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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Special Halloween Ghost Post

A jack-o'-lantern made of tin and hand-painted.
A tin jack-o'-lantern the blogger bought at a thrift store and put up in his living room. This mini pumpkin was made and hand-painted by an unknown Indian artist.
Photo Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.

Tomorrow is my favourite day of the year as a fantasist and so I have been extra busy preparing. I meant to do several blog posts leading up to the holiday but got so busy with other projects and even non-writing duties that I decided it would be best to write one big Halloween post. That includes Day of the Dead which is 2 November.

Halloween Horror Fiction I’m Writing

For this Halloween, I’ve been revising a short horror story fitting for the season. I actually wrote it last year about this time but it was too close to the holiday so I didn’t bother revising it until just this month. It’s a juvenile story. I say “juvenile” rather than young adult in this case because I’m trying to target it at a tween audience as well a teen one. Yet I’m hoping it can be enjoyed by adult readers too. Who knows, if you check here at the Fantastic Site tomorrow you may be able to read it for free as a Halloween treat! So check back tomorrow. If I don’t finish it in time, then I’ll try to have something here for you so you don’t feel like you wasted your time checking.

I’ve mostly been revising the story for character and am realizing how hard characterization and development can be. For example, I don’t know all the names of the clothes that today’s tweens wear and so I had to do my research on that. But the challenge was finding out the generic names for the clothes and ways to describe them so as not to use trademarked brand names and risk infringement. Most of this research I’ve done on retail stores’ websites. I’d go into other details of the challenges in revising this story but I don’t want to create any pumpkin spoilers.

Just this Tuesday I wrote a new horror short story. It was for my writers’ club that I’m a member of. The story is based on a special Halloween prompt we were given to write on. It’s not particularly a Halloween story, even though it is set during that time of year. It plays on the evil eye myth. The twist? Well, it’s kind of a twist: the eye has no body. As soon as I revise it fully I’ll publish it somewhere either in my next collection (that I haven’t really planned out yet but am getting ready to) or in another source. Whichever, I’ll let you know once it’s published.

Halloween Meets Day of the Dead

Something that has been making Halloween better each year is the apparent merging of the holiday with the Mexican Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). Though the purposes for celebrating the two holidays are different, the two have many similarities that depict the myths of the afterlife and netherworld that are so iconic in the skeleton. Because the two holidays fall only within two days of each other, Day of the Dead has even influenced the stores: there are actually Day of the Dead skull masks you can buy at party stores and even general retail chains such as Target. (Although I do not condone the extreme commercialism of the holiday.)

As a Mexican-American, what really makes me proud of this holiday growing in popular in the U.S. is the new animated movie that director Guillermo Del Toro helped produce, The Book of Life. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to see it myself but am sure to. However, this movie is great at introducing to people the Mexican holiday that, like Halloween, celebrates skeletons and ghosts (this second one many of whom our relatives have personally known!). But I’m so amused at how Day of the Dead is becoming more popular and mainstream each year to the level of Halloween that I decided to do a sketch of how I see the compatibility of the two:

A jack-o'-lantern wearing a Day of the Dead skull mask.

And this is no joke. I really do see the two that way.

Halloween Book List

Last time I said that I might have a list of my Halloween horror fiction reading. Here it is:

The Manitou, Graham Masterton: This 1976 novel about an evil spirit of a Native American medicine man was made into a movie later in the decade. The movie was far underrated in my opinion. I talk a little more about it in my previous post.

“Alive-Oh”, Lisa Morton: This is a short story about a man who goes to a Halloween haunted attraction which turns out to be more than he expects. Much more than he expects. It’s a very meaningful story with a social message while the story doesn’t try too hard to convey that message. It takes a really good twist on the haunted attraction horror story. In this one, the real horror may be very near to where we are sitting as we read it. You can check it out for free at The Horror Zine.

