Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Stuff

At least it's a very Halloween-ish kind of morning out there, with a cold stiff wind sending high, gray clouds across a gibbous moon, and dry leaves skittering across the pavement like spiders seeking prey. And speaking of the fast-approaching All Hallow's Eve, I managed to dig up a few more Ramsey Campbell horror stories to read without dipping into the other volumes of Swords Against Darkness.
One of advantages to having a fairly extensive book collection is that often, when I become interested in an author I had formally paid little attention to, I can usually find some of his work within anthologies I already own. Karl Edward Wagner was probably the best example, because when his character Kane was brought to my attention by a story in a volume of Elric pastiches, I was able to find five Kane short stories in various anthologies on my shelves. That held me over until I could get copies of his other Kane novels and shorts.
So as soon as I decided to read some more Campbell, I dug through the horror and H.P. Lovecraft related anthologies I own and turned up three Campbell short stories. Read them all over the weekend and enjoyed them. Internet research shows that the collection 'Alone With the Horrors' is considered to be the best book of Campbell's short fiction, so I need to get a copy of that.
Let's see, what other Halloween stuff have I got going? I watched Scooby Doo II: Monsters Unleashed yesterday. Goofy, but I rather enjoyed it. I had picked up a DVD of both Scooby Doo movies a while back, but only watched the first one. I think the first one was a better movie, but I liked the second one more because it featured more of the monsters I remember from when I was a kid. The original series came out when I was in first grade and I was a huge fan. I've always liked mysteries and monsters apparently.
Oh, and I'm listening to H.P. Lovecraft on CD on my commute. I have a nice audio book of two of his best, The Dunwich Horror and The Call of Cthulhu. Since Halloween falls on Wednesday this year, I won't be home to watch creepy movies and stuff. I'll be out with the Dr. No's gang for my usual Wednesday Mexican dinner. So I have to get any more Halloween stuff in over the next two days.
I am so using the Monday Rule today. If not for that, there is no way I'd be going to work. Didn't have the greatest weekend and not in the best of moods. But I don't miss Mondays. So Off I go. Stupid self discipline...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Sustenance of Hoak

Holy cow, but I just read one of the best sword & sorcery stories I've ever come across. Ramsey Campbell's The Sustenance of Hoak in Swords Against Darkness volume 1. Dark, creepy, genuinely disturbing and with a nice mix of action, characterization, and bleak horror. I can't say much about the plot because the slow unfolding of the secrets of the little village of Hoak is what makes the story, but jeez it was nifty.
I have often said that true sword & sorcery, as created by Robert E. Howard, has an element of horror and often bleeds over into pure horror with a little action. Since Ramsey Campbell is considered by many to be one of the top horror writers of all time, it shouldn't surprise me that he was able to find his way to the dark heart of S&S. I know that Stephen king raves about his novel The Doll Who Ate His Mother, and I remember reading his H.P. Lovecraft inspired novel The Parasite years ago.
Anyway, it looks like he has a story in each of the five volumes of Swords Against Darkness. I'll have to resist the urge to go and read them all back to back. The other four will have to work hard to come up to the level of this one though. I need to track down some of Campbell's short story collections. Just in time for Halloween...

Got an interesting group of books in the mail today. Back in the mid 1970s, writer Andrew Offutt edited five volumes of a series called Swords Against Darkness. Rather like Lin Carter's Flashing Swords anthologies, these books were collections of new sword & sorcery stories. The odd thing is, as much S&S as I've collected, I'd never actually run across any of these collections in my hunts though the used bookstores. Part of that may be the nature of the shelving of collections. Some places shelve them alphabetically under the name of the editor. Other places tend to put collections at the end of a particular genre. It's easy to miss them.
I got four of the five volumes in this purchase, along with three Offutt penned Robert E. Howard pastiches featuring Howard's hero, Cormac Mac Art. I've read a couple of Ouffet's Conan pastiches and found them passable, but I was more interested in the anthologies than anything. The books are a nice mix with stories by Poul Anderson, Manly Wade Wellman, Andre Norton, Tanith Lee, Ramsey Campbell, David Drake, and many others. A veritable cornucopia of S&S short tales. Looks like some fun reading for me. Now I just need to track down the one volume that wasn't part of the set.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Gentlemen of the Road


You know how sometimes when you start a book, and just a few pages in you start to get this sort of buzz? Like "Oh, I'm really going to like this." It's a feeling I get far too rarely theses days. But by page 28 of Michael Chabon's new novel, Gentlemen of the Road I was getting that buzz. Now that's not surprising when you consider that the book, which is subtitled A Tale of Adventure, has a lot of Charles friendly attributes going for it. It's a historical adventure taking place in 950 AD, mostly in the Middle East around Khazaria on the shores of the Caspian Sea. There are swordfights and chases on horseback and deeds of derring do. Plus friendship, Romance, and the lure of far off places. Oh, and Vikings! This is indeed the stuff of high adventure.
Now, add to this the fact that this book is written by Pulitzer prize winner Michael Chabon. The writing is gorgeous, brisk and fast paced, but still full of the sort of elegant turns of phrase you'd expect from Chabon. However, despite it's literary flourishes, this is still a genre book that I would shelve beside the works of Harold Lamb and Talbot Mundy. I've heard it called a Jewish Sword & Sorcery book, but there isn't any actual magic. Still it does have some links to S&S. Though it is dedicated to Michael Moorcock, the creator of Elric, the book is perhaps closer in tone to the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories of Fritz Lieber. It has a pair of of mismatched heroes and that tone of dark humor and sardonic wit. I often found myself grinning as I read along. There is also one sly reference to a character drinking tea imported from Khitai, which is of course the eastern kingdom in Robert E. Howard's fictional Hyborian age. Plus the book is illustrated by Gary Gianni, who did such a fine job on the recent Del Rey Conan and Solomon Kane volumes.
Anyway, I understand that a few critics are aghast that Chabon would waste his literary talents on a mere genre adventure novel. Well there's nothing mere about this one, kids. If you love adventure, exotic locales, the silver of swordplay, and a generous dose of wit and charm wrapped up in a well wrought prose style, then you need to read Gentlemen of the Road. It's a fast read at barely 200 pages and I read it cover of cover at a sitting. And I'll read it again.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some More Thoughts on Writing

