Monday, December 13, 2010

Who would have thought...

When I retired more than two years ago from a career spanning almost three decades, I thought I was going to spend my remaining years doing what I had always planned -- writing. And for several months, that is exactly what happened.

Then came some wonderful things. Imagicopter. Swordbearer. And now parABnormal Digest.

I have been privileged in my life to meet and work with some talented individuals, and some that border on genius. It seems that in the last few months the number of those individuals has increased beyond all reason. I find myself often wondering whether this can continue, and then hoping it will.

In 2011 there are so many things coming. Swordbearer and Call of Lovecraft early in the year, High Kings and Emperor by March, parABnormal Digest about the same time, and I will be attending conventions throughout the year, including Fandom Fest, which I am very excited about.

With the possibility of Angelkiller coming out by the end of 2011 and Deity early in 2012, it seems that next year will truly mark the beginning of a writing career that until now has been merely sputtering to life. Although I am not likely to be traveling as much as before, the places I will be going will be strategically chosen to best advance my writing.

I am very grateful to M.R. Williamson, J. L. Mulvihill, Herika Raymer, Stephen Zimmer, Henry Sanders, Deborah S Ford, Bill Eakin, and Alexander S. Brown for making Imagicopter such a success in 2010. Without the efforts of those fine folks, Imagicopter would not be what it has become, which is a writer and artist cooperative with growing national recognition.

Lastly, I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2011!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Looking toward a busy holiday season

Well, November began a little bittersweet for me. I attended the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention the first Friday. Allan Gilbreath drafted Sam Flegal and I to talk to the 300 local schoolchildren attending with their teachers about art and writing respectively. We set up an Imagicopter table next to Elizabeth Donald's Literary Underworld and spent a lot of time driving traffic to her and several other people's tables who have expressed interest in joining Imagicopter.

Saturday the crud that had threatened to lay me low finally won. Although I was still ambulatory through it, I felt as if I was carrying a freight train on my chest the whole time. Even today, most of the way through the Z-Pack I submitted to, the coughing continues. I hate bronchitis, my personal, ever-present demon.

I was able to get some work done on Angelkiller, and got a chance to discuss an upcoming project with Tyree Campbell of Sam's Dot Publishing. On a side note, I am proud to announce that Sam's Dot will be publishing my novella High Kings, to appear in 2011.

The debut of Emperor, the second Thran novel, will probably be earlier than planned at MidSouthCon due to other projects in the offing. I'll keep you posted on that.

Swordbearer is scheduled to premiere in Lexington, KY, in January, with showings in Memphis, TN, and Clarksville, AR, in February. After that, there is a fairly extensive schedule of screenings in conventions all over. I'll keep you advised as to dates and locations as they become available.

I still have plenty to keep me busy over the holiday season, writing-wise, so keep an eye on this blog for more announcements. Meanwhile, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 22, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: The Storm Guardians by Stephen Zimmer


TITLE: The Storm Guardians
AUTHOR: Stephen Zimmer
PUBLISHER: Seventh Star Press, 2010
ISBN 978-0-9825656-3-6 (553 pages, including Appendix)

Forces set in motion in the first book of the Rising Dawn series, The Exodus Gate, move forward with a vengeance in The Storm Guardians.

We find the familiar and the fantastic once again inextricably linked as Benedict Darwin and his troupe try to deal with the frightening reality of a world changed to its very core. The survivors of the Great Flood, both the noble An-Ki and the demonic Erkorenen, find themselves pawns in a greater power struggle, whose manifestations extend into the ethereal world of Purgatarion, where the hordes from the Abyss commanded by the leader of the Ten-Fold Kingdom are launching an assault, aiming for the very walls of the White City itself.

In the normal world, Night Hunters prowl the forests, pursuing the now-divided An-Ki clans. A group of high schools students decide they are going to find out if the rumors of giant wolves in the woods are true, and fall afoul of a force whose true nature they do not suspect. Watchers, their ranks thinned because of the conflicts in the Middle Lands, struggle desperately to protect humanity against the growing threat of the Nephilim and their allies, while a lone Avatar stands against many enemies.