“Storyteller”, Nicholas Dahdah: Another short story from The Horror Zine. This one is Lovecraft-inspired but don’t worry, it’s not another Cthullu fan fiction piece. Even more, it’s far from amateur. This one actually features Lovecraft as one of the characters. Read the story and find out why.

The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre: The above Lovecraft-inspired story inspired me to read a couple of Lovecraft’s stories and so I decided to read them from this collection. One is “The Picture in the House” and the other “The Silver Key”. The first one has its own characters and storyline while the second is from the author’s Randolph Carter series of stories which are really good and can get really mind tripping.

Isaac Asimov’s Magical Worlds of Fantasy 2: Witches, edited by Isaac Asimov (and others): I haven’t read all the stories in this book yet, but the one I recently read for the season is “The Witch” by A.E. van Vogt. It’s about a seemingly helpless old woman cared for by a young couple. But the husband has his suspicions.

And these are stories I’m planning to read for Halloween:

The October Country, Ray Bradbury: This is the late Bradbury’s book of dark supernatural tales of which I try to read at least one each Halloween season.

An Edgar Allan Poe tale: For us avid readers, Halloween just wouldn’t be complete without one, right?

That’s it for now. And, as I said, I’ll have a Happy Halloween something for you tomorrow. So until then, take scare!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Last Standing Bookstore in Woodland

Halloween scene: cat glares at a skull that sits on an open book near a candle and owl.

I hadn’t been to Woodland’s last remaining bookstore, JerryCloutier’s Used Books, for a good two years at least, but finally went a couple Saturdays ago. I‘ve been looking for a couple of books that I was hoping to find used. Cloutier’s is a typical book lover’s (such as myself) paradise: old, dimly lit, and piled with books everywhere that are too many to fit the rows of bookcases. Some are piled as high as a person’s waist, and ones that are stacked on top of their cases nearly touch the ceiling.  Not only do the piles and cases together create a labyrinth but also an effect that, when you first walk into the store, makes the main isle appear to stretch further than it really does. When you walk down this isle looking at the section signs on the sides of the shelves, before you know it you’re at the end.

I know the owners, a 60-something couple, who are very nice and look like they could’ve been hippies in their younger days. The husband wasn’t there that afternoon, but the wife was whom I asked if she kept horror fiction in the science fiction/fantasy section. The closest thing I saw to a separate section for horror was the subgenres of vampire and paranormal romance that are so popular today. She said that she had dismantled her horror section a while back and shelved them mostly in general fiction. We talked a little bit about how the genres, especially in speculative fiction, overlap. She said this is especially so with science fiction/fantasy. I agree.

Genre overlap in fiction is more the case today than ever. Not only does speculative fiction have several subgenres such as zombie horror, vampire horror, steampunk, etc. but it also has mixed genres: science fiction murder mystery, space opera murder mystery (such as Beth Revis’s Across the Universe ), espionage horror (Charles Stross’s Laundry Files series), crime horror, vampire romance, the list goes on.

One of the books I was looking for at Cloutier’s was Graham Masterton’s The Manitou. This novel was made into a movie three years after its 1976 publication date. The movie was great with eye-catching special effects for its time. The book was one I actually had on my summer reading list but now have to move it to my Autumn/Halloween reading list. (This list is assumed and not an actual one that I made. However, maybe I’ll compose one for my next post which will be just in time for Halloween.) I didn’t get around to reading it during the summer, mostly because I wasn’t able to find it in my local bookstores that I like supporting. Then I found it that Saturday afternoon at Cloutier’s. They specialise in paperbacks but also offer a lot of hardcovers, some of them as old as half a century judging by the appearances of the covers (though, as the old saying goes, we should never judge a book by its cover).

As I said, Cloutier’s is the last standing bookstore in my home town of “Forbidden” Woodland. It’s a miracle that it’s still there and I pray that it will stand much longer in a town that doesn’t seem to embrace literariness that openly. But the survival of this store tells us that there are still Woodlanders around, and others of the surrounding Sacramento communities, who are not only willing to support the last of the few local, independently owned bookstores in our nation, but who also have an appreciation and some (like myself) even a passion for the printed book.

