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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Holiday Greetings and Charities

A skull wearing a Santa Claus Hat.
Happy Hallow-Days, Every Body!
Credit: OpenClipart.org


We’re only days away from Christmas and I haven’t even got all my cards out or shopping done. (Sound familiar?) Although I do have all my decorating done, including my Haunted Holiday Mansion scene. No doubt this is the busiest time of the year and you don’t have to be Santa Claus to feel it; I’ve been feeling the stress of it all week. Some of that stress is coming from trying to choose a charity to donate to for this holiday season.

I wrote to one nonprofit organisation based here in Sacramento about donating some comic books to its literacy program for kids. It’s called 916 Ink.  They have a big comic book writing workshop program there for the youth they serves. 916 Ink provides creative writing classes for these kids to help improve youth literacy. They even compile the kids’ writing into anthologies they publish and sell in which the proceeds go to the program.

Well I wrote to the program and offered to donate kid-friendly comics keeping in mind that kids learn best to write by reading (as well as writing itself, of course) and this includes comics. I believe I even told them this in the email. This was over a week ago. They never got back to me. I know they take monetary donations so I would be willing to give them that, I was just trying to give away some extra comics that I have.

Another nonprofit comic book organisation that’s taking donations is Reading With Pictures. However, I believe they’re only taking monetary donations. This organisation encourages schools to put comic books in their curriculum to make literacy fun for kids. Now I’m not saying that kids should be limited to reading picture based materials such as comic books. But comic books are still a part of literature and art even if they have been traditionally known to be simple in storytelling and illustration. They are a part of pop culture from which most of us first learned how to read and were introduced to art right up there with our parents reading bedtime stories to us.

I also considered donating to Galaxy Press’s holiday cause which is a book drive they are doing through Toys for Tots. Galaxy Press is the publisher that puts out The Writers and Artists of The Future annual anthology that collects the winning stories and illustrations from each year’s contest of the same name. They are taking monetary donations to give free copies of pulp science fiction writer Ron L. Hubbard’s books to disadvantaged youth to encourage them to read more. That’s a really great way to donate to a cause while educating youth on classic pulp fiction from an older era making it fun to read. The problem with their charity project is that they are only taking donations by credit card and so offer no options that I could see on their website for other forms of payment. And I may need to pay by cheque.

Also here in my home Sacramento, the Children’s ReceivingHome of Sacramento is taking both toy donations as well as monetary ones to purchase Christmas gifts for the kids they serve, who many of are from abusive parents and broken homes. The cause is called the Angel Fund. Another one here in town, called the Sacramento Children’s Home who serve the same kinds of kids, is also doing a similar drive.

I also thought I should announce the charitable cause of a fellow science fiction writer, Beth Revis, who writes the Across the Universe series of YA books. She’s doing a drive where if you purchase her book, The Body Electric, she will donate a percentage of the sales to World Vision which is an organisation that helps impoverished families of third world nations.

So as you can see, I have a list of charities to choose from to donate to so I’ll be busy doing that for the next day or two. I’ll let you know the one I choose in the next post. I just wanted to make it known that this holiday season isn’t about getting what we want; it’s not about impressing our loved ones with expensive gifts that we get at big discount prices; it’s not about us authors making sales on our books through holiday promotions, even though we do take advantage of the season for that. These things aren’t the core meaning of the holiday season. The core meaning of the holiday season is love which is demonstrated in giving to the ones we care about, and that includes our fellow human beings who are in need. If there’s no other time of year to show our care for the world’s societies then let the holiday season be that time to care and do what we can to help make the world a happier place.


Happy Hallow-Days!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Holiday Writing and the Interdependence of Character Building and World Building

I apologise for skipping last week’s blog post. I’ve been trying to post a minimum of once a week. But because last week was Thanksgiving it got really busy with the usual holiday stuff (including that stuff called stuffing): Family gatherings, festive meals, and long visits.

