Friday, December 25, 2015
Since then there haven't been many writers whose work on Conan really felt like REH to me, but the guy who came the closest was Timothy Truman. Many people know Truman more for his drawing than writing, and he is indeed a talented and versatile artist, but on Conan he's written more than he's drawn.
Like me, Truman discovered Conan when he was just a kid and has been a fan ever since. I've enjoyed his adaptations of the Howard material, usually working with artist Tomas Giorello. They've turned out some work that can stand beside the best of Marvel run.
And now they're doing a new four-issue series. WOLVES BEYOND THE BORDER, based on some unfinished fragments by REH, from which Truman is extrapolating a new tale. This one finds Conan late in life, the aging king of Aquilonia, seeking a final adventure from which he doesn't plan to return. A chance meeting with a former soldier carrying an arcane artifact will plunge the Cimmerian into a new adventure filled with swords and dark sorcery. Truman does a great job drawing the reader in. And Tomas Giorello, to me, is the modern equivalent of Big John Buscema. And if you know how I feel about Buscema, you know what a compliment that is.
As you can probably tell, I was very very taken with the first issue and I can't wait for the second. Seriously, if you've been pushed away from the Dark Horse Conan comics by lackluster art and writing, come back for this one. I think it's going to be something special.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
I can only tell a story one time. I have learned this the hard way. It’s why I don’t outline. It’s why I only describe works in progress in the most general terms, because even if I just tell someone the bare bones of a story, I’ll never write it. I am a story teller. But I can only tell it once.
Sometimes, if an idea really intrigues me, I can write a couple of different versions of it, but only if no one else has seen it. Beyond a certain point though, an idea just leaves me. I am on to the next idea and the old one is left in the dust. I told it, and I don’t want to tell it again.
I’m fine with editing, though I don’t enjoy it. Polishing and rewriting is fine once I have a completed story. But I have learned that my best stories, the ones I like best, were hammered out in a white heat. The longer something takes, the larger the likelihood I’ll abandon it. That’s part of the reason I write as quickly as I do. I have to get it on paper before it gets away.
So anyway, if you ever wonder what happened to a project I mentioned and then never spoke of again, that’s usually what happened. I either wrote it and didn’t like it, or I told someone too much about it and got the urge to tell that particular story out of my system. Luckily, I have a lot of stories to tell.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Friday, December 18, 2015
Here’s a little Star Wars memory for you. When the film was released in 1977, I wasn’t yet old enough to drive. Somehow I managed to see it three or four times, by getting relatives to drive me to the theater, but it wasn’t really as many viewings as I wanted.
In the summer of 1978 they re-released the movie, and though I had just gotten my drivers license, I was still only allowed to drive locally. Dad didn’t want me getting too far from my hometown of
Problem was, there wasn’t a movie theater in Canton at the time. The closest theater
showing Star Wars was in Canton Roswell, a suburb of . I had never
driven to Atlanta
and wasn’t supposed to, but in the way of teenagers everywhere, I decided it
would be easier to get forgiveness than permission. Roswell
I enlisted my first cousin as sidekick and coconspirator, and together we set out for
to see Star Wars.
And of course we got lost. The route from Roswell Canton
a narrow, winding, two-lane road laughingly called HWY 140. I had, of course,
ridden there many times with my parents, but I had never really paid attention
on how to get to Roswell . Roswell
Fortunately I have a good memory for landmarks and after driving around for a while I spotted some familiar buildings and we managed to find the theater. We had left plenty early so we didn’t miss the start of the movie but it was close.
We didn’t have any further mishaps on the way home. That night at dinner, mom asked where I’d been all day. I said that my cousin and I had gone to see Star Wars. Dad immediately asked where and I told him. He had an odd expression but all he said was, “Have any trouble finding the theater?”
I said, “Got lost once, but found it.”
Dad nodded and didn’t say anything else about it. After that, I started driving pretty much wherever I wanted, without asking anyone. But that particular day, I felt just a little like Luke Skywalker, having taken my first steps into a larger world.
Friday, December 11, 2015
F.Paul Wilson’s THE KEEP is on its way to being my most re-read book. I have read it at least six times. The book I’ve read the most is Fritz Leiber’s SWORDS AGAINST WIZARDRY, but THE KEEP is closing the gap. The second most read FPW book is NIGHT WORLD with three re-reads, each of a slightly different version.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Howdy. Sorry the blog’s been a little quiet lately, but I’ve had a lot of writing going on. More on that later. Any of you who have spent much time here at Singular Points know what a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs I am. Yesterday the first trailer for the new Tarzan film, THE LEGEND OF TARZAN dropped, and while other people are dissecting THE FORCE AWAKENS trailers, I’m much more interested in the return of one of my favorite fictional characters.
So here are some thoughts, more or less in order as they come, on the Tarzan trailer. The villains: Based at least to some degree on historical incidents.
