Monday, December 17, 2012

Cyberpunk Pulp Adventure Returns!

Kat and Mouse are back!

Head over to the serial site to read "Entr'acte" now.

If you need to get started reading, get yourself a copy of the Season One "boxed set" for Kindle or for Nook/epub.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Giveaway Winner

And the winner is...

...everyone who commented!

lmw, Caroline Thompson, Karen Duvall, Karen/Sisters of the Quill, and Christian Marcus Lyons--you've each won a copy of Taking the Highway!

Congrats to our winners!

Friday, December 7, 2012

GUEST POST: "Crimes of the Future" by M.H. Mead

Today on the blog we have M.H. Mead, a fellow writer of near-future crime fiction, who just released a new novel, Taking the Highway.

Take it away, M.H.


*   *   *

Crimes of the Future
by Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion
writing together as M.H. Mead

All societies need laws. Since laws tell you what not to do, then they exist because some fool made them necessary. But laws change when society changes, mostly because enough people challenged the laws by breaking them. This is where we come in. Writers are always on the lookout for conflict and what better conflict than a hero at odds with his own world?

We're fascinated by characters who flout conventions, rebels who bend and break the strictures of a new society. We love writing about them because we often ponder how much easier—and maybe more fun—it would be to violate a law rather than follow it. (Harry, in particular, would like to see speed restrictions on the freeway limited by individual permit determined by a test of skill.) In real life, we consider the consequences and the greater good, and we obey the law. But we admit that we get a vicarious thrill when we let our characters break it.

Morris Payne of Fate’s Mirror is an online pirate who steals the privacy and security of other computer networks. Aidra Scott of The Caline Conspiracy is a mother trying to instill values in her son, but she’s also a private detective who will stoop to some B&E to close her case.

Now, in Taking the Highway, Andre LaCroix is a police officer and thus a defender of society. But he moonlights as a professional hitchhiker—or "fourth"—which means he's seen as an element of counter-culture.

In the newly-invigorated Detroit of the future, every highway is restricted to cars with four passengers. Those who come up short must either take surface streets through dangerous neighborhoods or hire fourths to complete their carpools. Part warm body, part social chameleon, fourths have become an accepted part of the commuting landscape. And if fourthing is seen as a bit unsavory, at least it’s an easy way to earn some extra cash. Or to end up dead. Someone is killing fourths and homicide detective Andre LaCroix seems to be the only one who cares. As a cop, he must solve the murders. As a fourth, he must avoid becoming the next victim.

Then LaCroix discovers that the dead fourths were terrorists sabotaging the highways, causing horrific crashes. Worse, his own nephew may be involved. Continuing the investigation paints a target on his family and leaves the terrorists free to strike again. Suddenly, he isn’t sure that bringing the killer to justice is the right thing to do.

Torn between upholding the law and breaking it for the greater good, it's only by combining his talents in both his jobs that LaCroix is able to triumph, and help fourths gain respect along the way.

Society will never be the same.


About the authors: Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion write near-future thrillers under the shared pen name M.H. Mead. To find out more about them, or Taking the Highway, or if you have a great key lime pie recipe to share, visit them at www.yangandcampion.com


Taking the Highway is available on Amazon, B&N, and Kobo.

*   *   *

GIVEAWAY TIME!!

Get an ebook copy of Taking the Highway. Just leave a comment below with your name/handle and a email address. You have until 8pm PST Sunday December 9th to get your comments in. Then we'll do a drawing and announce the winner on Monday's post.

Quick! Get your entries in!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Idle Toe, Devil's Foreskin (excerpt)" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in the January 2008 issue of Anagram Quarterly; from The Jericho Files collection]

Apothegameron's right toe crept out from beneath the blanket, opened a tiny slit of a mouth between the nail plate and the nail bed, let out a cackle, and began to sing "It's A Small World" in a minor key.

I leaped back from the edge of the bed as if I'd been slapped in the scrotum.

Sweet Mother of Zeus!

At that moment, I knew my retractable harpoon would not help me.

* * *

Skinner, my go-to info guy, had given me a tip about the story over the phone two days earlier.

"Place called Devil's Lake," he said. "North Dakota. About 90 miles west of Grand Forks."

"Kind of appropriate," I replied. "Being haunted and all."

"Nice place, Devil's Lake. They got a yearly fishing tournament over there. Run by the Volunteer Fire Department. Nice gig. If you're into that sort of thing."

"Didn't know you were the fishing type, Skin-Man."

"I'm not," he said. "But my brother is. Took me there a couple of times. I kept wanting to fish with grenades but he wouldn't have any of that. Said it was probably against the rules. Killjoy."

"Them's the breaks," I said.

"You'll want to meet someone there," Skinner went on. "A kind of an expert in that sort of thing. I've already told her you're gonna be there."

* * *

I landed at Devil's Lake Regional Airport in a nineteen-seater Beechcraft turbo-prop just after 9 a.m. It was 30 degrees in the shade and I was dressed for jungle country. After quickly donning a pair of long underwear and cargo pants in the airport bathroom, I rented a light gray Ford Taurus from the U-Save Auto Rental desk and drove two-and-a-half miles east to the Old Main Street Cafe and Pub Bar on 4th Street to meet my contact.

Jonquil Burkhardt was six-two with an athletic build, short dark curly hair, dressed in black under a black wool overcoat. She approached me as I stepped out of the car, one hand extended, the other carrying a dark brown leather attache case.

"Agent Burkhardt," she said in a soft contralto. "You must be Doctor Jericho."

I shook the proferred hand. "Burkhardt, eh? You sure it's not Ellen Ripley?"

She quirked a dark eyebrow at me. "You must be one of those types."

"I am a student of popular culture," I said. "Have to be. Especially in my line of work."

"Which is?"

"Professional."

"Professional what?"

"Exactly. Now tell me what we've got going on here?"

* * *

"The Z-Files," said Burkhardt, leaning across the table toward me, her voice kept low.

We were seated in a booth inside the Main Street Cafe and had just finished ordering breakfast. I took another swig of coffee, leaned forward, and eyed her warily. "What--like the X-Files?" I asked, also keeping my voice low "But that's TV. That's not completely real. Unless you count Jerry Springer. And even then--"

She quieted me with a wave of her hand. "The show was a thinly veiled fictionalization of the real thing. Based on the pioneering work of Agents Ross Malden and Donna Sully."

"Malden and Sully? As in Mulder and Scully?"

"Their fictional TV counterparts. There's actually a team of folks working those cases. I'm one of them."

"And it's all part of the FBI?"

She pursed her lips for a moment. Then she said: "In a manner of speaking, yes."

"You mean--?"

"Yes," said Burkhardt. "I pooted."

"What?"

"Don't change the subject," she said, reached into the attache case sitting in the seat next to her, pulled out a thick manila folder, dropped it on the tabletop, the smack echoing in the cafe.

A few heads turned at the sound but quickly got bored when nothing exploded and returned to their own private Idahos.

"The woman's name is Hepzibah Lemongrass Apothegameron," said Burkhardt. "And she claims her toe is possessed by a demonic entity calling itself Ted."

"I've heard of demonic possesssions before," I said. "But never involving a specific body part."

"Very rare," said Burkhardt. "But it's been documented." She inclined her head at the manila folder. "One of our researchers at The Files--"

"The Files?"

Burkhardt grinned. "Our name for the team. Did you hear the vocalized Initial Caps?"

"The who-what-hey?"

"Nevermind." She opened the folder and began leafing through it. "Since 1654 there have been sixty-six documented instances of body part possessions. The majority have been hands. It's where you get the expression 'idle hands are the Devil's foreskin.' "

"The what?"

" 'Idle hands are the Devil's playground'," said Burkhardt.

"I thought you said 'Devil's foreskin'."

