Sunday, February 28, 2016

My Upcoming Book: “Circa Sixty Years Dead” Will Have 2 Covers

If you’re like me and love highly imaginative art, you probably enjoy the hand-painted  sci fi and fantasy book cover art of the 1980s and back. As a pre-reading ritual, you may stare several seconds, or maybe even minutes, at the beautiful art on the cover of that paperback you picked up at a used book store. And it’s nothing to be embarrassed about because the illustration is part of the art of the book as a whole. It served a commercial function which was to draw in customers to buy the book, but if it was made by a great artist such as Frank Frazetta or Boris Vallejo, it has an aesthetic appeal too. It makes you think about the world the story takes place in before you start reading it. It makes you want to explore that world on the other side of the front cover, just like with a carnival haunted house’s (or dark ride’s) front with its mural of monsters. Those books are from a time when individual artists did illustrations for book covers and whose work was distinct. You could tell a Frazetta book cover from a Vallejo one, a Vallejo one from a Dillon one and vice versa.

The exterior of a dark ride at a carnival.
The illustration on a speculative fiction book cover is a lot like the front exterior of a dark ride in a carnival midway: It gives you an idea of what you'll meet inside.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Sadly, those days are over. As I’m sure you know, there has been a rise of the photographic book cover. Except for a small percentage, these covers tend not to be very distinct in their styles. This takeover is both due to society’s obsession with the Hollywood blockbuster and the convenience of today’s digital technology, especially Photoshop-like software. Not only do readers want a photographic cover because of their inclination towards television and internet video realism so exemplary in reality TV, but publishers and self-publishers want to give them it because it’s easier and cheaper to make.

But there’s a small niche of us who still have an appreciation for and an attraction to hand-produced book cover illustrations. Rather than wanting to see what is mostly a photographic reproduction of the real world, that niche wants to see the artist’s world as much as the writer’s the art depicts on the cover. However, we all have our preferences and so I want to be fair to everyone. So I’m releasing my short-read book, “Circa Sixty Years Dead”, in two editions: a hand-produced cover illustration edition and a photographic cover illustration edition.

I’d like to discuss the aesthetic value of hand-illustrated book cover art some more, but I don’t have the time to do it now. I still have my manuscript to put together, let alone the cover. These are on top of my other writing projects. But here’s a link to an article that discusses the topic in really good detail: “The Decline and Fall of the Book Cover”, Tim Kreider.

Right now, I want to make sure you know about a special offer I’m making for you: upon its release I’m giving away copies of the hand illustrated cover edition of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” for free. However, I’m only doing it for one day. I said last time that I would be releasing the book at the beginning of next month. However, I want to give you a chance to comment on the cover and so will have a cover reveal first. So I’m moving the release to the middle of the month although I’m not sure to what day yet. But you can be the first to know by subscribing to my blog on the subscription form towards the bottom of the side bar to the right.

Next week I’ll have a book cover concept sketch for you to give me your comments on then after that the reveal of the final, hand-produced, illustration. By then (two weeks from today) I should have the precise release date of the book and maybe the date for the photograph cover edition as well.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, February 21, 2016

How RPGs Can Improve Your Fiction Writing

Three numbered RPG dice and a score pad.
Photo Credit:

Certain aspects of the creation process in writing fiction can be overwhelming. For me those aspects are character development and, although to a lesser extent, world-building. Just think about it: you have so many levels to take care of in building a single character especially if it’s the protagonist or main character. Sometimes you feel like you have to be God just to make your characters and worlds believable. And being the Supreme Being is just a little impossible. As a writer, you not only have your character’s superficial characteristics such as physical features and speech mannerisms to take care of but also their psychological ones: the ways they think and perceive things, in many cases ways of thinking they do not directly express to the other characters but may still be essential to the story. 

Although creating character profiles is relatively easy, if you’re like me you might find it difficult to apply them to the story without making the characters seem stilted. But author Terry Ervin II explains how to take care of these problems. The solution? Play role playing games (RPGs).

In his article, “How Role Playing Games Can Enhance Your Writing Career” Ervin shows how to overcome the obstacles of character development and world-building by explaining the similarities between playing RPGs and writing fiction. He says that playing different characters in various settings in an RPG can help you understand the motivations and qualities of those characters. He explains how taking on the role of a character such as a wizard or secret agent helps the player understand the development of that character and how it’s influenced by the adventurous situations of the game. In turn, the character’s development evolves the game’s storyline

Ervin further compares the game moderator, also known as the game master (GM), to a fiction writer, explaining that the GM is in charge of both the “non player characters” as well as developing the world that the game is set in. I strongly recommend reading Ervin’s article if you have trouble developing your story’s characters or setting. 