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving. I did, with the exception that my aunt’s black cat got into the pumpkin pie and ate a hole near the middle and down to the bottom of the pan making it into a pumpkin donut pie! And no, I don’t take that as proof that black cats are bad luck, nor is my aunt a witch (though she dressed as one at Halloween). But so what if she were? In fact, I think black cats are one of the nicest looking breeds on the planet and may adopt one myself one day.


A cartoon black cat stands on top of the number thirteen.
Credit: PDClipart.org



I didn’t get as much writing done as I wanted to, as much as I love my parents staying over during holidays. It’s a little tougher to work on my projects when relatives are here since my flat isn’t very big and so most of my writing space is between the kitchen and the living room (the two bordering each other). And so I don’t have a separate room I write my stories in. So I had to rearrange my writing time. Each day, I would get up extra early by an hour or two before my parents normally get up which is between 8:30 and 9. Unlike most mornings when I would first meditate and then eat breakfast, I skipped those two (delaying them to a later part of the day) and got to work immediately.

During these early morning writing sessions I either worked on my novella (of which I’m still at the rough draft level) and a YA short horror story that I plan on including in my next fiction collection. I chose these two projects for that time slot because I work on my fiction best when I’m alone. My non-fiction and articles I can do easily enough with other people around, but when I’m writing a draft of a fiction work I need to be alone in order to create that otherworld-feeling around me and take that writing journey that allows anything to happen. Kind of like mysticism, isn’t it?

The above horror story I’ve been working on is at the planning stage. I wrote the first draft almost a year ago and pulled it from my filing cabinet for revision only about two or three weeks ago. I outlined the story last week and am now on character building (or character development) which only yesterday I discovered may take a little research because of, let’s say, mythic connections some of the characters have. No doubt, the story will change even if in the slightest because the characters’ traits are going to have to determine their actions which in turn will determine the story. I also discovered yesterday that because of the characters’ mythic connections I would have to work on world building simultaneously. So I’ve been realising much more how interdependent these story elements are.

Along with my new short story collection, I am preparing to sketch some ideas for the cover illustration. You’ll see them soon enough in upcoming posts. As far as the final sketch goes, I plan to have a revealing of it here at the Fantastic Site sometime by the end of February (2015).

I forgot to tell you in the last post, if you liked the Far Out Fantastic Finds bonus that I provided,  please let me know in the box (either in the last post or in this one) and maybe I’ll make it a monthly thing, a kind of newsletter of the weird and wonderful.

Until next time . . .


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Themes and Fantastic Finds

A vulture in a perched position.
How would you like this bird for Thanksgiving dinner? It will probably have you first.
Photo Credit: PDClipart.org


This post is going to be mostly a list of highlights of what’s been happening with me during the week, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find a unifying theme. Speaking of which . . .

I just started planning my new short story collection. Unlike with a novel, which consists of one main story arc, it’s hard to plan a book of short stories if you’re basing it on several different stories that you hadn’t necessarily intend to include in a collection. I rarely write my short fiction with a theme in mind for a larger work. So, when I plan a book to include my stories in, I have to look for a common theme that runs through several of them. Besides that, I need to make sure the theme runs through enough of my stories to total a sufficient number of pages to make self-publishing the book worthwhile.  When I finally have a theme and if only a small number of stories fit it then I have to write more stories based on that theme.

In the case of the present collection I’m planning, a couple days ago--after what seemed hours of reviewing the stories I had already written--I finally came up with a theme. This lead to a tentative title for the book. The theme is hidden things--things such as buried corpses, lost ancient tombs and corporate conspiracies to take over the world. The potential title of the book: The Hidden. I’m aiming to have the book out (of hiding) by summer of 2015.

Speaking about hidden things, they’re no longer hidden when people find them. So I’d like to list some interesting things I found recently. Found out about, that is. (These things had been hidden from me by nobody or nothing but my own unawareness of them, by the way.) So I’ve decided to call this list. . .