I plan to do a lot more of my shopping at Jerry Cloutier’s Used Books, at least when it comes to vintage paperbacks of the pre-digital book era (which is about 1995 and back, maybe) since those have freehand cover art that you cannot find on most of today’s book covers. Will I purchase newly released material at this bookstore? No. Cloutier’s doesn’t sell newly released books (unless, perhaps, someone happens to trade or sell one to them who is not only an avid reader but a rapid one as well.). Why should they? After all, you can get newly published books anywhere.

Until next time . . .  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

First Bookstore Appearance of ‘Fool’s Illusion’ and Ebook Price to Increase

Wizard reading a book and a skull sitting on a book stack.
Photo Credit:

The Fool’s Illusion has finally made its appearance in its first brick-and-mortar bookstore! I delivered two copies to The Avid Reader in Davis Wednesday afternoon to be sold on consignment.

Why purchase books (not just mine but in general) at a brick-and-mortar store when you can simply do that at online stores such as Amazon? With online shopping you don’t have to leave your seat in front of your computer or you can shop from anywhere using your mobile device. But, more than any online bookstore, independently owned brick-and-mortar bookstores bring their local communities together and promote those communities’ authors. The money that goes into the community business revenue keeps the local bookstore in business which is a meeting place for both authors and readers alike who can discuss their favorite books in a real time and space setting.

The locally owned bookstore is a kind of literary town hall that gives the community an opportunity to meet its authors. It also introduces local readers to a new book of their favourite genre, a book produced in their very hometown or area. In addition to this, it helps local readers meet each other face to face in a way that may be harder or less intimate to do online where, like with us authors, billions of readers the world over are competing for recognition even if unintentionally. Purchasing at your locally owned bookshop (at least when it comes to area authors) creates possibilities for a fan base to spring up in your community, a fan base that isn’t just a following of the author but a sub-community of local fans of the book’s genre itself. For example, in a similar way Harry Potter or The Hunger Games has created a sci fi or fantasy fan base on a nation-wide level through the chain bookstore, a local author’s book of either of those same genres can do the same on a local level through an independently owned bookstore.  

I’m not saying that online bookstores are inferior to local ones. The more distribution of books there is, the better not just for their authors, sellers, distributors or publishers, but for the world’s readers to access them. Online book distribution gives readers easier and better access to authors and their work that may not be so easily accessible through local or even big chain bookstores. While online book distribution brings the world’s readers together, local book distribution does the same with local readers. Plus, simply the presence of an area author’s book in a locally owned bookshop reflects and perpetuates the local culture, particularly in the arts.

Fool’s Illusion will eventually reach many other bookstores in the Sacramento area. I’ll keep you updated on that. Meanwhile, if you missed out on The Fool’s Illusion first anniversary giveaway, don’t despair. You can still purchase the ebook version for only 99 cents at Amazon. But I wouldn’t wait too long. By Wednesday of next week (October 1st) the ebook version rises to at least $2.99!

Until next time . . . 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Giveaway for ‘The Fool’s’ First Year Anniversary

I can’t believe it will have already been one year this Monday, September 22nd, since the publishing of The Fool’s Illusion! Although the self-publishing process felt like it took several years.

I was new to self-publishing when I started FI on its journey to publication two years ago and so knew very little about what was coming up after each step or two of the process. When I thought I had come to the final destination, it turned out that I had several more miles to go. For example, once I finished the book cover, I didn’t realise until after that I couldn’t just submit my manuscript to Amazon’s Create Space so they could format it for print. I had to format it myself. Fortunately, by that time, Create Space offered their free print format template and so I didn’t have to worry about taking measurements or setting tabs. However, because of relatively slight compatibility issues between my version of Word and the template’s, I still had to grope my way through the darkness of the template of no return (as it seemed to be).