"Devil's playground. Although there were two instances of foreskin possessions. But the majority, as I mentioned, were hands. Twenty-seven to be exact. Twelve eyebrow. Eight earlobe. Seven toe, including this one. Five finger only, not including the hand itself. Four liver. One kneecap. And a partridge in a pear tree."

"Partridge in a pear trees?"

Burkhardt smiled. "My own little personal joke."

"I don't get it," I said.

"It's okay. Not many do."

"So what's our move on this?" I asked.

"Assessment," said Burkhardt. "Then, if necessary, containment."

"Containment?"

"Yes."

"How, exactly?"

"Rapid Limbic Extraction."

"In English."

"We chop it off."

"Ah."

* * *

Hepzibah Apothegameron lived in a white one-and-a-half story house on a smallish lot off 6th Street.

We parked the Taurus in the narrow driveway next to a green plastic garbage can overflowing with what looked like tree cuttings and octopus tentacles.

I was about to get out of the car when Burkhardt stopped me, reached toward the glove box, popped it open, and took out what looked like a pair of popsicle sticks in the shape of an X, held tightly in the middle by duct tape.

"A cross?" I said. "And how did that get in the glove box?"

"Put it there when you weren't looking," said Burkhardt. "And it's not a cross. It's a talisman."

"Talisman for what?" I said.

"Eeeeeeeeeeeee!" she cried, a sound like the high-pitched whistle of a tea kettle.

I yelped and jumped in my seat. "What the hell are you doing--"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeee!" she cried again and this time, she waggled the crossed-popsicle sticks in front of my face.

"Stop that!" I said, swatting her hand away.

"It was bequeathed unto me by a Cherokee shaman," she said. "It's a tool to ward off evil spirits."

"Did you just actually use the word 'bequeathed'?"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" she cried and waggled the sticks at me.

"What the hell is that noise?" I said.

"Not noise," said Burkhardt. "An invocation."

"It's noise--"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

It was going to be a long day...

Come back soon for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Betwixt The 'Mongst Of Us" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

"Where," said Alabaster McMurdo, between pulls from a pint of Hefeweizen, "have all the Huguenots gone?"

"What," I said, "are you blabbering about now?"

We were sitting at the bar of Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill on Saturday just after one in the afternoon. I was in between frantic bursts of rogue journalism and had gone down there to take a load off. Anne was out with The Girls and promised to meet me later that afternoon.

Al was already perched on a bar stool when I came in, talking up a storm with Louie the bartender, who stood behind the bar, drying pint glasses with a towel, and nodding and making affirmative grunts.

"I was talking about the Huguenots," said Al. "You know--indigenous tribesfolk from the southwestern part of Africa? Related to the bushmen"

"No no," I said. "Huguenots were French Protestants from around the 16th, 17th century. You're thinking of the Hottentots."

He nodded. "That's it. Hottentots. They danced on the rooftops of British homes according to Admiral Boom."

I shook my head. "Can't call them that anymore."

"What, Hottentots?"

"Older, derogatory term."

"Ah," he said. "So ought not Hottentot."

"Right," I said. "Nowadays, they're called the Khoi."

Al quirked an eyebrow at me. "They're fish?"

"Different kind of koi. The non-fish kind."

"Koi that aren't fish. That's a new one."

"It happens," I said.

"It happen a lot?"

"Nine times out of ten."

Al gave a small grunt and nod. "Go figure." He took a pull of beer, then said: "Reminds me of Colorado."

"What does?" I said. "The koi?"

He nodded.

"How?"

"The hard 'k' sound. As opposed to the silent or hidden 'k'."

"I know," I said. "Takes less strokes to write so they sometimes call it a par 'k'. But you were talking about Colorado."

"I was," said Al. "Ever been?"

"Seen pictures."

He shook his head. "Doesn't count."

"Then no," I said. "Never been."

"You gotta check out this one place. Chimney Rock. It's this archeoptical site in the San Juan National Forest."

"Archeoptical?"

"Where you can see ancient stuff," said Al. "It's between Durango, where the SUVs come from, and Pagosa Springs, where the Japanese towers come from."

"Pagoda," I said. "Those are the Japanese towers. Not just Japan, either. China, Vietnam, India, other parts of Asia."

Al harrumphed. "Next, you'll be telling me Durango isn't originally a town in Basque Country."

"As a matter of fact, it is."

"Told you," he said, grinning. "And it's about 33 kilometers east of Bilbo, Spain. Those hobbit folks sure get around."

I drained my pint of beer and signaled Louie for another. "Chimney Rock, Al."

"Right. Well, it's called Chimney Rock on account of the rock formations looking like chimneys."

"I'd never have guessed."

"It's on something like 4,000 acres of the National Forest and surrounded by the Juvenile Indians of Southern New Jersey Reservation."

"Juvenile Indians of Southern New Jersey?"

"Yutes."

"You mean Ute."

"That's what I said."

"You said 'yutes.' "

"You lost me."

Louie came up and set a new pint of beer in front of me. I immediately upended the whole thing and Louie sprang back and looked at me, bug-eyed. If Al was going to keep talking like he was, I'd need muscle relaxant to better assimilate the information.

"Holy hell, Jericho!" Louie said. "You're liable to bust something drinking a beer that fast. A blood vessel or synapse or your medusa oblong glottal."

"Don't worry, Louie," I said. "I'm a Professional."

"At least have some peanuts," he said, pushing a bowl of salted nuts toward me.

I grabbed a handful, shoved them in my mouth, chewed, swallowed, then turned back to Al. "The Southern Ute Indian Tribe," I said, "is a federally recognized Ute tribe. One of three tribes, actually."

"What's that got to do with New Jersey?"

"About as much as the price of the Star Wars Complete Saga Blu-Ray edition in Nova Scotia."

"Nova Scotia," said Al, "probably doesn't have a crisis of butter-deprived children."

Come back soon for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Astrogenghis Speaks: 'The Way of the Gnat' " by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in the January 1992 issue of The Oblivious Plethora; from the Jericho Files collection]

"Teacher," began Frank the Pupil. "How does one keep from straying while on the path toward enlightenment?"

Astrogenghis replied: "The path toward enlightenment is like the wet bottom of an infant. That is to say, when the storm breaks, prance spiritedly for truth seldom emerges from the wisps of the fog."

"I don't understand, Teacher."

"To see the acorn on the road is to wrestle the rapid chipmunk. Or, when faced with a titan, scream. In that way lies practical wisdom. In the other lies a dead gnat."

"Teacher, I still don't understand."

"Let me tell you a story:
Two monks were on a pilgrimage to a far off temple. On the way, they encountered a gang of bandits who threated them with rusty nails.

"Give us your money!" said the bandit leader. "If you do not, we will kill you!"

The first monk shook his head and turned to his companion. "A pity, isn't it?" he said, "that these men have taken the toil and sweat of an artisan such as one who crafted these nails and turned it into instruments of death?"

The second monk merely smiled.

The bandit leader stepped forward, brandishing his rusty nail and snarled, "Did you not hear us the first time? Give us your money or you will surely perish at our hands!"

The first monk said: "Why speak of death when life abounds around us?"

Suddenly, a tiger leaped down from the nearby hill, gutted all the bandits with one swipe of its huge claw, then bounded away into the nearby jungle.

The first monk turned to his companion and said: "Is it not a wonder that the wheel of life turns as it does, that one who speaks of death eventually experiences death?"

The second monk smiled wider, pointed to the first monk's feet, and said: "You stepped in horse doodie."
"I understand now, Teacher!" exclaimed Frank. "You are saying that one should stay focused on the path ahead and not be afraid of the obstacles that lie in the way. For in doing so, one appreciates the Now-ness that is true life. And once we stay and keep to the path, we gain the insight from within that allows us to transcend our physical state and achieve connection with the All. Is that it, Teacher?"

