Wednesday, September 2, 2009

News!

I really need to update this thing more.

I heard back from Cemetery Dance who decided to pass on "The Beauty Thief". that's disappointing, but I will place a story with them someday (shakes fists at the heavens).

I did have some better news from "Tales from the Cauldron" who just accepted my story "Trail of the Brujo" (Yay!)

And i'm editing another book for Permuted Press, a well-written tale of werewolves and those who hunt them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

C-Realm Podcast

There's a nifty interview with Lane Adamson, editor of Robots Beyond on the latest podcast at C-Realm episode 165.

Take a listen. Buy the book. That is all.

Story acceptance!

The folks at Cyberwizard Productions have accepted my story, "The Tragic Tale of Tyrannosaurus Tex" for their upcoming anthology, tentatively titled Silly Western Anthology.

It's a short piece, the sad story of the greatest of the gun-slinging theropods of the old west. It has action, drama, true love, and a little humor.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Big News at Permuted!

Something really great came up today for the good folks at Permuted Press. Here's the press release:

POCKET BOOKS PARTNERS WITH PERMUTED PRESS TO PUBLISH ZOMBIE FICTION

New York, New York (July 1, 2009) – Anthony Ziccardi, Vice President and Deputy Publisher of Pocket Books, has announced a new co-publishing venture with Permuted Press, best known for horror, dark fantasy and science fiction novels . The seven book deal was brokered by Marc Gerald at the Agency Group. The books will be Zombie focused, with the first release DAY BY DAY ARMAGEDDON by J.L. Bourne, slated for October 2009.

“I am excited to be the pioneer author for the Pocket Books and Permuted Press joint publishing venture. Horror fans are in for an absolute thrill and can expect to enjoy bold, fresh and riveting fiction as a result of this project. The journey with Permuted Press has been a great success and I know that success will be further enhanced as we shift gears into a new and exciting relationship with Pocket Books. Keep your doors locked!” --J.L. Bourne

Jacob Kier, Publisher, Permuted Press, said “I couldn't be more excited about teaming up with Pocket Books to bring some of Permuted's most exciting and thought-provoking tales of the end of the world to a larger audience.”

Permuted Press began its publishing program in 2004 and quickly became noted in the horror fiction genre. Bourne’s DAY BY DAY ARMAGEDDON is Permuted’s biggest seller, with sales of approximately 25,000 copies. Other titles entering the co-publishing venture have sold between 10-20,000 copies. Permuted has achieved unprecedented success for a small company operating from a remote corner of Missouri and, until now, has utilized only a print on demand (POD) centered publishing model.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Permuted Press and expand their very successful brand.” said Anthony Ziccardi. “We feel the horror genre and zombies in particular, will be a growing category at retail. Even Hollywood seems to be focused on zombie tales and we feel that we are well positioned to capitalize on this trend.”


Titles to be included in the joint venture are:

* Day by Day Armageddon and sequel by J.L. Bourne
* Plague of the Dead by Z.A. Recht
* Dying to Live by Kim Paffenroth
* Down the Road by Bowie Ibarra
* Empire by David Dunwoody
* The Zombie Chronicles: Escape by James Melzer


Congratulations Jacob and all the authors!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Daikaijuzine 4.5

The latest issue of Daikaijuzine is out today. It's a web-zine so no hard copies :(. The magazine's unusual name is derived from the Japanese "dai" ("large" or "giant") and "kaiju" ("strange creature" or "monster"). A daikaiju is a giant monster. More specifically, it is one of the gigantic monsters Like Godzilla, King Ghidorah, or Mothra that appear in Japanese movies. With a name like that it seemed like the perfect market for a tale of a 400' foot pangolin terrorizing the city of Chicago.

The story is Panzersloth, and, if you notice an extra amount of wonderfulness in the telling that's due to my co-author, the extremely talented Leah Clarke.

I hope you'll find the story as much fun to read as it was to write.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Brave Blue Mice

Brave Blue Mice.com is a nifty little e-zine run by my friend Greg. It hosts stories by a number of talented writers, including alums from the PIT writer's workshop, Kody Boye and Bobbie Metevier. He's also accepted a story of mine recently.

"Taking the Horn" is an excursion into high fantasy. It came about as the result of an on-line conversation about which would win a fight between a unicorn and a zombie. From such unlikely beginnings my story, this story of three unlikely adventurers and their desperate quest was born.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion

I'd posted that I was mentioned in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 2008 Edited by Ellen Datlow and Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant. Well, it's a little late but I finally tracked down a copy and here are the citations:

High Seas Cthulhu, edited by William Jones (Elder Signs Press), is an anthology of twenty Lovecraftian tales set on the sea. All but one are original and although every story is readable, there isn't enough variety in tone, setting, or style. The more interesting stories are by Matthew Baugh, Tim Curran, John Shire, Stewart Sternberg, Charles P. Zaglanis, and Lee Clark Zumpe.


The other mention was also from something Edited by the very talented William Jones.

Frontier Cthulhu Ancient Horrors in the New World, edited by William Jones (Chaosium), is a pretty good anthology of fifteen Lovecraftian stories taking place in the American West. The best originals are those by Matthew Baugh, Lon Prater, and Jason Andrews.


Didja notice that there's one name in common on both lists? Huh? Didja? Didja?

(Okay, I'll be quiet now.)
:)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Longest Running Fictional Character

My sister Allison sent me this article asking about the longest running fictional character of all time. The writer has indeed stacked things in favor of Superman, and both comic books and newspaper comic strips seem to have a huge advantage in this kind of contest.

Still, the Phantom who was created in 1936 beats Superman out by several years, and (from reading the blog's responses) I see that people have pointed out that the characters in Gasoline Alley and Little Orphan Annie both trump the Man of Steel as well. Annie has been an orphan since 1924 and Gasoline Alley started publication in 1918. Even the relative newcomers Dick Tracy (1931) and Prince Valiant (1937) have maintained continuity for longer.

My first thought for the all time champion was Nick Carter an adventurer/detective whose published adventures began in 1886. Sadly, though Carter continued to appear regularly until 1990, the series ended at that time.

There has got to be some mention of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. They have been teen detectives since 1927 and 1930 respectively.

I know that the article was really trying to make a point about the problems with allowing character series to continue for such long periods of time, but this has turned into a fun game.

I'm sure there are some I'm missing. Any suggestions?

Monday, May 18, 2009

LAMB

I just finished this novel by the amazing Christopher Moore. The full title is: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. I really like Moore. He is one of the funniest writers around and has the best titles of all time, my favorites being Island of the Sequined Love Nun, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, and The Stupidest Angel (The last is a heart-warming Christmas story with zombies).

Lamb is not a terribly orthodox (big surprise) retelling of the Gospel stories, nor is it strictly accurate from a historical point of view (another big surprise). Moore is well-known for his absurdism and goody sense of humor, and both are on full display here.

