Sunday, June 30, 2013

Perfect Polly for a pet. Really?

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I just saw this commercial on the television. It caught my attention as the television was on in the background as I was working on my novel. I guess that's a plus for those marketing the Perfect Polly.



Really? This looks and moves and acts like a real parakeet. You'll hold it on your finger, pet it with the back of a finger, and smile in joy and amazement? All for 2 for $14.95 + S&H.

Compared to this?



Right. I had a parakeet when I was a kid (named Tommy). He never talked or was they type to hang out on my finger (I was probably 5 or 6 when I first got him). My job was to check on his food and water and make sure the cover went over his cage before I went to bed. Later, I fed and watered him, and changed his tray. (What will folks do with parakeets and no newspapers?). I also pondered what the most interesting position of his sticks across the cage would be.

If my mom and dad would've said, Here, have a Perfect Polly instead," I would've been severely disappointed.

Okay, back to novel writing.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My 'Underground' Hobby

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I was briefly interviewed over at Cher Green's blog, Footsteps of a Writer, where several authors discussed their hobbies.

Click on over and see what I, and a few other authors, had to say. Maybe you already know for me...but then again, maybe not.

Link: Voices of Fiction -- Hobbies -- part 3
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Monday, June 24, 2013

An Interview with Author Antonio del Drago

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Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Antonio. Please, take a moment to tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Antonio del Drago, and I'm obsessed with mythology and storytelling.

I work as a professional academic, and have spent a lot of time studying religious and philosophical traditions. One of my greatest interests is how humans use stories to convey deeper layers of meaning, and to tap into what Jung calls the "collective unconscious."

A couple of years ago I started an online writing community called Mythic Scribes, and it has helped me to connect with a lot of awesome writers... including yourself, Terry.

Yes, Mythic Scribes is a neat place to meet readers and writers, discuss fantasy, and learn a bit here and there about writing.

Is there a particular set mythology that you find most interesting, Greek, Norse, Egyptian, Celtic, or something else? Also, is there a particular author, novel and/or series that you’ve particularly enjoyed due to its incorporating of mythology?

As of late, I've been fascinated by Jewish mythology and mysticism. My current work in progress, which is an epic fantasy, draws heavily from that tradition.

When it comes to incorporating mythology into literature, no one does it better than Tolkien. He is the master.

I agree. JRR Tolkien set the bar very high in that regard.

Can you tell us a little more about your work in progress?

The best way to describe it is as a "dark fairytale," with several layers of wonder and mystery. My original working title was Shades of Silvertree, but the sudden popularity of another book with "shades" in the title has caused me to rethink that.

The tale that I'm telling is, at its very heart, a romance. It's a tragic, doomed romance. But there's a glimmer of hope to the story as well, with the possibility that things will work out in the end. Magic is secondary to the love story, but it plays an important part as well.

I finished an initial draft of this novel over two years ago, and it was a big, sprawling epic. But the story was too large, to the point of feeling impersonal. What I'm working on now is paring the story down to its essence, keeping it simple and heartfelt. Part of this process is me rewriting it in the first person, which is making a huge difference.

Some of what you described above is the writing process, at least as it applies to you. The writing process is often interesting to both writers and readers. With that in mind, you published a book titled, TheMythic Guide to Characters. Could you tell us about the book, and who you consider the target audience?

It's an approach to writing characters that is based on the concept of "layers."

I'm fascinated with how we, as people, are driven by our unconscious minds. So much of what we do is decided unconsciously. When I apply this principle to my characters, I find it to be a great way to create three-dimensional characters that readers can connect with.

In The Mythic Guide to Characters, I take writers through this character creation process, beginning with the deepest layer - the unconscious mind - and working outwards towards attributes such as social status, appearance, and use of language. The book also explores the concept of archetypes, and shows how to use them in original and creative ways.

The intended audience is fiction writers of all genres. I tried to make the book accessible to all experience levels, and have included a detailed worksheet that walks writers through the process of character development.

A little off-beat question: What is one of the most fascinating or memorable places you’ve visited and why would you classify it as such?

I'm involved with an organization called The Society for Creative Anachronism. It's a group of individuals who study and recreate the medieval period, including historical fencing.

A few years back I was invited to fence at the home of one of the members, who lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh.

To my amazement, this guy's house was literally a castle. He had spent time in Europe studying historical castles, and then designed and built his very own. This place was huge, and absolutely incredible.

There was a drawbridge, battlements, a great hall, and the whole works. He took me to the castle library, which was located in a tower, and then moved one of the bookshelves to reveal a secret passage.

