Developing New E-Book Covers

Since last night, I have been toying with some ideas for new covers for my e-books in order to generate interest in my works and thereby increase sales.  I have tried to create eye-catching designs.  Let me know what you think.  I have already incorporated a few into my works.  See how they compare to the others by visiting my author’s page.  The photos are all from the public domain.

 

 

 

 

 

And here is one I developed just for posting on Facebook.

I will probably develop a few more over the next few days.

From Rare Horror: 5 Awesome Horror Book Covers

from Rare Horror

from Rare Horror

Check out the cool covers in this article from the folks over at Rare Horror.  These remind me of ones I see going through those second-rate, family-run,  second-hand bookstores that you find in side streets and back alleys (if you are lucky enough to find ones with the covers intact and not torn off):   5 Awesome Horror Book Covers.

Slattery’s Digital Horror

 

Death%20calls%20the%20tune

Death Calls the Tune

For a change of pace I thought that for tonight’s blog, I would simply post a few digital images I created from photos using Photoshop a few

Dancing through Hell

Dancing through Hell

years back  One is called “Death Calls the Tune”.  I made it from a photo I took of a fiddler at a Renaissance fair.   The second is called “Dancing Through Hell” and I took the photo on which it is based at the same fair.  If I ever get the time again, I may make some more.

The last is more suspense than horror, though I can imagine it could be the setting for something horrible going on inside the bar.  It is derived from a photo I took of a bar in Tokyo in 1995.  The woman is a silhouette of a statue into which I inserted a public doman photo of a woman’s face, reversed it, and then did some more Photoshop magic.

I am selling these on a few products you can find in the Little Shop of Horror, but I don’t mind if you use these downloaded from this site so long as I get credit for the original image, and, if you would be so kind, please tell me where you use it.   I just like to see what uses people put my works to and how they are received.

Comments?  Thoughts?

Show Pub Brave

Show Pub Brave

Thunder in Writing

Illustration of Space Travel from youpict.com

Illustration of Space Travel from youpict.com

About 2:00 a.m. on December 6, on the drive home after visiting my sister and her husband, I was contemplating where I want to go with my current work-in-progress.  I am loathe to give away the plot, so suffice it to say that it involves a scientist that travels to another planet and tours it with a  fellow scientist from that planet.  I have come to realize over the last few days that the original plot concept is boring, although in terms of literature it would be fairly intriguing, because of the internal struggles the main character would face and some social issues it would raise.

It occurred to me is that the critical question was not where to take the plot of the story, but where do I want the book to go in terms of its impact on the society/world.  I am not so naïve as to think that it would have a earth-shattering impact like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code or be controversial like Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or even break out like Stephen King’s Carrie, but no matter how it is received publically or critically, it will make an impact, even if it is negligible one.  The best I reason that I can do, is to try to make as big a splash as possible on its release and hope that it brings me some measure of success or at least puts me on the road to success.  But what can I do to create that splash?  What have been the characteristics of other initial successes?

I don’t know how the analogy suddenly popped into my mind, but I realized that what the story needs is thunder. Perhaps it was that a light rain had fallen sporadically over the last few days and the land was still wet with shallow puddles still lingering on the road in spots on this near-freezing night.  Somehow this struck a chord in my subconscious that stirred echoes of similar post-thunderstorm summer nights.  As I look back on that moment, though I wasn’t even thinking of those novels, it occurs to me now that they each have an element I would describe as “thunder”, something that resounds across the land striking a nerve in the public consciousness.

For some novels, like The Da Vinci Code,  the thunder is an aspect that touches on a sensitive nerve within a large number of the public.    In The Da Vinci Code‘s instance, this was deeply ingrained religious beliefs that, like the foundation of a house, if disturbed, shake the entire house.

For novels like The Tropic of Cancer, the thunder is something that disturbs the public’s sense of decency, which could be argued to be the image of itself that the public wishes to project.

Brave New World did not make as great an impact on its initial reception as it did later, when many of the technologies and issues it describes actually started to come into being.   Then it thundered greatly.

Carrie did not rock the literary or moral or religious foundations of society, but it was a great personal thunder for Stephen King and brought him suddenly into the public view.

There are undoubtedly other forms of thunder, but these are the ones that spring into mind initially.

Once I recognized that my goal as a writer is to thunder, the next question became what type of thunder do I want to have?