In the Middle Lands, mighty Avatars clash, great forces Light and Dark and neither meet on the battlefield of Purgatarion in a clash that boggles the minds of even those denizens of the stricken area which forms a buffer between the Abyss and the White City.

The scope of The Storm Guardians is massive, opening up and expanding on the conflict only hinted at in The Exodus Gate. The intrigue and action promised in the first book is fully developed and mercilessly exhibited. The Storm Guardians is a non-stop thriller that lives up to the promise of The Exodus Gate and points at an even more amazing denouement in the final book of the series. Once again, Zimmer has used his command of cinematic imagery to give us a spectacular vision of war both heavenly and hellish.

Two thumbs up on this one.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Catching up again

Okay, so I missed the September post altogether. Hopefully, I can make up for that by posting more than one this month, including a couple of book reviews.

On September 25, I went to Frankfort, KY, to the shooting of the climactic scene of Swordbearer, the independent film based on scenes from Ascendant. The cast and crew got there before dawn, and it was a very cold start to a very long, but productive, day. I traveled with my friend Chris Prince, who good-naturedly stood by and watched me make a fool of myself as I yelled and screamed my head off with the rest of the extras during the fight scene. It was loads of fun. Someday, I may regret it, but not today.

The gist of the scene was this: the two warring Houses (Thran and Suum) have agreed to a single combat between their champions to determine who will have pre-eminence. The winner takes all in this combat, the losing House ceding all claim to any political influence, forfeiting its holdings, and losing its position in the ruling Council. It is a true final conflict, designed to decide once and for all the outcome of a blood-feud more than four centuries old. The combat comes down to the champions Hennock (Al Snow) of House Thran, and Tchek (Benjamin Wood) of House Suum. The fight scene might only run a few minutes in the final film, the shooting itself took hours.

The actors, both professional wrestlers in real life, performed using actual weapons - live steel that spelled real danger. My old friend Allan Gilbreath, who is well versed in martial arts and weapons, served as fight choreographer, and even he was uneasy about the use of real hand-and-a-half swords. As it turned out, except for a couple of minor scratches, the combat went extremely well.

I cannot praise the cast and crew highly enough for their professionalism and enthusiasm for this project. In the end, this film will be for me the once-in-a-lifetime event that few people get to experience: the manifestation of a dream.

But enough of that. There will be much more on the film as time goes by.

I have several stories out for consideration and now in print. He Who Hesitates is out for consideration for Elder Signs Press' High Seas Cthulhu 2. Sparks and The Real Magic went to Kerlak Publications for upcoming anthologies. Person-to-Person has been accepted by Midnight Screaming Magazine and will appear soon. End Game is now appearing in Sam's Dot Publishing's Infradead anthology. I shortly intent to inflict No More Running and a couple others on unsuspecting periodicals. I'll keep you advised as that goes along.

Many people have asked me if I am enjoying my retirement. For those of us who are "retired", we know there really is no such thing. My writing career continues to expand, from short stories to novels and now into screenplay. What new adventure is around the corner? With the ever-increasing technological advances in the west, the growing political movements in the east, and the inevitable conflict or marriage of the two, who can say?


BOOK REVIEW: Setting Suns by Elizabeth Donald

TITLE: Setting Suns
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Donald
PUBLISHER: New Babel Books, 2006
ISBN 0-9720197-6-6 (196 pgs)

Setting Suns is a compilation of stories from the delightfully bizarre imagination of Elizabeth Donald. After each of the 15 tales included, Ms. Donald gives the reader a little insight into the thought processes that tormented her into producing the story.

The favorite of all is, of course, Jesus Loves Me. This account of a singing, winged teddy bear, a gift for a three-year-old boy, whose terrifying rendition of the old hymn portends something much darker, is made all the more haunting by the revelation made at the end of the story in Ms. Donald's afterword.