Far Out Fantastic Finds


Afrofuturism: I found out about this African science fiction movement when I was looking at the website for a British convention called Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder which is going on now across seas from where I’m at, so unfortunately I can’t make it to it this year since I’m not in a position to travel that far. But the con is featuring an event there called “Inside Afrofuturism” which is a conference of African science fiction writers, directors and other artists. Afrofuturism is a movement by black people exploring and expressing their race and heritage through science fiction and fantasy in all mediums. Even though this term is unheard of by most people, the movement has really been going on since the 1960s with Samuel Delany’s work and Jazz/funk musician Sun Ra’s who actually did a movie in the early ‘70s that I saw a clip of and seems really neat; it’s called Space is the Place. What I feel is so great about finding out about this literary and art movement is that it shows that science fiction and fantasy is not really the all-white genre that it’s been made to seem. I can somewhat relate to this because, even though I don’t look it to most people, I’m a minority of colour myself (I’m half Mexican).

John Scalzi was born in Fairfield, California. What’s so fantastic about this find? It’s fantastic to me because I was born only a few miles away in the Sacramento Valley (where I reside today) and so it’s great to know that there’s another big name sci fi author who once lived here in my home area (the other one being Kim Stanley Robinson, who still lives here). I found this out when I was searching the ‘Net for a Thanksgiving theme to add to the post since the holiday is already next week. And I came across Scalzi’s Thanksgiving prayer, a sci fi style one. You can read it here. If you’re not religious (I consider myself more spiritual than religious, really) then just consider it a sci fi/fantasy themed prayer, fantasy because of a magical god named Jehovah. So just consider it a fun, entertaining piece but please still be thankful even if not to any deity. We have a lot more good things in this country than most of us give credit for.

George Lucas’s new film, Strange Magic, was inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is an animated fantasy feature coming to theatres this January. However, it doesn’t look that fantastic to me as far as appeal goes. The movie blends modern pop music with the fairy world, taking too much of the otherworldliness effect away. Since some of the numbers are from the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, it makes me wonder if the soundtrack is a knock-off of last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy. So is that the best Lucas can do since he left Star Wars? And he’s always said that he planned to go back to doing what he always wanted to: making art house films!

That’s it for now. If I don’t see you here again before next weekend, then have a Happy Thanksgiving and don’t eat too much bird. Plenty but not too much. Also watch out for zombies. They will be looking for people for their Thanksgiving dinners and I doubt turkey is the main course.

Until next time . . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Your Best Writing: Always Intend It

A purple skinned alien writing in a chair-sitting position.
Credit: PDClipart.org



This past Saturday I watched one of Harlan Ellison’s videos on his YouTube channel. It’s really inspiring, so I suggest you take a look at it. As always, he has a lot of interesting things to say, including about how his birthday falls on the same day as actor Christopher Lee’s, his Warholian Daffy Duck tee shirt (I have a Batman Warholian one), and authors intending their best work when they write. This last one really inspired me because he talks about how writers will take on jobs they don’t like but will perform their best work anyway.

During my entire writing career, I’ve never hated any of my writing jobs (so far at least) even if I didn’t prefer them to other projects. I like to write in general, and so even if I’m not writing fiction, my favourite form, I still love the very act of composing words no matter what the project is. Because of that, I’ll intend to do my best work. I’ll do this at all levels of the writing process, even the rough (or first) draft level. That doesn’t mean I revise as I write. In no way! And this is especially so with fiction. To revise as I’m writing the rough draft would cut off the stream of creativity and, ironically, instead of doing my best work I would be doing my worst in a certain sense. Articles about NaNoWriMo warn against revising while writing the rough draft. One of these articles in particularly is from Writers’ Digest’s website. which can be very useful for those who are participating in NaNoWriMo as well as ones who aren’t but like to write.

So then, how do you intend your best work at the rough draft level without revising? Well, intending your best work is exactly that. As you write the rough draft you intend and so mean to do your best work; you don’t write the final product at that stage. During that stage, you don’t go back to correct a mis-spelled word, or to see if you put a period at the end of that last sentence while you’re in the middle of writing the current one. You write to the best of your ability in the present moment of the act of writing itself. Doing so may cause less need for revising later, even though you will still have to revise, perhaps through several rounds. Also, intending your best while you write non-stop will probably bring out your true voice in your work rather than too generic a voice.