Levi, the son of Alpheus, aka 'Biff', Joshua (the name used for Jesus throughout the story) and Mary Magdalene aka "Maggie" are inseparable childhood friends. Biff is a natural con man with a heart of gold, Maggie is the smart, brave, pretty girl who both boys adore, and Joshua is the Son of God. It makes for an eventful childhood that is by turns touching, funny, and sad.

Childhood ends when Joshua and Biff decide they need to leave Judea to find the three wise men and learn what Josh needs to know about being the Messiah. It's a bizarre journey that takes them as far as the Shaolin Monastery in China, where Joshua learns kung fu and creates his own non-violent martial are of Jew-do. Finally the friends return to their home where they gather disciples, are reunited with Maggie, and run through the familiar events of the passion.

I put off reading this one because it's so hard to do a Jesus story well. People either tend to do pious rehashings of things that have been done a million times already, or else harsh debunkings that reveal shocking secrets.

Moore doesn't go in for either of those paths. He writes with a healthy disdain for conventional piety, but also with real affection. His Joshua is wise, loving and fearless, but far from omniscient. He makes mistakes, generally because he cares too much, but learns from them without ever becoming cynical. It's also refreshing to see someone having so much fun filling in the lost years of Jesus. Moore recognizes the absurdity of this kind of endeavor and uses it playfully.

It's not theologically earth-shaking (nor was it meant to be) but it's a good read, funny and fast moving with the occasional nice insight of affecting scene. I liked it better than any Jesus fiction I've seen in a long time.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Arrived Today!


I got my copy of ROBOTS BEYOND in the mail! It's a great looking book and exciting to finally have in hand. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Zorro and the Plot Twist that Would Not Work

I'm working on something for MORE TALES OF ZORRO which is a joy and a struggle. It's a joy because I love the character and doing this brings back good memories. It's a struggle because there are two mutually exclusive things I'd like to have happen at the conclusion of the story.

This started as the story of how Zorro's father came to learn his secret. That would have been fun to tell, but it wasn't approved. I'm trying to save the best parts to tell a story about Zorro and Esperanza (the woman he's married to in the beginning of "The Mask of Zorro"). It's not quite clicking yet but possibly after tonight.

It's an interesting challenge to write a licensed character. In some ways it's much harder and less satisfying than creating your own. When you've created a character you can do anything you want to him or her. It's unrestricted creativity, and what's not to love about that. There's also a connection you feel toward characters you have created that just isn't there for another author's brainchild.

When writing a character like Zorro, there is a strange tension. It's something I think that every writer handles differently. On the one hand, you have to honor the character's existing back-story, established personality, relationships, etc. It's something the fans (and the copyright holder) want you to do, and I think they have a right to have some expectations.

That can clash with the author's legitimate desire to do something unique and fresh with the character. Nobody wants to write retreads of someone else's stories after all. But I think there needs to be a balance between these two extremes.

Years ago I read a Sherlock Holmes pastiche in which it was revealed that boredom and drug abuse had driven the detective mad. Unable to find a worthy adversary, he created the identity of Professor Moriarty and began planning crimes. Later, when even this was not enough of a challenge, he became Jack the Ripper.

It was a clever idea and (as I remember) pretty well executed. However, it violated my expectations of what the character was supposed to be like so badly that it nearly made me sick. The reason I was reading Holmes pastiches at that age was because I was a big fan. I really loved the character and his adventures, and the revelation felt like a personal betrayal. The writer did something that was perfectly legal, and artistically valid, but it's something I'd never want to do myself. Having been on the other side I think that the writer should balance his creative drive with the expectations of the fans.

So in my story Zorro will not turn out to be Professor Moriarty, or Jack the Ripper. He will be (I hope) dashing, clever, romantic, etc. I hope I can bring something uniquely mine to the story, but even more I hope I can capture some of the magic that I felt when I first saw Guy Williams or Tyrone Power or Alain Delon out fencing and outwitting the forces or tyranny and injustice. That part feels even more important to me than adding my own special touches.

Speaking of, I have a plot twist to grapple with!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Epitaph

This is something that the young Ben Franklin came up with. I've always liked it. (His actual epitaph was much less creative).

The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

This Idea Stolen From...

Catherine Gardener had a great idea (which she lifted from Aaron Polson) and I thought it would be fun to pirate it for myself. Here are the ten stories of which I am proudest (in no particular order).

1) Mysterious Dan’s Legacy (Arkham Tales) - The first of the Dave Mather stories (though I had to change the character's name in this for legal reasons). It's one of my first and IMO contains some of my best characterization.

2) Nano-Domini (Robots Beyond) - It's a short story about noano-robots discovering God... sort of. It was thematically ambitious but came off pretty well.

3) Clown Fish (High Seas Cthulhu) - A pirate story that tries to be creepy and ironic. I love the way the title connects to the end of the story.

4) Snake Oil (Frontier Cthulhu) - Another Dave Mather story with lots of authentic snake lore and a last paragraph I'm proud of.

5) The Beauty Thief (Submitted) - This one is based on a Navajo ghost story. It has an experimental structure, is told in first person present, and has a confusing ending. Despite this, I think it's one of the very best things I've written.

6) The Cold Comes South (In Lovecraft's Shadow #1) - Another Dave Mather story and IMO perhaps the creepiest. I think I got the sense of the barren frontier just about right in it.

7) Fool’s Gold (Hell's Hangmen) - Yet another Dave Mather story. This one has some characters (including Wyatt Earp) who I became very fond of. I also liked the last line quite a bit.

8) City of Masks (You Don't Know What You've Got) - My first zombie story. It's still got flaws, but I was happy witht he final form it took. It was written at a very painful time in my life and that actually sharpened the writing a bit.

9) Closing Time at Galaxy Video (Submitted) - A humorous tale of alien invasion that I have a lot of affection for. I'd love to write more in this vein.

10) The Tragic Tale of Tyrannosaurus Tex (Submission) - A very short story and probably my funniest. I've had the title kicking around for years and am very happy finally to have a story to go with it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Robots Beyond


I just found out that Robots Beyond from Permuted Press is now available at Amazon. This was a fun one ot work with, largely because editor Lane Adamson and a lot of the contributors are friends of mine. I had the chance to see some of the stories in the workshop stage and there is some seriously great stuff in here.

The table of contents is:

- Electric Crown by Thom Brannan
- The Last Protector by Billy Wong
- Franchise Hell by Ren Holton
- Burning Down the House by Paula Stiles
- Tinman by Jesse A. Lynn
- Crocus by William Carl
- Narrative Device by Alistair Bishop
- Other Dreams by Dave Dunwoody
- The Strange Affair of the Artisan's Heart by Joshua Reynolds
- Surveillance by R. Thomas Riley
- Primero by Richard Mosses
- The Cure by Christopher Donahue
- Hothead by Mark Patrick Lynch
- How Coyote Made Robot by John W. Oliver
- Again, Iabrochium by Joel Sutherland
- Be Swift, My Soul by Lane Adamson
- A Robot Named J35U5 by Matt R. Jones
- Nano-Domini by Matthew Baugh
- Are You Lonesome Tonight? by Doug Wojtowicz

Friday, April 17, 2009

What has the Government Ever Given Us?

