Why the Distinction? – A guest post by Kristine Raymond

Featured Image -- 1907

 

Why the distinction?

A photographer takes pictures, builds a portfolio, and opens a studio.

An artist paints day and night, assembles a collection, and hosts a showing at a local gallery.

A musician rehearses for months in his band mate’s garage, records an album, and releases it under his own label.

An author writes for hours, agonizing over every word, edits and polishes the manuscript, then self-publishes and… wait. What? They self-publish?? Shock and horror abound.

When I tell people I’m an author, the first question I’m almost always asked is “Who’s your publisher?” Why does that matter? I’m asking; in the general scheme of things, why does the name of the publisher I list on my creation matter anymore than the name you put on yours? Why is what I create deemed inferior because it lacks the stamp of approval from a recognizable publishing house?

Your picture is slightly out of focus. There’s a smear on the right hand corner of your canvas. That last chord was off-key. You adjust, you fix your mistakes, and your next project is better than the last. Humans learn by doing; by pushing themselves to evolve, to master new techniques, to perfect their masterpiece.

Authors are no different; self-published or not. We make mistakes, and we fix them. We hone our skill and write a better story. Being self-published does not make us less than. Rather, it takes an immense amount of courage to release our creations to the world, to have them studied and critiqued and, oftentimes, ridiculed. We’re no different than any other artist out there, yet self-published authors are looked down upon, even by those in the same circles.

So, I ask again; why the distinction?

Yes, the process for publishing a book has become, for lack of a better word, easy. Anyone can do it; and it doesn’t necessarily have to cost money, depending on the product the author is comfortable selling. But artists sell their paintings on Etsy and musicians sell their music on CD Baby. What’s the difference? Outlets for creative work are available for a reason; because real talent was going unrecognized by those guarding the gates.

Are my books all that? I leave it to my readers to decide. Will I, one day, be able to add the title of best-selling author to my books? Time will tell. It would be nice, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not the reason I self-publish. I discovered a hidden well of creativity inside me, a true enjoyment for writing, and, truth be told, I like just letting the words flow. More importantly, I like writing them my way, without someone standing over me critiquing this or deleting that. I had enough of that during my school years.

I believe creativity is subjective. Different is good. Writing a story shouldn’t be like fixing a carburetor. It’s not the formulaic process many believe. It’s an art form; words are the medium rather than film or paint or notes.

So, do me a favor. Please stop equating self-publishing with less than. Please stop undervaluing the time and effort I put into my art. Will what I release ten years from now be better than what I released last month? I sure as hell hope so. I have no desire to churn out the same thing over and over. I want to learn new techniques, apply them to my work, craft something beautiful and worthy of awe. What artist doesn’t?

Good or bad, I’m shaping my own future, and the responsibility as such lies squarely on my shoulders. You know what? I can live with that.

Now, go create something beautiful …
~ Kristine Raymond

Connect with Kristine on her blog www.kristineraymond.com

There you’ll find out about her books and can sign up for her newsletter.

My Year in Books

It’s that time again, when with the help of Goodreads I can look over my favorite books of the last year.

At the end of 2014 the 8 books I chose as my favorites were a 50/50 split between traditionally published and indie published authors. You can read last year’s selections here. This year there are more indies than trad published titles.

Now according to Goodreads I read 34 books in 2015. Here is a summary of my favorites in no particular order. Click on the covers to read my original reviews on Goodreads. All the books I’m highlighting here I gave either 4 or 5 stars to.

I began the year with a wonderful book I received for my birthday from my good friend, Larry.

Bob

I adored this book and have since shared it with my husband and my son and would really love some day to have a chance to meet James and Bob. Look out for the movie that should be coming out sometime in the next year and read the book, seriously guys read the book!

Imminent Danger  ChasingNonconformity

I began and ended the year with Michelle Proulx’s wonderful Imminent Danger series. As an avid Douglas Adams fan I adore Proulx’s fast paced and funny space opera and anxiously await book 3.