Belgium's King Leopold II, originally thought of
as a philanthropist, took the
as his own colony in the 1880s and was responsible for a mass genocide that
killed millions. Apparently Tarzan comes up against that particular horror. It
also looks like there are Leopard Men, who figure as the villains in one of
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels. Dunno if they’re with or against Tarzan
here. There’s a fight but that could be a male bonding thing. You know, they
fight, they become friends. Congo
The Origin: There’s no tree house in Burroughs, but the idea of Tarzan’s father building a tree house shows up in the Disney film and to some degree in the earlier movie Greystoke. In the novel, Tarzan of the Apes it’s just a cabin. From what I understand the origin is handled in flashback sequences in the new movie, which is good, because we really don’t need another origin film.
The Great Apes: Can’t tell if they’re a mix of men in suits and Computer Generated Images or full out CGI. They look good though, and it’s nice to see Tarzan interacting with them, which brings us to…
The CGI. There’s some obvious CGI shots of Tarzan swinging through the trees. I’m okay with that because it has the feel of Burroughs descriptions of Tarzan hurtling through the trees, rather than the often static vine swinging of earlier films. I just hope they don’t overdo it.
Tarzan: Alexander Skarsgard is a leaner Tarzan than some of the portrayals and that too is closer to Burroughs. ERB described Tarzan as an Apollo, not a Hercules. Makes more sense when you’re swinging around in the upper terraces of the rain forest. There are several quick cuts of Tarzan in combat with the apes, just as he was in the books. This could be fun.
Jane: Hellooooooooooooo Nurse! Margot Robbie is the proper blonde American Jane from the novels. She’s a lovely woman. This may be the best looking Tarzan and Jane yet onscreen.
Samuel L. Jackson. Tar-Zan. Tar-Zan.
So yeah, I am cautiously optimistic. Let’s just hope there isn’t another marketing fiasco like John Carter, and this Burroughs film is properly marketed. I could use a good Tarzan movie.
If you haven’t seen it, the Trailer is here.
Friday, November 27, 2015
Saturday, November 07, 2015
Friday, November 06, 2015
Friday, October 23, 2015
Thursday, October 22, 2015
My friend Richard Lee Byers posted the cover from an issue of Magnus: Robot Fighter on Facebook, and spurred a memory of something I haven’t thought of for decades. An early bit of writing, all the way back to seventh grade, in fact, when I was an erstwhile student at Canton Elementary School in rural Georgia.
My seventh grade English teacher was a bit of a hippy, as many young women were in the 1970s. We’ll call her Miss C. Miss C played guitar and sang folk music. The students all liked her because she was cool in a way that most of our teachers weren’t. Heck, some of my grade school teachers had also taught my parents, which gives you some idea of how long some of them had been in the school system. But Miss C was young and hip and all about encouraging kids to be creative. She often asked us to write short stories, and as I already enjoyed doing that sort of thing, I looked forward to those assignments.
Miss C also liked to give us cool things to read, and one day she had us read a Ray Bradbury short story Marionettes Inc, about a company that would provide you with a robot duplicate of yourself which could take care of the less pleasant parts of your life. Being a Bradbury story, it took a dark turn of course.
Then Miss C told us that she wanted us all to write a story about what we would do if we had a robot duplicate of ourselves. Most of my classmates wrote one page stories about sending their duplicate to school or using it to prank their friends.
But not me.
I had recently read Gold Key Comics’ Magnus Robot Fighter issue #37. If you’re not familiar with Magnus, he was the hero of a comic book science fiction series set in the far future. In a society that relied more and more on robots to do the work of humans, Magnus was a constant voice of warning against people becoming too dependent on their mechanical servants. When robots went rogue, Magnus would destroy or disable them using nothing but his bare hands and a form of super karate. The series was drawn by one of my favorite Tarzan comics artists, Russ Manning, and really, it was a sort of futuristic version of Tarzan, where the hero had been raised, not by apes, but by a robot who had achieved an almost human level artificial intelligence.
Anyway, in issue #37 (which I didn’t know at the time was actually a reprint from about a decade earlier) Magnus ran into a scientist who was creating robot duplicates of animals and humans, seemingly for entertainment purposes, but of course he had secret, evil plans. See where this is going?
My story about my robot duplicate turned into a battle with a villain who planned to replace highly placed government officials with robot duplicates and to eventually rule the country. He was using the money generated by the sales of his seemingly harmless robots to fund his nefarious schemes. Like the villain in the Magnus story, my bad guy had an underground base, (built under the bank where my mother worked, if I recall correctly) and much like what happened in the comic, the base was flooded by a burst water main in the climax, and I had to escape by swimming through dark corridors. The villain drowned of course and his plans came out.
The story was probably ten pages or so, written by hand, and Miss C loved it so much that she had me read it out loud to the class. I got an A+ on the assignment and much praise from my classmates.
Certain elements were cribbed from the Magnus story, but most of the plot and such were all me. So yeah, I’ve been a storyteller since I was just a kid.
Anyway, that’s what I remembered when I saw that cover. Thanks, Richard!
Sunday, October 18, 2015
As a lifelong lover of ghost stories, I was thrilled when I learned that authors were being sought for Spirits of the Season, a collection of stories set at Christmas and featuring ghosts and romance. Ghosts have played a role in two of my Victorian Gothic suspense novels, Nocturne for a Widow and Sea of Secrets, and my geeky little heart was delighted at the challenge of creating a Christmas ghost story.