I stuck with it, though, and got through. I have to give credit to Amazon for making the conversion from print to electronic format easy with their Kindle Select service. Without it, FI would probably not have the distribution it has had.  I also give credit to fellow author friends who gave me advice and encouragement.

I learned about self-publishing through some of the authors who have been great inspiration to me. These have been namely Nicholas Grabowsky of Black Bed Sheet Books and Emerian Rich, hostess of podcast and creator of great vampire novels such as Night’s Knights. It was their panels at some of the many cons I attended that gave us unknown and aspiring authors of the time hope in publishing our work that traditional publishers would not want. And so I thank them greatly for it. I also thank family and friends who have been encouraging with my publishing of FI, some of who were my book’s earliest buyers and readers.

Speaking of buyers, Fool’s Illusion has not done bad in distribution considering it’s been on the market only a year. Within just two weeks after its release more than 200 copies sold worldwide! Besides that, it received two great reviews including one from And its print version will be making its first brick-and-mortar bookstore appearance on the shelves of the Avid Reader in Davis, CA within, hopefully, the next week. (I need to work out the pricing.)
To celebrate this first anniversary, I decided to give away ebook copies of The Fool’s Illusion. From now until September 22nd, you can download your free ebook of Fool’s Illusion at Amazon! This is especially great if you want to get a head start on your Halloween book shopping since FI has plenty of vampires, ghosts and zombie-type characters in its stories. If you don’t have a Kindle device, no need to be left out of the celebration. You don’t even need a Kindle to read FI. All you need is a Kindle app in which you can download for free on your smart phone, tablet or computer! Just go to the box that reads “Free Kindle Reading App” on my ebook’s Amazon page and follow the instructions.

Until next time . . . 

Grim Reaper presents a birthday cake while warrior makes a toast on pile of skulls
Photo Credit:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Science fiction Art for 'The Assassin'

I didn’t finish the science fiction art for “The Assassin in time for when I posted the story early last month. If you haven’t read it yet, you should check it out. It’s still up and, of course, it’s free! I’m just now posting the illustration here this evening. I’m not replacing it for the clip art (which is not mine) I provided the story with because it isn’t really complete to serve as an illustration. In other words, I screwed up on it. And here's how:

Pen and ink drawing of an atom punk laser gun

This pen and ink drawing for “The Assassin” is supposed to be of a laser gun in semi atom age/space age, 1950s style. This style is what we now call atom punk for newer work based on the sci fi of that period (roughly the 1950s through mid ‘60s, but it’s often debatable). Most of this subgenre of science fiction is based on the idea of an alternative history (also referred to as "alternative timeline") which my story involves. To learn more about this far out subgenre, check out author Philip Reeve’s article

The problem I had with this drawing was the butt of the laser rifle. The butt is supposed to be elongated in order to support the person’s arm that’s holding it. I posed the rifle at a kind of diagonal angle as you can see (and if you can’t see, then I must’ve really screwed up with this picture, eh?). And of course, at such an angle you would not be able to see the full butt and so it should appear smaller than if the gun was shown from a side view. Somehow, the butt came out to look more like the smaller, more knob-like handle of a 17th or 18th century pistol! Talk about an alternative history story! That would be a real time clash wouldn’t it?

I made the oval object at the top of the gun for the target monitor which is a camera in this retro-futuristic weapon as opposed to a scope like that of an older gun. The tiny circle in the centre is the lens. If that whole front of the camera looks like an eye it’s because I intended it to in order to add a kind of surreal effect. The “eye” represents two qualities. It represents the protagonist’s ambition to kill the ruler, UCoNet, who is a living interplanetary computer network. The "eye" also stands for the tyrannical UCoNet’s omniscience, and so UCoNet is a kind of mock biblical God in this story.

Atom punk laser gun pencil drawings

These are practice and brainstorm pencil drawings for the above picture.

Want to see some real atom punk art? Check out the links below!

