Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Special Holiday Post: Christmas List, Krampus List and Links

A jack o' lantern wearing a Santa Claus hat.
Happy Hallow-Days/Scary Nightmare Before Christmas!
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

I apologise for posting so late again, but I wanted to make this a special Holiday edition. And after spinning the gears to the point of going brain dead over what to include in this post, I overloaded the stocking with so many ideas that I couldn’t even put them all here due to lack of time. So I’ve included both a Christmas list and a Krampus list of chain-jingling links. What’s a Krampus you say? You’ll soon find out, and better here than in your room at night during this Holiday Season. But first I want to update you a little on The Hidden.

Amazon's Preview Tool and  The Hidden

I had said a while back that I’ll be releasing The Hidden for beta readers but I may release an excerpt of it for previewing first. Just this weekend I found out about Amazon’s Create Space’s Preview tool which allows authors to post excerpts of their books before publication so people at large can read the excerpts over and provide feedback. This helps us authors get an idea whether the general direction of our books are working or not. As a previewer, I tried the tool out and it wasn’t bad. It classifies the book excerpts into several categories similar to how Amazon's  store does with its books. However, the “fiction and literature” category isn’t subdivided like it is on the store. There is a separate science fiction/fantasy category but it includes both fiction and non-fiction about the genre, and, like “fiction and literature” it is not sub-categorized.

Krampus’s List

Now to answer that question from earlier: What’s a Krampus? Actually, it’s more a who than a what. Krampus has been called an anti-Santa Claus, more like a “Santa Claws” if you will because that’s exactly what he has: claws instead of hands. He is a nightmare before Christmas for bad little kids who do not receive presents from Santa. In Germanic folklore he rides with Santa in his sleigh on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, which is celebrated December the 5th in many Germanic countries. While St. Nick delivers gifts to the good children, Krampus kidnaps the bad ones and scares them with nightmares. This creature is coming into American pop culture more, and stories about him can be likened to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. You’ve probably already heard of or maybe even seen the Universal horror film that came out at the beginning of the month, Krampus. I wouldn’t be surprised that there will be more of that kind of holiday big screen film next year and the years to come.

Parents in Europe have been known to tell their kids horror stories about Krampus to scare them into being good. Maybe that’s what we need more of in our own country of overly commercialised holiday events that take the focus off of the true meaning of the season--which is love, peace and goodwill to all humanity--and spoils our kids because of. Well anyway, because Krampus is relatively new to pop culture in our own country, I thought I’d provide you a list of links to more information about this fierce but fascinating creature.

My friend, David Watson, writes up a great explanation of Krampus here. He also provides links to further reading and some neat images of the half goat, half man monster.

This and the next article at the link below talk about the festivity of Krampus. Yes, people give this demon his own celebration like they do with St. Nicholas. It’s kind of like a Halloween of the Christmas season and so kind of does for St. Nicholas day what Halloween does for All Saints Day, purges people of their tensions to prepare them for the following festival of light.

“13 Terrifying Christmas Traditions” 

This is fellow Examiner.com writer Mary Parker’s article on both Krampus and other like-frightening legends of the yuletide season from around the world.

“A Krampus Carol” 

And here’s a short animated film about Krampus by an Anthony Bourdain. This is not your Rankin-Bass or even your Nightmare Before Christmas holiday animated tale so I would suggest watching it by yourself before showing it to your younger kids (11 and younger?). Unless, of course, your kids need some scaring so they will behave themselves this holiday season. To do otherwise would defeat the purpose of the Krampus legend, wouldn’t it?

A vintage holiday card depicting the busts of St. Nicholas the bishop and Krampus grinning at each other.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Christmas Viewing/Reading List

Speaking about frightening Christmas creatures, I wanted to give you a Special Hallow-Day list of links to strange viewing and reading:

Yours truly’s list (within a list) that I wrote several Christmases ago for the sci fi column at Examiner.com.

There are so many similar elements in the 1960s B-rated kids’ flick, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. I wouldn’t be surprised if the former inspired the latter. In Santa Claus, St. Nick gets abducted by Martians so the Martians can bring Christmas to Mars.  Nightmare also involves Santa getting abducted, only not by Martians but by ghouls so they can bring Christmas to Halloween Town. Even though Santa was played by live actors, it was cheaply made even by its own time’s standards yet, like Nightmare, it’s become a cult classic as with many B-rated flicks (though I wouldn't call Nightmare B-rated).

So a couple seasons ago, I wondered and speculated about what Santa would look like today, especially in the toy battle scene “ripped off” from Disney’s Babes in Toyland, and then drew a parody of it. If you haven’t seen Santa then you probably won’t get the humour in the drawing. If you’re not the kind of person who can take sitting through a B-rated movie from a time before you were born, then you can catch an episode of horror hosted movie show Cinema Insomnia that features it, and skip over to the scene at about 1:43:29 where the bad Martians break into the toy factory on Mars and then watch it up through the toy battle scene. Then view the cartoon drawing at the above mentioned link and you’ll probably get the humour.

