Month: March 2014

Monday!

lr-kalutashadowGood morning, my friends!

It’s the start of a whole new week and hopefully it’s going to be a great one. Tomorrow we’re going to have a special guest blog from pulp fan Ralph Grasso — I think it’s fun to let different voices get out there and Ralph has decided to talk about one of his favorite movies so I hope you’ll give a read when it’s posted.

Speaking of posting, I uploaded the 65th episode of The Shadow Fan’s Podcast this morning — we review The Spy Ring (1940) and The White Column (1941). I get to briefly talk about my love of the Myra Reldon character (again) and I also discuss some upcoming comics stuff that Dynamite will be publishing. If you love The Shadow, I hope you’re giving it a listen.

Work continues on the current novel, with is closing in the midway point. I’ve been really enjoying it but I’m anxious to reach the end and move on to some other projects, too. The bane of the writer, I suppose.

Last week I teased a couple of announcements — one of them will be delayed by a couple of months because of some stuff on the back end. Not my fault! As for the other announcement, I’m hoping it will be coming later this week. Fingers crossed!

Next week will be spring break around here so I might be running some classic posts from the past, putting up art, etc. If there’s anything from the vaults that you’d like to see again, let me know!

Our art today is by the amazing Michael Kaluta!

From the Vault: Robbie Williams – The Albums, Best To Worst

Robbie Williams Wallpaper @ go4celebrity.comGenerally I stay focused on my writing career on this blog but from time to time I like to venture forth into other passions that I have. For instance, I’ve posted rpg writeups and talked tv shows. When it comes to music, I have many favorites – David Bowie, Marina and the Diamonds, Led Zeppelin, Prince and Fleetwood Mac are just a few of them. But my absolute favorite music artist is Robbie Williams, the British pop superstar who’s well known everywhere but here, in the jolly USA. Robbie started out in a boy band called Take That back in the Nineties before going solo. He then began selling records… lots and lots of them. A few years ago, he even patched things up with the rest of the boys in Take That and released an album called Progress that dominated the UK charts and spawned a huge tour. Today I’m going over my favorite Robbie solo albums in order from the very best to the bottom of the barrel. I’m not including compilations or live albums here.

1. Reality Killed the Video Star (2009) – Kind of an odd choice, given that it’s the only album in Robbie’s career that didn’t hit # 1 in the UK. But I love this record and think that from start to finish, it’s an enjoyable listen. My favorites include Bodies, You Know Me, Starstruck and Won’t Do That. I just feel it’s a truly solid album that speaks to the wide range of talents that Robbie possesses. I actually listen to it quite often and think it works as both background music while I work and for when I want to just sit and listen to the lyrics.

2. Escapology (2002) – Considering that my two favorite Robbie songs are both off this album, I’m sure a lot of my friends would expect this to be in the top spot on my list. But while it contains many, many wonderful tracks, it does contain a couple of clunkers – How Peculiar and Cursed, for instance, are two songs that I can go the rest of my life without hearing again. Still, it contains Feel (my all-time favorite Rob song), Come Undone (my second favorite), Something Beautiful, Handsome Man, Hot Fudge and Me and My Monkey, all of which I really dig.

3. Take the Crown (2012) – A really strong outing that shows how much Robbie has matured. He’s a married man and a father now and you can see that all of that has helped calm his manic nature a bit. The lyrics remain deeply personal but are of a different sort. Now we see a Rob who’s promising to never betray his love, who thinks about where he’s been and where he hopes to be, etc. Contains some real gems like Candy, Be a Boy, Gospel, Different and Not Like the Others. A lot of people really enjoy Losers and while I dig the lyrics, the actual track isn’t one of my favorites.