Stephen King in his book “On Writing” does say there can be a few exceptions to non-stop writing, at least when writing fiction. Some of these may be if you forget your main character’s name or if you know moving on to the next scene is going to cause a major contradiction in the story and throw it too far off course. But overall, during the first draft you should write non-stop, getting out the story that comes to mind yet intending to write your best story. Because if it turns out to be your best story for being a rough draft then just think how much better it will be when you go on to revise it!

Oh, how did Quantum Con go? It went by great, especially for being its first time! And with the great feedback the con committee received from attendees, I’m sure they intended their best! You can find out more about how it went in the review that I wrote for it at Examiner.com. 

Until next time . . . 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New Science Fiction Con and NaNoWriMo Alternative

An alien head with a moon in the background.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons



I’ve been getting ready to attend a new science fiction convention that debuts here in Sacramento Sunday 9 November, as well as looking to some alternatives to National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. The new con is Quantum Con and will specialise in Doctor Who but will feature other science fiction too. It’s headed by a CSU Sacramento student who is putting it on as part of her project for her Recreation degree. This just shows you how much more sci fi and pop culture in general are becoming subjects of academia!

I meant to print up some more book marks for Fool’s Illusion to take to Quantum Con but the last couple of days have been very busy with writing projects including one for a client that was kind of last minute. I was also busy with my recent Examiner.com article on hard science fiction movies in light of Interstellar which just released Friday. Plus the Office Depot store where I normally get them printed is in the process of changing locations so I’m not sure what services are available there at the time. However, I’m going to be concentrating more on new fiction projects which brings me the topic of NaNoWriMo.

I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo. I’m not the kind of person who likes to speed write a novel under an event as big as NaNoWriMo since it gives me the feeling of doing it for experimentation more than for writing a work that I would intend to publish. But for novice writers, especially of the fiction genre, or even just fiction writers who feel they need to improve their speed and/or motivation for writing longer works, I recommend it. That’s not to say I don’t need to improve my writing speed. Because of this I’m doing an alternative in light of the event. I got the idea from Writers’ Digest associate editor TiffanyLuckey’s article. It’s a great article so I suggest you take a look at it.

My alternative to NaNoWriMo is to write a novella during the month of November since I have never written a full length novel not even at rough draft level. I had always said that I would at least write a novella someday and so when I read the above mentioned article yesterday I thought, what better time to start than during NaNoWriMo? Since compared to a novel a novella is pretty small, I’m also going to both revise a short story in full and plan my next fiction collection during this month.


Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If so why and what do you do to keep yourself motivated while writing? If you’re not participating, do you have an alternative for yourself? If so, what? Please feel free to leave your comments in the box below.

Until next time . . .

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Flash Fiction Fright Day

As I said, here's a Halloween treat of terror just for you! It's the short horror story I was talking about in yesterday's post. As I also said, it was especially written for tweens and young adults but I think grown adults may enjoy it too. Let me know what you think of it in the box below.

Take scare and Happy Halloween!




The Boos Brothers

By Steven Rose, Jr.



A creepy silhouetted mansion sits on top of a hill.

Photo credit: PDClipart.org


Jerry thought it would be neat to steal one of the silky cloth ghosts or cardboard decorations that hung in the old Victorian mansion’s porch each Halloween. All of them were more real looking than ones he and Roy had seen in any store. This included size. Some of the figures were taller than Jerry who was five-foot-seven-inches. That was pretty tall for an 11 year old boy. 

Jerry wanted to scare Melissa Collins and her friends with one of the figures from the porch when the girls would trick-or-treat later that night. Both he and Roy hated Melissa and her friends for cheating them at tether ball in P.E. and then getting away with it all because their 5th grade teacher, Mr. Martinez, let them. He only did so because he didn’t want to seem sexist to them. All because of that, Jerry and Roy were accused of being cheaters by Melissa and her circle whenever they came across them at recess. But Jerry would make sure justice would win.

