books

Family History

It’s my understanding that
I have one hell of a family history
That’s not too difficult to believe
Probably true for most.

From all over Europe
Viking North
Mediterranian South
And many stops in between.

There’s been much love
Conducted across the water
and that love trickled down
from Duke to Lord to whatnot.

There’s a Von in there somewhere
And someone who worked
For the Hapsburgs
And some other sketchy types as well.

I once asked
If we’re descended from such greats
WHERE THE HELL IS THE MONEY?
Have you heard of the Great Depression?

My father loved to regale
Such histories and myths
Your grand so-and-so knew Jesus!
Now that’s hyperbole.

The Greek line has been
The most frustrating
From Sparta, I was told
Fierce. Warrior. Blood.

Oh, how I loved that
A cult of manly men
Brutal with sword and spear
I could almost feel the DNA.

That little chestnut
Kept me going for years.
No matter the beast
I could slay it. Spartan.

Then I learned
It wasn’t Sparta but
Crete called home.
Asterion, my brother.

Not nearly as much
Fun a boast
But there’s that labyrinth
And the bullhead.

As are most things
Less impressive and shiny when
Scrubbed down by truth
But useful nevertheless.

If you are ever lost
Keep making right turns
Eventually you’ll find
The way out of the maze.

I learned that in Crete.

Book Review: The Remnant: Into the Collision by P.A. Douglas

The Remnant: Into the CollisionThe Remnant: Into the Collision by P.A. Douglas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve known for a long time that the apocalypse is not something to fear. It’s what people will do while the sky falls that is much more frightening. I’ve survived a few mini-pocalypses: a devastating tornado, several hurricanes, and two redheads. I have seen first hand just how batshit crazy people get when the status quo gets a healthy shake. They’ll stab you in the throat for a gallon of gasoline.

P.A. Douglas presents a relatively plausible game-over scenario: Earth finds itself in the crosshairs of a killer field of asteroids and the ensuing meteor storm not only rains down on the planet, but one big old rock gives the moon a kiss and bumps it out of orbit. The result is massive flooding, earthquakes, and something unexpected – the reduction of oxygen in our atmosphere. The air is escaping the balloon, and it seems inevitable that all life on the planet will eventually be extinguished. The time waiting for the ticket punch will be excruciating for those who have managed to survive.

We meet Byron, our protagonist, just pre-apocalypse. He’s an average guy. He’s got an ex-wife and kid living out of state and spends his days grinding away at work and watching cartoons. He’s been hiding out in his apartment watching the events unfold and he is confused and scared. However, he doesn’t get to stay there for long and eventually finds himself with a reasonably sane and diverse group of folks. As the book progresses, we watch them logically plan out their survival while dealing with the personality conflicts one would expect in such dire circumstances.

Douglas contrasts Bryon’s group with another, a group of National Guardsmen who have taken the plunge and allowed themselves to devolve into violent beasts driven by urges to rape and pillage. It’s within this contrast that Douglas puts human nature to the test. Do we rise to the occasion or sink to the bottom when faced with the ultimate crisis? Do we share that gasoline or do we stab someone for it? When the end comes, will you have grace? Or will it be disgrace?

The narrative is tight. We stick to a small cast of characters and although the outside world and its disintegration are mentioned, it’s really about what’s happening in the immediate vicinity. The story is character driven and although the setting is driving their motivations, it never determines them. Byron’s a sympathetic aspiring hero, one that we can behind. There’s some ugly in this book but Byron keeps hope alive.

A great weekend read and a solid contribution to the genre. Worth picking up.

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Night

I prefer it when it’s dark
When I can’t make out
The details
When everything is
Just so gray

Like static

There’s no pressure
When it’s dark
No occasion to rise to
No fire to put out
No action to take
For a few hours
I can lay silent
In bed
Comforted
By the knowledge
That there is
Is nothing
I can do

To change things

Book Review: Doc Voodoo: Aces & Eights by Dale Lucas

Doc Voodoo Aces and Eights Color

Doc Voodoo: Aces & EightsDoc Voodoo: Aces & Eights by Dale Lucas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pulp novels have a special place on my shelf, and with that comes expectations. When I pick one up I expect it to provide me with a break-neck narrative, some skull cracking, and a bigger-than-life hero that delivers lines of dialogue that would make an English Professor groan.

Doc Voodoo: Aces & Eights provides all that along with some pleasant surprises. Author Dale Lucas not only channels the spirit of the pulps with his highly visual and well-paced prose, but also shows that he is a man who is highly knowledgeable about his chosen setting and all that it encompasses.