Anglophile that I am, I knew already that Victorian Britons traditionally shared ghost stories at the Christmas season—a fine tradition, to my mind. After all, what is cozier than gathering with friends to be deliciously frightened? In particular, I was intrigued by the idea of creating a ghost story that ended on a note of hope and optimism. Some of the most memorable classic ghost stories, of course, are bleak ones (think of “The Beckoning Fair One,” “The Judge’s House,” and “The Monkey’s Paw,” for a start), but for a Christmas theme I wanted to offer readers something more hopeful and uplifting—without sacrificing spookiness.
In the story I went on to write for the collection, “Upon a Ghostly Yule,” 18-year-old Felicity Reginald, a supporting character from my gothic romance Sea of Secrets, attends a Christmas house party in 1856 that goes from merely miserable to actually perilous. Because of her scandal-ridden family, Felicity is treated as an outsider, so she is all too willing to fall in with a rash scheme concocted by her only friend: masquerading as the ghost of an 18th-century belle, Lady Garnet, who died tragically young after a wasting illness and has purportedly haunted the family ever since.
Borrowing the identity of a ghost, as any reader of supernatural stories could have told Felicity, is of course a Very Bad Idea. During her impersonation the real spirit of Lady Garnet latches on to her, eager to experience the life that was denied her, and the specter exerts more and more control over Felicity until she is in danger of being completely subsumed into Garnet’s personality. With the unexpected help of a onetime suitor, Sir James Darrington, Felicity is ultimately able to cast off the spirit’s possession—as well as the sense of isolation and paralysis that had been holding her back from living fully.
When I started to plot the story, I approached it by thinking about two of my favorite classic ghost stories: Algernon Blackwood’s “The Woman’s Ghost Story” (1907; listen to it here) and E.F. Benson’s “How Fear Departed From the Long Gallery” (1911; read it here). Both authors were masters of the ghost story. Blackwood was an acknowledged influence on H.P. Lovecraft and had an exceptional gift for creating an atmosphere of almost unbearable tension, as in “The Empty House” and “The Willows.” “The Woman’s Ghost Story,” in which a bold young woman determines to spend the night alone in a haunted house, is one of his gentler tales.
Benson is perhaps better known today for his comedic Mapp and Lucia novels, but his reputation as a prolific and extremely talented writer of spooky tales is beginning to reassert itself. Among the vast number of those he wrote, it is difficult (if not futile) to try to single out particularly fine examples, but his skill at chilling the reader’s blood is particularly evident in the vampire tale “The Room in the Tower” and the grisly “The House With the Brick-Kiln.” “How Fear Departed From the Long Gallery” was reportedly his personal favorite among his stories, and it is nothing short of masterly in the way it travels from lighthearted country-house comedy to increasingly tense supernatural suspense verging on outright terror... and from there to a breathtakingly poignant epiphany at the climax. Then he returns to a welcome touch of comedy at the very end to bookend the tale.
These two stories, both superb, are quite different in plot and tone but are united by the crucial roles played by empathy and compassion. I’m not certain if spoiler alerts are required for works more than a century old, so I’ll just come out and say that in both tales a woman’s compassion toward the specter brings about a joyous outcome. In one case this is the unhappy spirit’s release; in the other, it is a seismic shift in the nature of the haunting from tormented and vengeful to peaceful and benevolent. The poignancy with which these stories portray the power of compassion makes them particularly memorable to me, and I decided that for a Christmas story, a redemptive plot arc resolved by a moment of transcendent compassion would be ideal.
During the writing, however, the story mutated (as stories tend to do), and the climax took on a form rather different from what I first envisioned. The role of compassion ended up being hidden for most of the story, and for that reason the influence of the Benson and Blackwood stories may be difficult to detect. But empathy, which one might call the mother of compassion, is very present in Felicity’s feelings toward the tragic Lady Garnet. Felicity feels the same frustrated loneliness and sense of being an onlooker in her own life that Garnet experienced as an invalid. Initially this sense of connection on Felicity’s part appears to have negative consequences, because it essentially opens a conduit between the two that allows Garnet’s spirit to take possession of her. Without giving too much away, however, I think I can say that the empathy is not felt solely by Felicity, and that is what ultimately makes this story a joyous one—and one that captures some of the Christmas spirit of benevolence and goodwill toward men (and, of course, women).
If you enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes, I hope you’ll add “Upon a Ghostly Yule” to your reading list and that you’ll find it a fun addition to your holiday—whether that holiday is Christmas or Halloween!
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Monday, October 12, 2015
Things have been busy around here, so I haven’t had a chance to stop by and talk about Halloween as much as I have in years past. It’s still my favorite season, and I’m doing my best to keep up the spooky traditions, watching horror movies, reading horror fiction, etc. Cliché as it sounds, now that I’m an author, I don’t have nearly as much free time as I used to, but I’m working the Halloween stuff in where I can.
October got off to a great start with the Monsterama Convention where I was a guest. Plenty of Halloween style stuff going on, including a guy in a perfect replica of the suit from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON swimming around in the hotel pool during a pool party, plus the original underwater stuntman from the movie, Rico Browning, was a guest. All that creature stuff made me want to re-watch the movie, which I did when I got home from the con.
