Thursday, December 27, 2012

Year End eBook Giveaway: The Troubleshooter

From now until the year's end, I'm offering the ebook The Troubleshooter: Red-Eyed Killer free on Smashwords. Get it for your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or e-reader.

For the best price of all: free.                    

Synopsis: In the prequel to New Haven Blues, Mick Trubble is a partial amnesiac who barters favors in order to survive. His deals place him at The Luzzatti, an apartment complex where he works for the owner and eventually befriends the family. In short time his search for answers is distracted by taking cases and by his conflicted feelings for Natasha, Mr. Luzzatti's daughter.

But Mick's peace is short-lived, because Mr. Luzzatti is caught in a business deal gone sour, resulting in murderous loan sharks looking to rub him out along with his family. Mick has to quickly gather his wits and resources in able to protect the Luzzattis before they become the next victims of New Haven's most notorious hitman: the Red-Eyed Killer.

More info available at the official website.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Troubleshooter Loot Giveaway: It's a Steal

A Stefan/Mark Krajnak production

Ok, so if you've been following my recent series of articles, then you know that I've been yadda yadda all about my recently published novel The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues. "So what?" you say. "Self-published books are a dime a dozen. Why should I be interested?"

Well, that's a good question. And here's the answer: free.

That's right, free. As in no cost, limited time offer and whatnot. You see, I just put the finishing touches on the official Troubleshooter website, and figured I could celebrate that by giving away digital copies of the novel free for let's say a week, give or take a day or two. More specifically, until this coming Friday.

There you have it. If you own a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or e-reader of another kind, then you have a chance to check out my debut novel for free.

And if you don't, no need to feel left out. I'm also sponsoring a giveaway of an autographed copy of the print version as well. So you at least get a chance of holding that Mick Trubble flavor in your hands and savoring the aroma of bourbon, cigarettes and gunpowder.
All details can be found at the website here. Go get it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What Reading Fiction Means to Me (Warren Adler contest entry)

Reading fiction isn’t a hobby for me. It’s not something that I do in my spare time to break away from boredom or escape from the bombardment of horrifying new reports, reality television ‘celebrities’ or the everyday doldrums of the 9-5.
Ok, it is, but it’s also much more.
Fiction is my savior, my champion, the key that opens the door and allows me to try on the flesh suits of hundreds of thousands of individuals that I would never have encountered in the ‘real’ world. Through fiction I have traveled to distant lands, fought dark lords and horrifying monsters, loved and lost, died and lived. Through fiction I’ve married, divorced, been unfaithful, remained loyal to death. I’ve murdered the innocent, saved countless lives, and watched the sun rise and set over ages of time. Through fiction I’ve traveled to places like Middle-Earth, Prydian, Narnia, Westeros, and returned to wander the Earth across time in ancient Rome and Greece, feudal China and Japan, colonial Britain and the United States. I’ve watched kingdoms rise and tumble, seen the flash of mushroom clouds and napalm fields, tallied the dead after seasons of war. I’ve witnessed tragedy and triumph, love and hate, life and death and survived by simply coming the end of the story.
I cannot imagine being able to function without fiction to turn to and enjoy those intimate moments with those hundreds of thousands of moments and people that have allowed me to live through and with them across the pages. Could I? Sure. But would I want to?
Not hardly.

*This is an entry in the Warren Adler contest. See his website for details.*

Monday, September 3, 2012

Home - Website of micktrubble!

The official Troubleshooter website is now live! Make sure to drop by and check it out for all things related to Mick Trubble and his dystopian noir adventures...

Home - Website of micktrubble!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview Sessions: Selene Skye Deme

The name on her books is Victoria Selene Skye Deme. When I decided to do an interview series, she was automatically the first choice. Selene wears many hats: author, poet, fitness guru, single mother, and teacher among others. I’m proud to refer to her by an additional label: friend.
Selene’s surreal, sharp, potent poetics have filled several collected volumes. She is a word weaver, spinning language into her unique style, an unforgettable voice that haunts the pages and takes the reader into places both dark and magnificent. Take this excerpt from her recently released book, Unfairy Tales From Underland:

Chimera Of Calliope~
Dispositions of my multiplicity
dew drop words
comparable to tar
compose poetry in the corners of my gaze
devouring gloom
until I phosphoresce
Radiance becomes crystalline in my pores
magenta and alabaster berry drops
painting roses on my choking vines
no sword could rend asunder
for they are the ribbons
that hold my paper skin in place
and the thorns
are the crown
that keep my nightmares
from flooding the world

I could sing the praises of Selene’s wonders until my voice grows hoarse, but I was fortunate enough to get her to answer a few questions for me instead. So without further ado, here is the interview:

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I honestly can’t classify myself as a “writer”.  A writer has focus and discipline, a set of parameters for a story, a poem, they enter into the content with a set of well defined ideas.
I have no idea how a piece of writing will center and conclude. Anything can kick start a flow of words, an image, a scent, a sound, and then it takes me where it wants to go. These things I write, write me, I’m just a conduit for the subconscious, the global subconscious ness.  The difference in the last four years is that I’ve mindfully learned to edit these writings. To make them coherent, and center them with an articulate significance.
My father always said I was born creating stories. So I guess whatever it is I do with words I’ve been doing since I could hold a pen and compose a thought.