As you may have noticed, I’ve been making a few changes to the blog, mostly with pages, to make it easier for you people to navigate my site to the topics you want. I hope it will help. If not then please let me know in the comments box or drop me an email at (please put "Comments for Far Out Fantastic Site" in the subject line). I want your experience here at the Far Out Fantastic Site to be as easy yet as exciting as possible. Just to let you know, however, I’m still in the process of adding pages so it may be another week or so before I get them all up. (I’m not a web design expert, as much as I love working with web design.)

Also, September 22nd will be the first anniversary of The Fool’s Illusion! And to celebrate, I may have something special such as a freebie! So check back here often between now and next weekend.

Until next time . . . 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review: Across the Universe

Of course, The Fool's Illusion isn't the only speculative fiction book that centres around the theme of deceit. Author Beth Revis's Across the Universe is set on a star ship that seems to run on lies and therefore illusions some of which are very literal. I recently finished reading this YA novel which was part of my summer reading. My review of it is below. Is it a book you would consider putting on your own reading list? Feel free to provide your answer in the box below.  

YA novel
Photo Credit: Razorbill/Penguin

Book's Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Series: Across the Universe Trilogy
Volume: Book 1 (of 3)
Year of Publication: 2011
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

With young adult science fiction  rising in popularity, especially since The Hunger Games craze, Beth Revis’s Across the Universe carries on this trend. Part space opera, part murder mystery, it’s the first book of a trilogy. Even so, it holds up good as its own story and so doesn’t leave the reader hanging at the end. The book’s theme of deceit runs through not only the villainous characters but all the major characters no matter how virtuous and loving they’re made to be. And so this theme of lies is used realistically, making the characters and situations more life-like. However, as well written this YA novel is, its setting and its characterization of the main antagonist fall short of what they can be.


Teenager Amy Martin awakes from a cryogenic freese on the spaceship Godspeed fifty years earlier than she’s supposed to. She discovers that the reason for her early revival is that someone tried to kill her. With the help of her new friend, Elder who is of the generation presently running the ship, she tries to track down her would-be murderer before the killer can get other frozen passengers, especially her parents.

Novel’s Structure

Across the Universe holds up good in its structure. The chapters regularly alternate between the two main characters’, Amy and Elder’s, point of views making it easy for the reader to follow the story. At the same time, the organization of the sequence of events time the suspense, foreshadowing and irony good which is a big accomplishment since the author has to be careful not to reveal too much too soon through either character who also serve as narrators.


Both Amy and Elder’s characters are well developed. We can sympathise with both but especially Amy’s who the novel centres around. We feel her loneliness and anger as well as her love for her parents, especially her father. We feel the struggles and fears she goes through while she's forced to adapt to a new generation of passengers who, unlike her, have never seen either outer space or the surface of any planet and so have lived on the Godspeed’s windowless farm deck their whole lives. She wrestles with the homesickness for the Earth she leaves behind and with her loneliness of not being able to communicate with her cryogenically frozen parents. We sense Elder’s struggle with and rebellion against Eldest, the ship’s administrator who raised him since birth and who Elder is to succeed. We feel the anger and uncertainty of both Amy and Elder when they discover more and more that they and the other passengers have been living off of lies conspired by the administration.

In one aspect of the character interaction, the old fashioned love triangle is used between Amy, Elder and Elder’s friend, Harley. Even though such a literary device may typify the story a bit too much in certain respects, it's done convincingly here taking us into the emotions of the two male characters showing the reader their jealousy and anxiety for Amy. Yet we also see these two struggling to hang onto their friendship and so trying to rise above the jealousy. So the way this love triangle is handled portrays clearly the extreme emotions of adolescence.

The antagonist’s character, Eldest’s, could have been better developed. He comes across as caring and friendly to his common subjects, a deceitful method on his part to control the ship and its population. The only problem with this trait of his is that it's more told than shown let alone not revealed to us until around halfway through the book. So Eldest comes across too much as the typical fairy tale villain, all evil and cruel, both in his ambitions and actions, including his manner of speaking.


