What Goes Up….


Based on my last post, one might think I was riding high in the saddle.  Not only did Pilgrimage get a stellar review but was also selected as Booknest‘s finalist in the 2017 SPFBO.  It’s quite an honor and I still keep waiting to wake up and realize it got thrown out and a more deserving book took its place.  No matter what else happens, I can savor the moment.

And then that happened.

(Muse:  Lemme guess:  someone peed in your pool?)

A little, yes.  Prompted by the good review I got in the contest, another reader picked it up and left a decently scorching review on Goodreads, pretty much finding fault with everything about the book.  I think theyu got bored and wrapped it up before saying my grandfather was a baboon, but it was a near-miss.

(Muse:  Hey.  Would you accept the argument that Stephen King is probably the most consistently-popular spec-fiction writer of the last forty years?)


(Muse:  Based on Goodreads reviews, his best-rated book is The Stand.  It still has about 3% one and two star ratings.  The latest edition on Amazon has about 6% one and two star ratings.  No matter how good you are, bad reviews are gonna happen.)

I know.   Bad reviews happen.  It’s easy to know that intellectually.  It’s tougher on the heartstrings.  I didn’t curl into a fetal position or anything but the tone and content of that review was quite a contrast from the previous one, and did get a bit of a wince out of me.  If nothing else, it is a reminder that not every book is everything to all readers.

So….ego raised up, and then brought back down with a little reminder.

This book didn’t win over that reader.  Perhaps my next one will.  Only way to find out is to keep writing.

In the meantime, I again send heartfelt thanks to the folks who did enjoy it.


First Review for Pilgrimage to Skara

Greetings.  Yes, it has been a long time, and real-life, as it likes to do, has been kicking my ass in about five different ways.

No matter.  Good news brings me back.  Back in May, I entered author Mark Lawrence’s 2017 contest Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO).  Essentially, it’s three hundred books divided into ten thirty-book blocks, with one “best” book floating to the top of each block and the ten best going head-to-head.

Now, I didn’t (and still don’t) really expect to win this thing.  That’s a real challenge, to overcome 299 other entries and no matter how good you are, those are long odds.  I did hope to get a good review (thorough, not necessarily glowing) out of it and a little exposure.

I never expected the positive response I got.

Reviewing on behalf of Booknest.EU, Leona Henry (follow on twitter at @authorlrh) was very kind and indicated that she enjoyed Pilgrimage a great deal.  She did–rightly–point out that I am lousy at copy editing (she didn’t say me specifically, but it was me) and that a bunch of those errors are still in the book.  I agree and admit it’s a weakness.

Otherwise, she was quite complimentary and I am humbled.  Here is a link to the review.

So thank you to Ms. Henry, to Booknest, and to Mr. Lawrence for giving me this chance.

I look forward to where things go from here.  Regardless of whatever happens, this is a feather in the cap.



EDIT:  I originally put the 2016 SPFBO, not 2017.  I will chalk that up to my excitement.

The End


If one were to listen to the news lately, one could be forgiven for thinking that the end is nigh.  Between political strife, natural disasters, the fact that a man with the name Carrot Top has his own Las Vegas show….  And that’s just what’s going on in my native country.  It’s repeated all over the world.  It is enough to think that we are facing the end.

Are we?  Probably.

Most religions and ancient mythologies have stories about the destruction of everything and everyone.  Often, there is a rebirth or ascension of those who are saved…but sometimes, we are just left with the cold sterile void.

I am not sure why humanity is so absorbed with “The End.”  I think it is simply in our blood.  One of the counters to the Fermi Paradox is that it is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself.  That idea manifests in literature and in our culture in general; it is pretty much the staple behind apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction.

I’ve talked about this before but it does make me stop and think–and recent events have me thinking about it more often.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  I guess some answers are not meant to be known.

In the meantime, it sometimes seems silly to deny myself that extra bite of ice cream or have more than a passing annoyance with the granddaughter’s non-stop mouth.  Life indeed is too short.  And probably shorter than we dared hope.

(Muse:  That is some serious dark matter today, man.)

Yeah, sue me.  I’ll have something more relevant and fun next time.