I usually don't do political type blogs, but the tea bag protests this week triggered a memory of this scene from a favorite movie.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Hunger Site

This is a post that I’m putting on both my blogs because it needs to have the word spread. You may know about these already, but, if you don’t, here they are.

The Hunger Site started in 1999 and is a click-to-donate website. What that means is that you can click a button on the site once per day and it will translate as a small donation to the famine relief organizations Feeding America (formerly known as America’s Second Harvest) and Mercy Corps. The action is free and, thought the donation is small, it adds up over time and is an effortless way to make a difference.

It is linked to a number of other websites with the same set up and similar missions.

The Breast Cancer Site gathers contributions for free mammogram screenings.

The Child Health Site focuses its efforts on providing medicine and medical care to low income children.

The Literacy Site uses the funds they gather to purchase books for literacy campaigns.

The Rainforest Site buys up areas of endangered rainforest so they cannot be developed.

The Animal Rescue Site purchases food to care for animals in shelters.

Each of them is worth a click a day. They are my first six visits when I go on line. I hope you'll consider them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two Books I Read

I've been reading two books side by side for the last few days and finished them both this morning. They are as different in most ways as two books can be, but drew forth similar feelings from me.

NEVERWHERE is a fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman. It's the fairy-tail like story of a nice but very ordinary young man named Richard who accidentally slips out of the normal world of London and ends up in the surreal world of London-Below. He ends out helping a girl named Door on a quest, makes friends, faces monsters, meets an angel, and grows up to a truer sense of who he is and what he wants in life. It's a magical book in a way that few books (even those with lots of magic) ever are. It touched me because it was so good at recognizing that true magic has to do with friendship, and kindness, and unselfish compassion. It does a wonderful job of showing how what we believe about the-way-things-are can beat us down and blind us to the truth of this magic.

It's got some honest, ugly and frightening moments, but the moments of wonder, joy and love are just as honest (more actually) and make the journey more than worth it.

VELVET ELVIS by Rob Bell is a brilliant, unconventional look at Christianity and what it is really meant to be. It does a wonderful job of cutting past the dogma and layers of tradition and striking at the heart of faith, which, even after 2000 years is beautiful, radical and inspiring. For Bell, real faith isn't about following a set of ecclesiastical rules to get into Heaven. It's something that changes us in the here and now, helping us to see the world as God sees it, helping us love the people God loves (which is everyone) and living out that love.

In other words (I'm simplifying here) but true faith has less to do with the beliefs we hold and more to do with things like friendship, and kindness, and unselfish compassion. He also does a great job of showing how what we believe about the-way-things-are can beat us down and blind us to the truth of God.

In the end these two very different books were a great combination to read. I recomment either, or both, without reservation.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Article of Faith

My friend Leah told me about this story featured on the Escape Pod podcast. She said it made her think of something I might write. The subject matter, about a robot who explores the possibilities of faith in God, is is certainly something I'd love to work with, and the themes of acceptance vs. exclusion are close to my heart. Of course I can only dream that I'll ever be able to write like Mike Resnick, who has won more honors for his science fiction than anyone else.

His story, "Article of Faith" is a 2009 Hugo Award nominee for short fiction. It's found here and is episode 193.

I highly recommend listening to it!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lost Generation

This very cool video is making its rounds on the internet right now. It was conceived and produced by a 20 year old and is the second place winner in a vdieo contest.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rules to write by

The original (wonderful) list is from William Safire, ca. 1970. This expanded version is from a nifty blog I discovered today.

- Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.

- Don't use no double negatives.

- Use the semicolon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn't.

- Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed.

- Do not put statements in the negative form.

- Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

- No sentence fragments.

- Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

- If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

- Steer clear of incorrect verb forms that have snuck into the language.

- Take the bull by the hand in leading away from mixed metaphors.

- Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

- Like, be aware that "like" is, like, easily misused.

- Try to never split infinitives.

- Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

- Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.

- I must have told you a million times to resist hyperbole.

- Also, avoid awkward and affected alliteration.

- "Avoid overuse of 'quotation "marks" ' ".

- Avoid commas, that are not necessary.

- A writer must not shift your point of view.

- And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

- Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!!!

- Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of ten or more words, to their antecedents.

- Write all adverbial forms correct.

- Avoid un-necessary hyphenation.

- When dangling, watch your participles.

- It is incumbent on us to avoid archaic phrases.

- Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

- It's hard to imagine a phrase when you will have needed the future perfect.

- Unqualified superlatives are the worst.

- Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

- A preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Blog

Some of you know that I have a blog for my churchly musings as well. I'm moving it from journalscape to Blogger because it's a much easier platform for me to use. If you're interested in what a pastor who writes horror stories has to say about faith, justice and sundry topics, check out God and Stuff.

Monday, March 23, 2009

No Escape for me

I got a rejection letter (a very nice one actually) from Jeremiah Tolbert at Escape Pod. They didn't want "Closing Time at Galaxy Video" so I'll have hunt for another market. On the plus side he said he likes my writing.
:)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Supernatural Gets Good

I don't watch that much television, but something I have kept up with for the last few years has been the show "Supernatural". The basic premise is that there are people who secretly hunt the ghosts, monsters and demons that plague humanity. It focuses on the activities of two of these hunters, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they fight the good fight.

I didn't get into the show in the first season. It seemed to me too interested in gimmicks and a cool image and not enough in substance. That's changed (at least my perception of it has changed) as the show has become smarter, funnier, and more insightful. It does a nice job of exploring the ethics of difficult choices, and it's two fallible heroes often choose poorly, but never without consequence. Their long campaign is making them tougher, wiser, and more cynical, just as real-world wars so often do to the people who fight them.

The series has been focusing on demons for some time and largely ignoring ghosts, vampires, and other sundry monsters. That's not a bad thing IMO, because different monsters give a story a different mood and feel. A vampire story is different from a ghost story is different from a werewolf story and so on. Finding a niche, as "Buffy" did with vampires is a good idea.

Very recently the show crossed into less familiar territory as it introduced angels as characters. There have been shows like "Highway to Heaven" and "Touched by an Angel" that have done this before but their angels have been benign, and rather bland, creatures. The angels on "Supernatural" are darker, more awe-inspiring, and more frightening. It's also not a foregone conclusion that they are good. They can be arrogant, callous, and justify terrible actions in the name of their holy war on the powers of evil. It's led Sam and Dean to question whether the angels are any better than the demons.

Dark territory, and relatively new for television, but this bleak view of heaven has been a part of speculative fiction since the 1970's when the war of Heaven and Hell became a frequent parallel to the Cold War. They became two super-powers, one 'good' and the other 'evil' but so ruthless in their struggle that neither cares about the collateral damage they cause.