Your way with words is quite unique. How would you describe your style of writing?

Part of the unusual distribution of metaphors and organization of illustrative content is a byproduct of being trilingual.  I think in three different languages, sometimes simultaneously, which produces the atypical format of my poetic and prose compilations.
I’m also a synesthete, which means my senses tend to crosswire. In simpler terms, there are times I taste music, and hear colors, and see concepts.  My brain is constantly active, but not in an intrusive way, in more of a melodious and kind way.

Is the mingling of your history with your art a conscious effort, or something that just comes naturally?

It inserts itself of its own accord, because I am my history. The concept of future/past/present is always blending together in my world.  There’s no separation of what happened twenty years ago and what will happen twenty years from now.
I was brought up in such a strong culture, where traditions were emphasized through daily life, that it is me.  I wear my history close to the surface.

Continuing on that line of thought: your poetry is quite personal, including many painful experiences of abuse in your past. Do you ever feel that you give too much of yourself to others through your writing?

No.  I have a separation between the abuse and myself. Some call it disassociation. I call it surviving.  There’s a theory in psychological texts that describes how children fragment and rebuild themselves after traumatic incidences. In essence fortifying their emotional/psychological structures by resurfacing and reinventing themselves each time. Some will argue this is unhealthy for the psyche. Boxing things into an eternally building maze. Who knows, they may be right. But it works for me. I never talk about the past in a direct way.  It’s there, bundled up inside a thousand poems and stories.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Sometimes, I still write free hand.  I have a quill and liquid ink, parchment.  Some of my most intimate pieces were written in ink. It soothes me.

Describe for us your path to publishing. What advice can you give for those considering entering the business?

The most basic advice is, don’t be in a rush. That was my mistake when I entered into a contract with a publishing house we will keep unidentified because all I have to say about them after seven years is that they are a scam.  Be smart, read the contract from beginning to end, question everything, negotiate, be your own editor. Ask for feedback.
The best move I made was self-publishing my eighth book.  The entire playing ground changes when you become your own publisher/editor/promoter.  Because it’s completely in your hands, you are more motivated to pay very close attention to the finest details to produce the best product you can for your audience.

It there a certain time that you write, or do you stick to a writing schedule?

No schedules, no discipline, no forethought. I can’t function like that. In everyday life I live completely in the moment. That’s how I write. Whatever triggers a piece about to be, I give myself to it then and there.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Read, of course. I’ve been a reader all my life. And I love horses, so riding is close. But most of all I love my kids and my grandson. My happiest moments happen in their company, so I spend as much time with them as they let me. I’m very, very lucky to have been given these two girls as my daughters by whatever fates decide those things. They have taught me as much as I’ve taught them. They are treasures.

What does your family think of your writing?

At this point in time, my relatives across the sea display each book on their mantles. My sweet mother, who used to write poems as a young girl, is so proud. My eldest, Una, writes also, and she has her own unique voice. As for the teenager, she’s a teenager, so clothes and a social life take precedence over reading my writings which she thinks are weird, which just makes me smile. Although, when it’s to her benefit, she is not shy about announcing how her mother has eight published books and a hardcore fan following.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing?

That people can relate even to the most obscure or sharpest of things in my writings. It taught me that I’m not unique or all that freaky, which was a lesson I needed to learn both to knock down my ego a few notches and, ironically, to also refurbish my sense of self worth. 

You’ve published several volumes of collected works. Do you have a favorite?

I do love UnFairy Tales, but The SurrealStalks And Times Of A Gutter Girl, showcases the richest and most eclectic of my poems and stories. It still irks me to no end that the publisher I was with at the time did me completely dirty on the horribly bland cover which does not draw the eye or an audience. It’s my lowest selling book. Which bothers me. Because the insides are pretty amazing.

I can attest to that, because I own a copy. Let’s talk about the state of poetry today. As you know, there is an abundance of mediocre to just awful poetry proudly displayed on writing sites and churned out by vanity and self-publishers. Do you feel as though poetry is a lost art? How can a serious poet stand out from the masses of amateur writers?

