Here are some pictures I took of my trip to New Orleans.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on June 18, 2013
I’ve had a good weekend. Did a lot of walking and thinking which for writers are two activities that go well together.
Came to a decision about the hobo novel. I am going to start work on this soon. I had an idea of going back to the Cigar Factory on Decatur and writing, but TBH I didn’t want to lug my computer that far.
Anyway, headed home tomorrow and I’m ready. I’ve eaten a lot of good food here, but I’m ready to head back to Texas and eat pork fajitas and drink an ice-cold Lone Star.
Picked up some books and anthologies from the World Horror Convention. Very much looking forward to reading them. In the interim I became aware of a writer called Lucy Taylor and you can pencil me in as a big fan. Her work is very, very good. How was she flying below my radar? Who knows. But I will be following her career from now on.
Met and made some new friends at the convention. All in all I had a fun time, but I do confess the walking wore me out.
See you next time when I am home!
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on June 16, 2013
Today is my first full day at World Horror Convention. I’ll be attending a panel or two on marketing, and I have a reading marked down from one of my friends I want to attend.
I cannot seem to upload pictures from this connection. Nothing I can do about it other than wait until I get home, I guess. But look on the bright side. There will be lots of pictures coming!
I’m looking forward to seeing the dealer’s room later today. That’s where I will often find people I know. Writers tend to congregate among lots and lots of books.
Food here is great, which you expect since it’s New Orleans. The weather hasn’t been too bad. It’s overcast so we aren’t being blistered by the sun. Making sure I stay hydrated with lots and lot of
liquor water. I love the street performers and all the history here. It’s a great place to absorb what makes people tick.
I’ve been writing off and on which I try to make a habit of when I attend these cons. It’s a nice way to recharge my batteries.
I have this week carved out for the JTR story which is okay. But I can’t deny my thoughts and creative energies are turning more and more to the hobo novel.
Maybe I need to accept the fact the hobo novel is the more important work right now and start that.
Headed out to the convention to poke around a bit and then head out for lunch.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on June 14, 2013
Made it down here for WHC. I’ll pick up my preregistration packet later today.
I took pictures but they’re not uploading. I’ll try again later.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on June 13, 2013
Relative to my wail of angst yesterday I am taking another look at a project I started and abandoned last year.*
It’s a short story about a city undergoing a change between magic and the ascendency of science, and meanwhile there are are very terrible Jack the Ripper-type murders being committed. I didn’t want this to be another JTR pastiche so I came up with what I hope is a (at least to the murderer) valid reason behind the slayings.
So many things can go wrong with a story like this. It’s not like it hasn’t been done. At least as far as the basic concept of JTR shoehorned in any setting. I hope the background of magic waning and science on the rise is a foundation that can work.
But I don’t want it to become Fantasy CSI, or Middle-Earth Bat-Man, or “Oh, Gee, yet another Jack the Ripper yarn masquerading as another Jack the Ripper yawn…I mean yarn.” It would be so easy to mess this up completely. Well within my wheelhouse.
But, darn it, I like the story idea. It keeps pulling me in.
Stories dictate when they are going to be written. Not the writer. I know that. It’s just coming home with a vengeance right now and all I can do is hang on.
So there is no little difficulty involved with this. Which is fine. It’s something for me to fiddle with until I get the main character, Mankin Sodder, in the upcoming hobo novel straight. He’s kind of fuzzy and inchoate, and I need a better grasp on his motivations.
I need a better grasp on him. That’s the key to the hobo novel and I have yet to understand how to unlock it.
Anyway, as far as this new story is concerned I am using the working title of “City of Sunless Years” so we will see how it all shakes out.
Label it dark fantasy/horror. Wish me luck.
*Meanwhile, tomorrow I head for New Orleans because I plan to attend the World Horror Convention.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on June 10, 2013
I’ve been getting ready to work on the hobo novel, but meanwhile I haven’t been able to forget the Jack the Ripper dark fantasy I started to work on and then dropped.
Now they are both demanding attention.
I know some writers can work on more than one thing at a time. I have done this with short stories. But these are novels.
I wasn’t happy with the JTR thing and let it go. A couple of days ago I took another look at it and thought it wasn’t all that bad. Plus, I still like the idea. I just have to find a way to make it work.
So now I am torn. Which novel to work on first?
I think I will blog about the JTR idea a little more tomorrow. Maybe that will help settle things in my mind. When I write about my ideas and give them space it helps me see them in a better light.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on June 9, 2013
Slowly getting my ducks lined in a row and will start the new novel soon. I’m looking forward to it. The original idea has stayed with me for some time now so I think it has merit. I’ve had ideas come and go before, and you come to recognize this as a writer. Not all ideas are equal. Some aren’t worth your time.
