Friday, July 07, 2017

A Zombie Paragraph

Cremation used to be against our religion. All of God's people were to receive a proper burial following the custom of Abraham, David, and Jesus. Then one night our late pastor returned with his favorite deacons in tow, ripped the church door off at the hinges, and killed old Widow Punkard while she prayed.  We cremated him for his own good as much as ours. When Jesus rose from the dead He did it right: with His mind clear and His wounds closed up tight. No one since has pulled it off half as well. So we wrote pyre into the hymnals where grave used to be, and we all sleep better for the change.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


I did not invent the Toadstone
A groan reached Kayda from the rocks to her left. She quickly scanned that area; no man was in sight, though she now knew the red hillocks held at least one she could not see. She wondered if others lay hidden among the cacti and chipped stones, if the lament was but bait in a trap laid for her. But there was no reason for such a trap: as a woman alone in this desert she posed no threat except to the stones she hunted and the cacti that quenched her persistent thirst and occasional hunger. Kayda had taken care to ensure she had been neither followed nor watched, and her confidence in her own abilities remained unshaken. No, whomever lay beyond that outcrop was unaware of her presence, at least for now. Checking that her dagger was loose and her stone-purse tight, she turned toward the sound and began to climb the barren slope.

The camp before her served one man. She could tell from the single hammock, the tiny fire, and the deep cleft in which they were hidden, that the man wished to remain unseen. He had failed in that attempt. The Tanaki lay alone, writhing near a small pile of twigs that had provided his campfire with life. She guessed that the pile had also held life less helpful. For in these deserted places dwelt serpents that could snuff a man’s life with a single bite. But the end came not before the bitten wished for death, called for death, begged death to rescue him from the flames that burned within his every joint, his every vein. The purple skin that shewed beneath the Tanaki’s hand told her that he had met one such serpent. His whimpers told her that the desert would be quiet again soon. With a quick glance behind her, she slipped over the cusp of the barren ridge and swam down the rocks into his camp.

Kayda knew that even now she could save him. Though his limbs lay twisted and his swollen tongue thrashed his cracked lips, her toadstone had pulled worse from the brink of death. Her left hand clasped her stone-purse, fingers tracing the stone’s rough corners, measuring its unnatural heat. Until his final breath, she could ensure that he lived.

She shook her head. He was Tanaki, an Other. A Tanaki was an enemy. She had not watched her brother die screaming at the bloody hands of Tanaki, had not suffered humiliation beneath the loins of Tanaki, to rescue one now. Especially one who did not respect her desert.

The Tanaki’s frantic eyes met hers, holding them, and she released the toadstone that still warmed her fingertips from beneath the leather of her purse. His eyes then rolled back, his mouth expelled a wan breath, and the Tanaki shrunk into a limp pile before her. Now it was too late anyway, she thought.

Kayda searched the Tanaki for anything of value he had carried on his final journey. His tent surrendered food enough for her to last a week in these barren lands. His copper canteen would serve her for a lifetime unless she decided to sell it. She would not sully herself with his clothing, and none would give three coppers for his hammock. But upon his swollen finger lay a silver ring, carved into a snake eating its own tail, with what she guessed were rubies for the serpent’s eyes. She grinned at the possibility that the snake upon the ring represented the same manner of serpent that had slain its owner. And as she worked it from a calloused finger and dropped it into the leather purse that contained her toadstone, she hoped that it would bring her better fortune than it had him.

Climbing from the cleft and returning to her hunt, she pondered the silver ring, its self-destructive serpent, and the gems that gave it vision. But the sun’s heat soon beat from her any thoughts other than those of home. Making a best guess at the direction of her own village, she pulled her cloak over her head and willed her tired feet forward. Still, her eyes scanned the ground in front of her. For there were toadstones here. And with such stones one could save a life. Or not.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Good Hater is now out in paperback!

You can get it at Amazon here.

If you buy a deadwood edition, you should be able to download the Kindle version for free.  Let me know how that goes, ok?

Monday, March 14, 2016

A nice review

Of Swords of Darkness:
Some stories are certainly better than others, Bill Hoyt's "A Test of His Metal" is well developed with a satisfying twist, and Charles Jake's piece, "The Price of Ambition" is an enjoyable read that begs to be turned into a longer and more developed work and "Dance of Swords" by JC Kang is a well written slice of something clearly larger in scope that we can hope someday to read in entirety. A few other stories seem less skilfully woven, however overall Swords of Darkness does not disappoint.
FWIW, I also thought Jake's and Kang's were among the best of the lot.  If you like swords, why not give LC Mortimer's first fantasy anthology a look?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Officially a best-selling author

One more off the bucket list.

