Ghost Story Books

on October 27, 2014 in Misc | 8 Comments »

It’s Halloween week, which means it’s time for supernatural tales.  Some people have a thing for zombies, others hanker for sexy vampires, and then there are witches and skeletons and creepy crawly stuff.

For me it’s always been ghosts.

ghost on tr

Ever since I could trick or treat, I was nuts for ghost stories.  Sure, they scared the *%!!#! out of me and convinced me that something dark and terrible was lurking under my bed and if I dared to climb out from under the covers in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom it would grab my ankles and pull me under and….

But I still couldn’t stop reading those scary stories.

Well, in the spirit of the season I figured I should share my terror by mentioning one or two ghost books I might have read over the years.  So I went went to the bookshelf where I remembered keeping a couple and realized…

Holy crap, I’ve got a lotta ghost books!

We’re not talking fiction, either. We’re talking a broad collection of non-fiction, swear-on-The-Bible, these are absolutely true tales of the supernatural, or so the writers claim.  I have guides to haunted places in Britain (and yes, I spent one night in an allegedly haunted inn somewhere in Cornwall but saw nothing).  I’ve got several books like Psychic Visits to the Past, which are supposed to be about people witnessing slips in time, but to me come across as scary ghost tales.  Then there’s Ghosts of the Air, which are the experiences from pilots, and the inevitable books about ghosts of the Civil War or Gettysburg or just war in general.

holy ghostbuster

One of my favorites is Holy Ghostbuster, which was written by J. Aelwyn Roberts, a Welsh vicar who describes his ghostly experiences from the perspective of a spiritual man who has been to many deathbeds and in many creepy Welsh and English country houses.  It’s a classic.

I’ve got the omnibus from those two Ghost Hunters guys on the SciFi Channel, Ghost Files: The Collected Cases from Ghost Hunting and Seeking Spirits.  If nothing else, check out the photos.  I guarantee that a couple will creep you out.

Finally, there’s the book that instilled in me a permanent, paranoid fear of ghosts.  It was the very old (second edition 1926), beaten-up, taped-together True Irish Ghost Stories (compiled by Seymour and Neligan) that my parents, for some sick, warped reason, left lying around the house when I was still an impressionable tyke.  I read it cover to cover and haven’t been the same since.  If you’re interested, it’s now back in print, and while some reviewers complain that its tales are very spare and newspaper-like, for me their simplicity and factual language made them all the more real, which made them all the more unnerving.

So is it ghosts for you, or are you a zombie or vampire or other supernatural fan?

Have a great Halloween.

TV Lovers

on October 20, 2014 in Misc | 10 Comments »

The last thing I need is to be hooked on another TV show.

I am now hooked on Outlander.

The main reason, of course, is that the story is fascinating and intelligent and has emotional complexity, which means that the series of novels it’s based on must be the same.  Now I wish I’d started reading those books years ago.

The show also has a fabulous leading lady, as Mike over at SLC Kismet has wisely pointed out.  She’s high-spirited and strong-willed and a skilled healer/combat nurse, and her narrative voice adds depth to the story.  Then there’s aura of mystery, the high standards of production… And oh yeah, this reason…


That’s right.  Jaimie is one of my new fantasy lovers.  Damn.  Like I’m not distracted enough by Ichabod Crane of Sleepy Hollow, who’s still my number one.  The man with a bedroom voice, a stunning face, lyrical sentences, knee-high boots… You get the idea.

use ichabod

These men are two of the reasons why I didn’t get any writing done this weekend.  Sure, I did some plotting for my screenplay, but that isn’t much.   (WHY am I s-l-o-w-l-y writing a screenplay when the odds of selling it are a million to one?)

The fact is, we’re also having a beautiful autumn here in Colorado.  A lot of years we don’t:  last September there was terrible record flooding, and other times we have early snows that ruin the leaves.  But this year there’s a glorious riot of colors, and since I live in a very leafy neighborhood with lots of old trees, I would much rather be outside and moving than inside and writing.

Maybe when the snow starts to fall I’ll stay at my desk during daylight hours and write.  Then in the evening I’m curling up on the sofa with Jamie and Ichabod.

So who—besides your beloved significant others—do you plan to spend fantasy wintry evenings with?  (Alex, I already know that yours will be Kate Beckinsale.)

Genre Women, Part I

on October 13, 2014 in Misc | 10 Comments »

Here is my humble Ode to Genre Women. I’ve only addressed a few today but I might finish this in another posting.