Astrogenghis smiled and said: "...no..."

Come back soon for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cover Art WTF-ery

Shannon Knight is a fellow AWer. I clicked on her blog link the other day and was cruising the posts when I came across her review of Kelly Gay's The Hour of Dust and Ashes.

And immediately thought: WTF NO NO NO

Wait. Lemme 'splain...

Nothing wrong with the book, the author, or the genre. I happen to be a fan of urban fantasy. And nothing wrong with the blog, the review itself, or the blog owner.

No.

My gripe was with the cover art.

Let me show you it:

Now let me just say that Chris McGrath is a spectacular artist who does phenomenal covers. He's on my Favorite Cover Artists list, right up there with Michael Whelan and Winona Nelson.

Having said that, here's my gripe with the art:

Closer look:


This.

This is NOT proper gun handling, Folks.

It's Hollywood-style gun handling.

Bad Chris. Please don't do this. Ever.

Goes for other cover artists, too.

Please please please do not depict your characters using a firearm in this manner.

Thank you.

Here ends this Public Service Announcement.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Progress Notes

Tales of Episode #207
Revision Pass #2 is done. I'll do a quick check before handing it off once again to LadyAce and her Red Pen of Editing Doom.


Tales of Episode #208
Opening scene is written. There's some additional plotting work to be done but I think after that, I'll be ready to tackle the actual writing.


Tales of Episode #206-B
The original Episode #207 stalled several months ago so I ended up shelving it and moving the episodes down a slot. What would've been #208 now became #207, and #209 now became #208.

But now it looks like the original #207--which I'm now christening #206-B--has unshelved itself. With a vengeance (thanks to fellow AW cohort Hillary Jacques for that lovely description).

And I say "unshelved itself" because the other night, the next few scenes of that stalled story barfed itself all over my keyboard.

Yes. Such is the thrilling life we writers lead.

Our stories barf on us.

So it looks like this one will go back into the storyline.

Which means a minor ret-con.

Nothing big. Only instead of continuing from "Entr'acte," we'll rewind a week prior and pick up one day after the last installment of "Into The Woods."

(photo: abcdz2000/stock.xchng)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Looking Forward To...

Couple of upcoming movies I'm really looking forward to seeing.

Dredd (in theatres on the 21st)

I saw the Stallone version long ago and while enjoyable, Dredd spent a good chunk of the movie sans helmet.

That's not the Dredd I'm familiar with.

This one looks like Karl Urban is keeping the helmet on.

The. Whole. Time.

Much better.

Les Miserables (Christmas 2012)

This. Looks. Awesome.

The trailer gave me chills.

Here's hoping Hollywood doesn't f*ck it up.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yes, I'm Also A Voice Actor...

In addition to writing SF/F pulp stories and audio drama reviews, I also act in a few audio drama podcasts.

My latest role is "Dr. Avery Fuller" in "The Lachesis Project," an episode of The Blackburn Gaslight Adventures, a new steampunk pulp adventure audio drama series (written by one of my AW Cantina cohorts--I was thrilled to work on the episode).

You can listen to Part One here.

"Robbed Blind" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[from a column written while serving as a freelance women's soccer correspondent between 2001 and 2002; from The Jericho Files collection]

"Highway robbery," I said, looking up from the carton of Swedish Fish in my hand. "Mia winning the FIFA Player of the Year was unequivocally, without a doubt, highway robbery."

Anne turned from the computer monitor displaying the WUSA home page. "Is that your final answer?"

"That's not until January. Let Regis deal with Mia then. Right now, there's more important matters to discuss. Like Millie getting robbed blind by FIFA."

"I wouldn't exactly say 'robbed blind'—"

"What would you call it?" I asked.

"'Covering their collective asses?'"

"Fine time to do it. Millie was League MVP, for Pete's sake! Sixteen goals for the season. Mia only had six.

"That was WUSA," Anne said. "We're talking global."

"Global, my ass." I waved a Swedish Fish at her. "Year. Player of the Year. Millie more than deserved that award. But do they give it to her? No. The Fools weaseled out and played the Bootlicker's Song."

"Millie's only had 81 career goals and 54 assists," Anne pointed out. "How do you justify Player of the Year for her? Mia's had 127 career goals and 107 assists. That alone should count for something."

"Career points. Mia's 361 over Millie's 216. But where did that get the Freedom? Seventh place."

"Okay. Look here." Anne tapped the monitor. "Mia's most marketable. 22% of those who voted wanted Mia to represent their company's campaigns. Five percent more than Anna Kournikova and 11% over Venus Williams."

"So give her an award for Most Marketable Athlete."

"But think of what she's done for the sport over the years, how she's helped put women's soccer on the map."

"Fine. She's the Global Ambassador to the Beautiful Game, blah-blah-blabitty-blah. Give her a Lifetime Achievement Award."

"She was voted as Player of the Year by 72 women's national team coaches."

"Who probably only knew her by name. We're talking Player of the Year, not Most Recognizable Name. What is that going to say to other players? 'You did a fanstastic job, but nobody knows who you are so we're giving it to someone high profile.'"

"What's wrong with high profile? All the better, I say."

"High profile is fine for a while. But how do you expect to increase the greater public's awareness of the other players out there? Do you expect one person to carry the sport?"

"There's no 'I' in 'team.' "

"There's one in 'Mia.' "

Anne winced. "Ouch!"

I shook my head. "Forget all that talk about parity in the League. Especially if they pull stunts like this." I popped some Swedish Fish. A thought struck. "Then again, who made the front of the 2002 Women's Soccer Calender? Millie. 'Nuff said."

Anne frowned, then said: "Well...Mia was becoming the WUSA's poster child..."

"Exactly my point," I said.

"But she did get her own calendar."

My jaw dropped. "Madness! The greedy little Jezebel!"

"I saw it the other day."

"Today, FIFA Player of the Year. Tomorrow, the Calendar World. We've got to do something! It's our duty as Fans to ensure this doesn't happen again. To ensure the proper recipients are acknowledged. For Player of the Year and for their own calendars!"

Anne leaned back in her chair, arms crossed. "What do you suggest?"

"We take the judges out back and pummel some Sense into them."

"That's not going to work."

"Why not? Violence is the only sure way to get a message across."

Anne shook her head. "Poor Dolt. We're Civilized Creatures. We just can't resort to pure Violence."

"Civilization be damned!" I leapt up, spilling Swedish Fish all over the floor, and snatched the whaling harpoon from the wall. "We must make ourselves heard! Raise the alarum! Sound the clarion call!"

Anne raised the elephant gun to her shoulder. "We need a better channel for our grievance."

I stared at the twin barrels leveled at my chest and put the harpoon back on the wall. "You're right." An idea struck. I snapped my fingers, grinning impishly. "How about a scathing letter to FIFA for their gross incompetence?"

"Brilliant. You're a Professional Writer. That's right up your alley."

I turned to my laptop and started to compose.

Anne read over my shoulder. " 'Dear FIFA...' " She shook her head. "Stronger."

I thought a moment, then typed: " 'Ignorant Swine, you should be drawn and quartered..."

Anne applauded. "Fantastic! Keep going."

I love the smell of vitriol in the morning.

Come back soon for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nuking the Platform

After countless attempts at trying to create an "author's platform" and "provide value to blog readers," I've decided to say "F*ck it."

Dispense writing advice? Provide tips on self-publishing? Comment on the industry or on things SF/F?

Pfeh.

There are others who do a far better job at it. Don't believe me? Just look at the mass of links Charles Tan provides over at Bibliophile Stalker.

Read them.

As for me?

From now on, I'm just gonna do my own thing.

Looking for rhyme or reason?

