Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It Was In The Cards

Kevin’s Corner

I know better. I should be working on my own stuff. I have the support of a great group that I meet with every month and right now I have nothing for the next session. There is the ongoing novel project that, in some senses, is sinking under its own weight like an SUV in a marsh. Despite the group consensus after reading nine chapters that, though it needs work and I should definitely not scrap it all and start over, I keep thinking I should.

Then, there is the ongoing short story situation. A number of contests are closing out at the end of the month and I keep thinking I should whip something up and enter each one. All are free which is great and all have intriguing premises. But, nothing is coming through the murk of my mind that would fit any of the contests let alone start a story.

I also recently found a number of stories that I had thought had been thrown out in the trash long ago. In fact, one of them made the rounds of the group last time and I got a lot of great advice that I should put to work. I also have some material to study and an offer from a friend to help with a kind of story I have never written before. So, I have plenty of projects to work on and I should be working on them right now. Logically, I know all that. I’m just not inspired to do any of it and haven’t been for weeks.

This is not good.

Yes, I know the old mantra about inspiration and how professionals don’t wait to feel motivated to write. Well, good for them. It does not work that way for me. I’m bummed and that is all there is to it. And yes, while I have lots of good excuses as to why I haven’t written much beyond the occasional review here and there and my monthly column for Senior News, none of them really matter. The bottom line is I am violating the fundamental rule of rear in the chair and fingers on the keyboard.

No doubt in a few hours I will be violating it again today and for most of the day. It just is too damn nice to be inside. As you know, Texas and especially North Texas is experiencing a severe drought. Lake levels are way down and water conservation measures are underway with more measures planned for implementation by the end of next month. Most of the days the skies have been clear and temperatures have been much higher than normal. It was 69 officially yesterday though I think we were warmer that that and sunny. So, it is just too nice to sit inside cooped up in front of a computer monitor. Not when bass are moving in the creek, trees are budding, and the occasional hornet comes winging by to annoy.

I knew my fate for the day was sealed when a small package arrived via the postal service bearing the name of author David Skibbins. If you missed his first novel “Eight of Swords” you ought to take a look at it. I was very happy to review it positively as I thought then and still do, that his character, Warren Ritter, had real potential for a series. In that novel, Ritter, who among other things reads the tarot, gets himself involved in a kidnapping and murder case and because of his links to a violent past involving the protests of the 60’s becomes a suspect. I’m oversimplifying greatly here the plot of that novel, but suffice it to say that it earned my good stuff seal of approval.

I knew another installment was underway and was supposed to be out this spring. So, I was very pleasantly surprised to open the small package and find an ARC for his latest, “High Priestess.” In this one, the past comes back once again to mess with Ritter, as an old girlfriend and her brother become the target for a serial killer. They want his help and have no problem using his past against him. I’m a little more than halfway through and enjoying it immensely. I’m not enjoying the sunburn I got on my face nearly as much though the boys seem to really like the raccoon eyes effect of the fact that I was wearing my sunglasses.

I have a feeling I won’t get much writing done today either. The porch is calling.

More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note here or at with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

So, I Ask You....

Kevin’s Corner

Is it just me? I ask because the last week has seen a succession of strange events in my online world. I’m not really mad at anyone but rank all of this under the category of life’s petty little annoyances.

After reviewing for a number of years now, I have certain expectations. One of which is for my work to be taken seriously and appreciated. No, I’m not perfect and very well aware that I am far from it. But, if you want my work and you want it for free, as everyone seems to do, then you better have something in it for me to make up for not paying me. I have paid my dues and then some by this point. I’ve just had to turn down a gig I had accepted because it became clear that my work was not going to appear in the print version of the magazine.

No, I’m not going to name them or explain the rational I was given, but it was something I could not swallow under any circumstances. And it wasn’t, as some may feel, that I turned it down because a certain “reviewer” was and is given print access. While she and I see many books that we both have read differently as well as quite a few eyeball to eyeball as it were, that wasn’t the point. Heck, I admire her ability to read that fast. It must be nice.

The point was that my work and efforts were clearly not going to be valued the way I felt they should be at this point in my career. I don’t need “exposure” on yet another site. The whole point of joining this specific team and working for them was to get my work in print. This blog, as well as cyber sites in general just are not seen as important on the old resume as a print market. That is the plain hard truth of the matter no matter what the cyber proponents shriek to the heavens. I have had more than one editor point out to me that cyber outlets come and go and there is no stability and often no quality control.

Now, I have argued against that notion but like the argument a good friend of mine gives on the term POD, it really doesn’t matter. Perception is the key and when a print market editor feels that way, there isn’t much one can do to change his or her mind. Once I learned that what I had understood to be implied was not remotely true it became obvious that things weren’t going to work out after all.

That was disappointing but at least I knew now and not months from now. It served as the topping on what has been a strange few days. On a number of lists I am on, I have either been accidentally involved in an argument because something I said was twisted to fit someone else’s misperception of what I said or have watched a fight escalate between other list members over nothing. I have watched lists go wildly off topic and may in fact have also helped that along with a small comment or a joke.