Menyoral

Next on the list is a joyous quirky fantasy by indie author, M.A. Ray. I read books one and two this year along with a number of M.A. Ray’s companion short stories. The third book and M.A. Ray’s new book, The High King’s Will are on my reading list for 2016.

GraveyardBook

I cannot go a year without reading a Neil Gaiman book, and this year it was it the delightful tale of Nobody Owens and how “it takes a graveyard to raise a child.” One of Gaiman’s best.

voodoobutterfly

Just look at that cover folks! Voodoo Butterfly is the only book I have ever bought on the strength of its cover. It’s mesmerizing. As is the story that immerses you into the world of Voodoo in New Orleans.

TheBazaar

I read quite a few books during my annual summer trip to visit my mother in Israel, but this was the one that stood out the most. Jen Ponce creates a kick-ass heroine in Devany Miller and I look forward to continuing the series in 2016.

LostDoors

Talking of series – this year Misha Burnett bid farewell to James and Catskinner in the final book of the The Book of Lost Doors, Gingerbread Wolves. For those of you who like speculative fiction that doesn’t quite fit into anyone pigeonhole, I encourage you to check out Misha’s books.

GuidingCouncil

Bigfoot, check. Unicorn, check. Vampire, check. What if all those myths and many more were true, and what if they’re kind of getting out of control. Mike Wolff’s Guiding Council was a fun romp that reminded me a fair bit of a Pratchett tale (a huge compliment as I love Pratchett). I’m looking forward to book 2 which I recently downloaded for my tablet.

SchoolofDeaths

Sometimes when you read a book, you know it’s going to take off and you’re excited about being one of the first to discover the next big thing! That’s how I felt reading Christopher Mannino’s School of Deaths. A must for lovers of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or might I say, P.A.W.S.!

So that’s it – my favorite books of those I read in 2015. So Happy New Year folks and Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Sins of the Past – Cleve Sylcox

Cleve

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born the youngest of thirteen children. My mother was pure Irish. Her father was a Newell and her mother a Sample. She had pure hazel eyes and temper to match. My father was from a line of tough rugged country folk who were self-reliant but bonded in tight family clusters. Ironically, my father was born on 12/13/12. I was his thirteenth child, born 2/9/58. We were not rich, but not dirt poor. My father by the time I was born worked at McDonald Douglas in St. Louis working as an assembler. We didn’t have a lot of anything, but what we did have was a lot of was books. There were all kinds and I loved reading Life and Time magazines along with the encyclopedias given to us from various families. I fell in love with Sci-Fi and Mysteries. No particular author. My bedtime was ten o’clock on school nights and I slept in a corner of the basement containing a bed, chest of drawers, and nightstand with a light. I would stay up for hours reading whatever I could find. I wrote most of my earlier stories in school, and did not publish a book until 2004. Scants (later to become Nucor) was 526 pages of Sci-Fi excitement. Since then I have written sixteen more in various genres. 

  1. Who are your favorite authors?

 I do not have a favorite author. I’ve read many from Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and many other popular authors. I read like to read in various genres.

 If I had to choose one over them all it would be M.J. Pike. She writes romantic ghost stories with an elegant twist.

 Sci-Fi I like, Saxton Andrew, T.R. Harris, Suzy Stewart Dubolt, and Michael Thomas.

Detective Mystery Noir – Russell Blake, Billy Kring, Donna Blanchard McNicol, Stephen Thomas, Kathleen Steed, Nick Russell, George Weir, and Jason Deas.

Fantasy – Robert Thomas, John Daulton, Randall Morris, C. Crag Colman, and John Salter.

Horror— Brandon Hale, Corrie Fischer Stout, Shaorn Delarosa, Kate Aaron, Chris Ward, and Andy Downs.