You'll find them in The Phantom Tollbooth.*

But not here.

Here Be Random Musings.

(photo: By Federal government of the United States [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

*Ha! Ha! Book joke!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Which I Remind Myself...

I. Write. Escapist. Fiction.

I'm reminding myself because I think I've been forgetting.

Doing so then reminded me of this post I wrote last year, about this very thing.

Plus, doing so also seems to be fixing a few things in my head. For example, Kat and Mouse kicked me in the head last Friday. Or was it Thursday? Some time late last week. Before the weekend.

Anyway, the kicked must've jump-started something because that stalled story is now moving.

So once more, with feeling--

I. Write. Escapist. Fiction.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Elvenquest (BBC)

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

So far we've reviewed sci-fi audio dramas. Now, let's take a look at fantasy with...

Synopsis: Sam is a fantasy novelist who is whisked off to a Tolkien-style parallel universe by a noble elf, a sexy warrior princess, and a feisty dwarf called Dean. Why? Because Sam’s dog is the Chosen One who is destined to save "Lower Earth" from the evil Lord Darkness.

Three words: Fun. Fun. Fun.

A smartly written script and a great cast make for a wonderfully hilarious send-up of the fantasy quest story and of fantasy novels in general.

Writers Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto hit all the right notes: the Chosen One, a prophecy, elves, dwarves, warrior maidens, demons, goblins, trolls, unicorns, deadly traps and puzzles, and colonic irrigations, to name a few. Imagine Lord of the Rings as written by Douglas Adams, Mel Brooks, and the Monty Python troupe and you get the picture.

Most importantly--the cast. The cast, I think, really nails the script with excellent performances and crackerjack comic timing.

Stephen Mangan as Sam Porter seems to be, at times, channeling Simon Jones as Arthur Dent and it works. Sam, like Arthur, is out of his depth in Lower Earth and is simply trying to fit in.

Alistair McGowan plays Lord Darkness like a mixture of Alan Rickman's Sheriff from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and Rowan Atkinson's Edmund Blackadder. He's even got a Blackadder-like delivery and intonation.

Vidar the Elf Lord isn't the brightest crayon in the box but makes up for it by being gung-ho and bombastic and Darren Boyd captures that beautifully. He sounds like he's having too much fun declaiming and waxing rhapsodic.

Dave Lamb, as Amis the Dog/the Chosen One, is canine exuberance personified. Sophie Winkleman is superb as Penthiselea the Warrior Princess, lending the right touch of kick-ass chick with a sword, as well as being the voice of grounded reason for the others and, in many cases, the straight man--er, woman.

As Dean the Dwarf and Kreech the evil sidekick, Kevin Eldon manages to portray seemingly polar opposite characters who happen to share a "love" for violence. Dean wants to dash into battle at every opportunity while Kreech wants to unleash the goblin hordes on the questers.

The one thing that irked me while listening was the laugh track. I didn't think it needed to be there and, at first, was distracting. But I got used to it enough that it "faded" into the background.

According to this site, the show was recorded in front of a live audience. Explains the track.

But I still think it's unnecessary.

Other than that, this is a top-of-the-line production and I highly recommend it. Especially if you love comedy and fantasy. And comedic fantasy.

Get your copy here at AudioGO
.

Monday, August 6, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: "Jane Grey, Action Mathematician" (Action Science Theatre)

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

I stumbled across this show thanks to this tweet by @ThListeningPost at the beginning of last month:

After taking a preview listen, I thought, "Hey! Let's review this puppy!" It's not quite science fiction, but there's math jokes involved so...semi-geeky humor. Close enough.

So here we go...

Action Science Theatre LogoSynopsis: Join Jane Grey, and her erstwhile sidekick, Jasper, as they try to ensure Jane submits her PhD whilst being pursued by murderous cultists!

Well done, Action Science Theatre. Well done.

A well-written audio drama with solid dialogue, brainy humor, and fairly decent performances by the cast.

I especially enjoyed Dan Bond as Jasper. Upbeat and bubbly, with good comic timing for most of the episode.

Sreya Rao made a great Jane Grey although, when the episode first started off, she sounded a little stiff. I wondered if I was going to make it through even the first minute or so of the opening. Luckily, Rao pulled through and Jane came wonderfully alive. Good catch there, ma'am.

But several seconds later, she dropped back in intensity for no reason that I could see. And she kept see-sawing between high and low energy in her performance throughout the episode.

Rhona Wells as the mysterious Leader of the baddies was both imperious and oddly restrained. When Jane unleashes her coup de grĂ¢ce, the Leader's "How dare you...!" sounds sadly held back.

And I have to say that, as Dodgson, Matt Kirk seemed to be channeling Terry Jones of Monty Python, which came off wonderfully.

Now the nits to be picked...

Dialogue timing was a concern here, particularly in the patter between Jane and Jasper. I felt there was far too much pausing between lines and the illusion of a "real conversation"--rather than two people reading lines--is lost. Yes, it's hard to talk on top of another actor's line when you're recording remotely, which I'm assuming was the case here. (If I'm wrong, please let me know). But that should be something easily fixed during post-production.

There were also a number of spots that could've have better sound effects cues and additional writing for clarity. For instance, in the opening scene, Jane and Jasper are in mid-conversation when there's a knock at the door. It opens and a man speaks a line. Then the man hands Jane a piece of paper. And then we learn there's actually two others with him.

But at no point do we hear footsteps of the man entering the room. He needs to in order to hand the paper to Jane who, according to earlier in the scene, is in the room. We also do not hear the footsteps of the other men. And when Jane leaves through the door, we hear the door open and close, but not her footsteps leaving.

It might be a tiny detail, but it's those tiny details that paint a sound picture for the listener and without them, the listener can get a little confused and be kicked out of the story.

In the scene immediately following, Jane goes to trade angry words with Dodgson. That scene begins with footsteps then a door knock. Dodgson says "Come in." The door opens and Dodgson greets Jane with "Ah, Miss Grey. I'm very busy. I can't really--" At which point Jane interrupts him with "What the hell...?" and the line continues.

Problem.

If Jane is angry and wants answers, why aren't the footsteps hurried? And why is the knock on the door not very urgent? Then when she enters and Dodgson greets her, why does she wait before demanding answers? Her line "What the hell...?" should've come in right as she opened the door.

And once again, there are no footsteps to indicate she entered Dodgson's office.

There was also a lack of ambient sounds to establish scene and paint a picture of place. In one scene, Jane knocks on someone's front door. We "see" the scene from inside the house but when the door opens, we don't hear the noise of the city outside. In another scene, Jasper meets up with Jane at a library. But there's no sound of shuffling feet from browsing patrons or the faint thud of a book being closed prior to dialogue.

Now now--all these are minor and can be easily fixed in post-production.

That said, I am happily impressed by this freshman effort and expect even better work with their next outing.

Go check out Jane Grey here and stay tuned for more from Action Science Theatre.

I know I'll be keeping an eye on them.

Because hey--science humor.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Superman Lives!

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

Synopsis: Daily Planet loves birds Clark Kent and Lois Lane finally get engaged. Lex Luthor dies in a plane crash, and Metropolis is thriving with prosperity and happiness under the infinite protection of Superman.

Or so it seems...

Follow the story of Lex Luthor's true fate, and the fate of the new woman in his life...Supergirl. Listen to the heart-pounding fight to the death between Superman and a monster called Doomsday. Discover the truth about four new mysterious Superman.

And take a journey into the heart, minds, and unpredictable future of the Man of SteelTM everybody can count on...

...until one day, when he's gone.

As with Star Wars, this is another of my "gold standard" shows against which other audio dramas are weighed. I mentioned it before in the standards post.

Helmed by the incomparable Dirk Maggs, Superman Lives! (known across The Pond as Superman: Doomsday and Beyond) features a stellar cast who give stunning life to some of the classic characters in the DC pantheon.

