It’s a “Livin’ Thing”

Anyone who reads my blog knows I like opera.  But unlike some stuffed shirts I don’t believe opera has to be Wagnarian in concept to be opera.

That’s why I want to give you a link to one of the first rock bands to incorporate operatic themes and classical sounds in their music.  When Electric Light Orchestra first started out they were a true orchestra.  In fact, they were more orchestra than rock band which gave them their signature sound.  They weren’t ever referred to as ELO but as Electric Light Orchestra. It was only later they moved away from their classical roots and became E.L.O.

As a result, they were never as good and they quickly vanished.  Deservedly so, imo.

But nevertheless this song, and the blend of rock and classical music, endures. “Livin’ Thing” has a deep orchestral arrangement that  sweetens the song and makes it memorable.  Give it a listen.

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In Search of Bold Story Ideas…and settling on the warm safety of cliche.

I guess one of the things that surprises me most is how easy it is to come up with ideas for stories.

I wrote about this before. I used to be worried I would never have enough story ideas when I began to write. Now I have too many. I suppose that’s growth of a sort. Or being wised up to reality. Or something.

But what I want to talk about today isn’t how easy it is to come up with story ideas. It’s how hard it is to determine which stories deserve to be written and which stories don’t. That’s not always easy for me to do. But over the years, and with I admit some confidence, I have reached a point where I think I can look at a story idea and say, “No, I’ll let someone else write that one.”

I think this decision making process operates simultaneously on many different levels. Not surprising since writing itself is an organic process. Part of it is genre related. No, I don’t want to write a SF story today. Or, no, I don’t currently see I have anything new to say with that story idea; it’s been done to death already. Or, again, no, I’ll pass on this story idea because…let’s face facts…I’ve moved beyond that point and am now engaged in saying different things than what that story calls for.

Because, you see, the story comes first. You can’t make it into something it’s not. That never works no matter how hard you try.

I suppose it’s a cold-hearted culling process that goes on here, and a learned one. I am not saying these story ideas have no worth. I am saying I have so many other story ideas to explore I’d rather see them developed first. Okay, I guess when you get down to it I am saying certain story ideas have no worth to me. There is some definite snobbery at work here. That doesn’t mean another writer can’t, or shouldn’t, develop them into something stellar. They can, and they probably should, do so.

They just aren’t for me.

I suspect you know where this is going. I am currently working in the western genre. No secret there. It’s also no secret I have railed, and will continue to rail, about the cliches and stilted story lines I continue to see in this field from writers who should know better. But, you know what? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe they don’t know any better. Maybe they never will. But I am not complaining. Because they stick to their field and what obviously works for them, it leaves me with a lot of running room. And, to be fair, the stories they write are popular and people do like them and do buy them. So they must be doing something right.

But they are not for me and they never will be because while science fiction is twelve (and by extension all other genres) I am no longer twelve.

I mean, seriously. Do we have to see another story about the Noble Savage? The Virgin Schoolmarm? The Laconic Cowboy? I am on record I want to see other voices, new interpretations, different perspectives.

Is that asking too much? Sometimes I wonder.

I will give you a personal example. Maybe it will help you understand what I am trying to say here. Several years back when I was running a western community on Live Journal someone actually confronted me and argued homosexuals had nothing to do with settling the West.  Absolutely nothing. Now I want you to think about that a moment. This individual might well have said women had nothing to do with settling the Old West, or Native Americans, or African Americans, or Latinos, or…well, you get the idea.

In this person’s worldview the stereotypes we have been fed for decades was the only truth.

Long story short, I want to change that. I don’t mean I want to change that person’s mind. Nothing is ever going to accomplish that. I want to change the underlying idea of what makes a western a western because I want the genre to thrive and grow. I want it to thrive and grow because I am working in this genre and it does me no good to be in a genre that’s spinning its wheels and calling that progress.

Fortunately, all this is changing. Although, I admit, not fast enough to suit me. There are a lot of new, good writers out there who are challenging the Old Guard. I call them Cactus Turks because they tend to be young, prickly, obstinate, and they openly challenge authority. Thank goodness for that!

Because otherwise we’d be stuck with the same old story about a handsome sun-tanned cowboy on a palomino who safeguards a widow and her blond-haired son from the evil robber baron who owns the deed to her ranch. Hoo boy. Like  we haven’t seen that one before, right?

