Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in Review

2014, its been different.

I married my gorgeous wife just before Christmas last year - and we met through this very blog via my sharing a short parody video she made back in 2011.

By New Years last year me and the kids were living with her in LA, I fixed up the condo, we sold it for a very good price and by July we were in Utah, much bigger house and all of us starting over somewhere new. I haven't posted good pics of my new library/office yet but I will soon when I feel like I have my books put away just so...

So, I haven't read as many books this year as I used to, its been crazy busy most all year, and I didn't do as much writing as I should've but I did still get quite a few things out = Bless the Child my Spartan historical fiction was finally released, it hasn't sold as good as I would like especially considering ts for charity - but hey it is my wife's favorite work of mine, so that counts for something, I released Whispers of the Goddess and its gotten some favorable reviews, then my Weird Tales of Horror has done a bit better all things considered and I've sold quite a few of them at the local cons too. And lastly as far as my writing goes, I've the ongoing fantasy serial Walking Through Walls in UGEEK Magazine, it does feel good to be a pulpster. 
As for my favorites of anything, its a little tough to figure out.

Favorite fiction reads is real tough: I have to plug D.J. Butlers City of the Saints, - so good! 
 Half a King by Joe Abercrombie was amazing. I also greatly enjoyed Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International, Mark Lawrences King of Thorns, JP Wilder's novellete The Crusader, and I have so many other books by new friends I need to read and review and just couldn't get to yet this year.

For Non-Fiction, I think Rober McKee's Story wins it this year for me. But I really enjoyed Hunters S. Thompsons Songs of the Doomed, and David Mamet's Some Freaks

I'm also a bad friend in the non-fiction department because I actually gave a back cover blurb to Morgan Deane for his military history treatise Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents and crappy friend that I am I have yet to publicly review the book - that's all on  me and being a flaky poster - sorry Morgan! 

I think my favorite movie of 2014 is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which surprised me because Cap just isn't one of my favorite characters. But to me it touched on the truth, a spy movie that happened to have super heroes.

I got to meet some really cool people this year including, Peter Beagle, Ron Perlman, Ivy Doomkitty, Kato, Frank Frazetta Jr, Donato Giancola, Brom, John Rhys Davies, Angie Everhart,

I also finally got out to multiple cons and its only gonna get better this coming year. 

All the best in New Year to you my friends and lets all get that creativity out of the bottle and into print! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas One and All

Enjoying a good couple of days with family I don't get to see very often, loads of gifts for the kids and some surprises from my Mother in Law (she goes all out!)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you out there my Internet friends!
Hope you all got a great haul from your loved ones.

*Love this Sword & Sorcery Santa by Gregory Manchess

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Drive for Inspiration

I don't know about the rest of you my writerly friends but I get some of my best ideas while I'm driving. I may be listening to music or an audio-book, but however much I may be into either one my mind still races on about whatever story I may be playing around with and I'm constantly surprised at how the Muse can strike almost anywhere and for me its often while I'm driving down the freeway and I'm like Viola! That's it! That's what will make this story great! and then I repeat it over in my head and get home and start reconstructing whatever tale I had been playing with.

Its something I can only explain as Steven Pressfield does = The Muse - I try to be open to it and accept it wherever it comes and for me, its the open road.

So when she comes along, take the ride, write the story.

How about the rest of you?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Grim Dark No More - Book Review: Half A King

Half a King, by Joe Abercrombie

Abercrombie is one of my absolute favorite writers working today, I only qualify that statement because a huge number of my favorites are dead. In any case, I wasn't sure what to think of his latest considering he is going outside  the fantasy universe that I have so willingly followed him into thus far, that of the First Law Trilogy, and The Heroes, Best Served Cold and Red Country = all of which are stellar works. So I wondered how Lord Grimdark (his twitter handle) would mix things up.

