The War of Art

In my advice to writers, there are two books I always recommend. One is On Writing by Stephen King, the other is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Immediately after I first read the latter, I plopped down and wrote my first novel, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, and I re-read it regularly (easy to do, as it’s a short book).

Pressfield’s deal is getting us to overcome the resistances within ourselves and just getting down to the friggin’ work. His book is a self-help book that’s really helpful and not full of homilies and crap like “You are the captain of your own ship.”

(Which a therapist once told me in what was, inevitably, our one and only session because I damn near laughed in her face).

I recently became aware of Pressfield’s blog for writers, Writing Wednesdays, and it should be required reading for anyone wanting to make it in the arts.

Here’s one gem I found there:

The Muse, if she’ll forgive me, is kind of like a mailman. She makes her rounds every day, cruising past our offices and studios and peeking in the window. Are we there at our easels? The Muse likes that. She likes to see us taking care of business. And if we’re there with our hearts breaking or tears streaming down our cheeks, all the better. The Muse says to herself, “This poor bastard is true to me; I’m gonna give him something in return for his loyalty.”

And into our heads pops the solution to Act Two, the bridge to that song we couldn’t lick, the breakthrough concept for our new philanthropic venture.

The lesson is, if you’re not at the place you do the work, at least trying to do the work, the work won’t happen. And if you are there, and getting down to business, you will discover wondrous things, gifts from the Muse, that will surprise you and enrich both you and the work itself.

But you’ve gotta be working for it to work.

The Future of Doc Wilde

I conceived of the adventures of Doc, Wren, and Brian Wilde as a series, starting with Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom. That was the plan. As a writer, I decided, I am in the Doc Wilde business.

Putnam also saw the Wildes as a potential series, but largely avoided talking about that. They are, after all, a business. Profits must be made, books must be balanced. So they understandably played it close to the vest, waiting to see how Frogs of Doom did, both critically and commercially.

I kept with my plan, continuing to work on Wilde stuff, figuring that even if Putnam ultimately didn’t opt to publish more, I’d find some way to get these adventures out there.

As anyone who’s been following the reviews of the book knows, the Wildes have been extremely well received by the critics. I literally had one sort of negative review, and even it largely praised the book, though it wasn’t the writer’s cup of tea. Even Kirkus Reviews, which is notoriously tough, had only good things to say (Novelist Kimberly Derting commented “I’m awed, you’ve cracked the Kirkus code!”)

(Feel free to visit the Reviews page at the Doc Wilde website.)

As for sales… Continue reading

Why I Will NOT Read Your Stuff

“Do these jeans make me look fat?”

That’s the classic relationship question that has only one answer, unless you want to hurt the asker’s feelings. And largely, the asker wants that one answer. The reassurance. They’re not really looking for the asked to use their critical eye, not wanting raw, unflinching honesty.

This, precisely, is how the overwhelming majority of wannabe writers/artists/musicians ask for critique of their work. Continue reading

O those tea baggers and their lil white lies!

Desperate to paint their cause in epic colors, the tea baggers released this image of their protest over the weekend. Pretty impressive. Look how they swamp the national mall, like neurons in the pathways of a brain. Well, a brain possessed by someone other than a tea bagger, anyway.

crowdWell. (“a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters and editors from the Times fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups and rate them on our Truth-O-Meter…”) ran down the facts about this photo, and about the baggers’ claims of multitude:

We spoke with Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Department, who said that the local government no longer provides official crowd estimates because they can become politicized. That said, on the morning of Sept. 12, Piringer unofficially told one reporter that he thought between 60,000 and 75,000 people had shown up.

So, not quite a couple of million. And the photo?

“It was an impressive crowd,” he said. But after marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol the crowd “only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street,” he said.

Yet the photo showed the crowd sprawling far beyond that to the Washington Monument, which is bordered by 15th and and 17th Streets.

There’s another big problem with the photograph: it doesn’t include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth St. and Independence Ave. that opened on Sept. 14, 2004. (Looking at the photograph, the building should be in the upper right hand corner of the National Mall, next to the Air and Space Museum.) That means the picture was taken before the museum opened exactly five years ago. So clearly the photo doesn’t show the “tea party” crowd from the Sept. 12 protest.

Also worth noting are the cranes in front of the Natural History Museum (the second building from the lower left of the National Mall). According to Randall Kremer, the museum’s director of public affairs, “The last time cranes were in front was in the 1990s when the IMAX theater was being built.”