I also got to meet and talk to David J. Skal, author of THE MONSTER SHOW and HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC, two terrific books about Universal monsters and the phenomena they generated. I read GOTHIC several years back but this is a new edition with mew material added. I could have listened to Skal talk all day. He had some great stories and he’s a true ‘monster kid’. Get his books. They’re great.
Movie-wise, I’ve gotten in viewings of John Carpenter’s THE FOG and the Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper thriller, MURDER BY DECREE. I plan to watch THE DEVIL RIDES OUT with a friend who’s never seen it. Still my favorite Hammer Horror film. I’ve also got tickets for a theater showing of both 1931 versions of DRACULA, the Bela Lugosi version and the Spanish language version that was shot at the same time with different actors. I’ve never seen Drac on the big screen, so this should be a blast.
On the reading front, Marvel Comics just released a trade paperback of the collected MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN, and I’ve been reading that, along with selections from Ray Bradbury’s THE OCTOBER COUNTRY. I’m also reading a new collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s letters to Robert Bloch. Acting as a mentor to the future author of PSYCHO, who was a mere lad of 15 when he first wrote to Lovecraft, HPL gives a crash course in writing horror fiction to the budding writer, and in the history of the genre itself. Fascinating stuff. The fact that I got to view the originals of some of these letters this summer while I was in Providence at the John Hay Library, certainly makes it more interesting.
So anyway, yes, much Halloween happenings going on. Hope you’re having a spooky October as well.
I’m binge watching THE FLASH right now as I had fallen behind on the show and my pal Cliff was kind enough to loan me the first season on Blu-ray. I’m enjoying all the references and in-jokes for comic fans. It’s a fun show, with likable characters and a protagonist who seems to genuinely enjoy being a super hero and using his powers to help people. As usual, DC’s TV shows could teach their theatrical releases a thing or two. I understand there’s a Flash movie in development that isn’t connected to the show. I’m sure it will be grim and gritty and dark which is about as far from The Fastest Man alive as you can get.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Yes, I know it’s Halloween season, but my friend Amanda DeWees has written a nifty ghost story set at Christmas, so I wanted to recommend it. The Victorians loved to tell Ghost stories at Christmas. Most of M.R. James’ amazing stories were written to be read during the Yule season. Amanda has written a delightful Christmas ghost story set in the Victorian age that fits right in with the (ahem) spirit of those times.
The thing I enjoy the most about Amanda’s writing is her character’s narrative voices. Her viewpoint characters are always so well written and entertaining that it makes reading their adventures a pleasure, like spending time with a friend. Upon a Ghostly Yule is no exception. Felicity is an engaging heroine and I enjoyed hanging out with her. The wonderful thing about this story is that it supplies everything one might want from a Victorian romance and manages to generate a couple of real chills too. It’s October as I type this, so a ghost story was welcome, but I plan to read it again at Christmas time.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Learn more about it here.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Here is my panel schedule for Monsterama, a convention for lovers of all things monstrous. I’ll be there signing books, talking on panels and hanging out with friends. Come on by and say hi!
Friday Oct 2nd
8-9 PM Bump in the Night: Monster Folklore Origins
Saturday Oct 3rd
10-11 AM Pulp Comics
1-2 PM Monster Lab: Creating as a Team
3-4 PM Lovecraft: The Influence of the Old Ones
5-6 PM Creature Vs Man: Who is the True Monster?
7-8 PM Supernatural Vs Paranormal
Sunday Oct 4th
11AM-12PM Pulp Monsters: Writing Mayhem
Monday, September 21, 2015
It’s Stephen King’s Birthday today. A publishing phenomena, King ushered in a whole new generation of horror readers and writers. I’ve been reading his stuff since I was in high school, and though I don’t like everything he’s written, I like most of it. When the man is on, he’s one of the best storytellers around and he’s one of the few people whose books, and especially short stories, have actually scared me. Happy Birthday Stephen. Thanks for all the years of reading.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
And here we are again. September. As in the past half dozen years, I’ve chosen thirteen chilling tales for my imaginary horror anthology, inspired by the book H.P. LOVECRAFT’S BOOK OF HORROR. I always try to have this list up before October so that interested parties can have some suggestions for Halloween reading. This isn’t a ‘year’s best’, though often the stories on the list are ones that I’ve read or re-read recently. For example, I re-read Robert E. Howard’s OLD GARFIELD’S HEART just the other day and was reminded what a fine weird tale it was, told in a voice very similar to the one you hear in REH’s letters and set in his beloved South West.
A newer example would be MUSINGS by Brian Keene, which I just read in a new collection. It’s not a new story for Brian, but it’s new to me. Ditto Robert Bloch’s BLACK BARGAIN, which I just discovered. A nifty tale combining elements of the Cthulhu Mythos with a setting reminiscent of Damon Runyan.