A woman in sci-fi is not very meek,

She’s high-tech and crafty, a cool-headed geek.

Whether princess or pilot, she outwits pursuers,

Alters dystopia, and takes down bad rulers.


A fantasy woman has thunderous thighs,

Long flowing hair, big breasts, and fierce eyes.

She wields a long sword, a spear or a saber,

And the fate of the world depends on her labor.


Unless she’s a fairy, a witch, maid or queen,

In which case she’s smaller and softer and lean.

Her weapons are subtle with some kind of magic;

Her motive is love, her history quite tragic.

angela lans

In mysteries the women are victims or cops,

And sometimes a killer with poisonous chops.

She can be an old lady who solves bloody crimes,

Or a toughened detective who shoots multiple times.

ava gardner

In noir all the ladies are dangerous dames;

They smolder with sex and want to play games.

They’ve all got a past and can watch a man die,

But have a soft spot for a hard private eye.


That’s it for now, and I hope you enjoyed these rotten rhymes. Got more any more genre lady rhymes in mind?

Have a great week.

Novel Revenge

on October 5, 2014 in Misc | 8 Comments »

You may have noticed that the movie Gone Girl came out this last week.  It’s based on the bestseller that sold about half a billion copies.


I’m not giving anything away when I tell you that the story revolves around some pretty twisted revenge.  Not the Carrie-level, impulsive mayhem type, but some crazy payback nonetheless.

gone girl poster

I thought about Gone Girl and retribution/ revenge/ The Avengers (just kidding) a couple days ago when I learned that a lawyer I had an unpleasant legal encounter with a couple years ago, and who insulted me and pretty much called me a liar, has since gone through some hard times.  He might now be divorced and his professional life, which wasn’t exactly stellar to begin with, has slid even farther into obscurity.

God forgive me (and yes I do have spiritual beliefs), I was so happy about this news.

See, the thing is this involved a minor case of my being paid my medical deductible for an injury.  I also wanted an apology from the client.  Well, I received most of the payment but nothing else, and a part of me is still angry with the lawyer and his spineless client, and I’ve been angry with myself for not standing up for myself when I had the chance.

Sure, I should just forget the matter.  I know better than to wish misfortune on others because it’ll only come back on me (maybe that’s a superstition more than a belief, but I heed it).  Still, that memory sometimes drifts through me as if in search of a cathartic ending.  I really do believe that a sense of justice is hardwired into our genetic makeup.  We all have a sense of fairness and of right and wrong.  We want goodness to be rewarded and evil to be punished.

Okay, so this lawyer is not evil, just a mediocre twit.  And no, I most definitely do not want Gone Girl type of retribution.  But because he has had some misfortunes, most likely because he brought them on himself,  the world around me feels a little more balanced.

Maybe this is why books like Gone Girl or Carrie are so popular.  They’re over-the-top overreactions to injustices, real or imagined, that characters experience.  But if we’re not careful our sense of justice can turn psycho, which is entertaining in a movie or book but not so much fun in real life.

How about you?  Any tales of retribution or justice you’ve lived through and thought of turning into a novel?

Have a wonderful week.

Today I’m giving you some funny micro tales about writers and rejections. Personally, I need funny right now because I didn’t have the best weekend.

Sunday was okay, but Saturday I was really in the dumps (we writers can be moody!).  And Friday night was the worst because my cat got so sick I had to rush her to the veterinarian’s urgent care office.

sick kitty

Two hours and almost $300 later (OUCH!), I took her home and gave her the two prescriptions. Giving medication to a cat isn’t easy, by the way.

Now for some tiny tales about writing that made me feel better, and I hope they can do the same for you…

Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, was rejected by one publisher because it was “neither long enough for a serial nor short enough for a single story.”

A publisher rejected The Diary of Ann Frank because “The girl doesn’t… have a special perception or feeling which would lift the book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”

Judith Krantz (she of the bestselling potboilers) once said, “I’m not trying to be taken seriously by the East Coast literary establishment.  But I’m taken very seriously by the bankers.”

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was turned down by publisher after publisher. Finally and with Jack London’s help, Sinclair sold subscriptions for $1.20, raised $4,000 this way, and printed the first edition. The book would go on to become an American classic.

An editor rejected George Orwell’s Animal Farm because “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”

Norman Mailer once said, “I have never hit a critic, and I say that with some wistfulness.”

