Writer Wednesday – Steven Shrewsbury

shrews

Who are you?
Steven L. Shrewsbury, I’ve written a slew of small press novels and had over 300 short stories published. There’s a rumor I’m Robert E. Howard reincarnated, but that’s just crazy talk.

What type of stuff do you write?
Hardcore S&S, fantasy and horror tales.

What do you want to pimp right now?
BORN OF SWORDS my latest novel from Seventh Star Press featuring my 700 year old merc Gorias La Gaul. It’s a kick ass S&S tale with a killer punchline. Also, WITHIN a horror novel from Black Bedsheet books featuring my albino spook agent Dack Shannon. AND…my collab with writer Brian Keene called KING OF THE BASTARDS., another hardcore S&S work from APEX Publications.

What is your favorite book? (or three)
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Hour of the Dragon by Robert E. Howard, Bloodstone by Karl Edward Wagner, Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Besides the author hat, what hats do you wear?
Dad, worker, smart ass advisor to the world

Where can we find you?
https://www.facebook.com/authorstevenshrewsbury
https://sshrewsbury.wordpress.com/

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Just Write.
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Just write.

Tell your story. Don’t try to impress your buddies or whoever you think will be reading this in 200 years. Get over yourself. Write. Don’t preach. You aren’t going to convert the masses to your personal belief system no matter how liberated or righteous. Just write. Tell your story and entertain. Make things happen, even it’s romance or mystery, don’t bore the be-Jesus out of folks. If you like the sound of your own voice that much, folks will figure it out and move on. Perhaps you think you’re special. Maybe you are. Please have others figure that out don’t announce it.

Be yourself. Don’t be Stephen King, Victoria Holt, George R R Martin or whoever writers the best smut out there. Be the next YOU. Figure out who you are. Find your voice. Keep it prisoner.

And then just write.

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Writer Wednesday – Peter Welmerink

    

Let’s start with the basics.  Who are you?

Welmerink, Peter.

Tell us (briefly) about you…

Quality Engineer by day. Family man by night. Writer whenever I can squeeze it in.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…

Most Epic Fantasy yarns until recent. BEDLAM UNLEASHED was the last Dark Fantasy piece I had written with Steven Shrewsbury. TRANSPORT is my foray into the Military Thriller/Action-Adventure genre. I have another Action-Thriller, RETURN TO STRANGE HOME also out now.

…and what you’re working on right now.

Writing this post for this blog and keeping my eyeballs moistened because I played MINECRAFT way too late last night.

What are your earliest book-related memories?

Harold and the Purple Crayon. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. So good I bought fresh copies when I had kids.

What are your three favorite books?

Of all-time? Conan the Barbarian (Howard). The Princess of Mars (Burroughs). Elric of Melnibone (Moorcock).

How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?

I read sporadically, usually have a few going at one time. Reading now: GANYMEDE by Cherie Priest, and MARKETING WITH TEETH by Michael Knost.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___

I am usually interrupted by my wife, my kids, the cats, or the siren call of MINECRAFT.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.

A favorite book, yes, re-read. A freshly written manuscript of your own, yes, re-read.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?

Very, is the reason why I am reading Cherie Priest’s Steampunk novel series.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?

Very likely. I recommended to a fellow writer that he read Chuck Wendig’s THE KICKASS WRITER. I so much so recommended it that I gave him my copy to borrow.

What do you look for in a good book?

Something that garbs me, throws me into the adventure, gets me emotional tied, drags me along behind it and leaves me tired and breathless when finished.

Why do you write?

It’s a disease. It’s therapeutic. It’s my passion. I have stories to tell. Like music, literature is immortal. I hope my work can be found in a dusty, musty old bookstore when I am long gone from this mortal plane.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?

Perhaps a rock-n-roll singer and really learn to play the acoustic guitar that is collecting dust in my bedroom.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Things all around me. Other books. Other writers. Movies. Video games.

What has writing taught you about yourself?

That I can actually do something pretty damn fun and cool (writing) if I set my mind to it.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?

My oldest boy thinks its very cool. My younger kids, just go along with it. (They probably think me insane.) My wife: definitely thinks I am insane. My mother: wonders where all my weird writing ideas come from. (I blame my parochial school upbringing. LOL)

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?

No, most people got us pegged appropriately…afflicted and possessed by the Muse.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?