Enter Yarvi, a prince - but one with a crippled deformed left hand that makes him seem half a functional man, he can't hold a shield, row an oar or even pin his own broach properly. Suddenly when his father and older brother are murdered, he is thrust into the throne = one he never wanted or dreamt he would sit in.

Before long, treachery and dire situations one after another pile on and you love it. Abercrombie is not nearly so grim-dark anymore - not that that ever bothered me personally but I do know I felt the need to have a warning sticker on some of my earlier reviews - not so here. Still a gripping low magic fantasy, this series is tamer in the sense of visceral gore and no sex - quite a change from just finishing up Mark Smylie's The Barrow.

This book was a serious page turner - I say that tongue in cheek because even though I bought it when it was released last July, I listened to the audio-book. But this is like Hamlet if the worst possible thing continually happened to him. I have always loved Abercrombies twists in his books believable but true and Half A King may have some of the best yet.

Highly recommended. I anxiously await the next installment Half the World.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thansgiving

Regardless of anything going on in the world anywhere - all the good, all the bad and all the ugly I still take tine everyday with the wife and kids to talk about what I am grateful for and encourage them to do the same. I think it gives perspective and helps us all feel better and more positive about life in general, so....

Happy Thanksgiving

and thank you all for being readers, visitors and friends, I'm grateful you're out there.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review: The Barrow

The Barrow, by Mark Smylie

I'm torn on this one and perhaps that's a good thing because a good book should elicit strong emotion. I picked this up at Incredible Universe in LA earlier this year when I went on a big book buying binge. I had never heard of Mark Smylie before but right on the cover was a positive blurb by facebook friend John Fultz and that along with the back cover synopsis was enough to say "Yeah, I''l get this."

The synopsis, goes along the lines of a pack of scoundrels are going after a fabled sword that is supposed to be in the barrow of a long dead evil wizard but things never turn out like they are supposed to do they?

You had me at pack of scoundrels. Quick rant: I hate these new covers that tell you next to nothing about the book -loads of fantasy books are doing these now and its a damn shame - I suspect it has to do with grabbing a new audience but I think they lack imagination and I bought the book in spite of the cover but I digress...

The opening prologue packs quite a punch and Smylies writing  is witty, action packed and very visceral. The barrow blends epic fantasy and Sword & Sorcery very well and while I can see some of the long historical tangents throwing some of the S&S readers I'm sure epic fans will eat it up. I have to say Smylie has a truly intriguing and well thought out realm. His world building is absolutely fascinating and top notch.

Now my issues: The Barrow suffers from the cardinal sin of not giving me any character I actually like - I had problems with absolutely everyone. I'm very used to despicable characters in George RR Martins and Joe Abercrombie's works (these are the most similar type writers and I'm a big fan of both) but one way or another Smylie turned me off of every player here.
Erim, the woman sellsword pretending to be a man just isn't interesting, Harvald is interesting but far too morally reprehensible for me to get behind, his sister Annwyn just grated on me with her passivity and their brother Arduin is the pompous nobleman's son we have seen a million times before - not that people like that don't exist but nobody you enjoy and that's fine because we have other characters - BUT
Leigh, an exiled magus, he is such a crazed despicable man I couldn't enjoy his dark humor, Godewyn Red Hand a tough bandit leader doesn't make me root for him in any way and Gilgwyr, brothel owner extraordinaire had me despising him immediately,
And finally the main character that everything and everyone revolve around is Stjepan Black-Heart, a bisexual renegade royal cartographer. My issue with him is = too wise, too renowned, too smart, too everything - every single place they traveled in the book everyone knows him - give me a break! And yet Arduin didn't know him? Stjepan is his brothers best friend but Arduin has no idea who Stjepan is but every other person in no matter what out of the way backwater inn they go does?