There have been a number of novels that have picked up on this theme. So many, that it's become something of a cliche. In television it's an idea that was ably explored on the SF series, "Babylon 5", but when I saw "Supernatural" heading in that direction my first thought was, "Oh no, not again."

But tonight's episode suggests that something different, and far more interesting, is happening. Castiel, the main angel character, is conflicted about the ruthless things he is told to do.

In tonight's episode, Castiel recruits Dean to torture information out of a captured demon. He is tormented by having to do this, but believes that it is God's will. Anna, an angel who has deserted fromHeaven's ranks, challenges Castiel's obedience.
She suggests that the orders form on-high aren't coming from God and challenges him to think for himself.

The parallel to the US war on terror is apparent. Is it a okay to justify torture and other terrible things in the name of a good cause? It's also a good critique of many people's experience of Christianity where good people have often been co-opted into heartless actions and attitudes by those who claim to represent the will of God.

If I'm right about where they're going, the message isn't to reject God. Far from it, the message is to follow God by doing those things that God loves, showing honesty, compassion and courage. It's a call to grow up and take responsibility for our own actions. To give up unquestioning obedience to those who claim to speak for God.

As a writer, I like the insight and originality of the direction the show is taking. As a pastor, I hope this is a theme that we see a lot more in the years to come. It's good for Christians to remember that their faith was founded by one who questioned the authority of religious leaders all the time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Another Chapter Down

Nearly 4,000 words in this one, and it gives us a better look at the vampires' lair as well as the past of out homeless hero, Gus. This was a very difficult chapter to get started, but once it took off it was fun to write and just flowed.

I checked my trusty copy of THE VAMPIRE ENCYCLOPEDIA by Matthew Bunson and came up with some really neat lore about roses that looks like it will become very significant. I think there are some genuinely creepy moments in the abandoned buildings that Gus and the deputy investigate, and a scene with one of the vampiers and a gun that I've wanted to write for years.

It's off to Bobbie for review and edits. I can't wait to see where she takes things from here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

And one more...

When I was working on the superior scribbler award I missed one that should have been obvious. Win Scott Eckert has been a good friend for quite a while now. He's an up and coming writer with a great imagination and an unflinching work ethic (just take a look at his Wold-Newton Universe website and you'll see what I mean).

Friday, March 6, 2009

You Don't Know What You've Got

I got my copy of this anthology from Gryphonwood press in the mail toady. I've only had a chance to glance at it, but it looks great. The stories are all built around the theme of "loss and dispossession" and look like they take a wide variety of forms. I'm looking forward to reading htis over the weekend.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Scribbler

Thanks to my friend, Bobbie Metevier whose blog can be found at EXPRESSIONS for awarding me a Superior Scribbler Award! The rules say that I get to pass this on to five deserving folks so I've chosen the following...

1) Writer on Writing who is a great writer and a great guy. Lots of helpful tips here, especially for aspiring screenwriters.

2) Rakie at Armageddon Checklist who doesn't post often but is one of the funniest people ever.

3) The (not so infamous) Michelle McCrary, who recently saw her first story acceptance (YAY!)

4) William's Ramblings by William Jones of Elder Signs Press, one of the most helpful editors ever.

5) And finally, the first editor to accept something of mine and a friend, Jean-Marc Lofficier who is also the owner/publisher of Black Coat Press.

Don't Mess With Lawyers (Unless You're Groucho)



This is an old favorite story that I rediscovered a few days ago. it seems that, when the Marx Brothers were working on their movie, A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA, they received a letter from Warner Brothers Studios warning them that they were infringing on the studio's intellectual property rights. A few years earlier, WB had put out the classic movie, CASABLANCA and they feared...I'm not exactly sure what they feared, to tell the truth. In any case, they got a letter back, written in classic Groucho style...

Dear Warner Brothers,

Apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated making this picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers. However, it was only a few days after our announcement appeared that we received your long, ominous legal document warning us not to use the name Casablanca.

It seems that in 1471, Ferdinand Balboa Warner, your great-great-grandfather, while looking for a shortcut to the city of Burbank, had stumbled on the shores of Africa and, raising his alpenstock (which he later turned in for a hundred shares of common), named it Casablanca.

I just don’t understand your attitude. Even if you plan on releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

You claim that you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about the name Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye, and even before there had been other brothers—the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brothers, an outfielder with Detroit; and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (This was originally “Brothers, Can You Spare a Dime?” but this was spreading a dime pretty thin, so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to the other one, and whittled it down to “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”)

Now Jack, how about you? Do you maintain that yours is an original name? Well it’s not. It was used long before you were born. Offhand, I can think of two Jacks—Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day.

As for you, Harry, you probably sign your checks sure in the belief that you are the first Harry of all time and that all other Harrys are impostors. I can think of two Harrys that preceded you. There was Lighthouse Harry of Revolutionary fame and a Harry Appelbaum who lived on the corner of 93rd Street and Lexington Avenue. Unfortunately, Appelbaum wasn’t too well-known. The last I heard of him, he was selling neckties at Weber and Heilbroner.

Now about the Burbank studio. I believe this is what you brothers call your place. Old man Burbank is gone. Perhaps you remember him. He was a great man in a garden. His wife often said Luther had ten green thumbs. What a witty woman she must have been! Burbank was the wizard who crossed all those fruits and vegetables until he had the poor plants in such confused and jittery condition that they could never decide whether to enter the dining room on the meat platter or the dessert dish.

This is pure conjecture, of course, but who knows—perhaps Burbank’s survivors aren’t too happy with the fact that a plant that grinds out pictures on a quota settled in their town, appropriated Burbank’s name and uses it as a front for their films. It is even possible that the Burbank family is prouder of the potato produced by the old man than they are of the fact that your studio emerged “Casablanca” or even “Gold Diggers of 1931.”

This all seems to add up to a pretty bitter tirade, but I assure you it’s not meant to. I love Warners. Some of my best friends are Warner Brothers. It is even possible that I am doing you an injustice and that you, yourselves, know nothing about this dog-in-the-Wanger attitude. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to discover that the heads of your legal department are unaware of this absurd dispute, for I am acquainted with many of them and they are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits and a love of their fellow man that out-Saroyans Saroyan.

I have a hunch that his attempt to prevent us from using the title is the brainchild of some ferret-faced shyster, serving a brief apprenticeship in your legal department. I know the type well—hot out of law school, hungry for success, and too ambitious to follow the natural laws of promotion. This bar sinister probably needled your attorneys, most of whom are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits, etc., into attempting to enjoin us. Well, he won’t get away with it! We’ll fight him to the highest court! No pasty-faced legal adventurer is going to cause bad blood between the Warners and the Marxes. We are all brothers under the skin, and we’ll remain friends till the last reel of “A Night in Casablanca” goes tumbling over the spool.

