Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Superhero ABCs: Letter K

K is for Kal-El.

Casual fans know him better by his earth names, Superman/Clark Kent. Kal-El is the Kryptonian birth name of the Man of Steel. Really, I'm cheating on this one, using "K" for Superman to accommodate some other heroes on this list.

Superman is one of the highest-profile superheroes in my Superhero ABC's; his creation ushered in a new breed of comics and heroes. Often imitated but seldom topped, he's the embodiment of the "flights and tights" school of superherodom, a 1930s creation who has endured into the 21st century with the ideals of "truth, justice, and the American way." He embodies virtue and goodness, and can be a bit of a Boy Scout. Thanks to his upbringing in Kansas by his adoptive parents, he also brings a dose of Midwestern common sense.

Superman has given us one of the first truly great comic book movies (Richard Donner's iconic Superman from 1978) and a truly memorable "event" storyline (the Death of Superman saga from 1993).

The hero possesses numerous abilities, ranging from flight to super-strength, X-ray vision, and (in most cases) invulnerability. He is susceptible to magic attacks, but his biggest weakness is to Kryptonite, crystalline debris left over from the destruction of his home planet.

Tomorrow: Damsel in distress by default. Feisty by nature.

Previous Entries:

J is for J'onn J'onzz
I is for Iron Man
H is for the Human Bullet
G is for Green Lantern
F is for the Flash
E is for Events
D is for Dr. Fate
C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Monday, January 30, 2012

Superhero ABCs: Letter J

J is for J'onn J'onzz.

J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, has been a key part of the Justice League for several decades. The lone survivor of a Martian Holocaust, he was transported to earth following a lab accident involving an earth scientist. From a powers standpoint, he is quite versatile, displaying many of the same abilities as Superman while adding other talents like shape shifting, invisibility, and telepathy/telekinesis.

In the Justice League cartoon, Martian Manhunter is at the helm of the Watchtower, often providing operational support and information to other members of the League. Of course, he gets to mix it up every once in a while to show off his multiple abilities.

A widower, J'onn J'onzz has a significant weakness in his fear of fire. Over the years, this weakness has taken the form of a true physical threat (i.e., fire is deadly to Martians as a race) and psychological one (i.e., fire paralyzes the hero's ability to think and perform his duties due to fire-related psychological trauma).

Tomorrow: The Last Son of Krypton.

Previous Entries:

I is for Iron Man
H is for the Human Bullet
G is for Green Lantern
F is for the Flash
E is for Events
D is for Dr. Fate
C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ode to a Writing Chair

In 2004, after moving into a new apartment, my brother and I worked together to assemble an office chair. By "work together," I mean we fought and argued and threatened to throw things at one another because the instructions (obviously translated from English to Japanese and then back into English, Jimmy James, Macho Business Donkey Wrestler-style) didn't make any sense. The Adams boys are more skilled at writing than handyman work, and we struggled to assemble the darn thing. My girlfriend (who later, miraculously, ended up marrying me) sat, horrified, watching as her future husband and brother-in-law fussed and fought and argued over this seemingly simple task.

Eventually, we got it together. Back then, the leather was crisp, the chair smelled somewhat sophisticated, there was no creaking, and the chair's lift mechanism worked like a charm.

The chair that almost started an Adams Civil War survived two different apartments and several years in our condo. However, the leather is now beaten and split, the chair no longer smells somewhat sophisticated, there is creaking, and the lift mechanism no longer works.

So today, I said goodbye to my good friend, my very first writing chair. Together we started seven novels (and finished five of them, including what will soon be my first published novel) and wrote more than 40 short stories (about a dozen published, several more rejected).

Thanks, Old Friend.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Superhero ABCs: Letter I

I is for Iron Man.

The ol' Shellhead is a Marvel Comics staple: a member of the Avengers, a talented scientist, a womanizer, and a drunk. I've always liked Iron Man, but the character didn't get the attention he truly deserved until the 2008 movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as a pitch-perfect Tony Stark/Iron Man. The sequel was a convoluted mess, but Downey is so good in that role!