That makes the picture at least a decade old.

That means the trumpeted count, and the picture, are about as accurate as most information offered up by these people. And lying is apparently very much a right-wing value. Like greed and intolerance.

The Simple Health-Care Solution

In an editorial for the Washington Post, Sen. George S. McGovern (1972 presidential candidate who lost to Nixon, and boy that worked out, didn’t it?) offers up a simple, smart, elegant solution to our national health-care nightmare:

If we want comprehensive health care for all our citizens, we can achieve it with a single sentence: Congress hereby extends Medicare to all Americans. Those of us over 65 have been enjoying this program for years. I go to the doctor or hospital of my choice, and my taxes pay all the bills. It’s wonderful. But I would have appreciated it even more if my wife and children and I had had such health-care coverage when we were younger. I want every American, from birth to death, to get the kind of health care I now receive. Removing the payments now going to the insurance corporations would considerably offset the tax increase necessary to cover all Americans.

Medicare exists. It works. It’s beloved by its beneficiaries, who are such a large voting block that it’s beloved even by most conservative politicians, who ought to despise it as the dread “socialism” they fear so much. Why not just expand it?

We know that Medicare has worked well for half a century for those of us over 65. Why does it become “socialized medicine” when we extend it to younger Americans?

…We recently bailed out the finance houses and banks to the tune of $700 billion. A country that can afford such an outlay while paying for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can afford to do what every other advanced democracy has done: underwrite quality health care for all its citizens.

If Medicare needs a few modifications in order to serve all Americans, we can make such adjustments now or later. But let’s make sure Congress has an up or down vote on Medicare for all before it adjourns this year. Let’s not waste time trying to reinvent the wheel. We all know what Medicare is. Do we want health care for all, or only for those over 65?

Those of us who care about our fellow citizens, rather than mostly ill-educated ideals of selfishness and short-sightedness, certainly do.

The whole piece is here. Thanks go to Betsy Burnam for making me aware of it.

The Life Before Her Eyes: beautifully crafted, beautifully written, beautifully performed (review)


Streaming movies on Netflix continues to be a source of discovery. It allows me (and you, if you sign up) to try any number of films I probably would never get around to, if I knew of them at all. Sometimes they’re duds (I tried 1994’s The Favor, for instance, and couldn’t bear more than ten or fifteen minutes), but sometimes they’re treasures.

The Life Before Her Eyes is a treasure. Continue reading

Jack Sparrow Shall Return

The name of the next Pirates of the Caribbean flick (with Johnny Depp returning as Sparrow) has been released:

piratesWait, what…?

On Stranger Tides? Isn’t there already a pirate fantasy of that name, as in the one called On Stranger Tides that I blogged about in my 1/8/09 entry “A Few Great Books“:

On Stranger Tides
by Tim Powers
Years before Jack Sparrow staggered into port on a sinking skiff, Tim Powers gave us the gift of a rousing swashbuckler of a pirate novel spiced with voodoo, zombies, and a Blackbeard infested with ghosts. This book has the distinction of being the one book on my shelf for years that I consciously planned to read to my kid when I eventually had one. And I did.

Anyone out there know if they’re adapting Powers’s book to the PotC milieu, or if they’re only just stealing his title…?


Click to Order

Solomon Kane Trailer

Among the great pulp heroes created by Robert E. Howard, author of the only true Conan tales, was puritan swordsman against darkness Solomon Kane.

The complete tales are currently available in this beautiful Del Rey book:


Click to Order

For the roleplaying games fans among you, one of the absolute greatest RPGs in years is this Savage Worlds gamebook by Shane Hensley:

Click to Order

Click to Order

And this trailer for the upcoming cinematic adaptation looks very promising.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Doc Wilde Review: “Everything I thought it would be, and more…”

As promised earlier in the week, here is the second Amazon reader’s review of my novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom I really wanted to share with you.

Buy Now!

Buy Now!

5.0 out of 5 stars It was everything I thought it would be, and more…………, June 7, 2009
By Kelly C. Trogdon “KellyCochranDVM” (Atlanta, GA) –

I bought the book for two reasons: to support a local author, and to give my child something fun to read. I had no preconceived idea of the book, or its plot or style. Imagine my surprise when I read it AND LOVED IT !!

I grew up reading fantasy books like THE DARK IS RISING series by Susan Cooper. I wanted my 10 year old daughter to have the same sort of experience. To be completely immersed in the story, and carried along by it. She read it all in one day, and only put it down to participate in required activities. I, on the other hand, read it very slowly, to enjoy it, and to understand the nuances. It stood up very well to both tests!!