 And this list is the tip of the ice berg- AJ Rose, Valrie Chandler, Steven Hammond, Nick Pesci, Cameron Lowe, Ella Medler, KS Haigwood, Holli Marie Spaulding, Jay Allan, Michael Edwards, Nick Thomas, Robbie Taylor, Miranda Stork, Ben Cassidy, Beck Bee, Sam Neumann, Pinkston, Eddie Boggs, Jess Mountifield, Colleen Hoover, Dale Roberts, Karen Davison, Mike Meyer, Len Du Randt, Albert Benson, Liz Miller, James Rozoff, Molly Pendelton, Carol Cadoo, Mona Mellissa, Jacques Duvoisin, Stephen Arsenault, Suzie O’Connell, Scott Langrel, Lindsay Sabbarton, Shirley Bouget, Nancy Furner, Elizabeth Moore, Stephen Scott, Newsome, Debbie Manber Kupfer, and so many others.

 If you write it, I will read it. 

  1. Tell us a bit about your story, The Innocent?

The Innocent is about a returning Vietnam War hero who finds home not so different from the jungles of Southeast Asia. A mob awaits his return and seeks revenge for the massacre of My Lai. It is a first person narrative in the voice of the returning GI. The first draft contained a lot of cursing in an attempt to express a true representation of a battle harden soldier returning home. The language was toned down for the sake of the anthology. I enjoyed the research and learned far more than I wished too and even though this was a short piece, I hold it dear to my heart. 

  1. If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?

If I could go undetectable from those I was observing, then break out the cart-blanche and take me back to all the events with a brief rest bit to research and chronologically record each event free from government or scholarly scrutiny. If I had to choose one though, it would be, beyond a doubt, the time of Jesus, from birth until the day of ascension.  

  1. What attracts you to writing horror?

Back in the days of black and white television, vampires, werewolves, and Frankenstein ruled the night. Sometimes, I would sneak upstairs and flip on the TV to watch the late, late show on our local CBS channel. They always had something exciting like The Blob, The Thing, The Mummy, The Hand, The Fly, and of course the before mentioned staples. I was addicted to being scared and in turn wanted everyone to be scared just like me. Boo…  

  1. Tell us a little about your books. I see you like to delve into many different genres.

Yes, I like writing in various forms. I am hyperactive and have a habit of wandering from one genre to another. I get bored easily. So, I write some on Nucor and finish the saga, then write on David Winter Mysteries, then on another project. It is a constant cycle of writing and creativity. I am never bored with writing, but with the story line and switching from one to another helps me to maintain focus and my writing is always fresh and clean, rather than becoming old and stagnant. I never want to become someone who writes just for the sake of completing a series or because he feels he has to. I love writing and hope that alongside me on my deathbed there is my laptop opened to a story requiring my attention. Of course my wife and sons would there be too, I hope. 

  1. Are you planning to write a story for Sins of the Future? Any hints about your story?

No, I have three projects in the works and I have very little time to devote to any anthology. However, I will be making the cover. 

  1. What do you like to do to relax?

I watch Jeopardy, read, do yard work, cook, take long drives, fish, walk along the rivers, pet my dog, talk with my wife and make love to her. I have also been known to go up on the roof at night and just lay there looking up at the stars. I dislike television but love movies. 

  1. What are you currently working on?

I have several projects at various stages of completion.

One is the fourth book of the Nucor series called, Nucor—Season of the Androids. I am five chapters into it and I am so excited and anxious to see this saga unfold. Really is a thriller. 

 The first book of the David Winters Mystery series, Fly Paper Soup is in edit with outstanding reviews from all who have beta read it. (I’m one of those beta readers, and confirm it’s a wonderful story – DMK) The second book, Recluse is in production and it promises to be a great companion to book one.

  Then there is Cern – The God Particle. I cannot tell you how enthusiastic I am about this story. It has everything from espionage, to demon elfs, LSD, ENT, Et’s, So much coming at me so fast that sometimes I can’t pull myself away from it.