SLIME is Joseph Payne Brennan’s most famous and most anthologized story, but somehow I’ve never added it to one of these lists. Very influential to Stephen King for his story THE RAFT. By the same token, THE CHARNEL GOD is one of Clark Ashton Smith’s best known stories, and it’s definitely one of my top five by Klar-Kashton. In contrast, THE LURKING FEAR is usually considered a fairly minor H.P. Lovecraft story, written as a serial right after HERBERT WEST:REANIMATOR, and not HPL’s best. Still, I found it creepy and very cinematic in construction. I think a fine low-budget horror film could be made from it.
Though I’ve read a ton of M.R. James ghost stories, I first encountered THE TRACTATE MIDDOTH as a TV adaptation done by the BBC. I enjoyed it enough to find the original story and give it a read. A classic M.R. James tale of revenge from beyond the grave. The TV version is usually available on Youtube.
Kealan Patrick Burke shows that even something as modern as social media can be grist for horror tale in OFFLINE.
Manly Wade Wellman and Karl Edward Wagner, those two southern gentlemen, return this year, Karl with WHERE THE SUMMER ENDS, a tale that could only be told in the south, and Manly with his final John Thunstone short story, ROUSE HIM NOT.
The oldest story on this year's list is by Leo Tolstoy's cousin Aleksei. THE HOUSE OF THE VOURDALAK is closer to folklore than modern horror and thus paints a very different picture of a vampire.
These days every horror anthology needs a zombie story and I picked a corker by Joe Lansdale. ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE CADILLAC DESERT WITH DEAD FOLKS is a mix of humorous and disturbing, like much of Lansdale's work.
The final story on the list was the hardest to decide upon. I considered stories by Ray Bradbury, Hugh B. Cave, and Stephen King, but I finally went with Caitlin R. Kiernan's PICKMAN'S OTHER MODEL because it's a recent mythos story that I really enjoyed.
So there you have it. Vol VII of my book of horror. Plenty of time to go and find these stories before Halloween arrives. I bid you uneasy nights and shadow-haunted dreams.
1. Musings by Brian Keene
From Where we Live and Die
2. The Lurking Fear by H.P. Lovecraft
From The Best of H.P. Lovecraft
3. Slime by Joseph Payne Brennan
From The Shapes of Midnight
4. The Charnel God by Clark Ashton Smith
FromThe Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith Vol 4
5. Old Garfield’s Heart by Robert E. Howard
From The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
6. Black Bargain by Robert Bloch
From American Supernatural Stories
7. The Tractate Middoth by M.R. James
From Collected Ghost Stories of M.R.James
8. Offline by Kealan Patrick Burke
Available as an ebook
9. Where the Summer Ends by Karl Edward Wagner
From The Best Horror Stories of Karl Edward Wagner
10. Rouse Him Not by Manly Wade Wellman
From The Valley So Low
11. The Family of the Vourdalak by Aleksei Tolstoy
From Victorian Vampire Stories
12. On the far Side of the Cadillac Desert With Dead Folks by Joe Lansdale
From The Monster Book of Zombies
13. Pickman's Other Model by Caitlin R Kiernan
From New Cthulhu
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Something I'd forgotten though, was that King was introduced to HPL by finding a box of books that had belonged to his father. One of those books was the Avon edition of THE LURKING FEAR AND OTHER STORIES which is pictured on the far left. King found HPL through that book and I found Lovecraft through King's book. It's like a gibbering slavering circle of unlife.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Monday, August 31, 2015
Been a while since I added any new art to my eclectic Conan team-up collection. This new one, by Red Sonja artist Walter Geovani, isn’t a commission like the others, but instead was something I spotted on Ebay and decided to bid on. And I won. I would like to get a commission from Geovani at some point.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
As I mentioned in my post about VIRGIN ZOMBIE, my foray into the J.A. Konrath's JACK DANIELS AND ASSOCIATES Kindle World, my initial exposure to the work of author J.A Konrath was as a fan. Nowadays he is an example and inspiration when I'm working on self publishing, but originally I just liked his Jack Daniels mystery/thrillers. I was rereading one of them last night, WHISKEY SOUR, and something occurred to me.
These days when I hear people talk about Konrath, it's mostly about his business savvy or his position as a guru for Ebook self publishing, or his stance against the anti-Amazon crowd, and such. People talk about his sales numbers, which he shares on his blog. They talk about how he's making a killing.
What they don't talk about is perhaps one of the most important aspects of Konrath's novels. That they're good books. They're fun to read. They're well written. They have snappy dialog, great plots and relentless narrative drive. We're not talking about widgets here, but books. Last night, as I was reading a funny scene between police Lieutenant Jack Daniels and sleazy PI, Harry McGlade, I was literally laughing out loud. Three pages later something truly horrible happened to a supporting character. Konrath is the king of the roller coaster ride of a book.
I was talking to someone about what some of my favorite reads for the last couple of years were and several of them were by Konrath, both on his own, and with some of his collaborators. The Jack Daniels books of course, but also SUCKERS, written with Jeff Strand, a book that made me laugh so much I almost hurt myself. And then there's FIX, written with Ann Voss Peterson and F. Paul Wilson, which I reviewed here at the blog, and which is just about my favorite read this year. And DRACULAS, written with Jeff Strand, F. Paul Wilson, and Blake Crouch, which is one of my absolute favorite vampire novels. I reviewed that one here too.