“A Cosmic Christmas” 

This half hour Canadian-made animated film came out about the time the very first Star Wars movie released, 1977, only during Christmas (Star Wars released May of that year). No, I haven’t seen The Force Awakens yet, but regardless of what I said about it about four posts back , I’m willing to give Abrams’ direction of it a chance and so will try seeing it around New Year’s. Anyway, this half-hour holiday feature is basically a sci fi version of the story of the Magi (a.k.a. the Three Kings). It’s not bad. I enjoyed it when I saw it as a kid and still enjoy it as an adult.

Free Fiction

Finally, I know I’ve featured this before in past Christmas posts but want to give it to you in as much as one place as possible. It’s a free version of The Fool’s Illusion, my special gift to you. Okay, not quite; it’s actually an excerpt of my short story collection because I’m only presenting the links to one story here. But if you read it and like it then you will probably like the other stories in the collection and you might consider buying it as a holiday gift for that special fellow sci fi fan in the family, or for yourself, or, better yet, both. Right now, you can get the Kindle version for only 99 cents. (It will not remain at this price for long so don't delay too much. You don't need a Kindle device to read it.) Why did I include this story in a Holiday post? If you go to the first link of this three part story, and read my intro to it, you’ll find out.

I’m going to take a week or two off from the Fantastic Site to celebrate the Hallow-days with family. But these lists of links should give you plenty to occupy yourselves with until then. I’ll talk about my plans for the new year when I come back and will have more updates on the progress of The Hidden.

But I thought I’d conclude with telling you one of the things I’m asking Santa or the Three Kings to bring me for Christmas. And that is the graphic novel adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s original script of Star Trek’s “City On the Edge ofForever” episode. So, what are you asking for Santa or the Three Kings (or even Krampus?) to bring you? Feel free to drop your answers in the box below.

Happy Hallow-Days to you all, and until next time . . .

Monday, December 14, 2015

4 Far Out Sci Fi and Fantasy Finds

I apologise for the delay in posting. My car had been in the garage/shop for a full two weeks and I just got it back Friday. I was going back and forth to the shop to find out what was wrong and then I had to wait around for the tow truck to have it towed to a different garage. So that pushed me back in many of my projects including my short stories I’m working on for The Hidden and the cover illustration I’m making for it. Oh, yeah and after all that fuss I was told nothing was wrong with my car to begin with! Maybe it’s playing tricks on me because it’s jealous and doesn’t want me to succeed in my writing career and so has a mind of its own like Christine or that ‘70s horror flick The Car. Then Saturday I was at a holiday charity drive held at Empire ComicsVault in Sacramento. They were collecting for Toys for Tots and artists were there doing work on commission for a children’s home. So I haven’t really had time to get together a topic for an article this weekend and so decided to give you a list of some Far Out Fantastic Finds in sci fi and fantasy news.

This is an interview with the above mentioned author who talks about his novel which I wouldn’t mind checking out. I just don’t know if I dig the “novel-writing apps” he says he used to write his story. But he doesn’t say exactly how he used them, so how can we really know?

Very few female authors in the 1950s were known for writing science fiction, but here’s one who wrote some good ones and then, later in the late ‘70s, contributed to the script for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back! Speaking of which, the next find is . . .

“Thing” number six gives a little detail of an early draft that Brackett wrote. So there’s two little-known Star Wars facts you can take with you when you see Episode 7: The Force Awakens which opens Thursday! But now here’s another one, one that really struck me: “Thing” number nine: “Stanley Kubrick nearly killed the set.” Kubrick happened to be making The Shining, a favourite of yours truly, in the same studio space as Lucas’s Empire. No wonder why the setting for the former resembled the planet Hoth so much!

A space squadron fighter fires its laser cannon in battle.
Photo Credit: Patrice Audet/Pixabay.com

This is probably the most far out fantastic of the finds! You may have heard about the new annual science fiction/fantasy anthology that came out not too long ago: The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Inspired by the long-time running annual The Best American Short Stories, it’s an example of how science fiction and fantasy have become not only more mainstream but also more accepted as literature rather than simply escapist entertainment. This article talks about that major turning point in the genre and the people behind the anthology, including horror author Joe Hill who acted as guest editor. This would make a great holiday gift for science fiction/fantasy readers.

That’s it for now. Until next time . . . 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Du Bois' Recently Found Sci Fi Story and a Call for Beta Readers

What's the ideal Christmas present for a hardcore science fiction/fantasy reader to open up? Maybe it's a newly discovered sci fi/fantasy story but not necessarily by today's greatest authors such as Ben Bova and Corey Doctorow. Perhaps it's not even by any of yesterday's greatest yet today's classics such as Heinlein. It may be by someone who was never that well known to write in the genre yet who had a major influence in U.S. history, particularly on the Civil Rights movement. The ideal Christmas present for a hardcore reader of sci fi may be a story by W.E.B. Du Bois who actually wrote more science fiction than probably most of us speculative fiction geeks would ever have thought. I was so amazed when I found out about his most recently uncovered story, that I had to do an article on it at Examiner.com. Why the Christmas present analogy? You might find the answer in the article which I encourage you to read.

