Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Membership Drive: My Blog Needs Followers!

I WANT FOLLOWERS. And I’m not above bribery to get them. In order to entice people to follow my blog, rather than simply unashamedly asking, I’m going a step further and making a little contest of it. As some of you know, I wrote a short story that appeared in a mass market trade fantasy anthology by Fantasist Enterprises called Sails & Sorcery: Tales of Nautical Fantasy. This is a hefty book. It’s 456 pages of several best-selling authors (Paul Kemp, Elaine Cunningham, James Ward, etc.) presenting 28 short stories accented beautifully with 42 wonderful illustrations by Julie Dillon.

The contest is simple: Visit my blog and become a follower. The “followers” widget is in the righthand column ----->.

At the end of October, I will randomly draw THREE (3) followers who will receive a FREE signed copy of Sails & Sorcery. We’re talking about a high quality 6” x 9” paperback priced at $23 (ISBN: 0-9713608-9-8). So, how’s that for value? Easy enough, huh?

If you need further enticement, you can read some snippets of my Sails & Sorcery story, “Tisarian’s Treasure,” at Goodreads.com.

So, go forth, my friends, and CLICK FOLLOW!

--

Comic Review: Catwoman Dies by Will Pfeifer

catwoman_dies I've never read any Catwoman comics before, but Catwoman Vol. 7: Catwoman Dies was readily available at the local library so I picked it up, and I have to say I'm very happy I did. The first issue or so of this collected edition seems like I came into the series somewhere in the middle—which I did—but writer Will Pfeifer does an excellent job of drawing in the reader regardless of not knowing any backstory. You can pick up this edition and enjoy it from the get-go. By the time I closed the book, I was actually sad for Catwoman and now I want to know more. If I have the opportunity to pick up more issues, I most certainly will.

Some cool positives:

*Catwoman's on hiatus in the beginning, so a friend of hers named Holly is filling the "role." Holly finds she's in way over her head. Luckily, Selina Kyle (the original Catwoman) shows up soon enough to resume her leathers and cat'o'nine tails (translation: whip), pulling Holly's butt out of the proverbial fire.

*We're talking downright vicious villains, Blitzkrieg, an Amazon splinter group called The Bana, and especially killers-for-hire Hammer and Sickle. Talk about mean. None of these villains have any of what us regular folks call "redeeming qualities."

catwoman_dies_lopez_art*Catwoman's a mommy. The main thrust of this graphic novel is how Selina is adjusting to life as a mother, and when her identity is compromised, the baddies make it personal by coming after the only family she has, forcing Selina to get personal-er. I know, it sounds a lot like every Steven Seagal movie but, trust me, this is some great cinematic stuff here by artists David and Alvaro Lopez (Lopez art of Blitzkrieg, left).

*Batman. Yes, of course, ol' Bats makes a couple appearances. But Pfeifer does a good job of maintaining that this is Catwoman's title, not Batman's...although I did notice Selina leans on Bruce (and Alfred) quite a bit(Alfred basically ends up as a babysitter through quite a bit of the novel). Gotta say, there's an amazing gentleness about seeing the Caped Crusader cuddling a cooing six-month-old baby. Pfeifer includes an excellent scene to note: Selina is looking on as a smiling Bruce/Batman has his cowl pulled back and is holding her baby. It's 3 am as he stands in Selina's barren apartment, comforting her child, who's little hand is touching his chin. Selina narrates:

"See, here's the thing people don't get about Bruce. They think he's all about beating up badguys or striking terror into the hearts of the underworld. But that's not it. That's not it at all.

"When you get right down to it, when you take away the cape and the cowl and the capital 'T" in 'The Batman'...He's all about protecting the innocent."

Ultimately, Catwoman Dies is a story of sacrifice, and illustrates that Selina will stop at absolutely NOTHING to protect her baby girl. Let's just say it's a good thing the baby is too young to remember some of the stuff that went on around her while she was ga-ga-ing in her crib.