I am an avid reader but often find myself reading books and criticizing either a plot turn as predictable, or character development as being lacking, or worse yet sometimes the language usage or vocabulary is repetitive.
But in this case, I cared about these characters! Since my degree is in science, and I have a doctorate, I was pleased that an author could write such a plausible work of fiction about frogs as the “enemy” and include so much detail about the Wilde family’s curious inventions. Willing suspension of disbelief aside, I fell for it all: hook, line, and sinker !! Even gasped out loud at the two BIG plot twists !!

My only complaint is that I wanted to find out what happens next in the series… and that’s what Doc prescribed, right? keep ’em wanting MORE!!

9 Songs: Who Knew That Sex Is Dreary and Boring? (Review)

Matt, a young glaciologist, soars across the vast, silent, icebound immensities of the South Pole as he recalls his love affair with Lisa. They meet at a mobbed rock concert in a vast music hall – London’s Brixton Academy. They are in bed at night’s end. Together, over a period of several months, they pursue a mutual sexual passion whose stages unfold in counterpoint to nine live-concert songs.

That’s the capsule description of Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs. If it sounds interesting, trust me, it isn’t.

There are apparently two selling points for this film. The secondary one is that it has “exclusive” live performances of nine songs by various artists including The Von Bondies and The Dandy Warhols. These performances, however, are shot with artless camera work and bad sound, and are worse than many amateur bootleg concert videos you can find on YouTube.

The primary selling point is that in this movie, the actors playing the young couple in love actually have sex. And it’s shown in graphic detail. Quite graphic at times. Which means, I suppose, that it’s a porn flick, in spite of its indie pretensions at examining the fluctuations of a romantic/sexual relationship, but it’s a curiously passionless and unstimulating variety of porn at best.

Winterbottom’s characters are unlikeable, which is allowable, but also uninteresting, which isn’t. Watching them relate, in all ways, makes human relationships actually look off-putting.

There is little story here, and what there is is bookended around the song videos. It’s as if the writer/director had so little story he decided to use the songs as filler material. The result, at 71 minutes, is one of the subjectively longest damn movies I’ve ever seen.

Every few minutes I clicked up the onscreen display to see how much time was left. It always seemed far too much, even at only three or so minutes remaining. At one point, I realized I’d actually picked up a book and started reading without thinking about it. That has never happened to me during any movie before. It was like my brain was seeking to bandage a wound in its stimulation.

Consider yourself warned. 9 Songs, in spite of its dull sexuality (I started to write carnality, but there’s nothing truly carnal about it), is a complete bore. Watching a toaster will probably arouse you more.

I feel like my head’s been wrapped in plaster. Time to go find something to awaken my senses again, because I think they gave up on me while watching this thing.

Wrong Way Wilson and The Big Lie

After months of Republican rabble-rousing and misinformation, Congressman Joe Wilson (R-Crazytown) stepped up to the plate (with the usual batting accuracy of your modern GOP politico) during President Obama’s speech to both houses of Congress the other night and shouted “YOU LIE!!!” at the president.

Like most of the misinformation and realpolitik offered up by the Right these days, the specific information he was calling a lie (that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for free health care) is demonstrably true. It’s typed into the language of the health care bill in plain English, and should be easy to understand even for an obvious buffoon like Wilson.

In this video, Keith Olberman shows the evidence (the actual text from the bill), and points out that Wilson’s greatest sin wasn’t the awesome breach of traditional protocol that besmirched both him and his party, it was the fact that he, himself, was simply screeching a Republican lie.

Doc Wilde Review: “a story of unconditional love, empowering optimism, & the value of learning”

Buy Now!

Buy Now!

Since there may be new visitors popping by who only just found out about me or my book, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, I figured I’d share a review that I hadn’t posted yet, and also let them know they can find out a great deal at the site. Among its features are a page of many other reviews so you can see how the critical consensus on my book has shaken out, and a gallery of great art depicting my characters by Australian comic book maestro Gary Chaloner.

I also encourage you to sign up for the newsletter using the form on the site. Once I start sending it out, it will update you on any pertinent events or Doc Wilde-related projects. Each newsletter will also include “Doc Wilde’s Cliffhanger Survival Tips,” which could very well save your life.