A photo portrait of W.E.B. Du Bois in his later years.
Photo Credit: Carl Van Vechten/Wikimedia Commons

Du Bois' story is said to be a major contribution to Afrofuturism, a social criticism movement against racism, one that anticipates black society's future in light of technological advancements and so often uses science fiction by black authors as a tool of study. I discussed this movement in a post about a year ago which you can read but I must warn you that the links in that section go mostly to empty destinations since the website was a convention's that already passed. But Afrofuturism has definitely not passed. You'll find links in my article at Examiner.com to source articles that discuss the subject in more detail. Also, here's an interesting article I found that talks about the subject.  

I just started the sketch for The Hidden's book cover illustration just yesterday and I hope to have it completed by next weekend but I can't promise anything; I still have some stories to revise for the book. Not to mention that we are entering into one of the busiest seasons of the year and so Christmas shopping and decorating are going to add to my schedule. I still have to select beta readers for the book so if anybody's interested please let me know in the box below. A beta reading will get you a free copy of the book, a beta copy of course, but maybe even a free copy of the final version too as a reward for the time you would take and the feedback you would give me; I'll have to see how that works out with Amazon.

Until next week . . .

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Atomic Rockets: Hard Sci Fi Writing, Reading and Atompunk Resource

I hope everybody had a good Thanksgiving. Mine was groovy. I just spent it with the family, which is good enough for me. I was sure to look out for giant man-eating turkeys and I hope everybody else did too. It was a super day of giving thanks for the many good things we have, which is often a lot more than we think. So many people think too much about what they don’t have. Some think they don’t have enough money, enough friends, enough recognition . . . The list can go on. But you can add to that list that some feel there’s not enough high quality science fiction literature out there. That may be true to some extent. One person who feels that sci fi literature for the past two decades has been poor, in the science part particularly, has a website out that addresses the problem. That website is called Atomic Rockets which you can check out at http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/. It is a resource for both science fiction writers as well as readers who want accurate science in the genre. And because the website emphasizes plausible sci fi like that of the atomic era’s classic authors, such as Heinlein and Asimov, it also serves as a good resource for atompunk lovers.

The rocket "Polaris" orbits a planet with mathematical equations in the foreground.
Photo Credit: Winchell Chung/Atomic Rockets

Origin and Mission

Atomic Rockets’ mission is to go scientifically accurate where no science fiction writer seems to have been going the last two decades. At least web administrator and site founder, Winchell Chung, says it’s been that long. Disappointed about today’s science fiction literature lacking scientific plausibility and accuracy, he created the site hoping to draw more authors to use it as a resource. “I have been quite disappointed in the SF novels that have come out in the last couple of decades,” he says on the site’s homepage. “In particular, the scientific accuracy was abysmal. So this website is part of my master plan, to give a resource to SF authors that will assist them in getting the science correct.” He feels that good science fiction gets its science right like Robert Heinlein did with his stories. So his site consists of pages of scientific and technological facts that explain how works of science fiction reflect or lack reflecting these facts. He writes his articles in a manner of testing scientific theories on the stories. In fact, his site started off as one that specialised in the equations of rocket science but then grew “to encompass other topics of interest to SF authors and game designers.” 

An Atompunk Resource

But Atomic Rockets is not just a textbook for people who want to make their sci fi plausible. Chung is a big atompunk fan (only he calls it “rocketpunk”) and so features several articles about the sci fi of the 1940s through ‘60s. Within these are images of paperback book and pulp magazine covers with colourful art depicting space-suited heroes encountering both humanoid and inhuman-looking aliens and deadly robots. There is even a page dedicated to atompunk, entitled “Rocketpunk andMacgruffinite”, that consists of a good sized article about the subgenre so I highly recommend you check it out.

Atomic Rocket Approved Reading

Because Chung takes high quality science fiction seriously, most of the books his site discusses are the harder sci fi. He rates these with a seal called the “Atomic Rockets Seal of Approval”. He has two main book lists for these works: one is a page dedicated to books by authors who have told him that his website helped them produce scientifically accurate work; the other is a section of a separate page that lists books approved with the seals but whose authors have not claimed using the site to produce their work but who still get the science right. So if you’re looking for high quality science fiction to read, like yours truly always does, then consider the books on these two lists for building your own to-read lists.

Atomic Rockets is a must resource for both writers of science fiction who want to make their stories as believable as possible and for readers looking for recommended high quality sci fi  reading. It’s also a great resource for lovers of atompunk, a subgenre that seems to lack coverage on the internet. So atompunkers, bookmark this one in your Favorites list too. I did!

I’ll try to explain more in-depth about Atomic Rockets next time. But for now, think about this question: Do you think today’s science fiction literature has become more scientifically accurate or less? Please fill free to leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Artist’s Vision Vs. Corporate and Audience Expectations

A space soldier in high tech armor and holding a blaster looks across a futuristic city.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

I'm so behind on my upcoming short fiction collection, The Hidden. I still have several stories to revise for it, and then the cover illustration to make in which I'm planning on coming out with two versions of: a pre-release version that will be hand-made, and when I say “hand-made” I mean drawn and painted by yours truly with “old school” tools such as a pencil and coloured pencils; and the final release version which I will digitally produce. Why two versions? Personally, because I believe that digitally produced art cannot replace the natural energy and human spirit that goes into freehand art. And so I still respect and empathize with that small niche audience out there who prefer freehand art. But I don't discriminate against the majority either. If they’re willing to pay for digital, photorealistic art on book covers then I'll provide them that option, even though it’s not my thing. This reminds me of George Lucas’s issue with the Disney Company over the upcoming Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, which is less than a month away.