I have to clarify how I personally define poetry before I can answer that. Poetry is the honest and raw skinning of a human soul, the instinctive plugging into the connective subconscious Tapestry that connects everything to everything else throughout the universe. That is poetry. It’s personal myth. Sylvia Plath, Jim Morrison, Ginsberg, Kerouc, are poetry.  This is not a lost art, though it is a severely underappreciated art, because what this form reveals is the inside of the mirror, not the reflection, but the tides of the human being underneath.  Today’s society is either too distracted, too dumbed down, or terrified of facing and examining the honest textures of existence, life, purpose, meaning, etc.  Poetry delves into all those areas, and more. It also has no parameters, true poetry has no borders. In a world where humans have been conditioned to think within the box, stepping outside of it engenders fear, but most have forgotten how to step past guidelines, and are to comfortable in their monotonous drone world to even entertain the thought. That’s sad. That’s how myths die. Poets keep the myth alive.
As for how one can stand out from the crowd in the art of poetry, don’t worry, the internet and social networking sites has opened up a beautiful, connected world.  Don’t seek your readers, be you, create your art around you, be honest, practice full disclosure through your writing, and your audience will find you.

Let’s talk about your photographic artwork that you’ve delved into recently. What kind of tools are you using for your surreal portraits?

Corel Draw and Photoshop are my primary tools. But I also skip over to online editors such as PizZap, PicMonkey and BeFunky for specific layering tools available only on those specific sites.
I have a expansive visual interior world, but I don’t have the artistic skill with brushes and pencils I would like to have been able to translate these images beyond minimum two dimensional frames. Digital Art has opened the world to my brain and my imagination. I can literally translate the image behind my eyes onto the screen through these programs.  It’s crazy amazing watching what’s inside taking shape in front of your eyes. It’s addictive.

Tell us what you think about your own writing. What does it mean to you personally?

"When I was a young girl, writing was escape. When I was a teenager, writing was purging. As I grew into a woman I began to understand the power of words, and that's when I started writing with respect for the art that in and of itself creates human reality."
I posted this as my status on FB not too long ago, which answers your question better than anything else I could add.

Let’s talk about the future. What projects are you currently working on? When will we get a novel from Selene?

Plugged Into The Alloy Forest is my next book of poetry and short stories. I’m also working on a collaboration with my daughter, Una, yet untitled. And then there is Pan’s Unpuzzled Puzzle Girl, the novel thing, which is sooo hard for me to write, because I can’t think or create in a level manner. I think in pieces. Puzzle pieces fly all around, and I write them individually. Putting them together into a whole picture is a nightmare for someone like me. It may never be completed because of that. I get bored and distracted and irate, and walk away from it constantly.

How can readers find you, and where can they purchase your work?
I’m predominantly on my Author page on Facebook and my Weebly site these days.
My books can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes&Noble in paperback, and the new one, UnFairy Tales From UnderLand can also be purchased on Kindle through Amazon. Signed copies are available directly from me. All one needs to do is email me on my Facebook Author page for information.

Is there anything special that you’d like to say to your readers?

Always. I want them to know how grateful I am for their steadfast and unwavering support throughout the many years. How much they give me through their feedback, presence, and friendship, how their words and insights into my writings have revealed more about me to myself than I was able to see so closely linked to the works, and how it has helped me mature as a writer. Constructive feedback permitted me shed my often times overblown sense of self and taught me that in order to grow not just as a human being but whatever art that human being undertakes, criticism is not an affront but care shown on part of the critic who wants you to evolve and achieve your personal best.
My audience, my readers are a hardcore group, who tirelessly promote my writings.  They are the ones to whom I owe loyalty, not just for their faith in me but also for their own selfless revelations about themselves and how parts of them connect to my stories, my poems.
That connection is crucial between the performer and audience if both are to benefit and grow from what they give and get from each other. It is the most intimate and gorgeous forms of symbiosis.

It is indeed. Thank your for your time and in depth answers.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A New Direction... Sort Of

The main problem with having a blog is finding things that you want to blog about. After all, if one is to contribute article after article, it should be on a subject he's passionate about, or else the blog will dwindle and die as this blog has time and again. Only to have me step onto the scene with creative paddles in hand to shock some life back into it with another blog post.

Since I'm personally dull and uninteresting, I had to find something else to blog about besides myself and my creative projects. Seeing as how I'm firmly vested in the independent publishing industry, I figured I should devote my blog time to shedding light on independent artists. You know, that way the two people who follow this blog will be better exposed to what's going on with indie writers, artists, photographers, musicians, etc. So with a new focus I've dubbed this blog The Indie Underground and will feature articles and interviews, reviews and news that relate to the indie industry.

I think that it's important that independent artists support one another as we are the only ones who can build our brand to success. Although the great majority of that work falls on our shoulders alone, it's always great to receive and extend a helping hand in the way of exposure and support. I've never been the type to feel bad about another person's success, and to know that in a small way that I did something to aid a person to that success would mean a lot.

I can't promise a daily blog, but I'll try to post at least twice a week if not more. This should be fun, and hopefully I'll be at least able to connect better with my indie artists out there.