And just too much graphic sex that doesn't move the story at all is all over the place, if I was going to give the book a nutshell Dungeons & Dragons name it would be Catacombs & Cocks - I'm not kidding, way too much detail for things that don't move the story. It really threw me out of the book every time. I probably could have enjoyed the characters a bit more if I didn't have graphic detail on their personal sexual deviations, but it permanently gave me opinions about them that I just couldn't get beyond.

Granted that's me and my taste, make of it what you will - I didn't even feel this extreme about Jaime and Cersei of Game of Thrones. The book is a standalone, while leaving things open for continuing adventures, there were some holes for me though. Some of Stjepans friends actions showed me very early in the book what kind of people they were and why they would betray him - if he was so wise why didn't he see it? Their actions early in the book  are exactly why I didn't like any of them - trying to watch my spoilers here. I also didn't care for the two epilogues.

So - story wise, its a pretty good book - can I recommend it? Probably not - you have to know what you are in for - if you want epic sword & sorcery and you're cool with fifty shades of grey - get it.
As for me, IF I had thumbed it open and read just the first paragraph of the opening Gilgywr chapter I wouldn't have bought it.

I believe the sequel Black Heart is coming next year and while Smylie is a talented fantasy writer I don't plan on reading it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sword & Sorcery Noir

I dig the concept of the hard-boiled hero surrounded by dark malevolent forces and trying to solve the mystery of some demonic artifact and not knowing whether the dame helping him is up to no good or not. I grew up watching movies like The Maltese Falcon and I love Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.

There are a lot of great S&S Noir stories out there by fantastic authors like Alex Bledsoe, Joe Bonadonna, Larry Correia, Scott Lynch and I've just started Mark Smylie - more reviews coming soon.

Anyhow, Utah Geek Media has released their second issue featuring a continuing fantasy noir serial by yours truly and I just realized that they have PDF's of the issues up for all those of you out of state. I am rather proud of the serial and I'm sure I'll be using this character and setting more in the future.

Enjoy my Sword & Sorcery Noir in Walking Through Walls, presented by U Geek Magazine.

Issue 1 Chapter 1 : Kiss of the Dread Whip

Issue 2 Chapter 2 : You Can't Please Everyone

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review: Monster Hunter International

I'm still strapped for time and have turned to audio books as of late to keep up with reading (which my TBR pile is still horribly overdue) and the latest book I've listened to is Larry Correia's first Monster Hunter International.

It's a great pulp ridden read, full of witty dialogue and blood soaked ichor. Larry really knows how to tease out mysteries to keep you going and wondering about what happens next as well as compelling action scenes and enough monsters and creature references from beyond - to appeal to all of my faithful readers (YOU).

Like Hellboy it mixes all kinds of pulpy things I love and sets it in the modern era, and like Hellboy I'm kicking myself that I took so long to get around to reading it. I've personally known Larry for several years and he is a pretty cool dude. I'm really looking forward to catching up on the multiple books I've got to catch up on. 

We begin Owen Pitt discovering his boss is a werewolf and about to eat him - following the American Dream, he sends his boss out a fourteen story window killing him and getting a job offer with the worlds premier monster killing outfit = MHI.

I don't want to throw in any spoilers as Pitt along with the reader discovers this secret world kept from the public at large, but needless to say its a lot of action-packed fun. Loads of little monster references (and others) that I really got a kick out of = inside type jokes etc that you don't need to be friends with Larry to get by any means. Great stuff is set up for the sequels but its also a very well done self contained novel. Larry is a writer that I greatly admire from both his writing work ethic and the mantra he told me over dinner at Fantasycon = "First and foremost - please the reader." I may be paraphrasing that but it hit home and MHI does it in spades.

Highly recommended.

I had no end of Larry's fans commenting "Mini Me" jokes when I shared this on facebook.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy All Hallows Eve

I'm way behind in my reading pile, I meant to get some more book reviews up but its gotta wait for November now.

But here is a quick snippet of a tale (I'm still polishing) from my forthcoming The Mad Song and other tales of Sword & Sorcery...

