Tuesday, January 31, 2012


What you see above is the final front cover for my newest novel, ECTOSTORM:  Book Three of the Stanley Cooper Chronicles, put out by Twisted Library Press (Formerly Library of the Living Dead).  The cover was done by the same insanely talented fellow who did the covers for VERMIN and PAGES, Romik Safarian.  I'd provide a link, but there's nothing on his website right now, and that's a damned shame because he's my go-to guy for all cover art.  

In this chapter of Stanley Cooper's life, he meets a group of people who, like himself, died and came back.  But, because life can never be warm and fluffy, someone starts killing the members of that group. A bloody message on the wall leads Stanley to believe that the killer is none other than the betrayer of Evergreen, who wants him to surrender for purposes unknown.  On the other side of the coin, demons want to kill Stanley to keep him from surrendering to the traitor.  Either way, Stanley seems hosed.  

ECTOSTORM is a very special book because it was funded by fans through Kickstarter.  

When ECTOSTORM becomes available, you'd better believe I'll post a link and maybe even run a contest for a few free copies!  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"I've always wanted to..."

A man walked up to a concert pianist one day and, after listening to him play for an hour, said to him "I'd give my life to play like that."  The pianist smiled and said simply "I did."

So often, we writers are faced with people who say "I've always wanted to write a book."  And to them I ask "What's stopping you?"  A long list of excuses pop up ranging from time to money to kids to every other damned thing under the sun.  To which I reply "Well, then, you really haven't always wanted to, have you?  Because if you did, if it was really something you were passionate about doing, you'd do it despite the hardships."  Okay, maybe that makes me come off as an asshole, but I'll deal with that.  It's a valid question, and one that you need to ask yourself every day.  There's something you want to do, something you've always wanted to do.  So do it.  Get off your ass and do it.  Oh, sure, it's simplistic advice, but in truth, there's none other to give on the subject.  Let me explain.

If I were to say "I couldn't write a novel because I have two kids, three jobs, a wife, two car payments and bills to pay," I would never get another thing written.  Ever.  Because that's my mindset.  All the responsibility of the world heaped on my shoulders, and no time to do what I want to do.  But that's not what I did.  Without dropping a single piece of that list of crap (I still have multiple jobs, two kids, etc...) I still managed to find time to write a dozen novels, and have no intention of stopping.  How?  Glad you asked.

For me, writing is a priority.  It's not something I do for the hell of it.  Believe me, there are much more brain-numbing things that a person could do after work.  But because it's important to me, because it's something I truly have always wanted to do, I make time to do it.  Notice, I didn't say "find time."  I said "make time."

It applies to pretty much anything in your life.  Take a look at the things you want to do and ask yourself what's stopping you.  Is it time?  Family?  Money?  In my mind, the last one is the only one that presents any type of real obstacle, and even that can be overcome by shifting priorities.

I suppose the point of this whole entry is this:  If there's something you want to do, do it.  You can teach yourself to play piano, learn to ride a motorcycle, and, yes, even write a novel.  Those things that you are passionate about, follow.  Your friends and family will understand.  And so what if they don't?  It's your passion.  Follow it.  No one's saying it's easy.  Hell, making time to write novels and teach and work and raise children and be a family guy and teach karate and...and...and... *deep breath*  It's exhausting.  But it's also rewarding.  I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing.  As frustrating as this business is, I can't imagine myself doing anything else.

Jump in with both feet.  Feel the water go over your head, and revel in it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Here, There Be Monsters...

The Seton Hill "Readings in the Genre" course has begun, lead by your's truly. Our subject this time around?  Monsters.  They hold a dear place in my heart because, really, aren't we all monsters of a sort?  More on that in a minute.

I've chosen a motley crew of misanthropic mayhem masters about whom my students must read.  Included are Vampires (that don't sparkle, dammit), werewolves, golems, demons and... well... snow.  Trust me, it all works somehow.  But I think the question that begs answer is this:  Why are we so fascinated by monsters?  Lets look at the famous monsters of literature (I'm not talking movies...Most of those are one-dimensional sacks of fetid dingo's kidneys) and see what makes them so special.

Adam (the creation from Frankenstein... yes, his name was Adam) fascinated us with his simplicity, his desire to be loved.  Child-like, he was dragged into this world and before he could even begin to question his existence, he was rejected by his creator.  Anyone who's ever watched children on the playground knows how children act:  As Adam himself stated, "If I couldn't inspire love, I would then cause fear."  How many children react to rejection with more rejection?  Most of them.  Adam is, for all intents and purposes, a child in the body of a man, lacking the maturity that comes with age, but possessing all the tools to destroy his enemies.

Dracula, on the other hand, possesses the wisdom of immortality.  Say what you will, but Dracula is not a horror story.  It's a romance.  A tragic romance, to be certain, but a romance nonetheless.  It is, for all intents and purposes, the story that asks the reader how far he or she would go for love?  Cross an ocean?  A continent?  Reject God?  The titular character is, from his point of view, justified.  Granted, he's been driven mad by the rigors of immortality and having to feed on the life forces of others to survive, but in his mind, all he wants is the girl he lost to an uncaring God.

Look at Quasimodo from Hunchback of Notre Dame or Eric from The Phantom of the Opera and you'll see miserably misshapen men brought to their demises by the search for love and the madness that comes with it.  But the last two aren't "monsters," are they?  Not really, but they became monsters.  Much like we do.

Monsters, historically, take one of our darkest desires, one of our emotions, one of our flaws, and amplify it (or them) to ridiculous degrees until the creature in question becomes the stuff of nightmares.  So if that is true (and it is), then why are we so fascinated with monsters?

