Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 - some nice, but pricey, books coming

Thunder in the Void

The Complete John Thunstone

Where the Summer Ends

Walk on the Wild Side

These are titles I definitely want in print, even if there are eVersions (I don't think there will be.)

I have the two paperback TOR Wagner horror collections, but they are far from good shape.

I don't know how many of Wellman's Thunstone tales I have read.  One title rings a bell from an anthology.

I enjoy what I have read from Kuttner, and I need to read more from him.  I know he was an influence on Wagner.  Kuttner had a gritty, real edge that crept in even when it wasn't supposed to.  I really want to read what he did in the space opera vein.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Recently read

Savage Red Sonja: Queen of the Frozen Wastes

Other than the curves and red hair, I haven't really gotten into Red Sonja.  She looks great, but I can't think of a single story that really stands out in my head from what I have read. (granted, I haven't read too much.)  This one was in the bargain bin at the local music/comic store, so I grabbed it for yucks.

Not sure about the "Savage" part of the title.  The Conan Dark Horse series thankfully has a detailed Wikipedia page on the various imprints, but from what I could find, Red Sonja's Dynamite run doesn't have as concise a page listing.

Sonja has hired herself out as a scout amongst warring faction in the Gunderland mountains.  After the battle is concluded, the survivors are beset by beast men who overpower them (and Sonja) and bring them into the underground lair of the Queen of the Frozen Wastes.  The Queen rules over neanderthal men, yeti and human slaves, and enjoys watching arena battles and partaking of flesh.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Recently read; The Religion

The Religion by Tim Willocks

It took me a while to read this, but that is in no way a reflection on the book.   It has been a while since, as a reader, I became fully immersed in a thick novel.

The Religion takes place mostly during the 1565 siege of Malta.  ("The Religion" are better known to history as the Knights Hospitaller. )  The protagonist, Tannhauser, is a former janisssary who managed to escape his servitude with his head intact and now operates as an opium and arms merchant.  The Religion conspire to bring him into the conflict, because his knowledge of the Turk will aide them.  But, the conspiracy to bring him to Malta might be at the cost to his own head, as a vindictive member of the Inquisition has his own reasons for keeping him from Malta.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reading, 2012

Soon, many folks will be posting their year-end reading wrap-up posts. This year my prose reading will end with a very low count. I hope to fare better next year. I am going to try for a minimum of two books per month, and get at least twenty-four read. I do not want to get too caught up in the final numbers, though. My reading is still a pleasure activity and I don't want it to become a chore. That is one reason I prefer the occasional, informal book review on my blog rather than an assigned, scheduled review for a semi-pro web site.

Next year, I would also like to read more authors who are new to me. I have many sale/free books on my Kindle now. Most are the first novels in series to pull in new readers. And, I have a few on my bookshelf, too.

I'll be adding miscellaneous online stories, comics and graphic novels to the mix, too.

Here are a couple of covers of ones I am looking forward to reading (hopefully, early in the year.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lost Swords no longer lost

A few times per year, I look over my bookcase and if there are titles I am interested in replacing with eBooks, I start poking around Amazon (I have a Kindle.)

Sometimes, I am reminded of books I am searching for, or authors I want more of - and if they have out-of-print titles, I'll take a stab.

I've posted before about my tardy discovery and enjoyment of Fred Saberhagen's work.  Over the past few years I have been collecting his Berserker tales, Empire of the East, The First Swords trilogy and The Lost Swords series.  I have two books in the Lost Swords series to find.  Sometime during the year (summer, maybe) I happened upon Kindle editions of the first four.  As luck and timing would have it, the Swords books have been (re-)released in eFormat over the course of this year.  The covers are primitive, even for eBooks, so I was mildly suspicious.  But, they have all been released now (except, I believe, An Armory of Swords, which was an anthology.)  The eBooks are being created and published by Saberhagen's literary estate, JSS Literary Productions (which, I think is essentially his wife.)

Too bad there is a disconnect as JSS L. P. also run the Berserker website - the official Saberhagen site, and I see no news announcements about the eBooks.  So, I'm spreading the word for the curious, or fans, or fans who have lost their original print Saberhagen books.

I will still find hard copies of my missing two novels, but it's nice to know I can at least fall back to the eBooks if I really am desperate.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

preThanksgiving thanks

I know - this blog is about as exciting as watching paint dry of late.  Thanks to you - my few loyal followers - for checking in.

Nothing new to report.  I am still behind writing, still reading The Religion.

I have read quite a few single issues of various comics; Superman, Action Comics, Justice League, Planet of the Apes.  I am still enjoying them all.

Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes and Avenging Spider-man have started, and I bought the first issues of those, too.

I haven't specifically mentioned this to family, but I wouldn't mind a iPad for Christmas.  That's kind of steep, though.  If I don't get one, I'll probably buy one early next year.  I really want the comic reader(s.)  Collecting the print issues is fun, but I really need to manage my space at home.  Also, some of the fonts are getting to my aging eyes.  Being able to focus on enlarged digital frames would be a boon.  So, I am considering following these opening arcs in print and then switching to digital - at least for the DC and Marvel titles.

Bonus perk would be having all my app eReaders in one place - though I'll probably still keep my (hardware) Kindle on the side.  Maybe even upgrade that, too, next year.

