Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Flank Hawk Audiobook for $1.99

For those with a Kindle or through a free Kindle App, you can obtain a copy of the audiobook version of Flank Hawk, normally $24.95, for $1.99 if you pick up a copy of the Kindle ebook version of Flank Hawk (for $2.99).

Through the Whispersync set up a listener can switch back and forth betweeen the ebook to the audiobook and pick up wherever they left off reading/listening.

You don't need to be a member of to obtain your copy of Flank Hawk, or other audioboooks. You can even join on a trial basis and obtain an audiobook (your choice) for free.

You don't need to have a Kindle and you're able to burn an audio CD of Flank Hawk as well, if that's your choice. You can visit this page on my website for links to where Flank Hawk, and my other works, are available: Flank Hawk and Blood Sword Main Page

Below is a book trailer for the audiobook to give a sample of what can expected from the audio version.

Monday, December 24, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Carol

May Everyone Enjoy a Merry and Memorable Christmas!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Burn Notice with Bruce Campbell (Sam Axe)

Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe

Those folks who know me know I really like Bruce Campbell. While he isn't the lead character in Burn Notice, I think his part is pivotal to the show's success. After this season's finale, it's even more apparent.

If you've not seen the show, check it out (DVD/Netflix, and reruns). Interesting, fast-paced, good characters with a story arc that continues, even as it grows from one overarching goal (from seeking to simple survival) to the next, with individual storylines built into each episode--sometimes blossoming into something greater, or at least to return later on down the road.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

An Interview with Author Justin Macumber

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Justin. Please, tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is Justin R. Macumber, and I’m a writer and podcaster. As with most writers, I started when I was a kid. It all began with Dungeons & Dragons, and me being too poor to buy adventures from the store to play. That meant I had to write my own. And I did. I actually came to prefer making my own adventures for my friends to play in. It made the game feel more real and personal. After that I dabbled in everything from writing my own comic books, to poetry, to writing story ideas for video games.

My first novel, HAYWIRE (from Gryphonwood Press) was a science fiction story about super soldiers being turned on their creators, but my upcoming novel, A MINOR MAGIC (coming December 3rd from Crescent Moon Press), is a post-apocalyptic fantasy, and I have a finished first draft of a horror novel sitting on my hard drive right this second called STILL WATER. I like to leave myself open to inspiration and excitement. If that means some of my readers don’t like some of the genres I work in, I’m okay with that.

As for me personally, I’m an army brat from birth, so my experiences literally range all over the globe, and I think that’s part of what made me such a reader and writer. I didn’t always have a friend wherever it was that the Army took my dad, but I also have my books to read, and later my notebooks to write in. I live in the DFW metroplex in north Texas with my wife, Krista, and our dogs and cats. I’m happy, I’m writing, and I’m getting published. AND I host a writing podcast called the Dead Robots’ Society that’s been a finalist for the Parsec Awards three times. I couldn’t ask for much more than that.

Sounds like you’re a busy man, Justin. How do you fit writing and podcasting, and all that’s associated with each endeavor, in your life?

By having a very loving and understanding wife. Because of her I’m able to stay home and be a full-time writer. Of course, since I’m home all the time I’m the one who gets to deal with chores, delivery people, vet visits, home repairs, and everything else, so somehow my writing hours always seem to get eaten up by other things. To combat that I make a schedule and I stick to it as hard as I can and, when I have to, I fight for it. I also try to use my time wisely and efficiently. Lastly I write as quickly as I can. Right now I get about 1000 words an hour. If I can bump that to 1500 then I’ll really be cooking with gas.

Would readers identify your writing as more character-driven or more plot-driven, or an equal balance—or does it even matter?

Early on I was very much a plot-driven writer. A lot of authors will say that characters are the only things that matter, but that’s BS. You can have the most interesting characters in the world, but if they aren’t doing anything interesting, then what’s the point? So usually when I create a story it’s all about the plot. What’s going on? Where? When? Why? After I have all that, then the characters start to form, which will often change the answers to those initial plot questions. Now I try to strike as much of a balance as I can between plot and character. I know I’ve succeeded when I have interesting people doing very interesting things in an incredibly interesting place.

With your method from the question above in mind, can you tell us about your most recent novel, A MINOR MAGIC, including the initial plot ideas that got it started and a character or two that participate in the action?

I have to thank my podcasting co-host Terry Mixon for A MINOR MAGIC. He had written a fantasy story and asked me to read it so that I could give him feedback. One of the characters in his story was a magic user, but I wasn’t sure he was handling her correctly, so when I wrote up my thoughts I used the term “minor magic.” Now I can’t recall exactly what that phrase had been in reference to, but for some reason it stuck in my head, bouncing around. I liked the flow of those two words together. So I asked myself, “What would a story called A MINOR MAGIC be about? Would it be literally about a minor, a young person with magic, or would it be about a person who only had small magic, not the big fireballs and dragon summoning stuff you see in other stories?” In the end I went with a mix of those ideas. You should also keep in mind that I have a niece named Alenna. She’s a beautiful girl just entering her teenage years, and sometimes I despair at the lack of female heroes she has to look up to. So, with A MINOR MAGIC I wanted to write a story about a girl I’d want her to look up, and that’s what I did.