Lucas gave his specific reason to CBS This Morning the other day for no longer par-taking in the production of the Star Wars films. It was because Disney, who now owns the Star Wars franchise--which I think was a big mistake on Lucas's part to sell to them--wants to make the movies the “fans’” way. I really think that's, at least in part, bull shit because Disney is no longer there to satisfy anyone, including Star Wars fans; they're there to satisfy themselves with their own profits. I talked about this in one of my articles at Examiner.com a while back. You may want to take a look at it if you haven’t already done so.  Lucas's issue with the upcoming Star Wars film is a big example of how Hollywood is buying off of the fans' desires and ignoring the creator's vision.

Lucas told CBS This Morning that Star Wars is a “soap opera” rather than a space opera. He told them that “it’s not about the spaceships.” And maybe it’s not. He wants to show the development of the characters but Disney is implying fans don't want to see that. Why can't there be both “spaceships” and character and dramatic development? That's the way it happened in the prequels and that's the way it happened, even if on a more superficial level, in the original trilogy. And, needless to say, it kept drawing crowds.

Maybe Disney thought Lucas would go too far with the “soap opera” side of the movie, but so what? He may no longer own the franchise but, being the original creator, wouldn't he have a right to see some of his ideas put into the film? Disney had agreed to allow Lucas to act as consultant to the films, but if they threw out all his ideas for the 7th film then they weren’t really allowing him to carry out that role. But there you go: that’s what happens when a movie creator sells his (or her) work to a mega corporation like Disney. The corporation that purchase’s it has the legal right to do what it wants with it and, more often than not, it will.

That’s why I go the self-publishing route and not the traditional one of the big publishing houses. Too many big publishers want to basically buy writers’ stories so they can do what they want with them to make a profit for themselves. To do this often means the publishers giving readers what they want by demanding the author to make changes in the story even to the point of the author sacrificing his/her original vision. On the level of film-making, that was the problem Lucas--who did have his own vision for Star Wars--had with Disney. I would not want an editor from a big publishing house telling me to rewrite my story where it annihilates my original vision and intentions for it just because they want to buy off of readers’ desires for the sake of making profit.

Would you be willing to write your stories according to an editor’s or your fans' expectations even if it meant sacrificing your original vision that you want the story to convey? Please feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

3 Ideas From Creature Con That Can Enhance your Horror fiction

A reptilian monster's eye.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

I said several weeks ago that I would talk about some writing techniques I learned of when I attended Sinister Creature Con back in October. Even though this con emphasised special cinematic and make-up effects in the horror genre, I picked up on three good tips there that can be useful in any media of horror fiction including books, movies, TV and games. In fact, these tips can be used in other genres besides horror. So doing the following can enhance your fiction writing:

1     1) Determine an end point to your piece. Fon Davis of Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects company for the Star Wars films, talked in his panel about doing this when he discussed his work on model building and sculpting. He said that many special effects artists like to make their work perfect by making it appear real to the last detail. That’s always been my case when it comes to writing fiction (and so now you know why I run so behind on my stories). But he said that, like painting, model building and sculpting for special effects is a never-ending job because a piece can always be improved. So the artist has to determine where to stop and basically say when the piece is “complete”. This is especially the case in the film industry where the producers want the work done by a deadline so they can release the movie.

The same goes for writing fiction. Some authors are pressured by contract with a publisher to determine their piece as “complete”. Other authors, myself included, have to pressure ourselves to make such a determination if we’re self-publishing our work. This is probably more important for self-publishing authors than for traditional ones because no one is around to tell us when we have to have the book done by. If we don’t determine an end point to our work, we’ll never publish it and publishing for us will always be a “someday it will happen”. So a great way to determine completion is by getting a select group of people to read your work before submitting it for publication. These readers can be your friends, a random audience (also known as beta readers) or a critique group. Then after the readers give you their comments, make the suggested revisions and then, as long as it sounds like it might be acceptable enough to your audience, submit it for publication.

I have a critique group I attend regularly and once they’ve critiqued my story, I’ll make the suggested revisions that were most common among the group, and then I’ll go back and consider the lesser common ones. After I make all revisions, I’ll do an additional reading or two to myself, and keep my readers in mind while doing so. If the story looks like it will convince my readers, and by that time in the final revision process it normally does, I’ll declare the story complete. However, for my collection of short stories, The Hidden, that’s coming up (hopefully by the end of the year) I’m going to add one more additional step and that’s releasing a beta version to certain readers. If anybody out there is interested in being a beta reader then let me know in the box below.