Sincerely,

Groucho Marx

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Let's Roll Kato


It seems that I can talk about this after all. I'm helping work on the story 'bible' for Moonstone's upcoming anthology of Green Hornet stories.

The Green Hornet was a huge favorite of mine when I was 5, and the memory has stuck with me through all the ensuing years. I was a sucker for superheroes but he was more than just another masked hero. He had (IMO) better gadgets than Batman, and his car, the Black Beauty was at least as cool as the Batmobile. I also really liked his assistant, Kato, who had amazing fighting skills. It wasn't until years later that I learned Kato had been played by the then-unknown Bruce Lee!

This is going to be fun!

Because Everyone Needs to Know

Who is this 'Batfink' I mentioned? When I was in Kindergarten, he was my hero. Click the link and see why.

Next week: "Who is Anna Karinina?"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Can't Tell You

I'm working on something but I can't say what it is yet.

Maybe I could give you clues...(this is probably a bad idea)

It's something for Moonstone, who have previously done anthologies for licensed characters like Zorro, the Phantom, and Kolchack, the Night Stalker.

No, it's not Zorro, the Phantom, and Kolchack, the Night Stalker.
No, I can't tell you who it is.
No, it's not an anthology about Darby O'Gill and the little people.
Yes, I do remember that a young Sean Connery was in that movie.
No, it's not a cross-over about 007 and the Little People (where do you come up with this stuff?)
Yes, it has to do with a licensed character.
Yes, it was a favorite character from when I was young.
Yes, they did have fictional characters way back then! How old do yuo think I am, anyway?
(Darned kids these days!)
No, I can't tell you who it is.
No, it's not Batfink. This is a much more serious character than Batfink.
No, it's not Anna Karinina!
Yes, I know that Tolstoy is more serious than Batfink, but that doesn't automatically mean...
Let's just say this character is in the middle ground between Batfink and Anna Karinina.
No, it's not a tragic Russian heroine who poses as an animated crimefghter. That's really not what I meant.
Aaaaaaah! You're driving me crazy with these incessant quesitons.

Okay, if you won't leave me alone I'll tell you. it's




There, are you satisfied?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Shack

I've been reading the novel that's been such a runaway best-seller for the last couple of days. If I get the time I hope to finish it tonight or tomorrow. It's the story of a man whose life is shattered when his young daughter is taken from him in an act of terrible violence and cruelty. Several years later he returns to the shack where he believes she was murdered and encounters God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all in human form.

The book deals with a question as old as faith. If God is all good, and all powerful, how can there be such terrible suffering in the world? So far, I've been impressed with the novel, which doesn't fall back on facile doctrines or easy answers of any kind. Author William Paul Young shows us a God who isn't offended by honest questions, doubt, or even anger. His version of God (who the protagonist, Mack, sees as a large black woman) is more interested in offering a steady, compassionate presence than easy answers or miraculous fixes.

I was pleased and surprised to see some theological sophistication in the book. The author has clearly studied some wonderful sources in preparing this. But more importantly--much more importantly--what he is giving us in the book is something that is very sincere and real to him. The God we encounter in these pages seems to be the God Mr. Young has encountered in his faith, the one who has helped him through his moments of loss. I think the authenticity of his vision, and the sincerity of his faith are what people find so convincing.

I have to say that I struggled with he first few chapters as he sets up the back-story to the encounter with God. Mr. Young's prose is clumsy and made for slow going. He commits many errors of style and a few of grammar, and he's terrible about telling us about things rather than showing them happen.

Most of the problems evaporate when we come to the sections with God in them. And, even in the early chapters it's easy to forgive him his literary sins. You get a real sense of the author in the book, and come to like him a lot. This isn't an elegant book from a literary point of view, but it intelligent, wise, honest, and deeply compassionate.

I've still got about 80 pages to go so I suppose he could still blow it, but I don't think he will. I have faith that it will stay wise and genuine right through to the end.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More on Writing With Cats

My other cat, Squeak, decided to offer her kind assistance to me tonight. I was working on my laptop in the living room as I watched the episodes of LOST and DEAD LIKE ME I'd recorded.

Quick note: DEAD LIKE ME is wonderful! I never saw this one when it was on, but it's a sharp, darkly hilarious look at the unlife of a young woman who becomes a Grim Reaper after she is killed by a falling piece of space junk (a toilet seat from a Russian space station).

Anyway, I was lying on my stomach, typing away as I watched the shows (it's sad, but that's the only way I watch TV anymore) when Squeak came to see me. She is an affectionate kitty, but is a little like the princess whose sleep was disturbed by a single pea. She will sit in your lap and purr contentedly but a sudden noise, a shift in position, or even the tensing of muscles to indicate I'm thinking of shifting position is enough to end lap-time. She will leap away, then, to demonstrate that she wasn't really startled she will casually stroll away.

Squeak has an impressive stroll. She is a fluffy black cat and her hindquarters resemble nothing so much as an old-fashioned set of women's ruffled bloomers. When she walks away you know that you have been well and justly snubbed.

Anyway (tonight seems to be tangent night) as I lay there, I felt Squeak climb up on the back of my thighs. I lay very still while she spent a considerable period of time pacing around to judge the perfect spot to settle. I thought she was going to curl up in the small of my back, as she has sometimes before, but she chose the higher ground slightly to the south.

I lay still and stopped typing for the next half-hour, enjoying the weightless warmth of her tiny body. I could feel her purr but never heard it. That is a peculiarity of hers, when she purrs it is so quietly that you can only feel it. It's as if she wants the purr to be for you and you alone. Moments of closeness like that are rare for her, and I treasure them when they come.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Scype

I just signed up for this service. It's a free download for audio conversation with anyone on the planet, free. The only catch is that they have to also be on scype...and have a computer...and speak a language I understand...and want to talk to me. But aside from that I can talk to anyone on the planet for free! How cool is that?

If all else fails, the headset is one more thing to sit on the desktop and amuse Mayan.
:)

Monday, February 16, 2009

When is a Rejection Not a Rejection

I received my nicest letter ever today telling me why a story I've submitted will not see print. I'd sent a story to "Tales of the Gun" sometime back on the recommendation of a friend who thought it was what they were looking for. It turns out she was right, they really liked the story. Unfortunately, they have not received enough quality submissions to allow them to move ahead with he project.

It's a shame on several levels. First, because my story needs a new potential home (and this one has really made the rounds). Secong because I really liked the sound of the 'zine these folks were putting together. Mention that you want to publish stories like Manly Wade Wellman used to write and you've got my respect.

I wish them well.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Writing Buddy

I have two cats, Mayan and Squeak. I sometimes refer to them as black but, if you see them lying in a patch of sunlight, you notice that there is actually a complex mix of brown and black in their fur. They are able to diaappear into the shadows, but this also lets them seem almost invisible lying in a patch of brown leaves.