And yes -I did state on Facebook months ago that I'd start an interview series. It's taken a while, but this is me making good on that promise. The new direction kicks off on Monday with an interview of surrealist, poet, and author Selene Skye Deme. Be there.

You don't want to miss this, do you?

Monday, August 13, 2012

What's In A Name (To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym)

A recent FB post by a friend of mine made me think of the reason why I go by the name of Bard Constantine. Well, for my writing anyway. I have yet to run into anyone who looks at me and screams "Hey, that's Bard Constantine!" I suppose I'll have to prepare myself for that moment, because it will no doubt be a surreal experience. Getting screamed at, I mean.

I certainly didn't start off writing as Bard. When I was writing my overly long, exhaustively difficult fantasy epic that debuted my journey into novel writing, I used the name Lewis Knight, which is two of the three names that my mom gave me. The first I won't divulge because it's irrelevant to the discussion, plus I don't want to give up everything. I barely know you, after all ;)

So Lewis Knight is pretty cool, right? I mean, it would look good stamped on a book cover, and has a pretty nice ring when you say it a few times -go ahead and try it, you'll see. So why pass up on that for a name that sounds like it was made up by a goth/emo high school kid who writes bad poetry? One word, actually.


That's right. Back at the beginning, I was in foul spirits after my debut novel was rightfully rejected by publishers and agents, and I slunk into a dark corner and wrote some pretty awful poetry for a while. Darkness and depression, boo hoo type of stuff. I dubbed myself the romantic title Bard of Darkness, and penned poems of romantic depression like the Phantom of the Opera, only without the scars. Or the skills. The only thing that saved me was that occasionally a halfway decent poem would emerge, which proves that if you keep throwing mud on a white wall, eventually someone will walk by and call it a work of art.

To think: people actually pay to see what your kid will do for free.

Well, despite the outpouring of admiration and applause by online friends who meant well but should have just told me that I sucked, I came to the realization that my poetry needed to improve. I had emerged from my depressive stupor and blinked uncertainly at the light of realization. I needed something to write about. I needed to develop my craft. And my answer came in the form of vampires. This was about the time that the Twilight phenomenon exploded, dragging vampire lore into the land of sparkly skin and blank-eyed stares. While I never read or even was tempted to read the novels, I was amused by the vehemence of the Twilight haters, who seethed online about how poorly written the books were, and how vampires would never blah blah blah. My thought was: how many of said haters could create a bestselling national craze? It's easy to criticize another person's success, much harder to duplicate. If you think something sucks, then do it better. Do your own take and one-up on whatever it is that has your undies in a knot. I mused on how I could do at writing a YA vampire novel. What would my take be? Which got me thinking: if something like a vampire existed, what it really be like? We're talking about a being who has lived across ages, seen things... that you people wouldn't believe, right? (The link has nothing to do with vampires, just the best quote in film history. Thank me later.)


Someone had to explore that. And so I created a character. Haunted and lonely, reclusive and enigmatic. I would write from his perspective, bring to life his story, his viewpoint, his emotions and feelings from the things he'd witnessed over ages of time. He needed a name. And so I gave him one.

Bard Constantine.

The Bard was a nod to my depressive prologue as the Bard of Darkness. Constantine had a nice Gothic ring to it. And so my journey under a new name began. I chose an avatar that suited the persona and name of my character perfectly: Vincent Valentine from the Final Fantasy video games. For a while no one knew who Bard Constantine was. I was free to write my material with complete anonymity, and spun out tales of darkness and haunted loneliness.

With a name like Bard Constantine, you should automatically be made into a Final Fantasy character ;)

I quickly expanded my perspective to simply that of an immortal, free of the confines of vampiric lore. I quickly built a collection of poems under the theme of immortal consciousness, those stories, times, and people that live on forever through the written and spoken word, those that live within us through memory. I had been reborn as a writer of poetry, and that fire quickly spread to my novel writing. And it led to my volume of poetic works, Immortal Musings.

This poetry is actually good. No, really.

Being Bard Constantine had aided me in understanding the craft of writing and the exploration of character building and development. So I was understandably hesitant to let go of the name once I stepped back into novel writing. But I went back and forth for a while until I came to the day that I would make the fateful decision that would alter my creative life forever. And yet again one word can explain why.


Google, that ever handy, ever so necessary revealer of online searches. I have the habit of looking myself up online to see what kind of digital presence I'm building. A search under Lewis Knight exposed very little. Everything wrapped up in less than a page. A search under Bard Constantine was much more revealing. Page after page of info. I didn't realize at the time the importance of a name that no one else has. It basically meant a free run online without any interference from anything else. I was free to brand myself, create an online presence that Lewis Knight could never match. Right now a Google search of Bard Constantine will lead to over ten pages of material that relates only to me. Even an image search will provide four full pages of images related to me. Online presence is a major plus in today's digital marketing and promotion. And so I decided to become Bard Constantine permanently. Ultimately, will it prove to be the right choice?