Highly recommended! I give it four stars. Or four cat’s paws. A MUCH better read than Frank Miller's All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder, which is absolute trash (see my review on Goodreads.com).

  • GoodReads link
  • Amazon link

    --

  • Friday, September 11, 2009

    Book Review: The Satan Factory by Tom Sniegoski

    51qYf7OE8bLLET ME MAKE IT CLEAR that I am a huge HUGE fan of writer R.E. Howard (1906-1936), and I have a deep fascination with all the pulp fiction of the '20s-'50s Weird Tales variety. This includes the works of Ashton-Smith, Leiber, Bradbury, C.L. Moore (Lovecraft not so much).

    That said, regarding Tom Sniegoski's work on Lobster Johnson: The Satan Factory, I have to say "wow!" Allow me to repeat: "WOW!" Mr. Sniegoski had me hooked from the get-go, opening up right away with a doctor by the name of Chapel who's on the lamb, hiding out in a Mexican cantina from his erstwhile mobster boss employer, drinking away his doldrums when suddenly the chase begins when some mob goons track Chapel down. It doesn't stop until page 203, which is the last page of this book's epilogue. Non-stop action, weird creatures, hard-knuckled fistacuffs, blazing .45's and Tommy guns, weird creatures, cloaks and goggles, chase scenes (on foot and in cars and trucks), and did I mention weird creatures (Sniegoski even uses the word "grotesquery," which happens to be a favorite of mine)?

    Lobster Johnson himself -- a creation by legendary comic book auteur Mike Mignola (Hellboy) -- is a man of legend himself, a mysterious crime fighter hell-bent on stamping out evil in all its forms. The story focuses mainly on a member of his team of secret agents, an ex-cop by the name of Jake Hurley, who has wallowed in his own misery far too long and has been given a chance by the Lobster for redemption. Hurley moves through the underbelly of NYC, keeping his eyes and ears open for the Lobster. And boy-oh-boy does he uncover the real action.

    Now, I will admit, technically, this book is more of a 4.5 than a true 5 for me, but I'm feeling generous so I'm rounding up. The only place the story really falls short, for me, is that there's no real explanation for who the Lobster is, or at least why he is the way he is. I realize he's been in a few comics in Mignola's Hellboy/B.P.R.D. universe, but not having read those I would have liked to have known more about the inscrutable Lobster, and I think a few pages dedicated to this wouldn't have been wasted on the uninitiated reader. So, in a way, he's one tough hombre, but a rather flat character in comparison to Hurley, mob bosses Fazzina and Red O'Neill, the main bad guy who I won't name (no spoilers here), or even the malformed little Mexican boy, Paco. In this story the Lobster is kinda like Batman without the angst.

    That having been said (well... written actually), Sniegoski's Lobster Johnson: The Satan Factory, perfectly apes the “Weird Tales” pulp era. This is a ripping good yarn that Howard himself would have loved. And that's about the highest praise I can give it. So 4.5 out of 5 stars. A great read and highly recommended!

    --

    Addendum 09/12/09: Mr. Sniegoski actually wrote to thank me for the review and I asked permission to reprint part of his e-mail. Here it is:

    “. . . in regard to your one complaint about not knowing the Lobster's backstory . . . he doesn't have one. Mike [Mignola] hasn't come up with it yet, and wants to be the one who tells it so basically I had to keep him completely mysterious . . . a force of nature so to speak. . .

    “. . . It's no secret that Mike wants to keep the Lobster a mystery until he's ready to reveal more. . .

    “. . . thanks so much for your kind words, and look forward to hearing what you have to say about some of my other stuff.”

    Monday, September 7, 2009

    Some Good Readin’

    There’s a Web site I’m digging lately. It’s called GoodReads. It’s basically, at least from my perspective, kind of like a social site like Facebook’s “Living Social” and a professional writer’s network/database deal like FiledBy got together one night, had a few too many drinks, ended up back at one or the other’s apartment, put on some Al Green, and nine months later stood beaming at the handsome little devil they’d somehow spawned.