Anyone can publish their stuff, but not everyone realizes that you still need to publish something polished and coherent for anyone else to be even vaguely interested. That means usually an outside editor (non-family or friend-related), re-writing, more editing, pulling your hair out, and polishing the turd until it gleams. (And according to Mythbusters, you can polish a turd.)

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?

I tend to write very flowery, purple-prosey and in passive voice. I have learned to change this all by dealing with good editors who, after they red line the piss out of my manuscript, I read their comments and learn.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?

I would like to get back involved writing Erik Bedlam material with author Steven Shrewsbury.

How do you deal with your fan base?

I conversate with them. Care about them outside the book stuff. I want them to be my friends, not just readers of my insane scribblings.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.

I like Strawberry Twizzlers, Ancient Age bourbon whiskey and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Not consumed together, mind you.

Anything else we should know?

My website is www.peterwelmerink.com. My TRANSPORT and other action-adventure book forays can be found at: www.grandrapidsaltered.blogspot.com. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter. I just got killed by a Creeper in MINECRAFT.

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Book Review – Postcards From Camp

TITLE: Postcards From Camp

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Simms Taback

FORMAT: Hardcover

PUBLISHED: 2011

Postcards From Camp is a story told entirely through the correspondence between Michael and his dad.

The book starts with Michael sending home a postcard about how his counselor is an alien or worse and his father must immediately get him, lest he die.  HALP!  Of course, his father doesn’t, instead he sends an encouraging word.  Through the letters, Good Ol’ Dad ends up talking Michael into staying, and, well, I’m sure you figure out that he ends up enjoying himself by the end of it.

When I saw this, I had to pick it up.  I love Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine books, and this has a similar presentation.  I like that the postcards from the kid look like a little kid did them, and the stuff from the father is typed and formal and proper.  It’s a perfect juxtaposition of the two.  [Also, that last sentence is totally true, but I seriously only put it in the review so I could write juxtaposition legitimately.  Sorry.]

Anyway, I think the book is adorable.   It’s a great book for a kid about to go to camp or somebody who really likes postcards or whatever like I do.  I think it’s totally worth the read.  5/5.

Book Review – Sex Changes by Christine Benvenuto

Sex Changes: A memoir of marriage, gender, and moving on
Christine Benvenuto
Hardback
2012

