Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reminder: Launching the Caliban Cycle

Tonight at midnight, the first installment of The Caliban Cycle goes live on Amazon Kindle. Just 99 cents for more than 30,000 words of mystery, Lovecraftian horror, occult detectives, Southern Gothic generational drama, ghosts, shapeshifters, Creek Indian and Christian belief systems, all intermingled into a page-turning and vivid adventure.

The Caliban Cycle is what I'm calling an ongoing series of novels about Tom Caliban, who doesn't get properly introduced until the beginning of Part 2, which will go live on Kindle Aug. 1. The first book is titled "Giants in the Earth," and will be serialized (in three segments released a month apart) through Sept. 1. Part One is "The Changeling."

>>Here's a collection of blogs about the series<<

>>Here's the Facebook page dedicated to the series<<

>>And here is the Kindle link in case you missed it above<<

Friday, June 12, 2015

Artist's Touch: Bonnie Tate's 'Journal Portraits'

Bonnie Tate
  • ‘Journal Portraits’
  • What: Exhibit of photographs by Bonnie Tate
  • Where: Bay County Public Library, 898 W. 11th St., Panama City
  • Details: 850-522-2100 or NWRLS.com
  • About the Artist: BonnieTatePhoto.com

PANAMA CITY — A hand covered in dirt gingerly clutches a snapshot of soldiers as, caught under the edge of a canteen, a journal page below it lists “Impressions of Khe Sanh.”

With the corner of a diary showing her daily chores, a woman kneads dough on a scratched butcher block, her rings and wristwatch carefully set aside.

These and other images designed to put the viewer in the heads of strangers — seeing the world through their eyes, with tantalizing glimpses of their secret lives — make up the compelling “Journal Portraits” exhibit of work by photographer Bonnie Tate.

“I think of them as mysterious,” Bonnie said. “I’ve always enjoyed pairing photography with storytelling, and making series of connected pictures. My favorite pictures are usually of and about people, or at least have a human element.”

On display at the Bay County Public Library in Panama City through the end of June, the photos were inspired by actual entries Bonnie discovered in journals and diaries she found in thrift shops and other locations.

“Being a diary keeper myself, I am interested in how we interpret the events of our lives and string them together into narratives,” Bonnie said. “These are stories we almost always keep to ourselves. I stage each moment using a loose mix of the author’s description and my imagination.”

Including the actual diary or a page from a journal in each photo creates an interesting merging of past and present, she said, adding, “It also passes on the personal nature of reading another’s private thoughts.”

Those personal insights — the little things, the details — are a recurring theme in Bonnie’s work.

“It is the idiosyncrasies, the quirks, the hint of a story, that create the urge for a picture,” she said in an entry on her website, speaking specifically of portraiture. “Tuning in to an individual’s specifics and recording them is in some way important.”

Bonnie’s father was a journalist, who often told her “the devil is in the details.” She developed an appreciation for specifics and nuances, and this carries over to how she approaches photography. She even has a series she’s working on that shows both God and “the Devil” can be found with a macro lens setting.

“In all of my projects, I approach image-making with an eye for life’s small details,” she said. “I am shooting and organizing this series of photos by season so that when viewed as a whole, the photos will suggest the movement of time, the passing of a year observed in the smallest of moments.”

A series of moves around the country eventually brought Bonnie to Bay County, but she turned that period of transience to her advantage by finding a variety of subjects for her lens. One such move to Texas resulted in a black-and-white series she calls “American Home.”

“With the nature of our time in each place being transitory, my idea of home takes on an ephemeral quality,” she says in a posting at her website (BonnieTatePhoto.com). “Our temporary Texas home was a summer lake house fully furnished with the odds and ends and memories of another family. 

Using the artifacts and surroundings that were not mine, I hoped to create an intimate yet slightly distant sensation that matched my experience.”

Bonnie initially studied creative writing at Florida State University, then went on to receive an MFA in photography at the University of Memphis.

“I got into creative photography when I started studying art at FSU, around 1999, right before the digital wave,” she said. “I had a few great teachers who got me looking at projects by other photographers and also the history of photography, which opened up the possibilities for me.”

She currently teaches photography classes at CityArts Cooperative and Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, and is also available for private lessons. For information on these or other classes, email bonnietatephoto@gmail.com, visit BonnieTatePhoto.com or call 850-238-2077.