In addition to all the professional reviews referenced on the Doc Wilde site, there are a couple of reviews from actual readers on Amazon that I’d like to share, both because they’re very positive, but also because they’re thoughtful and well-written. I’ll post one today, the other later in the week.

5.0 out of 5 stars DOC WILDE: A smart book for kids of all ages, May 24, 2009
By Rebecca W. Burch “mama beck” (Calhoun, GA)

The book jacket for Georgia author Tim Byrd proclaims that he is interested in everything. Damn straight. How else to explain his judicious use of quotes from such diverse sources as H. P. Lovecraft, Henry David Thoreau, and (my personal favorite), Dr. Seuss? How else to explain references to classic automobiles, dark matter universes, amphibian biology, Japanese meditation techniques, and South American topography? Not only are all these elements, and countless others, interwoven into this novel, they work together in such a seamless manner that the reader is left both breathless and awed.

This roller-coaster ride of a story is one to be enjoyed by all. Byrd’s family of adventurers, the Wildes, are a fascinating group who endeavor to save the world from mutant frog-men while at the same time remaining steadfastly loyal to one another. The characters are as exciting as their adventures, yet they never lose sight of the love and learning that binds them to one another more strongly than the sticky goo on the underbellies of the spy-frogs. Yes, it is a swashbuckling great read. But it is also a story of unconditional love, empowering optimism, and the value of learning.

The gross frogs and insane gadgets are pretty cool, too.

Bush’s Third Term? You’re Soaking In It.

There’s an unfinished entry on my blog’s dashboard page called “Obama Lies!!!” in which I, a devoted progressive who despises Bush and Cheney with every fiber of my being, and who happily voted for Obama, was taking him to task for his spots of disingenuousness and his failure to stand up to the Right and do the things he said he would do and needs to do.

I wrote quite a bit, but burned out on the piece and never completed it. Now, happily, I have something to share that is much better than what I was crafting.

At, David Swanson (founder of has an essay that in great detail compares the Obama presidency thus far to what we might have expected had Bush been granted a third term. It’s sobering stuff.

It sounds like the plot for the latest summer horror movie. Imagine, for a moment, that George W. Bush had been allowed a third term as president, had run and had won or stolen it, and that we were all now living (and dying) through it. With the Democrats in control of Congress but Bush still in the Oval Office, the media would certainly be talking endlessly about a mandate for bipartisanship and the importance of taking into account the concerns of Republicans. Can’t you just picture it?…

The full piece is here. There is a short introduction by the site’s founder, Tom Engelhardt, and the actual essay by Swanson is a bit down the page.

Now don’t get me wrong. While I’m troubled (in some cases quite troubled) by much of what Swanson covers, I’m still glad to have a smart, sort-of liberal guy in office now instead of the war-mongering corporatist dullard we had. Obama may fuck up, but we’ll still be better off than we would have been with a literal continuation of Bush’s policies.

Putting Twitter & Facebook In Their Proper Places

I wrote a while back about the way social media is bringing us closer together (The New Telepathy of Social Networking), but of late I’ve been also pondering the ways that technology is boxing us in. And I’m not even talking about how World of Warcraft has reduced the actual world of thousands of people to an area about the size of their butt, with an orbiting satellite the size of the fridge.

When I went to see Bruce Springsteen a few months ago, people in the crowd were standing there texting while the sheer experience was roaring around them. Type type type…”At Bruce Springsteen show. Great stuff. Photos to follow…” Then they look up only to look at Springsteen through the device. The gadget is now a lens they need to even look at the world.

I always had that problem even with a camera, well before the advent of all these cool toys. I lived in Europe for three years, bought a pretty good SLR 35mm camera, took three or four rolls of film worth of pictures the whole time I was there. I just don’t like having a camera with me, urging me to use it, making me look for good shots rather than just seeing the world all around me.

Now, my cell phone is a great little camera, and if I use it twice in a year, call Guinness Book. But at least I’ll have it with me if I see Bigfoot.

And check out this poor soul:

These people just trekked for five days to reach the summit of Mount Toubkal in Morocco, the highest mountain in North Africa. Three of them are exhilarated, taking in the splendor. The other is playing her Nintendo DS. Maybe this’ll count as a high score.

Since getting into social media like Facebook and Twitter, I’ve had surges of activity broken up by periods I just didn’t want to bother to get online, and felt like I was failing to get to something I needed to do. Not in an addictive sense, but in the sense that I was letting folks down by not being “there” for them, wherever “there” is. And that I was losing ground in the professional sense because those inactive days I wasn’t working to increase my web presence and thus, hopefully, make more people aware of my book.