A MINOR MAGIC is about a young lady named Skylar who has grown up in a world that was nearly destroyed by a magical fire when she was just a child. Civilization is gone, most of humanity is dead, and those who are left try to survive any way they can. Ten years later, as Skylar is starting to become a woman, she suddenly develops magical powers that cause her to be exiled from her home. From there she has to wander a burnt America in search of who she really is, and where her power comes from. In the book I wanted her to have a love interest, but I didn’t want to fall into the cliché that seems to pervade so much fiction these days were the guy in the book suddenly becomes the girl’s protector or sole reason for existing. Nathan is a guy she cares about, but she doesn’t revolve around him, doesn’t need him to win or survive. I wanted their relationship to be about what they give each other, not what they need or take. I’m hoping that it rings true to everyone who reads it, especially my niece. It’s coming out in print and ebook December 17th from Crescent Moon Press.

From the description of A MINOR MAGIC’s development, in some ways you broke away from the plot development first and then going to characters. Besides the two characters mentioned, Skylar and Nathan, is there a character that you particularly enjoyed writing and why did you find unique or different in creating/writing that character?

One of the other people that Skylar travels with is an older man named Jack. I had to have him since neither of the younger characters really knew what the world was like back before the Burning. Jack was the voice of us, the people in the here and now. I also liked him because I described him as a rather rough and tumble looking guy, but he has the heart of a geek, so I suppose he is the most “me” of any of the characters. He makes several Star Wars references, and I loved writing all of them.

Who do you see as your audience for A MINOR MAGIC? Is it the same audience as some of your other published works?

This is a hard question for me. I, as a writer, don’t want to be confined to any one genre. I grew up being a lover of sci-fi and fantasy and horror, and that’s what I want to send back out into the world. But, not everyone else out there is as non-denominational as I am, so spreading myself around might not please everyone, or it might make it harder for my name to become known. That’s okay though. So long as someone likes what I wrote, then that means I succeeded.

As for A MINOR MAGIC, I think it’s the most accessible of any story I’ve ever written. There isn’t any technical jargon to learn, no magical mechanics or new world maps to memorize. That’s one of the great things about writing from a young person’s point of view – their vision of the world is much cleaner and open than an adult’s, and it’s a point of view we all had at one time or another. I really think anyone could sit down and enjoy A MINOR MAGIC, from kids as young as ten on up through to seniors.

Here’s a bit of a switch up question that I’ve asked a few others previously interviewed: If you could go to lunch with three people (living or deceased) who would you choose and why, where would you dine, and what would you hope to discuss?

Wow, great question. There are all sorts of clarifying questions I’d like to ask to help narrow my choices down, but I’ll forgo that and keep it simple. If I could sit down and have a meal with any three people I’d probably choose Stephen King, Joss Whedon, and Kevin Smith. Why those three? Because all of them have inspired and influenced my writing, and I’d like to have a chance to pick their brains about how they came up with their styles, what advice they have for writers who are trying to improve their craft, and what obstacles they overcame to get where they are. They also cover the gamut of mediums, so I would try to find ways to juggle being a novelist, screen play writer, and perhaps even a comic book writer. As for where we’d eat, that’s easy: my home. I can’t think of a better place for a casual, intimate discussion. I’ll even supply the cigars.

Interesting choices, Justin. As we're closing in on the end of the interview is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just that I hope people give A MINOR MAGIC a chance. I know that the YA paranormal thing is getting old for some. It’s getting old for me too. That’s why I think people should read it. I’m a 40 year old guy, so the place I’m coming from is very different than where so many other YA paranormal writers are, and hopefully that means the story I’m telling will be different too. It’s not all puppy love and running through the woods from handsome villains. This is something other, maybe something fresh. And then, if you like it, go ahead and give my other work a try. As I said before, I don’t confine myself to one genre or style. I want to deliver intriguing stories, no matter if it’s the bridge of a starship, in a haunted house, or fighting wizards. And lastly, if you do end up liking what you’ve read, then please reach out and let me know. Heck, let me know if you didn’t like it, too. I’m not a delicate flower. We grow as much or more from criticism than we do from praise. Just reach out and let me know what you think. Feedback is the life’s blood of any artist. Thanks.

Here are the websites you can link to if you like:

Thanks for the interview, Justin, and the links!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot, and Figurative Language

As a kid I remember a bit of this from the news and my parents and grandparents talking about the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I lived in Toledo, near the Maumee River and not too far from Lake Erie.

Gordon Lightfoot's song, relaying the tale of the fateful November night on Lake Superior, is a classic. It's a song that I use with my English classes to demonstrate effective use of  figurative language, from similes and metaphors to rhyme and personification.

I've listened to this particular Gordon Lightfoot's song more times than I can count--do CD's wear out?

In any case, if you've not heard the song before, or have in the past but would like to catch the tune again, here's a youtube link. Note the fancy graphics for the brief newscast clip right at the start. :)

If you're a teacher and would like some of my lessons/information, you can contact me through my website by clicking HERE.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Interview with Author and Podcaster David Wood

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, David. Since this is your second interview, we’re going to take a little different angel. In any case, please refresh the readers with a little about yourself, your writing and your podcast.

Sure. I’m the author of the Dane Maddock Adventures- a series that’s a little bit Indiana Jones and a little bit National Treasure. I also write young adult fiction plus fantasy novels under a pseudonym. Since my wife doesn’t want to listen to me talk about writing, I co-host ThrillerCast, a podcast about reading, writing, and publishing in thriller and genre fiction.

I am guessing then, that your wife doesn’t tune in to your podcast. In any case can you tell us a little more about ThrillerCast? Why you started it, how you produce it, and what listeners might expect if they give it a try?

Definitely not. She supports the idea of me podcasting but thinks it’s incredibly geeky, which is interesting coming from a science nerd. My co-host, Alan Baxter, and I started ThrillerCast mostly because we enjoy podcasting and wanted to be a part of it, though we try to make it clear that we are authors who podcast as a hobby—not podcasters who happen to have written books.

