Month: February 2019

The Halfway Point – or, the land of Meh.

camifinalfinalThe Liberty Guard novel is meant to be around 60k in length and I’m currently closing in on 32,000 words. That means I’m over halfway home… but this is also the point in every novel where I begin to loathe the project, I’m anxious to do something else and I’m questioning why in the hell did I agree to do this in the first place.

So what does a writer do? He soldiers on. He keeps adding words. He looks for things that could inspire a bit more passion.

When I was a young guy just looking to become that mythical creature known as an “author,” I would write until I got bored or some shiny new idea entered my brain and then I’d jump to do that. I left a string of unfinished manuscripts in my wake. I see that with my students all the time – it’s that dedication, that drive, that will that they lack now and that I lacked then. You have to say, “Sorry, I can’t write you, project X… not until I finish the current work.”

Wish me luck. These are the dark days. If I can just hit 40k… then 50… then the momentum will drive me to the finish line.

Accompanying this post is an image of Camila Mendes, the actress that plays Veronica Lodge on Riverdale.

 

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. The Heavy Entertainment Show (2016) – This one is a slightly meandering effort, with a dizzying array of music styles. There are some truly great tracks on this one, with my favorites being Party Like A Russian, Love My Life, Sensitive, Hotel Crazy, David’s Song, Best Intentions and Bruce Lee. There aren’t any tracks that I hate but there are a few that are of the “B-Side” variety. Overall, it’s a really solid effort that I think will be more appreciated as time goes on.

6. Under the Radar, Volume 2 (2017) – A much stronger effort than the first volume in this series of albums that consist of unreleased tracks, B-sides and Demos. The first half of this album is filled with great tracks: Satellites, Eyes on the Highway, Speaking Tongues, Andy Warhol and my personal favorite, Numb. That’s not to say the album as a whole is a terrific one as the back half is mostly stuff that’s pretty forgettable. Still, I do listen to the first 8 or 9 tracks pretty frequently – even Rob’s cover of 9 to 5, which sounds like he’s having a hell of a time at a Karaoke bar, is fun.

7. 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 sixth slot. I remember being so excited when this album was released and I wasn’t disappointed at all.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. Under the Radar, Volume One (2014) – This one is an odd duck. It contains unreleased tracks that, for whatever reason, didn’t make it onto previous albums or as single B-sides. It was available only via Robbie’s official website so you weren’t even able to get it via normal retailers. Overall, most of these songs are exactly what you’d imagine — they’d make fine album filler but they’re not single-worthy. There are a few that I do enjoy (“H.E.S.,” “Surrender,” “Green Light,” and “The Pilot”) but there are also some that are… uh… not so good. A few suffer from poor decisions — “Super Tony,” for instance has a killer chorus but the song screeches to a halt every time Robbie does his little ‘cocaine’ thing in the song. Overall, this one is worth listening to if you’re a hardcore Robbie fan… but if you’re a fan of only his hits or are just scratching the surface of his catalog, you can skip this one.

13. Under the Radar, Volume Three (2019) – This one really does feel like an album consisting of filler material. I do enjoy Gold, No Fucks, I Just Want People to Like Me, Dirty Rotten and the acoustic versions of Hunting for You and Into the Silence… but there’s a lot here that’s just kind of blah. You get two different versions of Indestructible, acoustic versions of songs released on other Robbie albums and the humorous but slightly off-kilter National Anthem of Robbie. I love Rob’s cheekiness but the National Anthem seems just past the point of being funny… I see what he went for and there are a few lines that I chuckle at but I also can see people that don’t get Rob’s humor pointing at this as a good reason why they don’t like him.

14. 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 soon to talk about New Pulp and what lies next for me, writing-wise. Take Care!

Yeah, it’s time for an update

27858577_10155082550917181_8118617840494930262_nHello, one and all – work continues on the Liberty Guard novel. I’m over 28,000 words into it right now and have reached that point where I’m wondering why I started on it in the first place. It’s not a reflection of the work or subject matter — I do this around this mark on every novel I write. You get hungry for something different and the knowledge that you’re only halfway through makes it worse. I’ll keep pushing through it. Once I hit the 40k mark, it’s usually a sprint to the end.

Still waiting on Babylon to arrive from Pro Se…

Had a few ideas for Lazarus Gray Volume 11 but I refuse to work on it until Volume 8 is published. I’m not going to be four novels ahead!

Currently reading THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE. The Puritan avenger has always been a character I liked but he’s no Conan. Still, I love these stories.

Been in a bit of a writing snit overall lately – no new reviews, no new books being published, feels like I’m sending these books out into the void. There are definitely days when I want to delete the blog and just vanish into the ether – not sure anybody would really miss me in what passes for the New Pulp scene. Is there even such a thing anymore?

Ah, well – I’m gonna go spend some more time with Solomon Kane. See you soon!

Who is… Babylon?

babylon_small_black_no_textComing out soon is THE SECOND BOOK OF BABYLON, a novel that stars the cosmic spirit of retribution – Babylon! Eagle-eyed readers have noticed several references to Babylon on my timeline that’s often published on this blog… but who is he? The following essay will run in THE SECOND BOOK OF BABYLON and gives you an overview of the hero – it will appear at the beginning of the book and leads directly into what the novel is all about.