4. I’ve Been Expecting You (1998) – Robbie’s second solo album is a classic, with perennial favorites like Strong, No Regrets, Millenium, Win Some Lose Some, She’s the One and Jesus in a Camper Van. Really, there are no stinkers on this album and it could easily be higher on this list… but I think that it’s very much of it’s time, as well, in terms of sound and Rob’s state of mind. As such, while I adore all those tracks I listed above, as an album it feels a little lighter than the ones I’ve ranked ahead of it. Still, a great one.

5. Sing When You’re Winning (2000) – A truly strong effort that, for me, solidified that Robbie was going to be around for the long haul. More mature than previous releases, it also displayed stunning self-assurance and confidence in his abilities. My favorite tracks include Supreme, Rock DJ, The Road to Mandalay, Kids and Better Man. There are a couple of tracks that are fairly weak, though, and that’s what moves it down to the fifth slot. I remember being so excited when this album was released and I wasn’t disappointed at all.

6. Intensive Care (2005) – While a fine album with a few stellar tracks, there remains something… off… about this one. I think we can begin to see the things that eventually veer off-track with the next album. I think that at this point, few people were questioning Rob’s decisions. He was selling tons of albums and singles so why should they doubt him? But there are tracks on here (Sin Sin Sin, which was actually released as a single) that feel a bit phoned-in and by the numbers. Still, I love Ghosts, Advertising Space, Please Don’t Die and The Trouble With Me. It’s a good album, just lesser than those above it on this list.

7. Life Thru a Lens (1997) – Rob’s debut album. It contains mega-hit Angels, which single-handedly transformed him into an international superstar. Lazy Days, Old Before I Die and Let Me Entertain You are all fine tracks and have rightly become classics in their own right. There are other songs, though, that reflect Rob’s struggle to become a solo star and which, no longer viewed in their 1997 context, just don’t hold up well. It’s definitely a flimsy record compared to his later works — a few wonderful songs surrounded by fluff.

8. Robbie Williams Swings Both Ways (2013) – Rob returned to swing in this follow-up to the 2001 Swing When You’re Winning. I rank this one higher because it contains several new tracks and two of them (“Shine My Shoes” & “Go Gentle”) are absolute classics. I really enjoy several of the oldies on this album, too, especially Rob’s versions of “Little Green Apples,” “16 Tons” and “Dream A Little Dream.” Is this as good as a pure, 100% Robbie album? Nah. But it’s a damned fine record.

9. Rudebox (2006) – Okay. I don’t hate this album and, in fact, think it has some very good tracks on it. But overall, it is a bit of a mess. The album doesn’t feel cohesive and contains a few embarrassing blunders (the title track wouldn’t be too bad as album filler but as the lead single? Very bad move). There were also a surprising number of covers (Bongo Bong and Je Ne T’Aime Plus, Lovelight, Kiss Me and Louise). I do really enjoy The Actor, The 80’s, The 90’s and Summertime but this was an album where someone should have stepped in and said “No, Robbie, this isn’t working.” It’s an example of excess to the extreme.

10. Swing When You’re Winning (2001) – This album only contains one new song (I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen), otherwise it’s covers of old swing jazz songs such as Mack the Knife, Something Stupid (which hit # 1 on the UK charts as a duet between Rob and Nicole Kidman) and Mr. Bojangles. It’s fun stuff but I rank it at the bottom because it’s certainly the least “Robbie Williams” album he’s ever done. Rob loves this stuff and has incorporated some of it into his stage shows ever since.

If you’re looking to get into Robbie’s music for the first time, I’d say start with either The Ego Has Landed, a 1999 compilation album that takes the best tracks off Life Thru a Lens and I’ve Been Expecting You or In and Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits 1990-2010. The Ego Has Landed was actually my own introduction to Robbie so it obviously worked. In and Out of Consciousness has 2 CDs and 39 tracks so you get all the major hits but you lose the cohesive feel of an album. It’s a compilation, you know the routine.

I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about New Pulp and what lies next for me, writing-wise. Take Care!

Pulp? Yeah, Pulp.

