Monday, June 28, 2010

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

I watched Hamlet this weekend so of course afterwards I had to watch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. This was my favorite movie when I was a senior in high school, I read Hamlet in English and felt like I was the only one in class who got the jokes right away, which made "R&G are Dead" so enjoyable.
If you haven't seen it yet-you must.

The two friends of Hamlet (minor characters) are sent for by the king to get to the root of the his madness, hilarity ensues.

All the moments they are present for (in Hamlet proper) are included but I delight in the humorous escapades of the duo behind the familiar scenes. Existentialism, early scientific discoveries and physics are discussed by the dim = always good for a laugh.

Richard Dreyfuss as the player was a favorite too. "You caught us on the very edge of decadence, by this time tomorrow we might have forgotten everything we ever knew." as well as "You can't have love and rhetoric with out the blood--blood is compulsory". and "Lucky thing we came along." "For us?" Rozencrantz asks. "Also for you." concedes Dreyfuss the Player.
Here is a snippet.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I'm Somewhere Else

I do a Friendly Friday guest post at my friend Christine Bryant's Blog today. Just a little snippet inspired by taking my son to the latest Clash of the Titans movie.

He loved it.

He's five.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You Shall Not Play

I'm not much on sports but I suppose I can get behind Gandalf on this. Hard to imagine a more irritating bunch, at least they slay them.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Monsters and Geniuses I Have Just Read

I've been a bit under the weather lately and not feeling quite good enough to write much but good enough to get quite a bit of reading done, here it tis.
yet another piece by the late great Frank Frazetta, it relates specifically to this weeks topic.

The Mothman Prophecies, by John Keel
If you have seen the movie-forget it.
It has got nothing on John Keel's writing, the man is brilliant, funny, entertaining and thoroughly thought provoking. The book does recount the events in 1967-68 at Point Pleasant, West Virginia when people started seeing "the Mothman" and details these absurd frightening events with a style that is a joy to read. Along with the Mothman are Men in Black, UFO's and a host of spine tingling weird.
There is the dramatic buildup to the tragedy of the Silver Bridge (which was in the movie-it really happened)
I have come away thinking Keel is closer to the truth than anyone-just my 2 bits.
This is the second time I have read the book and it stands up-I know I will read it again someday, but for now I am just going to borrow the Mothman for a current writing project.Demonology/News from Scotland, by King James I of England
When James wrote this he was not yet the King of England-just King James the VI of Scotland, still it makes for interesting reading if you can blaze through Shakespeare you can make it through this. My copy is still rendered so that Devil reads as deuill and many more things that beg an editors hand-but I did read it. James had a preoccupation with Witches and their being out to get him-so this is a primer in how to be wary of them. The News From Scotland section deals with the capture and execution of a sorcerer known as Dr. Fain.
Demonology itself reads similar to a wide variety of evangelical works that are out today that paraphrase scripture, show an example from say Exodus (Witch of Endor) and then an example for the current era in this case 1597. Reading it, I couldn't help but think how little people have really changed. Whether that's good or bad I'll let you decide.

Chronicles of Conan 16: The Eternity War by John Buscema, J.M. DeMatteis, Roy Thomas
Much like collection 15, I am not terribly impressed with DeMatteis' writing-it's not bad mind you, its just not great. Roy Thomas' reworking of Robert E. Howards tales are much more satisfying-which this volume doesn't have at all. The high points (because this is not a bad review) are the two annuals at the end, each chronicling events directly after Hour of the Dragon, both involving Zenobia. If you don't know who Zenobia is get thee to a nunnery. As usual Buscema's art with Ernie Chans inks are top-notch, just the storytelling leaves a bit to be desired.

Wings in the Night Weird Works of Robert E. Howard vol.4
Now this is the real stuff, REH's tales collected here as they were published in various pulp mags like Weird Tales and others. I like the Steve Fabian covers, they have all been pretty good. This collection has some great stories- Wings in the Night~Solomon Kane, the puritan avenger, destroying a race of gargoyle-like monsters on the dark continent. Worms of the Earth~one of the best revenge yarns in fantasy. And three of the great Conan tales-Phoenix on the Sword, Scarlet Citadel and Tower of the Elephant (my son's favorite-yes, he's 5) It doesn't get any better than this.