We'll see.

For the Thanksgiving record, I am thankful for my family, friends, a steady job, food on the table and roof over our heads.  I wish the same for everyone else.   Let's hope the country is in a better economic state this time next year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hacking ivy!

I managed to brush my wrist over something.  Whether it was a poison ivy leaf or some residual oil on a piece of wood, I don't know.  Nasty patch on my wrist, a few random spots on my body.  It could have been a lot worse.  The wrist is localized enough to keep covered and not spread.   It's still a nuisance.

On a totally different note, I am finally the victim of an email hack.  Joy.

Ages ago, (when my ego was larger - stop laughing) I setup my own domain.  I grabbed the first ISP that came along, and wound paying too much and getting very little - in diskspace, certainly.  It was such a tiny allotment, I created a Hotmail  account to move big files, and register various websites (forums, etc.)

I moved the personal account elsewhere, and kept it for personal email.  But, my Hotmail account got hacked the other night.  I had gotten lazy and occasionally dropped an address into the Contacts list.  Spammer went through the list and spammed some folks.  I changed the password, wiped out the Contacts list, but today I still got blocked out.  The only reason I want in now is to delete the account.

I've setup two Gmail accounts.  One personal, one for everything else.  I'm going to ween off the domain thing.  It doesn't cost much now, but with the blog serving as a hub, I don't really feel like I need a domain anymore.  Or, maybe I'll keep it for the redirect and just stop with the email there.  I have time to think about it, I just renewed a few weeks previous.

I'm liking the interface and concepts of Gmail; labeling emails instead of foldering them - allows multi-tag on a single email, instead of deciding which folder to keep it in.  Archiving and lots of space to keep years worth of email (if you want, I like to run light with email folders.)  And, it's Google, so searching for old emails will be a cinch, especially with labeling and other meta-data.

In theory, it will all work wonderfully...until the next hack.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Guest Blogger - Ty Johnston

Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb and More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords. His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21.

To find out more, follow him at his blog tyjohnston.blogspot.com.  He offers all kinds of links and experiences with e-publishing, along with wonderful concise reviews of books he has read -  including many lost classics rediscovered via public domain e-format.

Though this month I’m traveling from blog to blog while promoting my new epic fantasy novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, today I’d like to talk about something more personal, but relative.

When I was ten years old, my mother became a victim of violence. She almost died. Her neck was almost broken. She was left with two cracked discs in her neck and enough pain to cause her to scream.

It was I who found her. It was I who had to call the ambulance and ride to the hospital. It was I who had to sit by her bed for days that turned into weeks.

Growing up in a single-parent household, I had no one to turn to. My father lived a long distance away, and though he helped as much as he could, he was not able to do anything immediately.

Once my mother was free of the hospital, she returned to work and we went on with our lives.

When I was 16, one night at work my mom was pushing a cart and something else cracked in her neck. She was able to drive home, but once there all she could do was lay in bed and scream from the pain. I was older now, and once again I called for the ambulance and rode to the hospital.

In many ways, I grew up in hospitals. For nearly 30 years my mother worked in a hospital, and since she was a single parent when I was young, it seemed I was always hanging out in the hospital waiting for her to get off work. It didn’t bother me emotionally, at least not until I was spending all my time at the hospital watching her slowly heal.

As I mentioned above, I had no one to turn to.

But then I did. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. His name is Terry Brooks.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Man, I don't think I've ever been as blind-sided by Halloween's arrival as this year!

Between the crazy 80degree(F) weather early in the month, and now a power-crippling snow-storm, it never even felt like autumn.  Most towns have also rescheduled trick'or'treat and other holiday events for later days, too.

 Busy month personally, too.

My kids did attend a couple of events in costume, at least.

I didn't even get around to reading a horror short story or picking a horror movie.  I don't think I'll be awake enough tonight to watch anything.  I spent the first half of last night tending the fire in the wood stove until power came back.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quiet October

Well, it's been a quiet month on my blog, anyway.  Lots of busy stuff at home and work.  Nothing I really felt like blogging about.

One thing I came across yesterday was a free teaser comic for Avenging Spider-man, which despite its name, is more about Spider-man team-ups than Spider-man p.o.v. Avengers stories.  That could be interesting.  Sounds a little like a Spider-man version of Batman: the Brave & the Bold. (serious take, though, not like the humorous t.v. show.)

I haven't really bought much Marvel, been hanging tight with DC.  But, as a kid I always liked Spider-man.  This title is supposed to focus more on the hero than the alter-ego stories of Peter Parker.

I might give it a try, it starts its run in November.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Strange Worlds!

It's available now!

Assembled by artist/editor Jeff Doten, this anthology was a collaborative effort.  Jeff contacted the writers, each of whom chose a color illustration as the inspiration to craft a sword-&-planet tale.  Jeff then added some black & white interiors based on the resulting stories.

It's been a long time since a sword-&-planet anthology of new tales has been published.

I am very excited to be a part of this work, and I share the table of contents with some talented writers!

I can't wait to read the other stories!  (oh, mine is titled, "Pearls of Uraton")

Friday, September 30, 2011

Planet of the Apes (via Boom Studios)

For prose, I have been reading Tim Willocks' The Religion, which is great so far.  But it is a thick, meaty read, so I've been knocking off some comics when I don't have time for a deep reading session.