The rest of the stories run the gamut from the inherent tragedy in resisting the finality of death (Sisyphus, Memoir), the mutability of mind versus time (Silent), and a brilliant monster story (Deep Breathing), to a fantastically well-written and nastily cutting commentary on men and their treatment of women (Memory Lane), a welcome story about Ms. Donald's foul-mouthed but strong-willed heroine Aurora Crawford (Gauntlet), and a disturbing suicide deliberation (The River). There are weak points in the book. Vertigo, The Puzzle, and Symphony of the Woods are obviously emotional venting of deeply felt feelings and beliefs that probably would have been better placed elsewhere. I Live With It Every Day (co-written with Jason R. Tippitt) is, IMHO, unworthy of the collection altogether. The re-visiting of the old "computers can be monsters" theme of Wonderland is well-handled and differently structured, worth the read only for its novel approach to a trite subject. Prisoner's Dilemma left me wondering.

Elizabeth Donald is one of the strongest writers it is my privilege to know. This book has a broad range of her fiction, showing her ability to write for any and all tastes, and showing her readers her human side through her notes and explanations. I came away from Setting Suns with a greater appreciation for her work, and a greater respect for the author herself.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Swordbearer!

Okay, so it's been over a month since my last post. I promised one a month, and it looks like I may just make it in under the wire.

The big news is that Swordbearer, the indie film based on my novel Ascendant, is under production. Stephen Zimmer, the director, gave a marvelous summary of the process so far in his great blog Fantastical Musings, so I'll not add anything to that except to say that I had a great time working as a mostly-anonymous extra. The experience is one I will treasure, and I look forward to going back in September for the final battle scene. This project, from what I understand, is something out of the ordinary for independent filmmaking, being a fantasy film. All I know is that I was delighted and a little overwhelmed by the expertise, enthusiasm, and enterprise shown by everyone on the set. It was a moving experience to see my characters come to life, but it was a humbling one to see how dedicated each of the people involved were to making it happen.

Many, many thanks to everyone on Swordbearer. You are making a dream come true.

On to other things...

My short story Shed was accepted for the Call of Lovecraft anthology from Papercut Books (J. Travis Grundon, editor). I am deeply honored to be in some very talented company. I understand they had over 300 submissions, and only 11 selected for publication. I am especially happy to be included in an anthology with reprints from two masters: Ramsey Campbell (Cold Print) and HPL himself (Pickman's Model). Can anybody say fanboy moment?

Sam's Dot Publishing accepted End Game for their Infradead anthology (Tyree Campbell and J. Allan Erwine, co-editors), to appear very shortly. I have not heard from Midnight Screaming about Person-to-Person, but then again I haven't received a rejection letter. I take that as a good sign. The Real Magic, my submission to Woodland Press for the Mountain Magic anthology, missed the deadline. Thanks to Brian Hatcher for letting me know about it. I will work harder in future to ensure the works get there on time.

Emperor, my newest novel, will be appearing in March 2010. I hope to convince the folks at MidSouthCon in Memphis to let me have the premiere there. I'll let you know how that goes.

I have promised book reviews for several people, and I will be doing that and posting them soon. Look for reviews on books by Elizabeth Donald, M. B. Weston, and Stephen Zimmer.

Now, if I can just find some time to write...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Man, Is It Just Me, or Is It Busy in Here?

Let's see, what's been going on?

Kelly's Beast was accepted for the WTF Mysteries anthology (Mark Fitzgerald, editor, Kerlak Publishing) appearing shortly.

Phoenix was accepted for the Dreams of Steam anthology (Kimberly Richardson, editor, Kerlak Publishing) appearing shortly

Sands of the Marid will appear in Shelter of Daylight from Sam's Dot Publishing this October.

The story The Shed is on the short list for the Call of Lovecraft anthology from Papercut Books (J. Travis Grundon, editor).

Emperor, my next novel, should appear around the end of the year from Sam's Dot Publishing, with my novella High Kings shortly thereafter.

Have stories under consideration at Midnight Screaming magazine (Kara Ferguson, editor) and at Woodland Press for their Mountain Magic anthology (Brian J. Hatcher, editor). Also one being looked at for Sam's Dot Publishing's Infradead anthology (Tyree Campbell and J. Alan Erwine, co-editors).