Anyway, Squeak tends it ignore me when I am on the computer. Such things as writing are beneath her notice when there are better ways to spend her time, such as sleeping on the end of the sofa, washing herself, sleeping under the coffee table, chasing Mayan, sleeping on the china cabinet, letting Mayan chase her, sleeping under the kitchen table...you probably get the idea.

Mayan, on the other hand likes writing. More precisely, he likes spending time with me when I'm writing. He usually announces his presence by meowing. If that fails to get more then a 'hello' and a quick head scratch he will, very gently, sink his claws into the back of my calf. He's gotten good at startling me without ever breaking the skin.

He's learning that I have a low tolerance for this and he will be shut out of the room if he persists too long, so the next step is to hop up on the desk and talk to me. His favorite place to stand is directly in front of the screen. When I move him to the side he has several options. He may perch sphinx-like on the desk, and watch me with unconcealed disapproval. Alternatively, he may amuse himself by sliding various objects to the edge and watch them fall (the game is so interesting that he can play for hours).

He has discovered that the most comfortable place to lie is directly on top of my mouse (the irony of a cat on my mouse hasn't escaped me). He curls up on the hard lump of plastic with boneless grace and purrs contentedly. His face looks so innocent as if he's saying, "Hey, I'm just a cat looking for a place to nap. I couldn't possibly understand how this is interfering with you, could I?"

Sometimes he will even help me type. I have to say that, as smart as Mayan is, his writing is not very sophisticated, and contains many errors. Still, there is a certain elegance to a sentence like, ;loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo';

Mayan's favorite place to nap is in my chair. He waits until I'm leaning forward to make his move, and manages to slide into the very narrow space between my back and the back of the chair. He snuggles down until he is as tightly wedged in as possible and begins to purr. I welcome these moments and reach pack to pet him before resuming my work. He gets the closeness he wants so much, and I get a lot more done. I also find his warmth of him against the small of my back, and the drone of his purr soothing.

It's not efficient to have a writing buddy like mine, but it can be very nice.
:)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I thought for sure I'd be the cleric

I haven't played since college, but this "What Dungeons and Dragons Character are You?" quiz looked fun. It turns out that I am (more-or-less) Gandalf, which works for me.
:-)

I Am A: Lawful Good Human Wizard (6th Level)


Ability Scores:

Strength-13

Dexterity-12

Constitution-14

Intelligence-13

Wisdom-15

Charisma-12


Alignment:
Lawful Good A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment because it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.


Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.


Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.


Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

You Don't Know...


Here's the cover scan of YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'VE GOT, TALES OF LOSS AND DISPOSSESSION from Gryphonwood Press. It's a beautiful cover and the release date is slated for Feb 28.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Resubbed

Thanks to the good folks at the PIT a revised and improved version of "Closing Time at Galaxy Video" is off to Escape Pod. It would be a great market to break into and I'd love to hear how they would adapt this to podcast.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Another Chapter Down (hopefully)

This one was a stinker for some reason, probably because it features a vampire on-stage for the first time ever and I had a hard time figuring out what the guy should be like. I'm still ambiguous about this one, though I think there's some good stuff in it.

It's off to my partner in crime for her review.

Speaking of Oxes (Oxen?)

The Chinese New Year reminded me of a series of books to recommend. It's a series by Barry Hughart which combines Chinese history, Chinese myth, mystery stories, and a gently whimsical sense of humor. The series of about Master Li Kao, an aged but brilliant scholar/detective and his assistant, the muscular Number Ten Ox.

I've only read BRIDGE OF BIRDS, but there are two other novels in the series, THE STORY OF THE STONE, and EIGHT SKILLED GENTLEMEN. The Year of the Ox seems like the perfect time to catch up with the rest of the series.

And my ox-luck seems to be started already. I see that the SF channel is doing a marathon of Doctor Who tomorrow. It looks like they're all of the Martha Jones that I hadn't seen. Once I see them, I'll be completely caught-up on the series.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chinatown

I never knew that Chicago had a Chinatown until I moved here. It's not as big, or as famous as those in New York or San Francisco, but is a wonderful place. I rushed to my car after church and headed there. Sadly, the parade started at 1:00 pm. so I only made it for the tail end. The good part is that the thing I wanted to see the most (the lion-dancers) didn't end with the parade.

There's a tradition I'm not familiar with that I saw a lot of today. Many business owners will hang a bunch of lettuce, sometimes with oranges, in front of their place of business. One of the lions will come up (there seem to be four lions, each a different color, another tradition I am not familiar with) and "eat" the offering. A moment later it will "spit out" the lettuce, now shredded, and the oranges, now quartered. The lion will also do an elaborate dance which seems to involve a lot of bowing to the business and the customers. I'm guessing it's all about blessing the merchants with prosperity and good luck for the coming year. Since that's the whole focus of the Chinese New Year, it seems like a pretty safe guess.

It's the beginning of the Year of the Ox, and I was born in the Year of the Ox. That's extra good luck for me, if you believe in such things. I hope it works out because 2008 was a stinker as years go (and I've got some friends who I hope a little of my Ox-luck rubs off on too.

My birth year has always seemed kind of appropriate. The ox is supposed to be kind, patient and deliberate. That fits pretty well, plus it works physically too. I stand out in most places, but in Chinatown I'm as conspicuous as an ox in a herd of deer. On the one hand, it was nice during the parade, because I could see things pretty well over everybody's heads. In the crowded, tiny stores, not so much. I stayed on my best behavior, smiling a lot and trying not to knock things over. The motto of Chinatown, repeated in just about every store I visited was:

"Lovely to look at, delightful to hold, but if you break it, consider it sold."

I spent some time looking for a cricket cage as a favor for a friend. There was a time when cricket-fighting was a big deal in China (or so I've read) and the insect gladiators were housed in beautiful little cages of carved wood, bamboo, ivory or jade. Sadly, the few merchants who knew what I was talking about said that they used to carry the cages, but not any longer.

As the crowds faded into the late afternoon I started looking for a place to eat. There's a great, enclosed plaza a block over from the main tourist drag and I headed that way. As one point, when I was about the only person on the street a small, plump grandmotherly woman with her hair in a tightly curled perm stuck her head out of the door of a shop and called me over.

"You want massage?"

I politely declined, and it wasn't until I started walking away that the suspicious part of my brain kicked in. What kind of massage did the little storefront have to offer? Yikes!

Dinner was hot-sour soup and orange chicken. I also sampled a glass of plum wine. It was too sweet, especially with the chicken, but the name has had me curious for a long time. On the way back to the lot I was accosted by two college aged girls who said they were in a bad situation because the friend who was supposed to give them a ride home had stood them up. If I could give them money for train fare, they would mail it back to me as soon as they got home.

I had a little recording go off in my head, my ex-wife scolding me for believing stories like this, and for giving money to total strangers. She's more practical about such things than I am, and was always telling that I was asking for trouble.

