Monday, March 30, 2015

Want to Write? Better be a Pachyderm

Pachyderm (noun): any of various nonruminant mammals (as an elephant, a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus) of a former group (Pachydermata) that have hooves or nails resembling hooves and usually thick skin.

So you want to be a writer. Then you'd better be a pachyderm. That is, have an "usually thick skin." Here's why:

What does a writer do? They create something. It's an labor of love. You pour your heart and soul and time and caffeine into it.

And then you put it out of the public to react to it and see what happens. And what might happen is someone hates it. Someone might give it a bad review.

Here's some comments from 2-star reviews I've had (so far I've had no 1-star reviews):

" . . .so much of the plot is poorly explained, or not explained at all. The grammer [sic] is poor and words are confusing , , ,leads me to believe the author is unfamiliar with a thesuarus [sic]."

" Lots of long exposition; technological details that didn't add to the story; heavy handed or stilted conversation by the protagonists; etc."

Or worse than a bad review: a rejection. Just this week I got a rejection email from a publisher I really wanted to work with. They were at first encouraging, saying the work made it past the initial review. But then, after having the novel for nearly 6 months, sent this:

" . . . we have decided to pass on publication at this time. We wish you the best of luck with your future works." (Which sucks more, a form letter or a form email?)

What is a writer to do?

You can have two reactions, I suppose: get upset and swear you're never going to write again, or learn from it, realize that different people have different tastes. If the criticism is constructive, learn from it.

Another example. I have a novel I'm working on. I've had three people from my writers' group beta read it. And I've gone through two of the beta's so far and while they didn't hate the novel, they had huge problems with one character and minor problems with others. So I'm giving my characters a good long look. And I'm about to start the third beta and see what that person has to say.

How do you grow to be a pachyderm? Confidence in your own abilities help. The other is to realize most criticism is sincere and not an attach on you (although in that first 2-star review quoted above, I'm not sure the person just didn't like me personally for some reason). Grow and learn and use the feedback to improve your art. And don't take it personally.

Be a pachyderm.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Jeff W. Horton and SS Hampton, Sr

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are proud to welcome Jeff W. Horton and SS Hampton, Sr.

Jeff W. Horton

Jeff W. Horton
Jeff Horton was born the youngest son of a career Air Force master sergeant. A voracious reader growing up, he read the Bible, and stories by many popular authors including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Jeff Horton is Christian author and screenwriter of family-friendly fiction, writing within several different genres, including science-fiction, fantasy, and apocalyptic thrillers.

His first novel, THE GREAT COLLAPSE: SURVIVORS OF THE PULSE, a story about the coming of the pulse and the end of civilization, was published in 2010. THE DARK AGE-SURVIVORS OF THE PULSE, the sequel to The Great Collapse, was published in 2011, as was THE LAST PROPHET, a fictitious story about the life of John March, one of the witnesses sent by God to warn humanity about the Antichrist, and the End of Days. Released on September 1, 2012, THE WAY OF NACOR: TALES OF EDEN is a children's tale about four children, Rachel, Michael, Jesse, and Eli, who find themselves lost and stranded on a strange alien planet, struggling to find a way home. Jeff Horton's fifth novel, entitled CYBERSP@CE, is a techno-thriller, in which the world is brought to the brink of nuclear war after a string of deadly cyber warfare attacks against the United States. CYBERSP@CE, published in 2013, is the first book in the CYBERSP@CE SERIES. The other two novels in the series, FRONTIERS and NEW BEGINNINGS, were both published in 2014.

When he's not penning his next novel, he enjoys reading, going to church, and spending time with his family. Jeff Horton is a member of the North Carolina Writers Network.

Jeff's Books:



New Beginnings

Jeff's Links:


SS Hampton, Sr.

SS Hampton, Sr.
Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).

After 13 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran, though he is still struggling to get back on his feet.

Stan's Publishers:

From today's show: New Space Telescope.

Monday, March 23, 2015

If this Watch Could Talk

Last July my wife bought me a new watch for my birthday.

But, in a bittersweet moment, I had to give up my old watch that I'd had for at least ten years. The watch was given to me as a promotional deal with Volvo (which is why the watch says Volvo). It was the most accurate watch I'd ever owned, gaining only around 20 seconds a month.

Yesterday I started thinking about everything I'd done with this watch.

This watch snorkeled in the Caribbean, off the Na Pali coast of Hawaii, and in the Sea of Cortez.