I guess my point, in saying nice things about J.A. Konrath's work, is that people seem to want to give all kinds of reasons as to why the man is a success. That he caught the Ebook wave when it was starting. That he had an 'in' to the publishing world. That (and this he has refuted many times) he is only popular because he had success as a traditionally published author before he turned to self publishing. What they don't seem to want to admit is that the man can write. That he tells a good story. That his books are hard to put down. Easier to make excuses as to why he's outselling you I guess, than to just say, hey the guy can write a mean thriller.
So go buy some of his books and see what I'm talking about.
His website is here:
Saturday, August 15, 2015
The center piece is THE GIRL ON THE GLIDER, which Keene describes in the book's afterword as 'ninety nine point nine percent true'. In the story Keene delves into the life of a middle aged horror writer and examines the affect his lifestyle has on the people in his life, all the while telling a ghost story that also is mostly true.
THE REVOLUTION HAPPENED WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING is a beat poem history of the horror genre and all the beats are just right. If you know the material Keene is talking about, you'll get every bit of it. If not, you'll learn something.
Probably my favorite story is MUSINGS, which once again looks at the writer's life and adds a nice bit of creepiness that I think Karl Edward Wagner would have appreciated. There are more stories in this collection and they are all worth your time. Like I said, Brian Keene doesn't pull any punches in these stories and he doesn't look away when many people would. Highly recommended.
Sunday, August 09, 2015
Friday, August 07, 2015
A little earlier this year, Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Comics got together and teamed up Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja. Because of the arcane ways of licensing, each of these companies has control of one of the characters, so any team-up has to be agreed upon by both companies. Dark Horse did four issues of a mini-series called CONAN/RED SONJA, and apparently now it's Dynamite's turn to do RED SONJA/CONAN.
The first mini series was a lot of fun. It had a fairly lightweight story involving the Stygian wizard Thoth Amon and a dangerous mystical plant called the Bloodseed. And it had really good art by my main man, Dan Panosian. I did get a little tired of the whole Bloodseed thing by the end of the mini series I must say.
So you can imagine I wasn't overly thrilled when I opened the first issue of RED SONJA/CONAN to find that once again the menace for the two sword slingers to face was a Stygian wizard and the Bloodseed. New plot, people. Please.
Anyway, the art in the first issue, by Roberto Castro, is really sharp. In fact I prefer it to the current art in the regular Dark Horse Conan comic, but that's probably because it's more Marvel style. I grew up with the Marvel Comics version of Conan and the closer something hues to that, the happier I usually am. What can I say? I'm an old school comics guy.
The writing, by Victor Gischler, is serviceable, though Conan seems a little out of character, but we all know how picky I am about Conan, so that's a minor quibble.
Oh one funny bit, maybe a little spoilery. In the old Marvel continuity, Sonja had a vow that she wouldn't sleep with a man unless he defeated her in combat. Not so with the Dynamite Sonja. In fact as she's written by regular Sonja series scribe Gail Simone, today's Sonja, much like Conan, is rather randy.
So it finally looks like Conan and Sonja are going to get it on, when some of the wizard's monsters show up in the bed chamber and things go to hell in a Hyborian hand basket. So close, yet so far.
So yeah, lightweight sword and sorcery fun from Dynamite with spiffy artwork. There's a preview here.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
This year I made my third trip to the Northeastern Writers Conference, better known as Camp NECON. Necon isn’t like any other convention. My pal James A. Moore nailed it when he called it a cross between a con and a family reunion. Now that I’m a member of that family, I look forward to seeing my distant relatives every July.
This year, though, several of us made a side trip of epic proportions. Writer Brian Keene arranged for a group of us, including me, Jim Moore, Mary SanGiovanni, Nick Kaufman, Alexa Antopol , Dave Thomas, and Paul Tremblay, to visit the John Hay Library at Brown University in Rhode Island and view the H.P. Lovecraft manuscript collection.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then think about that for a moment. Me, Charles Rutledge, Lovecraft Fanboy, going to see HPL’s handwritten manuscripts. As you can imagine, I was pretty psyched.
Despite knowing more or less where the library was, we had a little trouble finding the place. Typing the address into the GPS results in you ending up at a different location, almost as if there is something working against you. Perhaps the non-Euclidian angles of the streets resist modern technology. We finally made it though, and because we were a little early for our 10:00 am appointment, I took the chance to make another dream come true and got Jim to take my picture at the Van Wickle Gates, across the street from the library. You see, there’s a famous picture of Lovecraft seated on a stone bench in the corner of one of the gates and that bench is still there, so Jim and I took turns sitting in the exact spot where HPL had been over seventy years ago.
When the library opened we were met by Christopher Geissler, the Librarian for American and British Literary and Popular Culture Collections, who was to be our guide. Mr. Geissler couldn’t have been nicer, and I think he was glad to have some visitors who showed the reverence and enthusiasm for the collection that we did.