But this idea about hobos and Sumerian mythology has me captivated and I am looking forward to exploring the themes and characters more.
I am attending the World Horror Convention in New Orleans next week so I will be busy with that. I hope to start writing the novel when I get back. I do have a propensity to always start a short story when I attend conventions so I may do that in New Orleans. Not a bad thing. I could use another short story under my belt.
Last week I started reading Beowulf again. I haven’t read this since high school. I also did some extra homework and read up on the background, literary criticism and other things surrounding this story. It fascinated me and got me to thinking about a writer’s reach.
The author of Beowulf is completely unknown. But the story has endured all these centuries because it speaks to places deep in our heart and has the capacity to move us and make us relate in ways other stories cannot. How does this happen? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately.
It’s funny. No matter what we write we never really know how it will affect someone or what kind of reach, social or historical, it will have. Even if the story disappears it still affected you in some way when you wrote it. I have been thinking about that a lot and it has moved me in some subtle ways.
Over the weeks I’ve heard from friends and gotten support about my writing from them. It means a lot to me. I suppose all writers are looking for validation of some kind, even if it’s nothing more than the personal knowledge of accomplishment. I never got into writing to see my name in print. I got that out of my system when I was working on the school newspaper. When I started writing professionally I used a pseudonym because it didn’t matter to me whether my given name was on the story or not. At the time the story was more important than my name.
Today that is still true. I just use “Kenneth Mark Hoover” out of laziness. I honestly get no gratification at all out of seeing my name in print. I just don’t care about that. For me as a writer it’s the story that matters most.
I suppose that’s kind of an aberration. I won’t deny it. But for me the reach doesn’t come from the author’s name. It’s what he has to say on the page that resonates.
This is what I try to keep in mind when writing. It’s never about me. I want to be invisible on the written page. Let the story speak. Let it have reach.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on June 6, 2013
This story is only 1500-words long and it took me over a year to write. This dovetails perfectly with Stephe Thornton, another of my writing friends, who tweeted yesterday whether quality or quantity is more important. I said quality without a doubt, and she thanked me.
It’s not for me to speak to the quality of this particular story. It’s not “better” because it took over a year to write. It took me a year because the story wasn’t ready to be written when I started it. Writing is like that sometimes, at least for me.
Anyway, this is a nice way to start the long weekend. Here’s the link to the story, and I hope you like it.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on May 25, 2013
I guess there comes a point in your life when you are farther along past the middle, and closer to the end, than you are to the beginning.
I’ve been reflective of late. Not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it depression related. It’s just a point in my life when I am hearing about friends who are dying or going through bad things and of course that gets you to thinking.
But when I relate this to my writing I see there is a lot I want to do and accomplish. I have finished two new Haxan short stories and now I can start turning attention to a brand new novel.
This is happening, however, in the context of looking at my writing in a rear view mirror. I look at what I have done so far and, yes, I am happy with that. But I am not satisfied.
I think that is a positive thing. Because I am not satisfied there is still more I want to do and prove to myself as a writer.
I feel I am in a good position right now, as far as my writing goes. Of course, I have been doing this long enough to know the other shoe can drop at anytime and there’s nothing anyone can do. There are no guarantees in life, and ever fewer (as in zero) when it comes to writing.
But I’m going to keep doing it and see what happens.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on May 21, 2013
I think we all can to one degree or another.
This got me to thinking. Always a dangerous proposition in itself. But there are no guarantees in writing. You can read all the “How To” books in the world. When you start that first story you are going in cold. And the only person who can defeat you at the outset….is yourself.
Procrastination is a problem. When asked what was the first thing he did before he started a story, Hemingway said, “I fix the refrigerator.”
It’s a hurdle you are going to have to learn to jump. But once you get past that, once you write the story, there still are no guarantees.
There are no guarantees because there is no correct way to write a story. Some writers work in the morning. Some at night. Some write with pen or pencil. Some use computers. Some drink gallons of coffee to get them through the day. Faulkner opened a whiskey bottle.
There is no protocol when it comes to writing. I think this is one of the biggest artistic strengths a writer has, actually. We all do it differently. What’s more, we all know there are no guarantees the story you wrote will ever see the light of day. Maybe the editor won’t like it. Maybe it’s unpublishable. Maybe, maybe.
Because there are no guarantees, I argue that frees a writer. It does not restrict you. It liberates you. It allows you to take chances and push boundaries you otherwise might not attempt.
After all, what have you got to lose?