This watch went to the mountains of Ecuador, the beaches of Peru, and the wine country of Chile.

This watch went 155 mph on a racetrack (and maybe faster elsewhere but I'll plead the 5th if asked about that).

The watch went on Cub Scout and Boy Scout field trips. It played in the surf at Cocoa Beach, FL. This watch timed experiments at my old day job.

It's amazing how we can attach memories to objects. And when the objects are gone, all we have left are the memories.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Chris Pavesic and Tof Eklund

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are proud to welcome Chris Pavesic and Tof Eklund 

Chris Pavesic

Chris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Chris's Book:

Heart & Mind

Chris's Links:


Tof Eklund
Tof Eklund

Tof Eklund is queer: genderqueer, to be precise, but also strange. A non-binary “bearded lady” with a Ph.D. in comic books and an affinity for cephalopods and medusa, Tof lives in Orlando with their awesome spouse, crazy-cute children and geriatric cat. A Professor of creative writing by day and author of convention-defying fantasy and feminist smut at night, they are a lover of monsters and friend to small gods.

Tof's books

The Unconventional Dwarf

Autumn Harvest: Maiden

Tof's Links:

Facebook (The Unconventional Dwarf)
Facebook (Autumn Harvest)

From today's show: Neutron Star Crust

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Movie Review: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

In 1982 an amazing movie came out called The Road Warrior. My wife and I went and saw it in a theater in downtown Seattle (since demolished). The movie stared a then-unknown (at least in the U.S.) Mel Gibson and was directed by the then-unknown (at least in the U.S.) George Miller.

What very few people knew was that outside the U.S. this movie was called Mad Max 2 and was a sequel to a very popular (at least outside the U.S.) movie called Mad Max. Sitting in the theater 33 years ago, I remember thinking that parts of the opening montage looked as if there were from another movie. They were: from Mad Max.

There's a new Mad Max movie coming out soon called Mad Max: Fury Road which appears to be a re-boot of the series. At least it's directed by George Miller. Because of that, I decided I wanted to see the original Mad Max 2 (the best of the three Mad Max movies) again. I got it from Netflix on Blu-Ray and watched it a couple of days ago.

When I first saw Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior in the theater, I was shocked by the violence. Admittedly, this was one of the first R-rated films I'd ever seen (the other being Saturday Night Fever which wasn't exactly violent). The rape/murder scene early in the movie haunted me, for instance.

Now, by today's standards, Mad Max 2 is rather tame. The rape/murder is hinted at and hardly shown. There is minimal blood and gore. Most of the violence is car crashes. You know there is violent death happening but it is often hinted at and you are allowed to fill in the blanks. I believe this is one reason why this is such a powerful and exciting movie.

Mad Max 2 still is fun and amazing to watch. It's edge-of-the-seat exciting. It's lost some of its edge over the ensuing years but it's still very well done. There are a couple of times you have to not think too hard. The roads are in great shape for a post-apocalyptic world, including recently graded dirt roads. The diesel truck has an air starter that probably wouldn't work very well after it had been sitting for who knows how long. But those are small quibbles.

If you want an exciting, fun time, this is a great movie to revisit.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Ilana Masad and Colleen Tews

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are proud to welcome Ilana Masad and Colleen Tews

 Ilana Masad

Ilana Masad is an Israeli-American writer and a harried freelancer living in New York. Predictably, she is a cat lover. Less predictably, she is a columnist for McSweeney's. Find her @ilanaslightly or at

Ilana's works:

“Seen and Not Heard” published in After the Fall

“In the Land of Milk and Honey” published in Four Chambers Press

Ilana's Links:


Colleen Tews

Colleen Tews
Colleen Tews is married to perfect counterpart and has four year old daughter. If that wasn't masochistic enough she has three rescue cats. She went to Arts in Motion performing arts academy for drama. She has worked stage managed such works as 42nd Street and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged. As well performed in the female version of the Odd Couple and 1984. On top of two short films: "Surprise" and "Skeletons."

Colleen's Books:

Birth of a Vixen 

The Vessel in the Omnibus (written under Colleen McEuen)

Colleen's Links:


From today's show: Maybe no Big Bang?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Movie Review: Nightcrawler

In the movie, Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal play an unscrupulous petty thief named "Lou" who doesn't care who he hurts or what laws he breaks. And Gyllenhaal  plays Lou with such relish and gusto that by the end of the movie you hate Lou (as you should).

When the movie begins, Lou is stealing metals. A fast talker and obviously intelligent, he is nearly a textbook case of a sociopath. And when he discovers the world of freelance news video in Los Angeles, he goes into business finding a new outlet for his psychosis. To get the perfect shot with his camera he will change crime scenes, move bodies, or withhold evidence from the police.

It's hard not to admire Lou a bit as he works hard and builds his business (at one point he says "Good things come to those who work their ass off") but the ruthlessness he displays changes all that. He steals an expensive bicycle to finance his entry into business. He "hires" an assistant but never pays him.

Gyllenhaal did an amazing job portraying Lou, making him slimy and charming at the same time. The action scenes are well done and the pace is taut. The photography, mostly night exteriors, is just creepy enough to keep you wondering what nasty surprise is coming next. At one point I jumped when a gun went off.

A movie well worth watching and an interesting study into a sociopath personality. My one small quibble has to do with the climax, but to avoid spoilers, I won't talk about it. But it's not enough to ruin a very good film

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Do I have Trypophillia?

(This post contains images that may not be appreciated by some people. Scroll down at your own risk.)

There's a meme of sorts on the ol' Internet about Trypophobia. As Wikipedia states:

Trypophobia is the pathological fear of objects with irregular patterns of holes, such as beehives, ant hills and lotus seed heads. Thousands of people claim to have the condition, but it is not recognized as a condition in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or other scientific literature.

I think it all started when a picture showed up on Facebook, something that tried to get you to click it for (I believe) malicious reason. This is a screen capture of the picture:

I never clicked the picture because 1) I pretty quickly recognized it as a photoshopped image of a breast and a lotus seed pod. And 2) I figured it had malicious intent.

But apparently it freaked a lot of people out who suffer from trypophobia.

Me, however, was sort of fascinated by it. If you'd like to see it without that "play" graphic in front of it, it's here.

Then I sort of forgot about it and a couple of years or so passed.

I have this app on my iPhone called SkyGuide. It's really cool as it shows the sky in almost any place in almost any time (including where you are and current time). I used it the other day to identify a bright object in the western sky as Venus.

For the Chinese new year, they changed the app's icon to this;

(Those are supposed to be Chinese lanterns.)

And every time I see that, I fine myself wanting to see more of this kind of thing: I seem to find such things visually interesting and fascinating.

So, apparently, I suffer (not) from Trypophillia. A love of holes. I have no idea what that says about my psychological makeup.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Tony LaRocca

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are proud to welcome Tony LaRocca and Steve Alten

Tony LaRocca
Tony LaRocca

Tony LaRocca is a carbon-based life form, animator, occasional actor, U.S. Army veteran, blogger, karaoke crooner, electrician, and chronic doodler from Basking Ridge, New Jersey. He currently resides with his family in Queens, New York.

Tony's Books:

False Idols and Other Short Stories 

Debris of Shadows Book I: The Lies of the Sage 

Tony's Links:

Instagram: EgotisticalTL

From today's Show: Dawn Spacecraft Orbits Ceres.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

To Seattle (area) and Back Again

Mt. Rainier
Yesterday I drove to the Seattle suburb of Redmond to pick up my son and bring him home for spring break. He doesn't drive so that necessitated the trip. Unlike my last trip to the Seattle area (to take him to school after the Christmas break), this was a pleasant trip, mostly, on a spring-like day.

Highlights of the trip: the roads were perfect, bare and dry the whole way. Traffic was a problem at times (especially in the metropolitan Seattle area, mostly caused by people taking on and off ramps very slowly). When you drive in the Bellvue/Redmond area (home of Microsoft) you notice (if you pay attention to such things) that the average type of car improves. The place is thick with Audis. I saw two high-end Porsche 911s. You almost always see at least one Tesla electric car and this trip was no exception. I even had a Nissan Leaf follow me on the freeway for a while (didn't know they could go that fast). And I saw a Jaguar F-Type in the wild for the first time ever. The sound of its exhaust note was nearly erotic as the car accelerated. And at throttle lift, it barked and snarled as a good English sports car should.

It was one of those days the tourist board likes to talk about. The Olympic Mountains were visible and we say Mount Baker (near the Canadian border) which I haven't seen from Seattle since my college days. Of course, Mount Rainier was visible and majestic from the Ryegrass rest stop in Eastern Washington to Issaquah's Rainier Lane street.

Now, if it just weren't for the traffic, it would have been a nearly perfect trip to the Seattle area.