Stark is a billionaire playboy and heir to his father's company, Stark Industries. His origin story has been tweaked over the years, but basically Stark gets injured and captured during a battle. As shrapnel races toward his heart, another captured scientist named Yinsen builds an electromagnet that keeps the shrapnel from piercing Stark's heart. Eventually the two men assemble a crude battle suit that allows Stark to escape.

Upon returning to civilization, Stark wages a war on those who would misuse his company's weapons. He fights against arch-enemies like the Mandarin, Titanium Man, and the Crimson Dynamo.

One thing I've always liked about Iron Man is his Hall of Armor, a vast collection of specialized armors designed for any conceivable situation. Iron Man's alternate suits include armors fit for duty in extreme environments like the arctic, underwater, and space. He also keeps a set of Hulkbuster armor around just in case he needs to, you know, fight the Hulk.

Monday: A survivor who's afraid of fire.

Previous Entries:

H is for the Human Bullet
G is for Green Lantern
F is for the Flash
E is for Events
D is for Dr. Fate
C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Thursday, January 26, 2012

REVIEW: Empire State

I can't explain why I was so excited about EMPIRE STATE. Perhaps it's because I write superhero fiction and was elated to see someone else writing it. Perhaps it's because of the gorgeous cover.

I don't know.

I pre-ordered the book for my Kindle and waited eagerly until it was auto delivered on December 27th. It didn't take me long to finish it.

EMPIRE STATE is the debut novel from Adam Christopher published by Angry Robot Books. Adam was kind enough to submit to one of my "Take Five" interviews, which you will find at the end of this review.

First of all, I expected superheroes from EMPIRE STATE. And while the book includes superheroes, they're not the primary focus. The novel is a "mash-up" of various genres. Yet, at its heart, it's a noir/murder mystery with a lot of pulpy sci-fi thrown in for good effect.

EMPIRE STATE tells the story of detective Rad Bradley, your typical hard-drinking, trenchcoat-wearing private eye. When a mysterious woman comes to Rad's office and pleads with him to take on a missing persons case, Rad accepts. What follows is a trippy journey involving parallel worlds, superheroes, cults, robots, Prohibition-era New York, an undefinable "Enemy," and a doomsday plot.

Rad, you see, lives in the Empire State, a dark, atmospheric take on New York City. No one leaves the Empire State. Ever. It's always wartime, the city's always foggy and dark, and nothing seems to add up. Of course, Rad doesn't realize this until he begins investigating the case. He encounters his own doppleganger, travels to the "real" New York, and discovers the truth about the Empire State: it exists, but it shouldn't.

Turns out Rad is an echo of someone else...just like the Empire State is an echo of the "real" New York. Now, someone wants to destroy the bridge linking the two realities, an act that could destroy the Empire State, New York, and the world. Rad resolves to stop it, although it becomes abundantly clear that he can't trust anyone (not even himself!).

The tension builds throughout the book as the scope of the mystery becomes clearer. Rad encounters robots, great airships called ironclads, a strange cult leader, and two rocket-powered superheroes.

And, just when you think you and Rad have it all figured out, it turns out you don't.

Because nothing is ever as it seems in the Empire State.

The book shoots high and hits most of its targets. It's by no means perfect, but I don't think I've ever encountered a perfect novel. I found it fun, engaging, and nostalgic. I think it will appeal to fans of pulpy detective stories, science fiction lovers, and open-minded mystery lovers.

-Superheroes. With rocket boots.
-Thugs. With gas masks.
-atmospheric take on NYC via Empire State is terrific; both worlds are tied together but remain distinct
-good building of mystery and satisfying reveal
-a few nice little "nods" here and there to other works via locations and characters' names
-really liked the character of the Captain
-no one in the book is particularly trustworthy; readers should be prepared for a bounty of twists and double crosses
-fun, genre-bending, page-turning read

-the main "villain" seems to, in some ways, come out of left field
-some readers will be left scratching their heads at the origins of the Fissure and some of the inconsistencies between characters and their parallel universe alter egos
-things get a little convoluted toward the end
-be prepared for much "sniggering" -- although the word is not used excessively, I encountered it enough times that it stuck in my mind


EMPIRE STATE reaches the rarefied air of Field of Dreams on the Ray Liotta Quality Meter (a brief explanation of the Ray Liotta Quality Meter).