For me, I want to ask a profound question (or questions) that demand answers.   As stated, I don’t want to give away the plot of the novel(la), so I will unfortunately have to leave you in suspense for now, but check back with my blog periodically and let’s see if I can achieve this.  Wish me luck.

Thoughts?  Comments?

 

Notes on “The Martian Chronicles”

 

Ray Bradbury in 1950 (age 30), the year he published "The Martian Chronicles"

Ray Bradbury in 1950 (age 30), the year he published “The Martian Chronicles”

Someone once told Ray Bradbury that “The Martian Chronicles” was not prose, but poetry.  Technically, he was probably wrong, but in spirit truer words were probably never spoken.

I have a habit of reading several books at once.  I will pick up one, read a few pages (unless it is so engrossing that I cannot put it down), then later pick up another and read a few pages or so of it, then still later read a few pages of another and so forth until I may be reading half a dozen books a few pages at a time.  Then I may finish one and pick up another, something like the juggler who keeps the china plates spinning on sticks.

I picked up “The Martian Chronicles” while on a trip to Santa Fe in December, 2012 at The Collected Works bookstore.  Since then it has stayed in my suitcase and I pick it up and read more every time I travel.

I have not read much of late and have written less, but on trip last week, I made use of my relatively new Kindle for the first time and read three stories of Poe’s (“A Descent into the Maelstrom”, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”, and “The Imp of the Perverse”) along with the original German version of “Little Red Riding Hood” by the Brothers Grimm.   This has started my interest in literature and writing to smoulder once again.   After I returned home, I decided to take “The Martian Chronicles” out of the suitcase and reluctantly finish it.

I say “reluctantly” because, while reading it, it is one of those beautifully eloquent novels that you don’t want to put down much less ever see come to an end.   On those nights I read a few chapters at a time in the comfort of a well-kept hotel, I never really wanted to put it down and only did so when the hour was late and I was struggling to stay awake after a long day, a good suppper, and a few glasses of wine.

The stories are always poignant, captivating, and sometimes heart-rending.  The characters have a depth that draws you in as if you could step inside their bodies and see their world from their perspectives.   Of course, your tendency is to side with the humans as they colonize the red planet, but at the same time you sympathize with the Martians as they watch their civilization dwindle and gradually vanish under the onslaught of alien explorers and settlers.  However, what is the most beautiful facet of the novel is its use of English.

Bradbury’s nascent style (as I understand from one website, he had been writing seriously only seven years when he

Ray Bradbury  by Lou Romano

Ray Bradbury
by Lou Romano

published this, his first novel) uses simple, clear, easy-to-understand prose that highlights only enough important details to enable the reader to vicariously experience the story.   The fact that the prose is very simple and lacking in needlessly ostentatious words helps the reader to see clearly the interaction of the characters and their mindsets and the underlying motivations and plots.  For me, if a work is full of big words, I spend too much time either trying to decipher them or running to the dictionary that I lose the tenuous feeling for what is happening in the story.   His use of language clarifies rather than obscures.   The sentences are generally of medium length and this helps the story to flow without becoming monotonous.

The plots of the stories are deceptively simple in design, but most still manage to have an unexpected denouement that leaves the reader feeling like a simpleton that he did not see it coming.  Some, though, have such completely unexpected endings that there is no way they could be anticipated but in retrospect the denouement is incredibly logical.  The first chapters describing explorer’s first encounters with the Martians are wonderful examples of this while the story I read only last night, “The Off Season”, has such a brilliantly ironic twist that it has to be a prime example of Bradbury’s genius.

I suppose I could continue on for a while raving about Bradbury’s art, but it is getting late and I have had a long day and still have dinner and drinks awaiting my arrival at home. 

But what has any of this admiration for a science-fiction writer’s skill have to do with the art of writing?  

Beauty is beauty no matter what the genre.  Skill in writing is skill in writing.

I wish I had at least a smidgen of Bradbury’s talent so that I could make use of it in the field of horror.  What depths of emotion and terror could I then reach?

Having read “Fahrenheit 451” many years ago, next on my list of Bradbury works is “The Illustrated Man”.  I can hardly wait, but will probably have to–having five or six other books that I am currently reading.  Still…that hasn’t stopped me yet from picking up a novel to be explored.

Please, even if you are a diehard horror aficianado, read “The Martian Chronicles” to learn something about writing as an art that you can apply to your own endeavors.   The experience will definitely be rewarding and perhaps even enlightening.

Thoughts?  Comments?

