AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

June 26, 2011

Charles Gramlich – A Portrait

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 2:55 pm

Built like a Ram 3500.

Style straight out of Rooster Cogburn’s wild west.  

Work ethic of a plow mule.

Soul of an artist.

Charles Gramlich produces an amazing output of words on a weekly basis while holdng down a  job, a family, and a life. He teaches biological psychology and experimental psychology classes at a small university in New Orleans. A prolific blogger, his communication skills and “netiquette” attract a loyal following. He’s an enthusiastic motorcyclist, muscle-car owner and gun handler. Ten published works bear his name, each one an open window on Gramlich’s inner world.

Look in if you will…

W hat has always impressed me, is not just the volume of Gramlich’s output, but the quality. His PhD is helpful of course, along with iron-clad self-discipline, but there’s another tool he uses. It’s a writing diary. Yes, a self-monitoring daily record of output. Writing about writing? Really? This is where I decided to look closer.

May 26–Thursday:  Some writing, but not a lot of progress. Finished polishing chapter 9 of “Ember Star” but I have a lot of questions about where I’m going from there. My critique group met and went over chapter 1, “A Hot Time in Old Towne Tonight.” Comments were generally positive but it’s clear that several members of the group really have no feel for SF. They neither read it nor like it. Not an uncommon experience for me in groups I’ve been in. In the evening I did a lot of thinking about “Ember Star” but not a lot of writing. Got an email from another writer who likes my stuff and will be in my area this summer. He suggested we get together for a brew and I agreed. He sent me one of his stories and I read it.  Pretty good, and I let him know I liked it. Emailing back and forth with Elaine Ash.  Looks like she might do a blog interview with me. Posted an installment of my trip report on my blog.

May 27–Friday:  Right after midnight, dealing with emails and blog posts. My Novel Spaces blog post on “Space Opera” went up at midnight. Amazon sent me my monthly report on “Killing Trail.”  Made a whole $10.35.  But hey, better than a kick in the teeth.  After sleeping, I visited blogs and then wrote for a while on the deck before it got too hot. I realized I had to go back to the start of “Ember Star” and work my way through it to regain momentum.  Finished going through about half of what I have so far. Although it doesn’t feel like a lot of forward progress, I added a lot of detail and clarified a lot of points for myself . Read and commented on a vampire poem someone sent me. 

May 28—Saturday: Blogging in the morning. Then grocery shopping. Worked a lot on “Ember Star” and made good progress, solving lots of issues with the plot. I’m happy with what I’ve got and can see how to move forward. Sent Elaine a response to a question she asked. Very tired late. Eyes are burning from too much computer work today.

Elaine Ash: What exactly does keeping a writing journal do for you?

Charles Gramlich: At one time I did keep a handwritten journal but my handwriting is so bad that it just became impossible for me to read what I’d written so I went to the computer.

The journal does several  things for me.

First, it provides a record of what I’ve done and when so that I can refer to it as a kind of historical record. When did I finish such and such a project?  When was X published.  After 20 years of writing that becomes a necessity at times.  Memory will not work unaided.

Second, it motivates me. When I’ve been lazy or played too much of a video game, I say so in my journal, and when I go back and read it over the next day or two I’m motivated to stop wasting time.

Third, it gives me an idea of about how long it takes me to finish projects of a certain type and certain length, and helps me plan for the future.  How much time will I likely need, for example, to finish some particular article or story. It’s never 100 percent accurate but it has been a big help to me, especially in nonfiction.

Excerpt from Cold in the Light:

By the time gray dawn came creeping like a fog he had mastered himself. He lived in the place that all warriors sought, where death and life and sex and hunger were one. Where you created your own reality and no one else’s could intrude.  Where you became a god, or a demon. And you didn’t care which.

Excerpt from “Splatter of Black” In Dark Terrors:

The moonlight settled over the December beach like snow birds coming in to roost on an arctic plain.  And the midnight world was brush-stroked in white, the white of sand and shells and stones, the white of bones and ghosts.  In the midst of that white was a splatter of black, or what could have been red in brighter hours.  It reminded Kyle Dupree of a snowflake in negative, and he thought it was incredibly beautiful until he realized what it represented.  Then he dropped the cigarette that he’d walked out on the beach to smoke, and he reached down with his thumb to unsnap the strap that held his Colt Trooper in its holster.