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on May 10, 2013
Absolutely wanted to share this video of a self-defense demonstration by Sensei Kanazawa. Of course, this is only a demonstration of Shotokan Karate, and therefore choreographed. But, yes, the moves are genuine and it gives you an insight into the spirit and control of martial arts.
I love this video and how it showcases Kanazawa’s form and control. The self-defense move at the 1:00 minute mark is stunning. Enjoy!
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on May 8, 2013
Harlan Ellison once said how he wrote a script and handed it to a director. The director took one glance at the first page and said, “Not filmable.”
Ellison was taken aback. “What do you mean it’s not filmable? You haven’t read it.”
“I don’t have to read it,” the director said, handing it back. “It doesn’t look right on the page. That’s all I need to know to pass on this.”
This may seem kind of goofy to new writers, but there’s a lot of truth in it. Maybe that scares you. But you shouldn’t let it. How a story looks on the page reflects certain attitudes and facets of the story. Maybe it’s subliminal, I don’t know what’s at work here, but it does affect the reader.
It exists. It’s real. A story not only has to be well-written, it has to look “right” on the page.
Yes, you can come up with a lot of writers like Faulkner and McCarthy who have long dense passages in their novels, even at the beginning of the novel. Well, my response to that is “You’re not Faulkner or McCarthy. And neither am I.”
Believe it or not a good editor can tell right away from a glance at the manuscript whether or not the story she has in her hands is worth pursuing. I’m not talking about formatting errors here, although they are important as well. No, I mean what emotion or ‘sense of being’ does the story portray to the reader by how it looks on the page?
I’ve seen this very thing happen a lot and it’s happened to me, too. It still happens to me, especially during first drafts. But I look back at some of my earlier stories and notice right away they’re just shaped all wrong.
The story itself is all right. They just look all wrong on the page.
Writing isn’t rocket science. You don’t need talent to be a good writer, though it helps, I think.* But this is one more facet you need to be aware of. Maybe not consciously. This doesn’t have to occupy the higher tiers of your brain and creative process when you are transferring the story initially from your brain to the page.
But after you finish the story, and the dust settles, and you come back to it fresh in two or three days, take a look at how it appears on the page.
Editors and publishers and agents all want that one story that will stand out over the others in their inbox. Because they receive literally hundreds (if not more) submissions a month, they aren’t first looking for a reason to buy your story…they’re looking for a reason to reject it.
Don’t give them this one excuse. It’s way too easy to fix.
*I do believe you need talent to elevate writing into a higher art form. But I freely admit that may also be a silly conceit.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on May 6, 2013
About a week ago I was emailing a writing friend of mine who was having trouble generating story ideas. That got me to thinking about something I wrote on this topic a while back, and I want to revisit it because I think it’s one of the strongest things any writer can do.
This conversation we had puts me in mind of a story I toyed with years and years ago but was never able to make it come together. I was attending a pool party one weekend and the host and hostess (who were both over 50) had a baby. One of my friends said, “I don’t think that’s their baby” but I knew it was and they laughed and said, yes, “God played a trick on us.”
But as a writer I got to thinking. Where’s the story potential in something like this? On the face of it this is a yawner. They had a young daughter, maybe she was 14 or 15, I can’t remember. But what if that baby was HER baby and thy parents were pretending it was theirs to protect her, or whatever….especially if she had been raped by someone maybe…especially if the father of her baby was HER father.
So there you have it. An innocent and happy experience I had at a pool party degenerated into something dark and depraved. Hooray! I was a happy writer with a brand new idea.
So, how to write the story?
I thought about this father being a government official and he takes in a spy who is resting up after a tough mission and the reader the spy’s eyes, discover the secret. Then I thought it could also be written from the daughter’s POV, which would be better, with her taking care of what is ostensibly the parents’ baby while the party is going on.
The theme of the story would be how we all wear masks to hide our true selves from others.
I tried several starts at this story. It never came together. So I moved on to other ideas and other stories.
But this conversation I had with my writer friend also got me to thinking about how sometimes I scare myself with my own imagination. Sometimes my own imagination is my own worst enemy.
There have been times I have imagined something happening to people I know that just scares me so much it feels like I am on an abyss. Now, I know intellectually these things aren’t going to happen. But that doesn’t mean my imagination takes a holiday.
So, not to make this all about me, but my point being with is when you think of one idea it can lead to something else, which leads to something else, etc.
I can’t tell you how often meet people who want to write say they have a story idea and they tell it to me and there’s nothing else to go on. It’s just one idea.
You may not think that’s much to quibble about, but I’m telling you as a professional seeing how you can take one idea, and elaborate on it and use that to generate something else, trust me on this…that’s a pretty important tool in your toolbox.