What I especially appreciated, though, was that he didn't build this amazing place just for himself. He regularly hosts historical-themed events there, and uses it for the betterment of the greater community.

That sounds like a great place to visit, Antonio.

How do you feel about novels being made into films? Is there a novel or series that you’d like to see on the big screen?

Some people get upset when their favorite novel is made into a film. Based on this reaction, it's as if the film is somehow wiping away the memory of the book. But it's not.

A film based on a novel is not meant to be a replacement. It's a different interpretation of the story, intended for a different medium. And yes, things will have to be changed to make this reinterpretation successful. I have no problem with that.

I'm a huge fan of Peter Jackson's Middle Earth movies. While he made some changes to make the transition to film successful, I think that most of them worked well for the movies. I can't wait to see what he does with the next two Hobbit films.

As for a novel that I would love to see filmed, I will have to go with The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett. It tells the story of a world where dancing demons rise from the earth at night, forcing people to take shelter behind wards. It has awesome cinematic potential.

For Shades of Silvertree, your current work in progress, do you have a particular audience in mind, or a particular individual in mind, when you sit down to plan and/or write?

My goal is to write something that I myself would get excited about as a reader. I remember how I felt when I first read The Hobbit, the sense of awe and wonder. I felt a connection with a hidden, mystical world. I'm trying to recapture those feelings.

If you had the opportunity to have dinner with any three individuals, alive or deceased, who would they be and why, what would you hope to discuss, and where would you like to dine?

I'd have dinner with J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Carl Jung at a Japanese steakhouse, and would discuss the importance of myth in storytelling.

Although there may not be a perfect match, which character in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy do you feel you have the most in common with? Why would you say this? Has this pairing changed over the years, or do you anticipate that it might?
 
I've always felt a connection with Bilbo. He appreciates a well-stocked pantry, and is reluctant to leave the comforts of home behind. Yet he's also a storyteller, writer, and a lore-keeper of sorts.  That's me.

I'd like to become more like Gandalf in the future. He has the wisdom, perseverance, and ass-kicking skills that I hope to acquire with age. He also has a magnificent beard.

Those choices and goals make sense to me, Antonio.

We’re closing in on the end of the interview. Is there anything you’d like to mention or add?

No, I think that you did a great job of covering a lot of territory.

Great, Antonio. I appreciate the time you took to participate in this interview.
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Friday, June 21, 2013

2nd Interview with Author, Musician and Budding Artist, Stephen Hines

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For regular visitors of Up Around the Corner, you might recall our first interview with Stephen Hines back in March of 2012. As it has proven a commonly visited interview, I’ve invited him back to discuss what he’s been up to over the last year.

Welcome, Stephen. Please, take a moment to tell, or remind, us a little about yourself.

Thanks so much for having me back, Terry!

I’m a pasty white high school English teacher from Ohio who dabbles in writing (and sometimes illustrating) comic books for ages fourteen and up. Two of my newest four comics have been for mature readers, due to controversial content. I’ve also published a YA novel for junior high kids and I’m currently writing a memoir that will be for an adult audience.

From teen comics to an adult-audience memoir, that’s quite a spread. Are your reading interests as varied? What are some of the novels, books, or comics you’ve recently read? What inspired you/how did you come to read them?

Haha! Thanks! Variety is indeed the spice of life. I enjoy reading anything that catches my eye. If the material is well-written I’ll stick with it. The only genre I never read is horror, but that’s just because I’m a wimp when it comes to scary stuff. If it freaks me out then my imagination won’t let go of it, and that’s never pretty.

The last novel I read was Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I was inspired to read that by a former student who knows I love dystopian science fiction.

Other than that I’ve been locked in on reading all of Garth Ennis’ Preacher graphic novels. I picked up the first book because I’d read other stuff by Ennis. The Preacher series is so addicting (due to its edgy content, genius characterization, and demented humor) that I’ve been ignoring everything else until I’m done. I have one or two chapters in the final volume and I’m dreading turning that final page.

Freaked out imagination that won’t let go and dreading. Never good.

Taking another tack with dread and imagination, what’s one thing about writing/being an author that you tend to dread? What’s one notion or idea that your imagination hasn’t been able to let go of (related to writing or otherwise)?

