What I’ve Been Up To

Much has changed since I last posted here on my author site.

Firstly, I now have a new job, as I was laid off from my last one back the end of last year. So now that I’ve landed another job only a few weeks ago I’ve been busy learning the ropes. However, while I was job hunting, I wrote a good bit on my Cape of Destiny project, which I have renamed The Last Procession–at least, this will be the title for the first book in the series. I think I’m going to try writing a trilogy out of it, and what that trilogy is going to be named is anyone’s guess at this point. I believe I’m going to retire the Cape of Destiny moniker altogether.

Secondly, I’ve just been with life. I know that’s just an excuse, but I have been working on my fantasy novel a lot in between time. I hope to get it finished within the next few months. Well, draft one of it, anyway. I know there’s still plenty of work to go. I just keep reminding myself, “Relax it’s only the first draft.”


Yet Another Chapter Down

Finished writing yet another chapter for Cape of Destiny, my working-titled fantasy project. Things are coming along it seems. Like many writers I tend to procrastinate. However, this time I feel the need to keep going. And not just because of this story, but because of the next one I have in mind, and the one after that.

I’m beginning to learn the reason behind why I haven’t made it nearly as far with my writing as I think I should have. I’ve been putting it off because I’ve been too lazy to commit myself fully.

A full-time job I’m starting to see is no excuse. I have to keep going no matter what if I ever want to “break” as an author. In fact, to be honest, the only reason I write is because I have stories I want to tell, to share. So since that’s important to me and brings fulfillment…

Yeah, no more procrastination…


Toros and Torsos: A Short Review

Crime fiction to me is one of those genres where you either have it or you don’t. Me, I’ve dabbled with it, of course, and I’m not saying I’m awful at it, but sometimes you know when you shouldn’t be in a rush to quit your day job. Competition in crime fiction is probably the strongest anywhere in any genre. And for good reason, I think. You have to be relatively intelligent, and you can’t be afraid to get real and “tell the truth,” no matter how sick or twisted the truth may get.

That’s why I’m always skeptical when someone says to me, “Oh you should check out so-and-so’s books, he or she is a really good crime writer.” Sure, I think. I bet. Let’s see what they’ve got. Not sure why I get that way with my crime fiction, but I do.

So about a month ago, I was talking with one of my writer friends at work and she recommended to me a book by Craig McDonald titled Toros and Torsos. She said it was a pretty interesting read and that the storyline was based around the surrealism art movement of the 1930s. Oh, and also she added that it was pretty damn twisted. And that it had Ernst Hemmingway in it as the main character’s best friend. So that sold me right there. Why?

Two reasons: the plotline with the surrealism felt different to me and I like historical fictions that have in them famous people as characters. Not that Toros and Torsos is a historical fiction, of course, though it does cross genres in the sense that it’s set in a historical setting and incorporates, for example, actual historical events such as the Spanish Civil War. Anyway.

I went into Toros and Torsos with a keen interest to see what the author was up to. I mean, I knew a lot already about Hemmingway for instance. So, I was curious to see how well or realistic feeling the man wrote Ernst. But, first, before Hemmingway, we have the book’s protagonist to deal with. A man pretty much as rugged and adventurous as Hemmingway, Hector Lassiter.

Hector is also a writer, but he happens to only specialize in, guess what, crime fiction. He’s in one way almost as famous as Hemmingway—at least, in his genre—though he never quite gets the same kind of critical recognition.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of Hector. I thought he was kind of like maybe a mixture of maybe Ian Fleming and Hemmingway in what you might think they would’ve been like in real life. You knew right from the get-go he was a ladies man and a drinker and a bit of a survivalist. He had that classical cynical air to him as well—like any great detective, say, who’s simply seen too much of this cruel world’s darker side of things.

Throughout the novel, you see that Hector has a dark side to him, a light side to him and shades of gray in between. He’s no saint for sure, but at the same time he’s not completely a devil. There is one apt line the author uses to describe Hector, “He lives what he writes; he writes what he lives,” which pretty much sums him up. And, I suppose, that pretty much sums up Hemmingway as well, if you ever delve into whom he really was as a person.