Let someone else write that story. It’s not for me. And it’s not for the new guard of writers in this genre who are doing better work than I am and pushing the boundaries far wider than I could ever hope to imagine.

So. My advice? Be bold. Take chances. Run risks. Piss people off with your fiction. I see a lot of safe fiction out there in many different genres. They’re all guilty of it, not only westerns. Let’s get out of that rut. Get off the well-lighted roads and strike off into the dark woods and see what you can find. You’re a writer. Be bold.

Trust yourself.

So that’s my point about why I am so careful about choosing story ideas. There are a lot of story ideas out there. As a writer you always have to make a decision for yourself, your reader, and, yes, the health of the genre, whether or not you are going to pursue it. You may not always get it right. In fact, since this is writing we are talking about, you will probably get it wrong more often than not. I know I do. But I keep trying. I don’t give up. I have seen it in my own fiction. The stories I first started to write in this genre are very different from what I see now. I take more risks now, challenge more beliefs.

Once again I am only speaking for myself, but I feel if I am not doing that then I am nothing more than a stenographer. A stenographer  looks at the surface features. I am a writer. I try to dive deeper.

But, come what may, these are the headwinds we are faced with today and they are fierce and unrelenting. Believe it or not there were millions of people other than the traditional White Christian Male who worked and lived and died in the west. No, really. It’s true. Just open a history book.

Better yet, open your mind and write.

Wuthering: A vengeful take on Wuthering Heights in the violent world of Haxan

Mark here. The world of Haxan gives me a lot of room to retell stories and do variations. The short story “Wuthering” is such an example. I mean, how many settings lend themselves to a retelling of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights? Well, in my opinion, Haxan does.

I had fun writing this story because it proved to me I could write, literally, anything in the world of Haxan about any topic whatsoever. That’s one reason I like Haxan. There’s a lot of built-in versatility other than your ordinary cliched western. Once again, I am not saying I am the first or the best writer to have done this with westerns. I merely argue I am having fun doing it!

If you are interested in reading the story please click on the link below. The story has been published by Argo Navis Publishing and it’s currently being offered on Kindle. I really do hope you like reading this story half as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂

 

As a neverending gale scours the land and the souls of men, a vengeful revenant comes to Haxan seeking the love she lost....

 

Product Description: Cathy Bell is a vengeful ghost seeking retribution. As Cathy night-walks the New Mexican desert in a jealous rage and prepares to strike an innocent family, Marshal John Marwood decides to confront the revenant — by risking his own life, while forever losing the only woman he will ever love.

“Hoover never hesitates to go deep and find what it means to be human.” —Richard Parks, fantasist & SF author

In Which I Opine (whine) about Joining Professional Writer Organizations

I have learned I am now eligible for membership in Western Writers of America. I already belong to the Science Fiction Writers of America and Horror Writers of America. Therein lies the problem.

Do I need to become a member of  another professional writing organization? I am also eligible for the Mystery Writers of America. I mean, a line has to be drawn somewhere. These organizations have yearly dues and they’re not cheap.

Here is the crux of the problem. I am no longer convinced these organizations bring anything to the table in this new day and age of Have professional writing organizations become antiquated?publishing. Back in the day having the letters SFWA or HWA after your name, while it didn’t guarantee a sale, let the editor know he had a story from a writer with a professional track record.

I am certain these things are still important to some degree. I don’t mean to diminish their relevance while, you know, diminishing their relevance. But I can’t escape the fact the publishing world has changed drastically in the last three years (and will continue to do so) that organizations like this simply do not carry the weight they once did.

I am probably wrong about this. One thing I know is the cost of yearly dues is not cheap. At least it’s not cheap to me. I don’t want to become a member of WWA for no other reason than my own gratification, either.

On the other hand, I admit these organizations bring good networking opportunities. That is one thing that hasn’t changed in this new day and age of publishing. I also like my friends I have made in SFWA and HWA. Not that they would stop being my friends if I left, but you get the idea.

I suppose I would be missing out on more than I can list if I did not become a member of WWA. I hope no one looks at these organizations I belong to and thinks I am trying to prove something. Being a writer I am mostly always lost and confused anyway. It’s my constant state of mind.