My Upcoming Short Story

I said last week that I would have more news about my short story that I will be releasing in (mini) book format. It’s called “Circa Sixty Years Dead” and is about a young archeologist who encounters an unusual experience in an excavated temple. What is that experience? I won’t tell you now so as not to create a spoiler. But I will tell you that it is not a mummy’s curse, so you can forget that old trope. I’ll be releasing it in e-format for sure and possibly print by the beginning of next month. I’ll continue keeping you updated on it. To receive updates fastest, subscribe to my blog in the form near the bottom of the right sidebar.

I’ll leave you with this question: Do you think playing RPGs will help your fiction writing? Feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .

For Further Reading: 

This illustrated guide to writing fantasy by Jeff VanderMeer also features articles by some big name writers such as George R.R. Martin, Michael Moorcock and, one of my favourites, Neil Gaiman! 

For Further (RPG) Playing:

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Genre Fiction Trends: Mixed Horror and Crime Fiction

Glowing fingerprint and crime scene yellow tape
Photo Credit:

For the last 10 years, mainstream readers have been taking both speculative and other types of genre fiction seriously. But they’ve also been more accepting of mixed genre fiction. The reasons for that may be many, including the popularity of mixed genre movies and TV shows such as Twilight and The Vampire Diaries both of which are romance and horror (better known as paranormal romance) and themselves originating as book series. One reason for it is that writers want to create original stories but this has become hard to do within a single genre. Author JeffSummers says, “It’s getting harder and harder to find something surprising in the usual convention of genres. But [by] mixing genres together . . . every now and then you get something explosive and beautiful.” For the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of science fiction mixing with fantasy and horror mixing with epic fantasy. But the latest trend has been the mixing of horror fiction and crime fiction.

What I’ve Read In This Mixed Genre

If you look at Amazon, you’ll see that many of the top books in horror are ones involving a detective-type protagonist. Although some of these horror-crime fiction stories are turning into old tropes, there are some good ones out there. I’ll show you what the top three in Amazon’s horror category are in a moment, but first I’d like to show you two of the ones that I’ve read and found to be really good. The first is Blood Moon: A Rowan Gant Investigation (The Rowan Gant Investigations Book 9) by M.R. Sellars. It involves the protagonist, Rowan, who is a consultant for the police department and happens to be a warlock. He has the ability to hear the voices of murdered victims. But his extraordinary gift is more a curse than a blessing to him and so he struggles with both it and the police force that demands his use of it.

The second book is by horror author Charles Stross, called The Fuller Memorandum (A Laundry Files Novel). It’s particularly an espionage-horror novel about an agent who goes after the occult and the supernatural evil they conjure up. This is my favorite of the two not only because I like espionage but also because the main character is not as pitiful as the main character of Blood Moon is made to come across as. However, it gets very brutal towards the end. But the storyline is great and the characters, although not as likeable as they could be, move the plot along good.

Amazon’s Top 3 Horror-Crime Fiction Novels

Now for what’s at the top of Amazon’s List for horror (as of the writing of this article):

Ghost Gifts, Laura Spinella: This is like Blood Moon, in that the main character, Aubrey Ellis, also has the ability to communicate with the dead yet does not want to do so but is forced into it in order to solve a murder case. Only in this novel, she’s not so much a consultant for the police force than a writer for the real estate section of a newspaper who assists an investigative reporter with the case.

Joyland, Stephen King: This one was specifically made for the publishing imprint, Hard Case Crime. It’s a murder mystery that revolves around an amusement park’s fun house haunted by the ghost of a woman who was killed in it.

Harmony Black, Craig Shaefer: Book 1 of the Harmony Black series, it was released only at the beginning of the month and the title seems to be ringing throughout Amazon. The story involves the book’s title character who is an FBI agent and a witch. The criminal she and her team of agents must go after is, no kidding, the Bogeyman. It gets personal with her. How can it not? The Bogeyman “destroyed Harmony’s childhood.” 

You can purchase any of the above books at Amazon. Just click on their links or images above.

Where I’m at with My Fiction

I finally started revising one of my other short stories, and am on my final proofread of my one that I talked about a couple posts ago. I’m getting ready to work on the cover art for a short story that I’m going to publish in its own book format through Kindle Direct for sure and maybe even in print for those who are like myself and won’t even touch an e-reader. By the time I complete the illustration and get the story into its book form it will probably be released at the end of the month or the beginning of next. I’ll keep you updated on that next week.

Until then . . . 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

New Pop Culture Blog now Live and Museum Launches Sci Fi Journal

A spacecraft hovers over a few people in a desert landscape.
Photo Credit: Mike Winklemann/Museum of Science Fiction

I just launched my new pop culture blog, The Super Freek. There I’ll discuss everything in geeky (and freaky) pop culture, except reading and writing fiction. Since these last two I post about here regularly, I’m trying to focus the new blog on other forms of pop culture such as movies, TV, pop music, video games and computer technology.