Our goal with ThrillerCast is to introduce readers to a wide variety of subgenres that have common “thriller” elements. We cover everything from hyper-realistic thrillers to Neil Gaiman-style urban fantasy, and we interview authors from all those different subgenres. A typical episode begins with discussion of something current in the publishing industry and announcements of any new releases that might be of interest to our listeners. We then take a break, after which we’ll either have an interview or we’ll take an in-depth look at some aspect of the craft of writing. Make sure to listen all the way through the closing credits because we almost always have a blooper or outtake at the end!

Your wife is a science nerd. Does her science interest(s) tie into her career? And do you avoid discussing her job as she does your writing and podcasting? Or might her geeky science interests and her career ever get reflected in the contents of your writing?

There aren’t many limits to what we’ll discuss on ThrillerCast, so her job garners the occasional mention, mostly in the context of, “I’m so glad I don’t have her job.” She’s a forensic scientist in the DNA section of the state crime lab, and I’m very proud of the work she does. She’s actually answered questions for other authors on topics that relate to forensics. For me, the biggest impact her work has had on my writing is to teach me that it’s important to really know your stuff if you’re going to go into detail. She loves crime and thriller fiction, and is forgiving to a point, but gets rowdy when the author goes too far afield on her topic.

I can understand your wife’s perspective on accuracy. You write thrillers, packed with travel, adventure including some creatures and places that are ‘mythical’ or based on tales or legends. How do you deal with this, with respect to accuracy?

With actual places, I try to be as close to reality as possible. I’ve visited many of the locations in my books, but I still use Google street view, YouTube videos, and images from the web to refresh my memory about small details. With the legends and historical backdrops, it’s fascinating how often you uncover minor details that fall perfectly into place. It’s always a pleasant surprise and the reader thinks you planned it that way.

I do, however, reserve the right to make minor alterations to events and details for the sake of the story, and I’ve taken to adding a note to readers reminding them of that. I’d rather them be annoyed with me for playing with reality than having them think I didn’t do my research.

You have a new novel recently released, Buccaneer. Can you tell us a little about it, and what research you had to do in preparation to write it?

Buccaneer begins on Oak Island, home of the legendary “Money Pit.” As with most Dane Maddock adventures, we end up on a globe-hopping adventure while battling secret organizations, fighting “monsters,” and unraveling ancient mysteries. I don’t want to spoil the book, so I won’t get too specific, but I researched: Captain Kidd, Oak Island, several locations on both sides of the Atlantic, a well-known order, myths surrounding a certain legendary figure, and several types of reptiles.

That sounds like quite an array of topics. How much time would you estimate it took to do the research for Buccaneer? Do you do much of the research for your novels ahead of time, most of it as you go, or is there a middle ground? And, as Buccaneer is your 5th Dane Maddock novel, are you getting more efficient/faster at it?

That’s difficult to measure. I’m always collecting links and information that might work for future novels. Once I’m ready to start, I spend about a week researching the historical backdrop, the MacGuffin (the object that drives the story) and the settings of the first few scenes. After that, I let the story take me where it leads and I stop to research as needed.

Buccaneer got off to a rocky start. I’m a discovery writer by nature, but I tried to research and outline the entire book ahead of time. It didn’t work, and I ended up scrapping a good chunk of the book and started over. Once I rebooted, it did go faster than previous novels. I know the characters so intimately that it’s easier to know how they will react in given situations. Also, as they become more “real” to me, they will sometimes take the story in surprising directions.

When you say you’re a discovery writer, does that mean you know where the story will start, the MacGuffin, and a few places it’s likely to ‘drive’ the characters? Do you know the ending, or have a good feel for it? Or is that part of the discovery process?

I know the historical backdrop, the MacGuffins, the enemy, the creepy creatures the heroes will encounter, and have a short list of cool places they might go, though I reserve the right to change my mind. I always know where they’ll start, and what the “inciting incident” that sets the plot in motion will be. I usually have only a general idea of how things will end. I figure, if I can surprise myself, I’ll surprise the readers. Doing it that way can sometimes mean adding or changing early scenes when I go back to work on the second draft, so I keep a running list of changes that need to be made when it’s time to revise. I never go back and make those changes before I finish the first draft, though, because who knows what other changes I’ll make along the way that impact those revisions? It can make the second draft a little more work, but it’s what works for me.
Can you tell the readers what you find the most exciting and the most frustrating as a writer?

I think nothing excites me more than to hear from a reader who enjoys my work. The idea that someone reads and enjoys my stories thrills me, and for someone to take the time to write and let me know is both a delightful and humbling experience.

As far as frustration goes, I think the “mushy middle” of any book drives me mad. There’s always the thrill of starting a new story, and the high of finishing it, but there’s always a point in the middle where I hit roadblocks, experience doubts, or both. It’s like the sophomore year of college, which I hated so much I did it four times.

A final two questions before we wrap up this interview. How do you push through roadblocks and doubts? And, what’s your favorite food and have you ever incorporated it into one of your novels?

It depends on the roadblock. If it’s a plot problem, a long walk or drive, or some kind of project around the house that lets my mind wander will usually do the trick. In those circumstances, I find it helps if I get the headphones out of my ears and just let my mind drift. If it’s more of an emotional or mental issue, I just plow on through.

I don't think I can possibly pick a favorite food- I like too many of them. Dane Maddock readers might recognize my favorite beer, Dos Equis black label, as Dane’s beer of choice as well as that of his crew.

Is there anything I missed or that you’d like to say to the readers?

I’m part of a new project called Thriller Central. It’s a reader-focused site for reviews, interviews, and news in the thriller genre. Check it out at

Thanks for the chat!

