The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas: A true classic. I never get tired of reading the exploits of Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan. High adventure, love, honor, intrigue and swashbuckling. Dumas knows how to weave a thrilling yarn to be sure. Much better than any of the movies that have attempted to bottle Dumas’ formula. The rest of the books in the Musketeer series are excellent reads as well. I will make special mention of the Man in the Iron Mask movie with John Malkovich, Jeremy Irons and Girard Depardieu as the aged trio and Gabriel Byrne as D’Artagnan. The movie closely captures the essence of the characters and world they live in.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck: I believe that this was once featured as a Oprah Book of the Month. I won’t hold that against it. You can never go wrong with Steinbeck. This is a tale loosely based on the fall of Adam and Eve and the rivalry between Cain and Abel set in the Salinas Valley of California. I have to admit that I have yet to finish the book. I have read half of it and intend to finish it some day soon. This is due more to unforseen circumstances than to the quality of the book itself. I still recommend it.
The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn: The Last King by Robert E. Howard: If you are a fan of fantasy and have not read Howard, then get thee hence to a book store post-haste. I wouldn’t call his prose beautiful but it has a swift brashness that cannot be denied. Conan is his most well-known character but Solomon Kane is memorable in his own right. The puritan swordsman roaming strange and foreign lands righting wrongs and valiantly battling creatures of darkness. Bran Mak Morn contains some great poems as well. Check them both out.
The Terror by Dan Simmons: Be warned, this is a massive book at nearly 800 pages but it is well worth your patience. Not many can write horror and terror like Simmons. Stephen King has written kind words about Simmons many times and I feel Simmons is better than King. The Terror is the story of the HMS Terror; a vessel sent to search for the Northwest Passage as part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition. They enter the Arctic Circle and come face to face with a strange cold world and a terror stalking them along the ice. Truly terrific stuff.
That should do for now. I pray that Summer arrive swiftly. I have late watch over camp tonight and the bitter cold nights are getting old and contribute to a general grumpiness among the men. Tomorrow, we march into the void. The captain says he does not know what is beyond the void and some of the men are afraid. I just hope it is warm there.
Occasionally, they show movies to the troop in the mess hall to let a little steam out and bolster morale. Last night they showed Here Comes the Boom with Kevin James. I have been a fan of James since The King of Queen days and, yes, I did see Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Even I can admit that Paul Blart was not a good movie. Though it had its scant charms and made a boat load of money at the box office (much more than its budget). Here Comes the Boom is a home run compared to the base hit of Paul Blart.
Here Comes the Boom is about a disenchanted biology High School teacher that takes to Mixed Martial Arts fighting (all he has to do is loose) to win enough money to save the music department from going under, taking the best teacher in the school and genuine nice guy under with it. It didn’t win an Oscar or anything but I feel it is a movie you should certainly try to see. It is a very nice showcase for James’ talents and also includes charming parts for Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler and MMA fighter Bas Rutten. Have we seen the framework of this story before? Yes. Is it side-splitting funny? Not really. However, it is chuckle funny and a nice alternative to the R rated comedies laced with profanity and gross out humor popular at the moment.
James also co-wrote the movie and it seems that he is taking great care to make certain kinds of vehicles for himself. If Here Comes the Boom is where his groove is, I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. You may rarely hear a kind word from the film critics for what James makes, but James doesn’t really make films. I don’t think he wants to make films. He makes movies. He wants to entertain in the most genial way. All he wants is your smile for an hour and a half. This time, he got it from me.
That Salma Hayek is a wildcat.
Just a little update on what is happening with my writing. I recently had a four page script accepted for an anthology called Ladies & Gentlemen put out by Water Closet Press in the UK. It is a light bit of pulp set in London featuring a character of my own creation. There is no artist attached to the script yet but I will keep you updated.
I am 60 pages into a novel and am really starting to get my writing legs going. Here’s hoping the next 200 pages go by in a flash.
I am forming an outline for a new idea I have for a comic book character that features rock ‘n’ roll, Norse mythology and supernatural mysteries. It is in the infant stages and may wait to get fleshed out more when I find a dedicated artist to collaborate with. It can join the handful of other ideas I have for comic book series.
I have been seriously considering placing my movie script Deadington in The Black List database. It doesn’t cost a lot and I feel it really is a good script. Will let you know what I decide to do.