“By nature the camera is cold,” she said. “I think that a glimpse of someone’s home, belongings, habits, makes a portrait a bit warmer and richer. Ultimately, I hope that each portrait taps into the unique mystery of the person in it.”

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Launching 'The Caliban Cycle'

I have made a Facebook page live today for getting out the word on my new series, THE CALIBAN CYCLE.

On this page, you will get regular updates on the series, which will be serialized on Kindle before being gathered into print editions. You'll find photographs of locations in the real world that inspired portions of the story, as well as media inspirations and more. You'll see artwork based on various iterations of the story (I've been rewriting it since I was 14). You'll see promotional artwork by the talented JOHN RUSSO, who is designing the covers, and others who contribute. You'll be invited to book launch events and readings, as well as given exclusive access to special content.

Book One of The Caliban Cycle is called GIANTS IN THE EARTH and details the circumstances of the birth and childhood of Thomas Michael Caliban, possessing the power of a modern-day Merlyn, and destined to become either a force for light or darkness in the world. The novel was a quarter-finalist in last year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. Some of the reviews included:

"Beautiful writing, really terrific. Love the description of the car crash and its immediate aftermath.
Sweet character-building for Arthur Magus. ... Super beginning to what promises to be a great story. Really looking forward to reading it."

"The writing is great, it really shines. ... I'm stumped. I can't find anything weak about it. ... This is a very well written piece. As long as the rest of the book is as strong as this excerpt, it could go to print right now and I'd want to read it. From the use of italics to the unhurried pacing and switching of story back and forth between characters, the whole thing is quite a treat."

Part One: THE CHANGELING, will be published to Kindle on July 1, and an exclusive print edition of The Changeling will be available Aug. 1 at Panama City CreativeCon to mark that day's e-publication of Part Two: THE CHILD.

>>Read more about the series in these blog entries<<

Monday, June 08, 2015

Fiction Fest Photo Blog

Here are some photos from Fiction Fest @  Friday Fest, which took place at Books By The Sea on June 5:
A good turnout for 8 (or 9?) local authors.

Jayson Kretzer
Carole Allen Bailey

Janeen O'Kerry
Jack Saunders
Shannon, sitting in for author
Chuck Barrett (who had a signing in PC the next daybought my latest novel.
Chuck with Ruth, left, and Carole

Chuck, Ruth, Carole & Debi Barrett

Hal, left, and Milinda Jay Stephenson with Wayne Garrett

Friday, June 05, 2015

PC native ‘Blown’ home for book launch

When: 4-7 p.m. Saturday, June 6
Where: Twisted Brew Coffee House, 103 W. 23rd St., Suite E7, Panama City
What: Author Chuck Barrett will be on hand to sign books and discuss writing his latest thriller novel featuring Agent Gregg Kaplan, “Blown” (Switchback Press, 337 pages, $16.95)

PANAMA CITY — Lofted on the winds of indie publishing success, author Chuck Barrett returns to his old stomping grounds this weekend to celebrate the launch of his latest thriller novel, “Blown.”

Barrett will be at Twisted Brew Coffee House, 103 W. 23rd St., 4-7 p.m. Saturday, and will speak briefly about how the particular characters in “Blown” came to be and which real-life persons were inspirations or became characters in the book.

Chuck Barrett
“This is a much larger scale publicity push than I have ever done in the past and is designed to hopefully enlighten a lot of readers that many indie authors can and do produce stories just as good or better than those select few traditionally published powerhouses,” Barrett said. “Always the same names on the New York Times bestseller list!”

“Blown” marks the beginning of a new series focusing on protagonist Gregg Kaplan, who appeared as a supporting character in Barrett’s first two novels, “The Savannah Project” and “The Toymaker.” 

He said this book was a case of a character demanding a story.

“While writing ‘The Savannah Project,’ I realized I wanted to have a Gregg Kaplan series as well as a Jake Pendleton series,” Barrett said. “Their styles are drastically different, so it is fun changing things up. The idea for the story is about two years old and seemed appropriate for Kaplan’s rough and tumble style.”

No ordinary man, Kaplan has special skills, courtesy of the U.S. government. Assigned to stay off the grid, he innocently stumbles into a blown witness protection detail in Little Rock, Ark., and can’t walk away from the impending mayhem. After the dust settles, a mortally wounded Deputy U.S. Marshal makes Kaplan promise to personally deliver the witness to a safe site.