You’re welcome, David. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.
To learn a little more about David Wood and his writing, visit his website:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Indie Book Blog's Review of Blood Sword

Indie Book Blog posted a review of Blood Sword.

If you've got a moment click on over and see what they had to say.

Indie Book Blog's Review of Blood Sword by Terry W Ervin II

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Kevin's Corner Review of Blood Sword

Reviewer Kevin Tipple read and posted a review of Blood Sword.

If you have a moment, click on over and read what he had to say.

Link: Review: "Blood Sword: A First Civilization’s Legacy Novel" by Terry W. Ervin II


Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Wills the Wont's and the Can'ts

This quote stuck with me over the years from the Disney's movie, The Black Hole, spoken by V.I.N.CENT, the loyal, witty robot (voiced by Roddy McDowall).

Speaking to the ship's first officer about people, V.I.N.CENT said, "There are three basic types, Mr. Pizer: the Wills, the Won'ts, and the Can'ts. The Wills accomplish everything, the Won'ts oppose everything, and the Can'ts won't try anything."

I guess I morphed it some in my mind as:

There are three basic types of people in the world: The Wills, the Won'ts and the Can'ts. The Wills accomplish everything, the Won'ts oppose everything and the Can'ts won't will themselves to try.

ital Information Necessary CENTralized)
There are various versions of this statement out there, but maybe mine is a bit snappier, even if it says the same thing. And, of course, I may not be the first one that came up with it--even if it was years ago.

Occasionally I use this quote in the classroom.

As far as the movie goes? A little campy but good enough that it stuck with me over the years.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Few Signing Events Pics

I recently participated in events at Upper Valley Career Center's Holiday Fair and also at an author group signing at the Colony Center Mall in Zanesville, Ohio. I enjoyed both events, meeting people, talking about writing and reading, and signing copies of my novels for readers (and for Christmas gifts for a potential readers).

Below are a few random pics.

Author William Weldy selling his novel Outlaws

The Domestic Divas
Pam Weldy & Julie Roeth
Selling their Wares

Author Stephen Hines demonstrating his Sense of Humor

Author Summer Clark at her Table

My Table Setup at the Mall in Zanesville


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just a tad short of brilliant?

I don't get a lot of reviews from Amazon over in the United Kingdom, but this one came in today for Flank Hawk:

"Just a tad short of brilliant,

Not as complex/gritty as The Black Company by Glen Cook - it's much more reminiscent of The Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen (which is a compliment - btw). The mix of magic/technology and faintly familiar localities is clever, but the mercenaries aren't (in the main) mercenary in any way - which takes some of the flavour away. Our guide (Flank Hawk) has a secret, which is lucky because he's just a bit short of heroic charisma - his new friend is one of those 'knows everybody significant' guys, but there are intimations of future deeds, but as one of the group - not as his own man (why am I thinking 'Hobbit'?)."

I've never read the Black Company by Glen Cook, but I've heard of it. I did read twice and very much enjoy Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East, the novels set before the Book of Swords series. I can see where the reader/reviewer came up with the opinions provided.

I'm not sure I'd describe my writing as 'a tad short of brilliant.' I'd tend to think (or hope for) 'really good,' but I'll take a compliment where I can get it. It's always satisfying to know that a reader out there enjoyed the story wrote. It means I'm doing more than a few things right.

It's difficult to contact reviewers to say thanks, but I very much appreciate Niolc Tiddler's willingness to take a chance on my novel and to post a review.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Underdog Books that You Probably Won't Find on the Bookstore Shelf

Below are some novels that are solid reads that you may not have stumbled across but might consider reading. I limited myself to six:

Young Adult:

The Zombie Driven Life by David Wood

My Take: A fast paced, humorous despite the zombie-Apocalypse, story about a teen nobody surviving and learning a bit about life and himself along the way. Overall a great story.

Hocus Focus by Stephen Hines

My Take: A creative story with depth (and freaky magical contact lenses) that's a bit YA gritty with fun turns in the plot.


 Equilibrium by Dora P. Archer

My Take: Doesn't claim to be anything other than an epic fantasy adventure and delivers with a unique setting and characters.

Confessions of a D-List Supervillian by Jim Bernheimer

My Take: They don't write super-hero stories like this one. Witty and an nearly impossible not to smile, if not laugh, at and with Calvin Matthew Stringel, better known as Mechani-Cal. A D-List Supervillain who has to step up as a good guy and save the world--and that's just the beginning of his troubles.

Political Satire:

Loose Cannons and other Weapons of Mass Political Destruction by J.D. Elder

My Take: Combines politicians and pro wrestling, for a zany adventure that has a solid political message as a backdrop.

Science Fiction:

Defenders of the Covenant by Angie Lofthouse

My Take: A little more than your average SF, retaking the world from alien conquerors. Has a strong faith/religious element.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Upcoming Signing Events in Piqua and Zanesville

For those who might be interested, I'll be meeting readers and signing copies of Flank Hawk, Blood Sword and Genre Shotgun the following dates and places:

On Novermber 27th I will be at the Upper Valley Career Center. (8811 Career Drive in Piqua, Ohio). I will be one of several authors among a variety of gift vendors in attendance. It takes place from 2:45 pm until 5:00 pm in the LRC (Library).

On December 1st I will be one of over two dozen Ohio authors meeting readers and signing books at the Colony Square Mall (3575 Maple Avenue in Zanesville, Ohio) from 11:00 am until 7:00 pm. Signs will be posted for our exact location.
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Get Signed Novels for Gifts and Avoid some of Black Friday and Beyond

Readers and Gift Givers, consider giving signed copies of my novels (Flank Hawk and Blood Sword) and/or my short story collection (Genre Shotgun) to family and friends who enjoy reading.