I've been working on a short story the last few days. Trying to write a more or less traditional sword & sorcery yarn, but as I talked about in my last writing related post, I wanted to put some twist on it. The twist turned out to be an interesting monster based on Malaysian mythology. I won't tell what that is since a major plot point turns on the creature. Anyway, I wrote about three pages using one of my Conan stand-ins, the barbarian Kharn. It didn't go quite the way I wanted and I couldn't quite figure out what was wrong, so I decided maybe it was the protagonist. I've mentioned before that I like using contemporary protagonists so I decided to try again using Alexander Gordon, the hero of 'The Dead Remember', who is basically a contemporary earth man trapped on the bronze age world of Kalindor. Wrote another three pages, but the tone still wasn't right.
I basically agree with Edgar Allan Poe's theory of short story writing, being that you should pick one overriding tone and stick with it. In this instance I wanted something akin to a horror story, and Gordon's presence always seems to cant things in a more science fiction direction. He's also a bit of a wisenheimer, which makes keeping the tension level up difficult. Don't really need wisecracking in this sort of story. So now I'm thinking that my beginning may be the problem and I need to get into the meat of the story more quickly. I'm going to try that later on and see how that works. May switch back to Kharn as protagonist or may try some other character. We'll see. The plot kernel is a good one, if I can just coax something from it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Less Than Masterful

Some things are best left in our memories. I had speculated in a previous post that the movie Beastmaster might have been the best sword & sorcery film made so far.
No. No it's not.
Having just watched it again for the first time in ten or fifteen years, I still found it an enjoyable movie, but it's far too dopey to be considered a good sword & sorcery film. It does have the right look, more early Mesopotamian than Medieval, and I think that's what my mind was remembering. But there are far too many campy moments and just plane goofy scenes. As I said, I do still like the movie. I'm glad I bought a copy. It's just not as good as I remember it being.
So that puts me back to square one. There may never have been a really good S&S film, one that actually catches the feeling of the genre. There are plenty of good swashbuckling films, but none have the element of horror that most good S&S has. Hmmm, were I suddenly offered the money to film a true S&S film, how would I approach it? That requires some thought. I'll get back to you.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's a Hard Life, Charlie Brown

Just finished reading Schultz, a biography of Charles M. Schultz, the creator of the comic strip Peanuts. It's a fascinating look at his life and at the origins of his phenomenally successful creation. It is not, however, the feel good book of the year. It seems to be the story of a man with a life long inferiority complex. No matter how well he did, he never felt as if he had worth. Though he sometimes denied that his lead character Charlie Brown was based on himself, other times, he flat out stated that he was Charlie Brown.
The bio draws many parallels between Schultz and Charlie Brown, and there are indeed quite a few places where reality intersects fiction. Peanuts strips are cleverly placed beside the real life incidents that inspired them. Schultz seemed to be a very conflicted personality. Deeply moral, he could also be petty and even vindictive. He held life long grudges and often took advantage of his sudden wealth and notoriety to extract vengeance for perceived wrongs.
If you're looking for a biography of a kindly old comic strip artist, then Schultz isn't it. It's a portrait of a complex and deeply troubled man who never outgrew the sense of worthlessness he had as a child. Still, without all that emotional turmoil, we would never have had his classic comic strip. Peanuts is a profoundly personal work, and that's the way Schultz wanted it. He never used assistants and no other creator ever wrote or drew so much as one line or one letter of the strip right up to Schultz's death. In many ways it took a lot of guts to put himself out there the way he did. And ultimately that's the final message of his alter-ego, Charlie Brown. Because no matter what happened, no matter the humiliations and the injustices that the little round headed kid had to face, he never gave up and he never quit trying. He endured and he pushed on. And so did his creator.

Halloween Reading

Beth has asked for Halloween reading recommendations. I love Halloween and I always try to read something creepy as October 31st rolls around. Two of my very favorite Halloween reads are by Ray Bradbury. You could do far far worse than to read Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Halloween Tree. Of the two, Something Wicked is my favorite, so if you only have time for one, go with that. If you don't have time to read a novel, then I'll also recommend Bradbury's collection, The October Country. There are some classic Bradbury short stories in this one, including The Dwarf, The Small Assassin, and Skeleton. Chillers all.
I'll also recommend some short stories by H.P. Lovecraft. Can't go wrong with The Call of Cthulhu, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and my personal favorite, The Dunwich Horror. Gibbering and slavering things from the outer dark. If you can get your hands on a copy of Karl Edward Wagner's horror collection, In a Lonely Place, there are some amazingly disturbing horror short stories there as well. Read 'Sticks' or 'The River of Nights Dreaming' and I bet you don't sleep well. Hard to find but worth tracking down.
If you're up for something a bit more literary, I'm a big fan of Bram Stoker's classic, Dracula. Still a powerful book after all these years. Also, Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, which remains a disturbing ghost story.
If you're short of cash or not near a library, check out the wide selection of creepy short stories, novels, and articles at The Literary Gothic web page. Some classic horror stories there and all for free.

http://www.litgothic.com/index_fl.html

Sunday, October 21, 2007

In the Beginning


Cliff's reminiscences of how he got into reading comics has made me think about my own history with the medium. The picture to the left is the first comic book I ever bought with my own money. I've mentioned before that my mom collected Tarzan comic books so those were the first I ever looked at. I have some vague memories of relatives occasionally giving me comics but they were usually of the Disney variety. Somehow the concept of comics had never really clicked with me.
Then in the summer of 1970, when I was eight years old, I was with my family on vacation on Jekyll Island, off the coast of Georgia. I remember that trip well for two reasons. One, there was a tree entirely too close to the balcony of our hotel room and my brother and I kept leaping from the balcony to the tree and back until we got caught. Two, I bought my first comic book.
It was the cover that did it. Just look at it. Batman facing down a bull in Mexico. Swinging on a windmill in Holland. Planting the American flag in Tibet! Go Batman!
My prior experience with the caped Crusader up to that point was watching the mid sixties TV series with Adam West and the Saturday morning Filmation Batman cartoon. But once I read this annual I was really taken with Batman. See, these were mostly reprints from the 1940s and 1950s, but I didn't know that. I was just impressed as heck with Batman's skill as a detective and his willingness to travel all over the world to fight crime. And there was the art. Dick Sprang. Jerry Robinson. Beautiful stuff. I read and re-read that comic until it fell apart. Sadly I don't have that original issue, but over the years I acquired two more copies of it. One reading copy and one really nice copy for keeps. It's one of the comics I held onto when I got rid of my collection because it has sentimental value.
Now it may seem that this was the comic that put me on to a lifelong love of the medium, but that's not quite the case. The obsession didn't come for another year, and when it did, it would once again involve Batman. But that's a story for another time.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Parallel Thinking