Do you feel better as a writer now?  Hope so.  Have a wonderful week.

Bad Query Day

on September 22, 2014 in Misc | 8 Comments »

Well, that was embarrassing.

I pay my bills.  I pay all of them on time or early.  Really I do.  But my pal Alfonso who maintains the tech part of my blog was out of town and didn’t see the notice that the payment for keeping my blog up was due and you saw the result.  But he’s back home now and I’m back.

So now I can go ahead and tell you that last week was pretty rotten for me because…

That agent turned down my book.

reject letter

What a blow.  And after several months of waiting and that mix-up.  I mean, she read Charity MacCay and so did a second reader at her agency.  And then in a sweet email she praised my book and especially the lead character—and I mean she gushed about Charity’s story.  But in the end she felt sure that I would find another agent who could better represent it.

Crap. Crap crap crap.

I mean, I do realize that my novel blurs a couple genre borders, which can make some people in the business nervous.  And I don’t think that particular agent deals with humorous books or knows editors who do.  Charity is definitely a funny, irreverent book about America circa the Gilded Age.


Sigh.  And crap.

But on the bright side, for once I didn’t wallow in self-pity or grief.  Instead I turned off my emotions and got business-like and spent my lunch hour sending out four more queries.

And that’s when an agent emailed me back and asked to see my complete manuscript for Charity!

That was the fastest request from an agent ever for me, and oh, how it made me feel better!  Then in the next couple days I got out still a couple more queries.  And this week I’ll get out more.

I hope all of you had a better week than I did, complete with books sales and agents and editors clamoring for your stories.  Got some good personal news for me?  I’d love to hear it.

Secrets of Honor

on September 14, 2014 in Misc | 6 Comments »

First, I’ve got a small dash of news about me.  Then I’m giving you great news about Carol Kilgore and her exciting new novel.

My news: The agent who had agreed to look at my book, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar, has finished reading it and asked a second reader at her agency to give it a look.

Is this good news?  I DON’T KNOW!!!  Certainly it’s better than the dreaded, “Thank you for sending us your manuscript.  Unfortunately…” (fill in the rest of the dreaded rejection).  I googled the matter and it seems that agents and editors often ask for a second in-house read when they’re not sure how to market a manuscript or they need another perspective on its potential.

I’ve decided to be positive and upbeat.  Then maybe my good vibes will travel to New York City and sprinkle fairy dust on the second reader who then declares, “WE MUST SIGN THIS  WRITER IMMEDIATELY!”

Secrets of Honor

And now onward to the mistress of Crime Fiction with a Kiss.

Carol Kilgore is one of those funny, friendly, and extremely supportive fellow writers you wished you lived next door to.  As her bio states: Carol sees mystery and subterfuge everywhere.  And she’s a sucker for a good love story—especially ones with humor and mystery.  Crime Fiction with a Kiss gives her the latitude to mix and match throughout the broad mystery and romance genres.  Having flexibility makes her heart happy.

Her new book is out today and it’s called…


By the end of a long evening working as a special set of eyes for the presidential security detail, all Kat Marengo wants is to kick off her shoes and stash two not-really-stolen rings in a secure spot. Plus, maybe sleep with Dave Krizak. No, make that definitely sleep with Dave Krizak. The next morning, she wishes her new top priorities were so simple.

As an operative for a covert agency buried in the depths of the Department of Homeland Security, Kat is asked to participate in a matter of life or death–locate a kidnapped girl believed to be held in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Since the person doing the asking is the wife of the president and the girl is the daughter of the first lady’s dearest friend, it’s hard to say no.

Kat and Dave quickly learn the real stakes are higher than they or the first lady believed and will require more than any of them bargained for.

The kicker? They have twenty-four hours to find the girl—or the matter of life or death will become more than a possibility.


If you want to purchase SECRETS OF HONOR, and of course you do, here are the links:



And if you want to connect with Carol and her books, here are links to her blog and more.

Under the Tiki Hut blog:

Website with Monthly Contest:



Have a wonderful week, y’all.

The Worth of Books

on September 8, 2014 in Misc | 14 Comments »


So here’s the thing: I think a lot of books have gotten too cheap.

Sure, I’m biased ’cause I’m a writer.  And arguably the massive number of new books now available, thanks to indie publishing and e-books technology, will drive down sticker prices.

On the bright side:  Readers have more literary choices than ever at almost no cost, and writers have more opportunities to get their stories in front of readers.