The time is 1926. The where is Harlem. The hero: Doc Voodoo, a man who delivers street justice using a combination of fists, guns, and superpowers — thanks to an intimate relationship he maintains with several voodoo demigods. He’s not immortal, and he’s certainly not invincible, but he has the ability to handle danger that would be too much for a normal man.

There is a feeling of authenticity and love for the setting that comes pouring out of the book. It’s easy to fall into clichés when working with material such as this, but Lucas sidesteps them and presents a window to a time and place that is gone, but not so far in the rearview mirror that it can no longer be recognized. As a reader, I felt fully transported and in a way, privileged to experience something that I could not know without Doc Voodoo to guide me.

Aces & Eights is a grand adventure. Criminals, shady cops, gin joints, jazz, and the supernatural whirl about as we join our hero of the night in his quest to protect the innocent from a curse machine that could doom them all. It’s a race against the clock, but Lucas takes care to include considerable character development and a strong dose of history as we zip along.

The pulps were all about entertaining the reader. Doc Voodoo doesn’t disappoint. Dale Lucas gives us a solid piece of escapist fiction with flair. Solid, fun read.

Note: Although we have the same last name, I am not related to the author.

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An Exquisite Toxicity

toxic

Acid enhancement
Detachment
Alcohol fueled inspiration
Perspiration
Sweating out
Truths

Create.
Destroy.
Reality unconfirmed
Reality deniable
Catalysts force action
Not action unforced

These things bring Evil
Fire
These things bring Good
Fire
An ego conflagration

Judgment individual
A mirror to one’s self
The court of the soul
The stains of sin
The sport of cleansing
The doing
The duty

This chemical attack might
Bring wisdom
Most likely bring injury
Maybe scars
And certainly

Corpses.
Beautiful corpses
Kissing
Rubbing
Rotting
Under disco balls
And
Smoke machines

This fog is profit
Experience births fury
A trip to remember
A vacation to fear
The torture
Of personal rebellion.

So bring the attack
Attempt control
This sheep will not be shamed
This one will not yield
This world is my world
And beyond your law
Your judgment

Beyond thought
Beyond custom
Beyond religion
Beyond the filth
Beyond the gods

In the ruins of the taboo
With pounding music
In the deep dark

I live.

Photo Credit: Lotus Carroll via Compfight cc
 

Book Review: Weaver by Katherine Arandez

Weaver (The Kervanian Chronicles #1)Weaver by Katherine Arandez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In my youth, I would often walk into the woods or neglected places and imagine that just beyond it was another world, something beyond the ordinary. I don’t think that I was unique in this way, but I may have had a more active imagination than most. Adulthood and the mundane have a way of stealing this from most.

Arandez’s Weaving evoked memories of my childhood imaginings more than once.

For those who enjoy detail-rich settings and mythologies, there is some deep down world building here. Arandez doesn’t just suggest that there is a greater world just past reality; she builds it brick by brick. It proved to be challenging at times to keep on top of all of the details, but as a first book in a series, it has some heavy lifting to do.

The plot is complex. Three children cross through a magic portal into another world and must go on a great adventure in order to get back. In itself, this seems quite familiar, but the mythology of Weaver has many layers – players and events to remember as you move forward through the story. My guess is that for those that enjoy the story, rereads will be in order to fully appreciate what is going on.

When I was younger, I loved books like Weaver. As an adult, I appreciate the amount of thought that goes into world design. Arandez has developed enough material to tell many great stories from this, and I think that she’s an author worth watching.

View all my reviews

Submitting Stories and all of the Other Stuff I am Doing.

Although I have managed to keep my blog current, I haven’t spoken much to the actual pursuit of the craft, something I did much more of as I ramped up to the release of my first novel as well as the months that followed.

That’s because I have been busy writing the second novel, along with several other ongoing projects. I have gotten to the point where I am writing every day, working on something. This level of productivity is beyond anything I have experienced in the past and although I do ride up near the edge of exhaustion more often than not, I know that when you’re hot, you have to shoot the puck as much as possible.

The second novel is going well. I am about to hit the 45k mark, so I am halfway through the first draft. It’s very different than my first book (which will be a series in time, but it will take some time). It’s a horror novel, first and foremost.