I have attended several conventions and events since my last posting, in Jackson, MS and Memphis. I spoke to the Southwest Tennessee Freelance Writers Guild last month about self-editing.

Last, but certainly not least, Cineline Productions and Stephen Zimmer are working on a short independent film based on my novel Ascendant. Readings are being done now and I have been told the shot schedule is done. The film should be available for viewing early in 2011.

And I continue to work on many projects, attend events, and try to keep my sanity. I hope to remain at least as successful as I have in the past doing it all...

Many thanks to Mitchell Davidson Bentley for the cover art on Emperor!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hypericon 2010

There are a few cons I attend that I have a special liking for. Hypericon is one of those. It is a relatively small con, but the people you meet there are friendly and personable, the staff is more than patient and competent, and the con itself has an overall down-home kind of feel to it that leaves you feeling like you just visited your favorite aunt and uncle when you're headed home afterward.

The foremost reason I attend cons is networking, which is fun, but I spend a lot of time on my feet, pressing flesh and not actually seeing the con itself. I made it a point to go out of my way this time, fall off my career-advancement ambitions, and become a fanboy because the Guest of Honor at this Hypericon was Ramsey Campbell.

Mr. Campbell is one of the authors who inspired me to become a writer. His work and that of his pre-cursors (like Bierce, Lovecraft, Machen, even Conan Doyle and Burroughs) and contemporaries helped me define how I wanted to write horror. I have always maintained that what we cannot see is always more terrifying than what we can, and Mr. Campbell's brand of psychological horror epitomizes that. I spent a great deal of time speaking with him about a wide variety of subjects and found him to be a most gracious gentlemen and a great conversationalist. He was attending with his lovely wife Jenny, who I mistook for his daughter, to her delight. I will always remember fondly the moments I had with them.

I reconnected with my good friend Stephen Zimmer, author of the Rising Dawn and Fires in Eden fantasy series. He was debuting his latest book The Storm Guardians and I got to attend the official launch. I wish him all the best in his series. I will post a review of The Storm Guardians soon.

Among the friends I met there was Sam Flegal. He was there with his wife and 4-month old baby girl. Congrats again on an adorable little one, Sam. You have a lovely family.

Jennifer Mulvihill was there with her daughter and two of her girl's friends. Jennifer is a ray of sunshine wherever she goes, but I was especially honored to get to hear her sing at the karaoke session. Someday she needs to cut a CD. She has a great voice.

Allan Gilbreath and Kimberly Richardson manned the Kerlak Publishing table. Always fun to meet with Allan, although I would have preferred him to have those Squirrels of Mass Distraction for sale. Kimberly is the editor of the upcoming Dreams of Steam anthology and nearly as animated as Allan when it comes to life in general. I swear, between the two of them, there was enough energy in the room to light a small town.

Elizabeth Donald was another source of energy only barely contained behind her table (The Literary Underground). Elizabeth has the kind of outgoing personality that delights everyone around her, and when she gets together with Sara Harvey, the sparks fly. One of the most memorable panels was composed of Elizabeth, Sara, Eric Wilson, and Stephen Zimmer. Believe me, you had to be there to appreciate it.

Finally, I got to start the meetings for the production of the short film based on my novel Ascendant, with Sven Grunland and Matthew Perry of Cineline Productions, and Stephen Zimmer, who will be directing. It was a lot of fun getting to know how movies are put together from scratch, and I really look forward to working with these guys. There was even some talk of producing some shorts based on stories in my Eclectic Dreams collection. More as that develops.

All in all, Hypericon 2010 was one of the most memorable cons I have attended. I will definitely be back to the Nashville area next year for the next one.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

For the last couple of months I have been working on the rewrite for EMPEROR, attending events, and generally enjoying the spring.

There is nothing much more satisfying to me than spending time on my front porch with a pencil and paper, watching the woods, and sipping a fine whiskey while my muse teases me with visions of creativity that more often than not manifest as words on the page. In spite of the great technological tool advances available to writers today, I still find the traditional paper and pencil the most effective way to connect with my work.

But enough of my exposition...