Will soon be adding more links to blogs and other pages I think are cool. Check the space over to the side to find them.
That’s all for now.
While my library pales in comparison to the vast shelves of books available to you within the castle walls, it does hold a wide variety of literature. Of course, being in the field, my library is of the virtual kind. I am thankful for the technology that allows me to carry several more books than I would be able to normally fit in my pack. If only a similar technology could do the same for my collection of board games back home. Ah well, where were we? My library.
I will attempt to send you a log of all the books I have with me in case you are in need of a good book and have no recommendations. I will present this log in various bursts, as time and fortune allows, and in the order they are arranged. Be aware that I have culled my books down as far as I possibly can. I can cull them no further. Therefore, these are the cream of the crop.
Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow: Homer by way of Stephen King. Sharp Teeth is a novel written in prose verse about present-day werewolves in L. A. A love between a dog catcher and a werewolf that causes a mess of violence, blood and carne asada tacos. For those that are looking for something unique in the horror genre.
Snake Agent by Liz Williams/ The Demon and the City by Liz Williams: The first two books in a fabulous series starring Inspector Chen. Set in the Far East of the near future where Chen is a snake agent; in charge of supernatural and mystical investigations. Such investigations are bound to happen when a literal Hell on Earth is involved. Chen teams up with one of Hell’s vice officers in both books to solve the crime. The first book deals with the illegal trade in souls. The second book deals with the forces of Heaven manifesting themselves in Singapore Three. Highly imaginative and dripping with Eastern mysticism and lore, I wish the series were more popular so I could read more books involving the good inspector.
The Loch by Steve Alten: Something lives in the dark Loch Ness waters and it is killing again. A full-bore thriller with an answer to what people have seen as the Loch Ness monster. Surprised that someone hasn’t grabbed this story and made a blockbuster monster movie out of it yet.
Planet of Adventure by Jack Vance: This contains four novels by Vance; City of the Chasch, Servants of the Wankh, The Dirdir and The Pnume. All are set on the distant planet Tschai and follow young Adam Reith in adventures both murderous and thrilling. Aliens, villains, palaces, monstrous creatures and the random beauty in need of a rescue. Vance is considered one of Science Fiction’s master storytellers, find out why for yourself.
That’s all for now. I must sleep before the platoon marches yet again.
How is everything at the castle? I am doing well. Last night I had the chance to see the new movie G.I. Joe: Retaliation. We have one movie house out here and it was actually the only movie showing. If knowing is half the battle, as the Joes used to tell us, then I feel we are still waiting for whatever the other half is. From all accounts, the director of Retaliation (Jon Chu) is a fan of the original G.I. Joe material including the cartoons and comic books. This is certainly a good thing. The director of the previous G.I. Joe movie had minimal knowledge of the original material and it showed. However, the first movie did have an unabashed and over the top joy in what it was doing. This second movie seems to be missing some of that. If only someone could bring the best of the two movies together.
What spark there is in Retaliation is supplied mainly by Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock and Ray Stevenson as Firefly. Johnson is great and I hope he returns in the next one. Stevenson is dangerous and menacing as Cobra’s explosives expert. D. J. Cotrona is serviceable as Flint but is given little to do and missing his trademark beret. Adrianne Palicki is good as Lady Jaye but not as memorable as Scarlett in the last film. Bruce Willis looks like he’s having fun as the original Joe. Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes are super cool as always, but a little less so than in the first movie. There are some illogical plot points and the dialog in places is a bit too on-the-nose but you have to remember that the movie is based on a cartoon property so cut it some slack. Overall I would suggest you see Retaliation if you are a fan of G.I. Joe or a fan of action movies. It is a movie I will certainly be adding to my collection.
The good thing is that there are a plethora of G.I. Joes that we still have not seen and that can pop up in the next movie. We can see Gung-Ho (which had only a brief cameo in the first movie), Shipwreck, Cover Girl, the Cobra twins, Bazooka, Wild-Bill and Spirit to name a few. I also request that Destro and the Baroness return. In addition, don’t be afraid to make Cobra Commander a little whinny and cowardly; that is what makes him sort of endearing and more fun to foil.
Where’s the Flint love in this poster?