Time will tell.

Robyne Renee Vickers is directly responsible for this waltz down memory lane. Any complaints of boredom or long-windedness can be directed to her. Or just check out her blog. Like most of the ones you'll come across, it's much better than mine.

Friday, August 10, 2012

We Got It Covered: Evolution of the Troubleshooter Book Cover

The cover of a novel has to be special. The image has to catch the eye, fire the imagination, impel the potential reader to pluck it off the shelf  -or in this modern world, click on it with their mouse. The font has to be readable and attractive. And it all has to look good in thumbnail size so that book browsers can see it online. Because that whole thing about not judging a book by its cover?

A lie.

I’m not an artist, photographer, or graphic designer. Creating a cover is something I’m not exactly creatively inclined toward. On my previous publishing efforts I simply browsed through stock photography to find a striking image and then let the tools available do the rest. With The Troubleshooter, my first full-length novel, I wanted something different. And so I went a more definitive direction.

I got lucky.

I knew the image I wanted. A film noir style detective cloaked in shadow and holding a gun. Easy to find, right? Well, yes. A Google image search or two produced a number of images that fit the criteria. Finding images online isn’t a difficult task, as you know. Tracking down the original photographer? A bit trickier.

But I clicked my calloused fingers until I found a few really great photographers. One of those happened to be Mark Krajnak of Jersey Style Photography. Unlike many of the other photographers, Mark was his own model. He created a Man In the Hat noir character and took outstanding photos of himself in detective mode. What stood out about Mark’s work was that his was the first photos that seemed perfect for the character of Mick Trubble, the protagonist of my story. Mick is a chain smoker, a heavy drinker, a rough and tumble type of mug who charms the dames, shoots the bad guys, and take life on with a world-weary dry wit. Looking at Mark, I knew I had my guy.

The next part is where the luck comes in. When approaching a complete stranger online, you never know what kind of response you’re going to get. Well, Mark is the nicest guy you can run across. We briefly discussed what I was looking for, and in no time at all Mark took one of his iconic images and serve up a mock cover for me to preview. It pretty much covered what I was looking for:

The only thing that needed to be altered was the font to make it readable in smaller formats, and perhaps a bit of touch up to create a look that suited the retro-futuristic style of the story. But again, I had no idea of how to do that. Good thing I had an Ace to throw.

I ran into Stefan on DeviantArt. Through his unique images I fell into the dieselpunk culture and the amazing work that he had just collected in his mind-blowing collection, Diesel City. I was truly impressed by his artistic design skills and had already discussed working with him on a story for his Silent Empire project that he had displayed on the site. When the Troubleshooter cover project came up, Stefan came to the rescue with his eye for design and noir expertise. What stands out even more was his patience with my amateurism. He put the project on his shoulders and when the work was finished I was absolutely blown away. Here was the image that I’d imagined: The Troubleshooter in all his shadowy glory. The image is clean and striking, the mood dark and fitting for the noir environment. I truly could not have asked for better people to work with. 

One writer, one photographer, one graphic design artist. Hailing from Birmingham Alabama, New Jersey, and France. All perfect strangers who just happened to meet by chance online. You can’t plan these types of collaborations. But I consider myself extremely fortunate to have done so.

So the Troubleshooter novel is published. The cover –finished. The men who met by chance now go their separate ways, right?


I was happy to find out that Stefan reached out to Mark on his own and the two of them have begun a creative relationship that has resulted in the recent images that the three of us have been posting to our readers and fans. And as for me, I have a lot more Mick Trubble in my head, waiting to shoot more trouble when the time comes. Who knows? Maybe this is the start of a beautiful friendship. We’ll let Mick Trubble have the last word, as he did at the very end of The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues

“It was funny, though –as I sipped and listened, I didn’t really feel like things had ended. More like had just got started.”

Amen, to that, Mick. And as for Mark and Stefan –a tip of the fedora to you gents. The world is a small place. Maybe one day we’ll get a chance to sit down in some hazy nightclub and tell war stories. Until then, we’ll always have New Haven…

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Bard Reviews: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is perhaps the most satisfying conclusion to a trilogy that I've ever seen in cinema.

Wait. Notice I said trilogy, not series. I'm talking about films that take place across three films with a beginning, middle, and conclusion. And I know that there will be more Batman films in store (probably much sooner than necessary), but not with Christopher Nolan at helm and Christian Bale in the suit. So think about it: How many trilogies can it be arguably said that each installment actually surpassed the previous one? It's a task that seems to be more difficult than said, when you consider. The original Star Wars reached it's epoch with the The Empire Strikes Back. Although Return of the Jedi was still a great film, it couldn't quite reach the bar set by the previous one. Then there's the Godfather trilogy which was improved in part II but fell flat in the third installment. And let's not even talk about trilogies like the Matrix, where each follow up got considerably worse.

