Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More leftwing politicking from Stephen King

I've long known that Stephen King is a Democrat, and something of a liberal one as well. (Hey, King is from the 1960s student protest movement; what else would you expect?)

I don't generally choose my reading list based on authors' political beliefs. I don't think that most readers do. Nor do I recommend that they should.

However, Stephen King isn't just another author who many people have heard of. He is a major celebrity, and a household name. He's been a celebrity and a household name for at least thirty years. Therefore, everything that Stephen King says or does is bound to attract attention.

And while his abilities as a novelist are well established, he often comes across as an uninformed but highly opinionated ideologue when he wades into politics:

Now King is using his money and clout in an attempt to sway a Maine Senate race.

Stephen King picks sides in Senate race

Stephen King--just like any other citizen--has a right to speak his mind on political issues in the public square. However, there is a point where it is not unreasonable to ask: Is King a novelist with leftwing political views, or is he a leftwing political activist who writes novels?

Government waste--the latest and greatest

Accounts of absurd government waste are nothing new, of course; but if you're a taxpayer, it is hard to ignore the more egregious examples of government fiscal malfeasance:

Free paranormal stories on Amazon

The reviews for this one are mixed, but Jeff Bennington is a popular paranormal author. It might be worth a try:

Deromanticizing the independent bookstore

An interesting article from Huffington Post details one author's experiences with an independent bookstore:

Amazon's new Kindle: nice but expensive

Granted, not everyone will want to pay $200 for a reading device. 

The above review refers to the Kindle Voyage, which is the deluxe model. You can still buy a basic Kindle for only $79, which is pretty cheap, in the big scheme of things.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Publishers, "the book business", and modern-day Luddites

A mostly innocent but extremely misguided piece by Michael Wolff of USA Today:

"The book business believes that Amazon is unfair in the way it sells books. It believes, in fact, that Amazon in its sales practices — pressuring the book publishers to lower their prices and profits — is the enemy. Amazon's ultimate design, publishers believe, is to ruin them or to wholly shift the center of gravity in the business from the creators of books to Amazon, the dominant seller."

I'm amazed at how inarticulate professional mainstream journalists are nowadays. The "book business" encompasses an entire supply chain--which includes not only publishers, but also writers (many of whom now publish independently), and book retailers. The book retailing sector includes not only Amazon, but also Walmart,, and even your local grocery store. (I have bought a lot of books at Kroger and Walgreens over the years.)

"Indeed, while Amazon may be the worst thing to have ever hit the book business..."
Amazon is not "the worst thing to ever hit the book business". Amazon makes reading more affordable and more accessible to more people than all those overly romanticized corner bookshops ever could. Amazon encourages reading by making the process of book purchasing easy, convenient, and affordable for the masses. How is that bad for "the book business"?

Wolff then suggests that publishers can "win" by selling books directly to consumers, thereby bypassing the need for evil retail outlets like Amazon. 

It's a grand idea, but it displays Wolff's ignorance of the function of the retailer: The retailer serves as a market aggregator: Readers want to do all of their book browsing in one place; they don't want to visit a dozen different publisher websites every time they purchase a new book. (And how could publishers based in high-rent New York City ever compete economically with Amazon's distribution system?)

Wolff closes with a bit of wishful thinking about building a "culture for books". The best way to do that, again, is to make them more affordable and easier to acquire. This is exactly what Amazon does. And while I share Wolff's contempt for most celebrity-authored books, the USA Today columnist comes off, overall, as a Luddite and an unrealistic nostalgist.

I miss the past, too. I miss the days when Ronald Reagan was in the White House, all four of my grandparents were still alive, and rock music was worth listening to. I miss the days when I had a full head of hair, and most people whom I met were older than me rather than younger. But time marches on.

And truth be told--I do miss those old brick-and-mortar bookstores a little bit myself. It was indeed fun to while away a few hours at Borders on a Sunday afternoon. 

But I don't miss paying full list price on a $29.95 hardcover novel, and I don't miss having my selection limited to what could be housed in the shelves of the Waldenbooks at my local mall. 

Wolff's basic premise, that Amazon and ebooks are an evil force to be "defeated" is just plain silly. It ignores the facts of consumer preferences, technological changes, and the economics of bookselling. 

Should we wage a campaign to bring back the cassette tape and the 8-track while we're at it--defeat the CD and the MP3?

Also: Whatever happened to the days when left-leaning journalists cared about saving trees--which, economics aside, is a huge selling point of ebooks?