This weeks release of the film Gone Baby Gone will introduce many non-readers to Dennis Lehane's private detective, Patrick Kenzie. It will also introduce them to Kenzie's killer redneck pal, Bubba. I always liked the Kenzie novels so I'm glad to see one of them on the big screen. I might even have to head over to the theater and watch it. But seeing the trailer for the movie reminded me of one of those odd bits of coincidence that pop up in a writer's life at times.
Back in the mid 1990s, when I was reading private eye novels hand over fist, I decided to try my hand at writing one. I only got through five chapters which tended to be the make or break point for novel attempts for me. If it wasn't working by chapter five, it wasn't likely to work at all. The plot involved a cold case being investigated by my PI hero, Frank Smith. When Smith ran afoul of some local organized crime figures he needed help and for that he called upon his childhood friend, a killer redneck named Bubba. Five chapters was all that ever got written, though I considered trying again with the same characters.
Anyway, I recall that about a year later when I encountered Dennis Lehane's Bubba in his first novel, A Drink Before the War, I was a little put out. I knew that MY Bubba could never appear now because people would always assume that I had stolen the idea from Lehane. The characters weren't even that similar beyond the basic description, but still, my Bubba would have to have a name change if I ever used him. That isn't the only time that I came up with an idea only to have someone else beat me to publication. I've talked to other writers who have had similar experiences. It's just a case of parallel thinking. You and another writer, living in the same world, seeing the same things and often reading the same books, just come up with similar ideas at the same time. Coincidence. So I hope Lehane's Bubba does well on the big screen. Somebody's might as well.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Still the World's Finest


When I was twelve or so, Superman and Batman were my favorite comic book heroes. I read all the DC books with these two. Superman, Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, Brave and the Bold, Justice League of America. I even read Lois lane and Jimmy Olsen because Superman figured in those titles. But the best comic for a fan of the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader was World's Finest Comics, because in that one you got an adventure that featured both heroes as a team.
These days Bats and Supes don't always get along but back then they were the best of friends. They always had each others backs. I prefer those days to the grim and gritty versions of the characters appearing in the current comics. My pal Cliff and I were talking about how much more fun comics used to be. These days, it seems that the two Big companies, Marvel and DC, are constantly trying to re-invent their classic characters, often throwing out years of established continuity and characterization just for shock value. I've just about stopped reading monthly comics, it's gotten so bad.
Luckily DC is currently putting out a wonderful series of reprint volumes called Showcase, named after the old DC anthology title, where many of their Super Heroes had their first appearances. The Showcase volumes are a great deal. 500 pages of comics for $19.95. And often these are reprints of older comics that would be extremely expensive if you tried to buy the actual back issues. These are great for new readers and old, because the new fans can catch up on the early adventures of their heroes and long time fans can read the stories without having to dig through their collections, or if they're like me and got rid of the originals, now they can have these inexpensive and easily stored volumes.
So far my favorite volumes have been The Brave and the Bold, which featured team-ups of many DC heroes and a lot of Neal Adams art, and the Metal Men, which has great art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito and a ton of old fashion SF type adventures of everyone's favorite robot crime fighters.
However this weeks offering, World's Finest, is making a fast climb up the charts. Not only does it feature the earliest team-ups of Superman and Batman, but it has artwork by Curt Swan, who is my favorite Superman artist, and by Dick Sprang, who is at the top of my Batman artist list. The stories are a tremendous amount of fun. Back in the day, Batman and Superman spent most of their time fighting gangsters and regular crooks, not super villains. So stories had to be cleverly plotted and not just slug fests. Oh there is the occasional appearance by The Joker or Lex Luthor, and there are some nifty science fiction style adventures, but for the most part, Bats and Supes spend a lot more time in the real world than they do nowadays. Super heroes used to be catalysts, rather than stars. Stories were often more about the victims than the heroes. Super powers were used sparingly. Think of the old George Reeves Adventures of Superman show. Reeves spent more time as Clark Kent than Superman. That's how the comics used to be too. Writers actually had to come up with stories.
So in case you can't tell, I really really like the World's Finest Showcase. It takes me back to a time when Superman and Batman weren't only the best heroes the world had to offer, they were also best friends. And I like that.

Vacation Day

I'm off today. The end of the year approaches and I still have vacation days to burn. It's use em or lose em at my work place, so I am using em. I'm off today and probably tomorrow, though I told my manager to email me if any emergency drafting stuff came up an I'd swing by Friday morning and do it. But today I'm definitely off.
I need to go to the grocery store. I learned this when I went to make some breakfast. The cupboard is not bare but it's definitely low on provisions. I'm out of cereal, oatmeal, and turkey sausage, which rather limited my breakfast choices. I ended up scrambling the remainder of a carton of Egg Beaters and eating a cup of yogurt. That'll hold me until lunchtime.
I have no real plans. I'm sitting here now with the windows open and the autumn breeze blowing in, just enjoying the morning. I imagine I'll hit a bookstore at some point. I plan to swing by Doctor No's and pick up a DVD player that Cliff is loaning me. It plays DVRs and stuff that mine doesn't, and also plays VHS tapes, which could occasionally come in handy.
I plan to get a pizza at some point. I'm gearing up to drop another ten pounds or so, so I think I'll binge a bit this weekend just to get it out of my system. I did that last December, and it helped me get into a weight loss mood.
I might work out. But I doubt it. I pretty much plan for this to be a vacation day in the true sense of the word.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Waiting...

Everything new that I want to read comes out at the end of this month. I'm waiting on The Metatemporal Detective by Michael Moorcock, Now and then by Robert B. Parker, Dead Street by Mickey Spillane, Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon, and the Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard Volume II. Oh, and a new biography of Peanuts creator, Charles Schultz. Pretty much all of this, with the possible exception of the Howard book which is floating around somewhere, hits the bookshelves the same week. I think Cliff has ordered all of this for me, so I don't need to worry about it, but I wish the publishers had spread things out just a bit. Yeesh.