Stygian Black

Miles into the trackless wastes of the Arabian Desert and just as the horned moon rose above the dunes in a darkening azure sky, the raiders fell upon the unholy caravan as wolves upon tainted sheep. Half of the hired swords fled when they guessed the identity of the laughing bandit chieftain and even the vexing fear of their master, the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, could not grant them sand enough to face the Lion of Palestine, Avi Ben-Kenaz.
The city-born sell-swords and cowardly veterans of decadent civilization were no match for the hard-bitten nomads, and with but a few strokes of steel all of Alhazred’s men fell before the raiders. These Judean raiders lived by their blades edge alone—not just the prospect and bravado of danger. Out here in the desolate wilderness, if you did not shed blood freely, your own would soon bleach upon the sands.
Alhazred dusted himself off after having been tossed from his seat by one of the raiders. He was lucky not to have been beheaded like so many others, but had been recognized as the caravan master early on and therefore perhaps worthy of sparing and of course, ransom.
One of the raiders shouted to his chieftain, “The wagons are empty!”
“All of them?”
The raider nodded to Avi and shoved Alhazred to the ground once again.
Avi, a pantherish man with a face of red-brown stubble and a reckless smile asked, “Who are you and what did you formerly carry within these wagons that needed such pathetic protection?”
“I am Abdul Alhazred, seeker of eldritch knowledge. I know of you Avi, and would ask that we make a sacred pact.”
Avi scrutinized the thin bearded man who was almost engulfed by both his dark turban and cloak. Alhazred’s sallow face, shrunken cheeks and baggy eyes belied a man who knew little sleep and even less toil.

“Speak Magi.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tree City Comic Con Recap

So the Space Balrog's and I were at Tree City Comic Con in Boise Idaho - Boise being the adjusted french name for LeBois = River of Tree's. We had a good time! I sold the most books out of all of us on Friday and the least on Saturday - go figure. Apparently Idahoan's wanted more horror on Friday = Weird Tales of Horror and Space Eldritch, and more fantasy on Saturday.

Here is a shot that Jason King took of me when for about 5 seconds I thought our panel had been cancelled and I was shouting "CON!" as in "Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!" until James Wymore said we were still on - I had no idea that Jason was capturing the moment = priceless.

There were a fair amount of celebs at the con considering it was pretty small - just a few thousand. Here is me with Angie Everhart. I put my foot in my mouth telling her I loved her as Red Sonja (Thinking she portrayed Red in the Conan the Adventurer TV show) WRONG! The pic was taken just before I said that and she visibly cooled as I said it with a sharp, "I was never Red Sonja!"

I did get to mingle with a few other cool celebs - sorry no pictures - I went to the VIP Green Room quite a bit for food and drink - oddly enough security never ever stopped me - I always just walked in like I owned the place while my fellow Balrogs were always turned away along with anyone else who wasn't a star. I got to speak to Nichelle Nicols - Uhura for a quick brunch on Saturday, and John Rhys Davies just as he arrived on Friday very cool cuz he talked to me first! He came in and exclaimed loud like Sallah, "I see one!" and we toasted each other. I never asked what he meant by that - was too thrilled that he was talking.

Breakfast at the hotel Saturday morning was surreal as most of the patroons were stars and support staff so I was a having breakfast with a third of the cast for The Addams Family- Lurch and Cousin It and Wednesday, Uhura, Mark Sheperd, Monster Quest's Dr. Meldrum (I did get a Bigfoot cast), Joanie Brooks - who you may remember was on the cover of the first issue of Utah Geek Magazine that I have a serial action fantasy story in, among others.

At one point I joked that a guy was cosplaying as fellow Balrog Dave Butler - he was wearing the same jeans, white shirt and black blazer, we asked the guy to come and talk to us and it turned out he was the director of the whole Con! So we're making friends with shakers!
Here are a few of the more interesting cosplayers I saw.

