Friday, October 31, 2008

Knock Me Over With a Feather!!!

I was mentioned by Ellen Datlow in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 2008!!!

I haven't seen the citation yet but my friend Richard Dean Starr found this yesterday. It's on the blog of Dark Wisdom editor, Chuck Zaglanis.

Stewart Sternberg and I had our names mentioned a couple of times in The Year's Best
Fantasy and Horror.
We were both given honorable mentions for our stories in
High Seas Cthulhu. Other writers in the anthology whose work interested editor Ellen Datlow were: Matthew Baugh, Tim Curran, John Shire, and Lee Clark Zumpe.
Congratulations to everyone involved.

The story that caught her eye must have been "Clown Fish", a pirates vs. elder horrors romp that was a lot of fun to write.

This is exciting!

Not bad for a Cat-Frightener

I just got an advance copy of SHANGHAI MOON, the latest installment in the amazing Bill Smith/Lydia Chin series by S.J. Rozan S.J. has a series of questions on her blog and was giving advance copies to her favorite answers. She said mine made her laugh, which startled the cat.

This is a fantastic series. The locations from New York to Shanghai and various other places are vividly described, the characters (down to the walk-ons) are so well characterized that you'd swear you know them. Finally the detective heroes feel like old friends. They are deeply flawed yet admirable people. You want them to win (they probably will) and you want them to solve their personal issues (not a chance) and get together. (Honestly, the series has managed to maintain a romantic/sexual tension between these two for nine novels now, and it's still working!)

Bill is the more typical of the two, a big, white, intellectual, tough-guy detective with a checkered past. Though he's the more familiar character type of the two, he's anything but a stereotype. Lydia is small, young, Chinese-American, and Bill's opposite in practically every way. The novels are written in first person and alternate voices. This time around Lydia is the narrator. Something remarkable that Rozan does is that Bill seen through Lydia's eyes is still recognizably Bill, but he's also very different from Bill through his own eyes. The same goes for Lydia in the two POV's. It's brilliant because it's so true.

Anyway, if you couldn't tell, I am eager to devour this one! I've dipped in enough to find that it revolves around an obscure but fascinating bit of history (did I mention that S.J. is also a teriffic researcher?). It seems that when the Nazis first started driving the Jews out of occupied Europe, many of them ended out in Shanghai, which was one of the only ports that would accept them.

I don;t know where the novel is going from there, but I'm goign to love finding out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Avenger Chronicles

I got my contributor copies from Joe Gentile today!

Joe and I share that we read this series when we were young and loved it. The Avenger is Rivchard Henry Benson, a pulp hero who is the combination of super athlete, super inventor, and super detective (think Batman without the spiffy costume). His wife and daughter were presumed murdered by criminals and he vowed to protect others from the same sort of loss. The terrible shock of losing hs loved ones also turned Benson's hair and face white and gave him an odd paralysis that allows him to mold his flesh like clay. This makes him a natural master of disguise.

I haven't read the stories yet but an impressed by the talent they have brought in. I'm excited to have my story "In Forgetfulness Divine" (many thanks to Richard for the title and overall help with this one) alongside the sotries of such talented authors. The list is:
Tom DeFalco
Win Scott Eckert (an old friend!)
Joe Gentile (A newer friend!)
Clay and Susan Griffith
Ron Goulart (Who worked on the Avenger paperbacks in the 70's!)
CJ Henderson
Howard Hopkins
Paul Kupperberg
Max McCoy
Christopher Mills
Will Murray
Mel Odom
Gary Phillips
Martin Powell
Robert Randisi
James Reasoner
Richard Dean Starr (A friend and colaborator with all kinds of Moonstone projects!)
& Dan Wickline.

It's strange and humbling to work on a character I loved as a kid! It's amazing to see it out in print.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Sad Day

I just heard that Tony Hillerman passed away yesterday.

If you don't know him, or the many books he wrote, you're missing something special. Mr. Hillerman was a mystery writer of rare talend. The vast majority of his stories Took place on in the Navajo Nation and the surrounding areas in New Mexico and Arizona.

I was born in Phoenix, grew up in Albuquerque, and worked for 8 years at a churhc in Sedona. The Southwest is my favorite part of the country, the closest to my heart. Tony Hillerman was able to capture it like no one else I've ever read. He knew what it is about those austere landscapes that makes them so compelling. He painted them, and the people who live there, so vividly that reading one of his books always felt like a piece of home for me.

For a lesser writer, creating a mystery series with a tribal policemen as the detective/hero could have been a gimmick. Not for Tony. He wrote about people, and cultures, that he know intimately. He never lost the humanity of his characters, or the cultures they came from, in romantic stereotypes. He showed us beautiful, fallable, human beings struggling to make sense of their lives in a changing world.

It seems to me that Tony's earlier novels focussed more on the mysteries, and the rich cultures of the Navajo and other nations served more as a backdrop. These features Joe Leaphorn, a Navajo policeman with a knack for mysteries. His desire to unravel the chaol and restore harmony to chaotic situations grew from his spiritual roots, but found practical applicationin his work. He had his big map on the office wall stuck with colored stickpins as he tried to perceive the underlying patterns. Joe was also a tragic figure, a man deeply in love with a wife who was slowly dying of cancer.