Some Thoughts About Writing

I haven't been writing much fiction lately, but in the last couple of weeks I've started thinking about it a lot. Now obviously, thinking about writing isn't the same as writing, but it shows interest and thus is somewhat better than not thinking about writing. I think.
Anyway, what I've been thinking about mostly is motivation. Why I write, and why I haven't been writing much recently. What I've come up with is, I'm just not interested in re-treading the same old ground. Basically, if I can't bring something new to a genre or subject, I can't see much point in writing. Yes, yes, I'm aware of the old saws that everything has been done and there are no new ideas. But there are new twists and new approaches and new voices. Looking back on the writing that I have done in the last few years, the only stuff that got past the fragment stage was the stuff that had some new and interesting element to it.
Though lately I've been obsessed with trying to write a straight forward Conan pastiche, I find that I just can't seem to get it done. I have plenty of ideas. I ALWAYS have ideas. And I've written several very serviceable fragments, but ultimately my mind seems to rebel because deep down I don't really want to produce ersatz Robert E. Howard. Barbarians yes. Conan clone, no. My two most successful forays into sword and sorcery recently have been my Alexander Gordon short 'The Dead Remember' and my stalled novel,'Some Dark God'. SDG stalled because of story issues, not character issues. The barbarian character in that one worked just fine because I was coming at it from a completely new and different angle. I have recently come back to the manuscript, and while I don't know that the book is salvageable, the main characters definitely are.
To some degree I think I am straining at genre conventions. I want the conventions because I want the stories to fit into the sub genre of sword & sorcery, but at the same time, I want something different. Problem is, as Michael Moorcock has pointed out, you can only stretch the somewhat limited sub genre so far before you are no longer writing in that sub genre, which kind of defeats your original purpose. He ran into this with some of his later Elric novels.
So now what? I dunno. I'm just thinking out loud here, trying to identify some of the issues. I do know, that as always, the answer probably involves being true and writing like me and not trying to do what anyone else has done. Sounds absurdly simple, but it's amazing how hard it can be to trust in your own instincts. As I'm fond of saying, writers don't write what they know, they write what they can.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tarzan and the Mermaids

1948's Tarzan and the Mermaids was Johnny Weissmuller's last hurrah as the ape-man. He was 44 by this time and had let himself get a little out of shape. It's not that he looks overly flabby. He just seems tired. Still, Big John does his best and still looks pretty good in the action sequences.
I have no memory of seeing this one as a kid, so last night's viewing on DVD was for all intents and purposes my first. This is a weird film. It was shot primarily in Mexico, and good use is made of the locations in Acapulco. The cinematography on this one is different from any of the other MGM/RKO Tarzan films. They almost seem to have shot it in high contrast, but that may be the stark lighting of the Mexican sunlight. The extensive use of location shooting makes a nice break from the studio bound look of the preceding three or four Tarzan films.
Of course this gets a bit strange when Tarzan and Jane's MGM tree house has suddenly moved from an insurmountable escarpment to the shore of a river, so the film could make use of the water locations.
Another weird thing is this is the first Tarzan film with extensive musical numbers. The comedy relief character Benji, a Mexican mailman who inexplicably lives in Africa, has a couple of songs and there's an elaborate dance number later in the lost city of Aquatania. Thankfully Tarzan is not involved in any of these numbers.
The plot is fairly routine, with a false god and an evil high priest exploiting happy natives and stealing the pearls that the natives dive for. You know that Tarzan will straighten things right out, and he does.
Missing is Johnny Sheffield as Boy, since he had grown too old to be called Boy anymore. His absence was explained by his being away at School in England. Actually the actor was starring in his own series of films as Bomba the Jungle Boy at a rival studio.
After Tarzan and the Mermaids, Johnny Weissmuller would be replaced by the younger and more chiseled Lex Barker for the next five Tarzan films. Weissmuller would go on to star as Alex Raymond's hero, Jungle Jim in 20 movies and a short lived television series.
Couple of bits of trivia. While shooting this film, Weissmuller fell in love with Acapulco and bought into a resort there along with John Wayne and some other film stars. He eventually retired to the area and is buried there.
Linda Christian, who plays the native girl Mara, has the distinction of being the very first Bond Girl, appearing in the "Climax!" television adaptation of the James Bond book Casino Royal in 1954.
Tarzan and the Mermaids is perhaps not the best send off that Weissmuller could have hoped for after 16 years and 12 films, but it's not a bad little movie.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Monday Rule

Back when I worked at Lucent Technologies, a job that I came to hate, I made a rule about Mondays. I was not allowed to miss work on Mondays except for scheduled vacation or for cases of illness. No waking up and deciding I would take a personal day off. No skipping because I was feeling a little out of sorts. I knew that if I ever started avoiding Mondays I'd probably never go to work again and thus become a burden to society.
I don't hate my current job but the Monday rule still applies. It's one of those self discipline things that I do to keep my life running smoothly. I needed it this morning. I didn't sleep at all well last night and would really have liked to just stay home. But being insomniac anyway, I don't consider lack of sleep a legitimate excuse for missing work. So I got up and had some cereal and made some coffee and forced myself out the door.
Happy Monday.

Sanguinary Dreams

Had another of my famous nightmares last night. Someone was cloning people and it wasn't working out exactly right. I ended up being attacked by a skinless creature, all bone and muscle and slick with blood that came screaming out of the darkness to grapple with me. Despite the fact that the thing was slippery with blood, I managed to maneuver it into a guillotine choke and by exerting extra pressure I broke it's neck. Then I woke up suddenly, with adrenaline rushing and heart pounding. Jeez.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Six Days to Save the World