UPDATE: #1 in Slavery Biographies as well, just ahead of Twelve Years a Slave.  And I didn't even get a movie deal.

Monday, January 04, 2016

If you were an actual story, my love

If you were an actual story, my love, you would have a plot, that structure of narrative points that makes a tale comprehensible. It might be a light and airy plot, like the joyful flight of a lark on a clear summer morn. Or it might be dark and dreary, the slogging of the last dragon, dying in an endless slough. But it would not be hidden away from sight, beneath paste and powder, like a pimple on prom night.

If you were an actual story, my love, you would have characterization. Some of your characters might be good people (or even dinosaurs, brrrr…) that sometimes do bad things if even for good reasons. And a few might even be bad people who do good things on rare occasions. But they would never be limited to cardboard victims and free-floating Hitler mustaches drawn in crayon.

If you were an actual story, my love, you would reward the reader for the small portion of his life he invested in you. You would never drive him to check his watch, first every stanza, then every sentence, then every blank space that appears, like a cool desert oasis, between each tiresome word. You would never make a thousand words seem as wearisome as a thousand years on the rack, nor feel as rancid as a thousand maggots burrowing out of the reader’s living belly.

If you were an actual story, my love, you would read and feel nothing like “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.”


Hi Bill,

Your account was recently brought to our attention.  Upon review, we have decided to remove it from the site.  You are banned from using Goodreads in any capacity going forward.

The Goodreads Team

I guess they liked it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Author Interview: Bill Hoyt

Author's Note: What follows is a reprint of an interview I did with Beth Jones of The Hungry Freelancer in mid 2013.  It is published here for archival purposes only.

Bill Hoyt is the author of Good Hater and, most recently, The Monster Maiden of Westering Slough (Tales of the Red Brethren). He took the time to share some of what he's learned about the importance of indie publishing, the fantasy genre, and how writers can start to improve their craft.

Your most recent book features a young girl who was brutally scarred by a fire. What was the inspiration behind this book? How difficult was it to capture the essence of her character?

Many writers believe that a story should be about who hurts the most. So for the Monster Maiden of Westering Slough I started with a generic character and gave her some real pain, just to see how she reacted to it.  But during that process, I recalled the number of times I've been absolutely astonished at how well young people seem to handle unfathomable setbacks or tremendous pain. We've all seen the kid who is dying of bone cancer at 15 and thought, where does she find the strength to deal with that?  In those cases, it's often those around who suffer most. The kid is dying – and knows it – but it's a parent who cries herself to sleep every night.  My character reacted sort of like that. So I made her father suffer even more by making him responsible for her being burned. After all, he raised the dragon that did it. She has forgiven him, but he still feels guilty. 

In the end, she's a talented girl who has a good sense of fairness and a bit of a temper and who is understandably hurt and frustrated by people who abuse her. But her father is a scarred man who doesn’t always do the wise thing when it might provide a shortcut to restoring his daughter's face, and thereby relieving the guilt he carries. So the story in the end became more about him, because he was the one who had the pain.

What is your favorite genre to read? Do you find yourself leaning toward this genre in your own writing?

After history, without a doubt my favorite genre is fantasy, both to read and to write. But I'll admit to being very opinionated about what makes up that genre. I enjoy Tolkien and LeGuin and Feist and Saberhagen; good stories featuring magical swords and wizards and dragons are, to me, fantasy.  An erotic novel in which one of the characters just happens to be a mermaid is not. A romance novel about menopausal werewolves that could be told just as well without werewolves is not. So I tend to skip a lot of modern fantasy. You cannot read everything, and it makes little sense to read what holds no appeal to you. Unless, of course, you're reading it in order to improve your own writing in some way.  That’s always a good idea. But then it's work and not play.

What advice would you offer to new writers who want to break into indie publishing?
Indie is an immediate way to share your expertise, to tell your story, to make some money. 

I also believe that it is the future of publishing. The current book publishing model, with its corporate publishers and distribution channels designed to move physical books, is being broken upon the wheel of technology. Those who are publishing indie and electronically today (and learning the necessary companion skills, like self-marketing) are building the next model.  It will likely be one in which the phrase “published author” is redundant or perhaps even meaningless – what is a “published author” in a world without corporate publishers? So I would say that if you think others will enjoy your work, publish it yourself. Everyone will soon be doing it.