After a time, the stories seemed to shift. The mysteries were still first rate, but seemed to take a back seat to the personal struggles of a man trying to live in two cultures. Jim Chee was much younger than Leaphorn, but also much more traditional. He was a policeman who doubled as a healer. A lot of people have tried to portray the struggle to hold on to Native American traditions in the modern world. Their efforts are usually well-meaning, but hokey. Not Tony! The struggle he showed us through Jim Chee was painfully real, especially as the character's love life mis-matched him with women he loved, but who he could not find a way to be with and be true to himself.

The stories were told with wit, with an insightful eye, with a deep sense of compassion, and with a sense of the beauty of life that always shone through. From what I've heard his writing is a good indication od the man himself. Everything I've read says that he was warm, kind, generous, honest, and that his eyes twinkled with life.

I will miss Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee (who Tony finally gave a happy ending) and I will miss the man who created them.

Rest in peace, Mr. Hillerman, and (as the Navajo people you loved so dearly might say) may you be surrounded in beauty.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Max Payne

My wife wanted to go see "Appaloosa" this evening, unfortunately we got to the theater after it started, and she decided we should see "Max Payne" instead. In case you're not familiar with the movies, "Appaloosa" is a based on a novel by Robert B. Parker (a writer I admire), "Max Payne" is based on a popular third person shooter game.

I'm going to sound like a real snob (maybe I am), but no apologies for this one. Max Payne is awful.

It's not universally awful. Beau Bridges as B.B. is good (at least until the climax when he has to spit out a lot of ludicrous lines), and I was pleasantly surprised by Ludacris as the Internal Affairs officer investigating Max.

Other good points...

1. I learned that no matter how gigantic your gun of preference is, it's fairly easy to conceal it on your person if you just wear a jacket.

2. I was impressed that Mark Wahlberg's character could shoot more accurately firing over his shoulder while falling backwards than any other character could shoot while standing up and aiming (even with a laser aiming device). I suspect that the character's amazing willpower (demonstrated by the fact that his face never changed expression) accounts for this.

3. The movie was one of the loudest I've seen in a long time. This is a useful feature, it helps the viewer to fend off occasional drowsiness.

4. Mila Kunis is a pretty actress. Even excessive makeup, a lack of intelligent dialogue, and the excessive flourishing of a ridiculously big gun failed to completely obscure this fact.

5. The visual effects were spectacular, and sometimes even clever.

6. The occasional references to Norse mythology were interesting, and hinted at greater depth. Unfortunately they were also inaccurate, and were ultimately red herrings.

The final lesson I learned is that I probably shouldn't watch movies, let alone review them, while I'm in a terrible mood. It's a good thing that tomorrow is another day.

("Tomorrow is another day!" That's a good line! Maybe they can put that in a movie someday. It'd work great right before the climactic gunfire, explosions, and helicopter crash!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Iron Man

I finally got to see this on DVD this week and enjoyed it tremendously! Robert Downeyt Jr. was perfect as Tony Stark, the hero who moved from self-involved arrogance to idealistic heroism without ever losing his engagingly irresponsible attitude.

The rest of the cast was also very good, especially Gwenneth Paltrow as Stark's long-suffering personal assistant. I've heard criticism that Jeff Bridges as the villainous Obadiah Stane wasn't as good a villain as he could have been. I actually liked him a lot in this. He may suffer by comparison to Heath Ledger's tour de force as the Joker in Dark Knight, but everyone this summer will suffer when compared to that.

There was a lot to like about the movie, but there was one scene that made me really think. Disillusioned by the fact that his weapons are being used to kill innocents, Stark develops the Iron Man armor and travels to Afghanistan to take on anyone misusing his weapons.

Iron Man is technologically superior to anything operating in the country. He only has a few rough moments in slipping past the U.S. forces and overpowering the insurgents. When they resort to using human shields, Iron Man activates a special weapon that targets all the hostage takers and knocks them out without a single innocent being harmed.

It's a fun scene, but it made me a little--uncomfortable might be too strong a word--but it made me think. It reminded me of the claims we heard in the Gulf War, which have been repeated in the war in Iraq. And the truth is that the U.S. has as huge a technological advantage over the rest of the world as Iron Man has over the real world. Despite that, war is still messy, collateral damage is still high, and innocents still suffer every day.

I recently listened to an NPR interview with an expert on the recent wars who said that the highest civilian body counts by far in Afghanistan these days are caused by U.S. air strikes. He blames poor communication between U.S. forces and international peacekeepers, and also the very different rules of engagement between air and ground forces. The lack of coordination leads to a chaotic situation that no level of technological superiority can sort out.

In the movie, Tony Stark decides that the armor he develops is too powerful to be trusted to anyone else. It needs to remain in the hands of a lone highly responsible individual. (Well, actually a reckless individual with a heart of gold, but you get the point).

