Wednesday, February 22, 2017

River City Writers 2017 offerings

River City Writers are expanding their offerings!

I attended the WRITE BETTER FICTION workshop last November, as you might recall.

For the first half of 2017, they are offering the workshop again. They have added three seminars, too. One deals with the business side of publishing. The other covers writing for comics. And, building your novel from the ground up. I will be attending the WRITING FOR COMICS seminar. At some point, I will also attend BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING but I'll need to catch the next one.

If you're in the area, give this consideration. If not, perhaps they'll be able to expand to webinars in the near future.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

recent read; Planet of the Apes: Tales From The Forbidden Zone

Planet of the Apes: Tales From The Forbidden Zone

This is the book apocalyptic apes dream of.

It's hard to be unbiased about this book because I am an ApeHead since childhood. Anything new in the Planet of the Apes realm is like a nostalgia life preserver. I discussed that recently.

Tales from the Forbidden Zone gives us sixteen tales set across the various Planet of the Apes classic universes. Meaning - the original five movies, television series and Saturday morning cartoon. It does not include the 2001 movie or the recent movies.

The stories are enjoyable. I preferred some more than others but that is the nature of anthologies. Rather than delineate all sixteen, I will mention a few of my favorites. Your mileage may vary.

"Unfired" by Dan Abnett starts off the book with a bang, focusing on a group of underground mutants (Beneath the Planet of the Apes) making a daring pilgrimage across the open wilderness.

"The Unknown Ape" by Andrew E.C. Gaska starts in the cartoon universe (Return to the Planet of the Apes,) but we soon learn that Planet of the Apes time travel also creates the ability to cross dimensions into the other Apes realities. This is a fun crossover.

"Message in a Bottle" by Dayton Ward is an intriguing story in the television series setting. It almost serves as the first step in a 'season two' arc, bringing the astronauts' story back to its science fiction roots and away from "The Fugitive with Apes" rut the show quickly fell into. As a fan who wished for exactly that in regards to the show, this story really stood out.

"Milo's Tale" by Ty Templeton explains how Cornelius and Zira met Milo and came to be on the spaceship (Escape from the Planet of the Apes.) It also delivers a convincing backstory for Milo, explaining how he was such a knowledgeable ape given the primitiveness of the society presented in the original Planet of the Apes.

Finally, Jonathan Maberry closes out the tome with "Banana Republic," exploring the political machinations and alliances of ape society, coupled with the discovery of an ancient place of evil.

Tales from the Forbidden Zone is a welcome addition to the Planet of the Apes universe. If you enjoy that universe, you'll enjoy this book. Perhaps if it performs well, there could be another volume. So, buy yours today and go ape!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

recent read; Wild Fell

Wild Fell by Michael Rowe

Jamie Browning wants to get away from it all - a divorce, an accident and a father suffering from Alzheimer's disease. An insurance windfall allows him to purchase Blackmore Island and its Victorian Gothic residence, Wild Fell. The property is a dream come true or a nightmare come true. Vengeful ghosts await. They have always waited.

I enjoyed this ghost story. There is a strong weave of sense of place, time, and character throughout the novel.

The prologue alone paints images like a prose version of a Tragically Hip song. The small summer lake town Alvina, Ontario, Canada pops off the pages, complete with tragedy and haunting.

The heart of the story centers on Jamie, who relates his childhood experiences with an imaginary friend named Amanda who inhabits a mirror in his room. But, perhaps, Amanda is not all that imaginary, as she seems to have a evil influence beyond the confines of her mirror.

As Jamie relates his adult life, Amanda is forgotten and real life trials intervene, until Jamie finds that he is inexorably drawn to Wild Fell.

The climax ratchets to a fever pitch as the revelations are exposed, furiously propelling the story to its conclusion.

Wild Fell does its job as a ghost and haunted house story. It drips with mood, atmosphere, chills, and a few surprises and twists along the way. Recommended.

Friday, February 3, 2017

recent read; Occult Detective Quarterly, Issue #1

OCCULT DETECTIVE QUARTERLY #1 delivers on its premise and promise of .. well .. occult detectives. If you don't know what classifies an "occult detective" - they're those heroes of fiction who investigate, expose and battle the occult - whether that be ghosts or monsters, other strange happenings, strange people, stranger creatures and things beyond the ken of men. Think Carnacki, Kolchak, and a host of others.

This debut issue has a wonderful mix of haunts and fun and whimsy. How about a tough guy PI who is a talking gorilla? A vengeful ghost? Men who walk in other dimensions and faerie realms? (And, don't think we're talking about cute faeries - we mean the dark fey of old times.) Voodoo and black dogs. You will find all that and more in these pages.

Plus reviews, a history of comic occult detective Dr. Spektor, and an interview with Spektor's creator, Donald Glut.

I enjoyed all the material and strongly recommend grabbing a copy if you enjoy the wide range of the occult detective milieu.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

It's a mad house! Go ape!

"Weaponized nostalgia." - Chuck Wendig

The world has gone ape. Yes, in more ways than one. I'll stick with the non-political one.

My childhood crossed the 1970s-80s. I was a child in the 70s, teenager in the early 80s.

In hindsight, my first fandom was PLANET OF THE APES. I was an ApeHead.