The Godspeed’s interior is portrayed okay but takes a while to convey clearly in the reader’s head. This is especially so with the farming level of the ship where much of the novel takes place. Even though there is a landscape in this vast part of the ship, there is no simulated sky, only “the steel-grey metal of the walls that curve over this level of the ship ” as Amy explains it (page 141). However, the other major setting within the ship, the cryogenic freeze chamber, is described really good giving the likeness to that of a mausoleum and so works perfectly for a murder mystery/space opera cross-genre story such as Across the Universe.

While the science and technology are plausible enough overall, there are some flaws for the distant future this book is set in. Today’s technology seems to be more reflected at certain points in the novel. For example, there are doors on the ship that have to be opened manually. Another example is a fake outer space that a simulated window looks out on in which the stars are described as light bulbs. I wouldn't call that too futuristic of tech when so many of today's simulations are digital or VR. 

The relatively simple structure of Across the Universe, the story’s tension and the realism of Amy and Elder’s characters make Bevis’s YA novel worth reading. This isn’t only so for the teen audience that the book targets, but for an adult one too. That is, if adult readers can get past a too typical villain character and a few devices that would be outdated in a far-future setting. Not to mention euphemisms for typical teenage cuss words, probably used so school districts and libraries don’t get sued by certain parents. 

Until next time . . . 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Free Fiction Friday: 'The Assassin'

It may have been a sizzling hot Fried Day here in the Sacramento area, but it's also a Free Fiction Friday! And so I have a story for you (written by your's truly). I consider it an atom punk story even though it may be lightly so. Which is okay, because it causes a big portion of the story to reflect more where our own timeline is going which is one of the most important things of science fiction--to show where society may be in the future. If you aren't familiar with the atom punk subgenre of sci fi, then check out my earlier post here. If you get tired of hearing me talk, then a person who is really an expert on the subgenre is Philip Reeve who has a great article on it and so you might want to check that out.  

About the formatting of my story's text: I copied the story from a file that I had formatted for submission to a magazine. Even though I changed the font from Courier to New Times Roman so it would reflect the style of the blog more, other manuscript style formatting may be in there. Some of that formatting may be underlined text as opposed to italicised text. That's because standard formatting for emphasised words in manuscripts for submissions, especially for fiction, is underlining. Also there are some pound symbols ("hash" symbols as they're referred to for social media linking) between paragraphs to represent breaks or lapses in time. 

As some of you may have realised I write according to British spelling (e.g. "realise" as opposed to the American "realize"). You won't find that in this story. I changed the spelling to American because I'm more likely to submit the piece to American publications as much as I prefer British spelling. I truly believe British English is the more correct English. Part of that reason is the most obvious (or at least it should be obvious, except to those pea brains who loafed off back in their high school history classes and never grew up): English originated in England. Now as far as it being the more correct version, that's just my personal opinion. I'm not even British. In fact, I'm not even of British ancestry (I'm Mexican and Portuguese, but born here in the U.S. of course). But I love British culture. I'm not getting into other reasons why I prefer British English over American. If you want to know more why, then ask me in the comments box below and I'll be more than happy to explain. 

I hope you enjoy this story. Please let me know what you think, including what could be improved. You won't hurt my feelings; you would actually be helping me. Come on now! Not even the top best-selling authors are perfect! Not even the Noble Prize winning ones are, for that matter. 

Until next time . . . 

The Assassin
by  Steven Rose, Jr.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/


“How many credits have I worked?” asked Albert McArthur as he hopelessly stared at Kariith’s digital body that was sealed inside the giant vacuum tube.

“Five hundred,” said the metallic voice of UConet. 

Shit, Albert thought.  He didn’t dare not say it out loud.  UCoNet sees everything, Albert always remembered as did everybody of both Earth and the known universe.