Archive for the Writing Category

Sailing on the Queen Mary

Posted in Travel, Writing with tags , , on May 3, 2017 by JE Gurley

This year my wife Kim, and I attended Stoker Con 2017 on the Queen Mary. It was the second Stoker Con by the Horror Writer’s Association. We were also at Stoker Con 2016 at the Flamingo in Las Vegas. Somehow, the idea of a con on a retired passenger liner seemed like a great idea. In some ways, it was.

The Queen Mary was launched in 1936, a modern luxury liner. Her ballrooms, salons, passageways, and cabins were decorated in rich wood and brass fittings. Unfortunately, she has fallen on bad times. Rust, missing and cracked tiles, chipped and water-damaged wood panels, and rotten decking make her look older than she is. The walls are paper-thin. Every sound carried. Our shower head sprayed 360 degrees and the toilet dripped. The chairs in my cabin were horribly uncomfortable.  Surprisingly, on deck there were few places to sit and enjoy the breeze. A few chairs near the shops, a handful of old and weathered chairs and tables on the port side deck, four tables near the ubiquitous Starbucks, and a few scattered benches were the only offerings. As a museum, the Queen Mary was a piece of history, but as a hotel, she left a lot to be desired.

However, Stoker Con 2017 was a success. Kudos to the HWA officers and volunteers whose hard work made it possible. My bad knee was giving me trouble. The stairs didn’t help. I used a cane and sounded like Captain Ahab stalking the deck at night. In spite of this handicap, I attended several panels, a workshop on building an author’s platform by my old friend Jonathan Maberry, a workshop on using fewer words to say more by my new friend Patrick Frievald, and several book signings and readings. As usual, I came away with more knowledge than with which I arrived. That is one goal of a con.

I also renewed old friendships, met acquaintances, and made new friends. That is the true heart of a writer’s con. Networking is the key to success, in writing as it is in any other business, and make no mistake, writing is a business. Writing can be fun and therapeutic, but to reach an audience, every writer’s goal, one must be a salesperson. Selling ideas or completed novels is every bit as difficult as selling a used car or a timeshare in Miami. The pitch sessions are one way to seek a publisher or an agent. They are a ten or fifteen-minute golden opportunity to speak face-to-face, one-on-one, and make your case. This year I had nothing to pitch, but I have sold several novels through them. I heartily suggest a pitch session when the opportunity arises. The pre-pitch panels allow you to hone your presentation and gear it to the best representative for your work.

As usual, I came away with too many books (Well, no such thing really). All were signed copies with a special place on my limited space bookshelves. Meeting George R.R. Martin was a special treat. A reading I attended by Paul Dale Anderson and Nicole Cushing revealed the darker side of horror fiction.

The real reason for the event, the Stoker Banquet and awards, highlighted the achievements of those who stood out in the horror field in 2016. Because of my health, I did not attend, but I applaud the winners of the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards.

Novel – The Fisherman by John Langan

First Novel – Haven by Tom Deady

Young Adult Novel – Snowed by Maria Alexander

Long Fiction – The Winter Box by Tim Waggoner

Short Fiction – “The Crawlspace” by Joyce Carol Oates

Fiction Collection – The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates

Anthology – Borderlands 6 by Olivia and Tom Monteleone

Non Fiction – Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

Poetry Collection – Brothel by Stephanie M. Wytovitch

Graphic Novel – Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allen Poe

Screenplay – The Witch


Diamond Days for Diamond Dogs

Posted in Music, Writing with tags on January 11, 2016 by JE Gurley

David  Bowie is dead. Even the words are difficult to write.

Born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947, he died January 11, 2016, just 3 days after his 69th birthday. Of all the musicians who have died over the past few years, his hits me the hardest. Though a more avid fan of his earlier works, I have found a reason to keep him on my list of top musicians and performers from almost every album he released. His passing will leave a hole in the world of music. As a musician, writer, performer, singer, producer, and actor, his life touched many people and changed the shape of music many times.

When I heard first album in 1969, Space Oddity, I was hooked. His lyrics and voice touched my soul as both a musician and a music fan. When he followed that one with Hunky Dory, and then the outrageous The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spidermen From Mars, music was never the same. Her personae and appearance changed with each album, as he reinvented himself and his music.

As if being a performer was not enough, he also produced two other of my favorite groups, Mott the Hoople, and Iggy and the Stooges. In various bands over the years, I have played tunes from Bowie, Iggy, and Mott the Hoople.

As an actor, he appeared in Labyrinth, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Just a Gigolo, and The Prestige.

In 1974 I finally got the opportunity to see him live during his Diamond Dogs Tour to promote the 1973 album. I sat enthralled by his stage presence, sweet voice, and sax playing. There are bands I have seen multiple times – Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Rush, ZZ Top, Bruce Springsteen – because they never got old. Bowie was on my much smaller list of groups I saw only once but wanted to see again – Queen, Yes, Bowie. I regret I’ll never have the opportunity to see him perform again.

His 1980’s albums were among my favorites – Young Americans and Let’s Dance. I found more reason to include his songs in my band’s repertoire.