Somewhere I had read about the new Planet of the Apes comic from Boom Studios, and read that it was set in the timeline of the original movies.  Even though I am a huge ApeHead, this information slipped to the back of my mind (as did the new movie, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I have not yet seen.)

I was at the comic store, and spotted the back issues on the shelf, and figured, why not?  I bought the first issue.  I bought #2 & #3 the following week.

I'm glad I did.  I like this comic.  It remains faithful to the original setting, while creating its own niche.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Green Lantern Corps #1

Green Lantern Corps #1

Well, that was disappointing.

My third taste of DC's New 52 has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I was hoping for some fun space opera with this title.  GL stories not bound to Earth.  Spaceships, aliens, etc.  I'm not against the stories having dramatic weight, either.  I've always been interested in John Stewart as the Green Lantern (blame Bruce Timm.)

This issue opens with an evisceration, a beheading and a finger being sliced off - all in graphic detail.

Since when did the Green Lantern Corps become Lone Wolf & Cub?

Violence is right in its place, even graphic if you want - a samurai movie, a hard-edged sword-&-sorcery tale, but in a space opera comic?

Am I missing something?

I can't say I'm very interested in following the rest of this one.

Here's hoping Superman #1 is enjoyable - it's due out tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The New 52 - DC Comics

I gave in.  I bought these two issues from DC Comics.  I had sworn off individual issues a while back, but I just got too curious about the new Superman revamp.

I would have bought the e-comics.  And maybe, with my tired, getting-older eyes, being able to see frames on the big screen probably wouldn't hurt.  But the price is the same as print right now (where's the incentive, DC?)  I have extra cardboard and bags from when I was still collecting issues.

So, I figured - why not?

I haven't bothered following the news and myriad comments whether this regeneration of most of the DC line has been good or bad for their business.  I am sure there are fans.  I am sure some were alienated.  I might as well decide for myself if I like this new paradigm or not.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword #2

"El Borak: The Incident at Hakim's Rest"
Written by Mark Finn

Good self-contained El Borak story.  At the very end, though, I did get a little confused as to which side was controlling the fort and who were the besieged and who were the attackers.

"Dark Agnes: Storytelling" (Part 2 of 2)
Written by Marc Andreyko

Back at the tavern, the swords come out.  Agnes draws some blood.  That's it - story over.

"A New Game for Costigan"
Written by Joe Casey

I enjoyed this one, though it is a humorous tale.  Costigan takes up fight reporting, and proceeds to offend both boxers in the upcoming big match.  Hijinks ensue.

"Sea Curse"
Written by Robert E. Howard

Not a comic, but a printing of the horror tale with some b&w illustrations.  An old hag curses two vile sailors as they embark on another sea outing.  A young boy witnesses the Flying Dutchman bringing one of the men home.

"The Valley of the Worm"
Written by Robert E. Howard Adapted by Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway

A reprint from 1972, this is an excellent, chilling adaptation of the original Howard story.  Niord, an man of ancient times, kills a Cthuluian "worm", and creates the race memory of all the stories of a single man vs. dragon - St. George, Perseus, Beowulf, etc.

"Conan and The Jewels of Hesterm" (Part 2 of 3)
Written by Paul Tobin

The story goes right off the rails in this part. Conan breaks into the Temple of the Elder Queen and sneaks past a roomful of guards. Then, he pauses, says, "No, you will know that Conan of Cimmeria was here!" He turns around, marches into the room and kills all the guards but one.

(nitpick rant follows)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Geek out - The Cult of Timm

(more Speak Out With Your Geek Out)

In Hollywood chat among 'geeks', Joss Whedon fans have been referred to as "cult of Whedon" and some t-shirts are emblazoned "Whedon is God."

Now, I am not here to slam Whedon or compare, at all.  I just use this example to illustrate those who love everything he touches.

Personally, I'd like to start a "Cult of (Bruce) Timm."  Because, I thoroughly enjoy any animation project he does that involves the DC Comics universe.

I didn't get into comics until I was well into adulthood.  Oh, I had the occasional horror comic, or old Conan comic, (Later, I would acquire graphic novels, collections and issues when Dark Horse revived the Conan line.)  But, I never really appreciated the superhero vein.

Then I watched Cartoon Network's Justice League, produced by Bruce Timm.

I was hooked.  I still am.  I have all the series he produced, Batman: the Animated Series, Superman: the Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League.  I went back and caught up.  I also have a shelf full of the action figures in my home office.

Since 2007, Timm & company have been producing DC Universe Animated Original Movies.  These feature a rotating cast and crew and even changing animation styles.  They don't need to have continuity, each stands alone, and I enjoy the mix up.  All the movies have been from good to excellent.

I've delved into the occasional comic title, or graphic novel of DC superheroes now.  Either because they were directly adapted or because I was curious to learn more.  I will continue to do so.  I've even picked some issues of the New 52 reboot.  I know DC are probably losing some longtime fans, but for me - still a relative newbie - it's exciting to get in the ground floor.  As a writer and fan, it will be interesting to see how the line is revamped - and what works, and what doesn't.

In short, I'm excited about superheroes and I don't think I would be saying that without Bruce Timm's work.