Jerry wanted to scare Melissa Collins and her friends with one of the figures from the porch when the girls would trick-or-treat later that night. Both he and Roy hated Melissa and her friends for cheating them at tether ball in P.E. and then getting away with it all because their 5th grade teacher, Mr. Martinez, let them. He only did so because he didn’t want to seem sexist to them. All because of that, Jerry and Roy were accused of being cheaters by Melissa and her circle whenever they came across them at recess. But Jerry would make sure justice would win.

“We can go to jail,” said Roy.

“No we won’t,” said Jerry. “It’s hardly stealing a dime. These people are rich; they won’t care. Besides, they’re never home.”

“Yeah, and we don’t know when they’ll suddenly come home,” said Roy.

“Have you ever seen anybody around this place?” asked Jerry.

Roy squinted in recollection as he looked at the hanging ghosts and rubber bats dancing in the moaning wind. He said, “No, but somebody must live here. The lights go on every night.”

“That’s a timer.”

Roy gestured toward the house. “Yeah, but look: the lawn is always cut. The flowers always watered. No weeds. The house is always kept so clean.”

“I told you these people are rich; they have a gardener. Home gardeners don’t work after 3 PM. Look, all we need to do is take one figure. One that’s not too big and that’s easy to carry. We’re going to put it back.”

Roy hesitated several seconds. He looked at his watch. It was way after 3 PM, two minutes to 4. He said, “Well, okay. But we have to put it back, like you said. It doesn’t belong to us.”

“We’ll put it back right after we scare the girls.”

The two boys walked up to the porch. Testing the weight, Roy lifted the smooth, flat hand of a skeleton that seemed to stare down and grin at him. He flinched at Jerry’s call.

“Hey, Roy! Let’s take a ghost. They’re lighter plus more real looking since they’re more 3D.” Jerry tugged at the string that a silky ghost hung by. But before he could even pull the string from its hook the ghost snapped off and flew away with the wind. Jerry cursed.

Roy said, “Oh, no! Now we’re busted! Why’ju pull so hard?”

“Shut up,” hissed Jerry. “I hardly touched it. It just broke off. It’s this stupid wind. I’ll grab another one.” He glanced around for another about the same size, his own size.

“Jerry, run,” shouted Roy. As borderline obese he was, he was already running past the neighbouring house. Yet he was not fast enough to outrun lean Jerry who grabbed him in a wrestling hold.

“Where do you think you’re going?” grunted Jerry.

Roy said, struggling to free himself, “Didn’t you see it? We have to get out’a here! Somebody was at the door!”

“That was a decoration, fool!”

“Not the skeleton hanging there! Inside the door!”

“That’s frosted glass on that window, how could you see anybody on the other side?”

“I didn’t, but somebody was there! Didn’t you see that light go on inside?”

Jerry released Roy from his grip but only to face him toward himself. “The timer, fool! I told you the lights were set by timer!”

Roy stammered, “But, but, the lights only go on at night, and that one never turns on. I see them from my house every evening. Only the porch light goes on and that’s not until it gets dark. This light was inside that door and was white, a really bright white!”

Jerry said, “They can program timers to make different lights come on at different times.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” Roy said hanging his head. “Okay, then let’s go back.”

“We can’t now. One of the neighbours probably saw us running and heard you screaming your head off. We’ll have to do it tonight when it’s harder for anyone to recognize us. Do you have a Halloween costume?”

Roy thought for a moment. He was almost 11 himself, 10-and-a-half to be exact. Like Jerry, he felt he was too big for trick-or-treating. He answered, “Yeah. From last year. But I don’t know if it fits me anymore.”

Jerry said, “Probably not. You’re fatter than even last year. Well then just wear the mask, but let’s change our clothes so nobody recognises us. We’ll fake trick-or-treating.”

Roy agreed to this.


They returned around 7 that evening. Jerry made Roy stand guard at the front of the walkway. Roy wore his turtle warrior mask from last year and Jerry wore a cheap skull’s mask he picked up at the dollar store only an hour before. The wind had died down to a breese but it was icy cold. Jerry reached for a silky ghost only about half a foot taller than the previous one. It hung about a foot from the door yet he didn’t remember seeing it there that afternoon. This time he gripped the ghost hard against his torso while he pulled backward on the string to slide it off its hook. But just before it could come off he felt it tug from above and himself shoot up into wood rotted darkness.