What's that? Return of the King, you say? OK, I'll give you that. In fact it might be the only third act that I can compare TDKR to. So let's talk about it, shall we?

You've seen the trailers, been smothered by the advertising propaganda, and been shocked by acts of senseless violence on premiere night.  But putting all of that aside, this film is much like the second film in that it's hardly a superhero film at all. Nolan's take is so grounded in realism that his Batman films are more crime thriller/dramas, only loosely tied to the superhero world by the fact that the protagonist dresses like a bat.

It had to have been hard to create a villain that would be relevant in the face of Heath Ledger's Joker, but Bane quickly proves to be even more formidable. He is a looming Darth Vader type of persona, only with equal parts of cunning mastermind to go with his intimidating presence and brute strength. Tom Hardy's performance will no doubt put Bane in the list of top movie villains. I've always believed that a story suffers when the villain isn't more powerful than the hero, but I didn't have to worry here. Bane places Batman and Gotham City in a choke-hold and squeezes with all his strength. Using his brutal tactics and tactical planning, he appears to be unstoppable.

I enjoyed Bale's performance as well. For the first time we see Batman and Bruce Wayne at their most vulnerable states.  It's hard to pull off a great performance when you're dressed in a Halloween costume, but Bale pulls it off again No actor has appeared more dangerous in the cape and cowl. Yet in this film we see something we haven't seen before. Defeat. We see the Batman outwitted, worn down and broken.

And then we see him rise.

And that's the point of the entire movie. It's about what happens to you when the chips are down. When your world is turned upside down and you hit rock bottom. What choices you make in those moments are what define your destiny. It's about standing up after being knocked down. Facing impossible odds because you refuse to lie down without a fight. Because it's only when you're down that you can rise.

Each film in this trilogy has had a theme, a major obstacle to overcome. The first was fear. The second was chaos. This one was a bit more complex. In Bane we have a symbol of both fear and chaos. In his initial success he creates an atmosphere that becomes the third theme, one more difficult to overcome: oppression. It's a more potent obstacle than fear and chaos alone, because like poison it cripples over time. It's not until it's almost too late that the damage is revealed.

I could go on and on, but suffice to say that The Dark Knight Rises is a great film. Top notch direction, heavy duty action, an outstanding cast of actors, and a well layered story with some surprising twists. All of that plus Anne Hathaway in a catsuit. When all is said and done, these films will stand out from so many others because they are so multifaceted, so reflective of their time. Although I hate to see Nolan, Bale and company conclude their time with Batman, at the same time I hope they never are tempted to return. Because although Batman will continue soar, it's best to exit while you're on top of your game. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the top. Five out of five stars.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Indie Writing 'Revolution'

It seems like yesterday when free ebooks were all the rage. Not only were they a good way to get an entire novel for nothing at all, perhaps more importantly free books were considered and widely publicized as the best way for indie writers to gain recognition. It was a revolution of sorts, a upraised finger to the sneering publishing houses who had rejected the work of hard working writers for so long. In a wave of propaganda and highly touted success stories, writers were convinced to take their work that they'd poured countless hours into and give it away for free or a few cents more.

And here we are.

There is an endless sea of free ebooks at the disposal of anyone who wants one or as many as they can download. Books of every subject and genre imaginable by anyone and everyone who's ever had a story in their head or been told by grandma that their stories are just dandy. It seems like the reader's paradise. So many books, so many choices. Why would anyone have to purchase a novel again? Easy answer.

Because the vast majority of these books suck.

Before you leap down my throat, that's more than just my singular opinion. Sure, I've downloaded a number of free books and realized that fact, but all you have to do is visit an online board or read any of the number of blogs on the subject and find a vast number of disgruntled readers and reviewers who feel the same way. And it only makes sense. When institutions that were once the guardians of good writing get brushed aside, it's only natural to expect that the rabble will storm the gates and flood the streets with ware that never would have seen the light of day otherwise.

And this isn't an indictment of indie writing. Yes, many of the agents and publishing companies have held on to ancient tradition for too long, ignoring some fine writers in the name of expertise and experience only to have their conventions flipped when the same writers make a killing publishing independently. But as widely spread as those stories are, the truth is that for every good indie writer there is, hundreds more are busy cluttering up the landscape with stories (I really can't call them novels) that are poorly conceived and executed even worse. And let's not even mention the ones that have seen little or no editing, proofreading, or even a spell check it seems.

It's a Gordian knot that might give even Alexander pause. Because there are many writers who take so much pride in their hard work, put in so many hours to make sure that their product is as good or better than anything published traditionally. Yet it seems as if that particular caliber of author is vastly outnumbered by the ever increasing flood of writers who have no business... in the business.