Toros and Torsos begins with Hector in Key West during the mid-1930s. In the first chapter he’s aptly enjoying some drinks at Sloppy Joes. Where else would you expect him to hang out in Key West, right? Soon he meets a young lady, a journalist by the name of Rachel, who he takes a liking to.

Rachel’s supposedly on vacation and lost her best friend’s company to the attentions of some man they’d both met. So, Hector kind of takes her under his wing so to speak. There is more to Hector and Rachel’s first meeting, of course, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

What I like most about Toros and Torsos is the pacing. It moves at a steady pace—like a book in this genre should. For instance, it’s not long after the scene in Sloppy Joes that we have our first murder and are also introduced to the man himself, Hemmingway. From there on the book never lets up. And I can honestly say it feels like the author did his research. It’s never easy writing long-dead famous people, after all, especially ones as well-loved as Ernst Hemmingway; nor is it easy incorporating your own character(s) into a world that once was.

The murders: Yep, they’re gruesome and twisted as promised. My only complaint is that I figured out who the murderer was fairly early on. Luckily, there was much more here that kept me reading: I had to know how Hector himself would learn who the murderer was and, once doing so, how he would react. And here, too, I wasn’t disappointed.

Over all Toros and Torsos is a good book. It’s smartly written and has a fascinating protagonist in what I deem an interesting, exciting era. And we get to follow Hector from Key West to Spain to Los Angeles to Cuba, meeting Hemmingway throughout, except in LA where we get to meet Orson Wells. And you get to learn a lot of the culture surrounding the surrealist art movement—I had no idea it was anything like that. Makes me look at art completely different now.

All I can say is that Craig McDonald knows how to write crime fiction. And luckily he’s done other novels with his character Hector Lassiter, too. I’ll have to go get those and check them out.


Update and New Project

Many things have changed since the last time I checked in, some for the good, some for the bad…well, guess that depends on how you look at something, like always. But, for the most part I can’t really complain. Life throws at you what it throws at you, it’s how you handle it, right?

Writing-wise I’m still going, just slower than I wish. The biggest thing going on with my writing is the latest fantasy story I’ve been working on–it’s almost writing itself. The ideas and concepts are flowing like an unstoppable tide. I’m not going to say it’s 100% original, but I am going to say it feels somewhat fresh to me.

Honestly, this fantasy story has elements of high fantasy, steam-punk and sci-fi all mixed together without it feeling like steam-punk or sci-fi–it really is fantasy. I think it’s been influenced by writers such as Brandon Sanderson…perhaps, his Mistborn series. But, only in that because I’m pushing for something new that still retains elements of what I love about traditional fantasy.

Me also being a huge fan of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series–and well anything the man wrote, really–I can see parallels. Other than that, I’m heading off in a different, surprising direction. Anyway. I’ve decided to put up a chapter from it.

This new project I’ve given the working title Cape of Destiny.


Minor Update

First post of March, I know, crazy, huh? I’ve been busy with life, but I have managed to do some writing here and there on Ghouls Gone Wild. In fact, I acquired a few new alpha readers and have also found an editor.

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to finish the first draft in the next six months or so and then start on draft 2. From the feedback I’ve been getting, I think this isn’t outside of reason. I have a good feeling about this story. Hopefully, I can finish it and get it out there…see what happens.

Now is the time…I can feel things are moving.


Perseverance…Yep, That’s the Word of the Day

So there was a lot of snow where I live over the past few days. In fact, I was snowed in because the roads were so bad. My work was closed and everything. I was stuck at home. Yah! I had plenty of time to work on my writing…

However, that’s just the point: I did absolutely, hardly anything. Sure, I could make the excuse that I had cabin fever…and I kind of did–seriously, my attention span over the last few days was very short. I tried editing some of my work; I got one chapter sorted out. I tried playing some music, which ended up just being little snatches here and there.

I was so absolutely lazy. My point? People who find success in the things they do (and love) don’t let boredom or laziness stop them from accomplishing their goals. It’s something I’ve struggled with. Sure, I could blame it on having ADD and so forth, but we all know if we just stick with something…it’ll happen.