But not total darkness. He was staring into the eyes of a bright yet pale white glowing face that glared at him. The brilliant white figure spoke: “You tried kidnapping my kid brother! Now you’re gonn’a pay!”

Jerry held his mouth open. He wanted to scream but couldn’t even manage a squeak.


Roy saw Jerry rise out of view just as Roy grabbed the ghost and tugged the string. He heard the inhuman, echoing voice and saw the white light radiating from somewhere above the door. It was just like the light he saw in the door window that afternoon. He screamed, “Jerry! Jerry!”

But Jerry wasn’t there. The bright light was no longer there. Even the porch light was out. Roy inched toward the looming house. Just as he reached the porch, he felt a dozens of eyes stare at him. They seemed to stare at him from the hanging skeletons, witches, ghosts and bats all of which swung or swayed in the icy breese. He screamed, “Jerry, where are you?”

“Over here, fool!”

Roy pivoted, glancing around. “Where?” He lifted his turtle mask to see better. He still couldn’t find his friend.

“Over here, at the door! What’s the matter with you are ya’ blind?”

Roy looked toward the skeleton hanging on the door. The skeleton grinned and stared back at him.

Then it lifted one of its feet forward.

Then the other foot.

The skeleton said in Jerry’s voice, “Let’s go scare the girls!”

Roy heard the laughter and talking of several girls from far off. It was Melissa and her friends. He recognised her nasal voice. He turned to run and warn them. But then he felt the bony hand grip his shoulder.

The End
 




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.
Credit: Openclipart.org



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: Openclipart.org



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 HorrorAddicts.net 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 HorrorAddicts.net. 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: Openclipart.org






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 strosejr@gmail.com (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.



Synopsis

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.

Characterization 

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.

Setting 

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/OpenClipArt.org

            

“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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

At Trash Film Orgy's Carnival of the Dead

I attended the Trash Film Orgy's first Carnival of the Dead this Saturday and it was a blast! For those of you who don't know what Trash Film Orgy is, TFO is a production studio that makes both their own B-rated sci fi and horror movies as well as holds screenings of classic B-rated flicks by other production companies. That night was TFO's scream screening of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead held at the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento. The movie was preceded by a zombie walk through the vicinity and their Carnival of the Dead at Roosevelt Park before that. I got to meet several great people there, dead and alive (okay, they were dressed as dead, as in the living dead) and I took pictures of some people who were in some really groovy ghoulie costumes, including the Sac City Roller girls who are a women's roller derby team and who I had the pleasure to met for the first time.Check out the photos below!






Kind of resembles a cross between Uncle Fester and one of the Plan 9 ghouls.





That's mwa shadow snapiiiiing a photo! (To do a play on an Andy Gibb song from the '70s! You can call this a shadow selfie, I guess.)




Three of the Sac City Rollers with yours truly (and another undead dude in the background who just happened to decide to jump into the photo). I'm holding up the Rollers' promo sign, though it didn't come out too clearly in the photo. 



The works of a carnival. 



Yours truly made sure he got a head shot of this, uh, head shot! 





 Michael Jackson's back! (From the grave, of course.) No, really: God, rest his soul.




This soothsayer was nice enough to give me a free reading, though it didn't turn out to be true: I didn't attend the zombie walk or screening that night like she said I would. Well, nobody's perfect. But the fortune cookie strip she gave me held true: "All facts are true." But it came without the cookie; a Tootsie Roll lolly pop came with it instead! I can go for that. (No, the strip was not at the centre of the Tootsie Pop.)



And here's the fortune teller going into her mystical trance. (Okay, so it's just the blazing sun light radiating on her devilish horns.)




And a mad scientist picking up after those sloppy zombies. (Didn't their parents teach them any table manners and not to litter?)




Until next time . . .