2    2) Write a story based on an illustration. Most people think that the script to a movie comes before the promo poster and they’re almost always right in thinking that. But interestingly enough, the director/screenwriter of 1986’s sci fi horror-comedy flick, Terror Vision, did it the other way around. He wrote the screenplay based on a poster that depicted a monster crawling out of a television set. A lot of authors of fiction will do this, especially ones who are visual artists too and make their own illustrations.

I myself have never written any of my fiction that way, although I wouldn’t mind trying it sometime. Normally I start with a plot idea: a “what if” situation such as “what if people played VR games via technological drugs?” That’s how I came up with my story, “Orbitville” which I included in The Fool’s Illusion. Then I find some starting point for that situation, which can be pretty tough. However, once I find it, I write according to what I think my protagonist will do in response to that situation and that’s when the story writing process becomes a journey for me.

But because it can be tough starting a concrete scene from a premise or an idea that is more abstract, writing based on an illustration may help. Just make sure you have the artist’s permission to use the subject matter of the picture in your story if you decide to publish it. If you develop the story from a movie’s promo poster or another author’s book cover or such, double check the synopsis of the movie or book to make sure your story doesn’t come too close in likeness to the plot and that it reflects your own work so you don’t risk committing plagiarism.

     3) Reference real life events. I found out about this one from horror author Josh Hancock who wrote the novel, The Girls ofOctober. The book is about a young woman so obsessed with John Carpenter’s Halloween that the events in her own life begin to resemble those of the movie, including murder. As far as references to real life go, the story’s overall theme already refers to an actual movie. But the author also includes passages from documents connected with the making of the film which in doing so makes the novel even more believable.

Edgar Allen Poe did something similar with his work by referencing both current events of his time and real life philosophers. But similarly to developing a story from an artist’s illustration, a person making reference to a real story, movie, TV series, etc., in his/her own fiction should make sure they have permission from the creator of the work they’re referencing, unless that work is in the public domain.

Have you tried any of the above tips for your own fiction? If so, did they improve your stories? Leave your answers in the box below. 

Until next time. . .

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sweepstakes Winner and Possible Return of a Sci Fi Pulp Magazine

I hope everybody had a far out Halloween! I know I did. It started with a trip to Empire Comics Vault in Sacramento where they had a Halloween mini con and a big sale to go with the occasion. Unfortunately, I got there too late for the con, which only lasted until 3 PM. But the sale was still going, including the free comics they were giving away which I definitely took advantage of both yet without going much over five dollars. In the evening I attended a family Halloween party and then came home and watched Dr. Terror’s House of Horror, starring Christopher Lee, on a VHS tape I bought at a con several years ago. And, of course, not long after the clock struck the witching hour, I looked up the winner of the sweepstakes who was selected by good ol’ Rafflecopter.

And the Winner Is . . .

. . . Alex Cavanaugh! I, again, congratulate Alex. He receives a book package consisting of novels The Queen of Darkness by Miguel Conner and Blood Moon by M.R. Sellars, plus a signed copy of The Fool’s Illusion  by yours truly. I’d like to once again thank Alex for his participation, and I thank everybody else who participated in the sweepstakes. I hope all of you will participate in future giveaways here at the Fantastic Site.

Possible Relaunch of a Classic SF Mag

You may have heard all over sci fi news that Bryan Fuller, executive producer of TV’s Hannibal, plans to relaunch the 1980s Amazing Stories TV series. Well, even greater news is for fans of the original magazine and other pulp fiction publications of the early half of the 20th century: Amazing Stories trademark owner Steve Davidson was moved by those plans so much that he intends to relaunch the magazine both in print and digital! Check out more details about this potential relaunch in my article at Examiner.com. 

"Amazing Stories" magazine cover depicting a huge, spherical space craft hovering over an alien landscape.
Photo Credit: Experimenter Publishing/Wikimedia Commons

Science fiction as the genre we know it today started with the Amazing Stories magazine back in the 1920s and some of the greatest writers established their literary careers writing for it, including Hugo Gernsback who founded and served as editor of the publication. The magazine helped bring in the pulp era of fiction which included a huge flourishing of sci fi literature (including comics), movies, radio and eventually TV shows. It is this era of science fiction, often known as the golden era of the genre, why many of us here in the U.S. read and write speculative fiction today.

Next week I’d like to discuss some writing tips inspired by my attendance at Sinister Creature Con earlier last month.

Until then . . . 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween! The Sweepstakes Deadline is Extended!

Halloween slogan with jack-o-lantern for the letter O, a gravestone, pair of corpse hands rising from the ground and bats in background.

Happy Halloween, everybody! If there’s anything I like better than Halloween, it’s Halloween on a Saturday! Which means most of us don’t have to return to boring reality until moanday Monday. So I’ve decided to extend the Halloween sweepstakes to midnight tonight, PST. Therefore, once the clock strikes the witching hour this giveaway turns back into a carved pumpkin (and so is over). So enter your chance to win free books now! All you have to do is answer this question: What is your favorite book to read or movie to watch around Halloween?

You may leave your answers in the comments coffin below if you’d like. But whatever you do, you must leave them in the sweepstakes box above that in order for your entry to be acknowledged by Rafflecopter (where this giveaway generates from). Please see last week’s post for more important details on how to participate and for important terms and conditions.