Daily Update #36

Wow, I checked and I haven’t done one of these random updates for a long time–like eighteen months.  I didn’t realize it had been quite that long.

Well, whatever.  I’ve been slacking, actually.  I took about a month off from writing or doing much related to writing, so I am back now feeling recharged and ready to rock and roll.

— In my last entry, I noted that I entered a contest for self-published novels, organized and hosted by author Mark Lawrence.  Mine was assigned to the readers at Booknest.eu .  I was unaware of the site before the contest but I paged around and it appears to be a pretty robust review site.  They have started filling results for their allotment of books.  As of this writing, they have eliminated 4 of their 30 books from competition but mine is still in there.

(Muse:  That just means they haven’t read it yet.)

Probably, but I shall remain hopeful.

— Speaking of Pilgrimage to Skara, I checked my sales numbers and they have tapered off a bit–and by “a bit,” I mean completely.  As if I (or you) didn’t know already, this is illustrative of why a self-published writer needs to endlessly self-promote.  An old online friend with the handle of Bowfinder would be shaking her finger at me and telling I me I know better than this.  She would know better, as she has sold tens of thousands of self-published books.  I had plans to make a few edits to Pilgrimage and get a paperback version available.  I need to get off my ass and make that happen.

— As soon as I finish this blog entry, I am putting the first words to page of the second in the Princess of the North series, which is tentatively titled Empress in Waiting.  I’m alternating between getting the first draft of Empress written and editing Scion of Andoya, which is the first book.

— One of my writer’s groups appears to have ended; not with a bang, but with a whisper.  We lost a key member some months back and tried to replace said member.  It never really coalesced and the one guy we brought in was pretty raw and he eventually left town for job reasons.  So leaving just three of us, the momentum died off.  We coasted for a few meetings, then one person had to go out of town and missed a meeting, and we haven’t had one since.  We might be fusing that group with the other one but there has already been some drama about doing so…so we shall see what happens.

— On a happy note, a story I wrote in June managed to win the monthly online writing contest over at Fantasy-Writers.org .  I thought the tale had a lot of flaws but other readers seemed to like it.  An aside:  this story is my first steampunk-ish story and was set in an alternate future where the British Empire never completely fell but just degenerated into several allied super states.  The main character was a government minister in Singapore for one of those states (“Protectorates,” I called them).  When I wrote the story, I envisioned the woman as Malaysian.  It wasn’t explicit about it and no one seemed to pick it up.  I am aware there is a dearth of women and people of color in leading roles in spec fiction.  Does it need to be stated outright?  That would seem to scuttle the point of doing so in the first place, like I was simply calling attention to it.

Anyway, that’s today’s rambling and rants.  Off to start the next book.  Cheers, everyone!

Hat in the Ring


I have done exactly what the title suggested.

A fellow author brought to my attention this contest, over on the blog by author Mark Lawrence.  I think it is a really neat idea, so what the hell, why not?  I entered Pilgrimage to Skara (still available on Amazon, for those you still looking for a fun, exciting read) and contrary to my normal procrastination mode, I made it in just under the wire.

I was assigned to Booknest.eu , which I was unaware of but looks like a really awesome review site.

Now, it is very possible that pilgrimage will get bounced before it even has a chance.  Someone might read it and go, “Eh, not my cup of tea,” and toss is aside.  But there’s that saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  I see nothing but upside for this, so again, what the hell, why not?

I will let y’all know what happens.

Anthology of Interest


(Muse:  You stole that post title from Futurama.)

You know what they say:  if you are going to steal, steal from the best.

So….  I think I have said before, I am members of a couple of writing groups.  About a year ago, one of those writer groups decided that we would put together an anthology of stories set in the local area (Northeastern Arizona) with the idea that we would be appealing to our local readership, for issues, themes, and locations that would be instantly relateable.

So now, a year later, we’re to the point where the “final” drafts of the stories are due in–were due to our format volunteer yesterday–and we are about ready to proceed with this.  It’s been an interesting journey.

I volunteered to critique each member’s submission and provide feedback.  (I still have one kicking around to be reviewed.)  The stories are varied, in length, genre, and execution–and this in turn, gave me a lot of insight to the members of the writers group and what they are really about.