I’ve been reading more about transgender issues lately in an attempt to understand them better. I know a couple people that fall somewhere to the left of the male/female spectrum. When I found this book, I thought it would be an interesting take on the issue.
The author is a woman of some age (they never really told us, but I’m guessing about 40), who has three kids, Adam, Bibi and Lilly (not their real names), oh, and a husband, Tracy (not his real name), who is a woman trapped in a man’s body. The book picks up pretty much when he declares that to his wife.
Before I go any further with this review, a bit of a side note – I do believe firmly that I should refer to “Tracy” by whichever pronoun Tracy prefers, but since the book referred to Tracy as “he” the whole time, I’m going to as well, just to make the review all streamlined and stuff.
The book is done in three parts. Part one is called, originally, Part One. It deals with the author finding out what’s going on with her husband, and getting to the point where Tracy finally moves out. We find out that they’re Jewish, that they’ve spent much of their marriage living separately because of work and whatever, and that there are three kids. That’s about it.
And I have to say that I have never, ever, ever in my life read a memoir about a more unsympathetic twat in my life. I’m serious. I have no sympathy at any point in this book for this woman because of how she is. Keep in mind, this is how she’s telling her story, how she wants it known and (hopefully) how it really went down. And all I read in the first 120 pages or so was about a woman whose husband came to her with a statement (“I feel like I’m a woman trapped as a man”) and she said “no” and “don’t tell the kids.”
I’m not going to use this review to argue with how she should have handled the situation, one way or another, but before any of my readers get up in arms, remember that there’s a difference between playing along and having compassion, and I at least expected a little compassion. Yeah, I expected the “my marriage is over” part of things, and no, I never expected her to go dress shopping with Tracy (which she totally didn’t) but I did not, at any point prior to having the book in my hands, expect this to be the memoir of a woman who was all “I’m such a victim, feel bad for me!” about everything.
I read through to page 120, and all I could think was that I wanted to bean this chick with a baseball bat a few dozen times. And while I don’t at all agree with the way her husband went about being towards her during the transition, I can’t help but wonder if maybe a gram of compassion from Christine at any point could have softened the entire situation for all involved.
So I started trying to figure out why I hated this woman so much. Yes, a lot of it was her actions. “I couldn’t believe everyone was taking HIS side, but then again, we live in the Valley of the Politically Correct!” A lot of it was the fact that she had gone to the trouble of writing a memoir and had somehow managed to not put a detail about ANYTHING in this book. (No, I’m not asking for her street address, but I want some idea of what’s really going on other than her being Jewish in the Valley of the Politically Correct [her term] somewhere in, I think, New England, which is about as vague as saying you live “over yonder” and pointing while on vacation somewhere.)
Then there’s her style. Her style of speaking and doing and everything. At one point, the author is talking about her 8=year-old daughter. “I was in shock. I knew my little girl to be precociously verbal, but even so her words added shock to shock.” Wait. What? Or, another favorite. “Over the years, Lilly has become more articulate about her feelings. When she was six, she began to pontificate on the subject of having a dad who is a girl.”
It’s like the author was so busy telling us what her feelings should have been that she didn’t feel anything. There’s nothing at all comfortable about this woman. Nevermind the fact that she stripped out so much of anything, whatsoever that would have connected us with her…
We hear about the half-assed friendships she had (“it wasn’t until I lost these people that I realized I had never really been close to them”), how nobody cared about her because it wasn’t politically correct to do so, etc. I don’t know what she’s been doing in therapy all these years, but seriously, all she’s telling us is how much of a fucking victim she was through all of it, sad and alone and stuck with the kids. Nevermind the fact that she starts her damn story out by talking about how, because of work, she was often the only parent with the kids anyway.
Part 2 of the book is almost a totally different book the way its written. She finally gets to the part about how the kids are feeling, but again, we had to hear about her “precociously verbal” children and a load of other shit that just made me want to hit her.
At one point, she listed all the things she had to do in her day, starting with her 4:30 AM getting up to exercise while checking email and read the paper while listening to NPR. In this, she refers to the kids as Ms. 7 and Ms. 4 and Mr. 13 (o_O), talks about taking three kids to three schools in three cities, and even gives us about a third of a page on getting “Ms. 4” to the center of town to get the bus to the school that she’s teaching in that day. Now, I get it that lives get complicated the more people you’re responsible for. But your son is 13, which totally means he can get his own sorry ass up with an alarm clock, and if you’re so damn busy, why are you doing things like driving across town to get your kid to a bus to take her THE SAME PLACE YOU’RE GOING ANYWAY. Also, there’s a potty training incident, which makes me wonder why she doesn’t have a change of clothes and a box of wipes in the car for the kid (really, she had to take the kid home to wash her clothes?). Oh, and seriously, she put listening to the radio on this list, so…
Folks, life lesson. Don’t overcomplicate your life and then complain about it. Seriously. And this list was TWO PAGES LONG and barely covered her getting to work with just a sentence or so gloss over about her work day.
And again, it’s another example of the disconnect we get with this woman. She wrote her kids up as Ms. 7 and Mr 13. Who does that?

I marked page 192 because it’s the first time she really talks about dealing with Tracy on an emotional level and her acceptance/understanding/adjustment to the Trans issue. Up to this point, all she’d managed to do was tell him he couldn’t be a woman and have a few convos with the kids. It took almost 200 pages to get to a point where she talks about transgender issues as anything but a slight to her marriage.

So I’m giving this book a 2 for several reasons.
The first is that if I hadn’t been reviewing it and so hell-bent on getting to the end of this for some reason other than her victim mentality, I would have put it down before the second part. The fact is that if the entire memoir had had the feel of the 2nd part (and sort of the third, even though that’s sort of just summation), I would have like d it a whole lot more.
But the second reason is because of all the things this book is missing. I don’t care that she changed names (a fact that we had to read any time she named anybody – hello, make a note at the front) and that she wanted to protect herself (although the whole small town that she never moved out of knows what’s going on, so…), but you can’t strip everything and expect there to be anything left when you’ve finished. If she would have loosened up a bit and relaxed for a minute, we might have got something out of this that was helpful.
Really, don’t bother. Even if you’re in her situation, going it alone has got to be better than this.

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