Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Big Book of Strange, Weird, and Wonderful: The Best Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction (Volume 1)

My science fiction short story "Accelerated Justice" is among a host of good reads contained in Strange, Weird and Wonderful's first print anthology.

If you enjoy SF, Fantasy and Horror, it might be up your alley.

Link: A Big Book of Strange, Weird, and Wonderful: The Best Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction (Vol. 1)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

And So It Begins...

That's Kosh, the mysterious Vorlon from the series Babylon 5, confirming that the Shadow War had begun. Certainly more dire (well, SF/Hollywood-wise) than what I'm not looking forward to...Another summer of mowing.

A week ago the grass hadn't really started growing.
Not one of my favorite jobs (understatement). I don't dread it that much, just don't look forward to it. It does give me time to think and such--but I can do that while not mowing.
People sometimes ask if I ever hit it big as an author, would I quit teaching. No, I really don't think I would. I really like my job working with teens. But I might hire a neighborhood kid to mow the yard and do the trimming. Yes, I think so.

I mowed our family's yard as a youth, Usually I'd just continue and mow the neighbor's while I was at it, sometimes both neighbor's yards. Once I got going, it wasn't that bad. They were city lots in Toledo with decent sized front and back yard, but not five or ten acre plots. I just had to watch flowers and go around trees and bushes. Sometimes I got paid a few dollars, but I tried to avoid it. They were friendly old ladies, and good neighbors. They didn't care if we hopped the fence to get a ball, shared peaches from their trees, and sometimes tomatoes from their gardens. Every now and then, a couple bucks ended up in my pocket, if they could catch me just as I finished.

But if I hire a neighborhood kid, they'll get paid :)

Well, round one is done. It's going to be sunny the next day or two, in the high 70s and low 80s, with rain this weekend. Means, next week I'll be back at it again until probably October, if I'm lucky.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Camping and Bacon Humor (Jim Gaffigan)

Even if you enjoy camping, I find it difficult to believe you won't at least smile at this. And then, of course, there's bacon...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Novel Inspiration from Hocking Hills State Park

I've posted pictures (July 2011 and August 2010) in the past from visits to Hocking Hills State Park.

The picture below is of a small cave formation that inspired the location for a scene in Blood Sword. Those who've read the novel might recognize it. While the photo isn't exactly what's described in the novel, it's pretty close.

Sometimes readers and other writers ask where inspiration and ideas come from. For me they come from places I visit, literally or by way of the written word (fiction or nonfiction), and through television programs, and even discussions with family, friends and acquaintances.

The photograph above illustrates a prime example. I'd seen the formation a number of times in the past. It just stuck with me, and when I needed a place for a particular encounter in Blood Sword to occur, this memory found its way to the front of my thoughts and into my outline. It survived the actual writing and revision. And there it remains for readers to experience.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

WSJ Article: Justice Department Threatens Lawsuits (Against Apple & Publishers), Alleging Collusion Over E-Book Pricing.

I came across this article discussing negotiations and a possible settlement to avoid a lawsuit over ebook pricing.

U.S. Warns Apple, Publishers: Justice Department Threatens Lawsuits, Alleging Collusion Over E-Book Pricing

Personally, I can't see most readers happy about paying more for an ebook than they would a mass market paperback and, that except for a few really popular titles by best-selling authors, mass market paperbacks will largely disappear.

The higher ebook prices by the large publishing houses, I believe, assist sales of my novels. Gryphonwood Press (my publisher) has settled on $2.99 for Flank Hawk and Blood Sword. They tried each title at $3.99 for a short time, but sales didn't do nearly as well. There are a number of reasons I think, mainly competition with other independent press titles and the fact that I'm not a well-known author. Truth be told, if there is a settlement and the prices for the major publishers drop considerably, it'll probably impact sales (attracting readers) of my novels--but it'll benefit readers across the board.

I found the discussion of the 'Agency Model' being an effort to stave off the growing dominance of Amazon in the electronic book industry an interesting perspective, some of the notions of what may eventually come if there is a settlement, and the fact that simply due to time and cost, publishers/Apple, etc. may have to settle rather than fight it out in court.

My novels are available as ebooks through Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, iTunes, and a few other places, but Amazon's Kindle has attracted the most readers, although my publisher has indicated for some Gryphonwood titles, sales through the Nook are showing an increase.

If you're an author or a reader, I think you'll find the article interesting.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

An Interview with Stephen Hines: Author, Artist and Musician

Stephen Hines, tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m a pasty white, aging punk rocker crossed with a metalhead who teaches high school English. On the side, I write strange comic books. I started out as a novelist, but, thanks to an evil agent (who I used to work with) the sequential art virus has overtaken my endeavors.

Based on your experience, how is it different writing a graphic novel or comic book as compared to a ‘regular’ novel or short story? Do you approach the storyline, characters, descriptions, dialogue or anything else differently?