Excerpt from “Razor White” in Dark Forces IV:

He climbed toward wakefulness through scarlet-tinted dreams, rising up to a morning sky that burned pink outside his window, like watermelon flesh.  A hundred images cracked and ran as the dream period ended and heavy lids shuttered back over eyes that were yellow-brown scars in an otherwise pale face.  The empty pupils dilated suddenly with pleasure as he slid from beneath sticky wet sheets and stood looking down, his body finger-painted red.

Excerpt from “A Gathering of Ravens” published in Dreams in the Fire and Bitter Steel.

The ravens gathered, their voices as harsh in the twilight silence as the turning of ungreased axles.  It was to a dead place they flocked, a place of white bone and spilled blood, a place where warriors had come in the morning and stayed until late at their work.  But it was to just such places that ravens were drawn, and these scarcely stirred when the woman rode from the forest and joined them among the slain.

Excerpt from “Wine and Swords” also from Bitter Steel:

The night sands whispered with rain and hooves as shadows moved in the dunes and steel slid softly from leather and silk.  Trailing wings of the rare shower lifted equally over the cloth tents and camels of a mendicant’s caravan, and over riders with charcoaled faces and blackened swords.  Among the tents, they thought all sounds were children of the rain, and they died for that mistake when raiders came from the darkness.

Elaine Ash:  I wanted this article to represent Charles’ writing and also a bit of  his personal style. Below is a picture of his famous hat and guns–what I call “accoutrements.”

ACCOUTREMENTS – NOUN, French, circa 1549

Ash-KOO-trah-ments (English pronunciation), Equipment, trappings,

a soldier’s outfit including clothes and weapons.

Charles Gramlich: The western style piece (foreground) is an 1873 Uberti single action Cattleman revolver with brass backstrap. Uberti is a well respected Italian manufacturer. I got it in .357 caliber to match with my other pistol, and with a rifle that I have.  I just bought it a couple of years ago.

The other revolver is a Colt Trooper Mark III, also in .357. I like the .357 catridge. It’s got a lot of stopping power.  And you can also shoot cheaper .38 shells in a .357 pistol for target practice.  I’ve had this one since I was 18.
The smaller black pistol is a Sig Sauer P228 9 millimeter semiautomatic. I’ve had it about 10 years.

The leather hat was purchased in the French Quarter many years ago.

Charles Gramlich, thank you so much. — Elaine Ash

Charles’ blog Razored Zen can be found under my Blogroll list upper right. Photography kindly provided by Lana Gramlich.



  1. Well done. Besides his writing talents, Charles makes a damned fine husband, too. 🙂

    Comment by Lana — June 26, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  2. Got an email from another writer who likes my stuff and will be in my area this summer. He suggested we get together for a brew and I agreed. He sent me one of his stories and I read it. Pretty good, and I let him know I liked it.

    Funny, I’m guessing I was that writer, as we just did meet last week and had a beer or two. I have the photographic evidence to prove it!

    Good to see Charles getting some recognition. I’m a fan of his writing (halfway through Swords of Talera right now) and a fan of his graciousness. Here’s to many more words from the man!

    Comment by chrislatray — June 26, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  3. Hi Lana! Thanks for the comment and I also need to credit you with the photography! Thanks so much for taking the hat and guns shot. It is beautiful.

    Hi Chris! I had no idea you were the writer Charles talked about. Nice to hear from you!

    Comment by ashedit — June 26, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  4. Definitely, Chris was the writer. We had a great meeting in New Orleans last week. Italian food and beer, and lots of talk about writing and books. Elaine, thanks for putting this up. Very cool.

    Comment by Charles Gramlich — June 26, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

  5. Very cool to read about the inner workings of one of my favorite writers (I have six of his books, five more than anyone else that I’ve read and/or admired).

    Comment by G — June 27, 2011 @ 2:18 am

  6. G., dude, I need to have a “G” appreciation day! Thanks, man.

    Comment by charlesgramlich — June 27, 2011 @ 4:54 am

  7. Beautifully written article–love the pictures. A lot of people should be doing a writing blog like that. It would save time in the long run–can’t tell you how many times I wished I had written down an important publishing date that I’d _never_ forget. I feel like I know Charles better now.