No more. I’m going to ease up on myself. I may not be one of the pithy geniuses who stitch their whole day together with witty tweets that are very engaging to read, but I’m not one of the folks who tells you I need a good shampooing and am eating a Nilla Wafer, either.

I’ll tweet when I have something to say. Which, really, is what everyone should do. I won’t go through my day looking for things to tweet about, or trying to figure out how to condense everything I do into 140 character summaries.

I’ll continue to blog as I’m inspired to do so, which has been my actual approach anyway, in spite of vague plans to blog on some kind of regular schedule.

And Facebook will be a place I check in a couple of times a day to see what my friends are up to, not a place I hang out in to make sure to catch the occasional status update that may tell me something useful or make me laugh.

I have books to write. Vistas to see. A splinter of a social life, a real social life, I desperately need to nurture back into something vital and whole. The social networking can help me with these things, but I have to make sure it doesn’t replace those things.

The Long Weekend, Overstimulation, & Frogs With Pointy Teeth

I’m awake, and I’ve been lax of late with the blog, so I figured I’d type at you a bit.

As the last couple of entries indicate, this has been the weekend of both my big convention and my book festival debuts, at DragonCon (largest SF con in the world, I’m told) and the Decatur Book Festival (largest book fest in the US, right here walking distance from my front door).

It has been fun and exciting and stressful and exhausting, and I’ll revisit it in another post once it’s truly over (I still have a DragonCon panel at 4 pm tomorrow…uh, today. Monday.), hopefully with pictures from at least one of my appearances.

I’m not sure if it’s just the over-stimulation of it all, the public speaking, the meeting of cool new people, the armies of amazingly hot women in cool costumes, or lingering full moon energy, but I got maybe two hours of sleep so far tonight. And I have an earworm of Felicia Day’s lovely voice singing “Do you want to date my avatar?” over and over in my head.

Scanning the news as I sat here in my drawers, wishing I was a-slumber, I came across this headline from The Guardian: “Lost World of Fanged Frogs and Giant Rats Discovered in Papua New Guinea.”

Fanged frogs!

I already wrote about the discovery in the Andes of the world’s tiniest frogs a while back, indication that perhaps the evil Frogs of Doom were up to new tricks after their defeat by Spartacus Wilde and his kids (as chronicled in my novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom). And now this.

Fanged frogs. In a lost world.

They also discovered a species of rat as big as a cat, kangaroos that live in trees, and a fish that grunts. Among many other new critters.

See? There really is pulp in our world.

UPDATE: For another report on the lost world and its denizens, with several pictures, check out The Daily Mail here.

Reminder: Tim’s Atlanta Activities This Weekend (and where to find me and get a signed copy of my book)

Just a reminder to folks in the Atlanta area that I’m at DragonCon and the Decatur Book Festival this weekend.

In a couple of hours (4:30-5:00 pm Saturday, 9/5/09), I’ll be on stage alongside author David Lubar. After that, I believe for an hour or so, we’ll be having a book signing and I’ll be signing stacks of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom. So if you’re at the festival, or in the area, this is a good chance to get your autographed copy.

If you can’t make it, Little Shop of Stories on Decatur Square will have some signed copies the rest of the weekend, assuming they don’t sell out.

My son and I have been enjoying DragonCon, and are already fairly worn out (so if I’m less than sparkly at the festival appearance, that’s why. That and the very bad case of insomnia I had most of last night).

At the con, I’m carrying a few copies of the book with me in case I run into someone who wants one. You can catch me on Sunday and Monday for sure at the panels I’m scheduled to appear at (details below). Also, The Missing Volume, a very nice book vendor with a table in the Marquis Ballroom (slots 614 & 615) has agreed to stock a few signed copies so if you want one you can get it there, assuming they’re not sold out.

My appearances at DragonCon are:

Writing for the Ya and Childrens’ Market
Sunday, 11:30 am
Location: Hyatt Regency Embassy Level, Manila/Singapore/Hong Kong

The Future of Fantastic Fiction
Monday, 4:00 pm
Location: Hyatt Regency Embassy Level, Manila/Singapore/Hong Kong

As I said, I should have some spare copies if you show up and want one inscribed.

Otherwise, I’ll be just wandering the con at various times. I’m the 6′ guy, with blue eyes and a square jaw, with my name tag on.