No, I am not going chapter and verse about how this one is better than this one, or this member is more capable than that member.  First of all, at least two of them read this blog and I have no interest in insulting anyone.  They are all good people.  But more than that, not everyone has the same tastes.  The slice-of-life stories that have little interest for me may appeal to others.  So….yeah, that.

What this did though (meaning, reading all the stories set within twenty miles of my house) did bring home to me is that I am about to put my name to something local, to something that people who know me may associate with me.  In one story, I take a tangential pot-shot at local government.  Will they be upset?  Will they even notice?  Hard to say how people react.  Same for local friends.  Might they read it and be offended?

(Muse:  Were you offensive?  Scratch that, I already know the answer.)

Well, one story features cannibals and the hint of sexual assault.  The other paints the forestry service in a less-than-flattering light and is pro-tax-evasion.  Both have some swearing, which my more religious friend will love.

(Muse:  Yeah, you’re asking for trouble.)

But aren’t I always?

I dithered about including some of those elements.  I wondered about the local reaction.  But frankly, by the end, I said, “Hell with it,” and left the elements in.  Some local readers might be offended.  Hell, some of the other anthology authors might be offended.

But I gotta be me.  Sadly, I was too much me.

(Muse:  You procrastinated?)

Bingo.  The due-date was yesterday and I have yet to get my stuff in, since my copy of Word decided to puke and efforts to reinstall on my laptop have proved fruitless…so I haven’t been able to do my final formatting edits.  I’ll get it worked out.

I still owe my discussion on the Tucson Festival of Books.  Damn, I am six weeks behind.  Yeah, that’ll be pertinent at this late date….


The Case for Anti-Intellectualism


It’s been two weeks but I have yet to do my write-ups on the 2017 Tucson Festival of Books, mostly because I have been lazy.  And because spring is here and it’s been time to get outside start on gardening and what not.  But mostly laziness.

The panels were good and I enjoyed them.  I will get a summary up on the discussion.  However, I did have a side incident which left me confused.

On Day 2 (Sunday, 12 Mar), I was standing in line for the first of several panels.  I wasn’t really thinking about anything, just kind of enjoying the cool Tucson morning before the afternoon heat set in.  Then this little guy behind me broke my reverie by asking questions.

I paraphrase below, mostly because I don’t recall every single word, but the gist is correct.  The opening exchange was fine, going something like this:

>>Him:  So do you know anything about this panel?

Me:  Hmm?  Well it’s [description of panel].

>>Him:  Are they going to talk about things other than science-fiction?  I hope the lessons are more generic than that.

Me:  Well, maybe. I mean there are some universal publishing lessons involved.

>>Him:  Do you know anything about [author, and member of the upcoming panel]?  I understand he’s done some screenplays.

Me:  He was on a panel I saw yesterday and he mentioned doing [popular movie from 20 years ago].

>>Him:  Cool.

Okay, so far, so good, right?  Now it takes a turn into the bizarre.

>>Him:  I sat through a screenwriting panel this morning.  There was one good guy on it and two locals.  It wasn’t helpful.

Me:  No good, eh?

>>Him:  Yeah the locals were awful.  (He adopts a condescending grin.)  Tusconians, am I right?

Me:  I’m not following you.

>>Him:  Oh just this town.  Full of uneducated people.  Most of the out-of-staters agree.

At this point, I am slightly annoyed.  My parents and both of my sisters and their respective families live in Tucson.  Now, I have a generally low opinion of people everywhere and it really has nothing to do with geography or education, but more along the lines of people’s natural arrogance and self-righteousness–and I am getting waves of it from this guy.

Me:  Well, people are bad everywhere I guess.

>>Him:  You have to admit the education level and ignorance of people here is pretty amazing.

Me:  Are you from here?

>>Him (shocked that I would say such a thing):  No, I am from [some small city in Illinois].  But I see a lot of things there that are the same here.  I am just here at the university where I can be with smart people.

Me:  Smart people aren’t always the answer.  Our last ten presidents are college-educated and look where that’s gotten us.

>>Him (getting upset):  Well, I meant graduate level education.