Fortune is a River by Roger D. Masters
This is a brilliant historical piece about two of the greatest minds from the Renaissance, Leonardo DaVinci and Niccolo Machiavelli and how together they...failed.
I of course think DaVinci is a genius and love his work (even copies of his work see below * a personal visceral favorite)
When I was in high school and we read The Prince by Machiavelli, I was the only one who stood up in class (when the teacher, Mr. Armstrong asked) and admitted I generally agreed with the Mach-man. Everyone else in class parroted that what was outlined in the Prince was bad.
I thought he had a point and I was willing to hear him out, besides it wasn't an ethic's class it was a world history class.
These two teamed up for the idea to re-route the Arno River (the one in the Mona Lisa) and make Florence a seaport while simultaneously putting the hurt on the enemy city-state of Pisa (since they would no longer have a river!)
This could have been a glorious victory for Florence, except it didn't work.
The new canals weren't deep enough and soon filled with silt and the river returned to its natural course.
My personal belief is that the two of them weren't hands-on enough and left the actual digging work (for which DaVinci designed a fantastic earth-moving machine) to idiots who skimped on the width and depth of the new channel. DaVinci had designed a much deeper cut.
Mr. Masters has put together a compelling book that I heartily recommend.
Why haven't you heard of this whole story before?
Because neither DaVinci or Machiavelli wanted to talk about their failures-would you?

And Yes I am taking this idea for my own gangster-fantasy-steam punk story along with the Mothman.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Fantasy Blogger Award

I just got a blogger award from Angie at Notes from the Writing Chair-Thanks. Seems I am supposed to name 5 fantasy books or movies that have inspired me (or at least narrow it down to 5) so...

The Broken Sword, by Poul Anderson
In some respects this is similar to Tolkien's reworking of myth, but it comes at from perhaps an even bleaker Norse angle-the Elves aren't good guys-they keep
Dwarven slaves (thralls) and when other Dwarves try to bargain for their rescue, they are shot down with a, No they are more useful as slaves than getting ransom. And guess what-Anderson doesn't owe anything to Tolkien this was published back in 1954. A lot of the same source material sure-but worlds apart in execution-AND I haven't even touched on the main character a human named Valgard who is switched at birth with a changeling-chaos and war with Trolls ensues. One more thing I like was that although there was all Norse pagan stuff happening-all the magical creatures were dealing with the advent of Christianity as well-even Satan makes one of my all time favorite fictional appearances. Yes, I stole from this book.

Death Angels Shadow, by Karl Edward Wagner
KEW wrote several novels and a passel of short stories detailing the adventures of cursed Kane (yes, that Cain)-this one in particular is three novella's of great worth. Certain nuances of KEW's style abound in my writing, I love his Gothic mood,
the man can put you in the grim setting like nobodies business. An absolute master that doesn't get near enough credit. Plus yet another Frazetta cover-best of all possible worlds.

A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin
When it comes to the big fatty epic fantasies this is probably my favorite, in that it has engaged me as a reader more than any other. Martin's skill as a writer to make you feel characters and motivations surpasses almost anyone. This doesn't mean he is my favorite writer or these are my favorite books-but they are very good. As mentioned in an earlier post-I have to love the characters and lots of fantasy writers have given me characters I want to follow better than Martin has (REH=Conan, Abercrombie=Logen, Cornwell=Uthred, KEW=Kane, Tolkien=Aragorn etc) but I think A Storm of Swords #3, is the best in this series so far. You are kept on the edge of your seat for many interwoven adventures and intrigues-I also love that no one is safe-you will be afraid that virtually any of these characters could get killed off at any given time (especially whomever you like the most). Martin plays with the readers emotions better than anyone. I am looking forward to the HBO mini-series-even if I have to wait for DVD. One more thing-I love that he is very light on magic in the series-the magic has to cost, not many people can do it, but when they can watch out!