In 1988 he stunned everyone by forming a new band, Tin Machine, intent on playing music without the hype. He succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. I lost track of Bowie during the 90’s until the present, not because I no longer liked him, but because life simply got in the way. As a writer and a musician, I spent less time listening to music and more time writing novels and playing in various bands, always sure to include at least one Bowie song in the list.

David Bowie has left a legacy that will be difficult for anyone to match. I am 62. In my estimation there are few bands or individuals that can keep my interest, is spite of their critical acclaim. No matter what they might do, David Bowie was there firstest with the mostest.




Getting Civilized

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing on October 23, 2014 by JE Gurley

First, I want to apologize for the infrequency of my posts. I’ve been very busy. I began the year by taking my first real vacation in ten years, a cruise to Mexico with my wife, Kim. No computer, no phone – It was heaven. Then, I went to work. I completed and saw a new Kaiju novel through publication from Severed Press, From the Depths. Since then, I published a new zombie novel also through Severed Press, Jake’s Law. Both are doing great. Now, my second Kaiju novel through Severed Press, Kaiju:Deadfall, has gone through the editorial process and is due out very soon. While all of this was happening, I completed a science fiction novel, Occam’s Razor, worked with my friend, Al Sirois, to produce great cover art, and went through the whole Create Space procedure to complete my first real self-published novel. I’ve gone through a couple of times years ago, but that was amateur. I’m hoping using Create Space will open a new venue for me and expand my publishing horizon. I”m finally beginning to use all the technical options available for writers. I’m becoming civilized.

I’m 60-years old. I solved algebraic equations with a slide rule. I got my first calculator my second year of college. I grew up with a rotary phone on a 6-party line. My first computer was steam-powered. Not really, but it was ancient. I could play Pong on it and the first Zelda game. I’m the guy who refused to buy a Kindle until I was 58-years old, and even then I received it for my birthday. Of course, now I love my Kindle. I have a hundred novels and reference books on it. I even have a cell phone. Unlike Kim’s, it doesn’t text or connect with the internet. I only use it in my truck to ask Kim if I can pick up anything for dinner while I’m out I’m getting civilized or in case of an emergency, like a sudden zombie plague, but I have one.

Most of my novels sell through Amazon, Barnes&Nobel, etc. E-books are my bread and butter. I sell hundreds of e-books for every printed copy. I don’t see e-books replacing print any time soon, but I have accepted that it is here to stay and am trying to take advantage of it. Create Space works for small publishers. I am published by 4 small press publishers – Damnation Books, Severed Press, Angelic Knight Press, and Montag Press. I’ve had great experiences with all of them and wouldn’t hesitate to use small press again. Nor would I object to a fat deal with McMillan or Tor Books. Occam’s Razor is an experiment. I’m hoping it will pave the way for many more self published novels. Other writers seem to be doing well at it. Why not take a chance, I ask?

As we mature, we all throw away the things of childhood and become a little more civilized. I’m too old to ride the merry-go-round and not graceful enough to ride a skateboard. I can use the senior’s discount at the movies. I’m late at joining the technological age. I’ll probably never get a chip implanted in my brain or an LED watch embedded just beneath the skin of my wrist. I might not live to see the flying cars they promised when I was a kid in the fifties. However, I find it foolish to allow my Luddite tendencies to keep me from using every tool at my disposal to become a better author.

Space Age, here I come!

Flawed Characters

Posted in Writing on July 21, 2014 by JE Gurley

In writing, I believe characters with flaws are the most interesting. People who, despite personal, physical, or mental problems, step up and accept the challenge, either to succeed or to fail, like real life. People are not Superheroes. In fact, Superman’s biggest flaw was his love for Lois Lane knowing any relationship would place her in danger. Flaws sometimes define a person.

Captain Ahab’s thirst for revenge against Moby Dick, the whale that had scarred him both physically and mentally, defined him. He may have once been an honorable, God-fearing captain, but his encounter with the white whale changed him.

In some popular myths about Dracula, the suicide of his wife and the Church’s refusal to bury her on holy ground drove him to seek vengeance through the dark side. Speaking of the Dark Side, Darth Vadar falls into that category, following the Dark Side to keep his wife safe.

The flaw can be slight – a fear of the dark, or as in the Indiana Jones series, a fear of snakes. It can be less tangible – the fear of failure or the fear of caring too much. I think flaws of this type, psychological, are the most effective in writing. They can force a character to hesitate at the wrong time or to stop short of his/her goal.

Physical flaws can affect how the character goes about his goal, relying on others more than he/she would like, or overcoming these flaws through self reliance or ingenuity. Flaws, both physical and psychological, often define a character in others’ eyes as bad – retarded, slow, high strung, crazy, a gimp, scarred, withdrawn, handicapped – or as good – scarred and fierce-looking, doggedly determined, reflective.

Flaws can be used by the antagonists to beat down or humiliate the protagonist, allowing the hero to meekly accept the affront or defiantly challenge. Unflawed characters are one-dimensional and predictable and offer little for which the reader can cheer them on.

In writing and in life, approached flawed characters judiciously and with respect, because all of us are in some way flawed.