Find what makes you uncomfortable. Always. Discover what you want to say about that idea and how you need to tell the story.
Use your imagination. Scare yourself.
You can thank me later. Or blame me. For writers, this is also a win-win.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on May 3, 2013
Here is Part II of Kanazawa, Nakayama, Enoeda and many other karateka practicing in a rebuilt dojo after the original was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid.
Great historical stuff here. Part I was posted yesterday if you are interested in seeing that.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on May 1, 2013
Old, historical footage of Nakayama, Kanazawa, Enoeda and others practicing Shotokan in the old Japanese dojo and training outside. This is not the original Shotokan Dojo. The original was destroyed during the war in a bombing raid. But it gives you a definite flavor of what the training was like along with the intensity.
This is Part I. I’ll post the second part tomorrow.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on April 30, 2013
This is an excellent video which showcases many historical elements of Shotokan along with some very old footage.
As an old karate guy myself I can watch this kind of thing all day long. A lot of little snippets here which should give you a flavor of what karate is about, and martial arts in general.
Don’t worry, this is still primarily a writing blog, but martial arts have been a part of my life since I was in my early twenties, so it’s only right I share things like this when I find videos that might reach a broader audience. Speaking for myself I can watch old Shotokan videos of guys doing techniques all day long, but I know when I bring something like this to the blog I probably need to be a little more general.
Hope you like it!
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on April 27, 2013
I started a brand new Haxan short story yesterday called “Talitha Koum” and so far I am making decent progress. It’s taking time, but the story is shaping up and I am beginning to see what it is really about.
It’s funny. I was looking through some old files and saw the notes and stuff for this story. I had forgotten I had this lying around! I think this is a good example of something I do which I urge other writers to do.
When you are finished with a story, or when it is not working for you, put it aside, forget about it, and move on to the next story.
This is something I am really good at. Maybe to my own detriment. If you pressed me to name all the stories I have published I probably couldn’t do it.* I know I couldn’t name all the stories I have written, both published and non-published. I was in a superb writing group in Mississippi and the members knew I had this policy to forget a story and put it away and always move on to the next one. One of the members asked me about one of my old stories he had read and I couldn’t remember the name of the story!
I wrote it, and I couldn’t remember it at all! He laughed and said, “It really is true, you don’t bother to remember what you did. You are always looking ahead.”
That has always been my philosophy when it comes to writing. When you finish a story you are finished. Why should you dwell on that when there are new stories waiting to be written?
This has gotten me into trouble a time or two. Sometimes at conventions an editor or writer will ask a general question about my work and I’ll stand there with a dumb and vacant look on my face. Oh, well, I’m not going to change. This old dog isn’t willing to learn that trick. I really do believe a writer always needs to be looking ahead and not obsessing over the past.
On the other hand there are stories that have been with me for decades. Usually these are stories I have had trouble writing but haven’t entirely given up on. We all have stories like that, I think. I don’t know. Maybe it depends on the person. I know I am very lucky as a writer and have had more stories published than I ever expected. I am not done yet, however. I am very grateful for the stories I have published…but it’s the stories I have not been able to work, or the stories that didn’t work, or the stories that didn’t come together that stick with me more.
I know, it’s crazy. I’m a crazy writer. But this time my philosophy of forgetting stories worked out rather well when I found the notes for it. It was like a brand new idea, and because so much time has passed I am able to look at it with entirely fresh eyes.
So that’s what I am working on right now, a couple of short stories. I still plan to delve into the Great American Hobo novel this summer. I am looking forward to that!
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on April 26, 2013
Today I put on my gi and worked out. After some careful stretching I did all the basic Shotokan stances, strikes, kicks, and blocks. I ended up doing the first kata.
I joked on Twitter I was about to die, but I have to say I got through it pretty well. It was a good workout and I followed it with a hot bath.
As readers of this blog know I have toying with the idea of finding a martial art to keep me busy this summer. I was a big Shotokan guy for a long time but there’s not a dojo around within a decent driving distance. There’s one in Arlington, but that’s 50 minutes away. That’s too far. So I looked at some other classical karate around and there’s Wado Ryu which isn’t too bad. But if I’m going to stay in karate I don’t know about learning a whole new style.
What I mean is, if I am going to learn a whole new style…why not learn a whole new style?
I did some homework and found a Shaolin Five Animals/Northern Long Fist not far from me at all. I checked it out last night and liked what I saw. Did a little digging in their background (which you have to do with every training hall because some are shady) and they seem legit. Even better, the classes are unlimited, I can go anytime during the day to practice (yay!) and they have yoga for martial artists (yay, because I’m an old man!) and Tai Chi classes. That’s a lot to bring to the table.