Before going upstairs to see the manuscripts, we first had a look at the recently restored main reading room. The John Hay was built in 1910 and over time the huge reading room had been turned into three separate rooms. In the last few years though, the walls were removed and the room was restored to its epic dimensions. It really looks like a set from Hellboy or some Gothic horror film with its high ceilings, tall windows, and busts of authors set above the shelves. I felt like I could have been there to view the Necronomicon and in a way, I guess I was. (Mr. Geissler told us that while they didn’t have a copy of the Necronomicon, they did have Lovecraft’s manuscript for ‘The History of the Necronomicon’.)
Then we went upstairs to one of the rooms used for meetings and other functions, another place that looked like a Gothic set. Walls of dark wood panels. A fireplace with hearthside chairs. More tall windows and heavy furniture. We gathered around a long table and Mr. Geissler began to set out the manuscripts. I’m going to post some pictures with this entry, but I can’t show you everything we saw. Among the treasures were handwritten and typed manuscripts for THE CALL OF CTHULHU, THE DUNWICH HORROR, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, and THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE.
We also saw Lovecraft’s notes for AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, including a drawing of an Elder Thing. Some of the coolest things we saw were several color drawings of Lovecraft’s creatures made by a teenage Robert Bloch. I’m not allowed to show you any of these, but they’ll be available at a new exhibition at the library, about which I will give you more information later.
While looking at the manuscript for THE CALL OF CTHULHU, I read the first paragraph aloud. Jim Moore got me to do it again so he could video it. Turned out pretty cool. Maybe I’ll post it, if I can figure out how.
Probably the most moving moment for me was reading a hastily added postscript to a letter from Lovecraft to Duane Rimel, telling of just receiving a report of the suicide of Robert E. Howard. Both of these writers are literary heroes of mine and to see the actual handwritten note made my eyes smart, I’ll admit. Made it more real to me, I guess.
Anyway, it was an amazing, even overwhelming experience, so thanks to Brian Keene for setting it up, to Christopher Geissler for his knowledge and patience, and to the other folks who went on the expedition for their enthusiasm. Seeing the manuscripts with a bunch of like-minded people made it even better.
Oh, and thanks to H.P. Lovecraft for writing the stuff in the first place.
Friday, July 10, 2015
My comics reading has dwindled over the last few years and when I do bring several titles home, it often takes me a while before I get around to reading them. This Wednesday night I picked up three comic books and last night I re...ad them back to back.
As some of you may recall I was fairly taken with the first issue of JLA (Justice League of America). Issue number two is just as good, with the core DC Superheroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and the Flash, (with the addition of Cyborg) all acting in character. I hope DC can keep this up. It's nice to be able to read a comic with the heroes more or less as I remember them.
Read issue three of SWORDS OF SORROW. This one focused on heroes I'm not as familiar with, but it as still a lot of fun. The various mini-series attached to this title have been hit or miss, but Gail Simone's strong writing has kept the central book interesting and fun.
And finally issue two of Alan Moore's PROVIDENCE. The first issue had elements of H.P. Lovecraft's COOL AIR, and this one contains references to THE HORROR AT RED HOOK and THE SHUNNED HOUSE. As usual with Moore, this is sort of a mixed bag. He gets a little carried away describing the histories of various magic rituals. Nobody has been raped so far, but knowing Moore, I get worried every time a female character appears.
So yeah, reading comics. What a concept.
Thursday, July 09, 2015
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
"Part sword and sorcery, part extreme horror, King of the Bastards is wild adventure across seas, beaches, and mountains full of horrifying monstrosities, dark magic, and demonic entities.Rogan has been many things in his life as an adventurer — a barbarian, a thief, a buccaneer, a rogue, a lover, a reaver, and most recently, a king. Now, this prehistoric bane of wizards and tyrants finds himself without a kingdom, lost in a terrifying new world, and fighting for his life against pirates, zombies, and the demonic entity known as Meeble. And even if he defeats his foes, Rogan must still find a way to return home, regain his throne, save his loved ones, and remind everyone why he's the KING OF THE BASTARDS."
A lament I often hear is that there's no good sword & sorcery being published these days. Well let me tell you, with the release of KING OF THE BASTARDS by Brian Keene and Steven Shrewsbury , that's no longer the case. When I say sword and sorcery, I'm not talking about the latest Tolkien Clone of Game of Thrones Knock-off. No, I mean the good old stuff, like Robert E. Howard and Karl Edward Wagner. The stuff that's based in horror and drenched in blood.
Within the first 30 pages you know you're in good hands as King Rogan, former barbarian, thief, reaver, slayer, etc and his comrades face off against a sea monster and then a band of pirates. It's a violent, bloody beginning and the guys are just getting warmed up.
When the smoke clears, Rogan and his nephew Javan wash up on the shores of an unknown land and the adventure really gets started. Tasked by a local tribe with killing a sorcerer in his lair, the two men are soon faced with foes who use both cold hard steel and the darkest sorcery.
Reader's familiar with Brian Keene's 'Labyrinth Mythos' will find some familiar elements. In addition to earthly enemies, Rogan and Javan must deal with Meeble, one of the thirteen, an otherworldly pantheon of entities that aren't quite angels, gods, or demons. I've run into other members of The Thirteen in Keene's books about occult detective, Levi Stoltzfus. Almost all of Keene's books and stories are linked one way or the other in a sort of 'Keeneiverse', which, continuity conscious comic book fan that I am, I really enjoy.