Again, I hope everybody has a Happy and safe Halloween!

Until next time . . . 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Far Out Fantastic Halloween Sweepstakes 2015

A witch's hat with a broom behind it and a bat hovering above the two.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Update, October 31, 2015, 10:00 PM: Because the sweepstakes deadline has been extended (see below), the winner will not be announced until next weekend's blog post but he/she will be notified before that at the contact information they provided.

Update, October 30, 2015, 10:59 PM: The sweepstakes below has been extended to midnight, November 1 (PST)!

What do you get when you put witches’ brooms together with vampire hunters’ and witch hunters’ artillery? You get sweep stakes, or more like sweepstakes. That is, the Far Out Fantastic Halloween Sweepstakes that you can enter for a chance to win a big treat! No purchase necessary.

The treat: a three-book set consisting of a copy of the short fiction collection, The Fool’sIllusion, and two novels! This set approximately totals an original retail value of $33. All you need to do to enter is answer the question at the end of this post.

This giveaway begins at midnight on Tuesday October 27 and ends at midnight October 31, 2015 Pacific Standard Time.


Answer the question at the bottom of the post by using one of the two options provided in the giveaway box. For reasons of budgetary constraints on shipping and handling of the prize, participants must either reside or have a residential address in the continental U.S. Only 18 and older are allowed to enter. In order to avoid potential favoritism issues, family/relatives of contest sponsor (yours truly) are disqualified from participating.

Procedure for Selecting a Winner

The winner will be selected randomly and will be announced by 9 PM, Saturday October 31 PST here at the Far Out Fantastic Site. If it is discovered that the winner did not play by the above mentioned rules and/or conditions, an alternative winner may be selected and the prize will go to the alternative winner instead.

Use of Participants’ Information

Participants’ email and postal mailing addresses as well as other personal information will be used for purposes of selecting a winner and delivering the prize (to be delivered either by U.S. Postal Service or UPS); this information will not be sold or maliciously used. For more details about how your personal information is used, please visit Rafflecopter’s privacy section


Sweepstakes sponsor can assume no liability for loss or damages of prize in the mail that are beyond his control.

Good luck! And . . .

Until Halloween!

Question For Sweepstakes Entry: What is your favorite book to read or movie to watch around Halloween?

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

6 Pics from Sinister Creature Con

Sinister Creature Con was a blast. I was there most of the day. Even though it catered more to the cinematic special effects and make-up crowd, I found a lot of great inspiration and motivation for my own art, the art of words particularly. I want to share with you that inspiration and the tips that came from it but it’s been a long day, so tonight’s not the best time. I would do it next week but that’s when I want to give you a chance at winning a giveaway through a Halloween contest and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to fit both in that weekend, especially since I have a family gathering to go to that evening. So it will probably be either Halloween weekend or the weekend after. But I would like to share some photos* with you that I took at the con which you’ll find below. Most are of attendees who came in costume which theirs and many others’ were really out’a sight!

Two furries (or hairries?)

Three convention attendees in costume: Michael Jackson "Thriller" Werewolf, "Old Man" in a cloak, and a "Pimp".

Three cousins in costume, from left to right: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” Werewolf, Old Man in a Cloak (but my cousin underneath is nowhere near an old man; in fact, he just turned 21 this past summer!); and Pimp. People were really impressed with the Werewolf. Other attendees kept asking if they could take his photo. He even danced in a spontaneous act with his Michael Jackson “Thriller” zombie double! Sadly, I wasn’t with them at the time to snap a photo.

Convention attendee in Magenta maid costume from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Magenta the Maid, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Two costumed con attendees: Magenta the maid with glitter dressed Columbia from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Magenta with Columbia, from Rocky Horror.

Two con attendees in black and white striped costumes, one with ghoulish green paint on her face and holding a stuffed unicorn.
A couple of friendly ghoul girls I asked if I could snap a photo of.

Bookmark depicting the right top portion of a green face peering out of a blackened window.

And for those of you who were not able to make it, here’s the Hidden promo bookmark I distributed copies of at the swag table in the dealers’ room. As I said last week, I had to get it together fast using stock photos because I couldn’t make the book cover’s illustration that I wanted to base it off of in time. I wasn’t even sure if I would get this one done in time for the con, but I did. So Canva, the online photo-editing software I used to design the bookmark, worked out pretty good.

I did, however, have to leave a tiny flaw in the bookmark because I didn’t have time to fix it. Can you find it? If you do, point it out by telling me in the box below. For that matter, if you find any other flaws in it that I may have overlooked, please also point them out. It will help me do better on the next one.

Until next time . . .

* Photo credits: Steven Rose, Jr.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What's Happening in the Halloween Season

Halloween is one of my all-time favourite holidays and we're more than a week into the month of October. So your ghoulru has decided to conjure up this list of Halloween-related events happening now in the Sacramento area where he is broadcasting this blog from. I know many of you are not from here, but I have a couple links that might be of use to you that may direct you to some special Halloween events near you.