In the first chapter of the book 'Death is No Obstacle' writer Michael Moorcock explains the structure of most of his sword & sorcery and heroic fantasy novels. "An object to be obtained-limited time to obtain it." That's about it. You set up a talisman (a Mcguffin in Hitchcockian terms) of some sort that the heroes need to save the day. Then you set up a ticking clock, so if they don't get it in a certain amount of time, everything goes boom. Next Mike says he draws a map just so he won't get lost, and sends his heroes out to save the world. Now of course he's making it sound much easier than it is. You still have to type those 150 thousand or so words to get a book, but this really is the basic structure.
This is also known as the quest structure and it's the structure that most modern heroic fantasy is based upon. I can certainly see why. It gives you an immediate plot and an immediate sense of urgency. Sending your heroes on a journey is also a great way to generate plot incidents because as they travel they're going to run into all kinds of interesting people, places, and things. Helps with characterization too, because you see how different characters react to the obstacles you throw in their path. Someone once said that you never truly know someone until you travel with them.
Having enjoyed the two new Terry Brooks novels, I did a little research by going to his web page and reading the synopsis for each of his Shannara books. The formula is the same for each book. An object to be obtained-limited time to obtain it. Brooks usually mixes this up by having more than one quest going at a time. This group of heroes needs to find the black Elfstone, and this group needs to find a missing wizard. Only the wizard can wield the stone, see, so we have to have both of them. This allows him to jump back and forth between two sub plots. This creates suspense. Just as a nasty demon is about to attack the first group, we switch to the second group who have found the cavern where the wizard lives. Just as the second group is attacked by the stone guardian of the cavern, we switch back to see how group one is doing with the nasty demon. This is an old trick. I can remember Edgar Rice Burroughs doing much the same in any number of Tarzan novels. But it still works.
Anyway, Mike offers many more helpful hints for fantasy writers in Death is No Obstacle, so I heartily recommend anyone interested in writing in the genre to track a copy down. But hurry. You've only got six days to find the book or everything goes boom.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Elves of Cintra


Just finished up the Elves of Cintra and I liked it even better than Armageddon's Children. This one is pretty much action from cover to cover as the various heroes get rolling on their individual quests. Demons. Mutants. Zombies. Rogue Knights of the Word. Firefights. Love. Honor. Friendship. Romance. Magic. All this and Elves too.
It helps, I suppose, to have been able to read two of the books in the trilogy back to back, as they are both part of one large story. The unfortunate thing here is, that book two only came out last month, so it will probably be next September before I see book three. Oh well. I could always go back and read the other two Knight of the Word books or one of the other Shannara trilogies, though I'm unlikely to enjoy them as much as the current series. Sure glad I picked it up on a whim. The next sentence could be construed a spoiler so if you're going to read the book, skip this.
POSSIBLE SPOILER. One sub plot of Elves of Cintra is a carefully constructed mystery about the identity of one of the villains, but being an old hand at whodunits I saw through it in a matter of seconds. Very Agatha Christie. It was okay though. Didn't hurt my enjoyment of the book. END OF POSSIBLE SPOILER.

The John Carter Effect

So I'm zipping along reading The Elves of Cintra, which is the sequel to Armageddon's Children which I reviewed a couple of posts ago, and having a fine old time, but being ever introspective, I suddenly wondered why I'm enjoying this current work of Terry Brooks far more than I have his other series? I mean, I found the Shannara books I'd read previously to be entertaining and competently written, but I'm liking the new ones much much better.
Along about page 100 it hit me. One of the heroes, Angel Perez, the Knight of the Word, meets the titular Elves for the first time. They're fairly standard post-Tolkein elves. Narrow faces. Pointed ears. Bows and blades for weapons. She's a Hispanic girl raised in the post apocalypse ruins of L.A. Major culture clash. It is what I have termed The John Carter Effect.
See, as much as I love Conan and Jirel and Druss and Elric and Fafhrd and the Mouser, I have never been able to fully identify with any of them. I have much the same issue when I read historical fiction. I may like the hero, but I can't really get behind his point of view. I prefer to read about protagonists from the here and now. That's why I love time travel stories so much. Seeing how someone from today reacts to the strange things he encounters in the past. Similarly, I love fantasy stories where someone from earth goes to another world.
Which brings us to John Carter, a man from earth who finds himself on Mars. I remember being completely blown away by Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books when I was thirteen or so. I sought out any other sword & planet (as the genre is known) books I could find. Lin Carter's Jandar of Callisto and Green Star novels. Alan Burt Akers' Scorpio books. In all of these, someone from here goes there, but none can compare to the adventures of John Carter, the greatest swordsman of two worlds, the Warlord of Mars, the champion of...well, you get the idea. I have read and re-read those books many times over the years and will doubtless read them again.
So I'm always looking for fantasy books with heroes from earth that end up on some strange world. It's why I was able to read Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books before I could read The Lord of the Rings. It's what I liked about Robert Heinlein's Glory Road. It's probably the reason I liked the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon so much. And I'm reasonably sure it's the reason I'm enjoying the new Terry Brooks trilogy as much as I am. Contemporary Earth people meet Elves and demons and even the King of the Silver River, a mystic character who's in most of the Shannara books. It's not quite sword & planet, but I'll take what I can get.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nice Finds


Been a good week for my Conan collection. While I was out Saturday I found a nice copy of Conan the Victorious, one of the two Robert Jordan Conan pastiches that I didn't have. Now I just need one more. Technically I already have them all because six of his seven pastiches were reprinted in two hardback collections called the Chronicles of Conan, which I own, but I didn't have all the paperbacks.
Speaking of which, the second nifty find was a boxed set of five of the Ace Conan paperbacks from the early 1980s. I didn't even know this one existed. It's a neat little collection of five books with alternate covers to the regular Ace editions and it comes in a handy protective box. It also seems that the books were never read as they are perfect. They are so flawless, that Cliff surmised that they may not have ever been taken out of the box. And the search goes on...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Afghan Campaign