When I was a kid, I was surrounded by the paperback reprints of the classic pulp heroes: Doc Savage, The Avenger, John Carter, Conan, etc. Those books excited me with their lurid covers and exciting characters, instilling a love for that kind of fiction that remains with me today.

These days, when people ask me what kind of things I write, I sometimes avoid describing it as “pulp” because most people have no clue what that means and I’m too tired of explaining it to bother. Sometimes, I say I write “horror, sci-fi and fantasy” but then folks expect to find elves or something in my books. A bunch of folks (of which I was one) spent a lot of time coming up with a ‘definition’ of pulp that runs like this: “Fast-paced, plot-oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrase and other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.”

Now that’s quite a mouthful so it’s not something I can just spout off at a moment’s notice. It’s a compromise, too, which means that nobody was really happy with it. And there are so many exceptions to the rule that the definition often sparks debate amongst pulp fans.

I understand the desire to want to brand ourselves as “pulp” — we love it and we want to be a part of it, to be seen as the inheritors of the mantle and the ones who continue to carry it forward.

But to the general public, pulp fiction is a movie that starred John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson.

I don’t have the answer for how to change that. Honestly, I think it will take that brass ring we’re all chasing — the book or character that “breaks out” and becomes popular to the mainstream. But when that happens, will the New Pulp label be brought with it? I don’t know.

In the end, pulp is kind of like pornography… I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it. Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy? Pulp. The Time Traveler’s Wife? Not Pulp.

Our art today is by George Sellas and features Leonid Kaslov in a scene from “Kaslov’s Fire,” which can be found in The Rook Volume Two Special Edition.

And Now… the Cover to Gravedigger Volume Two!

gravedigger_cover_02_small_mockupFolks on my Facebook page got to see this cover last weekend but for the rest of you, this will be your first look at the cover to The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume Two: The Silver Skull. Look for it to appear later in 2014!

George Sellas did this incredible image — given how well received the cover to the first book was, I think he felt a bit of pressure to live up to it with this one… and I think he came through with flying colors!

In the sequel, Gravedigger and her friends end up taking on the mystery of Pandora’s Box… and get wrapped up in a plot to bring about the downfall of the United States! That’s right, while the bulk of the action takes place in Sovereign City, we’ll also have a trip to Washington, D.C.!

So what do you think?

Satan’s Circus Gets Reviewed!

lg4_cover_final_paint_smallThe Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Four: Satan’s Circus has received its first review! Our old friend Raven Dark posted the following:

The story definitely begins with this beautiful cover! 5 out of 5 stars

The story really begins with the awesome cover art that gives the reader who has been keeping up with the tales a glimpse as what is to come. For the reader who is just starting with this book, the cover will invoke questions that possibly will send them searching for the previous volumes. Great shot, George Sellas!

The first part of the volume is a short graphic novel introduction to the character of Lazarus Gray.

The next part, Leviathan Rising, is the final part of a story arc that has being running through volumes II and III. The identity of the man behind the monster, the true face of Leviathan is revealed at last. And behind Leviathan is revealed a being that has used the monster for its own purposes.

First the forces of Leviathan attack Thunder Island, the secret headquarters of Thunder Jim Wade. The attackers are repulsed, but they commit suicide in a manner that chills the blood in service to their dark lord. Wade’s assistants, Dirk Marat and Red Argyle are also attacked by minions of similar fanatic service to Leviathan.

The monster goes after Lazarus Gray in an attack that mirrors the attacks on Thunder Jim Wade and company. The two heroes join forces to battle the threat of Leviathan and the horrible being holding his chain. The story roars to its climax through a haze of devil fire and death as Leviathan is defeated and his handler curbed at least for the moment.

The story ends with a soft clue as to the start of the next story. And hints are given that we may not have seen the end of Leviathan after all… A most definite five out of five tale!

The next story, Satan’s Circus, sees the return of scarlet wearing occult Doctor Satan. He comes prepared for battle with not only the members of The Devil’s Circus, now Satan’s Circus, old enemies long thought defeated now magically returned with a vengeance.