I don't know if this is a full geek out because I am not an expert on the history of the DC line, and I don't know minutiae about Bruce Timm.  But, he opened the world of superheroes for me like no one had before.

If you haven't seen any of his DC Animated work, do yourself a favor.  Pick an episode or a movie, any one should do.  If you want a starting point, my favorite of the movies so far was Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword #1

"Conan and The Jewels of Hesterm" (Part 1 of 3)
Written by Paul Tobin

This story opening left me cold. It really felt like Dungeons & Dragons. "Hesterm"? "Temple of the Elder Queen"?  Jewel thieves chased into the streets by fire-demon guards.  Conan's first appearance is cliche as they come, sitting in a tavern, flirting with the bar wench.  There is a very large stolen jewel and vague references to it being the temple's second greatest treasure.  It's extremely easy to guess what the first greatest treasure is.  So, not very Hyborian Age and a predictable storyline.

"John Silent: The Earthbound Dead"
Written by Scott Allie

A sequel short to Allie's adaptation of "The Castle of the Devil". Not too bad a horror tale.  The cursed book Silent acquired has driven him mad.

Six Guns and Scimitars: The Wild West in The Middle East
Written by Mark Finn

An illuminating treatise on El Borak and his world at the very start of the 20th century. No comic here, just a setup for a story in issue #2, which is also written by Mark Finn.

"Dark Agnes: Storytelling" (Part 1 of 2)
Written by Marc Andreydo

Another tavern tale.  This time setting up the arrival of Agnes.  Nice use of conflicting backstory imagery against the tale being told.  Not much else going on.

"Worms of the Earth"
Written by Robert E. Howard, Adapted by Roy Thomas

This is a reprint of an old b&w Savage Sword of Conan comic. I wasn't sure about the colorizing.   I know from some of the Roy Thomas introductions to the Chronicles of Conan collections that occasionally they would colorize a SSOC issue to cover the main Conan comic if something fell through.   I always thought the coloring made the pictures too busy, with all the b&w lining already on the page.  I'm happy to say "Worms of the Earth" looks great!  The colors are earthen, muted and dark.  They really fit the tone of the tale.

So, that's it for issue #1 contents.  Probably worth it for the "Worms of the Earth" reprint, if you don't already have it.

I am no artist, I can't draw, and I feel weird critiquing art but the cover leaves a lot to be desired.  It seems, to me, crude.  And the bloody face evokes more thoughts of a bloody nose than a hard fight, to me.

The interior art is well done, though.

Notice something about all the stories?  We have a comic book named Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword with one Howard adaptation - and that is a reprint. Everything else is "pastiche".  I guess part of the charter here is to explore REH's characters further, but shouldn't they start off with adaptations of the original stories and then move into new tales?  I can understand keeping the Conan stories for the main comic but no "Blades for France" for Dark Agnes?

Maybe they're saving them for later.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Geek Out - Daleks

I don't have the ambition to post every day this week on geek subjects, but I figured I'd try to get one in, at least.

With Doctor Who, there are many facets to discuss - various Doctors (he regenerates, you see, becomes a new person & personality with the memories and core values he's always carried), various eras, so many aliens and villains.

I figured I would focus on one aspect that still captivates me to this day, the Doctor's oldest enemies, the Daleks.

Recently, Grognardia asked what was your favorite non-humanoid aliens, and my answer was still the Daleks.  In fact, I think that very question highlights one reason I enjoy the Daleks.  When you consider all the television scifi from the early days, almost every alien seemed to be either a ball of light (scratched onto the film) or aliens that looked an awful lot like humans in foam rubber masks and gloves, or - my favorite - aliens that take human form for convenience of plot and budget.

The Daleks look nothing like that.  For all the FX short comings of the original Doctor Who, the Daleks were an original look.  Machines without legs, and yet - they aren't machines either.  They aren't robots.  They are humanoid, but they were so mutated by nuclear war (and genetic experimenting) they became blobbish, tentacled balls of hatred and malice, and withdrew into "travel machines" to survive.  Later, these self-contained life supports systems became weapons in their own right, each cyborg Dalek becoming its own self-contained tank of death & destruction.

Yes, I own a bit of Dalek and Doctor Who merchandise; episode novelizations (which, are great because some of the earliest episodes' tapes were recycled by the BBC and are lost forever), original novels, VHS tapes, DVD upgrades of VHS as they become available, audio dramas.  And yes, some of the toys, too.

One thing I have not yet tried are the Dalek Empire audioplays.  These dramas feature stories about people battling the Daleks, without the Doctor's involvement.  I am not sure I am interested in the Daleks without the Doctor.  But, I guess I should give one a listen sometime.

Recently, the Daleks underwent a fairly big redesign.  They are now more colorful and physically larger - I guess to be more threatening.  (Cynic in me says they were revamped to make the online game more colourful [British spelling intentional.])  I kind of like the new design, but many long time fans are unhappy.  Not surprising.  Perhaps a balance of old-design Daleks with new-design would have been better than a wholesale swap out.

However they look, I hope they stay around, and are put to good use in strong stories. (Truth be told, the story in which they were revamped was really weak, which is why I have a cynical view that it was rushed to tie-in to the video game.)