“Not just a promise, an oath,” Barrett said in describing the plot. “A pledge between ex-Army Delta Force comrades. A trust that could not be broken — once in, never out.”

Though he has lived in Fernandina Beach for 30 years, Barrett grew up in Panama City, living mostly in the Cove neighborhood, but then on State Avenue during high School. He attended Jinks Middle School and Bay High School before transferring to Mosley High. His parents still live in Lynn Haven.

“I graduated from Mosley in 1975 — first graduating class from the then-brand new school,” he said. “So technically, I went to Bay High for 10th grade and Mosley for 11th and 12th since there was no Mosley when I was in 10th grade.”

A retired air traffic controller, Barrett is a frequent visitor back to Bay County, and recently has been a featured author at the annual BooksAlive festival sponsored by the Bay County Public Library. He also conducts seminars on the art of self-publishing based on his book, “Publishing Unchained: An Off-Beat Guide To Independent Publishing.”

Barrett’s novel “Breach of Power” won the 2013 Indie Excellence Award in Political Thrillers, and was a finalist in the 2013 International Book Awards Thriller/Adventure category. “The Toymaker” was a finalist in the 2013 International Book Awards Thriller/Adventure and Mystery/Suspense categories.

“Don’t worry, the Jake Pendleton series is still alive,” Barrett assured fans. “The book after ‘Blown’ is another Jake Pendleton book. The plan is to alternate series for a while. Jake will return in 2016.”

Fiction Fest during Friday Fest

(Note: My News Herald colleague Jan Waddy produced this story about tonight's book signing event for the Friday Entertainer insert.)

Books By The Sea / Jan Waddy Photo

What: Book signing/meet and greet with eight local authors
When: 6-8 p.m. during Friday Fest
Where: Books By The Sea, 558 Harrison Ave., Panama City
Details: Facebook: Fiction Fest at Friday Fest!

Friday Fest takes place from 6-10 p.m. the first Friday of every month along Harrison Avenue in downtown Panama City with bands, classic cars, extended business hours and vendors.

PANAMA CITY — Fantasy becomes reality for book lovers during Fiction Fest on Friday at Books by the Sea.

From 6-8 p.m. during Friday Fest, the bookstore is hosting a group book signing and meet-and-greet with eight local and regional authors in several genres.

“It just kind of grew organically,” said News Herald writer Tony Simmons, who first approached the Books by the Sea owner about doing an event.

Though authors already were scheduled, Simmons said, “I don’t mind them being there if they don’t mind us being there.”

Simmons (TonySimmons.info) will showcase his horror/sci-fi novel “This Mortal Flesh,” which was inspired by a dream — or rather a nightmare.

“I awoke from the dream only seconds into it, as I came to realize that I was not only surrounded by the undead, but I was one of them. I looked around at the carnage, realized what my future held ... and woke up, thinking, ‘This would make a cool story,’” he wrote in a March blog (TonySimmons.blogspot.com).

He will join the living on Friday with fellow authors Milinda Jay, Jayson Kretzer, Mark Douglas Jr., Raven H. Price, Janeen O’Kerry, Carole Allen Bailey and Kyra Clark.

Though the authors’ books are in different genres, they will all be at a large table in one spot.

“One idea was to have them in different sections, but separating people is not as fun as having everyone together,” said Books by the Sea owner Donald Ramsey.

Ramsey, born in Panama City and raised in Niceville, got back to his roots about five years ago when he took over the bookstore. Books by the Sea relocated to its new location across the street just over a year ago.

Books by the Sea features “mostly used”  books and selections from local authors when he gets them. Ramsey enjoys fiction, though admits he is usually reading “some kind of educational book.”

Jay (MilindaJay.com), an English teacher at Florida State University-Panama City, published “His Celtic Princess” in January, a prequel to 2014’s “Her Roman Protector.” Proceeds from “His Celtic Princess,” which has an element of Christian faith, support church missions such as Anchorage Children’s Home in Panama City.

O’Kerry’s “Lady of Fire” also combines history and romance.

Douglas (MarkDouglasJr.WordPress.com) rediscovered a love of story telling while reading aloud and dramatizing novels, such as the Percy Jackson series, to his Surfside Middle School students. Like Simmons’ novel, Douglas’ 2014 “The Prophet of the Dragon,” a fantasy novel with Christian themes, was inspired by a dream.