QUESTION: It's hard to pin down a genre for EMPIRE STATE because there are a lot of different elements woven throughout the book. Where would you place it?

ADAM CHRISTOPHER: I think it's a science fiction noir, but it has elements of steampunk and fantasy too. But the central concept is science fiction - it might be wooly, fantastical, unscientific science fiction, but that still counts!

QUESTION: I'm fascinated by parallel universes, and I don't think I'm giving much away by saying you juggle two distinct "worlds" in this book. What attracts you to parallel realities?

ADAM CHRISTOPHER: Parallel universes are a fascination for me too - I love the idea that there are other realities with an infinite number of possibilities. Every day we make decisions and have thoughts that take us down one path - but what of the alternatives? I my love for alternate realities actually came from Doctor Who, originally. I was introduced to this series when I was 7 and New Zealand television was starting a big repeat run, starting with the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. In one of his stories, Inferno, he travels sideways in time to an alternate version of Britain, where the Nazis won the Second World War and all his friends from UNIT are fascists.

Parallel universes are certainly a recurring theme in my work! Places that are the same, but not - here, but not here. I love that kind of concept!

QUESTION: Superheroes, it seems, LOVE New York (or some version of it). What made it the perfect setting for the novel?

ADAM CHRISTOPHER: There were a couple of reasons - I wanted to write a period detective piece and include Prohibition, so I knew it needed to be set in a big, familiar American city. New York in the 1930s was also the birthplace of modern superhero comics, so the two ideas came together and New York it was!

Plus New York is so familiar and iconic, and I love the state's nickname - the Empire State. It seems so grand and mysterious... and it makes a great name for a novel!

QUESTION: Detective Rad Bradley is the heart of the book. How did he develop throughout your writing process?

ADAM CHRISTOPHER: I was lucky with Rad - he appeared, pretty much fully formed, before I even started thinking about the book. The name came from a mistyped Amazon search - I was looking for Ray Bradbury, but as soon as I saw the typo I had this image of a tough private detective, maybe an ex-boxer who's a little older and out of shape. But someone tough, hardboiled, loyal, who would fight for what he thinks is right.

He was a lot of fun to write! I must say I feel sorry for him a little - the things he has to go through! His world is turned upside down and inside out in the course of the book!

QUESTION: What are some of the books/movies that influenced the feel of EMPIRE STATE?

ADAM CHRISTOPHER: I'm a big comics fan and obviously Empire State owes a lot to that - particularly the work of Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, two fantastic writers who have worked in both superhero and crime genres (incidentally, the two genres I think work best in comics). There's a lot of classic detective fiction in there too - the likes of Raymond Chandler, etc. In fact, I see Empire State as sort of "Raymond Chandler meets The Rocketeer in Gotham City," which is a little long for an elevator pitch, but seems to sum it up quite well!

BONUS QUESTION: What's your next project? What are you working on at the moment?

ADAM CHRISTOPHER: My second novel, Seven Wonders - a big, spandex-clad superhero epic, is out in September 2012. Other than that, I have a number of other projects on the go, so we'll have to see - more information when I have it!

EMPIRE STATE is available at most major retailers and e-tailers, including Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. You can also get it through the publisher, Angry Robot

Follow Adam on Twitter @ghostfinder

You can read Adam's musings on his blog HERE

I bought and read the Kindle version for this review and conducted the interview through email. Special thanks to Adam Christopher for his time!

Superhero ABCs: Letter H

H is for Human Bullet.

Sometimes it seems like certain heroes are good for one thing and one thing only. I mean...Aquaman. Seriously. Iceman makes...ice. He's great when you need a snow cone. You get the point.

That's why I've always felt the Human Bullet is one of the greatest superhero parody characters of all time. I know it's a one-note gag, but it's a heckuva note. When danger lurks, the Human Bullet leaps into his cannon, and with the help of his son Fire Me Boy, he rockets into the sky to stop the threat. Of course, the Human Bullet usually slams into something inconsequential, but every once in a while he manages to help a little.

I sure hope the Tick appreciates this guy's dedication to his job. And you have to feel for his poor wife.

Tomorrow: It's killing him, but it's keeping him alive. He can be a bit of a teetotaler.

Previous Entries:

G is for Green Lantern
F is for the Flash
E is for Events
D is for Dr. Fate
C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Superhero ABCs: Googly, Baby!

Perhaps G isn't for Green Lantern after all.

Perhaps, and I could be wrong about this, but perhaps G should be for Googly Eyes.

I can't claim the inspiration here; Dwain Smith came up with the zany idea to add googly eyes to classic X-Men covers. The results are...suitably amusing!

You can find lots more X-Men with Googly Eyes at Dwain's Tumblr blog...appropriately titled X-Men with Googly Eyes.

Superhero ABCs: Letter G

G is for Green Lantern.

In brightest day, in blackest night
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power... Green Lantern's light!
So, yeah, Green Lantern started out as a railroad engineer dressed in a predominantly red costume.

Years later, he would become Ryan Reynolds in a predominantly fake costume.

In all seriousness, I like the Green Lantern because the character shows us there's more "out there" than just earth. Sure, Superman is an alien, Martian Manhunter is an alien, but Green Lantern gives the DC Universe a certain sense of scope. The Corps is basically an intergalactic police/peacekeeping force where members deemed worthy of power rings patrol and protect different sectors.

The Lanterns have a great oath and a snazzy logo. There are thousands of members representing different races across the universe. Those who don power rings are limited only in their willpower and imagination in what the ring can do.

Tomorrow: Fire me, boy!

Previous Entries:

F is for the Flash
E is for Events
D is for Dr. Fate
C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Superhero ABCs: Letter F

F is for the Flash.

Ah, the Flash. This is a hero I've always enjoyed, a super-speedster with quick wits and a great super-suit. My first introduction to the character was the 1990s CBS show (yes, the one that featured Mark Hamill as a guest star villain). Subsequent Flash adventures included stints on the Justice League cartoon as well as Batman: Brave and the Bold. I also liked the incarnation of the character in the DC Justice League: New Frontier movie.

Super-speed is one of my favorite superpowers, and I'd be a complete lunatic if I tried to claim that the Flash didn't serve as an influence for my hero, Crimsonstreak. I wrote a fast-talking superhero who wears red. In my book, Crimsonstreak's the fastest being ever to exist. Even the character's name can be seen as a nod to the Flash's secondary moniker (the Scarlet Speedster). The characters have completely different backgrounds, but I definitely leaned on the Flash as an archetype for my character.

Tomorrow: In brightest day, in blackest night...

Previous Entries:

E is for Events
D is for Dr. Fate
C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Broken! For Free!

An absolutely insane deal today from my publisher, Candlemark & Gleam.

To celebrate the release of Fly into Fire, C&G is giving away the first book in Susan Jane Bigelow's Extrahumans series. That book is Broken and that book happens to be a great read.

It's free.

Absolutely friggin' free.

Grab a copy today (January 24) only! You can get it here.

And to celebrate your free book, buy a copy of Fly into Fire. You'll want to read it next anyway. Think of it as getting two books for half price. Or as a buy one, get one free.

Either way, just do it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Absolution" in "Best of" Anthology

One of the first times I ever got paid for a story was at Wily Writers Podcast. Now, one of my favorite short stories, "Absolution," is part of a "best of" anthology covering some of the publication's favorite stories from last year! It's a thrill to be a part of it, and I encourage everyone to check it out. Wily is very choosy (the publication sets a submission theme for the month and then selects just two stories), and the stories are all terrific!

If you'd like to learn more, you'll find more information about the anthology at the Wily Writers Podcast website.

Superhero ABCs: Letter E

E is for Events.

Sometimes a character needs a shot in the arm. Sometimes your continuity has become so convoluted, you decide it's time to start fresh. Sometimes you need to attract attention by killing a fan favorite.