The Daleks have changed before, they can change again.  Ain't time travel great?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

recent read - Sung In Blood

Summary from Night Shade Books; Protector Jerhke has kept Shasesserre peaceful for hundreds of years. After his brutal murder, his son Rider tries to discover his father's murderer. Rider is helped in his search by his companions, as they battle against the agents of the mysterious Kralj Odehnal. But the murderous dwarf turns out to be an introduction to greater terror, as they match wits with Shai Khe, the powerful sorcerer who wants to rule Shasesserre.

That is exactly what you get in this short novel (novella, really.) I am a fan of Glen Cook, so I enjoyed this quick fix between longer novels. Rider and his team read like Doc Savage and his crew (though, Rider is no Doc.) As usual, Cook plunges the reader into a setting seat-of-the-pants, and it's a fun ride. The opening assassination is darn near worth the price of admission alone.

Rider protects Shasesserre via a Web of magic that also allows communications with his team. Airships powered by ensorceled demons wander the skies.

Su-Cha, a shape-changing, wall penetrating imp, the familiar of Rider, is particularly fun side man. Cook always manages to give everyone just the right quirks and camaraderie. And yes, his team includes a strong man "barbarian" character, too.

This novella originally appeared in 1990 at a convention. Whether it was specifically written for that, or a "trunk" manuscript rescued for the event, there are some weaknesses.

The biggest is the abrupt ending. Some reviews argue Cook should have filled the tale out to a novel. I think--given that is was aimed as a novella--it should actually have been cut shorter. It feels like act one ends, act two starts and stops within a few pages. It might stand alone better with a cleaner cut and no bits of act two.

Fleshing out to a novel might have worked, but it already suffers from some repetition - a lot of chasing, captures and escapes and recaptures. Maybe this was a sly satire on Doc Savage novels but I haven't read enough to be sure on that point.  The story might just have needed more editing.

Given that, if you are interested, seek out the ebook (which is considerably less than the limited edition hardcover) or find a used copy.

I enjoyed it, but I'm a fan. It might not be a bad quick introduction to Cook's style, but understand he has much more interesting and stronger works available - the original Black Company trilogy first and foremost.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hollywood vs. source material

One thing about Conan the Barbarian (2011) that is not ripe for argument is that the movie was not in any way a direct adaptation of any single Robert E. Howard original Conan story. That is fact. Beyond that all seems matters of opinion. Personally, I felt that even as Howard 'pastiche' it didn't deliver. The setting did not feel to me much like the Hyborian Age. Jason Momoa, as Conan, felt mostly right although even there he might have been closer to the comics' Conan than the Robert E. Howard character. Naturally, any adaptation from one medium to another must make changes to present a successful story. You cannot film a book word-for-word, it doesn't work. You need to adapt. But, there is adapting and then there is "buying a concept at high level and not going any deeper and doing whatever you want."

I know movies are formulaic (I was in a screenwriters group for many years) but Hollywood seems so hung on formulas now that they always seem to believe they know what is better for a story, for getting butts in the movie cinemas. They buy concepts and run (Conan is a brutish guy with a sword in a fantasy setting) instead of examining the finer elements (civilization vs. barbarianism, historical eras lumped together with adventure and sorcery.)

I want to caveat the rest of this post with a big disclaimer - I am no Jonah Hex expert. But, I have read a handful of the original comics via the DC Showcase collection. Last night I caught parts (yes, only parts, not the entire movie - but I'm posting about it anyway) of the movie Jonah Hex and darned if I didn't feel like the same thing had happened to Jonah that had happened to Conan.

Josh Brolin felt like Jonah Hex, from what I saw. But the setting and plot were so far afield from the source material. Jonah Hex, the comic might have been billed as "weird Western" or "strange Western" but in the end, they were always westerns. The "weird" was more like strange murders or hairy hill men who were setup to seem like Bigfoot. I don't know - in the later tales I believe maybe there were more supernatural episodes (or the occasional Batman time-travel crossover) but in essence, they were clearly spawned from the "Man With No Name" Eastwood movies.

The movie took the concept - scarred Confederate bounty hunter - and smushed it into an Wild Wild West (the movie, not the t.v. show) almost-steam-punk extravaganza. Hex armed with a grenade shooting cross bow pistol? Explosions galore. Weird glowing ordinance destroying entire towns. The U.S. President recruiting Hex?

Compare that with the 11 minute short cartoon of Hex DC did direct-to-video, if you can. That cartoon succeeds in 11 minutes where the theatrical movie fails for 81 minutes. Hex hunts a bounty. The bounty has already been killed by a murderous prostitute. She nearly kills Hex. Hex delivers on the payback in appropriately grim fashion.

So, I guess, on reflection, at least Hollywood got a little closer to the source characters on these two movies. But getting the character right doesn't pay off if he doesn't seem to belong in the movie. Next time Hollywood buys on concept alone, maybe they should invest a little more time in exploring what they have.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

recent read - The Pathless Trail

The Pathless Trail by Arthur O. Friel

I stumbled on this by accident at a library book sale a few years ago. I recognized the Centaur imprint, as they had done some Solomon Kane collections under the same Time-Lost series.

I later replaced the paperback with a Kindle version to make some shelf space. I wasn't collecting the Time-Lost series, so no loss – except the Jeffery Jones cover art.

