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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Adventures at AggieCon

It's been years since I attended a convention. I'd forgotten how fun it could be. AggieCon brought that joy back to me. I joined the Lovely M.R. Graham at her table to sell copies of A Prescription for Delirium and her Books of Lost Knowledge. (Which if you haven't you should read.)

While there we met Christopher and Heather Poinsett Dunbar, authors of the Morrigan's Brood series. After hearing it's about blood drinkers and has to do with Morrigan of the Tuatha De Danann I had to get the first copy. I got A Dance with Dragons signed by the George R.R. Martin.

And, I took so many pictures of the Cosplayers. So here we go (Just a note. If there is a picture of you and you don't want it up here, let me know and I'll take it down.)

M.R. Graham as a vampire from the 40's

A Female Captain America

Samus Aran from Metroid

A Companion cube from Portal

This was pretty cool. He made that cigar box guitar and yes, it does play.


Link from Legend of Zelda

The Black Widow

We called her Wolf Girl. She is pretty amazing.
These are the shoes Wold Girl made for her costume.


Rorschach

I'm thinking this is Catwoman, but I'm not sure.

An Angel and the Doctor

Daenerys and Rob Stark

Steam Punk fun

Wonder Woman!

Jon Snow


Daenerys and Khal Drogo

Wario and Princess Peach

Just Fabulous!

The Tardis in her human form. (See the Doctor's Wife)

A Satyr. She made the legs.

Conner and Ezio from Assassin's Creed arguing. They may fight.
They're finally settled down.


I believe this is a Knight of the Round Table. Anyone have heraldry?

I have no idea who these three are.

Ghostbusters!

He made the proton pack.
So, it was all a lot of fun. I look forward to the next convention. :))

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kiss of Death: Santa Muerte


Thanks to Jess Fortunato, I came across this wonderful piece of Mexican mythology. Let me introduce, Santa Muerte.
Santa Muerta. Picture by Yo.

Originally, she was Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the land of the dead, wife of Mictlantecahtli, Lord of Mictlan, land of the dead, and Lord of Darkness. Both were pre-Hispanic deities. She was believed to be the protector of souls that resided in the underworld. Mictecacihuatl was depicted as a woman dressed in traditional garb and adorned with flags that were put on corpses prepared for cremation. She wore a mask of a skull with a beak or blade protruding where the nose cavity was. Both the lord and the lady were given blood offerings in exchange for a favorable death. Because of this the color red is connected to Mictecacihuatl and Mictlantecahtli. The Lady of the Land of the Dead was connected to the Dia de los Muertos, or the Mexican Day of the Dead, which originally fell at the end of July and beginning of August.
Spanish priests moved the holiday to coincide with All Hallows Eve after the conquest of Mexico. This was an old trick that Catholics had in order to convert more to Christianity. They also changed Mictecacihuatl to Santa Muerte. Whatever the name, she has not faded into obscurity. In fact, she is becoming even more popular in the United States.

This article talks of how her following is spreading, especially among Mexican-American Catholics. She is even starting to rival St. Jude and La Virgen de Guadalupe.  Santa Muerte is depicted more like the Reaper, with a robe and a skeletal body. She is said to carry a scythe or a crystal ball, sometimes both.  She appeals to those seeking all kinds of otherworldly help, not just protection and vengeance, but help with getting a job you want.
Stautes of Santa Muerte. Picture by Maurice Marcellin

I really find Mictecacihuatl interesting and like Persephone once she became queen of the Greek Underworld. I love how I can find a similar religion across the world from each other. There are several is religions that exist today. Sometimes I wish other could see it and stop using their beliefs as a reason to fight.
So, do you have an interesting Saint of religious figure? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’re interested in the occult and mythology, be sure to check out "A Prescription for Delirium" available NOW on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Alice Hoffman Blog Hop: Practical Magic


In honor of Alice Hoffman’s birthday I have joined the Alice HoffmanBlog Hop. For years, I’ve loved the movie Practical Magic. Last year I actually got around to reading the book by Alice Hoffman. I have to say that they feel like two different entities. I’m still unsure which I like better. Each has its own virtues.

 

Movie:
I’ll start with this since, I watched it first. This is the story of two sisters, Sally and Gillian who come to live with their aunts.  The thing is, they are from a long line of witches and the whole town knows it. Sally, the main character has a real talent for magic but she swears off of it after her husband dies, though she still dabbles in it. That and Gillian’s poor love life are the basis of the story. I love the themes of family, community, love, and magic that are presented in the story.  I especially love this story for the witches and magic that is in it. It makes me feel that anything is possible. I also love the aunts in this, they are great comic relief with their crazy attitudes.

 

Novel:
This story still focuses on Sally and Gillian, but add Sally’s teenage daughters, Antonia and Kylie. In the movie they are still children, but the book goes more in to depth with their lives. The changes start when Sally moves away from her aunts’ after her husband’s death.  She moves somewhere no one knows of her or her family. Over the years she earns the respect of the town. Her older daughter Antonia is the queen bee while her younger daughter is a mouse. Their regular life is disrupted when Gillian brings her problems in one visit. Gillian turns things upside down and in the end they all discover who they truly are. There is still a touch of the supernatural, but it’s not as prevalent. Sally actually doesn’t believe in magic here, at least not until the end. Still, the themes of family and love are still there. I do miss the aunts and wished they were in the book more.
 
I have to say that I love both, for different reasons. I recommend reading and watching Practical magic if you haven’t done so already.

Be sure to check out the other Participants in the Alice Hoffman Blog Hop. Alice Hoffman's Birthday Blog Hop

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Guest Post: Will Millar

Infernal Machines Tour Banner
I began working on my horror novel Infernal Machines in its earliest incarnation sometime in early 2008. I remember that I had finished working on my 1st novel just a few months earlier, and was in the process of receiving enough rejection letters to wallpaper an entire orphanage. Rather than let that bum me out, I went ahead and started another novel-sized project initially as a form of therapy. Hell’s Deliverance was the unfortunate title of my 1st attempt at a book, and in a nutshell it was about vampires. It took me just over 6 years to complete, and it held the distinction of being uniformly rejected by every single literary agent in the AAR registry. I decided that my second book would avoid Vampires entirely, as well as zombies, revenants, bĂȘte-noires or anything else that could possibly bite you to death only to have you rise from said death to go on and bite your friends/family/etc. At the same time, I knew that whatever I worked on had to be Horror. So, without really having any clear-cut idea as to how the story was going to progress, I began the back story on a guy I initially referred to as “Alpha Prime”, who was about as far removed from any character in Infernal Machines as you can get. Alpha Prime was a real estate broker, circa 2008 or so, living somewhere in between California and Arizona. He also did a lot of speaking engagements, sort of like Zig Ziegler/Tony Robbins kind of gigs, and while on the road he had a predilection for slaughtering hitchhikers and prostitutes. I had kind of this long range vision for a story about a couple of thirty-something slacker types named Paulie and Stoner, who at some point in their youth defeated a lumbering Jason Voorhees-esque ogre using only their wits. Then this Alpha Prime guy would build a shopping mall right over the ogre’s grave and then the mall would begin to eat people. Again, long-range, fuzzy planning was really the only sort of planning I did for the story, and I worked at it through the simple process of hammering out no less than 2,000 words a day, every day. There was no outline, no general scope to the work, just the vaguest ideas about the villains, and the heroes. Only, as I worked — a few dozen pages on the modern day stuff, followed by a few dozen pages on Paulie and Stoner’s childhood escapades — I realized that all of my energy and love seemed to be at its peak when I was fleshing out the back story. So I said fuck it, and decided I would dedicate a hundred or so pages to nothing but the earlier stuff; Paulie and Stoner versus the ogre, who by now I had dubbed “The Junkman.” If it went well, I’d keep going with it. If I got through page 100 and was dying to get back to the present day stuff, I’d do some more stuff on Alpha Prime and the shopping mall with a taste for human flesh. If not, I would do another hundred pages. And so, the story about Paulie and Stoner grew. I began to make changes, first and foremost to the era. At the time, I had the two kids pegged at being about 14 to 15 years old in the early nineties. This was more out of convenience than anything — I remembered the early nineties a little better, if only because it wasn’t quite as long ago as say, the early eighties. But as I filled up the 2nd notebook (I guess I should point out that I’m one of those relics who writes every 1st draft out in longhand) I was getting bored again. The Nineties were easy, but to my mind when it comes to Horror, nothing has ever been so cool as the late 70’s & early 80’s. I could do the easy stuff or the stuff that got my imagination all nice and juicy. I took the juicy route. At this point, I was about 6 months into the story, and I realized that it wasn't just therapy anymore. I was seriously going ahead with writing another book, God help me. So, I began reviewing everything I had so far, and it was… Eh. Paulie and Stoner were a lot of fun. But to pit Paulie and Stoner, who operate purely on intellect, brass balls and the brand of complete batshit insanity that only kids can really lay claim to, against this hulking thing… well, there was no real tension. The kids were always going to win out. You knew that, page after page after page. They had to win. So I had to stack the deck somehow. If I could get somebody with Alpha Prime’s cunning to join forces with the Junkman, then I would have something to work with. So I scrapped the Junkman’s original back-story (which was fairly trite from the start anyway) and began researching the story of the Golem of Prague, among other stuff. Enter Markheim, the man who would do anything to avenge the wrongs committed against him. It wasn't enough. Also, setting the story in Arizona was a fucking bummer. There’s nothing but desert out here — where the fuck was a golem supposed to hide, and even more importantly, golems are made out of clay, so wouldn't he just dry out? It was sometime late September when I made a trip to Bainbridge Island, Washington, to visit my oldest son, when I began to sort out some of the problems. I had lived in Washington a little more than a decade earlier, but it wasn’t until that visit that I saw — or rather, saw anew — the primeval forest that blankets that whole region. I knew where my story had to be told. The final piece clicked into place during the last day of my visit. Jake and I had done the usual sightseeing trips up and down both sides of Puget Sound. We visited Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe on the docks of Seattle, where a couple of mummies reside in a pair of glass cases, and we wandered around the Poulsbo Waterfront and knocked around a bunch of nautical museums, arts and crafts shops, and old book stores until he and his mom dropped me off at the airport. I remember standing there, watching the traffic roll by on the I-5, and thinking about how I was going to fix the problems with my book, when all of a sudden a name popped into my head.
Arthur Cardiff
Holy motherfucking shit I’ve never been hit like that with anything in my life before, not ever. I ran, sprinted, I fucking flat-out peeled through the airport like a fucking lunatic to the nearest newsstand and bought a half dozen blank notebooks. To this day, I’m amazed I wasn’t arrested for just generally looking like a lunatic. Because, right there, I was out of my mind. My plane wasn’t due to take off for another hour and a half or so, but by the time I got on board I had already filled out three notebooks full of stuff about this guy. Anyway, the rest of it was almost like I was just playing “connect the dots”. Besides Horror, I’ve always had a fascination with American history and folklore, and the story of the Cardiff Giant and the subsequent trial of P.T. Barnum is interesting enough in its own right that it was just the right sort of something for the story to hang its hat on. In short, I had a hook. To tell the truth, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the Mall With A Taste For Human Flesh angle. I liked it, but there’s that whole thing about “Once way leads on to way…” and I’ve never been the sort of guy who backtracks. Then again, one never can tell. Anyway, I’d like to thank you guys for letting me hang out here and blab on for a bit. And to anybody who’s read the book so far, from the bottom of my heart I thank you, too. Feel free to drop me a line anytime.  

Infernal Machines

Infernal Machines Book CoverPaulie and Stoner aren’t bad seeds; they’re just a little too smart for their own good. They stole their first car in kindergarten, and as for the homemade rocket launcher in Stoner’s garage … well, it’s best just not to ask. With 9th grade just around the corner, Paulie and Stoner find themselves on the wrong side of some real bad kids, an older band of white supremacists that go by the name of “Twisted Cross.” When a rumble at a high school keg party turns fatal, it sets off a chain of events that test the limits of Paulie and Stoner’s friendship, and their very sanity. Welcome to Chapel Harbor, a town where everybody buries their secrets deep, and nobody is quite who they seem. A town where the ghost of a serial killer known as The Junkman is rumored to stalk the woods at night, and where an unassuming magic shop and its mysterious proprietor, Arthur Cardiff, may possess the key to an ancient and terrible evil. Packed with hairpin turns and twists that will keep you guessing until the very last page, Infernal Machines is a blood drenched, adrenaline fueled, roller-coaster of a horror story that’s at once a paean to the Pulp Horror classics of the early 80’s and a meditation on the enduring power of friendship.

Available Now:

Amazon: US | UK | Canada | France | Germany | Italy | Japan | Spain

About Will Millar

Meet Will MillarWill Millar was raised in Commack, a quiet and unassuming town close to the northern shore of Long Island. As a kid, his primary passions were horror and hell-raising. As he tended to cultivate the latter to a greater extent than the former, by the time he was 17 years old, the whole town decided they’d had quite enough of his antics, and would he please just take his act on the road, thank you very much. He enlisted in the Marine Corps, where his penchant for fire, explosions and general mayhem were tolerated, if not somewhat approved. At this point, Will also discovered the writers of the Beat Generation and began to write more consistently, submitting his less profane poems to underground ‘zines and belting out the more terrible stuff to unsuspecting audiences at various open mike nights throughout the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the last 15 years, Will has worked as a writer in various mediums, though horror continues to remain his favorite. He sometimes contributes articles to Cracked.com, and his short stories are available in several different anthologies. Infernal Machines is his first novel. At the present, Will lives in Phoenix AZ. He is a father of four, owns two dogs and has a wonderfully understanding girlfriend, all of whom somehow manage to put up with all of his crap.

Connect with Will Millar

 

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Friday, March 8, 2013

The Big 5 the New Vanity Presses


This week’s regularly scheduled supernatural/occult post has been derailed by something I found out about last night. I normally don’t talk about the business side of writing, but this affects us all. I know some of my readers are writers as well. You need to know this. Prepare yourselves; this is going to be a rant.

So, back in fall 2012, Simon & Schuster joined up with the disreputable Author House aka Author Solutions aka ASI to form a new self-publishing project known as Archway Publishing. What is Author Solutions? Well it’s a vanity publisher and a scam. In fact you can read on Writer Beware about the New York law firm of Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP opening an investigation of Author Solutions for deceptive practices against authors.  So, why would one of the Big 5 (now?) want to team up with such a shady company? Well:

"Through Archway Publishing, Simon & Schuster is pleased to be part of the rapidly expanding self-publishing segment of our industry," said Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster. "Self-publishing has become a viable and popular route to publication for many authors, and increasingly a source of content for traditional publishers, including Simon & Schuster. We're excited that we'll be able to help more authors find their own path to publication and at the same time create a more direct connection to those self-published authors ready to make the leap to traditional publishing."

So pretty much they wanted to make money off of scamming authors who still dream about being traditionally published. Now, they are calling it a premium service. So, you have to pay up front. This can be anywhere from $1,999 to 24,999 for the standard package, depending on what book you write.  Then, will take a 50% cut out of your net profits. That’s right. Not only do you have to pay them for the honor of being published but then they take even more money from you.  If this wasn't bad enough, yesterday April L. Hamilton blogged about an email she received from Archway Publishing offering her a $100 “bounty” for every author she refers to them that signs. Really, we’re bounties now, like outlaws or something?

This is just the beginning. Next we have Random House has opened three new digital imprints: Hydra for SF/Fantasy, Alibi for mysteries and thrillers, and Flirt for New Adult audiences.  Here’s what they say:

“Under this program, authors will have a complete and unique publishing package. Every book will be assigned to an accomplished Random House editor and a dedicated publicist. They will also have the invaluable support of Random House’s experienced marketing and digital sales teams, who know how to reach out to and expand each book’s dedicated readership. Not only will authors benefit from working with the finest cover designers to ensure irresistibly eye-catching books, but they will also be offered the unique advantage of social media tools and training that will allow them to connect directly with their readers. To reach the widest possible readership, every title will be available for purchase at major e-retailers and will be compatible with all reading devices.”
Picture by lamont_cranston

This sounds a lot like self-publishing services and the contract makes it even worse. Here is what Writer Beware and John Scalzi found. Scalzi actually got a contract for Alibi. You should really read these posts, but I’ll break down some basics.

No Advances: Now if I remember correctly, this is one of the reasons we want to be traditionally published. It’s money up front that we may or may never see from the book. Still, the Publishing Company believes in you and offers it. Right, so you’re saying they don’t even respect the authors they’re trying to lure that much. OK.
Rights: John Scalzi noted that on the Alibi contract, they have "exclusive right to print, publish, sell and license the contracted work, in every possible format, in whole or in part, in every language, in the entire world, for the full term of copyright."

So that means that you want to shop around for you book to be printed in German? Nope, better hope Alibi wants that. Want movie rights? Only if Random house decides to.

 For the life of the copyright.

That’s the part that bugs me. Now, I've heard it mentioned that this is an industry standard, which scares me. Copyright for works published in the US after 2002 last “70 years after the death of author. If a work of corporate authorship, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first.”  So unless we have discovered eternal life, or became vampires…yeah, your entire life. This is a big reason why I went indie. Say, for instance, I want to continue my series but my publisher drops it. There’s a pretty good chance they own rights to those characters and well, good luck for me continuing their story.

Net-Billings: This is a fee to cover costs of sales, promotions, publicity, and marketing at a rate of 10%. Wait. Here was another major reason people went the traditional publishing route. Now it comes out of our royalties? Also coming out is title set up costs, including plant fees, conversion fees, and possible legal fees. Oh, and if they do decide to make a print version, there’s fees for that too. All, out of your money…not the 50% cut they are already going to take.

As I said, you can see deeper discussion of this on Scalzi’s blog, but this really irked me. This is all designed to get aspiring writers who have no idea. And the fact that it’s done by the big companies like Random House and Simon & Schuster makes it even more disgusting. Now, I don’t hate traditional publishing. I believe the decision is a personal one for every author, and there are some great houses out there. I know there are plenty of authors happy where they are. However, I do strongly suggest finding an agent to read over any contract you’re offer. Also, NEVER accept anything like this.

Writer, you are better than this. You make the product. Without you, these publishers would be searching the want adds for a new career. Yes, this business is depressingly hard to get into and succeed, but scams like this only make it worse.  Research, study, understand what you’re getting into.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Liebster Blog Award 2013



I have been double nominated for the Liebster award this week. I would like to thank Jolie Du Pre and Kathy Collier for choosing me.  I was awarded this several months back, but no it seems the rule shave changed. So, I’m going to play again.

Liebster Award Rules:

1. Thank the blogger who presented you with the Liebster Award, and link back to his or her blog.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator; list 11 random facts about yourself, and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Present the Liebster Award to 11 bloggers, who have blogs with 200 followers or less, whom you feel deserve to be noticed.  Leave a comment on the blogs letting the owners know they have been chosen. (No tag backs.)

4. Upload the Liebster Award image to your blog.

So, let’s start with the questions. I have 22 to answer:

Jolie Du Pre’s Questions:
From Jolie Du Pre
1. What is the top item on your bucket list?
Travel the world. I’m looking especially at Italy, Japan, Greece, Australia, maybe Romania.

2. What do some people do that bugs you the most?
When people are unreliable, When they say they will do something and then back out on it because they can’t manage their time.

3. What do some people do that you love the most?
Make me laugh.

4. If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?
I’d stop being an emotional whirlwind.

5. Do you believe in Astrology?
Not really.

6. Do you believe in monsters?
Yes, because humans can be monsters.

7. Who is your favorite male celebrity?
I don’t really have a favorite. I think several are hot, like Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, and I appreciate good acting, but no one I’m absolutely obsessed with.

8. Who is your favorite female celebrity?
Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil. Actually, I think she became my favorite after I started using her as a mental reference for my main character, Gabby.

9. Are you doing your dream job?
Since I have no other job and I am writing, yes I am.

10. What do you want people to say about you when you die?
“She left the world a little colder with her absence.”

11. Do you want to live forever?
Not really, I just don’t want to grow old.

And from Kathy Collier:
1.  What would your perfect world look like?
That’s kind of hard to say. The world is a big place. I suppose it be this world without so much pollution and suffering.  So clean air, blue skies, and 70 degree weather. Myself, I’d like to live near the sea.

2.  How many hours a day do you spend writing?
About an hour. My goal is four 15 minute writing sprints.

3. What inspired you to write?
All kinds of things, games, music, other books, scenes that play in my head when I go to sleep.

4. Who do you have to critique and edit your work?
I have a few writer friends and some of my roommates that I can trust to be truthful with me.

5.  Do you have a Muse? (Mine happens to be a wooden model carved in great detail of a Hawaiian native.)
No not really.
6.  What time do you write (day or night)?
Whenever I find the time.

7. Describe your work area where you write.
Someplace quiet. Usualy on my couch with a pad and pen.

8. Who is/are your favorite author(s)?
Neil Gaiman.

9. What have you written so far? (Published or unpublished, poetry, etc.?
Published:
A Prescription for Delirium
Flower of Hell in the Paramourtal Anthology
Love and Honor in the Nocturnal Embers Anthology

10. What's your favorite color?
Blue

11. What's your favorite kind of pizza?
Pepperoni and mushrooms.

Eleven Facts about me:
1. I LOVE chocolate.
2. I like to bake. I've gotten pretty good a make pies.
3. I love the smell of dried onions and I like cooked onions, but I hate raw onions.
4. I love playing games. Mostly video games and roleplaying games like D&D.
5. I have a cat named Mab. She about 4 months old now.
6. My favorite type of music is rock.
7. My favorite foods are steak and lobster.
8. Internationally, I've traveled to England, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Belize, and Mexico.
9. If I had my choice, I would want to live in Hawaii.
10. My favorite time is nighttime. Yes, the sun is trying to kill me.
11. I like water. Oceans, rain, showers…ect.

Here are my 11 questions for my 11 Chosen:
1. What hobbies do you have?
2. Do you have any pets? Do you want any pets? What kind?
3. What song is "your song?" Why?
4. What do you think makes a good story?
5. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
6. What is you favorite type of monster?
7. What would be the perfect gift for you?
8. What time of day is your favorite?
9. What's the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?
10. What habit that others have annoys you most?
11. If you became a vampire, what would you do?

And now for the 11 Chosen: