NaNoWriMo Progress Report

If you’ve been keeping up with my Twitter updates, or if you just look at the sidebar with the NaNoWriMo calendar (if you can’t see said calendar, click on the banner at the top of this page and it’ll take you back to the main page), you already know that my progress this year on the annual National Novel Writing Month has fallen well short of my expectations. This has happened with numerous other NaNoWriMo attempts in the past. On most occasions, it’s been a case of the story simply running out of steam or the idea lacking the kind of strong foundation needed to build a story on. But this was just a matter of bad timing.

Right before the onset of November, I was asked to edit a novel. I don’t believe I’m at liberty to say much more than that at this point. But the who and why isn’t important, just that I had a task I agreed to. I actually have until January to complete the editing job, but because it was there and needed to get done, whenever I found myself struggling with my own writing, I would just turn to the editing project. This was partly procrastination, but also a helpful tool. If you’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy over your own writing, I’d suggest editing or proofreading someone else’s work. You may find yourself thinking as you go, “hey, wait a minute…I can do this stuff, too!” I found that happen to me as I was editing Pro Se’s Monster Aces anthology. And it did help recently, because as I was editing this current project, gears started turning in my head in regards to my own writing.

Another thing that came up was a potential regular writing assignment for a bit more wider exposure than I’m typically used to. Again, it’s too early to say anything about it now, but I also started work on writing some stuff for that. I also had some non-writing professional obligations, with a two-day teaching conference that involved being away from my computer and even notebook for pretty much the entirety of those two days.

But the important thing about NaNoWriMo isn’t necessarily finishing on time. The important thing is to get writing again. It’s been close to a year since I completed a writing assignment (that would be my Ian Morris story for this past summer’s Tales of the Rook anthology). So getting sixteen thousand words finished in what, according to the calendar, has only been about a week of actual writing is not too bad in itself. I had started off strong, meeting my daily goal of two thousand words, but as the month and story went on, other things started popping up and I hit roadblocks.

I don’t think I’m going to call it quits on this story just yet. It has some real promise and some things that need to be worked around, but I believe I can finish it. I may need to switch gears and look back at another project that’s been stalled for a while. This novel I’ve been editing has elements of fantasy to it, as does another project of mine that’s been sidelined for a long time, and that gave me some ideas.

We’ll see how it all progresses. As we say in Japan, ganbare!

Marvel Now!

As many readers may be aware, Marvel Comics is in the midst of a semi-relaunch. In the wake of Avengers vs. X-Men, several books have been restarted and the Marvel Universe as a whole is in a different place. This has seen a lot of shuffling of creative teams. What I have now is some initial thoughts on the current Marvel Now! titles:

All-New X-Men

I’ll be honest, my expectations going into this book were very, very low. I think Brian Michael Bendis is talented when he sticks to his niche, which is street-level crime drama. His work on books like PowersAliasDaredevil, etc. is undeniably excellent. But his mainstream Marvel work, like the Avengers books, has been very lackluster. It felt like I was reading an Avengers book written by someone who didn’t really like the Avengers. So I was understandably nervous when I heard Bendis would be moving over to X-Men, as the X-Men are what first got me into comics. Fortunately, this issue is actually a very good start. I’m still a bit iffy on the logistics of how the X-Men of the past come into the present and Storm’s dialogue was a bit melodramatic, but it isn’t enough to turn me off to this.

Deadpool

I was very disappointed in this book. Deadpool has not been funny since Gail Simone was writing it, and that’s sad. It’s not hard to make Deadpool funny — he’s a walking lawsuit who breaks the fourth wall, the jokes should write themselves. But for some reason, ever since Gail Simone left, no one’s been able to handle a Deadpool solo series (this doesn’t include the very excellent work done by writers who have used Deadpool in ensemble books to excellent effect, such as Fabian Nicieza’s Cable & Deadpool or Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force). In this set-up, you have Deadpool going up against zombie Presidents. Especially in this current political climate, that’s awesome! It’s the kind of idea I’d wish I thought of. But the execution falls and aside from a few random giggles (which were unrelated to the plot), this book is not funny.

Iron Man

The writing in Iron Man #1 was actually very good. But there is one, major problem — and that is the art. I don’t know why, but for some reason Marvel put one of their best writers with one of their worst artists on this title. Salvador Larroca was an amazing artist. And he’s a guy who can actually draw on his own. Why Marvel chose to replace him with Greg “I Need to Photoshop Porn Stars” Land is beyond me. But the art failings are unfortunately very obvious. The armor scenes are done well, but when we have to see Tony outside of the armor, we’re greeted with exaggerated expressions that make no sense whatsoever.

Uncanny Avengers

Against my better judgment, I really enjoyed the beginning of this series. I like that Havok is becoming a bigger factor. Rogue and Scarlet Witch’s animosity felt a bit forced, though.