These are just a few of the reasons comic book companies publish "events." At the end of the day, they give us multi-issue, multi-series story arcs in hopes of selling more comics. That's what "events" are for superheroes: a way to utilize popular characters in a way that engages readers and sells more comic books. You can't tell me this isn't the reason we see things like One More Day and Blackest Night. You can't tell me that isn't the reason DC killed Superman or Marvel "assassinated" Captain America.

It's a cynical outlook, but it's also true. Yet, events also give us some of the most famous images in all of superhero-dom. When Superman died, the cover gave everyone the chills; Superman's tattered cape fluttering in the dead wind. Batman getting snapped like a Kit Kat over Bane's knee. These are images that stay with readers. One of the most famous events, Crisis on Infinite Earths, was a way for DC to eliminate decades upon decades of confusing and sometimes conflicting continuity.

An "event" comic often comes with a few key points:

1) the world/universe is threatened
2) minor characters die in the beginning to show the threat is real
3) a hallmark character dies near the end to prove the threat is real
4) the status quo appears to change once the threat is defeated through teamwork
5) it won't be long until the status quo becomes the status quo again

That's a loose guideline and not every event follows suit, but the ones I've read seem to include those elements. Knightfall, for example, doesn't involve a world-ending threat (it's Bats vs. Big Bad Bane), although the future of Gotham City and the mantle of the Batman are on the line.

Sure, events are intended to sell comics, and some of them can be disappointing. However, it's usually a lot of fun to see most of the major heroes and villains come out of the woodwork for one grand adventure.

Tomorrow: He wears red. Blink and you'll miss him.

Previous Entries:

D is for Dr. Fate
C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Friday, January 20, 2012

Superhero ABCs: Letter D

D is for Doctor Fate.

I could've gone with Daredevil. Heck, I could've gone with Darkwing Duck.

Fact is, they're both more recognizable to non-comics fans than Dr. Fate. After all, Ben Affleck played Daredevil in a movie that did relatively well at the box office. Darkwing Duck had his own cartoon.

I picked Dr. Fate for a very specific reason. He represents heroes who weren't doused by gamma rays or bitten by a radioactive spider. He's no tech expert in a suit or armor; no scientifically-enhanced super soldier.

Dr. Fate represents a different side of the superhero continuum, and an important one at that. He embodies the magical, mystical side of comic books. The character's history is convoluted, but if you boil it down to its most basic parts, the Helm of Nabu endows the wearer with magical powers. This comes at a cost, of course, as Dr. Fate is a kind of amalgamation of the personalities of both the wearer and the source of the helmet's power, an ancient wizard named Nabu.

Dr. Fate is a powerful character, and my experience with him is mostly tied to his appearances in the Justice League cartoon series. I think he also made an appearance on Batman: Brave and the Bold as well. I found Dr. Fate to be an interesting character, and thought he had an interesting (if, as mentioned earlier, convoluted) history.

For the purposes of my Superhero ABC's, Dr. Fate stands in for those heroes who use magic. There are others who could've stood in. Captain Marvel, while very Superman-like, is also a magical character in many ways. You've got the magicians Zatara and Zatana. And then you've got Doctor Strange, Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme. To be honest, I almost went with Dr. Strange for this one, but I just like Dr. Fate a little bit more.

It was a close call, actually. A character in my novel, the Amazing Merrick, represents the magic wielders in I, Crimsonstreak. He's probably closer to Zatara than Fate or Strange. But Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum directly influenced the Batcave-like lair of another hero, the Crusading Comet. So when you step into the Sanctum Cometus, you'll know where the idea came from.

Monday: You can't sell a few comics without breaking Batman's back. Or killing Superman. Or pitting Iron Man against Captain America...

Previous Entries:

C is for Captain America
B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Superhero ABC's: Letter C

Thursday brings us to the letter C.

C is for Captain America!