Tigers of the Sea, by Robert E. Howard
Anyone who reads this blog knew I would put some REH on this list, but I decided to mix it up a little and mention this fantastic collection of the 4 Cormac Mac Art
tales. Set during King Arthur's Britain these are Heroic historical adventures that gripped me like a python when I first picked the book up. I was rude to my wife's friends we were visiting because I could not put this down. "In my mind" I have borrowed heavily from these tales. Amaron and Zelph remind me of Cormac and Wulfhere, albeit quite a bit more on the side of angels (so it may all just be in my, the creators head-Charles).

and to mix it up a little more a movie...

Brotherhood of the Wolf

A French film from 10 years ago, (my #1 favorite thing to ever come out of France) this blew me away when I first saw it (just watched it again last night) Loosely based on a real paranormal event. In the the mid-1700's something akin to a wolf terrorized the French province of Gevaudan. According to the movie we get the rest of the story and in my opinion its got everything-excellent action, romance, political intrigue and Monica Bellucci,
and it was even funny in the appropriate scenes-considering it would be fair to call this a period-action-horror film for those of you that are squeamish.

so passing this on to five people I pick.

Charles Gramlich at Razored Zen

Elizabeth Mueller supposed to work on a Atlantis project together.

Andrea Pearson We're in a critique group together.

And TJ Bronley who organized that critique group.

Amalia at Good to Begin Well, Better to End Well

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Was Framed

Shocking as it may (or may not) seem I have been in jail a few times.

Now lets not get all hung up on who did what to who, what car (or boat) was stolen, who got cut with what knife that was never found, who started the tire fire, if I was even in the vicinity of that explosion out in the San Rafael Desert in summer of 2000 (because I wasn't) or if that truck was thoroughly destroyed (it was) My whole point is taking real life experiences and shaking them by the throat until they fit something you can use for a story that will feel real. I write action stories, I suppose its a good thing I have lived an eventful, relatively law-abiding (so far as you know) action-packed life.

Lots of great nuggets to mine for future tales of derring-do. What do you have?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard

Realized it is 74 years today since my favorite author passed away. I have not yet finished this magnificent tome, but I am greatly enjoying it. Over 700 pages, this is a vast collection of visceral moving poetry. Divided into the sections of Heroic Verse, War Poems, Wizardry and Satanism, Horror Poems, Exoticsm and Nature, Personal, Historical, Dialect and Doggerel, and finally Prose Poems, this collection shows such utter strength and indomitable will of spirit that REH deserves to be held up alongside any other Classic American poet.
The rhyme and timbre hold the cadence of thunder and drums. Decayed kingdoms swim in melancholy ruin as mad minstrels pluck at the heart, Heroes rise and fall, shadows and dreams proliferate and merge.
This is a collection that I will be able to sit beside the firelight and enjoy all my days. And now some favorite fragments, gleaned.

Kings of the Night~
The Caesar lolled on his ivory throne-
His iron legions came
To break a king in a land unknown
And a race without a name.

The Phoenix on the Sword
What do I know of cultured ways,
the gilt, the craft and the lie?
I, who was born in a naked land
and bred in the open sky.
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile,
they fail when the broadsword sing;
Rush in and die dogs-
I was a man before I was a king.

Old Rime
One fled, one dead, one sleeping in a golden bed.

An Open Window
Behind the Veil what gulfs of Time and Space?
What blinking mowing Shapes to blast the sight?
I shrink before a vague colossal Face
Born in the mad immensities of Night.

The Fearsome Touch of Death
As long as midnight cloaks the earth
With shadows grim and stark
God save us from the Judas kiss
Of a dead man in the dark.

The Black Stone
They say foul beings of Old Times still lurk
In dark forgotten corners of the world,
And Gates still gape to loose, on certain nights,
Shapes pent in Hell.

There is a strange and mystic land
East of the rising sun.
A dim sea breaks on a coral strand,
Stars lie spread on the silver sand
And sapphire rivers run-
There is a mystic land
East of the sun.