Which brings home the point another good friend has made over the last year. Having read some of my efforts, he has commented repeatedly that what is holding me back is the fact that I spend way too much time on e-mail and discussions that really don’t matter. I’m on a number of writing lists because I keep thinking that somebody will pass on the secret that seems to be eluding me in terms of making sales. His contention is that what I need to do is get off the lists and work on my own stuff more. That I waste time reading list mail and will never find what I am looking for. He also argues that I should quit reviewing to focus on my own work.

I don’t know if he is right on that but I am beginning to think he is right about the list stuff. Especially since he has his book finished after a year and is shopping it and mine still sits here very much a rough draft in progress.

So, maybe it is just me. Maybe I am the one out of sorts with everyone else. I’d like to think not but as the sun rises to the east bringing yet another day of drought to North Texas, I’m beginning to wonder if it is a good idea to even check my e-mail.

More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note here or at with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Meet the Author: Earl Staggs

Kevin’s Corner

One of the things I have noticed about my local paper is that book coverage continues to shrink and shrink. With every design change to improve readability and to stop the steadily shrinking customer base, books are covered less and less. In so doing, author appearances are also covered less. Neither one is a good thing at all and maybe the bean counters at the paper ought to figure out that the better idea would be to cover more and quit dumbing down the paper.

In the meantime, I’m doing my part to help promote an author and a good friend. As some of you may know, Earl Staggs has been involved in the Short Mystery Fiction Society list for years. He was one of the first to welcome me with open arms on that list and has suffered through reading my efforts many times and has always offered constructive criticism on my efforts.

He was also aware that despite our friendship, if I thought his book stunk, I would say so. I do that something that used to get me in trouble with my bosses at the bookstores because they believe a book is a book is a book. They aren’t. Some books are just flat better than others. Fortunately for both of us, his book was/is really good and I was very pleased to write a very positive review of it for the online site Mysterical-e That review is on down the page as a refresher for you.

If you are in the Dallas/Fort Worth area there are four chances coming up to “Meet The Author” as the say in the publicity world. So come on out, say hi to Earl, buy the book if you like, and make sure to tell him Kevin sent you.

January 14, 2006

Saturday, 10.30 AM
Barnes & Noble Booksellers #2193
2201 I-35 East South
Denton, Texas 76205
Event: Book signing

January 21, 2006

Saturday, 3 PM
Barnes & Noble #2060
Stonebriar Centre
2601 Preston Road, #1204
Frisco, Texas 75034
Event: Book signing

February 11, 2006

Saturday, 2 PMBarnes & Noble #2584
3909 S. Cooper
So. Arlington, TX 76015-4124
Event: Book signing

March 26, 2006
Sunday, 11 AM - 6 PM
5th Annual Plano Book Festival for Adult Literacy
Plano TX

Memory Of A Murder
By Earl Staggs
Quiet Storm Publishing
Summer 2005

In Ocean City, former FBI Agent Adam Kingston has made a bit of a name for himself since he left the bureau. Thanks to a rather freakish accident, he has the ability to touch objects connected to individuals and see what has happened to them elsewhere---a sort of remote viewing. Such talent comes in handy at times, especially when the mother of his godson asks Adam to check on him.

Other than a brief image of a strange unkempt longhaired bearded man, Adam Kingston sees that everything is fine with Junior. Random images often drift into the viewing of the person he is concentrating on, so he isn’t that concerned about the man. But then the vision of the strange man appears in the flesh on his doorstep seeking Adam’s help. Suffering from amnesia, the man who gives his name as Chip Weathers, also believes he may have committed a murder. He has seen news reports of a body that was recently discovered buried in a basement in Baltimore. The woman died approximately sixteen years ago, which was about the same time as his amnesia. According to Chip, the doctors blame his amnesia on the shock of a tragic event. Chip believes he knew the woman and killed her and wants Adam to find out who she was and why he killed her.

In Baltimore, Detective Brenda McCort has her hands full. Not only is she working the female body in the basement case, she now has another body to deal with. “This time, a man shot, wrapped in black plastic trashbags and left in the trunk of a car.” (Chapter 2) He hasn’t been dead long and won’t be the last, as her cases will lead her to Ocean City and Adam’s case. Not only will they have to solve a sixteen-year-old murder case, but stop a new wake of killings based on the past.

Shifting in point of view from Adam, to Brenda, to a killer who enjoys the work way too much, this novel moves forward at a rapid pace. Both primary characters have suffered major traumas making the past a heavy and recurrent theme in the work. At the same time, both have survived and by being rich in such detail, become very real to the readers. So too is the killer who, unlike in many novels, is not a cold calculating unfeeling killing machine. While he may be a product that showcases the worst society has to offer, his motivations are clear and realistic and the killer becomes just as real for the reader.

As in a few other offerings I have had the pleasure of reading from this publisher, this is a quality novel. The characters are real, the story complex and changing, and Mr. Staggs performs an excellent piece of literary deception that keeps readers guessing to the end. Fans of his numerous short stories will not be disappointed and neither will those new to his work.

More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note here or at with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005