Also the identity of The Darkling and the secrets of his origin are given at last, an old friend resurfaces that Lazarus thought dead, and Eidolon returns to battle beside his old teammates against Doctor Satan and his forces.

The story starts out at a dead run and maintains the pace all the way to the end. The end does leave questions that I feel sure Barry Reese has already answered in unpublished as yet volumes, of will do so in the near future.

This story also is a solid five out of five. The book from cover to the end probably ranks an eight on a scale of five! Great job all around, Barry! Looking for more encores!

Quoth the Raven…

Thanks for the excellent review, Raven! I’m really glad that you enjoyed the book. I consider Satan’s Circus to be the real conclusion to the story arc that ran through books 2-4, with Leviathan Rising another chapter in that tale. It’s always fun to handle classic pulp characters like Thunder Jim Wade and Doctor Satan so the chance to work with both in this tome was fantastic — and I always enjoyed writing The Darkling!

I have high hopes that you’ll enjoy the fifth book in the series — hopefully you’ll see it before the end of 2014!

Best New Character!

awardIt’s Wednesday, the midpoint of the week, and I’m proud to show you a picture of the plaque given by the New Pulp Awards in recognition of Gravedigger being voted Best New Character. I really do appreciate everyone who voted for this — when I created Gravedigger, I felt like I had really stumbled upon something special and I’m glad that so many who read the first volume seemed to agree. Later this year you’ll get to see the sequel and eventually you’ll be able to watch as Charity Grace takes part in the big crossover novel, Götterdämmerung.

Speaking of which, I’m over 22,000 words into the story so we’re moving forward at a good clip.

Coming soon will be announcements about a project I did for Radio Archives and also something really fun that’s brewing at Pro Se Press. I think people will be really intrigued by that latter one as it ties into the shared universe I have and, in some important ways, is tied to the crossover novel.

I’m such a tease, aren’t I?

It’s been awhile since we had a guest contributor to the blog so I’m going to be seeing if I can recruit someone to do a new one soon. Any requests in terms of people or topics?

Hope everyone has a wonderful day out there — and if things get too tense for you, sneak away and grab a good book. Escapism isn’t a dirty word at all, my friends.

Properties That Need To Be Translated Into Prose – ASAP!

night-forceMy buddy Jim Beard has had some success translating the Captain Action toy into prose and we’ve certainly seen novels based on tv shows, comic book characters and so forth over the years. But there are some properties out there that I’d love to get to see in prose… and maybe even write myself!

What things am I thinking about? Let’s see…

The Six Million Dollar Man – These days, he’d have to be updated to Six Billion or more, right? Anyway, I always thought this was a pulpy kind of show and I think it would be fun to see new prose adventures that followed the television continuity.

Challengers of the Unknown – Let’s pretend the Ron Goulart novel from the 70s never happened, okay? The notion of these guys living on borrowed time is a great one and would translate easily into a New Pulp take.

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle – Everybody loves a good jungle girl story, right? I think Sheena is ripe for a revival and updating. If Sheena were unavailable, maybe we could get the tragically aborted Savage Beauty concept revived and explored in prose.

Micronauts – This toy line spawned a classic Marvel comic book but revivals since haven’t been able to hit the right notes. I actually read a prose trilogy based upon one of the later continuities… and I think there’s a lot of potential here, even if it hasn’t always been present since Marvel lost the license.

The Phantom – We’ve had a great series of paperbacks written by Lee Falk and Moonstone did some fantastic anthologies featuring the hero but I’d like to see more Phantom prose adventures.

Night Force – This Wolfman/Colan creation was a lot of fun from DC Comics back in the day and I’d be ready to follow them into prose adventures, as well. Baron Winters is a great character and the premise is just made for a continuing series of adventures.

What old properties would you like to see revived in prose?