But we also need to be honest with ourselves about why we want to go indie, because if we’re not, we’re liable to get hurt or embittered very quickly. What I mean by that is that there are a lot of authors who believe they have written the Great American Novel. They are certain that it’s not published only because every editor they have sent it to is an incompetent jerk. But readers of that book are quite likely to agree with the editors and have no qualms about saying so. Seeing your beloved work mauled in public is far more painful than reading a rejection on crème-colored cotton paper with nice letterhead in the privacy of your own home; at least there you can burn the letter.  So if a person is going indie to avoid the pain of rejection by professional editors, they would be well served to learn the craft better first. Learning to write well is hard work. Indie publishing does not relieve authors of the responsibility to do that work.

You're also a blogger and have been for some time. Have you found that regularly writing in your blog has improved your skills as an author?

Without a doubt. Blogging forces you to capture the essence of a story in only a few paragraphs. It's almost like writing a micro-story. I have found that practice to be especially helpful for writing history, in which I need to form small stories into the building blocks that will make up a bigger one, whether I’m writing a biography or the story of a railroad strike.

Even though I found it most useful for non-fiction, it cannot hurt a fiction author to have one more outlet for writing. It is the practice, not the end use, which helps us the most. Just don't give your best ideas away to strangers for free.

Would you recommend that new writers take advantage of social media sites to promote their books, or are these sites overrated?
Yes and yes.  I do think that Twitter and Facebook and the like are overrated. Unless you already have a million followers, you're not likely to send out a tweet that brings a thousand readers to your new book.  But I think you need to be in those places anyway. New writers should make themselves available to their readers, and social media is a great way to do that. Maybe when you're selling like Dean Koontz you won't have the time to interact with those who read your books. But for now, access to you is a service you can provide your readers for very little cost.  Any way you can keep them thinking about you and your books is going to benefit you in the long run.

Read more about Bill and his current books at El Borak's Myopia or Facebook.

Author Interview: Bill Hoyt

Author's Note: What follows is a reprint of an interview I did with Beth Jones of The Hungry Freelancer in late 2012.  It is published here for archival purposes only.

In the upcoming weeks, I'll be posting a series of author interviews. I've chosen several Kindle authors who have successfully published their work online. If you're looking for some new books to read or just want to learn what makes indie publishing work, check out these posts.

Today's interview is with Bill Hoyt, author of Good Hater: George Henry Hoyt's War on Slavery. You can buy Good Hater exclusively on Amazon Kindle for $2.99.

What is your book about?
Good Hater details the Civil War career of a young Massachusetts lawyer who became the most feared guerrilla hunter on the Kansas Missouri border, George Henry Hoyt (no relation). That career is bookended by two speeches, one delivered to the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-slavery society before the war, and the second delivered to a group of freed slaves in Kansas near its end. I compare these speeches and demonstrate how the bloody realities of war changed the lofty ideals of the first speech into the brutal cynicism displayed in the second. I also demonstrate how the abolitionist legacy of John Brown was carried on in Kansas by many surrogates after his execution in Virginia.

What made you decide to publish as an Indie writer, rather than opting for trade publishing?
There are really two reasons. The first is purely selfish: I'm not a big fan of gatekeepers. I knew the book was good or at least was filled with good information, and I had no intention of waiting around, possibly for years, for an editor to decide that money could be made on it. As an indie publisher, I maintained total control of the publication and marketing process, from picking the cover to pricing the book and deciding where it would be available. As an author primarily interested in making the story available, the decision was easy.

The second reason goes back to my historical training. One of my assignments in my first class as a history graduate student was to utterly shred a history book written by a Harvard professor and published by Oxford. The exercise was designed to help us overcome our fear of "credentialism." But I learned a second lesson: despite the persistent reputation that books published by reputable presses are good (or in the case of history books, accurate), it's not necessarily true. Independently published books can be better than books published in a standard manner, and I believe over time, the public's perception will reflect that reality. So independently publishing a good book helps that process along. 

What was your favorite part of creating your book?
This is going to sound strange, but it was actually finding old pictures that illustrated the content of each chapter. Research was a blast. Writing was fun - and if it's not fun, you should be doing something else. But once it was 99% done, adding that little something that made it "done" was the most rewarding part. I love to finish things, and in this case, finishing meant adding the material I could not include when it was a stuffy grad school thesis.