Below are descriptions and contact information to find out more but, in short, if you let me know I can send you copies of my novels, signed as desired, or I can mail them directly to the gift recipient, labeled and gift wrapped, if desired.  I can also send signed book plates to you for copies of my works obtained on your own.

What happens when fire-breathing dragons battle Stukas for aerial supremacy over a battlefield? Can an earth wizard’s magic defeat a panzer? Krish, a farmhand turned mercenary, witnesses this and much more as he confronts the Necromancer King’s new war machines resurrected from before the First Civilization's fall. Worse yet, a wounded prince tasks Krish to find the fabled Colonel of the West and barter the royal family’s malevolent Blood Sword for a weapon to thwart the Necromancer King’s victory.

Flank Hawk is set in the distant future where magic exists and brutish ogres are more than a child’s nightmare.

The Necromancer King has been defeated and his surviving forces are in retreat. But a new threat marches against the Kingdom of Keesee, promising destruction.

Scouting along the western frontier, Flank Hawk and Grand Wizard Seelain discover an army massing, the army of Fendra Jolain, Goddess of Healing. Weakened and battle weary, Keesee and her allies cannot withstand Fendra Jolain’s powerful army of men and beasts arrayed against them.

One hope of survival remains: Retrieve the Blood Sword from the immortal Colonel of the West and bring its sinister strength to the battlefield.

To accomplish this end, Flank Hawk accompanies Grand Wizard Seelain as she leads a mission across land and sea. Together they find new allies while confronting new foes, learning that the war ravaging Keesee is part of a larger struggle whose roots stretch back to the First Civilization’s Fall.

If the Blood Sword can be obtained, it must be done quickly. Every day means more death for the defenders of Keesee. Every day is one day closer to utter defeat. Even if Flank Hawk can deliver the Blood Sword to King Tobias’s hand in time, will the malevolent blade’s magic be enough?
This collection contains all of my published short stories to date. It includes tales of science fiction, horror, mystery, suspense and inspiration. “The Scene of My Second Murder” relays the tale of a wretched man seeking forgiveness while confronting revenge from beyond the grave. “Tethered in Purgatory” tells of a trapped soul’s struggle to escape its cryogenically frozen body and reach heaven. In “Drug Dogs” a falsely accused student learns you can’t always trust those who should be trusted. And those are just a few.

Remorse and redemption, revenge and revelation, cowardice and courage—all are contained within this fast-paced and riveting collection
In addition to print, they're available in ebook formats for virtually any device, and Flank Hawk is available as an audiobook.

For more information, especially if you have questions, contact me by email through my website HERE, or contact me via message at Facebook.

You can learn more about my works at my website:


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The National Debt: Late November 2012

The National Debt is my overriding concern with respect to our country.

How long will this country elect politicians to continue spending so recklessly, ultimately dooming our children and our nation?

Probably as long as the citizens don't want to face up to the truth, and make choices (or accept choices of elected officials) that will cause some real amount of pain. The essence of the matter is, the longer the out of control spending remains unaddressed, the more difficult and more painful any solutions will be.

Not too long from now, the politicians will have to vote and pass a bill, raising the debt ceiling, if they want to continue to spend more than the government takes in. There will no doubt be a lot of blustering and debate, and promises to address the Federal Government's spending in a responsible manner--as they once again kick the can down the road.

The Gross National Debt

At 4:40 pm EST on 7/22/11 the debt totalled:      $14,412,536,802,223
At 9:40 pm EST on 11/20/12 the debt it totalled: $16,290,755,341,268 (the time/date this article was posted)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An Interview with Script Writer and Voice Actor Ron N. Butler

Ron N. Butler
TE:      Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Ron. Please, tell us a little about yourself and your writing and voice work.

RNB:   Hmmm... Am I a voice actor? Actual actors would probably disagree. I’m directing an audio adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” at present, but I don’t tell people I’m a director. (I find directing a chore, for one thing.) Most of my writing output is scripts for the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company and I also pitch in to perform with them as needed, so – No, I wouldn’t call myself an actor.

            But I do write. And, as I said, most of my writing is for ARTC. I’ve been working with the Company since about 1990, so the scripts have sort of – accumulated.

            I do an original audio series, “Rory Rammer, Space Marshal.” It’s an homage-cum-pastiche of the boys’ radio / TV science-fiction serials of the late Forties and early Fifties, like “Space Patrol,” “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet,” and “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.” But with a twist: They’re humorous. (Intended to be humorous, anyway.) There are about two dozen of those now and the Company has published a CD with five episodes, “Rory Rammer, Space Marshal.” [Advertisement]

            The Company does a good business in audio adaptations of the works of H.P. Lovecraft and I’ve written two such scripts: “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Call of Cthulhu.” Lovecraft isn’t easy to adapt. His writing style was archaic even in the Twenties, he was getting paid by the word (when he was getting paid at all), and there’s very little dialogue. (Not that I’m going to complain. I did a little re-editing work on Thomas Fuller’s adaptation of “The Dunwich Horror” for a series of shows the Company will be doing in October. That particular story does have dialogue. It’s eye-watering.) I’m actually kinda proud “Colour” and “Call” came out as well as they did. A community theater in Athens, GA used my “Call” adaptation as the basis for a stage production.

            I’m currently working on an adaptation of the late H. Beam Piper’s “Lone Star Planet” for the Sound of Liberty Project and should have it done by the end of the year. And I was approached after this last DragonCon about doing an original adaptation of H.G. Wells’s “War of the Worlds.” I found a fresh approach for that and will start working on it after I finish a first draft of “Lone Star.”