This is what Kingdom Come should've aspired to be.

From the opening funeral procession to the stirring fight to save Coast City at the end, we are treating to a veritable feast for the ears. Within just a few seconds of beginning, you know instantly that you're in the hands of a master audio drama craftsman. When I first heard this back in the mid-90s, I was hooked right from the start.

I guarantee you will be, too.

The cast is simply fabulous and the acting is top-notch. As Clark Kent and Superman, Stuart Milligan initially evokes Christopher Reeve's portrayal of the character (slightly bumbling Everyman Kent vs. commanding and authoritative Supes) through vocal quality then immediately makes it his own. Lorelei King gives Lois Lane a kind of quiet strength--part Margot Kidder from the original film, part Katherine Hepburn from The African Queen. William Hootkins as Lex Luthor is simply delicious in the role. I got an Alan Rickman-Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves vibe from his performance.

Superman's titanic fight with Doomsday is the highlight of this production. In my view, at least. Music, sound design, and acting all come together in a breathtaking sequence that still, even after multiple listenings, make me wince, cringe, shudder, and leave me with a lump in my throat. I have to applaud Stuart and Lorelei for their performances in this section.

Bravo.

Overall, fantastic. Simply fantastic.

If you don't own this yet, I highly suggest you get it now from Amazon or Audible.

Monday, July 30, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Star Wars

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

First broadcast in 1981, the Star Wars radio dramatization gives us a 13-episode tour de force that both recalls and expands the movie story. Where Lucas's movie was a feast for the eyes, Brian Daley's excellent dramatization is a feast for the ears.

I thoroughly enjoyed it when I first heard the broadcast on my local NPR station back in '81, and I continue to enjoy it as I listen to my copy of the dramatization at least once a year.

In addition to giving us the movie, this version also shows us Luke's and Leia's lives shortly before the events of the film. We see Leia at home on Alderaan. We meet Luke's friends at Anchorhead. We even meet Luke's old pal, Biggs. Remember that scene in the Special Edition where Han and Jabba square off in the Falcon's docking bay? We get that here, too--minus Hutt. And we even find out what happened in that interrogation scene we only glimpsed in the film.

There's several other fun bits, too. But I'll leave those out so you can listen for them.

Although Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels were the only two original cast members to reprise their film roles, the actors who came in to fill the other cinematic character shoes did a fantastic job.

Perry King lent the right vocal quality and attitude as everyone's favorite smuggler, Han Solo. Ann Sachs, as Leia, captured the Princess's spunkiness and inner strength. Bernard Behrens nicely captured Obi-Wan's sound and cadence.

And while Brock Peters as Darth Vader didn't, in my mind, quite match James Earl Jones's vocal depth and resonance, he did manage to embody enough of Vader's character, attitude, and tone. By the time episode 8 came along, Peters was the Dark Lord of the Sith as far as I was concerned.

Add to that Ben Burtt's fantastic sound design and John Williams's stirring score and you have a winner.

If you liked the original Star Wars, you will definitely love this dramatization.

Oh yeah--and in this version, Han shoots first.

Get your copy as a CD from Amazon here or as a download from Audible here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Doubt and the Writer

Two fellow writer folks have recently posted about writer doubt, something that I've actually been pondering over the past few months.

You might recall my Progress Report post from three months ago where I note that I hadn't really done much work on the next Kat and Mouse adventure. In fact, as of that post, I hadn't worked on the story in 7 weeks.

Then last month I posted that I may have gotten back on track with things.

However, what I came back on track with isn't fiction, as I point out here.

So why am I bringing up the issue of Writer's Doubt?

Because of my latest efforts, something in my head tells me the Writing Winds have shifted.

And that's where my particular brand of Writer's Doubt comes in. Mainly this: "Have I tapped my story well? Have I told the stories that I've wanted to tell? Is that all the fiction I'll be writing?"

Because each time I try to work on that next Kat and Mouse adventure, I quickly get bored and the words are molassess slow in coming and I keep thinking of other things I could be doing than writing this story.

But comes this part of my brain that tells me "Hey! Write this instead!"

Five months.

It's now five months of no fiction written.

Is this a phase? Something that'll fix itself in my head?

I hope so.

Or I could just shift to non-fiction.

As I seem to be doing at the moment.

So maybe it's not so much "quitting" as "taking another path up the mountain."

Y'think?

(photo: mordoc/stock.xchng)

Monday, July 23, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Kingdom Come

(Originally posted on OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

Synopsis: It is the early years of the Twenty-First Century. Without the guidance and values long championed by the old guard -- Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman -- a younger generation of super heroes is ravaging the world. But when the Man of Steel returns from self-imposed exile, his very presence could be the catalyst that pushes us all into Armageddon. Seen through the eyes of Norman McCay, an aging minister who embarks on a disturbing odyssey of revelation with an angel known as the Spectre to guide him, "Kingdom Come" is the story of what defines a hero in a world spinning inexorably out of control...of the heroes who adapted to that changing world, and those who couldn't...of personal battles fought with inner demons, and the final war that would determine the fate of our planet.

Kingdom Come, while an epic story in the original graphic novel, lacks the same punch as an audio drama. Don't get me wrong. It's a serviceable production.

But it could've been so much more.

The adaptation by John Whitman (who also wrote adaptations we'll cover in upcoming reviews) works well for the most part. I had issues with some lines that bordered on badly executed exposition.

I think the biggest problem I had were the actors. In particular, the actor playing Norman McKay. (Sorry I can't tell you who that was; there was no cast list). A tepid performance for the most part. While there were snippets of "real" acting here and there, I got the sense that he wasn't really performing the role. That he was just doing a dramatic reading of the lines.

And even then, that dramatic reading wasn't too dramatic. More ho-hum.

The other actors weren't as bad.

Superman had the voice quality I expected but the actor struck me as a one-note performance. Not much vocal variety.

Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman were the two I thought who were wonderfully played. Wonder Woman seemed to take a little time to get her groove but once she does, I thought her performance came alive. Same for Luthor, played with a restrained but manic glee. Effective and not too over-the-top.

The biggest problem I had with the production overall was the pacing and delivery of lines. As if the actors were just reading the script instead of actually performing. An excellent example of Read-Acting Syndrome.

I wish the director had done a better job coaxing more life out of the performances.

But, as I said earlier, it's a serviceable production.

I hung onto my copy and I listen to it again from time to time.

Get your copy from Amazon here. (Fair warning, though--it's on cassette. Can't tell if it ever came out on disc.)

(um...you do know what a cassette is, right?)

(...right?...)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In Which Entities Clash And Use Tasers

Huh.

It seems that two entites--The Audio Dramatist and The Audio Drama Reviewer--have just ganged up on The SF Pulp Writer, tased him unconscious, and stuffed him into a broom closet.

Oh boy.

This could get ugly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: "Landfall" (BBC)

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

Synopsis: When five lost souls, recruited by the Company travel to an abandoned planet, all they know is that they are to retrieve the only known sample of an ore left over from an old mining operation. But their task becomes considerably more complicated when one of their party has a close encounter with the indigenous plant life - plant life which seems to have some very odd, very powerful properties. Soon they are battling not only to stay alive, but to hang on to the very things that make them human.

Another offering from the pen of Mike Walker (I reviewed his adaptation of Rendezvous With Rama the other day) only this time, it's an original work. First broadcast in March of 2011, I caught a re-broadcast last Friday and I thought "Hey! Let's review this one!"

So here we go...

In terms of story, "Landfall" is reminiscent of the first Alien. Rag-tag crew (plus android) sent on assignment to another planet who encounter...something when they arrive on the surface.