If you could tell new writers one thing, what would it be?
Write. It sounds simple, and it is deceptively so. But so many people refuse to write until they know precisely what they want to say, therefore they never really start. Write a story, write a paragraph, write a description of a particularly ugly nose, but write something and edit it later. You can always throw stuff away (and you will). You can always expand, and you will. But often, you will never know exactly what you want to say until you have said it - then the editing process helps you to say it better. But write something every day, even if you have nothing to write, and maybe especially if you have nothing to write. Writing is a discipline, and you must discipline yourself to do it by doing it.

Want to learn more? Visit Bill Hoyt at El Borak's Myopia or "like" Good Hater on Facebook.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Less than it seems, Part Deux

Leavest thou me out of this.
So last week I promised that we would return to Sir Isaac Newton whom, it is alleged in the prior video, named the present month/year as a date of some prophetic importance.  However, unlike Adam Clark, Newton did not specifically note 2015. Instead, Newton separated the "seven and sixty two weeks" of Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy into first and second comings, and from there we infer 2015.  Kind of.

I just happen to have a copy of Newton's commentary on Daniel and Revelation*. In Chapter 10, Newton writes the following concerning the 70 Weeks:
Know also and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to cause to return and to build Jerusalem, shall be seven weeks.  The former part of the prophecy related to the first coming of Christ, being dated to his coming as a prophet; this being dated to his coming to be prince or king, seems to relate to his second coming.
Newton then goes on to explain that some prophecies apply to both the first and second coming, and notes that this may very well be one of them. So Newton seems to relate the period of "seven weeks" to Christ's second coming.  So how do we get from that rather vague aside to 2015?

To get there, we must jump over to a book called Petrus Romanus by Thomas Horn and Chris Putnam, from which C.Ervana read in a prior video, and which I also happen to have in my library.  We read on p.287 of a fellow named T.W. Tramm, who did a bit of fancy math in still another book. Tramm concluded that:
If one counts exactly forty-nine (360 day) prophetic years (17,640 days) from the June 7, 1967 date of Jerusalem's recapture, we arrive at September 23rd, 2015, -- the Day of Atonement. Coincidence?
I'll leave the reader to decide whether something is a coincidence.  But I would like to lay out the assumptions necessary to conclude that Sept 23rd is a date of prophetic importance according to Newton:
  1. Newton was correct that the "seven weeks" of Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy applied to the Second Coming, and not just the first as most scholars take it.**
  2. The "seven weeks" count began the day Israel re-captured Old Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 1967.
  3. The "seven weeks" are "seven weeks of years," i.e. 49 years.
  4. These years are not "calendar" years, but lunar years of 360 days.
So if those assumptions all hold true and correct, then September 23rd could be a heck of a day.  But as with Clarke's naming of 2015 for the expiration date of Daniel's "little horn," if one link in the chain fails, then it's likely to be just another day.

My primary problem with the claim lies in assumption number 2, kicking off the 7 weeks in 1967. Newton himself noted that, "Here, by putting a week for seven years, are reckoned from the time that the dispersed Jews should be re-incorporated into a people and a holy city, until the death and resurrection of Christ..."  In other words, Newton began the clock on the date the Jews were "reincorporated into a people". The best modern parallel to that is 1948, the establishment of the state of Israel. One can argue that the recapture of old Jerusalem in 1967 is just as meaningful (i.e. put the emphasis on "and a holy city"). But I am unconvinced that it's more significant than re-establishment of a Jewish state after 1800+ years of diaspora. It just looks like someone was playing with numbers to find a coincidence.

But I have another problem related to the first: the parlor trick of switching to 360-day years halfway through the prophecy. Newton used, as far as I can tell, calendar years. So does everyone else, and Horn and Putnam note that if you use calendar years here, the seven weeks end in 2016. Calling a shortened year a "prophetic" year does not really help the prophetic case other than finding a coincidence between two dates. If one were to apply a 360-day year consistently, it would throw off the first coming / resurrection prophecy by 7 whole years, or an entire "week."  Obviously, that's weak sauce.

So the short version is that Newton never "called" 2015, nor specifically September 23rd, as any sort of meaningful prophetic date. Tying his reputation to this date does the man an injustice. And it would probably piss him off as well.  In fact, Newton wrote (as I mentioned before):
"This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."
So either something really awesome will happen in 11 days, or it won't.  Here's to hoping it does.  If you're really convinced it will and it doesn't, just remember that God is a better mathematician than you are, especially as you're double-checking his numbers through a glass darkly.