Thor: God of Thunder

I really don’t know what to think of this book. It’s got a lot of old school mythology/flashbacks, which could prove very interesting. I do like how Jason Aaron isn’t shying away from Thor’s attitudes as a god of old times, though — the whole thing feels authentic

Avengers Assemble

I have to be honest, this is the title that disappointed me the most. I’d only recently become acquainted with Kelly Sue DeConnick through her work on Captain Marvel (which I liked). But her Avengers Assemble felt very forced and unnatural.

 

From my experience so far, the best Marvel Now books seem to be Uncanny AvengersThor: God of Thunder, and (surprisingly) All-New X-Men,

NaNoWriMo

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d been thinking lately about one of my favorite books, Frankenstein, and how that got me thinking about the monster. He’s always been one of my favorite characters in literature, and although I’ve enjoyed Karloff’s interpretation as slow and monosyllabic at best, I prefer the version Mary Shelley conceived, who was intelligent and well-spoken.

This, combined with the onset of National Novel Writing Month coalesced into a perfect storm, and so I’ve decided to participate once more. So this month, I will be working on…

Although this is a Frankenstein story, it’s not a horror book, not even really a sci-fi book. All I will really say about it is that it will be a pulp book. Should the book be completed, it will likely be published via PulpWork Press.

You can keep up with my progress on Twitter and Facebook, or on the sidebar of this site, with a word count widget checking my daily progress throughout the month. To meet the deadline, I need to write around 1667 words per day. My daily goal is 2000 to give myself a bit of a buffer. Today, the first day, I managed 2447 words. So already off to a good start.

Let’s hope it manages to stick.

 

Monsters everywhere!

I’ve got two pieces of news for you today. The first is that Pro Se Productions has just released a new book in time for Halloween, called Monster Aces! Here is the description from Pro Se:

Having selflessly abandoned their identities, their pasts and their futures, the Monster Aces are all that stand between humanity and the fell creatures that lurk in the shadows. Four men and one woman use their amazing abilities as a team to scour the globe for monsters and bring an end to their unholy existence – whatever the danger, whatever the cost.

The book includes two stories by Jim Beard, creator of the Monster Aces. Also included are stories by Barry Reese, Van Allen Plexico, and Ron Fortier! So altogether, you’ve got some great stories by some of the best New Pulp has to offer!

And this collection was edited by yours truly, so check it out! Well worth the price of admission!

The other piece of news I have is Mark Bousquet, writer of Gunfighter Gothic and Dreamer’s Syndrome, recently reviewed Dragon Kings of the Orient! Here’s a bit of what he had to say about it:

Percival Constantine sets his own course in DRAGON KINGS and Elisa is her own woman. Where this novel shines are the moments when Elisa finds herself, in the same instance, fighting both moral and physical quandaries. Her willingness to work with previous combatants when the situation calls for it, even if she doesn’t want to do it, makes her seem like a very real, very practical character. Which is important when you’ve got fox spirits and Dragon Kings running around with magical swords.

Head on over to Atomic Anxiety to check out the rest of Mark’s review! While you’re there, check out some of his work. And if you haven’t read Dragon Kings of the Orient yet, what are you waiting for? Jump over to the Novels section to see how to get yourself a copy!

National Novel Writing Month

It’s the end of October and that means we’re on the verge of yet another National Novel Writing Month.

What’s that, you say? What the hell is this all about?

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) occurs every year in November. The idea is to produce a novel of 50,000 words between the dates of November 1st and November 30th. The rules are that all the actual writing occurs just during those thirty days. You can plot, outline, etc. in advance, but you have to wait until midnight on November 1st before you enter one word into your manuscript. Of course, there’s no enforcement of this, it’s all on the honor system. And there’s no prize, except for the satisfaction of having finished a novel.

So why do it?

If you’re an aspiring writer (or a writer in a dry spell) struggling to get something on the page, an event like this can give you that kick in the pants you need. I’ve participated in it a number of times, but only actually finished once. That was my first novel, Fallen. I’ve attempted other novels since during NaNoWriMo, but they fizzled out. The other books I’ve written were not written as part of NaNoWriMo (I actually finished The Myth Hunter on the eve of NaNoWriMo 2009).

The website has forums to get encouragement from other participants and advice on all manner of things related to writing. There’s also fun things like word counters to chart your progress. You may have seen your writer friends posting progress updates on Twitter, Facebook, or blogs. I’m toying with the idea of jumping into it again, the question is which of the ideas I’ve got notes on will I focus on.

One of my favorite things about the forums are the write-in events. There are regions all over the world for NaNoWriMo and many of these regions will schedule write-ins where people meet up somewhere with their laptops, tablets, notebooks, whatever to just write. It can be a fun way to do some work, participating in an environment like that and feeding off each other’s energy.

I say it’s worth the effort if you want to write a book or even a book of short stories for that matter. If you don’t complete it, there’s no punishment and you can always continue working on the book past November. And if you complete it, you get to pat yourself on the back for a job well done and breathe a sigh of relief.