The Afghan Campaign is historical novelist Stephen Pressfield's second journey to the time of Alexander the Great, but where The Virtues of War was narrated by Alexander himself, The Afghan Campaign is seen through the eyes of Matthias, a grunt in Alexander's army. The great one invaded the Afghan kingdoms about 330 B.C. and found himself against a completely different kind of foe. One who wouldn't stand and fight, but instead used the tactics of terrorism and insurgency. A foe that blended in with the civilian noncombatants and used women and children as weapons. Sound familiar? Pressfield isn't subtle about drawing comparisons between the Afghan war and our own situation in the Middle East, or our time in Viet Nam for that matter.
Think of the book as a Bronze Age version of the movie Platoon. Matthias, a callow youth dreaming of the glories of war, follows in the footsteps of his father and older brothers and joins the army. He gets a rude awakening when he reaches the front lines. Matthias is so afraid during his first real taste of combat that he flees in panic, a crime punishable by death. But some veterans run him to ground, drag him back, and actually force him to kill someone. They've seen it all before. Shamed and desperate to redress his behavior, he tries to kill as many enemies as he can in the next skirmish. There's nothing glorious about this war. Pressfield seems to be going out of his way to show the grit and grime and the horrors of war in this book. Matthias learns first had what it's like to fight with spears and swords up close and personal. There's a darkly humorous scene where he can't seem to kill a man because his keeps sticking his sword in the wrong spots, bouncing it off ribs or plunging through a non vital area and getting the blade stuck. At one point he even wounds himself.
Pressfield is a master at dropping in the needed historical data almost casually. It never feels like you're reading a text book. All information is given as needed. If I've any complaint with his writing style it's that he sometimes skimps on visual details, making it hard to imagine the lands the protagonists are passing through. But that's fairly minor.
I've said in other posts that historical fiction has become the place I go for my sword & sorcery fix. No one in the fantasy field is writing the kind of hard hitting, gritty tales so beloved of Robert E. Howard and his followers. The Afghan Campaign fits right in. It's easy to imagine Conan as one of the vets in Alexander's army. He has no illusions about war. To him it's a job and he does it because he can.
Anyway, this is probably my favorite so far of Pressfield's books. I recommend it, but with the qualification that it's not a happy book.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Armageddon's Children

Picked up a used copy of Armageddon's Children, the first volume in Terry Brooks' latest trilogy on Saturday. This trilogy, subtitled The Genesis of Shannara, is supposed to link two of Brooks' series, The Knight of the Word novels and the Sword of Shannara books. I've only read three of the Shannara books, the later trilogy The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, and only one of the Knight books, Running with the Demon, so I'm only somewhat familiar with both series. I know that in the Shannara books, Brooks has dropped hints that the Tolkien-ish world of the Four Lands is our own world in the far future and in the other series that the mission of the Knights of the Word was to save human kind from destruction.
Apparently the knights have failed because in Armageddon's Children the nukes have flown and the plagues have come and the world is overrun by the servants of the Void, the demons and the once-men. Most of what remains of humanity live in fortress like compounds that are slowly being destroyed by the demons. There are only two Knights of the Word left in the world and both end up charged with quests that are part of the last hope of humanity. Deep within the forests of Oregon, the last of the elves live in hidden enclaves, having withdrawn from the world of men in the distant past. They too will perish if the demons of the void have their way.
This is an interesting mix of post-apocalyptic science fiction and heroic fantasy. The knights fight the usual post nuke tropes. Mutants and monsters and genetically altered humans. There's a group of scrappy street kids who reject the compounds and live wild in the streets of what was once Seattle. The narrative jumps between the points of view of the two knights, Logan Tom and Angel Perez, the street kids, and a young elf named Kirisin.
Brooks has always said that he is less a writer of fantasy than a writer of adventure novels in the tradition of Sir Walter Scott and Alexander Dumas. I think that's basically true. Armageddon's Children is fast paced, with lots of action and plenty of fight scenes. I read 220 pages of this 317 page hardback at a sitting and will probably finish it up tonight. Brooks' novels are the literary equivalent of a good TV show or movie. Nothing thought provoking. Just good entertainment. I know he's taken a lot of flack over the years about his first novel, The Sword of Shannara, because many thought it too similar to Tolkein. I haven't read it so I can't comment, but I will say that his later books owe very little to the Lord of the Rings. His prose is clean and straight forward, and he knows how to tell a story. Armageddon's Children is out in paperback and the second in the series, The Elves of Cintra is out in hardback.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

This is October?

86 degrees out there, folks. Almost 90 and it's the end of the first week in October. There are people sunbathing down at the pool for Pete's sake. Fall! I want fall!
According to the 10 day forecast we should have a cold front moving in by Wednesday dropping the lows into the 40s and the highs into the 70s. That's a bit more like it.

Awful House

Made my first visit of 2007 to Waffle House this morning. Obviously they were off my menu while I was losing all the weight this year. The grease, fat, and calorie laden selections at Waffle House are not conducive to weight loss.
But for some reason, when I woke up this morning, I just wanted a waffle. So I made the short drive up to my local Waffle House. Came away disappointed. I've reached the point now where my eggs and sausage taste better to me than theirs. I guess I've been without grease for so long, that I can almost taste it in food. My coffee is better than theirs now too. The waffle was indeed tasty, so it wasn't a total loss, but I don't think I'll be frequenting the house of waffles much anymore. I didn't even drink a second cup of coffee. Just came home and made my own. Drinking it now. Mmmmmm...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Reading Report

Been a while since I gave a reading report. Lessee, in the last couple of weeks I've read a lot of short stories and novellas by a lot of writers, including Robert E. Howard, Lin Carter, Agatha Christie, L. Sprague Decamp, John Jakes, C.L. Moore, Mickey Spillane, Michael Moorcock, Rex Stout, Peter Tremayne, Henry Kuttner, Max Allan Collins, Karl Edward Wagner, Charles R. Saunders, Jeffrey Deaver, Loren D. Estleman, and Bill Pronzini. Somewhere in there I also read Conan the Phenomenon, which I've reviewed elsewhere, The Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield, The Clinic by Jonathan Kellerman, A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton, and re-read Sky Pirates of Callisto by Lin Carter. Jeez, I read a lot...

Hammer Time Redux


Author Max Allan Collins wrote a reply to my post Hammer Time, but for some reason Blogger wouldn't let him post it, so he emailed it to me. I'm re-posting my post with his reply, which clarifies a few things about the upcoming new Mike Hammer books. Thanks, Max!