The Hour of the Dragon
The Lion banner sways and falls
in the horror haunted gloom;
A scarlet Dragon rustles by,
borne on winds of doom.
In heaps the shining horsemen lie,
where thrusting lances break,
And deep in the haunted mountains
the lost, black gods awake.
Dead hands grope in the shadows,
the stars turn pale with fright,
For this is the Dragon's Hour,
the triumph of Fear and Night.

Such pieces fire my imagination more than near any other writer I have ever come across, and so today I salute him and drink a toast in remembrance.

"All fled, all done, so lift me on the pyre; The feast is over and the lamps expire." may be the last words Robert E. Howard ever wrote but I would argue that through his writings while the feast may be over, the lamps will never expire.

Superman versus Mr.T

Yet another hilarious clip that has nothing to do with writing or me but is hilarious and must be shared.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Rooting Interest

Pondering lately on what makes people like some stories more than others, I was directed to an article in the LA Times (thanks Th.) and it hit me on why most people like or don't like most stories.

We as writers, are of course looking for a new take, a great twist, something that will make our story stand out from everyone else. We may try edgy things or new combinations that haven't been done before-in fact that's my next project-a new combination that I am not aware of having been done before-(at least to the best of my knowledge and googling)
There are some things that work and some things that don't for commercial success. I am absolutely convinced that we as readers/audience want to have characters we can root for, care about, and relate too. I won't matter if we come up with a great twist, new take or edgy combination that has never been done, some fundamentals in human nature must be met for people to care about your story. People have to like at least one person in your story-if not more-even villains. Who doesn't love Darth Vader? Who doesn't feel pity for Gollum? Who isn't spellbound by Dracula?

I recently helped judge a whole passel of stories for a contest and the single biggest reason most of the writers didn't score higher was because the characters were weak and didn't make the reader root for them enough. You have to MAKE the reader care about the people in your tale.

Great events/twists make great stories but we love the story if we love the characters.
Pics by the rocking Larry Elmore

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


All my problems are solved I just got this e-mail from the Benin republic (remember them?) I have preserved the spelling/punctuation problems because that lends credibility that this is from a real person who cannot be bothered with even putting down my real name-he must be a very busy man this Reverend? But this is so awesome I don't even remember investing money in west Africa.
But hey greed is blind.

First of all,Let me introduce my self to you,My name is Rev Johna Blis,The new elected Manager of Western Union Office Benin Republic.I am writing this mail with deep sorrow,I saw your named on our file last week as the one of the most beneficiary which did not receive their fund valued $1.800.000.00 Usd which supose to be transfering at the rate of $5000.00 per day during the Mr Nick Maxx's regim.

The reason i am emailing you today is to inform you that Mr Nick has been sacked out since last month due to his ilegal work,I am here to inform you that the onlything that will lead you to receive your fund is by trusting me and follow my direction. the money you sent to Mr Nick in order to get your fund which fails. Here i am to tell you that the reason you did not receive your fund is because Mr Nick did not lead you to the direct way to get your fund, There is what called affidavit of claim which you supose to obtain from the high court. but you did not have it and that is only what you needed now from our Investigation Services which noticed that you don't have the required document

Bear it in mind that due to the Mr Nick attitude our federal Government has signed that your fund will not release yet until you get the affidavit of claim, So i want you to know that your fund of $1.800.000.00 Usd is still with us here but it will release immediately to you as soon as you obtain the affidavit of claim. Our lawyer went to the court to find out what it will cost you.and it will cost you the sum of $110 to obtain the affidavit of claim from the high court,I will be awaiting to hear from you If you still want to receive your $1.800.000.00 Usd

I am here giving your guarante and also 100 % Percent assurance that this is the only money you will pay and after you pay it you will start receiving your $5000.00 per day untill full payment of $1.800.000.00 Usd is completed. I will be waiting right now in order to enable us obtain the affidavit of claim from the high court.Please reply back through this mail addres;

Regards, Rev Johna Blis.
The New Manager Of Western union department
Benin Republic;

So now that I have these riches heading my way very soon I can get all the things I have been wanting to do=done.