If you've followed the link above to Two-Gun Raconteur, you'll see this novel was read by Robert E. Howard, too. So, that was a bonus. Always interesting to dig to the roots of my own reading roots.

The plot entails three American adventurers in the jungles of South America, searching for a heir who has gone native with the man-eating "Red Bones" tribe – or so it appears. Along the way they must deal with treacherous Europeans, Brazilian and Peruvian rivalry on the river, and cannibal tribes that get more dangerous and combative the deeper the Americans travel into the hinterland.

After reading that Friel had once penned a tale with enough racist overtones that no one today will reprint it, I was prepared for the worst. You know, “superior white men” drivel and savages shaking spears. I was pleased that it is just the opposite. Friel had spent time on South American rivers and in the jungles. He paints a very vivid and veracious picture of jungle life. The white interlopers are fully aware that the natives are their key to survival. The natives are shown as clever and pragmatic, surviving in their harsh world. Before the end battle, the white men convince the cannibal tribe to fight their way – not out of superiority, but because the enemy tribe is led by a German, and the Americans know how he will fight.

It could have used more action, but there is a lot of well done tension building as the journey progresses. The final battle is suitably climatic and exciting.

Two things on the downside. First, there are a couple of racial epithets. Really, just turns of a phrase – nothing derogatory aimed at any given character. They could be changed easily enough, but it does give a window to racial attitudes of the 1920s and isn't exactly pleasant. Literally, though, there are only two such moments – it is not like the work is littered with them or anything.

Second, the secondary characters came across more interesting than the three main heroes. The pair of Brazilian bushmen, Lourenco and Pedro, already had starred in other adventures, so that is not surprising. I found the dialogue of two of the Americans stilted, and the third was rendered phonetically – and I have no idea what kind of a regional accent it was supposed to be – Southern, midWestern, New York City?

In short - it's a quick read, an interesting adventure and I enjoyed it more than I expected. That's always nice.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mobile improvement

I was over at Adventures Fantastic via my iPhone the other day, and was surprised when the page popped up mobile ready - meaning, it displayed in a way that played 'nice' when viewing from the iPhone.

I found the Blogger setting. Under Settings->Email & Mobile, if you choose "Yes" on the Mobile Template, your blog will be much more easily read when viewed from a mobile phone. It does not affect viewing from the web browser on a computer.

I wonder which display it would use when viewed from an iPad?

Anyway - if you're on Blogger, you might want to change your setting to help out those accessing from mobile devices.

I've made the flip on mine - which you won't notice unless you're viewing from a mobile device, obviously.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Conan the Disappointing

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

First off, let me state that the title of this post is just for fun with the old pastiche titles. The movie was disappointing. Conan, as played by Jason Momoa, I really enjoyed.

Finally saw it tonight.

Pretty much what I expected and how I expected to feel about it. I did really enjoy Jason Momoa as Conan - far more accurate than Schwarzenegger ever was.

The young Conan stuff was great. After that - not so much. Way too much riffing off other fantasy tropes. I don't mind pastiche, I can take pastiche if I can't get Robert E. Howard, but I need good pastiche that feels like Conan's world, not some other place. I want a story of Conan in Hyboria, not some run of the mill fantasy riff. The story was far too loose.

The opening narration was far too similar to Lord of the Rings. They damn near lost my attention right off the bat.

I could make a list, but let's just say one other thing that got to me - and I don't know if it's been riffed on much - was the sorcery. The Sand-Dead-Warriors whatever the heck they were. Hyborian sorcery should be treacherous, black candles, chambers in the bowels of the earth, flitting shadows. That 'spell' was pure The Mummy meets Jason and the Argonauts.

I would enjoy Momoa as Conan in a tighter, more faithful story.

Current box office numbers might mean that is a pipe dream.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Superfight; Conan vs. Tarzan

I am usually not one for "my favorite fictional hero/villain can beat your favorite fictional hero/villain".

However, I stumbled on this essay this morning, and I think it is really well done. (missed it when originally posted)

Fantasy superfight; Conan vs. Tarzan

Charles Saunders, in addition to Imaro and other "sword & soul" work, also enjoys writing about boxing, so this essay has a definite veracity to it - even though it is, in the end, fiction and therefore never truly decided.

I need to read some more Tarzan titles. I've only read the first novel.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recent reads

I finally found a stride of more than one post per month, so I figure I should keep it going.

Two recent reads to discuss;

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

This was a free pre-order on the Kindle. It's a short pep rally. It tangents off Pressfield's War of Art and deals with fighting--what he calls--Resistance. All that intangible fear, laziness, procrastination, etc, that keep you from doing what you need to as an 'artist' (writer, painter, entrepreneur, etc.)

I do like Pressfield's "foolscap" method - any story (or idea) should breakdown to a single sheet of yellow lined paper. For a tale that would be - sentence first act, sentence second act, sentence third act, theme written across the bottom. Take that skeleton and run. (also how this short book is presented, and it's a nice mirroring effect.)

Good pep for free, not sure I'd want to spend too much if you already have War of Art, though.