Two of America's greatest heroes together again, Batman and Ben Franklin


Sara Butler, hiding and James Wymore and Jason King

Two cool cats that I don't know what they're from.

A Daft Punk Jedi

And the most bizarre thing was set up right kiddie corner from our booth - the pole dancing Wonder Woman!

Guess what I did when she left her pole unattended.

Just a good time overall!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

City of the Saints

I just finished the City of the Saints audio book by my good friend D.J. Butler

War is coming and everyone wants to get their hands on the super weapons from the Kingdom of Deseret.

So many things appealed so strongly to me about this collection of four parts. The action, the humor and the steampunk element were just plain fun, I loved the admixture of known inventor genius's like Brunel, Hunley, Whitney, Maxim, and Browning as well as the fanciful Mad Man Orson Pratt contributing to this world's super science.

I'm also into history enough including the local variety here in Utah, that few if any of the characters needed introduction (local = Porter Rockwell, Brigham Young, Eliza R. Snow, Bill Hickman, John D. Lee) but for the sake of review I'll mention the big ones - Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) as a secret agent for the Union in the coming civil war as well as the not dead yet Edgar Allen Poe for the Confederacy - each has a colorful thug apprentice that you genuinely enjoy seeing also get their point of view. The English adventurer Richard Burton an envoy for Queen and country was also a favorite of mine.
The dialogue and action are crisp and hilarious, I truly laughed out loud at a number of scenes such as this between Richard Burton and Tamerlane O'Shaughessy (Clemens Irish thug)

"I'm not a weakling, " O'Shaughnessy protested, "I'm just a bit drunk."
"Keep your pistols aimed down the stairs, then." Burton urged him. "But you told me before you weren't drunk. Just Irish, you said."
"I'll let you in on a secret, Dick," the Irishman said. "it's the same fookin' thing."

I heartily recommend this if you enjoy smart, action, historical's that are so much fun.

D.J. Butler is also going to be hanging with me this weekend at the Tree City Comic con in Boise - come get some books!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tree City Comic Con

I'm on the road again this week - to share my light, wit and wisdom or lack thereof in Boise Idaho for their first annual Tree City Comic Con. I'll be with my friends the notorious Space Balrogs = D.J. Butler, James Wymore, and Jason King. We will be doing another of our infamous Choose Your Own Apocalypse events and signing books for our legions of fans. Looks like Tree City has quite a lineup of other great guests as well so I'm looking forward to mingling and meeting many of them too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Making Appearances

I'm going to be hitting two cons this weekend. I'll be at the Do It Now Expo in Orem Utah at UVU, Thursday, Friday and part of Saturday. I'm going to have books at the Ancient American table. I'm not 100% on my schedule just yet but all my times available should be earlier in the morning /afternoon.

And then a little later on - on Saturday I'll make it to the Salty Horror Con at the Utah State Fair Park in Salt Lake City.

Each of these cons are gonna bring in different crowds and I expect to sell different books at each - my historicals at the Do It Now Expo and my Weird Horror/Space Eldritch at the Salty Con, its gonna make for a schizo weekend, but I'm sure it will be fun either way.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Weird Tales of Horror reviewed at Amazing Stories

My short story collection of a little of everything gets a very favorable review over at Amazing Stories
So check it out!
Thanks to Keith West

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Local Authors and You Event

I'll be at the West Jordan Library this Saturday the 27th from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm and am scheduled for a writing workshop, Story Ideas and Character Goals from 1:30 to 2:00.

It should be a lot of fun since I know several other participating authors.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Orc Wars/Dragonfyre

I'd been meaning to watch Orc Wars for quite some time, especially since I love fantasy and the director is a new friend of mine - Kohl Glass and lo! After some amount of time it was just recently released on Netflix and Redbox etc...