I’m not sure that I approach the storyline, etc. any differently, from a creative standpoint. The beautiful difference, for me, is that the entire process is a collaboration with at least one artist. I write a story, which is then filtered through the lense of an artist who adds his or her touches to it. It’s very similar to songwriting. At times, the direction the collaborating artist takes my story in is frustratingly different from what I envisioned so I have a little mental battle with my inner control freak to see whether that change needs to be kept or overruled. Nine times out of ten I bow to the visual storytelling instincts of the artist. He or she has been trained in the best way to communicate a story with pictures. I haven’t. But there have been a couple instances when I’ve had to politely insist on getting my way.

When I write a comic book story, I use the movie script format so I think in terms of camera angles/shots and their storytelling and/or psychological impact. Fortunately, I teach a cinematic literacy unit on the movie Pleasantville, so I’ve educated myself on some basic techniques of that medium. Along the way some books I’ve read about the art of telling stories through comic books that have influenced my approach to scripting as well.

For some of your works you’ve created your own art, for others you’ve worked with artists. Can you explain a little bit about each experience?

Both situations certainly have their benefits and drawbacks! I do my own art for my mini-comic retail memoir series called Crackerstacker. Since I’m self-published, this series is the least expensive to produce. I can be more prolific (even though I draw at the speed of erosion) because I don’t have to save up to pay someone and there’s no need for a full script. For Crackerstacker I just do stick figure thumbnail sketches to map out a rough draft of panels to draw and scribble the script in speech balloons and narrative boxes. The drawback would be that my art skills aren’t nearly as developed as the amazing people I’ve worked with on my other projects. Still, I have to say that my art has come a long way from issue #1 to #3, which makes me very happy.

For Valedictorian USA, my satirical series about a reality show for teens, I underpay a wonderful artist named Daniel Salcido, but even paying a comic book artist less than he’s worth is expensive. This causes our output to be limited to one issue per year, as opposed to a Marvel or DC title coming out monthly. It’s difficult to keep readers’ attention spans captive when the story’s unfolding that slowly. I’m looking forward to hitting the halfway point of the series so we can publish a collection. Most people are interested in getting the full story these days so I’m sure that’ll sell even better than the single issues.

Who or what has influenced your writing?

Wow. Do you have all day? Haha! My favorite authors, in no particular order, would have to be James Joyce, Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, Will Christopher Baer, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, and Warren Ellis. I tend to gravitate toward dark fiction, so if anyone reading this enjoys edgy stuff there might be a name or two to investigate in that list.

Tell us a little bit about your current project.

I’m currently having my first go at a Kickstarter campaign for a comic book called Icon-O-Plastic. About a year ago, an indie comics writer/artist who I respect immensely (Rafer Roberts) expressed an interest in collaborating. He likes my writing but he only had time for a ten-page story. Luckily I had a story idea scribbled down that was perfect for the project. Rafer ended up inking the art instead of penciling it and his friend, Jacob Warrenfeltz, was recruited to pencil and shade the art, which is drool-inducing, by the way. :)

Anyway, Icon-O-Plastic is a surreal meditation on fame and how it affects everyone involved. I wanted to examine how stardom impacts not only the celebrities and business folk who profit from them but also the fans who worship them. The shocking ending to the story will hopefully make people think.

Oh, and one of the Kickstarter pledge incentives is an EP of music by the fictional band, The Icons, from the comic. I’m incredibly proud of how the CD turned out. All of the songs were written, performed and recorded by me. All of the singing, fortunately, was done by a talented young man named Stephen Strohmenger, a former student of mine.

Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to the readers of Up Around the Corner?

First of all, thanks for reading my babblings. Secondly, even though I’m not a fantasy/sci-fi writer like my esteemed interviewer, I hope y’all will check me out and give my works a shot.


Thanks, Stephen, for taking the time to answering my questions for readers here.

I'd also like to provide relevant links where readers can learn more about Stephen Hines and his Kickstarter campaign for Icon-O-Plastic.

Icon-O-Plastic Kickstarter Campaign

Stephen Hines Website

Note: I believe enough in Stephen's efforts in the comic to have contributed. If Icon-O-Plastic looks up your alley, consider kicking in a bit too. If you're wondering a little about what Kickstarter is and want to know more, here's a link to a youtube explanation: Kickstarter Info.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Where Flank Hawk (the newly released Audio Version) is Available

Potential listeners (a first for that phrase at Up Around the Corner),

The audio version of Flank Hawk, read by Michael Slusser, is available at the following places:

Flank Hawk at
Flank Hawk at
Flank Hawk at iTunes

An audio sample is available to get a taste of what's contained. If you download a copy, be sure to let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Flank Hawk Released in Audio!

Flank Hawk is now available as an audiobook, read by Michael Slusser, through and it'll soon be available through other venues.

Check it out here, where you can listen to an audio sample as well. I hope you enjoy it!