Hmm…well, I used to dread editing but now I love it (since it’s another chance to add a layer of paint to the picture, so to speak) but now I’d have to say designing book cover layouts. I’m not the most Adobe Illustrator savvy person on the block, to say the least, so it takes up entirely too much time and induces many headaches. But, I’m improving at glacier-like speeds so maybe someday, right when the new version of the software’s released, I’ll halfway know what I’m doing. :)

A notion my imagination hasn’t been able to let go of? Wow! That’s an excellent question. The main thing that comes to mind is a fear of death, especially when it comes to losing a loved one. Whenever a close friend or relative dies, the grief really overwhelms me and even permeates my subconscious mind. For example, two months ago we had to put our oldest cat-daughter, C.D., down. We’d known that her cancer was back for three and a half years, but she wasn’t in any noticeable discomfort on most days. Suddenly, on a Friday night, we discovered that her tumor had burst. To make a long story short, we had to take her to the vet, who told us that the only humane choice was death.

Quite often, just as has happened after losing human loved ones, C.D. shows up in my dreams at night. It’s obviously my subconscious mind working through the loss, but I hope she continues these cameos and starring roles at night so I can keep seeing her.

Losing a loved pet is never easy, nor is losing a friend or relative, that’s for sure.

On a hopefully brighter note, could you tell is a little about your most recent release?


Very true, Terry. Very true.

My newest release is the first in a three issue miniseries called Zombie Fabulous! I wrote the script and enlisted the artistic genius of a gentleman named Aaron Lindeman for the rest.

Issue one follows the story of a drag queen/Cher impersonator who is brutally murdered. Cher comes back as a zombie and, along with struggling valiantly with her overwhelming desire to still look fabulous (which is quite difficult as a decaying, undead creature), she’s also developed a taste for BRAINS!

Aaron Lindeman and I are very proud of how this book came together because it’s no easy read. There’s barely any narration or dialogue and the art is quite subtle and a bit abstract, so there will be no passive reading for anyone who picks it up.

Zombie Fabulous isn’t your first foray into graphic novels. Can you tell us a little bit about your other works?

Honestly, I haven’t published a graphic novel yet, but my series Valedictorian USA (illustrated by the amazing Daniel Salcido) will eventually be collected into one. Val USA is an over-the-top satire about nine high school students who are all competing on a reality TV show to become America’s first national valedictorian. Of course, the cast of teens was carefully chosen (and carefully coached by the producers) in order to maximize the drama.

In the future I’m planning on printing a short graphic novel that collects my old web comic: Clyde the Redneck. That goofy comic strip (written and poorly illustrated by yours truly) was basically just a bitter old Ohioan who tooled around in his pickup shooting his mouth off about everything from politics to teenagers, music, and spray tans.

Also, I’m currently publishing a mini-comics memoir, called Crackerstacker, which details my misadventures while working in a grocery store. So far only three issues have been published but I have twelve years worth of hilarious material that have yet to be covered. I write and illustrate this series, so my days of wearing giant, square glasses and a flowing, stylish mullet are never going to be lived down.

Last year I also released a one-shot comic called Icon-O-Plastic (illustrated by Jake Warrenfeltz and inked by Rafer Roberts). This odd little story was a surreal meditation on fame and fortune that focused on a rock band called The Icons. I also wrote, performed and recorded a five song EP (with vocals by Stephen Strohmenger) that are the “lost demos” of The Icons, which tends to sell very well at conventions.

It appears you keep busy with a variety of projects, Stephen.

It is also my understanding that you’re a dedicated Pittsburg Steelers fan. With that in mind, two questions:
1. Make a prediction on how the upcoming NFL season will go for the Steelers.
2. If you had the opportunity to ghostwrite or co-author a book with any current or former Pittsburgh Steeler, where they would discuss their life and sports career, which player would be your top pick and why?


I certainly stay busy.

1. Hmm…I’m tempted to be pessimistic about our upcoming season but I’ll resist and predict that we’ll rebound from our abysmal 8-8 record and finish this year with a 10-6 record. Then we’ll win our first playoff game before barely losing in the second one.

2. Wow! That’s a tough question. I guess I’d have to go with Big Ben because his ups and downs (on and off the field) would provide plenty of interesting material, plus he’ll be retiring in the next 2-5 years. Hopefully there’ll be a chapter about how he won a third Super Bowl before hanging up the cleats.

It’ll be interesting to look back and see how accurate your prediction proved to be.

Haha! It usually only takes a few games into a season before I can accurately predict how the season will end, so this is probably completely wrong.

Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers that you’ve learned over the years about being an author?

I’ve learned that patience and perseverance are vital. Very few authors can explode onto the scene and sell a ton of books instantly. It’s important, then, to be a writer for the right reason: the love of the process. If an author isn’t writing what he or she loves then being patient is going to be next to impossible. There are so many rejections of all sizes that come with being a writer, whether it’s someone walking past my table at a convention without even looking, or someone looking at my books then walking away, or a reviewer posting a negative opinion of my work, or a magazine rejecting a story I’m proud of, etc. All of those things can erode a person’s will to continue if the work isn’t being done with the right motivation. As a veteran comic book author/illustrator (Bob Corby) once told me, “If people walk away without buying one of my books then that just means my stuff isn’t for them. If it is for them, they’ll be back.”