It seems as though the free ebook has lost its novelty and now has the same reputation of the clearance books that inhabit the racks outside the doors of the local bookstore. Books so bad that they're not worth even taking up indoor space. You might find a gem if you look long and hard, but in reality most people won't give them a second glance as they make their way inside were the 'real' books are.

I think eventually writers will see that the business side of writing involves a lot more than a free listing and a momentary jump in sales, if that even occurs. Just like any business, it takes a lot of work to make one's work stand out, even if your work is very good. It will be interesting to see how the 'revolution' looks a few years down the road. I firmly believe that those who realize that publishing is a business and works along those lines will still be in the picture if their work is good. As for the others, well, you can't have a revolution without casualties, right?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bard Reviews: Unfairy Tales From Underland

 UnFairy Tales From UnderLand

It's hard to find outstanding poetry. You know -poetry that STANDS OUT from the heaving sea of poets all writing about subjects pertinent to them, but alien to the rest of humanity.

Stop right here.

Victoria Selene Skye Deme. That's four names. Most of us have three at most, but with all this talent, Selene (as she's known to prefer)surely needs that extra bit to contain the load of creative talent that she has at her disposal. Poetry? Yes it is, but wait -it's poetry for people who don't like poetry.

You'll find nothing pretentious here, nothing boring or stale or rehashed. What you will find is the surreal, the dark, the warped reflection, the biting satire, the reborn myth and legend that we forgot when we cast those things aside in exchange for video games and reality TV.

Don't believe me? Wrap your mind around this excerpt from the poem Shells:

I surface
fingerprints on the screen
I've clocked in
searching for my killer
soft soled shoes leave the imprint of myths across uninspiring tiles
and there
above the city
life surges in mercury
encases me at his mercy
his dreams, in doe sinew, dip under
sewing a new hyde into my hips;
he will do unimaginable things to the shell
not understanding that I have learned
that my carapace
is not me

Selene's world is biography dipped in myth, lined with razor blades and drenched in that darkness that is prevalent in all true fairy tales, that truth that the world is filled with monsters that feed on the human spirit. Take this excerpt from Low Lying Clouds In a Pearl Colored Skye:

Blue eyes glancing off red poppies
the dead girl beside the soldier
so white in her naked display
her throat an open dream left unfulfilled;
she was a singer
he was her lover
her killer
in that town
in that year
of 1968
the two were interchangeable
that love thing
that thrill kill thing
We left the dead girl in the field
the poppies sighed
was it relief?
I think so
and the soldier was kind enough to remove his bloody gloves
before he took my hand
and walked me under clouds
back to the monsters of Bone Woods

Selene has a bizarre way of masking horrifying events behind the beauty of her words. One has to perform a double take, take a closer look and realize the brutality in between the eloquence of her phrases. Her purpose is not to confuse the reader as some poets are wont to do, but at the same time she doesn't dumb down her writing for the sake of those who will undoubtedly scratch their heads in stupefied wonderment.

I could go on and on. (This is not a small book, by the way. Worth every cent) But rather than that, I will simply say that I am a fan, and would recommend this collection to anyone. Yes, even to those who do not read poetry. Selene is too talented to ignore. Take the plunge, and you will see why...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Bard Reviews: The Highest Tide

The Highest Tide

The Title: The Highest Tide
The Author: Jim Lynch
Description (from Publishers Weekly): The fertile strangeness of marine tidal life becomes a subtly executed metaphor for the bewilderments of adolescence in this tender and authentic coming-of-age novel, Lynch's first. As a precocious, undersized 13-year-old living on the shore of Puget Sound, in Washington State, Miles O'Malley has developed a consuming passion for the abundant life of the tidal flats. His simple pleasure in observing is tested and complicated over the course of a remarkable summer, when he finds a giant squid, a discovery that brings him the unwelcome attention of scientists, TV reporters and a local cult. Meanwhile, Miles's remote parents are considering a divorce; his best friend, Florence, an elderly retired psychic, is dying of a degenerative disease; his sex-obsessed buddy, Phelps, mocks his science-geek knowledge; and his desperate crush on Angie Stegner, the troubled girl next door, both inspires and humiliates him. Events build toward the date of a record high tide, and Miles slowly sorts out his place in the adult world.

The Skinny: A coming of age tale about a boy obsessed with marine life and what happens when he discovers a giant squid that sets off a chain of events resulting in massive exposure on his insular world and the peculiar relationships that define him.  

