brand new two-bedroom grey brick house that my parents had bought for the now-seemingly-ridiculously-cheap price of $14,500.

 As we pulled into the driveway, I could see our silvery aluminum Christmas tree in the front window, changing color from red to yellow to green to blue as the revolving light played across it.

As we walked in, I looked over at the plate that I had insisted we leave on the coffee table — no cookies for Santa here, he was probably sick of them! I had insisted that we leave him a bologna sandwich on white bread, just the way I liked mine, cut neatly in half diagonally, plus an ice cold glass of milk.

It was gone. Only crumbs on the plate and an empty glass remained.

I ran toward the tree, excited. Santa had been here! What had he left me? I —

I stopped short, my mouth dropping open in shock.

There, on the gold brocade French Provincial sofa that was my mother’s pride and joy, lay a red fur stocking cap trimmed in white.

Santa’s hat.

I flipped out.

“Santa left his hat!” I cried. “We have to find him! We have to get it back to him! He needs it!”

My parents reassured me that if it was a problem, Santa would return for it.

He never did. Maybe he had a spare.

Whatever the case, my belief in Santa was renewed, and it lasted for several more years. When kids would ridicule me and tell me that there was no such thing as Santa, I would tell them, “Oh, yes there is — he left his hat at my house.”

It was good training for the later abuse and ridicule I took for being a bookworm, and later a band geek, and then a theater geek. (I didn’t get to computer geek status until I was in my mid-20s.)

Now I’m married to a woman who proudly proclaims that she still believes in Santa. Sometimes I see him peeking at me when I look in the mirror.

Merry Christmas, Santa believers.



Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful

I am thankful.

Thankful for my family. Thankful for my friends. Thankful for my readers.

I'm thankful for my colleagues, the teachers who are helping me reach the long-delayed goal of getting my degree, the authors from the support group I am part of as we cheer each other on, and the medical personnel who help me keep myself together.

I'm thankful to still be here. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, but hopefully I'll greet you again, right here, a year from now.