    1209ec2 If you have a few free minutes, I suggest you check it out. I’ll start you off by sending you to my profile page. If you like what you see, shoot me a friend request. Then we’ll know what each other’s readin’ and writin’ all the time! Woo-hoo! Isn’t that a kick?

    Oh yeah, as a writer I especially like it because it let’s you (or me, actually) put up stories and/or samples of your (or my) work. Here’s a link to a snippet I put up from my short story that appeared in Fantasist Enterprises’ Sails & Sorcery: Tales of Nautical Fantasy.

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

    YEAH, OKAY, IT’S BEEN TWO MONTHS since my last post. Told you I’d be posting more frequently! Better than six months between posts, wouldn’t you agree?

    I have been busy, though. I managed to get through a couple more classes at school (Therapeutic Media and Functional Anatomy I) and pulled out another couple A’s out of them, so that’s something to be happy about. Family’s doing great. One kid’s vocabulary and reasoning skills are taking leaps and bounds everyday and he’s starting preschool next week (to my amazement and a little trepidation), and the other one is cutting teeth, sitting up, and learning to crawl. Life is good.

    My wife and I had a date night last week. That was a rare event, I can tell you. We ended up at the local IKEA, of all places, and walked around getting ideas for the kids’ rooms for about an hour, then hit the cafeteria. You can’t beat the Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce and Lingonberry Jam for $4.99. No way, no how, and darn tasty, too. Then we went over to the Rave cinema and took in a show: Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.

    You gotta realize going into a QT film what to expect. He’s going to give you skid-loads of crazy action, a winding storyline, snappy dialogue, irreverent characters, and lots and lots of gratuitous gore. And boy, did he deliver! My wife asked me as we were leaving if I liked it. I hesitated. She loved it, of course (anything with Brad Pitt in it and she’s on board), but I told her I’d have to let it “sink in a little.” I needed to let it gel on my brain for a while.

    On the drive home I told her it was a little tough for me to get past the gratuitous scenes (which I won’t spoil here), and I felt it would have been a stronger film without them. But that’s Tarantino’s bag. Which is probably why the Academy has him on some secret, unspoken blacklist, I’m sure. The guy’s completely unconventional. Too unconventional for the tastes of many of Hollywood’s elite. And maybe even for myself, a little bit. I respect him as an artist. I respect his love of all the old pulps, and martial arts movies, and grind house films. But I just can’t seem to take the guy too seriously. Then again, maybe that’s what he wants.

    inglourious_basterds_xl_07--film-AI certainly can’t take a film like Inglourious Basterds too seriously. I enjoyed Brad Pitt’s performance and two other standouts: Christoph Waltz, who was brilliant as Col. Hans Landa (this guy basically stole the movie), and Michael Fassbender as Lt. Archie Hicox (see left -- who wasn’t in the film enough, in my opinion, and who you may recognize from another film). There were other notable performances in the film, but no one else I’d mention by name save one: Mike Myers. You know, Austin Powers/Dr. Evil/Wayne/etc. What the hell was he doing in this film? His part was bit and weird and just out-of-place. Very unnecessary to cast him in the role of Gen. Ed Fenech. You or I could have played it. He was probably reading directly from the script, since his character had a dossier in his hands the entire three minutes he was actually on screen. Definitely not a credit-worthy cameo, certainly not like Tom Cruise in the outrageous un-Cruise-like role of Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder (which I won’t link to in case my mom reads this blog).

    So if you haven’t seen Inglourious Basterds, should you? Yes. Just be ready for your pulse to race as you anticipate what sort of psychological cinematic torture Tarantino’s about to heap up on you. It’s purely an exercise in extreme epicaricacy, and I’ll suggest it’s worth a matinee, maybe even full price, as long as you understand that it IS a Tarantino film you’re going to see. I think that was something I forgot until the “Bear Jew” emerged (at long last) from a dark tunnel with a baseball bat, feverish eyes, and an unthinkable “love for the game.” Oh, then I remembered real quick.

    Eli_Roth_in_Inglourious_Basterds_Wallpaper_5_800