The Fat: The Highest Tide is one of the best novels I’ve had the pleasure to read in recent years.  Jim Lynch possesses a poetic beauty in his prose, but doesn’t make it showy or flagrant.  It flows naturally, completely enveloping the reader in the mind of the precocious Miles, a 13 year old boy who is more at home in the tidal flats around his home than in social circles or relationships.  His best friend happens to be a woman so elderly that he has to aid her in using the restroom.  The only friend his age doesn’t understand him, and his crush on a troubled older girl goes unnoticed.  To make it all come to a head, he discovers a giant squid on the beach.

This attracts scientists, news reporters and even some cultists as Miles almost miraculously discovers species after species of new or extremely rare marine life on the shoreline that he knows like the back of his hand.  His obscure world is thrust into the national spotlight, exposing the troubles that lurked in the cracks until then, including his parent’s impending divorce. 

What makes this novel stand out is how Jim Lynch seems to effortlessly bring the characters alive, and even more so his descriptions of the marine life that fascinates Miles so much.  Many writers might make such sound boring and technical, but Lynch takes the reader right to the shore and brings it all to life so that we too can be awed and humbled by the beauty and fragility of nature.  It is rare to find a novel that speaks poetry without pretentiousness, but Lynch pulls it off well.  The result is a rare treat of a story that should delight readers familiar with its themes as well as those like myself who are completely ignorant of life by the water.

The Bottom Line:  Read this book.  I loved it, and recommend it to anyone who loves a story that takes you away.

The Bard Reviews: Dog (E. M. Faustus Series)

Book cover

The Book:  Dog (E M Faustus Series)
The Author:  Christopher Davison
Description (on Amazon): EM Faustus. Private Eye. 
Looking forward to smoke number seven of the day. Then life gets complicated.  Complicated as in the walking dead, armed with fly swats. Complicated as in vampire waitresses with the best coffee you’ll ever taste. Complicated as in werewolf best mate’s, with breast fixations. And complicated as in more than one god getting really hacked off with him. All he has to do is find a lost dog, clear up a parenting issue and not get killed. All in a day’s work for the only P.I in a world filled with the ‘differently alive’. If he can stay alive long enough. If he stays alive long enough, maybe even the talking duck will make sense. But don’t count on it.
EM Faustus. Private Eye. Oh -and really, really don’t ask what the EM stands for. He gets upset.

The Skinny: E M Faustus is a human detective who just so happens to work in a segregated territory where everything non-human dwells.  Expect every genre of fantasy/religious being except space aliens to make an appearance as he takes the case of a daemon/angel hybrid who really wants to find his missing dog.  Too bad an interspecies war and a contact for his head (literally) stands in the way.  Too bad for the bad guys, that is…

The Fat:  Christopher Davison is a pretty daring author.  There have been other supernatural detective tales before, but none I’ve read have placed their fingers in every mythical pie possible and raked all the filling into one plate before.  The result is a story both entertaining and sometimes muddled at the same time.
The titular character E M Faustus (don’t ask what the E M stands for) is the kind of detective pulled from the Bogart era of hardboiled noir detectives and placed in a world where ducks talk and vampires serve you coffee.  The name Faustus brings to mind Faust, the character known for selling his soul in a bargain with the devil.  Aptly, Davison flips the convention and has Faustus sell a piece of his soul in a bargain with God at one point in the story.  

That however is no the main portion of the tale.  It starts with Faustus taking on a case from being that smells like chocolate and brimstone –an angel/daemon hybrid, of course.  The being, who is called ‘Pete’, is a strangely na├»ve, man-child who has no idea of his heritage or his destructive powers.  He’s like an inexperienced Hellboy without the demonic appearance.  All Pete wants if for Faustus to find his missing dog, who is called Dog.  Seems simple enough.

Naturally it isn’t.  Dog isn’t really important.  He’s a MacGuffin, used in many stories and films as a device to keep the characters moving and drives the plot.  It’s not the destination; it’s the journey along the way.  And what a journey it is.  There are vampire gangs, werewolf best friends, a talking duck (the preferred form of a shape-shifter name Sid), elf assassins, zombie surgeons, mad scientists, Michael the archangel, Satan and God, just to scratch the surface.

And that’s where the story starts to bog down a bit.  Davison has enough plot elements for two stories.  I understand the purpose: he wants to take the reader along for a tour of the complex world that he’s created.  It’s obvious that he’s spent a lot of time developing his original spin on the mythical beings and deities that inhabit his world.  At the same time it’s not necessary to get the whole picture at once –since this a series type story, there’s always time to explore in further books.  

What keeps the story going is the characterization, mainly in the character of E M Faustus.  His dry wit and cynical narration winks along with the reader, keeping the story from becoming overly dramatic and causes the pace to zip along even when taking detours.  There are a number of hilarious references within, and a slew of likeable supporting characters.  

The Bottom Line:  Dog is a nice intro to both the world of Faustus and the writing of Christopher Davison.  It makes for a good read when you’re in the mood for something funny and action driven.  Readers who like a twist on the average detective noir yarn should enjoy this book nicely.