In various essays here at Singular Points, I've discussed how I feel that the best sword and sorcery has a horror tale at its heart. Karl Edward Wagner often said that his stories about the immortal warrior KANE were really horror stories with enough action to make them heroic fantasy. Similarly, many of Robert E. Howard's Conan and Solomon Kane stories are really horror yarns. Fritz Leiber, himself a corespondent of H.P. Lovecraft, filled his Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories with dark sorcery and horror. Ditto C.L. Moore, creator of Jirel of Joiry, the original red-haired she-devil.
Keene and Shrewsbury have learned their lessons well. Brian had told me before I started KING that I'd find a lot of Karl Edward Wagner influence in the book, and without giving away too many plot points, I definitely can see what he meant. This book is as much a horror novel as a sword and sorcery tale. And for me that makes it work really well.
Anyway, if you're one of those people who are always looking for a good, bloody, sword & sorcery tale, then look no farther. KING OF THE BASTARDS has what you want in spades. I was fortunate in that Apex Books offered me an advanced reading copy of the book on the same day I had placed my pre-order for it. So I got to read it early and soon I'll have a shiny new copy to put on my shelf. The book is expected to be released on July 21st, but you too can pre-order here:
Saturday, July 04, 2015
This is the back cover from the 1976 Marvel Treasury Edition, Captain America's Bicentennial Battles, a heartfelt tribute to America by Jack Kirby, aka Jacob Kurtzberg, the son of Jewish immigrants, who grew up to co-create the symbol of the spirit of the USA. The country may be flawed, as all countries are, but the spirit remains.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Don's version of the monster is sort of a cross between Mary Shelly's original creature and the movie versions. If you love the Universal Frankenstein films then you'll really enjoy Don's take on the creature.
And, if like me, you're a fan of Don's DOCTOR SPEKTOR comics, you'll find the same sorts of adventures here, as well as many connections and references to the good Doctor. Don has always enjoyed linking his stories, be they comics, novels, or movies, and that's something I really enjoy.
Anyway, this is a fantastic book full of color, action, fun, and scares. Highly recommended. I had pre-ordered my copy directly from the publisher, so mine's autographed from Don to me. You can get it at Amazon.
Friday, June 19, 2015
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
VIRGIN ZOMBIE is now available for the kindle. It’s a 10,000 word short story that teams my private investigator Wade Griffin with J.A. Konrath’s Lt. Jack Daniels. The basic idea is that Jack, who’s a homicide detective with the Chicago Violent Crimes Unit, has to travel to the small town of Wellman Georgia to hunt down Armand Brule, aka ‘Houngan’, a meth cook wanted in connection to a murder in Chicago. The cops can’t offer her official backup in Wellman so she ends up with mercenary turned private investigator Wade Griffin. The hunt for Houngan brings the pair into conflict with a biker gang known as The Brothers of Chaos ( a tip of the hat to Michael Moorcock) and with some fairly creepy goings on, as visitors of Wellman would expect. Houngan is another name for a voodoo priest and he’s cooking up something worse than crystal meth. Oh, and there’s the dead guy with the hatchet.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m a big fan of J.A. Konrath’s books and that I’ve also been reading his team-ups with other authors like Jude Hardin, Tracy Sharp, and recently F. Paul Wilson and Ann Voss Peterson. I reviewed the short novel FIX a couple of posts ago. After seeing all the other Jack Daniels crossovers on Konrath’s Kindle world, JACK DANIELS AND ASSOCIATES, I decided that I’d like to write one too. I figured I would start with a short story just to get my feet wet, and that I’d team Jack with Wade Griffin, one of the protagonists of the Griffin and Price novels that I co-author with James A. Moore. Two have been published so far, BLIND SHADOWS and CONGREGATIONS OF THE DEAD, and there’s a third, A HELL WITHIN, completed and in the pipeline.
Now here’s the thing. Though Konrath writes horror as well as crime fiction, the supernatural hasn’t had a place in his Jack Daniels novels, (BLOODY MARY, RUSTY NAIL, DIRTY MARTINI etc) so I thought I should stick to that worldview. However if you’ve read any of the Griffin and Price novels, you know that they are a mix of crime fiction and horror and that the boys from Wellman have fought creatures from the outer dark and Evangelical Christian Vampires. I didn’t want Griffin’s fans to be misled, so I came up with a way to have a horror connection without using anything overtly supernatural. Through a bit of synchronicity, I found a title which matched the other books in the Jack Daniels series, which tend to be named after drinks, and also fit the idea I had. Thus, VIRGIN ZOMBIE.
The funny thing is, after I finished the story, I read a comment by Konrath at his blog where he said he was fine with people bringing supernatural or fantasy elements to his Jack Daniels and Codename Chandler Kindle worlds. So I may write another team-up soon with a bit more weirdness going on. Time will tell.
Anyway, I tried to write a story that kept both Jack and Griffin in character, using First Person for Jack and Third Person for Griffin as each is usually portrayed in his or her own books. VIRGIN ZOMBIE is a fast paced tale with a lot of action and I hope that fans of both series enjoy it. If you’d care to check it out, the link is below.