Saturday, February 26, 2011

I'm done!

This week I finished my rewrite of To Kill the Goddess. It's a pretty amazing achievement, but I don't plan on talking about that much in this post. The Scribblerati will be critiquing my last three chapters on Monday and I don't want to count my chickens before they're hatched, if you know what I mean!

So what am I going to talk about? Doing nothing. Yes, you heard it here, I plan rewarding myself on taking the next couple of weeks and doing absolutely nothing - related to the book at any rate. Now, I'll probably be thinking about book 2 nonstop and I might even jot down a few things here and there, but the focus of my next few weeks is going to be not writing.

I need some time to do nothing.

#1 Do Nothing Activity: spend more time with the lovely @mplstravelkitty

Sometimes I think I would see more of my lovely wife if we had two dogs to walk and three kids to ferry back and forth to hockey, gymnastics, and baseball. The lovely @mplstravelkitty has been amazing through this long journey and I'm looking forward to a little do nothing time with the love of my life.

#2 Do Nothing Activity: READ!

Everyone else in the Scribblerati seems to be able to write and read just fine, but I can't do it. I'm not exactly a slow reader, but I’m far from the fastest. On a normal day, by the time I've been to work, made dinner, and spent a few minutes with the lovely @mplstravelkitty I'm usually left with an hour or two to write and even less time for any reading. I just can't get into a novel if I only have 10 or 15 min. at a stretch to read. Comics are another story, and I've definitely found refuge there, but holy frakking cow do I want to read a book! I have three on tap and I plan on doing a little book review blogging with them as I finish. Stay tuned!

#3 Do Nothing Activity: Purge!

This particular activity is already in full swing. If any of you have seen my man cave you know it's wall-to-wall books, comics, and God knows only what else. Two weeks ago we pulled it all out (that took a week just by itself), had new carpet installed, and painted. At first, when the lovely @mplstravelkitty tentatively mentioned the idea, I was dead set against it. The mere thought of moving all that crap out of my room and then back in was, quite simply, terrifying. But then, one night when I was in there finishing up To Kill the Goddess I looked around at all the crap and I thought: purge! So that's what I'm doing, and there is a really amazing symmetry with this purge coinciding with the completion of my rewrite. I feel like I'm stepping off the plank into new, uncharted waters.

And speaking of uncharted waters….

#4 Do Nothing Activity: catch up on the RSS feeds and figure out what in the heck is going on with the publishing industry.

Has anyone else been paying attention out there? There is some crazy stuff going down. I plan on blogging more about this later, but it appears as if the publishing industry may be falling into that tailspin I've been yammering on about for a while. The landscape could look a lot different in several months to a year from now and while nobody knows anything for certain, I feel absolutely confident in saying there are some choppy waters ahead. The million-dollar question is once the storm is over will the industry see land or will it get sucked down into a spiraling maelstrom of corporate death?

#5 Do Nothing Activity: Blog!

Expect to see more of these in the next couple of weeks.

Until then, I have a book to read.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Hunger Games - A Pseudo Review

So I just finished The Hunger Games series recently and I thought I'd share my thoughts--and see what others think about this series.

Spoiler Alert: I’ve tried to avoid giving away info crucial to the plot of this series, but I can’t guarantee I didn’t include some spoilers. If you are reading The Hunger Games and don’t want to risk it, please stop reading here. Otherwise, keep on reading….

If you haven’t heard of The Hunger Games, here what Wikipedia has to say:

The Hunger Games

Clearly many people like The Hunger Games. The series has sold several million copies—I (or any author) should hope to have a book series as successful. Multiple people recommended the books to me before I read them. One of my fellow Scribblerati loaned me the last two books (Thanks, Lisa). Over all they were a quick read. Are they the best books ever? No. Are they the worst? No. I guess for my reading tastes I give them a solid “C.” I liked them enough to read them all over a short period of time. Yet, do I feel the need to ever read them again? No.

Things That Bugged Me About The Hunger Games Trilogy

  1. No Shields. In the first two books it seems to occur to none of the characters in a life/death struggle that having something to block an incoming blade or arrow might be a good idea.
  2. Archers shooting down a bomber. (Book 3). Stealth Bombers come to mind—but in general most planes dropping bombs travel at such a height that their targets probably don’t know the bombers are there until they are blown to bits. Yes, in this instance they are special bows, and yes, exactly what the bombers are and what height they travel at is unknown, but I still had trouble buying it.
  3. The name Peeta (pita) for a bread maker’s son. Really?
  4. At times vague descriptions of settings and technology. For example, the bombers mentioned in my second example above. Were they planes? Something else? I had trouble picturing them from the material on the page.
  5. A lot of really good action happens “off camera.” In particular, many “tributes” die in the arena, but we never see the battles that happen and when some characters die we never, ever get to find out exactly what happened to them.
  6. We know a little about Panem, but how big is it? And what about the rest of the world? How did things get to this point? We just don’t know.
  7. The Mockingjay (Book 3) really dragged for me. It seemed to take forever for a rescue attempt to try to save Peeta (which to me seemed like the logical place to start the 3rd book). In the final book in the series the main character Katniss often seems removed from the main, exciting action until almost 300 pages into the book.
  8. The Rebel Forces/District 13. Could there be a less desirable rebel-alliance to be sided with? I’m sure that was the author’s point, but I could have used a more likeable counterpart to the Capital.
  9. In The Hunger Games (Book 1) why don’t Peeta and Katniss try to align together immediately? If one of my pals and I are going to be thrown into a life and death arena I’m pretty sure we’ll decide from the get-go to align against the people we don’t know (who seem to have no problem making alliances before the game begins).
  10. No sex. These are teenagers we’re dealing with, right?
  11. Never trying to find a way out of the Arena (or even finding its dimensions) in Book 1. Many people when put in a life or death scenario might choose a plan to escape vs. trying to fight your way to victory. To have the main characters never seek or even see the edges of the arena bothered me as a reader.
  12. The “pregnancy” lie. The Capitol has fabulous technology: hovercrafts, mutations, force fields. Yet, they don’t have any means to immediately disprove the claim from a Tribute who claims to be pregnant?
  13. The love triangle/teen angst. Sheesh.
  14. Gale: for being part of the love triangle in many parts of these books he seemed like a non-entity. Because we are in Katniss’s head, a lot of action with Gale, as well as many other characters, happens “off screen.”

OK, Some Things I Liked About the Hunger Games

  1. I did, over-all, like Katniss and her ability as a hunter/archer. Some pretty fun moments with her and her bow. Believable that she is a survivor.
  2. The “Mutts.” Creepy/scary.
  3. Many of the secondary characters: Haymitch, Cinna, and even Buttercup
  4. My favorite book was probably the first in the series. The whole concept of the Hunger Games and the all the jeopardy Katniss, her sister and Peeta are put in really kept me reading.
  5. The last section of The Mockingjay (Book 3) from the point when Boggs gets his legs blown off was hard for me to put down. Non-stop action from there to the end of the book, mostly.
  6. President Snow was plenty creepy, but I always pictured him a bit like “Larry Bud Melman”
  7. Katniss’s last arrow fired. Had she not shot the person she had, I would have hated the whole series.
  8. The children at the end of Book 3. Nicely done.

So that’s my opinion.

If you’ve read The Hunger Games I encourage you to comment here about what you liked/disliked about the series and why you think it has been such a hit.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Good vs. Evil: Getting to Know Angels & Devils

In my novel BLACKHEART there are both angels and demons alike. This posting is a quick summary to help you tell them apart, and sometimes it can be tricky. The angels and demons in my book are all based loosely on Christian, Jewish, Islamic or other accounts of angels. When researching angels and demons the one thing I found out is that our (human) knowledge of them is limited. Many of them have multiple names, jobs and backgrounds, depending on whose story you want to listen to. I’m sure only they know the truth, which has made them a fertile cast of characters for me, a fiction writer, to have inhabit the world of BLACKHEART.

How many different angels and demons are there? The highest number I’ve found is 300,000 fallen angels alone. And of course scholars have debated that whole “how many angels can sit on the head of a pin” thing for too long. Only 2 angels appear by name in the Christian Bible today (Michael and Gabriel). So what about all the others?

Note: I've left out a few angels and demons from BLACKHEART in this posting to avoid SPOILERS.


In Islamic mythology, the Hafaza are equivalent to the Christian concept of guardian angels. They help the soul fight off attacks from devils and djinn. My character, Noel August, is able to commune with them—which is both a blessing and a curse. At times they save her life, at others listening to them leads her into great peril.

Mastenem (The Lesser)

When Noah asked God to destroy all demons after the great flood, supposedly the demon Mastema intervened and asked that 10% of the demons be saved under his control to test mankind. God said “Yes.” (Thanks a lot.) These remaining demons that roam the earth are the Mastenem. Blackheart refers to them as the Lesser—and whenever he and the Lesser meet blood is shed. Their evil minds are simple and revolve around how to best inflict pain and harm on human beings. Their shapes vary, taking on aspects of monsters and beasts—all the better to terrify their victims. Besides their original demon savior, Mastema, all manner of greater demons take control of the Lesser, and use them for their schemes.


This name is sometimes synonymous for Satan, but in the context of BLACKHEART it refers to a class of angels who were cast out of heaven for teaching angelic secrets to man (like warfare and how to make weapons)—and for fornicating with women. ‘Nuf said.

Uhriel (or Uriel)

Known as “the fire of God” and “he who watches over thunder and terror,” in BLACKHEART (per some recorded accounts), Uhriel is the presider over Tartarus (Hell) and the leader of the massive angel guard that lives there, keeping all the damned souls and demons confined and delivering punishments as part of his thankless, daily routine.


Per the Greek word, literally “guide of souls.” According to some cultures, souls do not immediately enter the world during birth, nor exit the world during death without some assistance. The transition between life and death is often aided by helpful spirits in animal form, the Psychopomps. In BLACKHEART Psychopomps make their appearance in the forms of voles, scorpions and fish, to name a few. My favorite example of Psychopomps in another work of writing? See “THE CROW” by James O’Barr.


With so many angels and demons in my book I’d be remiss not to mention Satan. Known by many other names, the baddest of the bad, the prince of evil, tempter of Eve and Jesus alike in some accounts he still walks the Earth. Pretty scary, I think. There are many accounts and variations of how he was thrown from heaven with his host of followers, but I like this one a lot:

Joseph Campbell (1972: pp. 148–149) illustrates an unorthodox Islamic reading of Lucifer's fall from Heaven, which champions Lucifer's eclipsing love for God:

One of the most amazing images of love that I know is in Persian – a mystical Persian representation as Satan as the most loyal lover of God. You will have heard the old legend of how, when God created the angels, he commanded them to pay worship to no one but himself; but then, creating man, he commanded them to bow in reverence to this most noble of his works, and Lucifer refused – because, we are told, of his pride. However, according to this Muslim reading of his case, it was rather because he loved and adored God so deeply and intensely that he could not bring himself to bow before anything else, and because he refused to bow down to something inferior to him (since he was made of fire, and man from clay). And it was for that that he was flung into Hell, condemned to exist there for eternity, apart from his love.

Thanks for reading.

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth 

Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.

~John Milton, Paradise Lost