A list of Halloween Events 

Sacramento Horror Film Festival, Oct. 9 – 11: Yes, that's right. This festival of fearful films by indie directors is going on right now! It was started back in 2007 and has been going since. It shows both feature and short films.

Sacramento Area Authors talk about their post-apocalypticnovel, Oct. 16: Authors Louis Grivetti and Sargent Reynolds talk about their latest novel, The Cave, set in a post-apocalyptic future, at The Avid Reader bookstore in Davis. But no zombies in this one (unless they make a surprise appearance; yours truly can't say since he hasn't read it yet.) But there's something even scarier in it than the living dead: a much more plausible apocalyptic event and so one that can more likely happen. You can find out more about it in the article I wrote for Examiner.com.

Sinister Creature Con, Oct. 17 and 18: This con emphasises cinematic makeup and special effects artists of horror films, but it will feature other kinds of artists too. These include the cast and crew from several movies such as actress Nell Campbell from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, actor Gerrit Graham from the cult classics Phantom of the Paradise and TerrorVision, actress Judith O'Dea from the original Night of the Living Dead and John Russo who co-wrote the screenplay, and actor Miko Hughes of Stephen King's Pet Cemetary. Other creative pros who are scheduled to be there are Josh Hancock, author of the meta horror novel, The Girls of October; Comic book horror-parody artist Paul Allen; and Industrial Light and Magic's Fon Davis. There will also be plenty of dark and weird merchandise for sale. 

I'll be at this one on Saturday, hopefully with some swag which I have not even had time to put together yet. I meant to do my own illustration based on my cover for The Hidden to base my book marks and post cards off of. However, I have not gotten that far yet since I've been busy with clients' projects and with the book’s stories themselves. So I'm thinking about doing a stock photo-based version of the swag using Canva.com’s software and hope to have them available for Sinister. If I can crank these out on time I’ll either have them on hand or at a swag table, so look out for me there and please feel free to say “hi” if you see me!

Empire's Comics Vault Halloween Comics Fest and Mini Con, Oct. 31: There will be plenty of free Halloween themed comics for both kids' and adults' trick-or-treat bags! But there will also be horror/monster comic book creators selling signed copies of their work, a pumpkin carving contest and a costume contest.

For Our Far Out Neighbours . . .

And for those of you not in the area, below are two links to lists of Halloween/horror events throughout the nation. For those of you outside the U.S.: sorry, I haven't been able to find anything referring to events in your areas, since Halloween is mostly a North American, U.K. and Irish holiday (but I'm not familiar with the sources of these last two). Try doing a Google search using the phrase "horror conventions near me”. To tell you the truth, I'm not even familiar with the sources below that much, so please contact the facilitators of these events before making a trip.

http://www.fearshop.com/podcast/2015-horror-conventions.asp This one is a calendar for the entire year, so for October events you need to scroll down towards the bottom.

Preview of Coming Attractions

Next time I'd like to talk about one of the two movies Gerrit Graham (mentioned above) played in, Phantom of the Paradise. I've been fascinated with this movie for a long time, as much as it freaked me out (partly because I was too young to get the satire) when I first saw it when I was 14. I think I said I would also discuss childhood bullies and horror fiction, and I may have a Halloween treat tale for you at the end of the month. So join me here next week to find out more!

Is there any great Halloween events you know of that didn’t make it on the above list? If so, list them in the box below, especially if they’re outside Sacramento!

Until then . . .

A doll dressed in a Mexican Day of the Dead costume.
My auntie put a Day of the Dead costume on this "Barbie" doll . . . permanently!
Photo Credit: Yolanda Cota

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Giveaway and Keeping Up with the Science Behind Sci Fi

A Change In Offerings

I got so tired of waiting for Amazon to reflect the reduced price for the hardcopy of Fool's Illusion that I decided to change the 2nd Anniversary offer to an ebook giveaway. So between now and 11:59 PM Tuesday the 3rd of October you can download a free digital copy of The Fool'sIllusion. You do not need a Kindle device to download or read. If you click on the link that says “Read On Any Device” at the book’s Amazon page, you can download a free app that allows you to read the book on your desktop, laptop or any handheld device the app supports.

 A Change In Topics: Sci Fact In Sci Fi

Diagram of a table holding a meter device at each end with a disk tethered to each.
Photo Credit: PDClipart.org


Last week I said that I might discuss my options for publishing my upcoming book, The Hidden. However, I decided to switch topics and discuss science fact in science fiction, which I kind of went over last time, particularly in relation to the story I'm presently working on. But I thought I would go into a little more detail about it because I came across a neat article on The Washington Post's website that talks about fact-checking in light of Ridley Scott’s new movie that just premiered in theatres yesterday--The Martian. The movie is based on author Andy Weir’s book of the same name.

The article, “Fact-Checking the Science of ‘The Martian’”, discusses the accuracies as well as inaccuracies of the science in the movie. The article's author, Rachel Feltman, presents a trailer that points out these hits and misses. This is very clever and helpful. The only problem is you can’t judge a movie’s level of factual accuracy by just a few scenes shown in a trailer. A critic would have to see the whole movie to do that . . .  uhem . . . accurately enough. But what can a person do when they’re writing about the movie before it's in theatres which I believe might’ve been Feltman’s case?

