A wonderful find

So having theorized that Casca bore a lot of resemblance to a sword and planet hero, I found the name Kenneth Bulmer in the mix for “Casca Ghostwriters Prior To Sadler’s Death” (apparently he wrote the Casca books Panzer Soldier and The Mongol).

Bulmer’s biggest writing saga was, of course, the Dray Prescott series of…. yep, sword and planet books. How about that.

The Smithtown Unit is Now Out

I’m delighted to announce that my authorial debut at Sea Lion Press, The Smithtown Unit, is now out on Amazon.

It’s a short action-adventure[1] novella set in an alternate world where, among other things, the USSR still exists, there’s a “Republic of Oran” in North Africa, and (most importantly), weapons and vehicles that were only concepts/prototypes or limited in actual history end up being used en masse here.

[1]The biggest direct inspirations were the MIA Hunter and Cody’s Army series, although the intro is more based on the classic vigilante novels.

My Writing Influences

So, two of my biggest nonfiction writing influences are two contradictory people. The first is Shamus Young, a video game critic. I like his stepped-back style with a touch of wit that can really dive deep into literary analysis (particularly his longform analyses of Mass Effect and Grand Theft Auto V).

The second is classic Bill Simmons, the sports commentator. I said “classic” [2000s] Simmons because he became a victim of his own success. But the sort of irreverent, “talks like a real fan attitude” in his early columns and The Book Of Basketball I read and loved growing up has also rubbed off on me.

Trying to balance the two influences can be tough. I can remember some Fuldapocalypse reviews where I was trying to be literary and analytical, and others where my mind was snarky and over-the-top. But they’re there, for better or worse.

Writing And Blogging

So, blogging has served me very, very well. Especially my Fuldapocalypse book review blog. However, I’ve noticed my reviews on there have been getting shorter and more off-the-cuff.

For the circumstances they were written in, they worked very well, and I’m proud of them. I got to broaden not only my own horizons, but also (hopefully) to share obscure books with my readers. If the convenient situation is “just read a soft ‘51%’ book, then give quick thoughts on it”, it works well.

But now-not so much.

First, I’m going back to long-form writing. I need (and it won’t be the easiest) to get in the mindset of writing 2,000 word or more chapters and not 200-500 word posts. Shifting from “sprinting” to “distance running” is tricky, and going back to the quick and easy posts may be a bad habit in that context.

Second, I’ve had this weird “mediocrity addiction” recently, where I read the first installments of a series, find them to be merely all right at best, then go to the later ones. Meanwhile, I read first installments that I significantly enjoy, and then, somehow, don’t follow up on them. My internal justification is “my brain is too busy to appreciate good fiction, so I might as well go for the outright mush”. That’s kind of self-defeating.

Third, I’ve been in a patch where I don’t have the most to say about my review subjects, and I’m sure the second part has something to do with it-what can you really say about “eh, it was all right I suppose?”

So expect less review blogging. I won’t stop it completely, but I do intend to slow it down, especially once I burn through my pile of “mostly finished” reviews. I’m nervous about going fully into writing long fiction, but I’m also excited, because there’s so much in my mind I want to get out.

Boom Boom Goes The Tank: Plotnukes

In my latest Sea Lion Press column, I finally have the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite technothriller pet peeves-“Plotnukes”.

Plotnukes are a kind of “I know it when I see it” term for the use of nuclear weapons in a highly contrived way. The Birmingham-for-Minsk “trade” in Hackett’s The Third World War and similar events in imitators is what I consider the poster child of such a thing.

Good Writing Music

Good writing music is frequently long, ambient, and low-intensity, for lack of a better word. It’s just noticeable enough to distract you from the outside world while you write, but not prominent enough to take attention away from the writing itself.

There are exceptions, of course, but I’ve gotten a lot done listening to relaxing instrumental music.

A genre I’d never write?

So, for the August 2018 #TheMerryWriter challenge started by Ari Meghlen and Rachel Poli, the second day’s question was “Is there a genre you would never write?”

It was a tough question to answer. My tastes are incredibly varied already and can change a lot. A desire to move away from fire-eating hyperbole on my part made it even harder. Finally, the vague nature of what constitutes certain “genres” at all makes it tougher.

I don’t want to say I’d never write a certain genre, but certain ones are lower on my priority list. The one I tweeted was “classic Westerns”. I’ve never been terribly interested in them past watching The Magnificent Seven as a child, and if I’m not into reading them, then writing them, well, yeah.

However, a lot of genres I would gladly write-the adventure genre, part of the “cheap thriller” genre I love, has been clearly inspired by classic Westerns. So genres are not easy to separate.

Other genres low on my list:

  • Outright horror, especially cosmic horror. Not really for me, but I can see the appeal.
  • Contemporary romance. For the most part I’m not in the demographic, so that’s pretty self-explanatory.
  • Mysteries. Argh. The problem is a spectacular true crime book by The Wire creator David Simon called Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets. With that being as piercing as it is, traditional mysteries look especially formulaic and unrealistic. That being said, I do like the concept more.
  • Zombies. At least shambler zombies. Too often they become a “theme park apocalypse”.
  • Urban Fantasy. Fantasy overall is fairly low, but urban fantasy is even lower. I like it in theory, it’s just too often I see it falling. It might just be me seeing poor examples, but I think a lot of the time it tries to have its cake (modern relatable characters and the fantastic!) and eat it too (too neatly segmenting off the societies), and that annoys me.
  • Legal thrillers. I’m not a lawyer, self-explanatory.

This is of course my personal taste and I have nothing against the genres or anyone who likes them. And my opinion could very well change again.