 

 

 

 

Selections from The Writer’s Home Companion

Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1849

Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1849

The other day I happened to find my copy of The Writer’s Home Companion (by James Charlton and Lisbeth Mark, 1987), which I had lost/forgotten some time back. I have been perusing it since and have found several anecdotes on various authors of horror, which had not captured my attention when I purchased the book, because I was not interested in writing horror at the time.  I am quoting them below for your entertainment and consideration.   They provide a few insights and lessons into the art and business of writing as well as into the lives of writers, if not in the art of horror specifically.  If you would like to read more of the book, you can probably find a copy at your local library or half-price bookstore.

“Edgar Allan Poe opted to self-publish Tamerlane and Other Poems. He was able to sell only forty copies and made less than a dollar after expenses. Ironically, over a century later, one of his self-published copies sold at auction for over $11,000.”

Stephen King at Comicon, 2007 Photo by Penguino

Stephen King
at Comicon, 2007
Photo by Penguino

“Stephen King sent his first novel to the editor of the suspense novel The Parallax View. William G. Thompson rejected that submission and several subsequent manuscripts until King sent along Carrie. Years later some of those earlier projects were published under King’s pseudonym Richard Bachmann, and one was affectionately dedicated to ‘W.G.T.'”

“Edgar Allan Poe perpetrated a successful hoax in the New York Sun with an article he wrote in the April 13, 1844 edition of the paper.  He described the arrival, near Charleston, South Carolina, of a group of English ‘aeronauts’ who, as he told the story, had crossed the Atlantic in a dirigible in just seventy-five hours. Poe had cribbed most of his narrative from an account by Monck Mason of an actual balloon trip he and his companions had made from London to Germany in November 1836.  Poe’s realistically detailed fabrication fooled everyone.”

Robert Louis Stevenson Portrait by Girolamo Nerli  (1860-1926)

Robert Louis Stevenson
Portrait by Girolamo Nerli
(1860-1926)

“Robert Louis Stevenson was thrashing about in his bed one night, greatly alarming his wife.  She woke him up, infuriating Stevenson, who yelled, ‘I was dreaming a fine bogey tale!’  The nightmare from which he had been unwillingly extracted was the premise for the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

“Amiably discussing the validity of ghosts, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley decided to try their poetic skills at writing the perfect horror story.  While nothing came of their efforts, Shelley’s young wife, Mary Wollstonecroft, overheard the challenge and went about telling her own.  It began ‘It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the Accomplishment of my toils.’  Her work was published in 1818, when she was twenty-one, and was titled Frankenstein.”

“Edgar Allan Poe was expelled from West Point in 1831 for ‘gross neglect of duty’.  The explanation for his dismissal had to do with his following, to the letter, with an order to appear on the parade grounds in parade dress, which, according to the West Point rule book, consisted of ‘white belt and gloves.’  Poe reportedly arrived with his rifle, dressed in his belt and gloves–and nothing else.”

Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, First Baron Lytton Portrait by Henry William Pickersgill

Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, First Baron Lytton
Portrait by Henry William Pickersgill

“Traveling along the Italian Riviera, Lord Bulwer-Lytton, done up in an embarrassingly elaborate outfit, acknowledged the stares of passersby.  Lady Lytton, amused at his vanity, suggested that it was not admiration, but ‘that ridiculous dress’ that caught people’s eyes.  Lytton responded, ‘You think that people stare at my dress and not at me?  I will give you the most absolute and convincing proof that your theory has no foundation.’  Keeping on only his hat and boots, Lytton removed every other article of clothing and rode in his open carriage for ten miles to prove his point.”

If you have anecdotes about your favorite authors that you would like to share, please do.

Questions?  Comments?

At the Midpoint of “The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath”

poster by vggonzalez, 2009 at www.gatostudios.wordpress.com Please observe any copyright restrictions.

poster by vggonzalez, 2009 at http://www.gatostudios.wordpress.com
Please observe any copyright restrictions.

One of the several books I am reading currently is an anthology of Lovecraft’s dream cycle.    Its story that I am reading now is “The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath”.   I wrote up my views on the work today for Goodreads.com and thought I would share them here as well (though in a slightly modified version):

I am a Lovecraft fan, but I find “The Dream-Quest…” very tough reading.  I want to finish it, if for no other reason than to be able to say I managed to struggle my way through it and achieve my goal in spite of the hardships I encountered like the explorer of a literary Amazon.

The language is cumbersome and the plot is just Randolph Carter escaping one bad situation after another by luck.  Still, I am only about half-way through, and the optimistic side of me keeps hoping it gets better.  I don’t have much hope though, particularly after reading part of the Wikipedia article on it, which gives Lovecraft’s own views, which echo my own:

“Lovecraft himself declared that ‘it isn’t much good; but forms useful practice for later and more authentic attempts in the novel form.’ He expressed concern while writing it that ‘Randolph Carter’s adventures may have reached the point of palling on the reader; or that the very plethora of weird imagery may have destroyed the power of any one image to produce the desired impression of strangeness.”[8]

In the paragraph preceding this one in Wikipedia, Joanna Russ sums up the work nicely:

“The Dream-Quest has evoked a broad range of reactions, “some HPL enthusiasts finding it almost unreadable and others…comparing it to the Alice books and the fantasies of George MacDonald.[6] Joanna Russ referred to The Dream-Quest as “charming…but alas, never rewritten or polished”. [7]

Count me among the ones who find it almost unreadable, with its awkward, first-draft phrasing and its confused attempt to set a tone using an imagined scholarly, courtly language somewhere between Shakespeare and Poe.

However, I do love this awesome poster, which I found at http://gatostudio.wordpress.com/2009/03/21/the-dream-quest-of-unknown-kadath-poster/.  Please visit this beautiful site.  If you decide you would like to use this poster, please check with gatostudio and adhere to all copyright restrictions.

I just wish Lovecraft had written the story as masterfully as Mr. Gonzalez drew his poster and H.P. had lived up to the promise of the fantastic adventure to which the poster alludes.    The poster really outshines the story.    Given another two or three drafts, this story may have outshone all of Lovecraft’s other works.

Thoughts?  Comments?

www.HyperSmash.com

Crazy Accordion Skills and the Art of Writing

I just saw this video on a man with Crazy Accordion Skills on Amazing and Crazy Videos on Facebook and it started me thinking.  If literature is living vicariously for both writer and audience, how could I describe the experience this gentleman is having so that my readers live it?  What is he feeling emotionally, psychologically, and physically?  What drives him to spend long hours at practice so that he can perform like this?  What does it feel like for his hands and fingers to fly up and down the keyboard?  There are probably a thousand questions like this that I could ask, but you get the idea.    How could you describe something like this and make it seem as magical as this performance?

Thoughts?  Comments?

H.R. Giger’s Necronomicon

Portrait of H.R. Giger copyright 1998 by Dana Frank/NYC from hrgiger.com

Portrait of H.R. Giger
copyright 1998 by Dana Frank/NYC
from hrgiger.com

 

If you are not familiar with the works of Swiss artist Hans Rudolf Giger, you are probably familiar with movies that use his art: the Alien series, Poltergeist II, Batman Forever, and Prometheus among others.  Though his works are considered surreal or of science fiction rather than horror, to me there seems to be something of an unstated horrific element to them and therefore I have included them as tonight’s post.

Perhaps a more tangible connection between Giger and the world of horror is that his book, upon which the original Alien design was based was entitled H.R. Giger’s Necronomicon, after, of course, the fictitious Necronomicon of H.P. Lovecraft.   Here I quote a short article on it from Wikipedia:

Necronomicon was the first major published compendium of images by Swiss artist H. R. Giger. Originally published in 1977, the book was given to director Ridley Scott during the pre-production of the film Alien, who then hired Giger to produce artwork and conceptual designs for the film.

“The book was originally published by Sphinx Verlag and was republished in 1993 by Morpheus International with additional artwork from Giger’s Alien designs. A subsequent collection of his images followed as H. R. Giger’s Necronomicon 2, printed in 1985 by Edition C of Switzerland.

“Giger’s Necronomicon is named for H. P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire Lovecraft invented and used as a plot device in his stories. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon was a compendium of pre-human lore compiled by the fictional mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, circa 700.[1]

Giger’s works are a fascinating foray into the surreal, erotic, and horrifying possibilities of the world of biomechanics.  A quick search in Google images for “Giger art” or a vist to hrgiger.com will prove quite rewarding.  Here are a few examples to whet your appetite (please note that all images used in this post are copyrighted by the author/artist and are used here only under US “fair use” guidelines) .

The Dali Edition of "H.R. Giger's Necronomicon" (Please note this work is copyrighted by the artist/author and is used here only under US "fair use" guidelines)

The Dali Edition of “H.R. Giger’s Necronomicon”

 

Landscape XIX by H.R. Giger

Landscape XIX
by H.R. Giger

 

Alien IV by H.R. Giger

Alien IV
by H.R. Giger

 

Li I by H.R. Giger

Li I
by H.R. Giger

Thoughts?  Comments?

Hieronymus Bosch

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch Museo del Prado, Madrid

The Garden of Earthly Delights
by Hieronymus Bosch
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Long before I developed an interest in the literature of horror, I developed an interest in painting (though I am not much of a painter myself).  One of the painters who has always fascinated me is Hieronymus Bosch, a Dutch painter who lived from circa 1450 to 1516.  The work above is typical of his style: surreal, fantastic, horrible.  Bosch did many paintings of the horrors of hell as a consequence of sin.

Earlier tonight, I was searching for a subject for tonight’s quick post and I did a quick search  in Google images for “horror art” thinking I would post some modern visual image of horror that captures what horror is for me.  However, most of the images I found relied solely on the shock value of some singular instance of torment to communicate horror: the visual equivalent of a slasher flick.  With one exception (which I did not post here tonight, but maybe will later) nothing captured the suspense that I feel is necessary in a work of horror.

Then I remembered Hieronymus Bosch.

Although I cannot say there is any inherent suspense in Bosch’s works, there are other, hard to verbalize, elements that seem to speak horror to me better than any depiction of a single, bloody act.  One is the breadth of horror in his works.  There is no single act, instead there may be a hundred or more monsters and terrifying horrors in a single painting, raising the horror from a personal one-on-one level with the viewer to that of a awe-inspiring spectacle.  Second, there is a tremendous level of complexity in each work, which forces the viewer to examine the work in detail to dig out each individual torment and focus on it, thereby immersing the viewer in the infernal landscape as if he were a participant in it.   Third, I sense a mystery in Bosch’s works that is hard to express.  There is an extremely complex symbolism in each work, that I personally cannot fathom, but that intrigues me nonetheless, perhaps because I cannot fathom it.   Perhaps an expert in symbols, such as the fictitious Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code, could understand the motifs at work in Bosch’s painting, but I can only catch a glimpse of something occasionally and realize that something well beyond my limited understanding is.  To paraphrase the comedian Adam Carolla, I feel like “a baboon trying to understand a thesaurus.”

If you have an interest in the visual art of horror, please do a quick search on Google images for “Hieronymus Bosch”.   You won’t be disappointed.

Thoughts?  Comments?

 

Horror Humor

From horrorhumor.com

From horrorhumor.com

As you have probably surmised by now, occasionally I like to surf the net looking for the humorous side of horror.  Today,  I found a website called appropriately horrorhumor.com.  From what I can see, they have only been up since February of this year and have only a few posts, but if you like the sample above, they are worth checking out.

Thoughts?  Comments?

 

Zombie Response Unit 23 Car 54

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130218_0004

I was taking the dog to the vet in Farmington (New Mexico) this morning, trying to come up with a subject for my daily blog, when I saw this car ahead of me.  Of course, I followed him until he stopped in a parking lot, and then I asked his permission to photograph his vehicle and post it on my blog.   Enjoy.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Have you seen anything like this in your area?

Addendum:

Talk about timing!  Check out this CNN article from Dean Obeidallah on “Time to Protect America from Zombies” that appeared only this evening.

Russian Cthulhu Nesting Dolls

cthylhufhtagn_mikebilz

I mentioned yesterday that German was my first major at college.  Russian was my second.  Therefore I had to dive into Russian horror at least a bit today to satisfy my curiosity.  So I did a quick search on Google Images and found out that Russian horror is apparently alive and well.

The most interesting item I found in my search results were these Lovecraftian nesting dolls.  I did not have time to go to the website (agreatbecoming.com), but I did see that the name of the photo is cthylhufhtagn_mikebilz.jpg [sic].   I assume Mike Bilz is the artist (very creative, Mike!)  At first opportunity I will visit the site.

Addendum:

I visited agreatbecoming.com after posting this blog and found that it mainly focuses on computer games.  The blurb at the top of the webpage describes it as A blog about games, networked media, technology, evolution & nature..”You are privy to a great becoming, but you recognize nothing…”    Interestingly,  there are a considerable number of Cthulhu knick-knacks shown–making the site worth a visit for fans of Lovecraft.  For example, here is a Cthulhu Santa (from reyenamarillo.tumblr.com).

 

Cthulhu Santa

Enjoy your visit to agreatbecoming.com!