So this is the direction I might be going. I’m an old karate guy: linear, straight-line, external. Kung fu? For me?
Maybe so. Stay tuned.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on April 24, 2013
I am not a big fan of romance. I don’t think much of most fantasy, either, because a lot of it draws too much on what has been done before and comes off as lazy. It feeds upon itself too much, especially when it comes to plot and motivation and the world the characters are supposed to inhabit.
All too often much of romance and fantasy is cardboard characters stomping through yet another two-dimensional background. Popular? Extremely popular. Do these kinds of stories bring anything new to the literary world? No, not much, or rarely, nor are they expected to. So everyone wins. I guess.
Is Amy Raby’s Assassin’s Gambit one of these kinds of stories? Nope. Not even close.
Not that it’s easy to find new plots and develop them with twists that engage and surprise the reader. As a professional writer I realize there is no such thing as a new plot. Even Assassin’s Gambit by Raby, her first fantasy romance novel, doesn’t do that, nor does it set out to prove otherwise.
In Raby’s novel a beautiful assassin named Vitala Salonius (with a tragic past) is sent to, well, assassinate an emperor and ends up falling in love with him. She’s a Caturanga champion, a game much more complex than chess and one which mirrors the social and political machinations and upheavals of the world she lives in. As you might guess the lovers battle intrigue and powerful political forces arrayed against them. Shades of From Russia, With Love at least as far as the basic plot line goes. Serviceable and robust.
So far so good. But Raby does something extra here which I find very welcome and wish more writers would take the time to do. She builds a world. More than that, her world and its culture and its unique magic system isn’t copy/pasted from some other novel or cliched background. She did a lot of research and homework for this novel, and it shows. And, boy, does it work.
It’s not often I become so immersed in a novel I stop reading critically and just read and enjoy the novel for what it is. But this is what happened to me with Assassin’s Gambit and it was a welcome change.
I read it in one sitting. You know how often I do that? Maybe once a year. So this novel was my quota for 2013. Seeing as how good this story was, I can live with that.
I really like Raby’s magic system and how it all hangs together. Nor does Raby ignore the cultural impact her magic has on social and political institutions or the burgeoning gunpowder tech which is being developed. What’s more, the world she presents is itself multicultural, and within those cultures there are opposing factions. She doesn’t pull any punches, either, given the set up. She shows the racism and fear and hate and distrust you would expect.
It’s a believable world. I like that. As a professional writer….I like that a lot.
But aside from all that, which is considerable, I like how Raby subverts. From the cover of this novel of a pretty lady with wind in her hair, to the blurb (In the struggle for power, nothing is safe…not even her heart) you figure, “Okay, this is a fantasy romance which is maybe kinda heavy on the romance. I’ll test the water with my toe.”
And at first when you start reading it does read like a standard romance. But then Raby pulls a fast one, and this is why I liked the novel so much because not only was it subversive, it was dangerous.
It’s almost like Raby was laughing behind her hand a little and saying, “Do I have your attention? Good. Let’s get to what this story is really about.”
She pulls it off with aplomb. In essence, the novel stops being a traditional romance in an exotic setting and turns into a hard hitting fantasy tale that examines how (and more importantly why) two broken people are able to love and trust one another…while in the meantime killing some bad guys who really need killing.
Is the novel without fault? No. There are too many adverbs, too many exclamation marks (one per novel, please and thank you) and I personally would have liked it to be darker. But then again I wasn’t writing it so what do I know. I also thought Vitala made a crucial decision in a bean field that wasn’t true to her original motivation. (Although I do understand and sympathize with Raby’s limitations regarding Vitala’s decision.)
Finally, the novel actually ends on the penultimate chapter, and quite strongly, too. But, once more, Raby is playing with us a little here and it’s as if she says, “Okie doke, this is supposed to be a romance, so here ya go, one last chapter.”
I liked this novel a lot. It was damn good. Yes, it is a romance. A very good one. The characters are memorable and I found myself lost in the world. You can’t ask for more than that.
Give it a peek.
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on April 21, 2013
I finished the synopsis for Quaternity and have sent the manuscript and everything else off.
I did it, guys, I finished it! What a long journey this has been. I feel I wrote the novel I wanted to write and told the story I wanted to tell.
It wasn’t like anything else I have tried before, but I honestly feel I was successful in reaching my goals to tell the story I wanted.
Welp. Now what?
Time to think about the next project I will be working on, of course….
Posted by Kenneth Mark Hoover on April 19, 2013