Me:  What does that have to do with anything?

And this part is forever etched in my mind, so it is a direct quote:

>>Him: Well, you’re just showing your anti-intellectualism.  Good luck with that.

He turned his back on me and started fiddling with his phone.

Let’s set aside that it takes a particular breed of jerkass to engage someone you don’t know in conversation, find out they think different than you, then insult them and turn your back on them.  He’s lucky I’m not a lunatic.

(Muse: ?)

Okay, a complete lunatic.

I was completely taken aback by his audacity–so much so that I could only stammer out that I had a graduate level degree and I knew what I was talking about.  He chose to ignore me.  About then, the doors opened and they started seating people for the panel.

In retrospect, I had a whole bunch of things I wish I had said to him.  In retro-retrospect, I am glad I didn’t waste my time.

What drives someone to walk around with a diploma-sized chip on their shoulder, judging other people based on the size of their education?  Arrogance, certainly.  Inflated self-esteem would be another.  But I think also insecurity.

This guy was nothing to look at.  Short.  Bald.  A crop of nose hair the size of the Amazon.  Knowing my wife’s tastes, she would have called him ugly.  Was it Napoleon syndrome?  Sneering down his nose at his “lessers” because of some accolade displayed by a group of other people?  Is that a way for him to displace his self-doubt about his own aspects, physical or otherwise?

Dirty secret:  I do have a Master’s Degree, in atmospheric physics.  It was a lot of work but at no time did I ever think that inherently made me “better” than anyone else.  I didn’t elevate myself to another plane simply because a group of people decided that I was cool enough to join their club–which is frankly all advanced degrees are.  You pay your dues and deference to your committee and they decide to let you in.  And if you think I am wrong, I can point to lot of individuals with advanced degrees that are frankly dumb as a bag of bowling balls.  They just kow-towed to the right ideologies.

I will take two examples I know personally.  They both have doctorates from the same discipline.  One is a genuine good person.  That person is a little arrogant but I think that is outgrowth from their abundance of self-confidence (they were the same way, or worse, when they were younger and less educated).  They are also a very funny, easy-going person–moreso than me, for sure–who judges people by how they act, not how many initials are after their names.

At the other end of the extreme is someone who while very book smart, has no common sense, and is currently in some hot water for ethics violations in their field–violations that a first year entrant in the field would know well enough to steer around.  Smart but not very bright, if you catch my drift.

I am not well versed in sociocultural evolution but I do believe that a lot of human behavior can be traced to our primate roots.  As I have said before, we’re not fallen angels but risen apes.  Cutthroat methods of “getting ahead” via education or economics is the modern equivalent of our ancestors smashing each other in the head with an antelope thighbone.  So in some sense, I understand the guy’s arrogance.  He achieved, or is achieving, and naturally feels superior to those that haven’t.

At the same time, we aren’t apes any more.  Western society does embrace the idea of equality and I grew up steeped in that idea.  It is hard to conceive of someone being “less” than me because they are less educated.  In my travels, I have met so many honest, hard-working people that lack a post-high school education.  These people are the ones who prop up our society.  Some people will probably pooh-pooh me, stating that our society does stratify into classes and education plays into that, yadda yadda yadda.  Okay, that’s true.  So why perpetuate it?  Why play into it?  Why not strike your own personal blow and treat people as human, even if they have less than you?  Why not show your disdain to those who do?

So to have some smarmy little weasel stand in front of me, acting as though his education made him something special…yeah, it pushed my buttons.  He wasn’t special.  He could have disappeared off the planet and the universe would have hummed on, unperturbed.

(Muse:  You fantasized about making him disappear, didn’t you?)

You know me too well.  Sometimes we would do well to get in touch with our ape roots.  He’s lucky I have a check on my berserker heritage (mostly) and didn’t have a thighbone handy.

I am not against education (in principle; there is a ton of indoctrination passed off as education.)  But neither do I believe it is a guarantee of having a high-quality person on your hands.  So if I judging individuals based on their own merits, rather than paying homage to their “credentials” makes me an anti-intellectual, then so be it.

I prefer to think of myself as anti-pretentious-asshole.