            As I said, I mostly do scripts. I find them easy; I just write down what the voices in my head are saying. But I do write prose. I started writing with two short-story sales way back in the Eighties and hope to do more in the future. And better, too. A few short-story adaptations of “Rory Rammer” stories have been published in the on-line mag “Planetary Stories,” and I’m stuck about halfway through one ep titled “Luna Shall Be Dry!”

TE:      When you write do you have an audience in mind? If so, who do you see as your audience?

RNB:   When I'm writing audio scripts, I certainly do have a specific audience in mind: Whoever will be sitting in those chairs in front of the stage.

            Sorry. Not trying to be a smartass. Short explanation: When the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company began -- 1985 -- it was really On The Radio: A thirteen-week series of one-hour programs on WGST in Atlanta, funded by a grant from the Citizens and Southern Bank. But that was one of the last gasps of on-air radio theater in the United States. Radio programming nowadays is what they call "seamless," meaning anyone switching on his or her radio, when he comes into the kitchen or starts up her car, can follow what's going on without any preamble. Music. Sports. Consumer advice. Politics. Radio theater isn't like that so it has gone away. (No. National Public Radio doesn't do it, either.)

            Luckily, other technologies have come along that can kinda-sorta take the place of radio broadcasting. Cassette tapes, to start with, bridging into CDs and now into podcasts and MP3 downloads. ARTC can make juuuust about enough in sales to keep going.

            And it turns out that watching people put on a "radio" show can be pretty entertaining, too. Nominally, it's just people standing in front of microphones reading from scripts, but throw in music [live music when we can get it] and the antics at the foley table and you can hold an audience's attention, especially with good acting and a good script. So we do live shows.

            Sorry. That wasn't a "short explanation."

            So my audience is often a literal audience. And, yes, that affects how I write.

            We do shows at a lot of science fiction conventions, which works out because the Company tends toward science fiction, fantasy and horror. I can expect that the audience will be familiar with the tropes of those genres. If I say "alien," I don't have to explain that I'm not talking about a Guatemalan with an expired visa. A lot of science-fictional concepts have found their way into general popular culture over the last fifty years, but still there are limits.

            For instance: Every year, about six weeks before our annual big show at DragonCon in Atlanta, we do a show at a smaller SF convention up in Chattanooga called LibertyCon. Often, we use the LibertyCon show to try out new scripts we'll be doing at DragonCon. But we have to watch it: The LibertyCon crowd is older, more print-oriented and more conservative than a DragonCon audience. (Baen Books has a heavy presence for their military SF at LibertyCon.)

            A coupla years back, I did an adaptation of H. Beam Piper's "He Walked Around the Horses." (It's one of the earliest alternate-history stories. A Napoleonic-era British diplomat is whisked into an alternate reality where the American Revolution failed, the French Revolution never happened, and no one has ever heard of any "Emperor Napoleon." It's an epistolary story, consisting of letters and reports, and I thought it would be an easy, fast adaptation. Hoo boy, was I wrong!) Piper worked in a joke at the end: The British Prime Minister, Sir Arthur Wellesley, cannot figure out who one person referred to often in the diplomat's papers is: The Duke of Wellington.

            The night of the first performance at LibertyCon, I told our producer that, after the script was done, he should offer a free CD to anyone in the audience who could explain the joke and I would pay for the CD. In the event, half the audience not only got the joke, they laughed at it so we never made the offer.

            At DragonCon, we would have had to make the offer. In the end, we decided not to do the script at DragonCon at all, specifically because it would not have engaged the typical audience there and a good fraction of them would not have the history background to make any sense of it.

            If we do a Steampunk-themed convention, we try to have scripts that are at least somewhat related to that theme. (Wells and Verne adaptations are "grandfathered" in.) We did a show at an academic conference on myth and mythology a few years back, and I wrote a script called "Plato's Cave," a talk show in which a Jerry Springer-type host interviews mythical creatures and archetypes. (It almost didn't get produced because of worries about "political content": I had a bit about the Nazi Aryan Superman and the New Communist Man sharing an apartment.)

            We do three or four shows a year at the Academy Theatre in Avondale Estates. That audience is a little more "mainstream," so those shows tend more toward horror, less toward science fiction. (Everybody has seen "Friday the Thirteenth," not everyone has seen "2001: A Space Odyssey.") We also do a Christmas show, "An Atlanta Christmas," based on a stage play originally written by Thomas E. Fuller, our head writer for many years. That's strictly mainstream. There are a lot of children's parts in the script and we expect children and families in the audience.

            So we watch our language. Actually, I try to watch my language all the time. A lot of that is the influence of Thomas E. Fuller. (See above.) Thomas was a terrifically talented writer at any form he turned his hand to -- plays, poetry, stories, radio. In his radio work, he was aware that anyone might hear his words broadcast. Really, he was so good that he didn't have to resort to "adult" (bad) language to make a point. About the worst he would use were "hell," "damn," and "bastard." And he used those sparingly so they had force, instead of becoming background noise. (He wrote a horror piece set at a phone-sex service and the most salacious word in the script is "bottom." But it's a genuinely horrifying -- and very funny! -- piece.)

            I don't think I self-censor, except in the sense that there are just some things I don't want to write about. I've had occasional quasi-political objections raised against scripts of mine, and an actor once protested so vehemently that a Halloween script (concerning the punishment of an SS officer in Hell) was "too horrible" that it got put on the shelf for a year. My "Rory Rammer" scripts are based on children's programs, but they're not intended for children. There are oblique references in "RR" scripts to same-sex marriage, human-robot sex, and "leather" bars, but they're sufficiently oblique that I believe they would go over a youngster's head.
            Yeah, I have an audience in mind when I write. I know a lot
            of them by name.