Aside from that, she gives a good analysis of those scenes shown in the trailer. While she says that “a lot of the science . . . in the film is accurate”, she discusses a few flaws. This includes the reason that the protagonist (played by Matt Damon), who is stranded on the red planet, creates his own water from a “chemical reaction” he produces. She says that, while the method is realistically done, the purpose is not since, as the world discovered only earlier this week, there is liquid water on Mars that can more easily be extracted. However, this inaccuracy that is in the implication that liquid water is inaccessible in Martian geography, was inevitable because of the timing of producing the film. Therefore it can't be blamed on the writers or producers.

This improbability of a tedious method of creating water, however, is an example of how quickly science fiction can become “outdated”. I put “outdated” in quotes because, as I talked about in an earlier post, science fiction in certain respects doesn’t really become outdated. However, with technology advancing faster each day and enabling science to come up with more efficient methods of research and study, we sci fi writers have to keep up with the trends more than we did two or three decades ago.

Keeping Up With the Trends

So how can we science fiction writers do this? Harlan Ellison once said he keeps up with the trends by reading Scientific American which I've read myself both in print and digital. This was as much as 10 years ago though, when the trends did not move as quickly as they do now (and they're going to move even faster yet!). As much as I prefer print material over digital, my suggestion is to keep up with them online since many of these magazines and journals on the web post new stories every day. Here's a few of the ones I read:

·       Space.com
·       NASA.gov 
·       NationalGeographic.com
·       ScienceDaily.com (The name tells you how fast the news in science comes in this one!)
·       Wired.com
·       Techcrunch.com

And a great source that I just found out about today is science fiction writer/genetic research scientist Dan Koboldt's Science In Sci Fi, Fact In Fantasy.  This is a fantastic one to read over even if you just want to learn which stories contain accurate science. I strongly suggest you check it out.

Preview of Coming Attractions

We're now in the Halloween season, one of my favourite seasons of the year! So starting next week, I plan to discuss horror authors, one in particular whose stories are inspired by her experiences as a victim of childhood bullies. Also I'll talk a little about the upcoming horror con, a premiere here in Sacramento, Sinister Con.

So until then . . .

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Three concaved, pyramids stand in an alien desert with a starry background.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Doalex

I apologize for Amazon not yet putting The Fool’s Illusion at its reduced price that I talked about in the special FI anniversary post earlier this week. If you missed that one, go check it out to read more about that fantastic deal in celebration of FI’s 2nd year anniversary. Amazon seems to take long with its price changes, something that we indie authors have no control over since we only price our books through them (besides publishing through their self-publishing services) and don’t display the price in the online store itself. Again, I will update you here (at the Fantastic Site ) once I find out the reduced price is displayed and therefore when the book is actually selling at that price. Because it’s hard to say when that will be, I can’t tell you at this point when I will post notice of that. So you don’t miss out on this limited offer, subscribe to the blog in the form below on the right-hand side or follow it by email.

It’s not only FI’s  anniversary but also an aunt and uncle’s wedding anniversary that the family celebrated today. I just got back and so because it’s already late I’ll have to keep this post short. I apologise. It’s been so busy of a day that I didn’t even get around to continue revising my short story that I’m currently working on. I’m in the middle of working the character development into the story which is a hell of a lot harder than it first seems. I’m trying to show the protagonist’s motivation while trying not to tell it so much or simply show it in his thoughts, but to show it through his actions and interaction with the other characters.

This story is particularly harder than most of my other ones because it takes place on an alien planet that’s geographical elements are different than Earth’s and so it’s because of this is why the crew in the story get marooned there. I’m not a scientist as much as I love reading about science. So I have the deeper research I have to do when it comes to science fiction like the one I’m now writing.
Next time (in our regular weekend post) I might talk about my publishing plans for my new short fiction collection, The Hidden

How much scientific accuracy do you expect when you read or watch science fiction? Let me know in the box below.

Until next time . . .

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Fool’s Illusion’s 2nd Anniversary

A ghoulish jester holds a blood-stained chain saw while a young woman looks on from inside a coffin.
Photo Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.

Well, today did not only mark the last official day of summer but it also marked the 2nd Anniversary of The Fool’s Illusion! As I said in my last post, I would have a special offer for you to celebrate the occasion. Well, there’s both good news and bad. The good news is that the special offer is a $4 price reduction of the print copy at Amazon! Therefore the regular price is $12.99 but, for a limited time, I’m making the book available for only $8.99! The bad news is that I set the reduced price only yesterday and didn’t realise until after that Amazon takes three to five business days to put the reduced price into effect. The price reduction should be in effect by this Saturday. I’ll notify you here as soon as I find out. The best way to keep updated on it is to subscribe to my blog which you can do on the form towards the bottom of the right-hand side sidebar. Or you can keep checking The Fool’s Illusion’s page at Amazon throughout the week. 

I apologise for the delay. For now let’s just wish The Fool’s Illusion a Happy Birthday!