Like Rama, it's a very minimalistic, bare-bones production. Music is understated, used mostly as transition between scenes--although there are a couple of instances when a pulsing rhythm provides dramatic tension.

The cast was pretty good. My favorite was Clare Perkins as Hudson. No-nonsense and driven, Perkins gives the role just the right measure of intensity and she's consistent throughout the whole production.

I did have a few issues with Cally (played by Nicola Miles-Wilden). Her performance energy seemed to shift between "engaged" and "bored." I realize she's playing an android, but even Ash*, Bishop**, and, hell, Data***, showed some measure of emotion. When she was "bored," the performance came across as flat. I found this "bored" performance very evident in her scene with J.D. which starts around 33:20 and in the scene that immediately follows.

I thought it was interesting that Miles-Wilden manages only two moments of really inspired performance. First, when she rails against the others at the 42:30 mark, lasting roughly a minute-and-a-half. Then again at the 48:20 mark, which lasts a little over five minutes.

But at the end of those five minutes, she goes back to being "bored."

A sour note for me there.

Sidenote: Intaba (played by Cyril Nri) sounds a tad like Keith David. When I first heard him, I thought, "Hey! It's Goliath! What--Huh?"

Some other nits to pick.****

First: When the ship first lands on the planet, Cally notes that it would be rough coming in. But when they finally land, there's no reaction to such a "rough landing" from the crew. They just...land. And then everything's okay and it's "let's get on with the scene."

Second: About half an hour into the story, a heated argument erupts. Only there's not much heat in said argument. I would've thought otherwise.

Seems like director Marc Beeby missed a couple of good bits there.

Still, it's a good, solid audio drama. I recommend it.

As of this posting, there are 3 2 days left to listen on the BBC i-player (click the "Listen Now" icon).

If you don't get to catch it in time, buy your copy of "Landfall" from AudioGO at this link.


*The android from Alien.
**The android from Aliens.
***Data? You don't know Data? Shame on you!!! You call yourself a sci-fi fan? C'mon--turn in your Geek Card.
****See? Even a BBC audio drama doesn't quite hit all the marks for me.



Monday, July 16, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Rendezvous With Rama (BBC)

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

First broadcast in 2009 and presented in two parts, Rendezvous With Rama is a wonderful adaptation of the Arthur C. Clarke novel.

Let me say this first: I haven't read the book yet. Yeah,yeah, I know. This is unheard of and you can all flame me now.

But I do know the general premise of the story.

Mike Walker's dramatization opens as a documentary of the events that led to Rama's appearance in our solar system, then shifts to Captain Norton recalling what happened--his version of what happened--during the expedition to Rama.

This is the usual top-of-the-line BBC production with excellent sound design, great acting, and a moody and sometimes haunting score.

Richard Dillane portrays Captain William Norton, captain of the Endeavour, as a salty, grizzled sea dog (or at least that's how I heard it). Authoritative, demanding (in a good way), and knows when to follow the spirit of the law. At times, I heard a bit of Hugh Bonneville in Dillane's performance.

I found that Paul Courtenay Hyu as Li Kwok, our documentary narrator, seemed a little stiff in the beginning. But when we finally get to him talking with Norton, Hyu opens up a little more and we hear a little more life in the character.

The rest of the cast did an exemplary job although, like Hyu, sounded a bit stiff at first. As if either slowly finding their groove or warming up to their characters. But they got up to speed in short order.

One thing I didn't care for was the opening theme. I felt it seemed more suited to a ghost story or period piece than to a science fiction tale.

Of course, that could just be me.

Overall, an excellent production.



Curse You, Chuck Wendig!!!

NaNoWriMo 2011 brought Doctor Jericho out of my mental depths.

And now, as a result of Chuck Wendig's command to squirt my grapefruit, another...um..."entity" has emerged from the same depths as Jericho.

Who is that "entity"?

It's The Audio Dramatist.

Who first emerged after I finished listening to the Star Wars radio dramatization back in the 80s and then wrote fifty-some pages of a Raiders of the Lost Ark audio dramatization using the Marvel comic book adaptation as the basis.

Who planted the idea of writing an audio dramatization of David Eddings's The Belgariad into my brain when I was in high school.

Who continued to prod me about the Belgariad audio dramatization all during college.

Who decided to write an original sci-fi audio drama about a futuristic SWAT team, in six parts, as my college senior project.

Who, two years ago, wrote the first five pages of a Pawn of Prophecy audio dramatization.

Who, after getting irked at Black Library's "not real" Gotrek and Felix audio drama Slayer of the Storm God, wrote an audio dramatization of "Geheimnisnacht" from Trollslayer (from the Gotrek and Felix First Omnibus) and sent a sample of the first scene to Black Library via their Open Window Submission (which closed on June 30th).

Who, after being irked by GraphicAudio's "not real" full-cast production of Elizabeth Moon's Trading in Danger and by the sample (from Chapter Seven in the book) presented on GraphicAudio's webpage, wrote an audio dramatization of that very same scene just to feel better.

Who is not interested in writing original stories but wants to adapt existing works.

And who is now bugging me to find things to adapt as an audio drama despite the issues that brings up.

Yep.

I blame Chuck Wendig for this.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Astrogenghis Speaks: 'A Lesson In Enlightenment' " by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in the December 1991 issue of The Oblivious Plethora; from the Jericho Files collection]

"Teacher," said Frank the Pupil. "What is the proper way to reach enlightenment?"

Astrogenghis said, "The road is seldom clear when one undertakes a long journey. But the absence of truth lies in the understanding of the willow tree."

"I don't understand, Teacher," replied Frank.

"To understand the enigma, one become a part of it. Or, to see the world as a gnat, one must first leap over the swan."

"Ah. Does that mean I must walk in someone else's shoes?"

"Let me tell you a story:
In the days of old, two monks were sitting by a riverbank, resting during a pilgrimate to a far off temple.

The younger monk turned to his companion and said, "See how the water is like glass. We can see ourselves in the water. It does not move."

His companion said, "That is because there is no wind."

The younger monk pointed to a nightingale sitting on the branch of a nearby tree and singing a song. "Hear how the nightingale sings. Her song is like a chorus of heavenly voices."

His companion said, "That is because one can hear the voice of the Creator in all of life."

The younger monk then pointed to the sky and remarked, "See how the sky is like the paint upon the canvas. The beauty of creation must be like the desires of the artist. It is in the acceptance of such beauty that we can all learn from the wishes of the Creator, from whom all this beauty comes."

His companion said, "You should cut your toenails."
"But, Teacher," said Frank. "What does this have to do with enlightenment?"

Astrogenghis smiled and said: "Absolutely nothing."


Come back soon for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Raise the Bar

At OtherRealms Audio: I talk about setting standards and raising bars.

Happy 4th!

"Here's to America's colors, the colors that never run. May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather."

Have a great 4th of July.


(photo: The Expired Meter)

Monday, July 2, 2012

When Audio Dramas Clash

At OtherRealms Audio: I get very annoyed.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

In Which I Squirt My Grapefruit

Following Chuck Wendig's Lesson #12 (from this set of precepts), I now share my longtime love affair with SF/F audio drama.

Behold--I give you OtherRealms Audio.

Have a look yonder.

Originally I was going to put those posts on this blog. But since I'd started then stopped Other Realms before, I figured I'd just revamp the blog and start over.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Bring Your Towel and Hitch a Ride to the Stars

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)
 
Back to the beginning.

Back before the movie, before the TV series, before the novels.

Back to March 8, 1978 when BBC Radio 4 first aired the opening banjo melody that marked the theme of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It's a deliciously joyous romp across the stars with Simon Jones as "Arthur Dent," Geoffrey McGivern as "Ford Prefect," and Mark Wing-Davey as "Zaphod Beeblebrox," with Stephen Moore as "Marvin, the Paranoid Android" and Peter Jones as "the Book."