TE:      Do you write your scripts with certain members of ARTC in mind when devising the characters and dialogue? How are people selected, assigned, volunteered for a part in a script’s production?

 RNB:   For a continuing series (that would be mostly "Rory Rammer, Space Marshal," but also "Unresolved Mysteries: Solved While U Wait!" and a coupla episodes I wrote for Daniel Taylor's series "Bumper's Crossroads"), there is generally one of our regular ensemble of actors who has a lease on (I won't say "owns") a role. There have been three or four Rory Rammers, but David Benedict has read the role for at least the last five years. And a bit of David's personality has crept into "Rory."

            I've had less continuity-luck with Rory's genius-but-naïve sidekick, "Skip" Sagan. I had one very fine actor (Jack Mayfield) in that role for about four years, and Skip grew considerably over the course of the scripts from that period, maturing and also becoming a bit like Jack. Alas, Jack's participation in ARTC has dropped off and we're back to "revolving Skips." In the end, with ARTC the director makes casting decisions. Some directors' decisions have set my teeth on edge. But that's life in a collaborative art form.

            For adaptations and original, non-series pieces, characters are driven by the plot requirements, for me. Yeah, it's not rare that I'll read back over what I've written and think, "Hal could do this really well," or "Clair can do what I want here in her sleep," but the available actors don't drive the script. If nothing else, ARTC scripts are frequently produced multiple times, often years apart. And that means substantially no overlap in casting. Better to let the characters be whatever they need to be and let the actors scramble to keep up. Don't actors always say they love an artistic challenge? Luckily, it's not hard to find actors in Atlanta. (Now, good actors...!)

            Part Two: How Does One Become a Member of the Glittering Constellation of Stars That Is the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company?

            Answer: Show up at Bill Ritch's basement on a Wednesday evening. Seriously. We have some contacts with the larger Atlanta artistic community, but mostly we're approached after a performance -- at a convention or at the Academy Theatre -- by people asking how they can get in on this. Most of them are actors, but we're also happy to recruit folks who want to do tech or music or write or just fetch-and-carry stuff. (Oh! And audio editors. We desperately and chronically need audio editors. If you are an audio editor and can edit together one or more of our considerable backlog of studio-recorded production voicetracks, we will worship you as a mythic hero. We might even find a way to pay you for it. We are that desperate.)

            If you are not too obviously a fan-boy, Bill Ritch (President) or David Benedict (VP-Production) will give you directions over to Bill's place in Stone Mountain. Show up at 7:30 and come downstairs. You'll be asked to introduce yourself and tell us what you're interested in doing. Then sit down and soak it in. Our production cycle is usually five or six weeks long, so odds are pretty good that we'll be starting a new production within a few weeks. If you're standing around during read-throughs, you will likely be given a small part to read, just so we can see what you've got. If you've got some talent and presence (and cold-read well), you may hold onto the role. If you're actually, like -- good, you may get assigned to a larger part.

            Caveat: ARTC is an all-volunteer organization. (With a very few exceptions which I will not go into, just for reasons of space and complexity.) As Thomas E. Fuller used to say: "We are reviving a dead art form. It's taking longer than we thought." And: "There is Adventure in Sound! (But Damn Little Money.)" Or: "A 501c3 non-profit corporation. (Not by intent.)" We do not pay actors, mostly because we have no money. Radio theatre is a lot of fun and it will fill space on your resume, but you can't make a living at it. Heck, you can't make pizza money at this! We are even below the minimum size required to get grants organizations to look at us.
David Benedict, Kat Nowack, Ronald Zukowski, Hal Wiedeman, Daniel Kiernan

            We are non-union by necessity. This means that the local actors' unions discourage any of their members from appearing with ARTC. Over the years, we have lost some fine, fine actors due to union obligations. (Every year, the local SAG and AFTRA do some radio theatre themselves: A one-night restaging of old-time radio shows from the Thirties and Forties at a local playhouse to benefit the Atlanta Food Bank. A big deal is always made of the way the SAG/AFTRA actors are donating their time and talent. Every year, all their technical support is provided by ARTC members and folks who used to be with ARTC. All non-union and never acknowledged as such. This always tickles me.)

            [Later: While Ron and I were putting this interview together, the 2012 “Lend Me an Ear” show came and went and Ron says: “Wonder of wonders! – the non-union tech crew were recognized at the show this year!”]

            If you are a writer: Bring a script. A short one, not the 300-pager that would have to be produced as a mini-series. It should be an audio script, not your Major Motion Picture screenplay. If you don't know the difference, come and watch a while. Ask for an old ARTC script so you can see what our (limpidly flexible) formatting looks like. We often read (short) script submissions before getting started on rehearsals. You will be able to be critiqued by a substantial fraction of the people in the United States today who are actually writing radio scripts. (And everybody else in the room.) We know how to be firm and fair without being mean. If you find this too much to bear, you may need to find another venue. But we are not looking to run new people off; a dying art form needs new blood continuously. And the current leadership all remember when we were newbies and the Founders were good enough to take us all in.
TE:      Cool opportunity for anyone in the Atlanta area. Now, here’s a change-up: Are there any two science fiction / fantasy authors, living or dead, you wish you could ask about their work, their life, whatever?

RNB:   No.