Okay. I guess I will submit an application to WWA (when I get around to it) and continue my membership in the others even though it will put a pinch in my budget.

I guess when you get down to it these organizations still bring more benefit than not. Although, that, too, may change over time.

Thanks for hearing me out. I’m glad we had this little chat.

Making Some Decisions as a Writer are not as Easy as it Seems

It’s morning and I am sitting in the coffee shop with my writing buddy. I’ve been having some difficulty with the heel of my right foot. I somehow banged the heel or popped it or something and now it’s sore and I am having a very hard time walking around on it. Wearing boots helps because it supports the foot some, but walking is slow.

I have done this before. I never can remember what I do to hurt the heel but it’s obviously something very stupid since I keep doing it. I’ve been dealing with this for three days now and while it has gotten nominally better it has not healed up. But then again if it’s a pulled tendon (not the Achilles’ Heel, btw) or something then it will take a long time to heal. There is no bruise or anything. It’s all very frustrating.

Sometimes making a decision as a writer is more difficult than it seems. I have not been writing new stuff recently although I plan to look at the novel today. I’ve been thinking about the book a lot lately. I am probably writing this a little slower than I ordinarily would, I admit that. But part of the reason behind this is because I am also deeply immersed in research and, yes, there’s a lot of thinking involved with this novel.

I am satisfied with what I have so far and I like the direction the book is headed. I do admit part of my problem in slowing down is my big Border Trip is coming up probably in April or May. I have talked to my writing buddy about this and she says I should go ahead and write the book and anything I learn or find on the trip along the US/Mexico border I can layer that in. She’s right, of course, but part of me continues to think I will miss out on some tiny literary aspect that would escape me otherwise.

Yes, I know that’s stupid. I’m not going to wait two more months or whatever before I start writing on this novel again, no matter what my reasons. And, yes, I know I am always one on this blog to preach you should listen to your instincts. And you should. But not when your instincts go against what you know to be intellectually correct.

I have to keep writing the novel before I take the trip because otherwise I risk losing connection with the story. Not that I think such a thing will happen. But I don’t want to risk it.

“This is Tosca’s Kiss!”

When Puccini’s opera Tosca was first performed the critics savaged it.  They called it a “tawdry, little shocker.”

Puccini had tremendous success with La Boheme the year before.  What kind of success? Imagine Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and American Idol all wrapped into one…and you still wouldn’t come close.  So everyone was looking forward to his next opera. Could he top La Boheme? The critics were certain he could not so they were predisposed to hate Tosca before it was staged.

The public, on the other hand, had very different ideas after they say it.

Tosca is an opera about a flawed woman.  Tosca is a deeply jealous woman in love with a painter.  But there’s a chief of police, Scarpia, who is also in love with Tosca.  He’s a real snake, this Scarpia, and one of the most evil characters in opera.  Intrigue, deception and violence are the foundations to this opera.  It’s the quintessential opera: people are either singing about their undying love for one another or they are screaming pure hate at each other.  There is no middle ground.  Nor should there be for Tosca examines violence and brutality on a fundamental level.  Puccini is saying, “This is violence, and, no, it’s not pretty.”

Because of the kinds of stories I write, and the themes I examine, I really like that approach.

But, back to the opera. Scarpia arrests Tosca’s lover and through his machinations lures her to his lair.  In a memorable scene he says he will relent if Tosca will yield her sexual favors.  Tosca sings a heart breaking aria which questions her religious faith. Finally, she’s had enough, and as Scarpia tries to feel her up she grabs a knife and plunges it into his heart

“This is Tosca’s kiss,” she cries.

Scarpia, as one may imagine, is surprised by this unfortunate turn of events.  But Puccini isn’t done with his “tawdry, little shocker.”  He has Tosca stand over the dying Scarpia and sing triumphantly while holding a dripping knife, “Are you choking on your own "Are you choking on your own blood?"blood?”

Lesson learned. Don’t mess around with Tosca.

So she grabs a note Scarpia wrote which will free her lover, she runs to the castle where he is incarcerated, a mock execution is held but it’s not mock after all because Scarpia is finding his revenge from the grave.  Soldiers run onto the parapet to arrest Tosca for murdering Scarpia but she’s had enough and flings herself off the parapet and screams all the way down and splatters her brains out in the street below.