And don't worry I haven't forgotten who my friends are . . . these guys.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rage of the Behemoth

Rage of the Behemoth by various authors(anthology)
This is the second antho by Rogue Blades Entertainment (I'm excited cuz I'll be in the upcoming Roar of the Crowd antho)anyhow this has 21 short stories of heroic fantasy-some of them blew me away-edge of the seat awesomeness!

Everyone of these tales deals with some kind of big monster, a behemoth hence the title. Divided into 5 sections-Depthless Seas, Frozen Wastes, Scalding Sands, Mysterious Jungles, and Ageless Mountains; this only changes location for the reader and none of these are cookie cutter tales. I was delighted by how different and ingenious these storytellers weaved their monster ballads. Because there are 21 of them and they are short stories I am not going to go into depth about each one and will briefly discuss the ones that have stuck with me the strongest.

Portrait of a Behemoth by Richard K. Lyon and Andrew J. Offutt-initially I did not like their narrative style (so purple and rambling-and I lOVE Purple prose), but as this tale of the female pirate Tiana Highrider went on I did like it-very satisfying conclusion.

Blackwater by Sean T.M. Stiennon-loved his hero/protagonist Shabak the Kabrisk-I wasn't expecting a lovecraftian type creature to be the hero, plus a great new monster-very well done.

Passion of the Stormlord by Robert A. Mancebo, this one really hit me-such a powerful take on genies and vengeance.

Nothing Left of the Man by Jeff Stewart-brought a lot of resonance for Beowulf and such.

Blood Ice by Mary Rosenblum-a very epic tale that I could have seen being stretched out to be a full novel.

Black Diamond Sands by Lois Tilton-like Blood Ice this was a tale that almost felt like it should have been part of a novel-it was also the story that took me the longest to get through-I did wish the end was more fulfilling.

Yaggoth-Voor by Bruce Durham-excellent tale with twists and turns-I read this one first. It can be tough when the gods play games with men.

Beyond the Reach of his Gods by Brian Ruckley-love this concept, northerners deep in the jungle with doom on all sides-that and the revenge and triumph over the monster.

The Rotten Bones Rattle by C.L.Werner-I loved this oriental take on heroic fantasy-but then I am really into samurai stories too.

Vasily and the Beast Gods by Daniel R. Robichaud-outsmarting the malevolent supernatural forces of a legendary Russia is always a winner.

Thunder Canyon by Jeff Draper-revenge is always a good motivator for these stories and having the monster help you is always a plus.

Where the Shadow Falls by T.W. Williams-Vivid motivations and action set William's protagonist John Humble among the most memorable of the characters in ROTB, I am going to have to find more tales of his.

Overall a great collection, I highly recommend to readers of fantasy. Order a copy Here

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The more I learn about publishing the more I hear about demographic and platform for the author-for the sake of marketing and knowing your audience.

Now I would have said that I guessed my demographic would be predominately male-hence I am hoping for perhaps a bump in sales for the sake of Fathers Day-BUT I have to admit that the greater majority of people who have told me they have read the book are women.

It was 75% young men that bought Heroes of the Fallen at my first signing but the most I have heard from them since is "Great Book" or "I couldn't put it down."
All of which is great and good for the EGO-BUT that is also the end of it.

All the online reviews (with 3 exceptions) have been from women-heck even my 10 year old niece called to tell me she loved it and begged for a rough draft of book 2 Blood of Our Fathers to read early. Go to Grandma's.

So I have pondered-while I think it is a book that should appeal to men-perhaps I shouldn't mind saying the YA crowd could enjoy it-after all if my 10 year old niece, 12 year old nephew and 16 year old niece all loved it-why not more kids?
Honestly, I was surprised, it wasn't written to appeal to kids. I didn't expect them to read it.

So when it comes down to it, how much does demographic really affect newbie sales?
I would have said my audience was 18-55 year old males who like adventure fiction but I haven't the foggiest in how to reach them anyway-most don't blog, don't twitter, etc etc . . . So how do I reach them?