That's perhaps the essence of the superhero myth. It's not superior power that ultimately makes the hero. It's courage, compassion, and wise decisions that define the hero. In the world of a movie or a comic book, those things are fairly easy to come by. In real life it's much messier. We can, and should, strive for the ideal, but we're a long way from being Iron Man.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Edward Monkton

I just heard about htis guy today. He is the most amazing greeting card writer of all time!!! (That deserves more ! but three is my limit).

His cards have messages like:

Live Your Dreams
Except for that one about being EATEN by as giant SPIDER


DARE TO BE DIFFERENT...but not so DIFFERENT that you become a Menace to Society and they have to take you off to the HEAD HOSPITAL and conduct experiments on your BRAIN.That would be just too DIFFRENT, OK?

This is too cool!

Et tu Brutarian?

Horse Latitudes is fresh back from Brutarian. This one wasn't bad as rejections go, in fact the letter was positively friendly, and the response time was excellent. I'm going to ask a friend to kick the tires and listen to the engine, and then it's off to Realms of Fantasy.

Leah and I are doing some retuning on Panzersloth as well with a publication called Daikaijuzine in mind. There's something kind of fitting in sending a giant monster story to a magazine that has the Japanese word for giant monster in the title.

And (with fear and trembling) The Beauty Thief goes in the mail to Cemetery Dance tomorrow. I've looked at some of the names that have published there and it is daunting. The flip side is that getting published there would be a huge coup (and they pay money, which is always nic).

So fly free little stories! Find good homes, and don't forget me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Currently Reading

It's a bit of a mix.

PLATO AND A PLATYPUS WALK INTO A BAR which my sister Allison sent for my birthday. It's the history of western philosophy told with jokes. Very clever and insightful. I could have used this when I was a college freshman.

THE PHANTOM CHRONICLES - Another of Moonstone's stories mixing first rate authors with classic characters. I've had a soft spot for the Ghost-Who-Walks since I read his adventures in Charleton Comics as a kid. I've only read one story so far, by Richard Dean Starr. I'm hoping the rest are as good.

JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL - I actually haven't started this yet. From what I hear it's going to be a lot of fun!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Handling Rejection

What do you do when you spend many hours on a story, shaping and polishing it into something special, only to have it rejected? After the wailing and gnashing of teeth, I try to pick out the errors that the editor has (hopefully) pointed out, show it to a couple of beta-readers, and send it back out there.

Only, this one keeps coming back.

"Trail of the Brujo" has come back (again) from a market not to be named here with a very blunt rejection letter. The letter says that I need to become "a much more careful writer". After wailing and gnashing a bit I looked at it and say that there were two (2) big errors on the first page. I'd changed a line I didn't like and had missed deleting the original. The effect was that I had the same idea twice in the first paragraph. I'd also removed my contact information when I workshopped the story and had forgotten to put it back in befure submitting the story.

My bad, and it's easy to see a rejection for those two things alone.

The other comment was more cryptic.

...having a witch not believe in shapeshifting shows that you do not know the
subject you are writing about.

I can see how this could be a valid point. I'm puzzled by the fict that the witch/brujo character in the story, never says he disbelieves in shapeshifting. In fact, there's no discussion of shapeshifting anywhere in the story.

Color me puzzled.

Still, O best beloved, it is not wise to argue with an editor. I have made the corrections I could and sent the story on to a new market.

I may be getting better at this rejection business. There was on;y a days-worth of wailing and gnashing of teeth this time. (That will probably help with the dental bills too.)

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Stories To Date

A friend recently asked about what I had in print and I realized I wasn't sure. Record keeping isn't exactly my best thing. It made sense to do something about that, and the blog seemed a good place to do it.

Many thanks to Win Scott Eckert for helping me to figure out how to make the cool slideshow feature work on this blog! I’m insufferably pleased with it!

For anyone who is curious, here is the tally for the moment:

"The Legacy of the Fox" (essay) MYTHS FOR THE MODERN AGE
"The Mask of the Monster" TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN – VOL 1
"Ex Calce Liberatus" TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN – VOL 2
"The Heart of the Moon" TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN – VOL 3
"Captain Future and the Lunar Peril" TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN – VOL 4
"Fool’s Gold" HELL’S HANGMEN
"The Cold Comes South" “In Lovecraft’s Shadow” Issue 1
"Mysterious Dan’s Legacy" ARKHAM TALES
"Snake Oil" FRONTIER CTHULHU (Origin Award Semi-Finalist)
Enemy of My Enemy (With Mike Bullock) TALES OF ZORRO

"Le masque du monstre" LES COMPAGNONS DE L'OMBRE (Tome 1)
"Ex Calce Liberatus" LES COMPAGNONS DE L'OMBRE (Tome 1)
"La voie de la grue" LA SAGA DE MME. AROMOS (Tome 4)

"The Way of the Crane" TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN – VOL 5
"In Forgetfulness Divine" THE AVENGER CHRONICLES
"Decently and Quietly Dead" “In Lovecraft’s Shadow” Issue 2