End of sublime love.  End of Tosca.  End of opera.  Boom, curtain closes.

The public loved it.  And why not?  It has intrigue, deception, torture, extortion, blood, rape, murder, suicide, all wrapped around a pretty good love story.  What’s not to like?

Tosca has a bit of a funny past with its productions as well.  In one of them the director told the soldiers on the parapet, “Just react and take your cue from Tosca.”  So when Tosca leaps to her death they all fall in line and jump after her!  The audience liked that, too, though it was unexpected.  In another production a trampoline was hidden behind the wall so the actress wouldn’t hurt herself when she jumped. So the soldiers rush onto the stage, Tosca bids farewell and jumps…she hits the trampoline and bounces back into sight!  Pretty funny, and one of the little behind the scenes stories that make this opera so delightful.

I really like this opera a lot. If you like blood and violence and torture and sexual perversion, you’ll love Tosca, too.  Give it a peek.

My Haxan Story “Redemption Bound” Will Appear in a “Best Of” Frontier Tales Anthology!

One of my Haxan stories published by Frontier Tales last year will be included in a Best Of” anthology TBA. This is great news for me and one I am happy to share.

I’ll let you know the date of publication and so forth when I get the word. I’m excited about this.  🙂

Gepetto’s Orphans: The Emergence of the Lost People Comes to Haxan

My new Haxan story “Gepetto’s Orphans” has a long lineage. You might say it’s as old as the story of Pinocchio himself. Now, truth be told, many stories have been written about a wooden boy who becomes real. But being a dark fantasy writer it’s my job to look beyond the ordinary and seek the extraordinary.

That’s why I wanted to write a story not about Pinocchio, but about his creator. And what better setting than Haxan, that grinding maelstrom of space and time in the Old West?

I wrote this story for one reason. A very good friend of mine, M.G. Ellington, loves the story of Pinocchio. Which got me to thinking  how I could write a story that incorporated the themes she liked but set in Haxan. “Gepetto’s Orphans” was the frightening result, and I dedicate it to her.

“Gepetto’s Orphans” is now available from Argo Navis Publishing on Kindle. This is a special story to my heart, and one in which you will, I hope, see Marshal Marwood in a different light. Magra Snowberry also plays a pivotal role. Enjoy! 🙂

 

The story of Piniocchio comes to Haxan...and wooden simulacra will never be the same again!

Product Description: In the quiet streets of Haxan, New Mexico, circa 1874, strange enigmatic statues of wooden Native Americans appear. Beautifully carved, with exquisite attention to detail, the statues rest on massive pedestals and cannot be moved. They are harbingers of The Emergence, a time when the Lost People will spill from the dark bowels of the earth and bring with them the end of the physical world.

Marshal John Marwood is charged with protecting Haxan. The woman he loves, Magra Snowberry, holds the key to understanding what The Emergence is all about. But this time Marwood’s bone-handled Colt is useless against a foe made of living wood. And if he does somehow defeat these orphans from Gepetto…how can he find the man who is carving them, and bringing them to life?

“Combines dark fantasy and Gothic influences while avoiding sentimentality and myth.” –Michael Merriam, award winning author of Should We Drown in Feathered Sleep

Why I Write

I want to talk about why I write.

Lots of writers have many different reasons why they write. The reason I write is very simple. You see, I grew up in a household where my only avenue of escape was to read. I lost myself in books and stories so I wouldn’t have to face what was going on around me.

When I was very young I wanted to be a writer. Oh, I wanted to do the things a young boy wants: astronaut, cowboy, etc. But deep down I felt there was something inside me that demanded I write. I’ve never been able to figure it out. Maybe I wanted to do something to pay forward on the stories and books and novels that helped me escape.

All I know is today I am a writer. I don’t think writing is easy and for me it’s not that much fun. I do it because I am driven. The reason is as simple (or as complex) as that.

I am neither happy or sad that I am a writer. It’s who I am. It is how I define myself and how I have always defined myself.

I read books and stories so I could escape. Now I write to help pay forward and support an art form that helped me survive a pretty bad time.

That’s why I write.

No One Understands a Writer Like Another Writer

One of the things you learn as you write is how to discern between what is a good story idea and what is not.