Yesterday, while I was “bored”, I decided to go to Jim Butcher’s website. I had this sudden thought: the new Dresden Files book might be out. So, I went to his website, read the awesome news that, yes, he’s got another Dresden book coming out, and then I decided to just cruise around the website and check out the various pages; I came across his bio.

I’ve read his story before on how he broke. And, like many who have, it’s about perseverance. The funny thing is it kind of reminds me of a professional musician I know. Same philosophy: You keep trying and keep trying until something happens…and then you keep going. You never stop.

My point: I thought I was ambitious, but obviously I’m not if I’m just sitting on my duff when I could actually be working on what is supposed to be one of my dreams: becoming a published author. This is especially the case when I had two days just given to me out of nowhere.


Celeste, My Newest Bass

Meet Celeste. Yeah, she’s silver, curvy and fun.


Yes, I actually try to name each of my instruments. I named this one Celeste because the color, silver, says to me, “Celestial.” And with the metal flakes in the paint, which you can’t really see in this picture unfortunately, she shimmers under the stage lights.

Celeste is, at the moment, my primary bass guitar. She is a Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Short Scale and is extremely easy to play. What I like most about her is her body. Her body is smaller than a precision bass or a jazz bass yet she still retains a unique, offset look to her. Oh, and her body is also made from Agathis, which makes her extremely light.

In fact, Celeste is almost like having an acoustic guitar strapped on, she’s that light. Only problem there is the neck, believe it or not, weighs more than the body, so there is a little neck dive when you’re playing while sitting down without a strap. Minor issue. Besides, I always like my ladies to be slightly bigger on top than the bottom, if you know what I mean. Anyway.

Seriously, Celeste is a cool instrument. She is the first Jaguar I’ve ever owned and I think I love her. The combination of the Pbass split coil pickup and the Jazz Bass single coil pickup gives her a really deep, warm yet cutting tone, which is good since she is a short scale–30″ to be exact versus the usual 34″.

Another thing I did to give Celeste a deeper more mellow tone when I first got her was to put on a set of d’Addario nylon tape wound strings that are a gauge thicker on the two higher strings. With these she doesn’t sound too thin on the treble side when you play up high. Like I said, a more warm, deeper sound.

If anything, Celeste is the middle of the road. She would be easy enough for a guitarist who is just switching over to bass or a smaller guy or gal who doesn’t want to have some ginormous-looking instrument strapped on them or have their shoulder being crushed under the weight of a much larger instrument. Almost like the short scale Gibson SG, I think the Squier Jaguar short scale has a lot of thunder for its size.

And, the best part? Celeste only cost me $180. Really, about the only thing that is somewhat annoying, besides the slight neck dive, is the fact that the tone nob is basically for show–it doesn’t really effect the sound that much. Oh, and there is no pickup selector switch. If you don’t want one on…you have to pull it out using the volume nob. Luckily, though, the sound of the Pbass and Jazz Bass pickups together actually sounds pretty darn good.

Other than that, it’s hard to find much wrong with this instrument. If you really want to take a closer look, of course, you’ll start seeing minor flaws. Those would be…well, I’m sure they skimped on the tuners–I mean, they are passable, but they will detune quicker than more expensive, better made ones–and the bridge–it does the job, but I wouldn’t put high tension strings on here. And about the only other thing would be the neck on the bottom could have had the frets smoothed down a little more. However, guess what? No string buzz. Celeste came perfectly setup out of the box.

In fact, I like Celeste so much I thought about getting her a sister in Candy Apple Red–I’d call her Roxie, of course. But, I was looking at the Fender site the other day and, believe it or not, Squier also has a 5 string Jaguar in wine red. Not sure how big the 5 string body is though. I just know it’s a 5 string and, obviously, normal scale. 34″, though, and not 35″ like most 5 strings. Now that I could dig, too.

If you’re looking for a short scale bass, it’s hard to go wrong with the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Short Scale. I’ve owned several Squiers so far and have been impressed by the quality for these being Fender’s value brand. I will tell you though: This bass was made in Indonesia instead of China. So apparently Fender also has a contract with a company in Indonesia as well as in China. Not sure why I think that’s interesting…but, to me, it is.