If any of this sounds somewhat… familiar… then you’ll receive a No-Prize in the mail at some point. Babylon’s real-world origins are quite a tale in and of themselves – someday, I just might tell you about it.

WHO IS BABYLON?

Gideon, born in the 18th century, was the slave to a devil-worshipping plantation owner named Abraham Black, who had his own name added to each of his slaves’ names to show his ownership of them. Gideon Black fell in love with the daughter of the plantation owner – a stunning beauty named Magdalena – and the two carried on a secret affair that came to a terrible conclusion when the she gave birth to Gideon’s son. Abraham was outraged at this and had his daughter tied to a post in the center of the front yard, intending to have her burned at the stake for cavorting with a black man and tainting the family line. Gideon was beaten and tied up in the storm cellar of the plantation house, where his own fate would be decided after the murder of his beloved.

Magdalena had learned much of her father’s teachings, however – with her dying breath, she summoned the Furies of myth to take revenge on her father. The entities slew nearly everyone on the plantation and were about to exact their own awful justice upon Abraham when the occultist made a pact of his own: he summoned Lucifer himself and offered a deal – the souls of both Gideon and the spawn of Gideon’s relationship with Magdalena. Lucifer accepted this offer and empowered Gideon with armor forged in the depths of Hell. Gideon became Babylon, the cosmic spirit of dark vengeance, and successfully banished The Furies.

Learning of his father’s crimes and that the dark lord had taken his son’s soul, Gideon committed suicide. When Lucifer went to claim Gideon’s soul, an archangel appeared and demanded that Gideon be spared. A compromise was reached: Gideon’s soul would be bonded to the infernal armor and could be summoned by his descendants in future years. Thus, he would serve both Heaven and Hell, claimed by neither.

Through the years, many of Gideon’s family line served their time as Babylon, offering up retribution for the spilling of innocent blood. In the late 1930s, a man named Daniel Higgins became Babylon after he and his sister Stella stumbled upon a mob hit taking place in the Sovereign City Cemetery. The killers feared that the couple might be able to identify them and the mob boss ordered them killed. While fleeing, Stella was shot in the head, entering a coma and eventually dying. Daniel stumbled upon a strange suit of armor – when he touched it, the metal seemed to flow over his skin and transformed him into Babylon.

Babylon’s personality was quite different from the quiet and unassuming Daniel but over the years, their personas began to blend. The Babylon entity lacked memories of his true origins for years and it was not until the latter part of the 20th century that he finally uncovered his history as Gideon Black. During this time, Daniel was kept young by the power of the Babylon armor, making him the longest tenured host of Gideon’s spirit. Daniel and Gideon fought the forces of evil through the Second World War and far beyond, crossing paths with Daniel’s Johnny Galahad, a private eye that specialized in the occult, and Jennifer Black, a sorceress that was descended from a line of Atlantean mages.

The role of Babylon was as much a curse as anything else. Serving as the cosmic spirit of vengeance put friends and loved ones in constant peril and Daniel was forced to watch as many of them were killed by his enemies – even those that escaped a violent end grew old and passed away, while he himself stayed young. Daniel eventually began traveling the world, afraid of settling down in one place for too long since his foes would inevitably find him. Amongst his most persistent enemies were Lucifer; Damien, the devil’s son; the vampire known as Bloodshot and the serial-murderer Straw Man.

Eventually, Babylon journeyed into Hell itself to unlock the truth about his past. He succeeded, revealing that the spirit within the armor was Gideon Black and that both Johnny Galahad and Jennifer Black were descendants of his. At the climax of the adventure, Daniel was killed at long lost and Gideon Black became ruler of Hell alongside Johnny Galahad’s deceased wife Roxanne, who had been revived as a demonic entity known as Delilah.

Shortly thereafter, a confused Babylon reappeared on Earth, running amok. He was seemingly restored to normalcy after Daniel reappeared and the two merged again. How Daniel was still alive was left unanswered at that time…

The Runs

This is a criminally underappreciated run. I really enjoyed it.

Nerds of Mass Distractions

By Archeologist X

A look at classic, obscure and weird and quirky comic book runs.

“Bob Harras’ Proto Bomber Jacket era” Avengers 334-344

Copyright 2018 Marvel

This was the very first portion of Bob Harras’ run which was eventually be interrupted by a few fill in issues and the 90s mega Avengers cross-over Operation: Galactic Storm before continuing…

Avengers 334 begins a six issue story arc, all written by Harras with Pencils by Andy Kubert and Inks by Tom Palmer. 335-339 are also written by Harras with Inks by Palmer, but Steve Epting starts his run as semi-regular penciler. The story starts with a strange crash on the blue area of the moon. Since this side of the moon is home to the Inhumans, they send a team to investigate, including Quicksilver. If you didn’t know, he’s married to the Inhuman princess, Crystal which makes them both liaisons between the…

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