(Classic) Battlestar Galactica: Cylon Apocalyse by Javier Grillo-Marxuach / Carlos Rafael

I mostly liked the revamped SciFi Channel Battlestar Galactica, but I'm still a child of the 70s, and camp or not, the original still appeals as well. This graphic novel popped up for $5 at the comic store, so I figured, "why not"?

The book opens with an especially enjoyable introduction, where Grillo-Marxuach describes pitching an unaired treatment to Glen Larson in 1979 - only that's not how it really happened because Grillo-Marxuach was only 9 yrs old and living in Puerto Rico at the time.

The story revolves around the Cylons experimenting with biological components and things go very wrong. It is a boon for the 'rag-tag fugitive fleet'. Or is it? Will they be as genocidal as the Cylons if they turn the biology experiment into a weapon?

It delivers on the nostalgia and it was fun to see a 'new' episode in the style and cast of the original series.

I don't know if I would have been fully satisfied had I paid full list price ($15) but for a bargain, it was just the dose of space opera remembrance I needed.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Influence & emotion

I think Charles is getting to me. :) Not only did I have a dream last night, but I remembered enough of it to post about it. And, it has some relevance to my usual subjects.

I dreamt that I was reunited with a schooldays friend. I was maudlin and noted that we couldn't be children again - though, we certainly could still have childish moments. There was a lot of reminiscing between us, but I was still depressed, and said, "We're just remembering what happened, I want to *feel* that way again."

A writer's lesson right there, I think. It's not enough to relate events in your story like a news reporter, or as some form of public remembrance - you've got to impart what it *feels* to be in your story, what the characters are feeling.

I know this is no secret writers revelation, really. We want to engage our readers. It can't just be neat ideas, plot points and execution, we need to invest in our characters as real, not chess pieces on the board of a plot.

Odd that this concept showed up in my dream. Maybe I need to look at my latest w.i.p. and ensure there is enough emotional pull on the reader. Maybe my subconscious is being my story editor, too!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Heroes of the Fallen

I finished reading David J. West's Heroes of the Fallen and I enjoyed it. I've heard of plenty of Biblical fiction, but personally I am not familiar with LDS circles, so I'm not sure how much fiction has been spun from the Book of Mormon - but I can probably safely say no one has sprung a pulp, sword-&-sorcery styling spin on things like David has. The originality of this work is refreshing.

I will admit the first half feels a little over burdened. There are many characters and a lot of literal wanderings. But, safe to say by the end I was interested in everyone, and invested in the growing action and tension. David not only gives us heroes and anti-heroes of reflection (Amaron, Aaron & Zelph) but we also get some well-drawn stoic strongmen in Samson & Mormon, either of who could hold their own in a tavern brawl with, well, let's just say ... a barbarian from the north. ;)

The main villain, Akish-Antum and his red-capped Gadiantons are drawn with enough pulp tone that I thought of Fu Manchu and insidious plots where his agents could be anywhere, and they are.

There are a lot of characters, as I said, but they all have some level of dimension. They have reasons and desires, and like any people, some make the right choices because of those needs and some choose the wrong path.

There are lessons in this prose about honor, duty, and defiance; both in the face of villainy and in the face of weakness and apathy of the masses.

This novel, the first half of a much longer work, ends on a cliffhanger. That doesn't mean "this is the start of a series" cliffhanger. Oh no. This means "Sam alone, Frodo taken by the Enemy and things are getting bleak in 'The Two Towers'" cliffhanger.

The good thing is, the cliffhanger works. I want to know what happens. I want to witness some showdowns and battles.

I want more.

(if you want more, then click on the book cover to head over to Amazon and get a copy for yourself)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dread Empire!

Those sneaky folks over at NightShade Books have been working under the radar, again. I don't recall any news items about these, but here they are;

Reap the East Wind
An Ill Fate Marshalling

These are reprints, and I've been dying to get my own copies. A friend loaned me An Ill Fate Marshalling and I read it awhile ago.

It's a pity they couldn't talk Glen Cook resurrecting the "lost" (stolen!) novel of the series, The Wrath of Kings and putting all three into another omnibus. (read old interview here)

I'll take 'em, though!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Beowulf & Grendel movie

I am really late to the party, but I finally watched my DVD of the 2005 Icelandic/Canadian co-production, Beowulf & Grendel. I enjoyed it a lot. I will be lazy and refer you to Bruce Durham's old review. I agree with all his points and assessment. It's worth a viewing if you enjoy Beowulf.

I particularly enjoyed the grim humor in some snippets of dialogue.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bloating up the Kindle!

If you didn't see my tweet or Facebook status, Amazon are having a big sale ('The Big Deal', they call it) on Kindle eBooks for the next week. They even have a handful of PYR books, which normally run $15 trade paperback or $10 ebook for $1.99 each.

I just scored;

The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeld Jack (Burton & Swinburne) by Mark Hodder
Dawnthief (Chronicles of the Raven, 1) by James Barclay
Elfsorrow (Legends of the Raven, 1) by James Barclay
Blood of Ambrose by James Enge

Each for $1.99.

Also, another PYR book, Empire in Black & Gold has been on sale for $1.99, too, and that ends July 25, I think.

Granted, these are all series first entries to entice you to buy & read more at full price, but for these prices, I'm fine with that.