What also surprised me, in hindsight, is how much of the fandom marketing machine I missed. It's also a bit of a shock to remember how much merchandise was available. It really was the first franchise merchandise blitz out of Hollywood. Sure other movies and shows had toys and a few coloring books, but POTA really went ape.

I watched the movies, the short-lived television show, and the short-lived cartoon. I had the action figures. I had activity books. I had the Topps trading cards of the t.v. series.

But I never knew about the novelizations. I spotted one in the library during junior-high years later. I never knew a thing about the comics, either, surprisingly enough.

Now, Titan Books are allowing me to relive my childhood and then some.

First, they've released an anthology of new stories set in all three universes - movies, t.v., cartoon.
 But wait! There's more!

Two omnibuses collecting the original movie novelizations are coming, too.

Wait. Not done. They are also publishing an omnibus of the original television episode novelizations.

Nope. Still not done. Not yet available but listed in Tales from the Forbidden Zone (and personally confirmed for me) a fourth omnibus with the original novelizations of the cartoon series.

Stop the presses.

Nope, can't.

Also rumored - perhaps a collection of the comics.

Tangent to Titan Books - The Topps Trading Cards book.

I knew the t.v. cards, I had those. I didn't know there had been cards from the original movie, too.

Last night, I picked up the new #1 of the PLANET OF THE APES / GREEN LANTERN cross-over comic.

Yeah. Combining the Apes with Green Lantern with the old Mego action figures packaging for the artwork.

Talk about weaponized nostalgia!

If nothing else, it will be a great year to be an ApeHead!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Writing accountability calendar - January

This year, I am trying a new trick to get myself into the daily writing habit. I know writing everyday is the secret. It's a marathon and the only way to get stories finished.

I figure if you can slip into bad habits easily enough, then why not steer yourself toward good habits?

That in mind, I've dedicated a calendar to tracking my writing. It's on the wall and in my face.

This month has been a little experimenting. I had planned on using three colors - red, yellow and green. I was just going to mark the calendar but I soon decided to write the wordcount with the given color.

It turned out that yellow marker doesn't show well on the white background. I tried orange - too close to red. I also didn't have exactly the tone I wanted (in a houseful of markers, of course!) I wound up with red, light blue and green.

Red is zero words. Blue is under one thousand. Green is one thousand or more. "EDIT" is a day where I was editing, not writing new content.

Spotty month.

I already see a pattern I need to address. I guess I knew it was there but it didn't hit me until I wrote it down. Weekends are my worst output. You'd think it would be the opposite. I'm always looking ahead and seeing an open weekend and thinking I'll get a good chunk of writing done.

Yeah - not so, Paul.

Relaxing, reading, napping, paying attention to the kids, family time. I'm not making excuses - I am citing what is happening. I know I need to set aside some weekend time now - probably in the mornings before noon. Get off the iPad, grab my iced coffee and head downstairs to the office.

I would like to reach "pulp speed" #pulpspeed but if I can at least get consistently green (1K+) per day, I'll be satisfied. (See Dean Wesley Smith's excellent post, The New World of Writing: Pulp Speed. Hat tip to David J. West for steering me to it. It was a nice dovetail with this effort.)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

recent read/listen; Doc Savage: Skull Island

Doc Savage: Skull Island by Will Murray

Doc Savage? Skull Island? King Kong?! Sign me up!

The book is roughly split in three sections. The first three chapters involve Doc and his gang employed as cleanup crew after King Kong falls to his death in New York City. After that prelude, we get a prequel tale featuring Doc, his father, and later his grandfather. Set in 1920, this tale contains a lot of the emotional dynamic between father and son. Doc is back from the war and reconnecting with his father. I believe a lot of groundwork and touchstones were included in this prequel story but I am not well-versed in Doc Savage. His "annihilator" machine gun is under development in this story.

The book clocks in at 400+ pages (according to Amazon.) That's a very long length for a Doc Savage story. Murray seems to have approached the tale as two shorter novels linked together - the first half deals with Doc and his father seafaring around the Pacific and Indian Ocean, searching for a lost schooner. They ran afoul of pirates.

I went in biased, of course. The initial seafaring story isn't bad but I was impatient to get to Skull Island.

The story got much better when they finally reached Skull Island. Lots of homages to KING KONG with clever references (spider canyon, dinosaur and ape evolutionary offshoots - which is why nothing on the island correctly matches the paleontological [is that a word?] record.) Lots of battles and derring-do.

I found some of the phrasing awkward and some word choices seemed to misuse the thesaurus. I don't know if that was Murray or if Murray was imitating Lester Dent.

Usually when I listen to an audiobook, I still consider it more of a 'read' than a 'listen.' But, it is worth mentioning details of this audiobook. Although this is put out by Radio Archives, it is a complete unabridged novel, not an audioplay. However, the narration very much sounds like an old radio show. In some cases this is good because the voice-acting is done well and the characters are distinct. On the other hand, it is a bit like listening to an overblown propaganda short from the 1950s or listening to Stan from AMERICAN DAD over emote even the simplest paragraph. It took a while to get used to it. Sometimes reverb is used for crowd and shouting effects.

So - felt a little long in the middle. I imagine in the old days it would have been two separate stories loosely connected. Fun romp in the end. If you're Doc Savage fan and/or a King Kong fan, you'll probably enjoy a lot of the book.