Because they are us.  They are our fear.  They are our passions.  They are our souls, twisted almost beyond recognition and then shown to us.  They are what happens when we forget our humanity.  They are what happens when we lack the wisdom to walk away.  Monsters are designed to teach us lessons about ourselves.  You'll notice, I never called Adam a monster.  Because he wasn't.  His creator, Victor, blinded by ambition and selfish pride, was the monster.   Yet it was Adam with whom we identified.  Because we've all been that creature.  We've all felt betrayed, thrown out by those who should, but don't, care.

They are us.  We are them.  When you read about monsters, think hard about them.  Sympathize with them.  Because they are our brothers and sisters.

Monday, January 2, 2012

And So it Begins... Again...

A while ago (around 2010), I went on a drastic program and lost a significant amount of weight.  In all honesty, I dropped about fifty pounds and went from weighing around 225 to around 180 in about six months.  It was a difficult process, but one I enjoyed and one that came with more benefits than just my pants fitting better.  The next year, I decided to make a drastic lifestyle change and quit smoking.  That's right.  Since May of 2011, I've not had a cigarette.  But there was a problem.  As do many people trying to kick the habit, I put on some weight.  In fact, I put on all the weight I'd lost, plus a few more.  At the moment of this writing, I weigh now more than I ever have, 236 pounds.  And it feels awful.  A drastic weight gain like that does a lot of horrible things to a person's body, not the least of which is joint and back pain, limited endurance, and the overall feeling that it shouldn't be so damned difficult to bend over to tie one's shoes in the morning.

So here we are, 2012, and I, like so many others, are headed to the gym to try to live a healthier lifestyle.  While most of them will give up after a few weeks, I won't.  I've lost the weight before, and I can do it again.  How?  Incentives.  First off, I feel like I've let the entire Kajukenbo Ohana down by becoming such a fat slob.  I've dedicated more than twenty years of my life to the study of martial arts, and I'm not going to be that guy anymore.  Second, I want to be around to see my grandkids (not any time soon, please), and it seems like being healthier is a good way to do that.  Third, Tabby said that if I meet my weight loss goal, I can order a new kilt.  That alone will do it for me.

So what challenges are there?  Well, the biggest one is the most obvious:  I love to eat.  Italian, Chinese, Greek, Mexican, you name it, I love to eat it.  I'm a food junkie.  I love potatoes and gravy, steak and beer, creamy alfredo sauces...  It's tough quit eating the things a person loves, so I'm going to attempt to make the above things, but in a light (but still flavorful) way.  Yes, I can cook.   Second, my jobs are such that I spend an enormous amount of time on my butt looking at a computer screen.  That's why the gym is across campus and I'm going to walk to it instead of driving or riding to it.  Third, time is an issue.  My boss, however, was kind enough to allow me extra time on my lunch hour to do my training.

So here's what's going to happen:  Starting now (as in Sunday, January 1, 2012), I'm on a low-fat, low sodium diet.  Tabby's on the same diet for medical reasons, so it should be good.   Today (Monday, January 2, 2012) I went to renew my gym membership.  Thursday through next week, I'll be in Pittsburgh.  Starting Monday, January 16 2012, I'm going to be in the gym five days a week.  My weight loss goal is simple:  By the residency in June, I'll weigh no more than 180 lbs.  That means I have to lose 57 pounds in 6.5 months.  Can I do it?  You betcha.  I'm also going to be taking photos of myself once a week to track my progress.  Don't worry...I'm not posting them here.  I won't torture you that way.  But when I've lost the weight, I'm going to compile them into a time-lapse thing so I can see my progress.  I may post that.  I may not.  I'll also be posting any good recipes I find for low-fat, healthy food.  We'll start with this one:

Scott's Low-Fat Beef Stroganoff

  • 1 bag whole-grain noodles (I prefer spirals or twists)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 large container fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium container of LITE sour cream
  • 2 tblspns low-fat, low salt margarine
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 package of low salt, low fat beef stock
  • lean meat.  (I prefer a London Broil because it's cut lean)
  1. dice your onion and put it in a pan with margarine at medium heat and cook until clear.  
  2. slice the mushrooms and throw them into the pan too.  Cook the mixture for about ten to fifteen minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and no longer feel like styrofoam. 
  3. Pour in your wine and stir in well.  Let the mixture simmer and reduce.  
  4. Pour in the beef stock and stir in.  Bring to a boil and let it reduce for about ten minutes or more, depending on taste. 
  5. Boil your noodles.
  6. Mix in the sour cream.  NOTE:  There's a trick to it.  Put the sour cream in a mug (like a coffee mug) and gradually raise the temperature by spooning in some of the hot broth and mixing in the coffee cup.  When you have the sour cream mixture at close to the correct  temperature, then mix it in.  Otherwise, you'll curdle the sour cream.  
  7. Heat to boiling and let it reduce. 
  8. Set your oven to "broil" and let heat for five minutes. 
  9. Rub the London Broil with your favorite low-sodium steak dust, and let it sit for a few minutes.
  10. Cook your London Broil.  CAUTION: It cooks very quickly.  Seven minutes, then turn it over, and it could very well be done.  Remember, red meat is supposed to be pink in the middle, not grey. 
Beef Stroganoff is meant to look as good as it tastes.  Suggested serving is as follows:  On a plate, lay out a bed of noodles.  Then slice between four and six (THIN) slices of your London Broil.  Using a small ladle, put your sauce over the meat.  It should not run all over the plate.  If it does, you've used too much.  However, a gravy-boat filled with sauce might be appreciated by your guests.  Top with a sprig of fresh parsley or some chives, and serve with steamed broccoli.

That's it.  That's my recipe.  Hope you like it!  And here's the cool thing:  If you used low-fat sour cream and lean meat, this is actually a healthy meal. 

Oh, and happy new year.