Also acquired two history books;

Voices of the Foreign Legion by Adrian D. Gilbert (also, $1.99)

Daily Life in the Middle Ages by Paul B. Newman ($3.99, but that's a huge discount over even the paperback, which is listed at $36!)

The 'Great Deal' sale goes through July 27.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Color changes

Got bored with the old look, don't mind me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Writing motivation

I am so behind watching movies & t.v., if I get my writing goal finished this week, then I am going to treat myself to these on the weekend. (I own the DVDs, I just haven't watched them yet.)

We'll see how the "goals & rewards" system works for me for the next few weeks.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Batman on the beach

I spent the past four & a half days at the beach with my family and in-laws. Not as relaxing as it could have been - the nine month old is extremely screechy. No exaggeration - you could put your head next to the p.a. column at a Judas Priest concert and have the same effect on your hearing. I kept thinking we'd be asked to leave our inn.

Anyway, I knew with the two children (even with grandparents for babysitting) I wouldn't get much reading done, but I brought the Kindle, anyway.

I was smart in also bringing Batman: Year One with me. Graphic novels are faster, easier reads. I chose this one because I had it on recommendation, and it will be the next story adapted for the DC Universe Animated movies.

It was a very good story. I enjoyed it a lot. I could have done without the reinvention of Selina Kyle (Catwoman) as a bored prostitute, but what is a Frank Miller story without pimps and hookers? ;) The rest though, is stellar as Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne fight amidst a sea of crime and corruption. Not even a super-villain here. The mob and corrupt police force are enough. Good storytelling moments. I especially liked a crooked cop's recounting of encountering Batman as something mythical, while the illustrations show exactly what happened and how the (Bat)man was becoming a legend by exaggeration and fear.

So, I managed to read that in its entirety. Also gave in this year and grabbed a hardcover of Tim Willock's The Religion - very same book and discount bookstore I debated about last year. Couldn't pass it up this time. I'll find the shelf space for it. I hope it is as good as some say it is.

We had wireless but I mostly lurked from my iPhone. Between this week & my Facebook 'vacation' last month, I'm getting the bigger picture and remembering/realizing just how much darn noise there is on the Web. Don't get me wrong, I've gotten wonderful information and made plenty of friends, I don't damn the medium. But, I really need to cut back on my web time. I just have too many other pokers in the fires of my life right now.

I'll still follow my blog roll and post here, but I am thinking of cutting way back on Facebook and newsites. Surprisingly, perhaps not Twitter because that is designed to be a fast fix - but it's plenty noisy, too, so that might go.

Besides, with Google+ ramping up, there might be a great nomadic social network migration again. Might as well ramp down for a bit.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Once a reader...

Once a reader, always a reader. Or, at least, a book collector. My reading time has been scarce of late, but I continue to acquire books. I spent a little coin, lately.

An anthology of stories inspired by the writing of Robert E. Howard. Proceeds go to Project Pride - helping preserve the Howard house and museum in Cross Plains, Texas. Win-win! Click on the book cover image above to order your own copy.

As posted before, I was curious to read a different Moorcock hero (other than Elric). TOR reprinted the Hawkmoon saga (or, The History of the Runestaff.) As nice as the covers and interior illustrations are, the books are a bit thin for their price.

I opted against buying used copies, though.

For the price of a single TOR, I was able to get a new copy of the British Fantasy Masterworks edition, which is an omnibus of all four novels. I did that through ABE Books from a book seller in Indiana, which was cheaper than ordering from Amazon UK, too.

Also through the same seller, I ordered the Fantasy Masterworks edition of Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun. Not a complete omnibus, this features the first two of the four novels that are the story cycle. Fantasy Masterworks did publish the final two novels in a second omnibus.

If I like the first set, I will probably get the second set. I've never read any Wolfe that I'm aware of, so this will be new territory for me - when I get to it.

For an encore, I used some Amazon points to get these;

Monday, June 6, 2011

Facebook vacation

I decided spur-of-the-moment yesterday to take a week off from Facebook (and Twitter.) No reason in particular - just too much noise. I need to focus both at work and at home (writing.) It all just seemed frivolously distracting - which it is, I understand. Just need a break.

Still reading The Hour of the Dragon.

I'll still be on blog rounds and checking email for anything time-sensitive. And modding over at the Conan forums (which, btw, underwent a server upgrade this weekend.) It's just the chitter-chatter sites I want to avoid for a week.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

New blog - no, not mine

I don't know if any of you checkout my blog links, but a new one has started up that looks very promising.

Frontier Partisans

Jim used to write for The Cimmerian and contributes at the Conan forums.

I am going to enjoy these stories of derring-do!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Hour of the Dragon

This might be a dirty secret, considering I am a moderator on the Conan forums and all;

This is my first time reading Robert E. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon.

I've read many of the REH original Conan tales, but I never got to this one. I know it's an important one - REH's only novel. Part of me, I think, wanted to savor that so I'd have something new to read of Howard's.

Well, I'm there now.

Someone asked me how it is to read, I said it feels like coming home.

Aside from that, not much to blog about. Busy at work, busy at home.

I do have a list of writing tasks I need to attend to, both stories and some articles. Now that summer's here, for some reason, I seem to have more stamina for later nights. If I can keep the synapses firing, some late summer night writing will be fun!