Since my last entry, which was too long ago, I have finished three short stories, one which I completed with no idea where it might find publication (No More Running), one which I intend to inflict on Sam's Dot shortly (Sparks), and one I hope will find a spot in Papercut Books' upcoming Call of Lovecraft anthology (The Shed). The rewrite on EMPEROR is done, and I await feedback from my proofreaders before forwarding it to Tyree and Mitch for approval. I also forwarded End Game to Sam's Dot for their Infradead invitation anthology, a short story that was to appear in the Even More Monsters from Memphis anthology, had it actually seen print.

I attended Imagicon this past weekend in Birmingham, Alabama, and I cannot praise the job the convention committee did highly enough. I understand that there was a major shakeup in the committee only a few weeks before the event that crippled them significantly, but I saw no evidence that they were fazed by that. The staff were generous and courteous, personable and a joy to work with.

Guests at the convention were Gil Gerard and Erin Gray (of Buck Rogers, the television series) and John Billingsley (of Star Trek: Enterprise). I am a great fan of the Buck Rogers series, and a serious fan of Ms. Gray, who looks as lovely now as then. Mr. Gerard still has that quick, mischievous smile and wit, and they both handled the attention with ease and aplomb. Mr. Billingsley and wife Bonita Friedericy tolerated my ignorance with grace and enthralled the audience with their charm.

I had the honor to spend a great deal of time with Deborah Smith Ford, and her daughter Courtney, whose company was an immense source of enjoyment for me and my daughter. Ms. Ford is a multi-talented individual -- an actress, writer, and speaker. Someone who is well worth meeting and I hope in future to spend more time with her, discussing film, family, and art.

I found that the traveling for conventions and events does not agree with me as much as it used to, but the trip to Birmingham was well worth the effort. I believe I will be returning next year for Imagicon 2011.

I plan on attending Hypericon the first weekend of June in Nashville, followed by Mississippi PulpCon and the Southern Fried ComicCon in Jackson, MS. That, plus my writing, a chance to speak to the Southwest Tennessee Freelance Writers Guild, and my continued participation with the great people of Word Catchers, means that the upcoming month will be one of the busiest of the year so far.

I hope I can get some writing done in the meantime.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Continuing Stooooory...

After the MidSouthCon excitement of the beginning of this month, it is difficult to get back into the groove of writing, but I have accomplished quite a bit.

Sam's Dot returned EMPEROR to me for rewrite. I appreciate the feedback I got from Tyree Campbell and Mitch Bentley and will do my best to repair the damage I did to the story while trying to compress the original three books into one. To say it will be a challenge to do in the short time available is an understatement, but, in the words of Blackadder's dogboy Baldrick, "I have a cunning plan."

Meanwhile, stories are now out to Aoife's Kiss (a Sam's Dot publication), Kerlak's steampunk anthology, Shelter of Daylight (also Sam's Dot), Midnight Screaming (it'll be in the mail shortly, Kara!), and further stories are growing in the pages of the ever-present spiral notebooks that populate my office.

With the advent of spring, I have re-established my writing post on the front porch, where I can take in the air, enjoy the woods that surround my domicile, and partake of a good cigar, fine whisky, and the company of an interesting, bizarre, disturbing, and/or inspiring muse.

Life is good.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Thomas Riley by Nick Valentino



TITLE: Thomas Riley
AUTHOR: Nick Valentino
PUBLISHER: Echelon Press, LLC, 2010
ISBN 978-1-59080-700-2 (282 pages)

I readily admit I know very little about steampunk. It is one of those concepts my brain simply has a hard time wrapping around. That didn't keep me from enjoying Thomas Riley. It is a non-stop adventure ride reminiscent of the Indiana Jones entertainments with some Pirates of the Caribbean thrown in.

Thomas Riley, the armaments genius behind West Canvia's war effort, and his assistant/companion Cynthia Bassett are unexpectedly hurtled into adventure when the West Canvian princess is mortally wounded. Forced to perform a complicated and risky procedure, Riley finds himself needing the aid of Isaac Maier. Unfortunately, Maier is Riley's counterpart in the enemy camp, and to get to him, Riley and Bassett must travel deep into enemy territory, force Maier to cooperate, and escape with their lives and the princess'.