 I just launched Nucor-Invasion in Audiobook form. Soon, I will have Death in Gravely Falls on Audiobook.

At the moment that is all I have going.  

CleveBooks

 

  1. How can readers connect with you?

There are several ways.

My Blog— http://www.csylcox.com

Facebook— https://www.facebook.com/clevesylcoxauthor?ref=bookmarks

Twitter— @csylcox

Amazon— http://www.amazon.com/Cleve-Sylcox/e/B00GW8AECS

Banes and Noble— http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/cleve+sylcox/_/N-8q8/?No=0&Nrpp=40

Itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/cleve-sylcox/id509703132?mt=11

 

Or you can email me for a signed copy cssylcox@charter.net

Want to read a little of Cleve’s story, The Innocent? Sure you do!

November 1969

A plane lands at LAX on a cool November morning. GIs are returning home after fighting in Vietnam. They look forward to home cooked meals, seeing love ones, and sleeping on a soft mattress. To some though, returning home is nothing more than a continuation of a war they hate. Take Reuben Weston for instance. He served his country well from his enlistment in Nov. 1966 to his discharge in Nov. 1969. In that stretch he was wounded three times in Vietnam, rose to Platoon Sergeant, saved countless lives, and was well respected among the troops despite his rough and tough attitude. This story could very well be titled, “In the wrong place at the wrong time.” For Sergeant Weston, it is just that.

  • §§

The wind whips at my back as I debark the 707 at LAX. I wear khakis. It is the uniform of the day, my last day, because as soon as my foot touches the asphalt I will be a civilian. My name tag above my right pocket reflects the sun. Reuben Weston, it reads. A damn good name. Two of my three medals, Distinguished Service, and a Purple Heart, flop around beneath my service ribbons above my left pocket as I make my way down the ramp.

I am the first black soldier ever awarded the third medal, the prestigious medal of Blackism – made from a beer can top cut into the shape of a middle finger with a makeshift pin glued to the back. It would be the last beer I’d drink in the bush. My platoon gave it to me the last night I was with ’em, in Damn Nam. It means more to me than the other two put together. Blackism, I must’ve been pretty drunk to come up with that.

To say I’m glad to be off that rotten plane is an understatement. Civilian jets suck. I’m a GI, oval drab to the bone. Why they flew me home in one of those is beyond me. Meat job General’s idea I bet, maybe some congressmen’s idea of rewarding our fine soldiers for a job well done? Well, screw’em! I’m home now and they can have their uniform.

I earned my stripes, every last stinking one of ’em. Arrived in Nam as a, ‘right off the farm, piece of know-nothing crap.’ I was green but learned quick. No thanks to those politicians in D.C. What’s the matter with all those morons in DC?  Really, what isn’t wrong with ’em?

They sent us off to the land of the gooks, and we got our ass kicked because of bureaucratic bull. Don’t fire until fired upon, don’t cross this line and that. Stay put until we tell you to advance. Who the hell is ‘we’, anyhow?

Wasn’t like that in the jungle, no sir. We were the judge and jury of the gooks. The giants rule the land. We are the conquering heroes who drove the black pajamas across the DMZ into Laos and Cambodia. The south was clean in ‘66. Then those cameras started following us around. Hell, we tossed one camera man and his gear into the swamps. None of those gooks were ever gonna escape back north, at least not on our watch.

In ‘67 those regulations came down and tied our hands. We couldn’t fight like aggressors anymore. We couldn’t fight like we had too. They stuck us in camps deep in the jungle and on top of hills. Nothing happened for weeks at a time, nothing. We smoked pot, and screwed every whore we could, some of the guys were bangin’ each other. We called ’em Jill’s, and the name stuck.

Some of the lucky units saw some action. They pushed the gooks to the DMZ and our armors pounded them for three straight days. The Ho Chi Min trail across the DMZ was blown to bits, and then the aerial attacks bombed them everyday for weeks. I saw a tank bounce three feet off the ground two miles away from the damn trail. Three feet! It didn’t matter. At night those little bush babies were filling in the holes.