How does one even begin to start writing a novel or any kind of long narrative when they have never attempted it before? I have been asked various forms of this question a number of times in the past. Before I attempt to make an answer here, let me first say that I am by no means an expert. I have abandoned more novels than I have finished. I am not yet published. However, with each writing you finish or attempt to finish you learn something new about the craft.
I just heard a noise outside my bunker. I will return shortly.
Sorry for that brief interruption. It was only the wind knocking the thick reeds against the wall. You can’t be too careful out here in the Lightning Marsh. Where was I? Oh yes, what I have learned so far in practicing my craft. It starts with an idea.
No doubt many of you have at least one idea that you believe would make a good story. My ideas usually end up in one of two categories; character or plot. I may build a plot around a particularly interesting character or build a character from a cracker jack plot. When creating a character, be certain that you know that character inside and out. You need to know why they do the things they do, what they like to eat for breakfast, what they do with their free time, where they came from…you get the idea. Building a character from scratch often presents a story for them to be in. When you build a plot be certain to keep it short at first. You want to be able to explain the core of the plot within one or two sentences.
Once I have a plot or character, I get into the reeds of the story I want to tell. What genre is it? Is this something that would work as a screenplay or novel or comic book? Who are the supporting characters? At this stage I write out a description of the entire story from beginning to end. I know that everything I write in this outline can and will change but it helps to have a map to assist in navigating through the story I write. Everyone will outline differently. Some will write extensive outlines of several pages and some will write only a page or two, like me. I tend to also write brief outlines of each upcoming chapter before I write them. To each his own.
This stage is also a good time to begin writing to your strengths. Writing a prolonged story is difficult and takes patience and fortitude. You want to be writing something you love. Never write something just because you think it will be popular or make a ton of money, write something that brings you joy. I try to write something I would want to read if I saw a synopsis of it on the back of a book or watch if I saw the movie trailer for. One of the most quoted writing advice is to write what you know. I say to write what you love and you will find that you know a lot about it.
It also helps to know your weaknesses. Often you will find this by trial and error. Many of my unfinished novels or screenplays are because I attempted to write something that was not tailored to my strengths. Don’t be afraid to stop writing and retool something if you find it just isn’t working and you come to know why it isn’t. I found that I am not very good at stories with huge stakes where the fate of the entire world or galaxy is in danger of exploding into nothing. I am much more at ease with stories with smaller more personal stakes. Big or small, there must always be something at stake.
Well, that was a lot more than I planned to write. That’s all for now. I must rest before the lighting fog hits. Take care.
You often have a lot of time to think about things when on watch at the front lines. You try not to think of what hideaous monstrosity may lie just inside the edge of darkness and divert your attention elsewhere. What if the world fell away at that darkness? Was that a bat or a bird? Do my socks match today? What if a Frankenstein monster fought for the good guys or ghouls? He would probably become an agent for a secret government agency with a cool acronym and get to fight alongside other monsters and save the world. That’s what writer Jeff Lemire and artist Alberto Ponticelli envisioned for the comic book Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Go get ‘em Frank.
This particular comic book was launched during the new 52 reboot of DC and you’re probably wondering what S.H.A.D.E. stands for; Super Human Advanced Defense Executive, a military operation that investigates, assesses and contains paranormal and superhuman activity. The agency is run by a little girl called Father Time and Frank has such brothers in arms as the fish creature Dr. Nina Mazursky, the mummy Khalis, winged vampire Velcoro, Frankenstein’s bride and a werewolf. I wouldn’t mind having that sort of team on my side down here for sure.
Is it weird? Yeah. Is it awesome?Yeah. is it canceled? Yeah.
The series lasted 16 issues and was promptly dumped. Never any love for the good monsters. I would be remiss in mentioning that writer Matt Kindt took the reigns of the series for the last half. He did a wonderful job but it didn’t have the same zing that Jeff gave it. The fabulous art was always by Alberto for the whole series and his line work was expressively frantic and yet elegant. If a hardcover collection is made of the series, hold one for me at the castle and grab one for yourself as well. If you attend the upcoming Planet Comicon in Kansas City, you can even get Matt to sign it for you.
I like to think Frankenstein is still out there, roaming the hillside and saving the world. What is a canceled series to a being that death itself cannot seem to claim.