Oh, and stop setting dates. You're making God look bad. And Newton as well.

* It's actually a reprint of Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of Newton. Jefferson was not so disinterested in things biblical as is generally imagined.
** "Most" here includes Newton, who uses it in his 490 year calculation from the Captivity to Christ's first coming.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Less than it seems

I'm something of a fan of C.Ervana, being a subscriber to both of his* YouTube channels, though for a number of reasons, I'm not convinced that the End Times begin in earnest a mere 17 days from today.  But I appreciate talent, and if I needed a videographer after September 23rd and C.Ervana was available**, I would definitely hire him.  I just hope that when September 23rd comes and goes, without an asteroid or a rapture or an alien in sight, he will take advantage of the teachable moment that eventually comes to everyone who ignores the plain meaning of Jesus' admonition that no man knoweth the day or the hour.***

That said, this post is not about September 23rd, which I suspect will pass with little of real eternal interest occurring, but addresses the oft-used appeal to authority that falls upon "Bible Experts" rather than upon the scriptures themselves.

Now, if you watch the video - and you should - one thing you'll note is the lack of explanation of why this legion of bible teachers****, most of whom lived about the same time, all came to the conclusion that strange things are afoot at the Circle K coming in 2015.  And the reason is not that each of them independently studied many scriptures and reasoned their way to 2015, but that each of them subscribed to a particular interpretation of particular passages in Daniel and Revelation that was popular during their lives.

When you understand this, it becomes obvious that the 2015 date relies less on 'expertise' than on the strength of that particular interpretation, so let's take a look at it.

Now, it might come as a surprise that Adam Clarke, a Methodist minister and author of a series of commentaries I admire quite a bit, did name 2015 as a meaningful year.  And he did so in his commentary on Daniel 7:8:
If the Papal power as a horn, or temporal power, be intended here, which is most likely; (and we know that that power was given in 755, to Pope Stephen II, by Pepin, king of France;) counting one thousand two hundred and sixty years from that, we are brought to A. D. 2015, about one hundred and ninety years from the present A. D. 1825.—But I neither lay stress, nor draw conclusions, from these dates.
Ignoring that fact that Clarke specifically denies that he is setting dates here, the facts remain that:

a) He really did name the year 2015 in 1825.
b) Lots of others followed.

Point b) is most easily explained by the fact that Clark was a big fish who knew whereof he spoke when it came to biblical exposition.  One could not go much wrong taking him at his word, though he doubtless suffered from a handicap common to all men who study prophecy from the wrong end: now we see through a glass darkly, etc.

Still, Clarke did not pick 2015 out of the blue: it was the mathematical result of an interpretation that posited:

a) The Papacy is the "Little Horn" of Daniel 7:8
b)  The 1260 days or 3 1/2 years or 42 months or time, times, and half a time of Daniel and Revelation apply to the Little Horn.
c) The 1260 days really mean 1260 years.
d) The end of the Little Horn means the destruction of its entire system.
e) The count began in 755 AD.

Now, if all those things are true then it's hard to argue that 2015 will fail to hold some biblically-important events.  If a single link in the chain fails, then 2015 should similarly fail. I'm not convinced by Clarke's interpretation. That doesn't mean it's wrong, but we'll know in a couple of weeks, or maybe a couple of months.

I said all that to say this: the 2015 date of the destruction of the Papacy and the coming of all sorts of trumpets and bowls and aliens, despite the claims of the video, does not rely on dozens of Bible experts, or at least not those experts coming to independent conclusions.  With the exception of Newton and those who relied on him, the 2015 date is based on a specific interpretation of the intersection of biblical prophecy with historical events that was posited by a briefly-popular school but has since been all but forgotten.  It may be correct, or it may not.  But when you realize that's exactly how 2015 is named in Biblical prophecy by experts from centuries ago, I think it's less compelling than the headlines might state.

* I think C is a "his," though plenty of others comment by calling him "sister." I simply cannot tell from the voice, and so fall back on actual, as opposed to SJW, English, in which the masculine gender encompasses the feminine.
** I suspect he will be.
*** Having been a Christian for three decades, and holding interests in both history and prophecy that whole time, I'm amazed that I'm still amazed at the lengths to which prophecy experts will go to explain why that phrase does not mean what it says.  Still, each of them has been proved wrong thus far.
**** Newton is different and to be fair both to him and my remaining reader, we shall handle him in a separate post.