TE:      Well, that was brief. ;)

RNB:   -- mainly because I’m not comfortable talking about writing with anyone. I get intimidated very easily, because I’m doing this mostly by the seat of my pants. I can’t discuss writing theory at all. I’ve never taken a creative writing course or participated in a week-long workshop in some rustic setting. My grasp of grammar is a little weak. I don’t know much about formal story structure. As far as Great Literature goes, I am an unlettered engineer. What I mostly try to do is to tell stories. Funny stories, a lot of the time. The sort of stories that I like to read, stories I wish I had run across as a youngster. Stories where things happen and people do things. Good people and bad people, but always people who have interesting things going on around them and interesting thoughts in their heads. That latter matters: Larry Niven is a smart guy and a smart writer, and I always feel a little smarter for a few days after reading a Niven story, for having taken a ride in a sharp character’s head.

I’ve been working on adapting some of H. Beam Piper’s stories. I remember reading Piper stories when I was younger -- age twelve and up. They were great “storyteller-type stories,” and they stayed in my memory for decades. But there were only a certain number of them in the science fiction anthologies in the public library in Macon, and when I found science-fiction magazines about age fourteen Piper didn’t seem to be publishing any more.

The reason, of course, being that he had shot himself in 1964.

The standard story about Piper’s suicide, for many years, was that his agent had keeled over from a heart attack so that Piper didn’t know about some sales the man had made and thought he was destitute. And being some sort of right-wing self-sufficiency nut, Piper had subsisted for a while shooting pigeons out of his apartment window and eating them, but then had put sheets over all the furniture, written an apologetic suicide note, and shot himself using one of the guns from his extensive firearms collection.

That’s the story as Fred Pohl tells it, I understand.

It’s a story that practically begs “What If?” (And Piper was one of the earliest practitioners of alternate-history stories.) What if someone down in New York had phoned Piper and let him know he had a check in the mail?

Actually, the story doesn’t make a lot of sense. Piper had some really rare guns in his collection; was he too addled to think of selling or at least pawning one to buy food? And how long do you think his neighbors and the local cops would put up with him pot-shooting pigeons out a window? Pretty soon it starts to smell like a tale carried by someone who didn’t like Piper very much (and Pohl didn’t).

Nonetheless, Piper shot himself. You have to wonder why. His circumstances weren’t great -- getting to be my age, divorced, had recently quit his life-long job as a railroad night-watchman, slender finances -- not anything to drive a man to despair.

I’m going to speculate here (with no malicious intent).

A few years back, I did an audio adaptation of Piper’s first published story, “Time and Time Again,” from 1947. Yes, it’s one of those I read as a kid and it stuck with me, even though I forgot both the title and the author for a while there.

As the story begins, U.S. Army Captain Allan Hartley lies dying of burns and radiation poisoning, a victim of the atomic bomb that destroyed the city of Buffalo, New York in the early days of the Third World War. He drifts into unconsciousness --

-- and wakes, in his thirteen-year-old body in Williamsport, Pennsylvania on a Sunday morning in August of 1945.

As the story goes on, we find that Allan Hartley -- the adult Allan Hartley -- was a bit of a bad-ass:  Army officer. Former investigative reporter. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. Firearms expert. Fluent in Spanish and French with some German and Russian. Holder of lucrative patents on a couple of chemical processes.

It was the “firearms” part that made something go *ping!* in my head. Sometimes stories tell you more about the writer than about what the writer thinks he’s writing about.

That’s my speculation: “Allan Hartley” is the man H. Beam Piper wanted to be, when he grew up. And by 1964, he was all grown up and he wasn’t Allan Hartley. He had a bit of a name in science fiction genre writing, which was not very respectable back then. He was having problems with his writing; he brought in a little-acknowledged collaborator, John J. McGuire, to help with a number of stories. And he was such a private man that I think he could have hardly avoided being lonely.

He seems to have believed in reincarnation, in a non-religious way. Maybe he looked at what he did as saving an unsatisfactory draft to disk so he could try again.

It’s probably really bad manners to ask a suicide’s ghost why he did what he did. And you couldn’t count on getting a straight answer to a personal question out of HPB. Or so I’m told.

            Doesn’t matter. He’s beyond all men’s questions and all
            mortal pains now.

TE:      Anyone else?

RNB:   I don’t have any worthwhile questions to ask any good writers. Well -- I’d like to talk with Thomas Fuller, my old head writer at the Atlanta Radio Theater Company, again, for five minutes. But not to ask any questions. Just to say, “Thanks.”

I’ve wanted to be a writer -- mostly to be a science fiction writer -- since the first time a story made the inside of my skull itch. And I’d done a little bit before Thomas and I ran into each other. But Thomas’s advice and encouragement were like the push your dad gives you when you first successfully ride a bike. That wobbly run-up, a shove -- and then you’re sailing down the street on your own. And you know how from then on.

Thomas was a fine writer, but he was an even better teacher. He loved -- as the folks around the Company still say -- The Words. He could see possibilities in an idea, a character, a phrase that the guy who came up with the idea, the character, the phrase never would. And he was overjoyed to be able to hand that spark back to you, for you to breathe on, to work on. To make it even better. So he could read what you did with it.

Thomas is past all mortal pains now, too. And beyond my thanking him. I hate that.
TE:      Anything else you’d like to add?

RNB:   Nope.

            Oh, where are my manners? Thanks, Terry. This was a lot of fun, and only the second time in my life I’ve been asked to sit for an interview. And that ‘un ended up on the cutting-room floor. You see -- Never mind. I’ve rattled on long enough as is. Some other time.

TE:      Thanks for the interview, Ron. I enjoyed your ‘rattling on’ and I think the readers here will too.
If you'd like to know more about the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company, including their free podcast and product information, visit them here: