Sunday, July 28, 2013

Don't Over Think it. It's Supposed to be Fun

As an experiment, I recently self-published my novel Trouble (click on the link to visit Amazon) through Kindle Direct Publishing. It took me longer than I expected but it was easier than I thought it would be and I now find myself very excited about it.

This is an older novel but close to my heart. Humorous science fiction with western overtones, it's very much a labor of love cause I really like the two main characters, brothers Trouble and Bear. I have a soft spot for the "buddy heroes" sort of story line having watched too many cop and detective shows in the past perhaps. I love to write dialogue and this sort of genre is perfect for that.

Often times stories in this sort of genre have an "Odd Couple" feel to them. One person fanatically clean and proper, the other preternaturally filthy with few inhibitions. My brothers in Trouble both sort of fall into the latter camp (depending on the time of day). The difference is that one sails through life eager for a challenge while the other rumbles along loaded for bear. This could be why I chose the name Bear for the older brother. He growls, he grouses and can intimidate with his size.

Trouble is perfectly named since somehow he always managed to find it (and if he isn't finding it, he's often causing it). His antics often annoy his brother which of course encourages Trouble to do it even more. 

I say, "Don't over think it. It's supposed to be fun" because...well that's what it is. There is no mind-bending physics or sociological comment in this. It is a space opera. I had two characters I loved to write for and a fun plot and I set it in Jeffers City, a dusty mining town on the planet Exiise. A town pretty much owned by Alby Jeffers whose ambition goes beyond the mining concern that he bought up a good portion of the town to build. The goals he is working toward will have planet-, maybe system-wide impact and it's up to the brothers to stop them.

Bear was blissfully ignorant of anything Jeffers was up to until his brother came to town. He'd returned from the vagabond life of a planet-hopping con and took up, of all things, the job of sheriff in Jeffers City. It's a cushy job since most of the citizens of Jeffers City are too tired from working the mines to give him much of a problem. Those that do, soon learn from their mistake and never do again. 

Trouble comes to town hoping to enlist his brother's aid in retrieving the plans to an important piece of mining equipment out of which Alby Jeffers cheated Trouble's client. Despite Bear's warnings not to pursue the issue, Trouble digs anyway and unravels a plot that goes beyond mere mining equipment. And there we have the dilemma that eventually sends the brothers on a mission to stop him.

When I was younger, I purchased Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat from the Science Fiction Book Club and fell in love with the series. This, and novels like the Xanth series by Piers Anthony and of course Douglas Adams' fantastic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, inspired in me a love of science fiction/fantasy sprinkled liberally with humor.

So it's with great pleasure that I announce the publication of my novel Trouble and hope that everyone has as much fun reading it as I had writing it.

Remember: Don't over think it. It's supposed to be fun.

Monday, July 8, 2013

That Lucky Dog

I thought, for fun, and since I haven't posted for a while, I’d share a review of The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice that I wrote for the on line book chat I conducted for Pioneer Press all those years ago (July of 2012 to be exact). I chose it for one of the rounds and let’s just say I wasn’t overly satisfied by the time I reached the end. 

Well I've finished The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice. We'll have a live, on line chat on it at 7 p.m. July 10 at this very blog. Sign in and join the discussion. I'll save most of my thoughts for the chat but I do have to mention that Reuben Golding is quite possibly the most fortunate character in literature. The beast he transforms into shouldn't be termed "the Man Wolf" but rather "the Lucky Dog."

Let's tally up here. He's born into a wealthy family and manages to get a master's in English, as well as attend a number of archaeological digs (a fact that conveniently figures into the story) before the age of 23. He's also tall and incredibly handsome.

When the novel opens he's working as a reporter, a job acquired thanks in part to his mom's influence with the editor, and has already had a couple of major murder stories under his belt. Very unusual for a reporter less than a year on the job.

While doing a story on the sale of the Nideck mansion (which, once he sees it, he considers buying because at age 23 he never the less has enough money to do so), he beds down the beautiful owner of the mansion, Marchent Nidek. Unfortunately for him it happens the same night her psycho brothers break in and kill her, severely wounding him. Fortunately, it's also the night that a mysterious, beastly protector kills the brothers, leaving Reuben with only a few nips. Also in the "win win" column is the fact that Marchent, seeing his appreciation for the house, managed to fax over papers to her lawyer earlier that night bequeathing the house to Reuben.

How Cool is that!

Now we all know what's going to happen, it's not a secret, especially since as he heals, quickly, Reuben notices some changing going on in his body (one of them being that his lustrous hair becomes even more so). When the first transformation occurs, it's not the violent, agonizing, terrifying experience we've come to expect from werewolf tales. Oh no. For Lucky Dog, the transformation is a fantastic, orgasmic experience. And while the werewolves in other stories revert to mindless beasts, Reuben retains his mind presenting him with the best of both worlds: The strength of the beast with the conscience of the man. Even better, the first night it happened, he was alone in his parents' house. How embarrassing would it have been to start into something like that and have mom pounding at the door. Of course, once that big, empty Nideck mansion clears probate, he's able do his transforming in private.

Reuben does go on rampages, but he's compelled only to kill evil people, which he can sense so he knows right where to find them. Even more convenient, after he kills them, all evidence that he was ever at the scene--hair, blood, tissue--simply disintegrates into nothing leaving no tie to the crime. And, as time goes by, he learns how to transform into beast or man at will.

Now a life such as this might get lonely. Luckily on one of his wolfish forays into the forest, he chances upon a woman named Laura living in a cabin who not only isn't scared of the Man Wolf stepping onto her porch, she's actually attracted to him enough to invite him into her bed. At last! An understanding girlfriend.

Perhaps I should clarify that the Man Wolf is literally a man/wolf. A hairy (and apparently sexy) beast who can walk upright, has a level of manual dexterity and can apparently satisfy a woman sexually without ripping her to shreds in the process.

What the heck kind of star was this guy born under? Larry Talbot is drooling all over himself after transforming and this guy is romancing women in forests.

There are other little fortunate asides like the fact that Reuben is able to unburden himself during confession with his brother Jim, who is a priest and bound by the sacramental law that states, "What's said in confession, stays in confession."

Also amazing is that at a time when newspapers are running on skeleton staffs composed of harried reporters working on any number of stories at one time, Reuben's editor seems content with the couple of stories on the Man Wolf that Reuben manages to file. Even then, the stories require little footwork or research on Reuben's part because, as the Man Wolf, he was there!

Now I understand the need for convenience in fiction, especially fantasy. It helps propel the plot. But a liberal sprinkling of inconveniences can also offer the story a sorely needed sense of dramatic tension.

The title of the novel indicates clearly the track Rice is on. Lycanthropy is not a curse, it's a gift, one that can be controlled and used for good. This plot device has found great favor in literature for years now. But even this "gift" would also have to be incredibly life altering, especially in the early stages, and so consequently the lycanthrope would have to experience some inconveniences, awkward moments, and dangerous issues. As I read The Wolf Gift, I couldn't help but think of how much more interesting it might have been if Reuben Golding didn't have fortune's safety net to keep catching him when these inconveniences arose. What if he didn't have a mansion and its many quiet acres to run to? What if he didn't have money to easily purchase things he needed for this condition? What if the change overcame him in public? What if Laura had some initial misgivings about dating a Man Wolf? Perhaps if he had had more more stumbling blocks to navigate in his strange journey, I might have found Reuben's story a bit more interesting.