Here’s the premise for your consideration:

Jesse Cruce wants to escape his past. As a struggling drug addict, he thought rehab was hell, but it turns out renovating his dead father’s house in St. Augustine is worse. When he accidentally opens a portal to the afterlife, he unleashes a demonic force capable of dragging the city’s souls into the abyss. Jesse might be able to stop it — but only if he can defeat the self-perpetuating monster of his addiction first.

So there’s character development, a plot, internal and external conflict – all the makings of a fine story (or so I have been told). I’m having a great time writing it and I am enjoying horror much more that I even thought. The writing is slow but steady. I can manage about 500-1000 words a day. Some of “why” of this is time (gainful employment be DAMNED) but I’m exploring some dark places and to be honest (and at the risk of sounding pretentious), it’s emotionally draining. Most days I go for a jog right after to clear my mind.

I expect to have the manuscript wrapped up by late spring. Then revisions. Then a content editor. Then more revisions. Then beta readers. Then the queries. Unlike the insanity of Leather, it won’t nearly be as hard to pitch. Yay for simplicity!

So this is the slow moving titan that is pulling me through 2014. However, I have several other projects going that are supporting my need to be stupid busy. Also, versatility must be practiced.

As an aspiring storyteller, it’s one of my goals to always be submitting, to have my work in consideration somewhere. Last year, I had my darkly humorous take on Santa Claus accepted and published in F*cked Up Fairy Tales, did some guest blogging, secured a short story in a horror anthology coming out in 2015 and sold a vampire poem — of all things.

This year, I have two stories that I am trying to find a home for. The first is a very straightforward werewolf tale (it may be too linear in structure, we’ll see) and I also have my attempt at metafiction/slipstream, a 2000 word shifting narrative that has gathered seven rejections to date. It might just be that the right editor hasn’t seen it yet or that it has a significant flaw or twelve that I have yet to identify. I also have three short stories in the planning stages: a sci-fi satire starring a gigantic gladiator by the name of Titanus, a dystopian tale of a world where having material possessions is punished, and a non-fiction piece about a terrible car accident I was in many years ago.

Although my novel would be finished much sooner without the side projects, I feel that it is critical for me to be putting smaller works out there and I think it’s something all aspiring authors NEED to do. For me, it’s about expanding my readership and exposure while challenging myself to work with stories and themes that are slightly out of my comfort zone. Seriously, I would never think to write a werewolf story, but I have one. For you, it may be a completely different reason but I can say that those small victories are what keep me motivated.

There is the rejection. Or should I say, there are the rejections. I have my fair share of them. The pursuit of writing demands it! I recently was asked how I deal with regular rejection and it’s not complicated. I give myself an hour to feel a bit bummed then I immediately target new places to submit. I’ll take another good look at the piece in question, perhaps revise a bit, and then it’s out the door to another editor. Unless you have been given specific feedback, you can never be sure why it was rejected, so there is no reason to get pissed off or depressed. If they gave you feedback, there’s even less of a reason for hard feelings. Hell, you just got feedback for free. Rejoice!

Fall off the horse seven times, get up eight.

I’m using a few different sites to find places to submit. I’ve been leaning on Ralan.com mostly as they list the kind of markets I am most interested in and they keep their info up to date. There’s Duotrope, of course. Writer’s Digest also has lots to offer if you are looking to submit, and I have had some luck with Writer’s Relief.

Between these four sources, I think I have it covered. I can’t write enough content fast enough to enter every competition or submit to every publication that interests me, but that’s why I keep everything I write. You never know when you’ll stumble upon the perfect place for that piece that has been sitting in the box – just waiting for its chance. Put me in coach, I know I can play.

I’m also collaborating with an old friend on a poetry collection. It’s a good time. It’s pushing me. I choose a topic and write a poem. I send it to her and she writes on the same topic, and also writes a second piece, with a new topic of her choosing. She sends both back to me and I duplicate the process. We’ve written 20 poems each over the past year and I am learning so much from it.

And if all of this wasn’t enough, I am doing quite a bit of copywriting as well as script writing (marketing and instructional videos) and contributing reviews to an Orlando-centric (what to do around town kind of thing) to a new website. You can check it out here.

To wrap it up with a pretty ribbon, since starting this blog I have only build momentum. The friends and readers I have gained from it – MIND BLOWN. Far beyond any expectations I had with that first post. I’d like to thank you all for putting the gas in my tank to pursue my goals and dreams. I am passing mile markets with increasing speed and I have a great feeling about 2014.

Lucas out.

Creative Writing – Poetry – Short Pieces – News – By Tom Lucas

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