As usual, the BBC delivers top-notch audio drama and Hitch-Hiker's is one of their best. Solid writing and acting and wonderful sound effects. The sound of the Babel Fish, for instance, makes me react much the same as if I'd bitten into a lemon.

Simon Jones gives a nicely baffled and often fish-out-of-water sensibility for Arthur. Geoffrey McGivern lends Ford Prefect a nicely adventuresome air with a touch of the jaded veteran. And Mark Wing-Davey shines as Zaphod: conniving, condescending (to Arthur), brash, fame-hungry, and likeable all at the same time.

Then you have Stephen Moore as Marvin. Eeyore as automaton. Brilliantly depressing. Moore imbues Marvin with as much life as Anthony Daniels did C-3PO. Except instead of being an uptight, overly-talky protocol droid, we get a manically depressed, morose, and cynical droid with a brain the size of a planet (who will tell you as much).

And Peter Jones as The Book has just the right blend of authority and friendliness. Like the late Steve Irwin, only British instead of Australian.

If your only exposure to Hitch-Hiker's has been through the books, the TV series, or the movie, get a copy of the first series and experience it the way it's meant to be experienced.

Truly a joy for the ears.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Earning Your Audience

The other day John Anealio linked to his post on "25 Ways to Earn Your Audience," which is actually a variation on Chuck Wendig's post of the same name--John's post focuses on musician types.

Read 'em both. Then bookmark 'em both for future reference.

Of the 25 ways, I believe #1 is the most important (and I'm gonna quote Chuck's version):
1. It’s All About The Story

Normally this is the type of thing I’d put as the capstone #25 entry—-"Oh, duh, by the way, none of this matters if you write a real turd-bomb of a book"—-but it’s too important to put last because for all I know you people will fall asleep around #14. So, let’s deal with it here and now: your best and most noble path to audience-earning is by having something awesome (or many awesome somethings) to give them. Tell the best story you can tell. Above all the social media posturing and bullshit brand-building and stabs at outreach, you need a great "thing" (book, movie, comic, whatever) to be the core of your authorial ecosystem. Tell a great story. Achieve optimal awesomeness. Build audience on the back of your skill and talent and devotion. You can ignore everything else on this list. Do not ignore this one.
Working on that.

Now, I just have get going on the next 24...

(And if you have to ask who that is in the photo up there, I will have to revoke your Pop Culture license...)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In Which We Think We're Back


So...it looks like Life decided to derail itself for a goodly amount of time.

But now I think--I think--it's getting back on track.

I can sorta tell because I'm hankerin' to get in some B.I.C.* time.

This is a good thing.


*B.I.C. = Butt In Chair

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Files

As you can see, Doctor Jericho is back with another installment of The Jericho Files.

In an effort not to inundate you Dear Readers, The Jericho Files will now appear on this blog every 2 - 3 weeks. Or thereabouts.

Oh, inundate them. They love it.

Easy, Jericho.

Easy? You wuss.

We're not having this conversation.

Poncey git.

*sigh*

"Shinobi In Kilts" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I was in my usual booth at the back of Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill on a working lunch--burger, beer, and notes spread out on the table--when an old man slid into the seat across from me and took off his stained ball cap. He was in his late-sixties, slightly stoop-shouldered with a thick gray beard and a weatherbeaten face but his eyes were wild and sparkled with fire.

"You're Jericho, right?" he rasped.

"I am," I said.

He nodded. "I seen you here before. Lots of times. The wily writer."

"I've been called many things. Some of them had verbs in it. In reality, I'm a rogue journalist."

The man jerked a thumb toward the bar. "Louie told me 'bout you after I told him this story a few nights ago. Said you're the best person to tell about this."

He immediately intrigued me. "What story's that? And do you want a beer?"

"Name's Grady," he said and smacked his lips. "And sure, I'll take a beer."

I turned toward the bar, caught Louie's attention, and signaled for a drink. Then I turned back toward Grady. "What did you want to tell me?"

He looked around, cautious, then leaned in toward me. "Ninjas," he said. "But not just any ol' ninjas. Ninja pears."

"Ninja pears?"

Grady nodded. "And they're at war with each other. Since the 1600s. And I've seen it."

"Jove's hairy nutsac!" I pulled a Moleskine notebook from my fun bag which was sitting on the booth seat next to me and made some space amid the piles on the tabletop. "Tell me more."

Louie came by and set a pint of beer in front of Grady and shuffled back to the bar. Grady took a pull, wiped his lips. "Well," he said, "there's lotsa pears, you know."

"So I'm told."

"Mostly we know about the quoting pears."

"Quoting pears?"

"Bartlett's pears. They quote. Usually 'round about midnight, if you're listening. They usually collect their quotes in a popular book."

"Aha," I said, understanding. "Bartlett's Quotations."

"That's the one. There's also the babysitting pears."

"Babysitting pears?"

"The Au Pears."

"Ah."

"But," Grady went on, "not many know about the ninja pears."

"Which are the pears that you saw."

"Yeah. Back in 1962. I was roaming Japan. Hitchhiking. Finding myself. I was staying with a family in a little town called Tatsuno, in the Nagano Prefecture. Very center of Japan. Famous for fireflies."

"Were they in graves? Or called 'Serenity'?"

"No graves that I saw right off," Grady said gravely. "But no serenity. Not with a clan war."

"Clan War? Jade Falcon? Ghost Bear? Wolf? Was there mecha?"

"I don't know what you're talking about but anyway--one night, my new friends and I were up late talking when we heard what sounded like gusts of wind outside the house. Which was odd since it was a quiet, still night. My host, Sato-san, told everyone to lie down on floor, and quickly doused the house lights. He said not to look out the windows."

"But you did, didn't you."

Grady nodded.

"And what did you see?" I asked.

"I saw a dozen pears outside. Leaping between the rooftops of houses and battling each other with what looked like short swords called 'wakiznashi'. It went on for about three, four minutes. I could tell there were two opposing sides. One side sliced up the other and went it was all over and done with, the remaining side fled the scene, again leaping across rooftops."

Grady took a long pull of his beer. Then continued: "When I asked my host about it, Sato-san told me about the five clans: Kosui, Hosui, Chojuro, Shinko, and Nijisseiki. How they'd been fighting amongst one another since the mid-1400s up until the present. The present being 1968. Probably still are today. The battles take place a night, usually at midnight."

"The witching hour, of course. Do you think these clan wars are still going on?"

"Possibly. There's someone who'd know better. Old buddy of mine. Talk to him. He's been following the phenomenon for years now. Decades, really. His name's Paul Blackthorne."

"The actor?"

Grady shrugged. "I don't know about that. But Paul's descended from a British pilot who was shipwrecked in Japan back in the 1600s while working for Dutch traders. John Blackthorne. In his journals, Blackthrone wrote about witnessing a battle between pears in the forest. Paul ran across the journals back in high school and hung on to them. When I came back from Japan a month after that night seeing the pear battle, I told Paul about it. That jazzed him up. He told me about his ancestor's journals. Then a few months later, he went over there to check out the story and he's been back and forth ever since."

"How do I get in touch with him?" I asked, ideas for an article already roiling around my brain.

"I've got his info at home," said Grady. "I can call you. Do you have a card?"

I fished out a business card from the top pocket of my safari jacket. "You can also find me here."

He tapped the tabletop with a finger. "I know. Same booth every time." He grinned. "After I talked to Louie about this, I started looking back at some of my family history. Found out my ancestors were in a clan, too. Mongolian. From southern Siberia, really. One of the Tuvans."

"The ones who do throat-singing?"

"Yep. The Forest Peoples. Historically known as the Uriankhai."

"Saruman's orcs?"

"What?"