Our patrols reported large movements of men and ammo to the south along the trail. By the time we got there, they were gone. They crawled into their holes like rats or vanished into the jungle like ghosts.

Jan of ’68, the Tet Offensive…gooks were all around us and we didn’t even know it. All hell broke loose on January 30, 1968. The Tet Offensive began.

Early in the morning they attacked everywhere in South Vietnam. There was supposed to be a cease-fire ’cause of New Year or some crap. I don’t know. We got our butts handed to us. Those bastards were in the wire…in the wire! All over us. I fought till early morning, hand to hand. I had blood all over me and none of it mine.

A lot of good soldiers died that night. It didn’t stop there. In some areas their attacks were like bugs hitting a windshield, they didn’t make a dent. Other places they were fleas on a hound’s back. Saigon and Hue, those two took a long time, nearly a month, to clean out. The Cong even held the US Embassy in Saigon for eight hours.

Near the end of February, they assigned me to a bunch of greenhorn rookies. Charlie Company arrived in theater, December of ‘67, they hadn’t seen any action. Tet was popping all over the country in Jan of ’68 and this unit missed out, lucky dicks. I was assigned as a Platoon Sergeant and given orders to sweep the jungles west of a group of villages near Mai Lai.

I looked at this ragtag group of potheads and said move out. Worst bunch I had ever seen. Simple shit-like quiet maneuvers, securing gun straps and no smoking, they couldn’t do. Drunk, high, they were the walking dead and didn’t know it.

War has a way of cleaning the gunk out of the can. By mid-March, 28 of em’ were wounded because of mines or booby-traps, and five dead.

Cong never came knocking. That’s what frustrated us and made us angry. Charlie Company was sent to find gooks and Cong, and kill as many of the black pajama’s as we could. All we found were tunnels and villages that we knew, we just knew, were Cong but we couldn’t prove it, and we moved on. These villages, our intelligence said, had VC crawling all over them but we found nothing. Not even a dirty black pajama.

Then intelligence told us of a hold-up of Viet Cong in and around a tiny village of Mai Lai. We were given orders like I had never seen before. They said kill all suspected Viet Cong. Even civilians, if they ran, would be considered hostile. Our unit would follow the main assault. We swept the countryside first clearing out huts and setting them afire. Anyone we suspected of being VC, we rounded up and pushed forward. No shooting, just simple snatch and burn. As we got closer to the village, we could hear gun fire and see smoke rising. The radio was going crazy with talk of Cong all over the place. Several of our prisoners took off and we dropped them before they made it ten feet. Before I knew it, I saw soldiers from a different outfit shooting civilians and raping women. I ordered my men to stand down. I even threatened to blow their heads off if they started that. They listened alright, because they knew I wasn’t bluffing.

As we advanced through the village, we witnessed huts set on fire with civilians still inside. We saw whole families shot to hell. In a ditch we passed countless men and women dead or dying. I sent our medic to care for the wounded, but they were pushed back at gun point and told to back off. A lieutenant and sergeant fired into the ditch with .45s.

At another ditch, a helicopter landed and its gunner stared down a squad who were going to kill the men, women, and children. We helped the helicopter crew load as many wounded aboard as possible, and then we held our position protecting those still alive. A helicopter gunship forced its way between fleeing refugees and their American pursuers to end the carnage.

We heard rumors of hundreds dead and even more wounded. I don’t know how many died. The military doesn’t even know. All I know is many were killed and the rest will never forget. To top it all off, they only found two AK47s. Two. With maybe three Viet Cong identified.

As George Carlin said, ‘Military intelligence is an oxymoron.’ Military intelligence got us into it, but it cried foul and played dead when their house of cards tumbled.

Read more in Sins of the Past – pick up your copy today!

Sins Of The Past