I gave the girls $15 and told them there was no need to repay it. I had mixed motives there, if they were on the up and up, the kind act is its own reward. If they were crooks, they don't have my address. I was kind of proud to have combined altruism and paranoia so neatly. :-)

All in all, a great day, and (I hope) an auspicious start for the Year of the Ox.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Done!

Finished copy-editing the novel ahead of expectations. I'll go over the corrections again tomorrow or Monday but it looks good.

This one was easy; nice, clean writing and a fantastic story. It makes the work a pleasure!

Things Aren't What they Seem

I just got word that this anthology has passed on my story "Closing Time at Galaxy Video". Rejections are never fun, but two recent acceptances do help take the sting away. Plus I got some good critical comments from the folks at the PIT that should help me improve that one.

I'll probably send it back out in about a week, when I've had a chance to re-work it a bit.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Home Stretch

I'm down to the last 75 pages of the novel I'm copy editing for Permuted Press. It's a story of superheroes vs. zombies in the burned out ruin of Los Angeles. I'll admit that the description sounds kind of lame, and would have been a train wreck in the hands of most authors. But this author has done something remarkable with it.

The supers are fully realized characters with their own weaknesses and virtues. They're a complicated lot and you really feel for them. Likewise the merely human characters trapped in a nightmarish situation. He has neatly side-stepped the clich├ęs of both the zombie story and the superhero story and created something that is relentlessly intelligent, emotionally real, and always intense. (I read the scene where the zombies in this world are explained last night, and it gave me the chills more then anything I've read in a long time).

At this stage in development I'm not sure I can give out the name and title, but I will when I can. I'm seriously looking forward to seeing this one in print.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This Will Not Be Pretty

I'm playing pick-up basketball with a group of men from my church tonight. It's a good way to help get back into shape, and could even be fun.

Thing is, I'm not much of a player. I'm taller than anyone else in the group, but that's never helped me before. They're all younger and more athletic than I am (two of the others are still in their teens and one may be going to college on a soccer scholarship).

As for my level of skill...have you ever seen a video of >gooney birds landing? I'm providing one as a visual aid. Instead of a big seabird, just imagine the gooney is a big white guy with a basketball and you'll get the idea.

Still, it'll probably be fun. :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Meeting the World's Giant Scaled Anteater Needs


I heard last night from Richard Crawford that Daikaijuzine would like to publish "Panzersloth" in their June 21, 2009 issue!

In his words:
There are not nearly enough stories that feature giant scaled anteaters, and I'm glad to see you have addressed this critical shortage.


This was a fun one to write, largely because it was a silly send-up of the giant monster movies of the 1950's. Mostly though, it was fun because it was a chance to work with my friend Leah Clarke. It's her second sale, the first having come just a couple of days earlier, and well-deserved. She is a writer to watch and a delight to work with.

And, just in case you were wondering what the giant creature that menaces Chicago in the story looks like. I present Pansy (normal-sized version).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Writing and Spirituality

I'm not a 'Christian Author' per-se. I actually don't even care for most overtly Christian fiction. So much of it seems shallow, and narrow-minded, as if the author had a committee peering over his or her shoulder inspecting it for doctrinal errors. Fiction that has to pass inspection like that tends to bore me to tears. Worse, it strikes me as something that is so concerned with 'correctness' that it doesn't have any truth in it.

But good fiction? Ah, that's a totally different animal.

I believe that we all have a call; something that God has given us the tools and the opportunities to accomplish. I don't see it as something that God tries to force us to do (though I've certainly had times when it felt like that). No, I think it's more that there is something that each of can do that will give us deeper satisfaction--and be of greater benefit to others--than anything else. I don't remember the source of the quote but I remember hearing a definition of a sacred call that I really like.

"Where your deepest passion intersects with the deepest needs of the world, you find your call from God."

That is different for different people, it can be anything from healing, to teaching, to to art, or writing.

Many writers are non-religious, but I would argue that the best writers tend to be deeply spiritual. I've known a few who fall into both of these categories; they feel uncomfortable with scriptures and traditions, they are skeptical of doctrines and pronouncements, and may feel far from the God of religious devotion.

Yet, I would argue that many of these are deeply rooted in the reality of God, even if they wouldn't call it that. I say that because the essence of God flows through their writing. Without being heavy-handed, their works embody a deep sense of justice and compassion. They flow with wisdom, humanity and and grace. They don't offer anything remotely like doctrinal instruction but they touch the soul and call forth the very best and truest from the reader. When I find a story by one of these writers, I feel like my deepest faith is affirmed.

It is a wonderful gift to be able to do that, and I believe it is a sacred call. It's also the kind of writer I would like to be.

Friday, January 23, 2009

President Obama

No deep thoughts, I just like saying it.

President Obama, President Obama, President Obama!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Things to Do

Got the next chapter of the vampire story from Bobbie, and it looks great. She's brought in a bit of death and gore (which no good vampire story is complete without) and left me with a fantastic cliffhanger to resolve. I haven't worked like this before, but it's a lot of fun, and it's pushing me to be more creative.

I'm finishing up on the Captain Action and Zorro preliminary work. The story-writing part will begin soon, but there's a little finishing work on the CA writer's bible first.

And Jacob's sent me a book to line-edit for Permuted Press. This one is very nicely written, making my job a lot easier than it could be. It's a romp featuring superheroes in the zombie infested ruins of Los Angeles. I'm not really a fan of zombie stories, and zombies + superheroes sounds like a combination that could go so horribly wrong in so many ways. This book rises above all of that, though. it's intelligently thought out and there is a wonderful level of emotional depth in the characters. It's exciting, frightening, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny! I'm enjoying working on it.

Now I just need to work in some time for my novel :(

Monday, January 19, 2009

Good Omens

More writerly news tomorrow, for now history takes precidence.

I just love the way the timing is working on this. I mean, Obama still has to prove himslef, but the symbolism is amazing. Can it be only coincidence that the inaguration of the first African American president would come one day after Martin Luther King Day?

Though it's a long way from logical analysis, I'm taking this as a good sign. After all, I suspect that the only real difference between a coincidence and a good omen is whether people are looking at things with our usual cynicism, or through the eyes of hope. Right now, there is a lot of hope in the air, and when that is the case, anything is possible.

And THAT'S a good omen.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

External Validation! Yay!

My story, "City of Masks" has been accepted for an anthology with a very long title to be put out by Gryphonwood Press.

You Don't Know What You've Got: Tales of Loss and Dispossession‏ is a collection of stories from many genres focusing on loss and grief. Mine is a futuristic dystopian story with zombies and messed up relationships, bad civic government, and gladiators.

Adding to the coolness, my friend Bobbie also has a story in this one! That's a good neighborhood. :)

I'm excited!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Sad Day

I am saddened to hear of the death of actor Patrick McGoohan. He was a unique talent, playing characters whose essential decency was masked by a cool intellect. From what I've heard, that is a good description of the man himself.