Hauntings, places, and people

Different perspectives on the traditional haunted house story:

This essay waxes a bit on the philosophical side: It covers a range of topics from The Amityville Horror to Marxist economic theory.

Ghostly locations worldwide

Most of these are in Europe:

Cincinnati: a creepy place

Much of my horror fiction is set in the Cincinnati area, where I live and write. 

For inspiration, I often investigate local urban legends. (I always modify the urban legend somewhat when I write fiction, though, as was the case for my recent horror novel, Eleven Miles of Night--which is also set near Cincinnati.) 

Blogs like this one always get my idea factory churning:

Creepy Cincinnati

Monica, get a new schtick

I personally have nothing to say about what transpired between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky almost two decades ago. Consenting adults and all that…

But one can only ride the PR wave of a presidential affair for so long. I would submit that 16 years is more than long enough. It is time for Monica Lewinsky to move on, perhaps?

Marijuana brownies--just like Little Debbie?

What could possibly go wrong with the marketing concept of combining the habits of potheads with popular children's pastries? Coming to a lunch box near you...

Uncertain times and post-apocalyptic fiction

Post-apocalyptic fiction wasn't so popular during the optimistic 1990s. 

Today--with Islamic terrorism, economic uncertainty, and the collapse of the "new world order" into multipolar chaos, post-apocalyptic fiction is all the the rage:

HP Lovecraft still relevant

HP Lovecraft was not a commercially successful author in his lifetime; but his influence persists to this day across various forms of "weird fiction" and film:

'Gone Girl' and the "M-words"

I haven't seen the movie yet, though I did read the book, and very much enjoyed it.

One thing I like about Gillian Flynn is that she portrays gender relations with a nuance that is sorely missing from the politically charged blogosphere nowadays. 

The blogosphere is dominated by radical feminists, on one hand, who see everything through the lens of a patriarchal oppression narrative. (And by the way, not all of the "feminists" are women.)

On the other hand, the men's rights crowd is characterized by a similar degree of ideological tunnel vision. (And they have an "oppression narrative" of their own.) 

Online arguments between these two camps often erupt into wars in which both sides deserve to lose.

The truth is that real life doesn't conform to either gender-based oppression narrative. Sometimes the "bad guy" really is a guy--and sometimes the "bad guy" is a woman. 

But one should never confuse identity group politics grievance mongers with observations of real life.

Pacific tensions

Yet further evidence of why the US needs Japan as a full strategic partner.

WWII was 70 years ago. The threat today is Sino-Russian militarism, not the ghost of imperial Japan.

Obama and the jerk boyfriend

As regular readers will know, I'm no fan of President Obama, but I have to admit that he did a wonderful job of turning the tables here:

Sorry, no #gamergate analysis here...

A few of you have asked me, but I'm going to stay out of this one, because:

1.) From a distance, this strikes me as a lot of manufactured drama more than anything

2.) I don't understand what the big deal is. If guys want to play "guy-specific" videogames, I'm fine with that. 

On the other hand, if there is a market for female-centric games, I'm fine with that as well. (That's the wonderful thing about free markets--supply answers demand.)

(The market would, I assume, also produce games that are "gender neutral", for lack of a better word.)

It's no different in principle from the world of fiction: We have authors like Clive Cussler (predominantly male readership) and we have authors like Emily Giffin (mostly female readership). We also have plenty of authors like John Grisham, who are read by men and women in more or less equal numbers.

3.) Finally, I'm admittedly an outsider to the world of hardcore gaming: I haven't played video games since Asteroids and Pac Man were the latest things. I pretty much burned out on video games when I started high school (that was in 1982.) And I frankly don't have either the time or the inclination to wade through all of the pointless drama here. 

Scandinavian Cold War tensions

More signs that Russia is back...for better or worse.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vampire burial in Bulgaria?

"Just in time for Halloween, the man known as “Bulgaria’s Indiana Jones” may have unearthed the grave of one of the undead. On Oct. 9, archaeologist Nikolai Ovcharov announced that he discovered what he called a “vampire grave” that contains a skeleton with a ploughshare – an iron rod used for a plough – driven through its chest, the Telegraph reports. The grave dates back to the 13th century and was discovered at Perperikon, an ancient Thracian city in southern Bulgaria."

Vampire hunting in the 1800s

Because people in the 19th century took vampire hunting seriously:

Independent publishing: both sides

A fairly balanced assessment of the pros and cons of the independent publishing trend:

John Grisham's damage control

This is a case study of why fiction writers should be very cautious when tempted to make off-the-cuff public statements about politics and controversial issues:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

10 horror novels that should be movies or miniseries

I definitely agree with one of the books in this list: The Rising, by Brian Keene.