On the dark side:  We writers will soon starve to death.

Seriously, the really dark side of super cheap and even free e-books is that many readers seem to be devaluing our work.  They have come to expect a fantastic bargain.  After all, why buy a $4.99 e-book by an unknown writer when a 99 cent one sounds pretty good? For that matter, why spend 99 cents when there are so many free books? Marketplace forces are grinding away.

dirt cheap

But is a cheap price always the right tactic for a writer to take?

Here’s an old marketing example.  In the Depression, Curtis nail polish cost 30 cents.  Then Max Factor came along with its spanking new nail polish and charged a dollar.  Business experts warned that Max Factor would fail.  Instead, Max’s polish sold like crazy because women assumed that at more than three times the cost their product was superior to Curtis’s.  The cosmetics and fashion industry took note and has used the more-expensive-is-better ploy ever since.

Yet those same women customers would baulk at spending $5 on an ebook by the likes of us.  Never mind that our books only exist because of months and even years of our work, creativity, passion, intelligence, and other good stuff.

In book publishing, the equivalent of designer fashion prices is a limited edition book.

beatles book

Currently, Amazon doesn’t even carry Harry Benson’s The Beatles (Art Edition).  One of its independent sellers offers the lone copy for $14,100.  The book’s publisher Taschen has on its website a mere 20 signed editions available at $1,000 each, and no doubt they’ll eventually sell out.  Meanwhile, much cheaper editions of Benson’s photo books of the Beatles are much more available.

Sure, it’s a fantasy that any of us pleb writers will one day produce an in-demand costly limited edition book.  But is it too much to ask for a mere couple bucks a book?  Aren’t our stories worth even that much?

In the end, I have no solutions or even suggestions, but I’d love to hear yours.

Logline Hell

on September 1, 2014 in Misc | 13 Comments »

If you think writing a blurb for you novel is tough–and for me they’re a nightmare–try summing up your magnum opus in a mere log line.


A log line is your first and most important pitch for a screenplay or a TV script.  Think blurbs for people with severe ADD.   When industry folk want to know about your story, you’ve got to pitch it in a mere ONE SENTENCE!  Or if you’re the garrulous type, TWO SENTENCES!

That means you’ve got to cover your story’s crucial elements of the protagonist, antagonist and the goal, and throw in some “sizzle and pop” and “titillation and intrigue” in a few measly words.

back to future

Here’s an example:

An alcoholic ex-superhero searches for his daughter after she is kidnapped by his demented, jealous former sidekick.

Here’s the log line for Back to the Future:

A young man is transported to the past where he must reunite his parents before he and his future are no more.”

Here’s a verbose two  sentence log line:

An expert on cults is hired by a mother and father to kidnap and deprogram their brainwashed daughter.  He soon begins to suspect the parents may be more destructive than the cult he’s been hired to save her from.

By now you may be wondering what my screenplay’s log line is.

I don’t have one yet.

What I do have is 16 pages of a screenplay, which means only about 103 pages to go.  But it’s going kinda fast because I’m having fun telling my story in a format that so different from novel writing.

Still, I’ve got the feeling that by writing my log line now, I’ll be forced to think with crystal clarity about my story, hence the log line will help me write it.

Have you ever done something similar with your own stories, whatever the format?  Like writing a rough blurb early on, or composing a query letter? Could you sum up your novel in one sentence?









The reasons why I still haven’t heard from the agent who’s looking at my novel, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar.


  1. It’s August and sweltering and most of the population of New York City has skipped town for the month.

  2. The agent is still in her office but her assistant is on vacation and left her email account in lockdown.

  3. A virus created by evil Russian hackers has destroyed the agent’s computer system and all contact information for me.

  4. The NSA intercepted my email because its attached pdf manuscript revealed too many national security secrets.

  5. The agent loved my novel and is about to send me a contract in the mail.

  6. The contract was already mailed but a mugger stole the postman’s mail bag.

  1. The IT person at my job decided I shouldn’t be sending personal emails from work so he’s been intercepting and deleting them.

  2. My manuscript is so brilliant that the agent is reading it very, very slowly so that she can savor every word.

  3. My manuscript stinks and the agent doesn’t have the heart to tell me she can’t reject it fast enough.

  4. I am suffering from hallucinations because in reality no one anywhere is looking at my manuscript.

Personally, I think the answer is #10.  Do you have any additions to the list?