He played a spy character named John Drake on the UK series "Danger Man" and refused to let his character become the kind of womanizer that 007 was. He wanted to keep his heroes on a higher moral plane. He brought that kind of integrity to the role of the Dr. Christopher Syn (a favorite of mine) as well. Syn was the compassionate vicar of the 18th century village of Dymchurch by day, and the masked Scarecrow by night. As the Scarecrow, he led the smugglers of the Romney Marsh in thwarting the cruel taxes of the king. It's kind of a Jeckyll/Hyde role, and McGoohan carried off both parts perfectly.

His best known role was as "Number 6" in "The Prisoner", a series he created. He was a spy, stripped of his identity and taken to a mysterious Village where other retired spies were held against their will. The series of often enigmatic, but it an amazing showcase for issues of individualism, community, conscience and integrity.

I've got an autographed photo of McGoohan as Dr. Syn. It was one of the perks for helping Larry Green with interview questions for the DVD release of "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh". I'm especially going to treasure that now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lazy Days

I'd meant to spend some time starting the novel today but other things intervened. I had to finish revisions I was working on for the Captain Action writer's bible I'm working on with Richard. Then there was an 8,000 word story I was sent to look over. Then there I did a first draft of the full outline of "The Fox and the Scorpion" which I'm working on with Micah. Add a few church and other minor emergencies on top of that and the day's gone.

On the other hand, I'm starting with a long short story, so I could say that I'm already 10,000 words in already.

Just 9 more days like this and I'm done!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk

Just a quick rundown of the recent movie and the even more recent revised version. I like them both pretty well, but then I've always been a fan of the green guy.

Bruce Banner - Eric Bana vs. Ed Norton - Bana's not a bad actor, but he doesn't compare to Norton, who is outstanding.

Gen. "Thunderbolt" Ross - Sam Elliot vs. William Hurt - I'm torn on this one. Elliot does an outstanding job as the noble soldier as odds with his daughter, but Hurt is a lot closer to the blustering, unreasoning military villain of the comics. I'd have to call it a toss-up.

Betty Ross - Jennifer vs. Liv Tyler - Liv is pretty, and a good actress, but it's no comparison. Connelly is an amazing actress.

Hulk design - I know that CGI is supposed to get better every year, but I did prefer the animation for the first movie.

Hulk vs. Army scenes. These are well-done in both versions, but I thought the battle with the tanks in the desert in Hulk was superior.

Cameos - Both features brief appearances by Stan Lee (who created the Hulk) and Lou Ferrigno (who played the Hulk on TV). In credible Hulk did more with these, and offered a glimpse of late, lamented Bill Bixby as well.

Villains - Nick Nolte (David Banner) vs. Tim Roth (Emil Blonsky). Both were very good, albeit totally different. I'll call this one a toss-up. However...

Climactic fight - The Hulk's fight against the empowered David Banner was hard to follow. The villain's power to absorb the powerof anything he touched (like the Absorbing Man in the comics) was a great idea. Unfortunately, it made the fight visually hard to follow. Hulk often lacked an easily identifyable antagonist. The big fight with Blinsky as the Abomination, by contrast, was exciting and a lot of fun.

Look - While I think that Ang Lee is brilliant, I didn't care for the many dark scenes in his movie, or for the 'panels' he used. I didn't think trying to make the movie look like a comic book worked. It only called attention to the fact that I was watching a movie and broke me out of the story.

Themes - I liked that Lee tried to get into the Jeckyll-Hyde inner struggle. In the end though, the movie seemed too introspective. The abusive father/angry child theme was interesting, but never really came off in an effective way IMO. I thought the newer movie had a better balance of angst and action.

My tally:

Hulk: 3
Incredible Hulk: 5

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year's Resolution

(Insert boiler plate about losing weight, exercise, etc.)

My big resolution is that this is the year of the novel! I'm swearing off short stories (not totally, but mostly) and going without days off, vacations or sleep to accomplish this.

This should work because I'm over the hump with the big projects I'm doing for Moonstone Books and there's no time-pressure on the collaborations I've started with Bobbie and Leah. I've got a couple of other projects on tap too, including a collaborative short story for the next TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN with Micah Harris (fingers crossed on the editor letting us do it), and I need to figure out what I'm doing on project. Thom Brannon's project.

Maybe I don't have as much free time as I thought(!)

Actually, it's not as bad as it sounds and I'm not too worried...not yet any way. My big question is which of three possible stories I should try to develop into a novel. "Yasuke" is an unpublished short story that feels short at 10 K. It's space opera about a shipwrecked smuggler and is kind of a tribute to the late C.L. Moore. "Fox Hunt" is 20 K already and is gothic horror with werewolves and other horrors that was written as an experiment. It turned out better than I expected, and could easily be expanded. Then there are a couple of the Mysterious Dave Mather stories that could be tailored into an extended story.

Then again, there's the novel about the agnostic archangel that's been kicking around in the back of my head for the longest time.

Decisions, decisions...

I think I already know; now it's just a matter of a pile of hard work.

:)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The joys of the well-cast movie

There's not much that can make a movie better than finding a movie where every actor seems to fit into his/her role perfectly. Bad casting (even of a talented performer) can mar an otherwise fine story. Geed casting--really good casting--can elevate a film from good to amazing. Here are a few of my favorites.

IRON MAN - Robert Downey Jr. as the troubled but charming protagonist was amazing. The rest of the cast, especially Gwennith Paltrow as the Pepper Potts, added tremendously.

DARK KNIGHT - Christian Bale is the best movie Batman ever IMO, but it probably won't surprise anyone that I think Heath Leger's Joker was (much) better. Gary Oldman was perfect as Detective Gordon, and Aaron Eckhart finally gave some life to IMO one of the most interesting villains form the comic books. (See Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever for a good example of horrible casting of a good actor.)

THE PRINCESS BRIDE - One of the most perfectly cast movies ever! It's not just the leads who are perfect in this movie, it's every single role down to the bit parts. I love the unorthodox choces, like Wallage Shawn as Vizzini, Billy Cristal and the wonderful Carol Kane as Miracle Max and his wife, but it's the casting of Andre the Giant as Fezzik that really makes the movie.

TOMBSTONE - This is my all time favorite western and features a beautifully cast band of brothers (Kurt Russell, Bill Paxton and Sam Elliot) as Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp. The villains, led by Powers Boothe and Michael Biehn, are just as good. Then there's Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, who stands out even in a movie full of stand out performances.

CHARADE - Any other actress than Audrey Hepburn would have been annoying in this role, but she makes you fall in love with her. Cary Grant is so perfect as the leading man that you don't even mind the fact that the character's name changes every other scene. George Kennedy, James Coburn, and Ned Glass manage a perfect blend of comic relief and genuine menace. It's another where every performance delivers.

A few others I like for casting would have to include ED WOOD, CASABLANCA, and THE MALTESE FALCON (though I did not like Mary Astor at all in her role).

Others?