Other news: last week the Museum of Science Fiction in Washington D.C. launched its Journal of Science Fiction. This publication consists of well-researched articles about the genre rather than just your typical quick review of a movie or book. It examines how the genre influences society and vice versa. And the great thing about it is that you can download the premiere issue for free! To find out how to do that, check out my article about it at

It’s been a long day preparing and launching the new blog and I’m not even finished with it yet. I still have plenty of illustrations and widgets to add, so I’ll be working on doing that throughout the week. So I’m cutting this post short. I’ll be returning to my fiction writing that I put on hiatus for almost the whole week. So next post I’ll have a better idea of when I’ll be releasing my next short story and perhaps I’ll have a little more of an update on The Hidden, too.

Until then . . .  

Haven't had time to read Andy Weir's New York Times best-seller, The Martian? Consider purchasing it on audio at Amazon! Click on the image below for easiest access.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Change of Publishing Plans, New Blog and Avoiding Old Sci fi Tropes

Three aliens gathered under a flying saucer.
Photo Credit:

The problem with writing science fiction today is keeping up with the increasing speed that technology advances at. Unlike those eras before internet, technology was not as quickly advancing and so it was easier to keep up with it to reflect future technology in writing speculative fiction. But now that much of computer technology is becoming more complex it is able to develop at faster rates and it will develop at even faster ones yet. Because of that, many authors are concerned that it’s harder to write new sci fi without getting stuck with old tropes and so I’m going to talk about that but first I want to bring to light some slight changes in my own current work.

Changes in Publishing Plans and a New Blog

I’m slightly postponing the publishing of The Hidden so I can first publish some of its stories individually. Therefore I’m taking a few of the stories that I planned to include in my second short fiction collection and will self-publish each as its own book. I’m doing this because The Hidden, which I’ve been planning for almost a year now, is turning out to be a bigger hurdle than I originally thought. As much as I’ve self-published a book before, and so am familiar with the process, some of the stories are taking me longer to edit and revise for various reasons and I want to make some available to readers so they don’t have to wait until the whole collection is out which I’m not sure when that will be. I’ll definitely keep you updated where I am with The Hidden each time I make progress. In the meantime, the first story will be out as its own book probably by the end of February. I’ll definitely keep you updated on that as well.

Other news: I’ll be launching a new blog in addition to A Far Out Fantastic Site. The new blog will focus on everything pop culture outside fiction writing and reading. It will feature articles about movies, TV, gadgets, animation, music, video games, etc. Because my area of expertise in pop culture is science fiction and fantasy, the blog will lean towards those genres but will not be limited to them. I want more flexibility to discuss topics that wouldn’t serve the majority of readers here. So I want to be fair to those readers who are more into writing and reading speculative fiction while yet provide an avenue for those who are into other media of the genre.

Avoiding Getting Stuck With Old Tropes in Writing Your Science Fiction’s Charlie Jane Anders, just published her first novel for adults, entitled All the Birds In the Sky, and it is already getting great acclaim. She talks about in her article what she learned in writing the mixed sci fi and fantasy novel. She says that the challenge of writing sci fi today is avoiding old literary tropes and rewriting them to create new stories. However, she says this challenge is a good thing because it forces writers to look for new ideas and find new approaches to old sci fi tropes. She says that this type of challenge comes from TV that reiterates old science fiction themes. Anders talks about the apocalyptic theme used in a lot of speculative fiction through the years especially in books. She admits that her book contains an apocalyptic scene. However, she also says that, unlike most apocalyptic fiction authors today, she puts an optimistic spin on the apocalypse in her novel by showing the potential for a resolution.

This reminds me of a story that I’ve been grinding away at in its revision process but am now finally completing. In this story, the old tropes are gargantuan alien monsters and zombies both of which attack people. The twist: they don’t go anywhere; they don’t move an inch. Yet they will kill people. This may sound like a science fiction version of an Eastern koan, and maybe it is, for now at least. If you want to solve the logic of that “koan”, you’re welcome to do so; just let me know your answer in the box below. But if you want me to give you the answer, you’ll have to wait until I publish the story which I’m not sure when that will be and whether it will be one of the stories that I’m putting in its own book or that I’m waiting to include in The Hidden.

But, you might be asking, isn't rewriting an old trope to make a new one just rehashing an older story? Not really, because we all bring our own experiences to the stories we tell. In doing so we add elements from our own lives, our own unique ways of thinking and perceiving the world; we are creating a new story in the process. Plus, the world is always changing. Society changes, new issues come up all the time. And, as far as science fiction goes, new discoveries and advancements in science and technology are being made more now than ever. These are opportunities for new stories regardless of the literary tropes used in them. Anders talks about this plenty in her article so I suggest you take a look at it. 

I might have a new article at in the sci fi “column” by the end of the week; I’ll let you know in the next post. I’ll also let you know when my new blog launches. It might be ready to go by the end of the week, too. Also, I'll have more about The Hidden and my upcoming short story that you’ll be able to purchase at Amazon. To stay updated, subscribe to my blog in the box to the right that says “Subscribe to this blog!”

By the way, you can purchase Charlie’s novel, All the Birds In the Sky, at Amazon. Just click on the image below to get there! 

Until next time . . .