The Rising is one of the best zombie novels out there. 

If made into a television series, though, it would have to compete with The Walking Dead, and all the other zombie movies that have hit the big screen of late (most of which--unlike The Walking Dead--aren't very good)).

A *very* prolific Brazilian author

I have heard of R.F. Lucchetti before, though I've never read any of his books. (Which I would almost certainly would have, if I did a lot of my reading in Portuguese; Lucchetti is the author of 1,547 books.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pre-Halloween Kindle giveaway: Hay Moon and Other Stories

My short story collection Hay Moon and Other Stories, Sixteen Modern Tales of Horror and Suspense will be free on Amazon Kindle from Saturday, October 18 through Monday, October 20th. 

Book description:

- During the Great Depression, a young boy confronts zombies…

- In the present day, a software salesperson discovers that he can commune with the dead at airports.

- A business trip is cut short when three corporate colleagues stray into a den of vampires near a major interstate.

- A Russian gangster makes a killing in America---murdering romantic rivals for hire.

These are just a few of the bizarre scenarios you will enter through the pages of Hay Moon and Other Stories…

Sixteen modern tales of horror and suspense…

***Hay Moon***

In the summer of 1932, the undead invaded a corner of rural Ohio. Nearly eight decades later, one man still lives with the nightmares, and a horrible promise left unfulfilled.

***Giants in the Trees***

Jim knew that his older coworker, Paul Taulbee, had a checkered past. But he was unprepared for the horror he discovered on the night he gave Paul a ride home from the office.

***The Vampires of Wallachia***

Three corporate employees on a business trip stop at the wrong place for a late-night dinner: a restaurant in central Ohio that hides a terrifying secret.

***Bitter Hearts***

Have you been wronged in love? An Internet company promises to make things right for you---for a price.

***Gate Time***

Traveling software salesman Josh Gardner had never been afraid of airports---until he discovered that some of his fellow travelers were not what they appeared to be.

***By the River***

The old man who lived on the houseboat warned people about the shadows lurking beneath the waters of the Ohio River. But some failed to heed his warnings.

***The Girl She Used to Be***

Thirty years ago Allison disappeared on the night that her college boyfriend was planning to give her an engagement ring. Now Allison is back--- but she’s not the girl she used to be.

***The Caliphate***

When a terrorist organization stages a bloody takeover of a Canadian city, two friends are forced to confront their innermost demons---and each other.

***The Wasp***

Leo had always been afraid of wasps---especially wasps that learn to assume human form.

***The Red Devil***

A security guard at a car dealership learns that death lurks in the nocturnal hours in a city torn by gang warfare.

***The Robots of Jericho***

Pete Greer suspected that the industrial robots purchased by his company were more than mere machines. Alone in a West Virginia factory with them over an extended summer weekend, the robots threaten his sanity---and his life.

***Last Dance with Emma***

University of Minnesota graduate students Eric and Randy travel back in time for hedonistic purposes. But when they visit New Year’s Eve 1978, Randy unexpectedly falls in love. Determined to secure an impossible future with a doomed young woman named Emma, Randy battles his friend, and the cruelty of a random universe. 

***Gaia Cried Out***

When Kara Teller met Nicholas Naretti in the student union of her university, she believed that she had found the ideal man. But there is something horribly wrong with Nicholas’s friends…And Kara reluctantly discovers that Nicholas harbors sinister intentions of his own. 


Robert and Susan Craig discover that the politics of the twenty-second century in America can be deadly. A leisurely time travel voyage lands them in a cell in the bloodiest days of the French Revolution. Condemned to the guillotine by the Jacobins’ Committee of Public Safety, they suspect the hand of the rising American demagogue, Senator Barry Olsen.


Corporate middle manager Greg Hensley simultaneously desires and loathes his new subordinate, Jessica Tanner. A bit of research into Jessica’s past reveals that Jessica may be dangerous. But Jessica is not the only one who is hiding evil secrets.

***The Dreams of Lord Satu***

Rapid GeoWorks salesperson Marc Jonas was ordered to visit the remote planet of Kelphi. His boss, Larry Dozier, told him to do whatever was necessary to make the sale. But Kelphi is a world where psychic spiderlike creatures occasionally devour the planet’s human population. The Kelphi aristocrat known as Lord Satu wants Marc’s mind, and possibly his body as well.

Get it FREE on Amazon Kindle (October 18 through October 20 only)