At first blush it appears simple. Pretty much anything can be used as a story idea. And I would agree with you up to a point. But how the story is developed and what structure you use and how you use it…that’s the true test. That comes with experience and confidence.

I try to help new writers when I can and if they ask. I had no help when I was starting off as a young writer so I know what it’s like to flail around without any idea of what to do. There wasn’t an Internet and there wasn’t a lot of published material in bookstores to help nascent writers. We were pretty much on our own if we didn’t have a mentor, and I didn’t have a real mentor until I as in my late twenties.

But everything has changed now. Today there are a lot of resources you can access and dialogs you can enter into with other writers on the Internet. It’s a heady time. I don’t think this makes being a writer easier. But it does arm the writer with more information and plans of attack which we never had.

However, for all that nothing beats another writer to talk to. You can read all the books you want and bookmark all the Internet pages you can, but the best thing you can do as a writer is find another writer to talk to.

No one understand a writer like another writer. I know I’ve said it before but I will keep saying it because I believe more than anything else that will help you grow and develop. Having another writer to talk to, and vent to, and ask for advice is extremely beneficial. Books are good resources, but nothing beats another writer in your life.

A good writer friend you can trust for advice and critique can help you avoid bad story ideas….and a lot of other clunky things that can hold you back. Writing is a lonely profession anyway. It always helps to have someone else who understands what you are going through, and who can relate.

Un Ballo in Maschera: Beautiful Opera Music Marred by a Poor Storyline

Un Ballo in Maschera (The Masked Ball) is one of those operas in which the music is better than the story.

It’s about the assassination of Gustave III of Sweden during a masked ball. That much is historically accurate.  The rest of the opera…not so much, even down to the last scene when the king is dying and forgives his assassin. Moving, yes, but not accurate. It’s one of those operas that can succeed or fail on the performance of a single character. In this case it’s the aria of the gypsy witch Ulrica who prophesies the king’s death. If she’s believable the opera rocks.

This opera was written by Verdi. It has all the usual Verdi touches: forbidden love, flashes of humor, jealousy, assassination, plans within plans.  And it’s not a bad opera. It’s just not all that great. Except for the extraordinary music which blows you away.

It’s the music that makes this opera memorable. It’s as beautiful as anything Verdi ever wrote, and that’s saying a lot.

Opera is funny. You don’t have to listen to a lot of them or watch very many to get a feel for what the art form is about. There aren’t that many operas anyway so if you listen/watch to about a dozen or so you develop an appreciation for what’s being done artistically. Unfortunately, Un Ballo in Maschera isn’t a beginner’s opera. You would do better to watch Aida or Tosca or maybe  Madame Butterfly if you’re starting out and want to learn about opera.

But if you already know something about it, or have been exposed to opera on some level, I think you will appreciate Un Ballo in Maschera.

Give it a peek.

Ulrica prophesies the death of a king....

Some Personal Thoughts about Writing on Valentine’s Day

One of the things I have learned in being a writer is measure.

Everything must be done in a measured way when you are writing. Even when you are going great guns and your typewriter (or in this day and age your computer) is hot you have to be measured in the way you approach your work. I used to stay up all night and write until four or five in the morning. I no longer do that because A.) I’m older and I need my sleep, and B.) I’m more mature as a writer and I realize that more can be accomplished with small dedicated writing sessions than a marathon.

Which is not to say I have not done writing marathons recently. A couple of years ago I wrote three stories in three days and I documented it all on my old Live Journal blog. Part of the reason I did it was because I wanted a challenge and I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.

I suppose for me writing is always going to be about proving whether or not I can do something. The new Haxan novel I am working on is itself a real challenge. That’s what drew me to it in the first place. Everyone has different reasons for writing. Even I have very different reasons from day to day. The time I am talking about was when I wanted to prove to myself I could write three stories in three days. And I did it! Even better, I sold two of them and the third, “Alpenglow” was recently released by Argo Navis Publishing.

I mention this not to toot my own horn (although I am not against that, either) but because I have been thinking about that time, and the kind of writer I was then, and the kind of writer I am now. Today I am more careful in how I write. I think as a result my writing is better than it was. I have always been focused. That has never been a big problem for me. But the act of writing and marrying it with the mental adaptability and preparation that goes with it…well, I think I’ve gotten better at that.