    Comment by Diane Turnshek — June 27, 2011 @ 5:54 am

  8. This is a lovely piece, Elaine and Charles. Thanks for the eloquence and artfulness of it.

    Comment by Patti Abbott — June 27, 2011 @ 5:57 am

  9. G, Diane, Patti thank you so much for your kind comments. When I saw Lana’s photographs of Charles, I knew I had some great material to work with visually and I could turn this piece into (do I dare say it)–art. Charles and Lana labored right along with me to get things just right. I’m so glad you like the results.

    Comment by ashedit — June 27, 2011 @ 6:06 am

  10. Excellent post!

    I love the way it all comes together; the pictures, writing, and responses.

    Comment by The Golden Eagle — June 27, 2011 @ 9:15 am

  11. Diane, thanks. The journal helps me quite often in ways I wouldn’t have thought of before I started it.

    Patti, the art is all Elaine really. Lana took the original photos, of course. I did nothing. 🙂

    Golden Eagle, thanks for dropping by.

    Comment by charlesgramlich — June 27, 2011 @ 9:31 am

  12. Elaine, cool design on this profile, and I’m glad you put in the excerpts for those of us that haven’t read his work. Now I have a new author to read. Thanks!

    Comment by Mark Boss — June 27, 2011 @ 11:35 am

  13. Smashing!

    Comment by Paul D Brazill — June 27, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  14. Hi Mark, hi Paul! I knew Charles was going to provide a great interview and the design possibilities were rich. My only drawback was I don’t yet have Photoshop and I have to work with what I have on hand. Between my trusty camera, iPhoto, and lots of trial and error, it came together. Thanks for noticing.

    Comment by ashedit — June 27, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

  15. Mark, thanks for dropping by and visiting,

    Elaine, great job. It came together very well.

    Comment by charlesgramlich — June 27, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

  16. This is a really neat piece all together as a whole. Love the hat with the guns. And the journal of and about writing, just wow. Charles’ self discipline is inspiring to me. The excerpts are a fantastic touch. Great job you two.

    Comment by Jodi MacArthur — June 27, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

  17. Jodi, I appreciate you, as always. Thanks for dropping by

    Comment by charlesgramlich — June 27, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

  18. Excellent tribute. I admire this guy, too.

    Comment by Ron Scheer — June 27, 2011 @ 10:39 pm

  19. Thank you, Elaine, for this wonderful reminder of what an extraordinary human being the writer Charles Gramlich is!
    I read his blog with great interest and joy and love Lana’s photography.

    Comment by Merisi — June 28, 2011 @ 12:11 am

  20. What a great insight into “Planet Gramlich!” It’s true about Charles though, a great talent and someone I’ve always found to be quite kind and selfless. A class act.

    Comment by Glenn Gray — June 28, 2011 @ 4:46 am

  21. Merisi and Glenn, thank you both for visiting, and for the kind words. I really am blushing, or about as close to it as my old flesh will come. 🙂

    Comment by charlesgramlich — June 28, 2011 @ 6:48 am

  22. Nice write-up on Charles G. with photos and all, and Anon-9, who would’ve guessed?

    Comment by Oscar Case — June 28, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

  23. This is totally nifty-fifty-two, loved it, from photos to text to composition . . . Charles’ end-run around his own handwriting makes me chuckle. I made a “must do” list recently and next day couldn’t read two of the starred items in my own handwriting — kind of defeated the purpose.

    Comment by Erik France — June 28, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

  24. Hi Erik, I am so thrilled people like this off-center interview with Charles. It’s a little snapshot of two tiny facets: a writing diary, and pictures of some prized possessions. But they’re very telling; the details are helpful help and they also entertain. It’s so gratifying to see this response. Thank you.

    Comment by ashedit — June 28, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

  25. Oscar, thanks for dropping by. I appreciate that.

    Erik, you’ve got it. And my handwriting seems to be getting worse. Maybe lack of practice.

    Comment by charlesgramlich — June 29, 2011 @ 6:38 am

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