Never mind I actually got a signed copy from Kohl at Salt Lake Comic Con ( we traded - I gave him a copy of Weird Tales of Horror) I just watched it last night with the kids, and since they're my kids they loved it! Could be a bit gory (black Orc blood) and scary for others though. 

Now, I'm not going to say that this is the greatest movie ever - its not - its not Lord of the Rings, but its also not a Sy-Fy abomination either. Great acting and costumes and the premise was pretty solid. I liked that even the Orc's themselves had some interesting characters - Gorejaw and Fangmark!

Before I go any farther here is the back cover synopsis:

A battle-weary ex-Special Forces Operative buys a ranch in remote American West to flee from the world, and encounters a strange series of trespassers, including a beautiful elf princess and a Native American mystic and Orcs. When the Orcs invade his property, John must give up his isolation to become a hero, before the Orcs unleash their dragon god on our world.

The characters got me from the blind Indian mystic, Whitefeather played by the fantastic Wesley John to the princess Masiela Lusha, a powerhouse fighter in her own right. My wife would appreciate that - a proactive female protagonist. And Rusty Joiner plays the lead ex-soldier - John Norton, thrust into the middle of this crossroads of realms. 

I liked the action and suspense and even funny little asides and nods to weird fiction in general, I got kick out of the realty company that John Norton buys his out of the way home from ~ 

I had to tell Kohl I liked that. My kids were drawn in to the suspense of what the Orcs were doing coming into our world and we all dug the action and laughs. 

I also gotta mention a good friend of my wife's is in the movie as a redneck and as Gorejaw - Adam Johnson who I didn't realize was in it til I watched it - I met him at this last Comicon  (And had to relate the story of how he was somewhat involved in bringing my wife and I together) She directed some short parody vids Adam starred in.

But I digress....

I enjoyed the movie and look forward to watching more of Kohl's work and the others.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Salt Lake Comic Con 2014

What a long strange trip its been. I have been all over over the place this year and now that the last big con I am going to is over its time to get back to work!

My most recent comment was an anonymous fan asking for me to finish my sequel to Heroes of the Fallen - it is coming, sorry for the delay. I'm going to try harder to post here at least once a week rather than just posting on facebook, twitter and tumblr. This needs to be a better catchall than just those other snowstorms.

In any case here are some highlights from SLCC - which was huge! My understanding is the numbers of people attending is right up there with SDCC or anywhere else for that matter so very cool! 120K+!

I got to meet Frank Frazetta Jr and the good guys at the Frazetta Museum Booth and get a few cool souvenirs!

Trolls were a problem as the WETA people brought quite a bit of LOTR goodness.

Lots of amazing cosplayers! Particular favorites of mine were Valerie Perez and Ivy Doomkitty

Being a presenter has its privileges, in the green room a number of celebrities were on hand and I hung out with Effren Ramirez (Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite) super fun and friendly guy!

I met Ron Perlman (one of my all time favorite actors!)

I nearly won the Space Balrogs, Supervillian Smackdown, but Dan Wells garnered just three more votes! And Jason King was hilarious!

Groot and Gamora! (Valerie Perez - so cool and nice!)

Daft Punk!

This guy was a stud! Great outfits!

Smaug's head was huge and ever watchful!

And selling books at a table with a host of awesome authors and friends including, Dave Butler, James Wymore, Craig Nybo, Sarah Seeley, Scott Tarbet, Jaleta Clegg, Sara Butler and Sean Ricks  - aside from their collective awesomeness was that the guys at UGEEK Magazine relaunched the magazine with a new action adventure fantasy serial of mine: Walking Through Walls. This went out to thousands of attendee's and I'm hoping even a decent fraction enjoy it and look at some of my other works. 
Lots of thanks to all the people that came by, said hey, asked for autographs and bought books, oh yeah and all the people who voted for me at the Supervillian Smackdown - We almost conquered the world!

I got to meet and hang out with far too many people to name them all, talked to so many great writers again - always love spending time with Peter Beagle. Til next time!