Like they say, practice makes perfect. Or, if not perfect, at least nominally better. And for a writer that is good enough.

(On the topic of why I write, I want to come back to this and address it in further detail later on.  It is personal, though.)

The Saga of Ragnar Greenkirtle and the “graskinna” Loki

One of the things I like about being a writer is how I can do research about topics that interest me and use that information to generate story ideas. I have always been interested in Viking culture and when I read the Sagas I was taken with the voice used to tell their stories.

Being a writer I only steal from the best so I decided to steal from the Sagas. I wrote the story “The Fire Egg” and liked the result. There are a few twists and turns in the story and I’ve had people remark on the ending because it is so stark, and because it shows Man in his one true form.

I also don’t pull any punches about the Viking culture in this story. I now write mostly westerns but I see the same problems in both genres. People would rather depend on cliches and what makes them feel safe than admit what these cultures were really like. Vikings have become romanticized over time but the truth is much more brutal and bloody. When all is said and done the Viking people were not very nice people, even among themselves. Even less when they came across a stranger from an unknown culture.

This is another short story being offered by Argo Navis Publishing on the Kindle. I hope you give it a look and maybe a review if you feel so inclined. Thanks!

A story from the Viking Sagas you might not have heard, or imagined, before.....

Product Description: This, then, is the tale. In the waning days of the Viking age a lost soul falls from the distant stars to the barren shores of Iceland. There Ragnar Greenkirtle, explorer and practitioner of Greek logike, finds and protects the alien called Loki. As cultural forces build, Ragnar is forced to face the true meaning of his existence and question whether a violent and savage culture deserves to survive…or evolve into something beyond the present ken of men.

“Mark Hoover is a writer who never hesitates to go deep, to try to find the core of what it means to be human and take a good hard look. If he has to stare down a nightmare or two along the way, well, that’s just fine.” —Richard Parks, author of the Lord Yamada series

I’ve Been Invited as a Guest Panelist at ArmadilloCon 34!

I will be attending ArmadilloCon on July 27-29 as a guest panelist. I like this writing con a lot. It’s small and has a private, literary feel to it.

I’ve attended lots of cons. Most of them are great and I would urge a writer of any genre to attend a writing con even if it’s in a field you don’t work in. Some things about writing cross genres, like process, the world of publishing, the trials and tribulations writers endure. Another added benefit is that no one understands a writer like another writer. When I am talking to another writer and I say, “I am having trouble finding the ending for my story,” she knows exactly what I am talking about. She knows the angst and trouble and difficulty I am going through.

That is huge. It is very important to have other people who have been there, or are on the same journey you are, to talk to. It’s also a great way to network with other editors and publishers in the field. I can’t stress how important it is that you should attend a writing convention if you have the opportunity. They are very helpful.

Anyway, I am looking forward to attending this particular convention. I haven’t gotten any information about what panels I will be on, but when I do I will post them on the blog. 🙂

Does Going Indie Mean Less Time for Writing?

I have finally caught up a bit on indie publishing stuff (and other things in life) so I can turn back to the new Haxan novel in progress.

I am glad. I was starting to feel I had lost touch with it. I think this can happen if you don’t keep looking at a WIP and staying connected. It happens to me, anyway.

I still have a lot to do this week. But it is looking less bumpy that it was last week. I was also thinking about how busy this summer will be for me. I have a lot of things planned and I will have to juggle all my time. Not a problem, except if I fall behind again that means less time for writing.

I don’t like that.

It’s one of the reasons I am a little irked with the whole new indie trend in publishing right now. From my own perspective it leaves a LOT less time for writing. I understand the need for it, and these changes in publishing aren’t going to stop just because I find them personally inconvenient. I don’t like having to wear all these new hats, but I have to and since I have to I am going to do my absolute best.

But I do not like the fact it takes away so much time from basic writing.

I don’t like it, Sam I Am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham. I don’t think I ever will.

Look, here’s how it breaks down for me. I’m an old dog. I know I have to learn new tricks. Fine. This won’t be the first time I’ve had to change directions. I’ve done it before and I am doing it again. I am adaptable. I think most writers are, when push comes to shove.

But I have yet to hear a cogent reason why this new business model is stronger purely from the basic writing side. Because, you know what? It’s not.