I've always had a soft spot for Cap. It started way back in middle school, when the videogame "Captain America and the Avengers" came out. At the time, I had a paper route and saved my money so I could get the game for the Sega Genesis. I played through "Captain America and the Avengers" a lot. Actually, my brother and I were awesome at that game, with my brother as Iron Man and me as Captain America. I think we could beat that game without losing a single life.

So, I've always liked Captain America, a character who represents a favorite theme of science fiction: the man out of time. In the comics (and the movie adaptation previews this for the upcoming Avengers movie), Cap saves the world, falls from the sky, and gets frozen in ice. He's awakened decades later to find the world has changed more than he ever imagined. Most of his friends are gone; the ones who are still alive are advanced in age, and Cap has a sense of loneliness few can empathize with.

Before he was Captain America, he was simply Steve Rogers, a sickly kid who couldn't fight for his country even though he wanted to. He volunteers for an experiment, and with the power of the Super-Soldier Serum, scrawny Steve transforms into a perfectly-toned superhuman with enhanced strength and speed. He helps the Allies win World War II before stopping a doomsday plot and presumably dying. Steve Rogers isn't the type to give up so easily, and he remains in suspended animation until the day someone comes to find him.

A born leader, Captain America holds true to traditional American values and is the natural choice to serve as the eventual leader of the Avengers. Of course, he has to contend with other heroes who think they know a lot more and grapple with his own self doubts as a man out of time.

Oh, and the shield? AWESOME.

Tomorrow: Are you worthy of the Helm of Nabu?

Previous Entries:

B is for Batman
A is for The Avengers

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Superhero ABCs: Letter B

Wednesday brings us Day Two of my Superhero ABCs.

I'm Batman.

I don't think any superhero has defined the genre more than the Dark Knight. He's been on the top of the world in every medium, from movies to TV to videogames. Everybody knows something about the cape & cowl, whether it's the Bat-Signal, Commissioner Gordon, or Robin.

One of the characters in my book is loosely based on the Caped Crusader. He's called the Crusading Comet, and in the world of I, Crimsonstreak, he's a hero who takes himself a little too seriously at times. You really can't have a great superhero story without making a few nods to Batman. He's got a fantastic origin story, his costume (Crimsonstreak would kill me for failing to call it a "uniform") is spot-on, and he boasts the best gallery of rogues in all of superherodom. His supporting characters are equally memorable.

Batman is a flawed character, a vigilante so hellbent on dispensing justice that he sometimes forgets the reason he's doing all this. I don't mean he forgets the dark night when his mother and father were murdered; I mean Batman sometimes fails to embrace his own humanity in his single-minded quest to stop crime. He's so obsessed with ridding the streets of grime and corruption that he overlooks the qualities and foibles that make us human. This Batman persona is him, while his "real identity" (Bruce Wayne) is more of a mask than anything else.

Batman is also a flexible character. He can be the one-man army. He can be the detective who tracks down a mystery. He can be the nightmare lurking in the shadows. He can be the swinging-from-the-rooftop type. And, when Adam West is involved, he can be the greatest superhero parody in comic book lore.

Tomorrow: The Star-Spangled Man with a Plan!

Previous Entries:

A is for The Avengers!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Superhero ABCs: Letter A

Day 1 of my Superhero ABC's starts, of course, with "A."

It's a very good place to start!

A is for The Avengers. Sorry for those of you expecting Aquaman.

Yes, yes. I know. Everyone's excited about the movie. We should be! After all, we get to see Thor, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and AGENT COULSON on the big screen together!

However, I'm not really writing about the Avengers here. I mean...I am, but I'm not. The group started in the 1960s when Marvel wanted to put some of its top-selling characters together. Since the original lineup (Iron Man, Ant-Man, Thor, Wasp, the Hulk, and eventually Cap), the makeup of the Avengers has changed too many times to count. I believe Wolverine and Spider-Man have joined the group from time to time.

For the purposes of my Superhero ABC's, the group represents a favorite trope of the comic book world: the superteam. We see this time and time again, although the two most famous groups are Marvel's Avengers and DC's Justice League. Each team boasts varied lineups based on storylines, current comics in circulation, and other factors.