Valentino weaves a swashbuckling tale of intrigue, betrayal, and high adventure in Thomas Riley. If you like steampunk, this is a must-read. If you like adventure, this is a great read. If you just like a good story, you are in for a real treat. Two thumbs up on this one.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Moving Right Along...

Just got word that my short story Here There Be Dragons (Dragons Composed anthology, Kerlak Publications, 2010) has been named as a finalist for the Darrell Award for 2010's Best Midsouth Short Story by the Memphis Science Fiction Association. This places me in some very talented company, including CRS Bailey, Jackie Gamber, Angelia Sparrow, and Naomi Brooks. The awards jury reads a ton of material each year, so it is especially nice to be named a finalist.

I have been doing quite a bit of traveling this month. On February 6, I attended an Imagicopter event at the Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville, TN. I can't give the DKB folks high enough marks for their friendly attitude and support. It was a pleasure being there and getting the chance to touch base again with my Imagicopter friends. Attending were D.A. Adams, Jackie Gamber, Sara Harvey, Stephanie Osborn, Debra Parmley, MR Williamson, and Stephen Zimmer. We had a visit from Fred and Stephania Grimm of Hypericon fame, and a host of Stephen's friends from the area.

The weekend of February 13 my daughter Herika and I went to Florida for my sister's wedding. It was a long trip, but fun, and we got a chance to visit with my nephews, nieces, grands, and lots of friends.

This last weekend I took Herika and the two grandkids to the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center. It has changed significantly since last I was there (has it been nearly 20 years?), but it's still a magic place and I have to go back soon to see what we missed. Yes, the grandkids will go along as well.

Next month promises to be at least that busy, if not more so. No rest for the wicked...

Monday, January 25, 2010

2010? Already?

If there is one thing I have discovered about blogging, it's that I was never meant to be this wordy. Nevertheless, I will try a little harder this year to get at least one post per month written and published. It is one of those "New Year's resolutions" that I hope won't fall by the wayside.

On the news front:

Sam's Dot Publishing has accepted my short story Sands of the Marid for the October 2010 issue of their Shelter of Daylight biannual magazine. Sands is the story of a soldier from small-town Tennessee during the first Gulf War encountering forces he doesn't understand and how he copes.

EMPEROR, the second Thran book with Sam's Dot, should be out shortly. I understand the cover art is being worked right now. With luck it will be available by MidSouthCon in March.

No word yet on whether my time-travel novella High Kings has been accepted. I'll keep you posted on that.

Work proceeds on Deity, slowly. I had a burst of energy on Angelkiller that made me think for a moment I might actually get the final draft done before the end of this year, but that doesn't look good anymore. The Boathouse, my secret society thriller, got some serious attention for the first time in over a year, so it is likely that might come out before Angelkiller.

I am working with Stephen Zimmer on the screenplay for a short film based on my novel ASCENDANT. Cineline Productions will be the outlet from which this will spring, hopefully before the end of the year. More on this as it develops.

I continue to work on a number of short stories, mainly as a way to distract myself from the monotony of looking at the same plotlines for days on end. In the works are stories about electronic viruses onboard asteroid mining ships, intelligent cacti, demonic insects, and a plethora of other twisted and fascinating concepts. Thank God I have writing to purge these things from my brain. I can't imagine how long my sanity could survive if it had to co-exist with these things for any longer than it now does.

There are several family events pending that will keep me busy as well, but I won't go into those. Suffice it to say, we are all getting older, even the smallest of us.

As for my participation in Imagicopter, it continues unabated. I will be attending an Imagicopter event at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville, TN on February 6 with several other writers, and will continue to attend at least one a month at least through August at locations throughout the south. The Imagicopter writers and artists are great people and I always look forward to spending time with them.

Interestingly enough, over the last couple of months, I have noticed several groups surfacing with the same idea as Imagicopter. I don't know if these organizations pre-date Imagicopter, but it is nice to know the idea is now or has been as popular as it seems to be.

Stay safe, all! Back to work...