"Nevermind," I said, and took a long pull of my beer. "You mentioned your ancestors' clan. What was it?"

"Kherbeyr," said Grady. "How about you? Did you have ancestors in a clan?"

"I did," I said, proudly recalling stories my grandfather had told me when I was knee-high to a lawn gnome. "And it's funny you mentioned ninja pears. My ancestors were the little known or heard-of Scottish ninjas."

"Scottish ninjas?" said Grady, eyes widening. "What clan was that?"

"Clan Destine," I said.

Come back soon for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Free Comic Book Day!


It's that time of the year again and Wolverine wants to tell you something important.

Now get out to your local comic shop and support them.

Go.

Git.

Now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Astrogenghis Speaks: 'Dead Frog Wisdom' " by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Professional Writer

[originally published in the June 1992 issue of The Oblivious Plethora; from The Jericho Files collection]

"Teacher," said Frank the Pupil. "How does one manage the self amid the complexities of Life?"

"The tea leaf floats below the water," said Astrogenghis, "but the path grows closer to the flickering candle."

"What?"

"To see the See is see what you Saw."

"I don't understand, Teacher."

"Let me tell you a story:
In ancient times, two monks set out on a pilgrimage to a distant temple. After two days of traveling, the monks stopped by a riverbank to set up camp and rest before starting again.

As they sat by the water's edge, the first monk gazed upon their surroundings and said to his companion: "Are you not stirred when you look upon the grandness of the eternal sky?"

Then he gestured at the plants and trees around them and said: "Are you not stirred by the colors of Life?"

The first monk then breathed in deeply and said: "Are you not stirred by the smell of the glory that is the Universe?"

His companion pointed to the ground and said: "You're sitting on a dead frog."
"I see now!" said Frank. "In order to attune to the Greater World, one must first attune to the Smaller World. And in so doing, one sees the Two Worlds as One World, essentially as mirrors of each other. Is that correct, Teacher?"

Astrogenghis smiled and said: "Okay..."

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hello, My Lovelies

Doctor Jericho here. In Full Sans Pants Glory.

The Jericho Files are going to take a short break. I figure I'd let Abner get a word in for a bit. After all, I let him run that post about writing serial fiction.

For I am a Kind and Generous Master.

Catch up on any entries of the Files you've missed here.

See you in a while.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"The Balls of Destruction (excerpt)" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in the May 2001 issue of The Oblivious Plethora; from the Jericho Files collection]

"Are you sure about that?" I said, pointing to the flamethrower and then to the acres of grass around us. "Aren't you worried about a brush fire?"

Kramer shook his head and hefted the gun unit. "This baby's been modfied to fire pinpoint flames," he said with a Southern drawl.

We were crouched next to a small gray outbuilding near a house somewhere in the wilds of Croydon, Utah.

Kramer was a Specialist from the Louisiana bowels who battled cotton balls several times a year. He told me he'd spent twelve years as a young man roaming bayou country, eating alligators and wrestling toothless old women. "Strong 'uns," he'd said. "Don't let the skinniness fool ya. Got the strength of an earth mover. They drink loup-garou blood out there, that's why."

I had heard about the deadly cotton ball infestation from CNN and my good friend Cordwainer Duke had suggested I contact Kramer about it. After I did, Kramer invited me to a cotton ball hunt to watch him ply his trade and I jumped on the next flight from San Francisco to Salt Lake City. He met me at the airport, a gaunt-looking man of medium height with a hook-nose and ponytail. He was dressed in a rumpled gray jumpsuit tucked into a battered pair of military jungle boots.

The two of us piled into an old brown Dodge van that had the rear seats taken out and was piled with all manner of equipment cases. An hour drive took us east on Interstate 80 and then north on state route 65 past a land of fenced-in bungalows called Jennifer. Or Hennigan. Or Hefner. Something.

"We're meetin' Bloody Martin Smith in Croydon," Kramer had said as we raced across blank grass landscapes bordered by low hills. "Again."

"Again?" I asked. "You've been here more than once?"

Kramer nodded, swerving to avoid a small pack of jackrabbits that had leaped into the middle of the highway brandishing jackrabbit-sized pitchforks. "Three times this year."

"And all because of cotton balls?" I asked, incredulous.

"Don't be quick to judge none," Kramer said. "They're real nasty and do a lot of damage. You heard of the Dust Bowl, right?"

"Sure," I said. "Back in the Thirties. Out in the Midwest, Great Plains. Caused by severe drought and years of bad farming practices. No crop rotation, cover crops, all that stuff that they were supposed to do. Dried out the topsoil."

"No sir," said Kramer. "That was them cotton balls."

"You serious?"

"They won't tell you it was them. But it was. Biggest cover-up I ever saw. Next to what really happened to JFK and Elvis Presley."

"Don't tell me," I said. "They're both in an East Texas rest home."

Kramer chuckled. "I see you know."

"Nevermind that," I said. "How did cotton balls cause the Dust Bowl?"

"They descend in a swarm," said Kramer. "Like Biblical Locusts. Only without the Charlton Heston voice-over. Eat all the vegetation in the area. Then vanish into oblivion. For some reason, they must've mutated or something 'bout twenty, thirty year ago. Now they ravage the wild areas of Utah. They seem drawn to Mormons for some reason. Must be something in the blood."

"In the blood? Do they eat Mormons?"

"Mormons, Cath'lics, Muslims, Protestants, Jews, Greek Orthodox, gay, straight, Black, Eye-talian, you name it. Anybody gets in their way, they mow 'em down. Not actually et you, of course. But they can put a dent into a foot of steel. I've seen it. And if they get into various necessary orifices, then..." His voice trailed off and he shrugged.

"Then....what?"

"You're dead," he said.

"Sweet Mother of Dingos!" I said.

Kramer nodded. "Nasty way to go, too. Dead, with cotton balls stuffed up your nose, your ears, your mouth, your nether regions." He shuddered.

So did I.

And I needed mental floss.

"But," Kramer went on, "they sure do love them Mormons."

* * *

As we crouched next to the faded gray outbuilding, I said to Kramer, "There was a movie back in the 80s about alien fuzzballs with teeth."

"I seen that," he said, nodding. "Closest they got to telling the story of a cotton ball infestation in Nebraska back in the mid-70s. It all got changed to aliens, of course. Just to throw off the scent, y'see. They added the teeth. And they put it in some hick town in Kansas."

"So where'd they really come from? These balls?"

Kramer shook his head. "Don't know. Never really looked into it, 'cept tracing them back to the Dust Bowl days."

"So how'd you get started in this nasty business?"

"Answered an ad in the Des Moines Register fifteen years ago," Kramer said. "Four hour Learning Annex class followed by certification. Notarized and everything." Then he paused and squinted into the distant hills.

"What--" I began, but he held up a finger then put it to his lips.

Then I heard it. A faint, high-pitched chittering. Like single engine plane. Or a crazed woodchipper.

Kramer pointed into the distance. "Here they come," he said. "Put your flamethrower on and get ready."

I pulled on the twin fuel tanks and tightened the straps, then took up the gun unit. Then I looked in the direction Kramer had pointed.

Along the foothills I spotted a wide blanket of whiteness, like snow. Moving snow. Moving, creeping snow. But more like melted mashmallows that bubbled and pulsed and undulated along the ground. The blanket of whiteness was at least the size of two football fields, maybe more, maybe with trapped players in it.

Kramer reached down to the boombox sitting between us, tapped a button, and Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" blared from the speakers.

"They can't stand 80s music," said Kramer, grinning like a lunatic. "Throws 'em into a big tizzy. The frequencies of the songs messes with their equilibrium and internal membrane flow."

I felt the music coursing through my veins, felt the frequencies rushing through my membrane flow, felt it jitterbug into my brain.

Time to rock and roll, by gum.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.