Good quote from Bob Corby!

Bob is an amazing dude. He runs the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo (S.P.A.C.E.) in Columbus, OH, which is my favorite con by far.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, Stephen, is there anything you’d like to add?

I’m terrible at math. Oh, you meant to the interview!

I guess I’d just like to add that folks can check out samples of my work here: www.stephenhines.org .

There’s info on my site, too, about the assorted stores and websites where my books can be purchased in both paper and electronic formats.

And, thanks again, Terry, for having me back!

You’re welcome, Stephen. And of course I’m going to plug my favorite book you’ve written, and one that more than a few of my students have read and enjoyed, Hocus Focus. A darn good read!

Friday, June 14, 2013

One of the Cheesiest Movie Lines Ever

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Yes, They Live definitely isn't one of the classics of 'action' science fiction movies. Yet, I still recall this line, which I guess says something. I'm not sure what.

Anyway, in this scene George Nada (Roddy Piper--a famous WWF Wrestler from the 1970s and 80s) enters a bank, stirring up trouble. He's wearing special sunglasses that allow him to see through an otherwise projected disguise that makes alien infiltrators appear human.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Remembering Otis Johnson

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Otis Johnson passed away last night. His cancer finally caught up with him.

He was the husband of my wife's very close friend Robin--they've remained the best of friends over the years and sometimes despite the miles.

My family had the opportunity to vacation with Otis and Robin, and celebrate several Thanksgivings in the company of him and his family. Even so, vast number of people knew him far better than me, but what I can say about Otis from my experience is that he was a caring husband and father, a sharp guy, a hard worker and on the job problem solver.

He's going to be missed.

Otis and Robin, and my Family preparing for
an Airboat Tour of the Western Everglades 2009
A side note, for those who read my novels. In Blood Sword, near the end there is a corporal at Flank Hawk's side, a soldier/make-due archer among Prince Halgadin's troops. Sometimes when I need a certain type of character, I think of someone I know as the foundation. Although a minor character, he was one I imagined as consistent and one that gets the job done. The scenes with that corporal/archer, where he appeared, Otis was my mind's eye model. As such I appropriately named the corporal, Otis.
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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Gryphonwood Press is Open to Submission during June 2013

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Writers of Fantasy, SF, Horror, Suspense, Thrillers, and more: Gryphonwood Press is open to submissions throughout June.

It's a great opportunity as normally my publisher accepts submissions only upon recommendation.

For more details check out the submission page: Gryphonwood Submissions.

Note: Gryphonwood Press will consider previously published works.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Published Articles from 2004 to 2012


Below are the articles I've had published at various places on the internet over the years:     
 
Click on the titles to link to the article (for those with links still available):

Firearms in Fiction (published 1/24/12--Seventh Star Press)

The RPG Experience to Writing a Novel  (published 1/1/12--Mythic Scribes)

Writing a Sequel (published 12/27/11--Indie Book Blog)

The Best "How To" Books for Writers (published 11/4/11--My First Book)
       
A Challenge in Writing Fantasy Short Stories (published 7/25/11--Disquieting Visions)

Goal: A Sequel that Compliments while Truly Standing Alone (published 3/7/11--Disquieting Visions)

Uploading Submission Etiquette (published 1/22/10--at Murder-by-4)

Writing a Novel Synopsis (published 10/31/09)

On Waiting: Suggestions for Writers (published 6/30/09)

Interview with Marta Stephens (published 9/28/08)

Don't Hesitate to Offer a Critique (published 7/27/08)

Short Fiction Writer: What League are You in? (published 6/30/07) 

Seven Common Character Types (published 9/24/06)

Interview with Sandra Kring (published 8/27/06)

Ten Rules of Capitalization for Fiction Writers (published 7/29/06)

Direct vs. Indirect Characterization (published 4/22/06)

Five Considerations Before Joining a Crit Group (published 6/18/05)

Never Learned Grammar? (published 2/18/05)

Are You Really Writing? (part 1) (published 12/8/04)
Are You Really Writing? (part 2)
(published 12/8/04)

Dialogue Basics (published 10/28/04)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gas Saving Humor

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While this Kmart commercial may not be as funny as their "Ship My Pants" commercial, it's still pretty good.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Remembering Mary A. Griffith


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Below is a picture of my mother-in-law who passed away this past Thursday (May 30th), her obituary and a copy of the eulogy I gave at her funeral ceremony. While all this doesn't say it all about Mary, it will give you an idea about who she was.