Kretzer, a comics artist/writer, will have copies of his latest “Wannabe Heroes” (Facebook.com/wannabeheroes).

“I think it’s just a real cool event,” said Kretzer, who established Creative Con at the Bay County Public Library.

Creative Con returns to Gulf Coast State College on Aug. 1.

“This is more centered around reading,” Kretzer said. “I am excited to be a part of it. I will have both the first and second issue of ‘Wannabe Heroes,’ a super hero action comedy comic for kids and adults alike, and my comic strip book on hand as well. At a lot of events I’ve done, the parents come and the kids aren’t super excited until they see kids’ books.”

For those who are interested in digital copies, Issue No. 2 also released on ComiXology on Wednesday.

“I’m kinda torn to be honest,” Kretzer admitted, when asked if he preferred print or digital comics. “I still love the smell of a brand new comic book, but being able to take my entire comic book collection with me anywhere is nice. I’m spoiled — want it both ways.”

If you want to find out more about publishing in the digital age, this also would be a good chance to do that.

“All of the authors are independently published or self published so they would be good resources for someone who wanted to come in and talk about the process,” Simmons added.

Clark has released the first of her series, “Oasis: An Awakening.”  Price, a Georgia author, has written a fantasy romance, “The Chosen,” and Bailey — born and raised in South Carolina — is right at home with her Southern novel “The Lady and Her Porch” (PorchLady.net).

Though the authors’ writing styles and inspirations differ, reading is where it all begins.

“Reading is one of the most important things in life, the main way to get an education. Not all things are available electronically,” Ramsey said. “For me, personally, I love the book in hand even though I enjoy the convenience of electronics.”

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Comics, heroes magically lead to reading

Who'd've thunk?
SOMEWHERE IN THE GULF OF MEXICO — My geek flag flew unashamedly last week during a cruise to Mexico with my family. I won a ship on a stick — a shipskabob — as much for my deep and abiding knowledge of comic book lore as for my ability to tell people what they think they want to hear.

The emcee, presenting me with the trophy, pointed out my “Star Trek” T-shirt, and I pointed out I was also holding an old Doc Savage paperback. (In my defense, I came to the contest directly from the pool deck, where I had been reading in between dips in the salt water. If I’d had time to change, I would have worn my Wonder Woman shirt instead).

“Yes, I am a true geek,” I said.

Another aside: The only reason I didn’t tie for the win with my son was because he wrote down the actual correct answers, while I wrote down the nearly-correct answers I believed the emcee was looking for. We will share the trophy.

We had a good showing for the cruise: My daughter won the Harry Potter trivia contest earlier in the week — which included a sudden-death(ly hallows) tie breaker — and received a matching plastic cruise ship simulacrum.

The wins can be attributed to one thing: We love to read. We prefer stories steeped in imagination and heroism, but we also love the beauty of the word under a poet’s hand, the truth of a tale well told.

I can easily point to comic books as my gateway drug to being a life-long reader (and writer). And it’s why I’m excited to see the Northwest Florida Regional Library’s summer reading programs: the Bay County libraries are using super heroes (as well as non-super powered everyday heroes) and comic books to lead kids into reading.

•“Heroes Read!” is a series of sessions suggested for children ages 6 and younger, and includes family storytime, talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. Topics include What’s Your Superpower?, Animal Heroes, and Heroes Live @ Your Library.

•“Every Hero Has a Story” is for kindergarten through grade 5, and incorporates books with art, crafts, special guests and professional entertainment. The sessions include topics like “Mad Scientists.”

•“Unmask!” is suggested for students in grades 6-12. It includes self-directed maker spaces, props, crafts, technology support and a readers’ theater.

For dates, times and other details, check the library nearest you: Panama City Beach Library, 12500 Hutchison Blvd., Panama City Beach (233-5055); Bay County Public Library, 898 W. 11th St., Panama City (522-2118); and Springfield Public Library, 408 School Ave., Springfield (872-7510). Or for a full schedule, visit NWRLS.com

Before you know it, these kids will graduate from reading illustrated stories, to writing their own, making art, shooting photos, directing movies — finding their own paths to creativity and imagination. That’s the goal.

Winning a plastic trophy is just for bragging rights.