I’ve had Celeste going on about six months or so and have been playing her exclusively, although I did break out my Ibanez the other night again. Still, I think I’m going to stick with Celeste as my primary for the time being.


The Heist: A Short Review

I’ve seen a good number of “heist” films in my day and, of course, have also watched some of the recent shows like Leverage and White Collar. In fact, to me the “heist” genre I think has been somewhat overdone. How many times can you repeat the same formula before it gets boring? The smart, sophisticated, James Bond-like career criminal who puts together a crack team to help take down another career criminal who is, in a sense, the real bad guy…

However, when I saw that Janet Evanovich, author of the Stephanie Plum novels, which are some of my favorites, had co-written a heist-themed book, well, I was intrigued, and even more so since her co-author Lee Goldberg has been involved in some of my favorite TV series. So, you know, I thought, well such a book should be pretty darn good.

And, to be honest, I wasn’t too let down. The Heist, appropriately named, pits a Stephanie Plum-like character named Kate O’Hare against the wits of a charming, daring and highly intelligent con artist named Nick Fox. Here’s where I can tell you a few things that I don’t think will spoil the story. First, Kate is like Stephanie, but, unlike Stephanie, she knows how to use a gun and kick some serious ass; she is a former Navy Seal. Okay, a bit reaching, but sure, why not? And second…Nick Fox, you could say is Kate’s Morelli–or is he Ranger? Somewhere in the middle, I think.

Character-wise, I’d say it feels to me like Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg are staying in some familiar territory. And, why not? If it works…it works. However, I had a somewhat strange time not picturing Stephanie. I had to really push her out of my head. And, to be fair, I think that is because I associate Evanovich with Stephanie. Anyway. After I did–push Stephanie from my mind–I could believe in Kate’s character more.

This being a “heist” book, the main storyline deals with “setting up the con.” But, of course, the secondary storyline deals with the relationship between Kate and Nick, the sexual tension that is there between them. Kate’s been after him so long that she has developed feelings for him and he has for her. They respect each other and, at some level, love each other.

Really, The Heist, at it’s core is, big surprise, a romance novel. The way it’s written: Kate and Nick’s characters jump back in forth inside each chapter, paragraph by paragraph at times. I’ve always hated this style, too, since it can become confusing. Personally, I like each chapter to follow one character’s point of view at a time–unless the scenes are split and denote a point of view change. Yet, I can deal with it…and it wasn’t as confusing here as it has been in some books I’ve read with a similiar setup.

The bottom line: If you like the Stephanie Plum novels or shows such as Monk or The Glades, I think you will enjoy The Heist. Just remember that it’s more pulp fiction than pure out crime fiction. Only then will just let it be what it is.


In the new year…

Well, it’s a new year and let me tell you it’s been a crazy one so far. Crazy good. I’ve gotten off this year, I think, the right way. Things are just happening…

Anyway. I hope everything’s great with all of you so far. Some things I’d like to talk about real quick: Here on the site I have added my first writing/storytelling lesson. You’ll find it under the “Lessons” page, for obvious reasons. It deals with how to use summarization when doing chapter/scene transitions.

Also, in this new year, I am continuing to work on my novels…oh, and that thing called life; I can always use improvement there. But, as for Ghouls Gone Wild…the show continues to march on.


Just Let Go and Trust…If You Have the Passion…It Will Happen

Sometimes you’ve just got to do things. Period.

All of my time since I’ve become a musician I have struggled…in particular to find what part of music touches me the most–the part I am most passionate about. Please understand that I’ve pretty much questioned myself my entire life at anything I’ve ever done, or attempted to do, so it has surprised me lately that a new understanding has come over me.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved music–who hasn’t? And it’s always been something I’ve wanted to be a part of but have never felt I’d ever be any good at it. Fast forward a few years ago and my heart started to change. It all happened when I volunteered to run the soundboard at my church for Sunday services.