I said:

Speaking of Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer, as I was a couple of posts back, I learned this weekend that mystery writer Max Allan Collins will be writing at least three new Mike Hammer novels based on partial manuscripts and notes left by Spillane. I think this is great news for several reasons. For one, I think Collins is the man for the job. I've been a fan of his for many years, reading all of his various series characters like Nate Heller, Quarry, Nolan, Mallory, and Elliot Ness. The man is a crime writing machine. He's got the chops. More than that, he's a major fan of Spillane and Hammer, having co-written a study of Spillane's work, One Lonely Knight, and also having produced the documentary, Mike Hammer's Mickey Spillane. And even more importantly, Spillane himself asked Collins to write the new Hammer books. Over his long career as a crime writer Collins had met and become close friends with his hero, Spillane, collaborating with Mickey on various projects, including co-editing various anthologies and writing a comic book series, Mike Danger, based on Spillane's original concept for Mike Hammer which Spillane had conceived during his days as a comic book writer in the 1940s.
In addition to Mike Danger, Collins also wrote Batman, Wild Dog, and other features for DC Comics and is the writer and co-creator (along with artist Terry Beatty) of the long running independent comic series Ms. Tree. I'll have to do a separate post about Ms. Tree soon. It's a great comic and needs to be collected and reprinted. (Ms. Tree is also about to appear in her first prose novel this December.) Collins was also the writer for the Dick Tracy comic strip for many years and wrote several Tracy novels. The guy gets around.
I've met Collins many times over the years at various comic book conventions, and gotten him to sign my copies of his books. My favorite memory though, involves meeting both he and Spillane at a comics/record shop in Atlanta in the early 1990s, during a promotional tour for Mike Danger. I got my copy of The Killing Man autographed by Spillane and had my picture taken with Mickey. He's about a foot shorter than me and the shot has him standing there with his arm around me like we're old pals. It's great. I'm grinning like an idiot because I'm meeting one of my heroes, and because right before the picture was taken, Mickey said, "Jeez you make me feel like a little shrimp!" That photo resides inside my copy of The Killing Man.
Sometimes, when you hear that a new writer is taking over an old favorite series you have to worry. I've certainly seen that go wrong. But in this instance I'm not concerned. I feel like Mike Hammer is in good hands.

And Max Allan Collins said:


Thanks for your kind words, Charles. The new Hammer novels are probably best described as collaborations -- THE GOLIATH BONE (which I will be finishing today, if all goes well) was a substantial Spillane manuscript, nine rough draft chapters and quite a few notes plus a partial ending and even a 3-chapter false start to draw upon.

The third book to be published (I'll get to the second) is in similar shape -- if you look at late interviews with Mickey, he refers to having two Hammers going, and he did. Some time ago, right before Hurricane Hugo destroyed his home, Mickey gave me two one-hundred-page-plus manuscripts that represented 1/3 to half of two unpublished Mike Hammer novels, saying, "Someday you may want to do something with these." We discussed the endings of both.

The second novel (THE BIG BANG) Otto Penzler will publish at Harcourt will likely be one of these (written circa 1965!).

The third novel set to be published (KING OF THE WEEDS) will come out of the other substantial Hammer manuscript Mickey had going at the time of his passing. There are two more substantial Hammer manuscripts and around half a dozen other Hammer fragments that consist of a chapter or two and notes.

If GOLIATH BONE does well, as many as a dozen new Hammer novels with authentic Spillane content could be completed in the coming years, if the public cares and I'm still around. The writing of GOLIATH BONE was a challenging, fascinating experience, and some day I'll do an interview that really goes into detail about the process. I will share byline with Mickey, by the way -- probably "with Max Allan Collins" on GOLIATH, and then "and" after that.

Despite the forthcoming other lost episodes of Hammer, Mickey designed GOLIATH BONE to be Hammer's last case, chronologically, and I've honored that.

M.A.C.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Rough Work


My second book purchase this week truly was Phenomenal. Frank Frazetta: Rough Work. Most artists make small sketches, known in the vernacular (it's a doiby!) as roughs or thumbnails before they begin a painting. Some of these roughs are indeed thumbnail size. I've seen some of Roy Krenkel's roughs that were about the size of a postage stamp. On these roughs an artist may work out composition or color schemes, or solve any number of small problems that it's best to get out of the way before stepping up to the canvas. These roughs are rarely seen by anyone but the artist himself. They aren't meant as finished works.
Frank Frazetta's roughs are better than most artists finished paintings. This isn't surprising. Frazetta, a child prodigy and an artist of amazing talent and prodigious influence never does anything halfway. Most of his roughs, executed in pencil and toned with water colors, aren't that different from his full scale paintings. The man is amazing, especially when you consider that he rarely uses any models or photo-references. Most of his paintings were done at a sitting, and most of them spooled right out of his imagination. If you draw or paint, you know how incredible that is. Most artists need somewhere to start. Something to look at. But for the most part, Frazetta's powerful visions come right from inside his head. Only Jack Kirby can match him for pure power of imagination, and obviously Jack was working a different room.
As I mentioned, Frazetta was a child prodigy, seemingly born with the ability to draw, but he honed those skills over the years, working hard to develop the talent he'd been given. I remember an interview with comics artist Gil Kane who mentioned that a young Frazetta would take the anatomy books of legendary figure artist George Bridgeman, and starting on page one, copy every single drawing in the book. When he was done, he would do it again. Eventually he had such a firm grasp on human anatomy that he never had to worry about how to draw anything, merely what to draw. One can still see the influence of Bridgeman in the weight and stances of Frazetta's figures.
Rough Work has the thumbnails for most of Frazetta's Conan covers. These are the covers that made his career and sold millions of Conan books. Great to see the beginnings of these archetypal paintings. There are also some roughs for the early Ace covers Frazetta did for the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. For a sword and sorcery buff, this is the mother load. Sketches of Conan, Tarzan, Brak, John Carter of Mars, Thongor, Kane, Jongor, David Innes, Tanar of Pellucidar, and many others. There's a ton of stuff here that I've never seen. Heck there's stuff Cliff had never seen and that's saying something. In case you can't tell, I was very impressed with this little book. And it's a bargain at a mere $19.95.

Conan the Phenomenon


Dark Horse Comics, the publishers of the the current Conan comic book, have put out a big hardcover that covers the history of Robert E. Howard's barbarian hero. It's a very thorough retrospective with a lot of nifty artwork. It covers the pulps, the Arkham House anthologies, the Gnome Hardbacks, the Lancer paperbacks, the Marvel Comics, the movies, the Tor Pastiches, and leads right up to the current comic book series. This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to know about the history of the character.
That said, my one complaint about the book is that there's nothing new here. I didn't learn one thing that I didn't already know. Large chunks of the book, in fact, are lifted from other books I already own such as L. Sprague Decamp's Dark Valley Destiny. Not that the author, Paul Sammon, is stealing. He scrupulously identifies his sources. It's just that the book reads rather like a big term paper, where someone has pulled together a lot of articles and interviews from other sources and written just enough new material to patch it all together. Of course, there probably isn't much I don't know about Conan after all these years, so I guess I'm asking a lot in hoping for new insights. Anyway, it's nice to have all that information in one place, and I certainly recommend the book to anyone who doesn't already know the publishing history of everyone's favorite barbarian.
One thing that did make me happy was that Sammon was very respectful of the contributions of L. Sprague Decamp and Lin Carter. These two writers have taken a lot of undeserved shots over the years from a lot of uninformed people. Nice to see someone give them their due.
Oh and there's a very keen introduction by Michael Moorcock, who talks about the influence that Robert E. Howard and Conan had on his own work. So I guess I did learn a couple of new things. Just not about Conan.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Drained