From a fan's perspective, there's nothing better than taking popular heroes and throwing them together for a great, epic adventure. The Avengers and Justice League both feed this fantasy to see how the big egos and personalities will play off one another. Group members sometimes clash and disagree on the best course of action before their more heroic instincts kick in. At the end of the day, they usually save the planet together.

TOMORROW: "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot..."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Introducing Superhero ABC's

I did it with Star Wars. I did it with writing. I'll also do it for my upcoming novel, I, Crimsonstreak.

But before that, I proudly present my Superhero ABC's. Over the next few weeks, I'll be running through the alphabet to explore some epic superhero-y goodness. The criteria for this is fairly random. I'm throwing characters in here who are familiar to me. I have to have seen that character in a comic, movie, or cartoon. And it's not all about characters, either. In some cases, I'll discuss a theme or comic trope that fits with a certain letter.

So expect a little bit Marvel, and a little bit DC, with a few other things thrown in there for fun.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting closer!

It's not here yet, but I'm getting more and more excited about the release of I, Crimsonstreak. I turned in my "final" revisions this week, but we all know there's probably still at least a little bit of work ahead. I didn't make any major changes in the revised copy, which is mostly just little tweaks of different parts and scenes of the book. The bulk of the work was trying to make sure my carefully crafted background information all tied together. I'm not completely there, but it's very, very close.

One thing I like about Candlemark & Gleam is the publisher's approach to pre-orders. It's pretty cool...they use everyone's favorite crowdsourcing website, Kickstarter, and offer incentives to people who pre-order the book. There are different tiers for these extras, and some of them are very, very cool. For example--and I can't stress enough that these are EXAMPLES--let's say you kick in ten bucks. That could get you a print copy of the book plus the ebook version and a digital short story. Kick in $50 bucks, you'd get a signed paperback version, the ebook, a poster, membership card to the group of your choice (the evil New World Common Wealth of the benevolent Heroic Legion), a collection of Crimsonstreak short stories, and an archival edition of one of the newspaper articles featured in the book.

The great thing about pre-orders is the more you give, the more you get...while helping the project get off the ground.

The Mastermind (Kate Sullivan of Candlemark & Gleam) asked me today to come up with a few ideas for some pre-order bonuses. I made this rather extensive list of absurd possibilities and sent it to her. I won't share my ideas just yet, but I think we're going to have a lot of fun coming up with this stuff.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Seven Great Movie Deaths

My wife and I watched Lord of the Rings the other day, an act that spurred a debate on great movie deaths. A year or so ago, we came up with a list of dramatic deaths in movies we liked, so I decided to blog about it today.

As I started to put the list down, I realized most of these deaths involve some kind of noble sacrifice. Thus, I have concluded that a noble sacrifice makes for a great movie death.

Leonidas, 300 - Gerard Butler is awesome in this movie, a fictional retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae via Frank Miller's graphic novel 300. Somehow, this movie is both glitzy and gritty at the same time, but the star of the show is Butler's Leonidas. In the end, he refuses to bow before Xerxes, unleashing a final act of defiance that just misses its mark. Leonidas goes down in a blaze of glory (translation: arrows that blot out the sun), a strong character made legendary by sacrificing himself for his people.

Boromir, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Sean Bean is awesome. This is a verifiable fact. NOT an opinion, people. Boromir's death in The Fellowship of the Ring may be the best movie death in history. Here's Boromir, the flawed warrior who tried to take the One Ring from Frodo, rising to protect Merry and Pippin. He takes an arrow to the chest, and it looks like it's all over.

Not so fast!

Through sheer will, Boromir comes to his feet time and time again, taking a few Uruk-hai with him in the process. The odds are too great for him to survive, and the hobbits are eventually kidnapped. Still, Boromir manages to redeem himself, holding on long enough to part on good terms with Aragorn.

Katsumoto, The Last Samurai - This is a beautiful end. Katsumoto, branded a rebel by a government looking to modernize, dies in battle. Mortally wounded, he wants to end it to the Old Way, and does so with help from his friend and ally, Nathan Algren. The two formerly bitter enemies share a dramatic moment on the battlefield, and as the light leaves Katsumoto's eyes, he utters: "Perfect. They are all...perfect."