Less time for writing means less time for writing. You are never going to convince me that is a good thing. I’m a writer, first and foremost. It’s who I am and it’s how I define myself. And, no, I don’t care if this is the new trend or not.When you take less time away from my basic writing you do not make me happy.

Less time for writing is not a good thing. Period.

Violent Love and Quick Death with a Beautiful AI Construct in Star City, Russia

Mark here. My story “The Bonebreaker” has a strange germination. It grew out of my first novel  Fevreblau in that I cherry-picked a few parts from the book and expanded them into a story. Writers do this a lot in case you didn’t know. We write a story about a character and then we might go back and write another story that revolves around a secondary character. It’s a good way to generate new ideas and themes. I use it often. You simply have to be careful you are not telling the same story over and over again.

Another nice thing about this story is I set it in Russia. I have always been fascinated by Russian history because there is so much to work with there. I have written a lot of stories set in Russia and I think it might have helped my sales a little in this regard. It’s a setting you don’t see all the time so it has an exotic flavor to it, especially among western readers. Anything that might make your story stand out to the editor always helps, and I think having written stories in this Future History of Russia definitely helped me.

The story was first published by Challenging Destiny in September, 2005. It has been reprinted by Argo Navis Publishing on Kindle. I hope you like the story! 🙂

The Bonebreaker -- a SF short story set in Star City, Russia

Product Description: As the Russian regime crumbles, a grim man who destroys AI simulacra for a living travels to Star City. There, he traps a young woman seeking freedom. Battered and betrayed by all sides, the Bonebreaker and the newly freed AI called Natalya fight to escape the reprisals and executions emanating from Moscow…and together find a new life in an Archipelago of worldlets orbiting Earth.

“Hoover never hesitates to go deep and find what it means to be human.” –Richard Parks, fantasist & SF author

Love, Betrayal,and Recombinant DNA Gone Wrong in Cabo San Lucas

I remember when I first began to write the short story “Dead Reckoning” and the challenges I faced. The prompt came from a writing class I was taking at the time. They were talking about an exercise the teacher gave a year or so ago in which he wanted the students to write a scene about a boat in trouble.

Everyone turned in a scene about a boat sinking. He seemed disappointed in the turn out after all that time. But I sat there thinking, “No way I would have written about a boat sinking because I know that would be the default plot line. I’d try to look deeper into the possibilities of the prompt than mail in something that boring.”

And then I started. “Ok, wise guy,” I said to myself, “what would you have written instead?”

After the class I went home and wrote this science fiction story. It had the added benefit of being set on a sailboat which feeds into my mania for sailing. The story went through about three very deep revisions until I found the proper voice. It’s one of my favorite stories and was written when I was beginning to move out of the SF genre and into other things. But I like the story no less for all that and people who have read it seem to like it, too.

Of course, you will be the judge of that. It’s being offered on Amazon Kindle now by Argo Navis Publishing. I really do hope you like it, and if you do read it I would appreciate an honest review posted at Amazon. Reviews help writers a lot, even so-called “bad” ones because they point out problems the reader had with the story.

If you are interested just click on the link below. Hope you enjoy the story! 🙂

A story of love and betrayal outside romantic Cabo San Lucas....

Product Description: Three years ago alien crystalline structures fell to Earth near Cabo San Lucas, shattered on impact, and released von Neumann machines. Meanwhile, a 52-foot island of teak and canvas crewed by three people sail toward the towering, enigmatic alien structures with their own hidden mysteries, and fractured lives…and broken love.

As mankind races to an ultimate understanding why these alien structures came to Earth, and how we can communicate with them, two of the three people aboard the sailboat plot to kill the third…while outside forces set into motion their own terrifying plan to jump start the next step of human evolution.

“Mark Hoover is a writer who never hesitates to go deep, to try to find the core of what it means to be human and take a good hard look. If he has to stare down a nightmare or two along the way, well, that’s just fine.” —Richard Parks, author of the Lord Yamada series

Island of Lost Souls (1933) – Censored Horror with Sex and Atmospheric Bestiality

The Island of Dr. Moreau is one of my favorite novels by H.G. Wells. Published in 1896 it has deep philosophical elements whichThe garish movie poster for Island of Lost Souls Wells faces head on. It is arguably one of his least known, but best written, scientific romances.