Last week the 'S' pipe in my bathroom sink sprung a leak. This isn't much of a problem since if you don't use the sink, there's no water to leak out. Not like a burst pipe or anything. A quick examination showed that the inner seal was blown. I have to wonder how that happened since that usually requires some pressure and I haven't applied any. The apartment complex frequently turns the water off to fix thing so it's possible that the air and water pressure of returning water caused the blow out.
Anyway, I didn't call maintenance last week because I still had the cats and I was afraid the maintenance guy would leave the door open and one or both cats would get out and get lost. No bathroom sink is no big deal. I'm a guy. I shave in the shower and I can brush my teeth in the kitchen for a few days. However, Bruce and Amelia have gone home now, so Monday I called the office at 9:00 and reported the pipe issue.
Got home Monday afternoon and the sink wasn't fixed. Didn't think much of it. Only been one day, after all. Got home yesterday and the sink still wasn't fixed. I had to stop by the office and drop off my rent check so I mentioned it to one of the office girls, just to make sure that the complaint hadn't been lost. She brought it up on the computer and said, "Well you only reported this yesterday."
I said, "Yes, at 9:00."
"This says it was entered at 11:15," she said, a trifle defensively.
"I can't help what time your employee entered the call. I called at 9:00 which is when you open. It's five o'clock now, so that means two full business days have passed since I called. Just pointing that out."
"Oh, well, um...three of our maintenance guys are on vacation."
"Sure, just wanted to make sure the report hadn't been lost."
"No, no, Someone will probably get to it tomorrow."
"That will be fine...." I read her name tag, "Nancy."
Always get their name. Makes em nervous.
Thing is, I could actually fix it myself pretty easily and as I've pointed out, I don't really care that much about the sink. But since they bumped my rent up by 50 bucks a month this year, I want them to come out and do something for that extra money. I've only called maintenance one other time in the two and a half years I've lived in that apartment. Also, I'd rather they didn't wait until Friday when I'm off and fix it then, which, knowing my luck, is probably what will happen.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Java Jive

Well, so far Operation Make My Own Coffee has gone off without a hitch. I picked up a nifty travel mug/thermos at Starbucks and every morning I brew some coffee and fill the mug and off I go. Not stopping at Dunkin Donuts every day has cut about ten minutes off of my morning commute so I've had to readjust my time somewhat. Can't leave as early as I did because the building where I work won't be open yet. So I have an extra ten minutes at home. Guess I could sleep a little longer if I actually slept but I'm wide awake by that time, so instead it gives me a little more time to answer emails, check message boards, etc. If I ever get another novel up and running I may start writing every morning before I go to work. I generally do my best work in the mornings so it would make sense. Anyway, I hope the owners of Dunkin Donuts have learned an important lesson from all this. Bad service = departing customers.
Others, more frugal than I, have noted that I'm saving a ridiculous amount of money too, since the extra large coffee was two bucks a shot, so that's ten bucks a week. Ten bucks will buy a whole lot of coffee by the pound. That also means that Dunkin Donuts lost five hundred and twenty bucks a year. More than that, really, since I often bought donuts for the office just because I was at DD anyway.

Monday, October 01, 2007

My sleeping is messed up more than usual. Generally I try to be in bed by 10:30 since I have to be up at 5:15 or so, and I had been waking up at about 4:30. That way, since it usually takes me a while to fall asleep, I can probably get my full six hours in. Last couple of weeks though, I keep waking up at around 3:30 and can't get back to sleep. Not sure if having the cats wake me up a couple of times every night for two weeks disrupted my sleep pattern, or if I just need five hours sleep instead of six these days. It doesn't seem to have caused any ill effects so far. I know that people tend to sleep less as they age, but at the rate I'm going, I won't be sleeping at all by the time I'm 60...

Buy Three, Get One Free

I mentioned in the previous post that I had blown the entertainment budget Saturday. Part of that was on two books, neither of which turned out to be any good. I keep trying new writers though because sometimes you score big. Not this time however.
The other part of the fun money went to DVDs at Movie Stop. I rarely rent DVDs anymore. The used ones at Movie Stop are so cheap that I just buy them and then trade them in later for credit if I don't like them. So I was wandering around movie stop and I picked out three films. Watching both of Kevin Smith's Clerks movies last week made me want to rewatch a couple of his other films. I wanted Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but they didn't have that one. They did have Dogma, however so I got that. While I was in the Comedy section I spotted Casino Royal, the 1960s spy spoof, not the new James Bond film. I decided I'd like to watch that so that became my second purchase. Wandering over to the Action section, I came across a used copy of Beastmaster. I'd been meaning to pick that one up, since I consider it to be one of the better sword & sorcery movies ever made. Now keep in mind, that's based on not having seen it for about a decade, so I reserve the right to change my review after I've had a chance to watch it again.
I figured that was about all the money I needed to spend, so I took my choices up to the counter. The kid at the cash register said, "We're having a buy three and get one free sale. You should pick out another movie."
I said, "Really? Didn't see a sign out front."
He looked around. "Hey Ben! Go hang up the sale sign!"
It was a very 'Clerks' kind of moment as I went back into the aisles and the employees wrestled a Sale sign into place over the front door. My final choice. Alexander, the Oliver stone movie about Alexander the Great. Almost everyone I know says it's terrible, but hey it was free, and it has both Rosario Dawson and Angelina Jolie in it. That should, at least, hold my attention for a bit.

A Solitary Sunday

Had one of those Sundays where I never left the apartment and never spoke to another human being. Most Sunday mornings I go out book shopping, but I'd already blown the entertainment budget for the week on Saturday so there wasn't much point. So I read and I watched DVDs and tried to write but failed. I did some studying and some internet surfing and I paced a lot. Restless at fall as always. I could have called someone. Could have rustled up something to do. But I wasn't feeling overly sociable, so I just stayed put.