Almost better is this exchange during the ending:

Emperor: Tell me how he died.
Nathan Algren: I will tell you how he lived.

Maximus, Gladiator - Of course, the scheming Commodus tries to rig the final fight against the general who became a slave who became a gladiator. As he did in nearly everything, Commodus fails miserably, meeting his own death at the hands of Maximus. But Maximus Decimus Meridius still suffers mortal wounds.

After slaying the emperor, the gladiator makes a few simple requests, saying, "Quintus! Release my men. Senator Gracchus is to be reinstated. There was a dream that was Rome. It shall be realized. These are the wishes of Marcus Aurelius."

Shortly after that, Maximus collapses, finds himself wandering in a wheat field, and reunites with his departed family.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars - Darth Vader is "only a master of evil," and Obi-Wan Kenobi warns his former friend, "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

As the old friends duel, Obi-Wan spots Luke Skywalker. A smile passes over his lips as he cedes the fight to his former apprentice. Obi-Wan is down, but not done. And the galaxy far, far away has a new hope.

Rorschach, Watchmen - Rorschach's dogged pursuit of the truth ends with an unnerving revelation: the World's Smartest Man, Ozymandias, has committed wholesale slaughter in a misguided attempt to save the world.

Misguided? Perhaps, but it's effective. Ozymandias accomplishes exactly what he set out to do, but Rorschach wants to tell people the truth.

"Never compromise, not even in the face of Armageddon," the masked avenger says.

Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan realize they have a problem; if Rorschach talks, the world will never band together. And so Rorschach, reserved to his fate, removes his mask and stares down Dr. Manhattan.

"So what are you waiting for? Do it."

And with that, Rorschach is no more.

At least he left behind a journal.

Spock, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Spock's end in Wrath of Khan is simply amazing. Two friends get a final moment together, even though a wall separates them. The Vulcan has sacrificed himself to save the crew of the Enterprise, finding a way to win an impossible situation at an unimaginable price.

"Ship out of danger."

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

"I have been and always shall be your friend."

And so Admiral Kirk loses his best friend, reminding us all that, "of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most...human."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Antho Now Available!

Live and Let Undead is now available on Amazon.com! This anthology was spared by Library of the Living Dead Press. Two others, Attack of the 50FT Book and Beta City, were cancelled. I'd signed the contract for a story in 50FT and had a hold request for a story for Beta City.

Zombies aren't exactly my thing, but this antho gave me a chance to stretch my writing muscles a bit. I didn't go for the typical brain-eating zombie in my story, instead writing about a zombie trained to detect bombs and other hazardous materials coming through our ports.

Here's a quick summary of my story, Sparky Save the World:
Harris and his bomb-sniffing partner Sparky work to stop biological weapons and other dangers from going through the nation's ports. Trained to detect hazardous materials, Sparky--an UNDEAD (UNnaturally DE-evolved Anthropological Degenerate) who used to be human--proves his ultimate worth when confronted with a massive, potentially catastrophic weapons shipment.
You can get the anthology through Amazon.

Anthology Blues

Just received a message today from the editor of the Attack of the 50FT Book anthology. Library of the Living Dead scuttled the antho, but the editor thought we'd saved it under a deal with Pill Hill Press. Unfortunately, that deal has fallen through and my story "Gus and Mariel" must now move from the "coming soon" to "stories looking for a home" section.

It's a shame. I really liked that story, a cute little tale about a building-size puffin who unwittingly goes on a nationwide rampage while trying to reunite with a lost love.

I'll try to find another place to submit this one, but since it was custom-tailored to a themed anthology about large creatures on rampages, that may prove difficult.

Coming Soon to the Blog

I finished Empire State from Angry Robot Books last week and have written my review. I'm waiting to hear back from author Adam Christopher, who was kind enough to grant me an interview. When he gets back to me, I'll post my review for Empire State and talk superheroes, noir, and more with Mr. Christopher.