In 1933 the novel was adapted to film by Paramount Pictures. It starred Charles Laughton as Moreau and he brings that character alive in a creepy and memorable way with his soft spoken voice and oily manner. Bela Lugosi has a small but pivotal role as one of the Beastmen called The Sayer of the Law:

Dr. Moreau: What is the law?

Sayer of the Law: Not to eat meat, that is the law. Are we not men?

Dr. Moreau: What is the law?

Sayer of the Law: Not to go on all fours, that is the law. Are we not men?

Dr. Moreau: What is the law?

Sayer of the Law: Not to spill blood, that is the law. Are we not men?

The film has many layers to it. It’s not a simple and straightforward story. Moreau sets himself up as God. He claims he knows what it feels like to be God. There are implied Gnostic principles at work here as well because Moreau dresses in white but he has the countenance of the Devil. I don’t know if that’s intentional, but I suspect it was. It’s too obvious to have been a mistake.

Laughton is unforgettable as the evil Dr. MoreauThe Sayer of the Law stands for man caught between Heaven and Hell. Purgatory if you will. The House of Pain, where Moreau engages in his horrific experiments to transform beasts into men using plastic surgery, ray baths, and blood transfusions, is an obvious stand-in for Hell.

The stage is set. Enter a shipwrecked man, Edward Parker, played by Richard Arlen. Moreau, in the role of God, has not only made men from beasts, he has made a woman from a panther by the name of Lota. Kathleen Burke plays Lota and she does a phenomenal job. Moreau throws Parker and Lota together because he wants to know if she is a real woman or not. As Moreau explains, Lota is too afraid of him to accurately judge her sexuality so Parker is perfect in this role. He can awaken Lota’s sexuality if it exists. (Parker has a girlfriend back on the mainland who later comes looking for him.)

But you get the main  idea. Moreau is God. He has made a woman for an unblemished “Adam” who accidentally stumbled into his horrific Garden of Eden.

He wants them to mate. Be fruitful and multiply.

There are many unsettling undercurrents to this film which got it banned three times in Great Britain and has made it one of the best pre-code films that exist today. There is obvious bestiality (the romance between Lota and Parker) and cruel vivisection and lots of irreverent talk how God must stand aside (or be shoved aside) for the coming dominance of Man. Throw in some steamy pre-code half-dressed jungle sexuality and innuendo, along with intense torture and mindless brutality — and this film becomes more powerful today than when it was released.

I love pre-code films for exactly this reason. They were willing to take dangerous subjects and leave no stone unturned. But Another iconic image from the film in which we see the juxtaposition between Man and Beast. Is Man at his basic level only a beast? That's what Wells argues. for all this it is Lota, the Panther Woman, that make this film endure today. She is the  character all the other players revolve around. The look she brings to the screen is iconic and there are subtle touches of the Flapper about her as created by Coco Chanel: she is thin and boyish, her breasts are bound tightly to her body, yet her sexuality is raw and powerful and she wants to experiment and flout the rigid laws which restrain her. That’s straight out of Flapper philosophy, btw.

Wells did not like this film. He felt it glossed over the philosophies he talked about in the book. I don’t disagree. But when I watch this film I watch it as a film. When I read the novel I read it as a novel. They are apples and oranges. That’s not to say films made from novels don’t get it wrong. They often do. But in this case the film pays homage to the philosophies Wells put forth while challenging basic human sexuality which Wells did not.

I guess what I’m saying is in this case, both book and movie complement each other. That doesn’t always happen, but in this case it does.

The final five minutes of this film are unforgettable. It is very, very intense. You cannot look away. Especially during the demise of Moreau when the Men he has created decide Hey, let’s do it, let’s murder God.

I am not going to spoil it for you more than that. You will have to watch it for yourself if you think you can stand it.

If you like atmospheric horror with underpinnings of raw sexuality then you are going to like Island of Lost Souls a lot. The use of light and shadow is wonderful in this movie. The makeup is as good as anything you see today. These don’t look like people in cheap masks. They look like real Beastmen. The sets are lush and gorgeous and reek with dripping evil. It’s a great horror film and a superb example why pre-code films are so powerful even today. Give it a peek. You should watch this film if you like horror and science fiction.

Kathleen Burke plays Lota the Panther Woman who experiments with her new sexuality.

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