Mary and my daughter Mira


Mary's Obituary in the Terre Haute Paper
Eulogy:

Most of you gathered here this afternoon knew Mary longer than I did, and I would guess that each of your relationships with her was a bit different, and I would be very much surprised if your observations and remembrances didn’t vary at least a little from mine.

Some of you knew her as mother, grandmother, cousin, aunt or friend. I knew Mary as my mother-in-law. Now, I’m sure you’ve all heard the commentaries and jokes about how difficult it is to get along with a mother-in-law. Well, Mary wasn’t perfect, and I’ll touch more on that in a little bit, but as far as mother-in-laws go, I got lucky. She wasn’t demanding, or biting in her criticism. She would always say that she was glad that Kathy married me, and that Frank would’ve liked me. And I would’ve liked him too, she’d add. And she said it often. And I am guessing that everyone here knows Mary liked to repeat things, especially stories about her family and childhood.

 

I’d heard many of her stories a hundred times at least. For example, ones about her dad, Joe McCombs, who decided one day he wanted to be an auto mechanic and took up with it, or wiring houses, or how he was pivotal in getting votes for local politicians, or his storytelling ability—changing each telling just a bit each time to keep everyone interested, and how that skill got him started in Vaudeville.

 

But she also liked to talk to me about people I knew—those still around. I spent more than a few hours in her company, talking with her, sometimes only listening—especially when she didn’t have her hearing aids turned on, or the batteries were dead—driving Mary to our house for Thanksgiving and then back to Terre Haute on Saturday or Sunday. And sometimes I drove out to visit her for an hour or so in the nursing home.

 

By the way, did you know Mary was a closet Roger Zelazny fan? Yes, she liked to read romance novels, but she also liked listening to the Chronicles of Amber. On our road trips she’d talk a bit, and then ask me to put in the story and we’d listen, and sometimes talk about it.

 

Anyway, I heard many times about her brother Joseph or sister Dorothy, or some of her days in school, but she also talked about my wife Kathy, how she was proud of her graduating from college and getting a really good job and was a good mother. And she talked about Linda being a chemist with Coca Cola, and she’d say that she was glad Sherry found good job. She’d mention Ron, and how he seemed right for Linda and made her happy, and that Sherry found Bob, and he worked hard for the paper.

 

She’d talk about Neil and his artistic ability, and Collin going to school, but not sure what he wanted to do, or maybe he did and she just didn’t know. She’d talk about Genevieve, how pretty and smart she was. And how loving Mira was with hugs and always happy. She’d talk about Michael, and how he did well in the ROTC and looked good, pictured in a uniform. And she’d talk about Andrew, and how he was a good boy and she knew he’d become a good man.

 

She talked about Theresa. Mary worried over Theresa’s health, even when her own was failing. When I’d visit with her some nights at the nursing home, before leaving, I’d ask her if she was okay. She’d nod and mention that Loretta was going to be there tomorrow.

 

But Mary worried about her girls. That she didn’t do all she could have, and she wanted them to be happy. I told her nobody was perfect. And once, when I was telling her about my work, she reminded me that nobody’s perfect and grinned.

 

We also talked about why she was still around, and we discussed what purpose God had for her. I told her I thought she was where the Lord wanted her to be. When she was able, she’d try to help out, talk to others staying at the nursing home, and comfort them. I am sure she shared her stories with a lot of folks, keeping them company in a place that could be quite lonely.

 

And, as I think about it, and about all the stories Mary used to tell me, and tell, and tell again. Like me, I’m guessing all of you would be more than willing to drive an eight hour round trip to hear Mary, in good health, tell just one of those stories again. I’d guess an eighty or more hour trip wouldn’t be out of the question.

 

But you know what? I’m already on a trip, just like Mary was. And at the end of my life trip, I’ll get to hear Mary tell her stories again—all of them again. But you know what else? She won’t have to, because right there next to her will be her husband, Frank, and her father Joe and her sister Dorothy, and Olive, and everyone that she talked about but that I’d never met. Because we’ll see Mary, all of us, one day in Heaven. And that’s something to look forward to.
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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Shipping Humor

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Stephen Hines shared this with me the other day. I thought it was pretty funny. Shared it with my wife, and she thought it was good enough to share on Facebook, so I thought I'd share it here.




If Kmart would do more of this--more widespread, maybe they wouldn't be in a competitive decline.
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