Now, I had tried playing guitar before–in fact, I think I only learned two chords at the time; E and, maybe, A–but I never truly got the support and help I needed to go any farther. At the time, I was a really shy person (truthfully, because of something that had happened to me earlier in my life during my high school years, a rather tragic moment that I held onto for a long, long time) and so I didn’t persue any of it further on my own like taking lessons and the like.

In fact, I was hanging out with some guys that weren’t really good influences–them being into drugs–and, anyway, none of them had the patience to show me anything on guitar. So, I just put it down, disgusted. Well, eight years or so later, finding myself at the soundboard, I started to become re-interested in music, as it were. And after having watched the band play–the process of them practicing and what not–I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe, I could do that too.”

So, that’s when I started to revisit the whole music thing. And then, suddenly, I remembered how difficult it can be to play guitar. But, I really wanted to be part of the music. That’s when I thought, “Hey, I’ll try the bass–that looks easy enough.” And I already had an old bass guitar sitting around…let me give it a go, I thought. And, after trying it, I was like, “Wow, I can actually play a song and it doesn’t sound bad…”

However, over my whole learning process of playing bass (and God knows I’m still learning), I felt this feeling inside of me that I was still missing something. At first, I tried to ignore it, but it was always in the back of my mind, nagging me, pestering me. Then, I realized what it was: singing. Yeah, that was it.

Anytime and everytime I sang in the car or anywhere I felt fulfilled. Right…who doesn’t? Everyone sings in the car and the shower…and thinks they’re much better than they really are, right? Yeah. And that’s why I kept on dismissing it. I can’t do that. My voice isn’t good enough. I suck.

However, over the year and a half I’ve been doing bass I’ve found that sometimes I’ve had to sing while practicing. This has happened for a few reasons: a) We’re doing the song in a different key or b) It’s helped me remember the chords of the song or c) I’ve just found I could do it with certain songs. And throughout that time I’ve learned a lot. What works. Where I need work. All of it what I thought were perceptions.

For some reason, singing to me has been an intangible thing–something only certain individuals can do. Yet, part of me also rebelled against that notion, too. Then, I found myself talking about it to others…about wanting to sing. Other musicians in the band…just other people I knew. Of course, in the band it has been like, “Well, you need to learn to play your bass better first, man…get that down before you start doing anything else.”

However, no matter how much I’ve learned with bass–or guitar for that matter–I’ve still wanted to sing. Yet, to be honest, I was afraid to even try. Then, I came across this guy who does vocal lessons on the web and, wow, he was nothing but encouraging, saying that anyone can sing. So, I started…then stopped, and started again going through the lessons. And, guess what? I started to pick up on a few important things.

I won’t go through all of that here, but I want to say that I finally got the courage up last night to break out my microphone I have–and have had for nearly a year, along with my personal monitor speaker I have–and sang. I found a song–actually one we’re doing this weekend in the band–that is simple enough for me to play on guitar and sing. I know the melody and bam was surprised when my voice matched what I was playing. I was actually in key.

Yeah, a breakthrough I’d say. Of course, it wasn’t great…I know that, but it was an amazing start. I sat there and sang for a good hour going over and over until I knew I was getting things down better. Wow, does it help when you hear yourself. And those lessons…man they helped when it came to keeping my voice from being too nasally or flat. It was great. I actually shed some tears, too. Honestly.

The words–it being a Christian song–started getting to me. The more I sang and the more my confidence grew…the more powerful the emotions in me became. The more powerful my singing was. It was strange to see and hear and feel it happen, almost surreal. It gave me goosebumps–like nothing else ever has while I’ve been doing this music thing.

I always knew–having sung while practicing, but never really having listened to myself through a microphone–that possibly I was doing a few things right. So, okay, maybe I was after all. I’m still learning, obviously, and know I have a long way to go before I hit the stage doing it, but damn…I’m doing it.

The lesson here: Don’t hold back, just start doing what you want. Don’t let anyone, especially yourself, tell you that you suck at something and you’ll never be able to do it. Just do it. Listen to critcism when you know you should, of course, but otherwise just freaking do it! You won’t regret it, trust me.

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