…until the editing begins, of course.

Sentinels: A Distant Star

I absolutely loved Van Allen Plexico’s first Sentinels book, When Strikes The Warlord. So much, in fact, that once I finished, I immediately bought the second book, A Distant Star. These two books, along with Apocalypse Rising, form the first Sentinels trilogy, “The Grand Design.”

In this volume, we see the return of the Sentinels — Lyn Li/Pulsar, Ultraa, Esro Brachis and Vanadium. We also see the return of the enemy from the first book, the Warlord, albeit in a different form. There are a succession of Warlords, and every time one dies another takes his place, and it’s all part of something known as the Grand Design. Where this leads to is still something of a mystery that I assume will be the focus of the third book.

The Sentinels’ universe also expands with this book, with the introduction of the Kur-Bai, an alien race coming to Earth in order to eliminate the Xorex, a planet-destroying entity that served as the master of Kabaraak from the previous volume. Upon landing on Earth, one of the Kur-Bai, a warrior named Mondrian, and Esro get swept off on an adventure of their own in space, going up against Mondrian’s former shipmate in a Barsoomian setting.

There’s a lot of jumping around in this book as the Sentinels are seemingly pulled apart in all directions. Ultraa is injured, Pulsar has family issues, Vanadium appears to be corrupted, and the government is prepared to cut their support for the Sentinels, especially with Esro missing. All the while, the Warlord is scheming, but it’s really Esro and Mondrian’s story that serve as the most interesting set-pieces here.

Where Plexico succeeds is in his characters, once more. Mondrian is every bit as intriguing and fascinating as the characters introduced in the previous volume. Her interaction with Esro is a joy to read and Esro himself steps up to the plate, becoming a much more central character than he was in the previous book. It could be said that When Strikes The Warlord was more Pulsar’s story and in that case, A Distant Star is definitely Esro’s. There’s a grandness to this book, a sense of a larger universe outside of Earth. I know that there were aliens in the first, but this one feels more like a space opera.

That being said, one of the strengths of A Distant Star, of it feeling like a part of something greater, can also be considered a shortcoming, depending on your point of view. When Strikes The Warlord can easily be viewed as a stand-alone tale, but with A Distant Star, there’s a lot of set-up for Apocalypse Rising and you know there’s something else coming.

Apocalypse Rising is a book I will be reading in the very near future. So far, Plexico has not disappointed with his superhero epic, and I’m looking forward to an epic conclusion of this trilogy!

What’s in a name? Musings on Frankenstein’s Monster

Halloween is coming around, and as is usually the case, that means I’m watching far more horror movies than I would under normal circumstances. Among those I’ve watched lately are two recent adaptations of one of my favorite books, Frankenstein. Both shared the same title as the novel and both were made-for-TV productions, and both came out in 2004. One was a USA adaptation based on a concept from Dean Koontz (that he developed into a series of novels), which featured both the doctor and his creation alive in modern-day New Orleans. The doctor is up to his old tricks again, except this time he’s killing people and harvesting their organs. And the monster, taking on the name Deucalion (the son of Prometheus in Greek mythology, and Shelley’s novel originally carried the subtitle of The Modern Prometheus), teams up with a police detective to stop his creator. It was intended to be the pilot for a new TV series with Vincent Perez (The Crow: City of Angels) as Deucalion, but that fell through. I’ve never read the books, but it was an interesting take on the mythos.

The other was also in 2004, a mini-series that was an adaptation of the novel for the Hallmark Channel. It was a pretty faithful adaptation, albeit a bit slow in parts (the total runtime was around three hours). Luke Goss (Blade II) played the monster and William Hurt and Donald Sutherland also had supporting roles.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the creature’s name. Of course, anyone who has read the book and most adaptations of the novel know that Frankenstein was the doctor’s name and the monster had no name. I’ve heard that Shelley referred to the creature as Adam in some readings of the book and the creature refers to himself as the Adam of Frankenstein’s labors. But for the most part, as far as the text is concerned, the creature is nameless. Over time, the monster has come to be known as Frankenstein in the public consciousness, which has become a sticking point for some who feel the need to issue a correction.

This got me thinking…who’s to say the creature isn’t Frankenstein?

I think of this for two reasons. For one, the creature refers to Frankenstein as his father, so in that instance, Frankenstein could be considered the creature’s surname as well as Victor’s. In that case, it’s only a first name that the creature lacks (although you could make an argument for Adam to be his first name, and there have been works that use the creature and refer to him as Adam).

If you don’t want to think of the creature as Victor’s son, you could also make an alternate argument. A painting is sometimes referred to by using the creator’s name as shorthand, like a Rembrandt or a Monet. In this convention, Frankenstein’s Monster could be referred to as a Frankenstein.

I think the best argument is really that the creature is Victor’s son. He’s a very human character in the book, not at all a lumbering, monosyllabic buffoon like he’s sometimes portrayed. No, the creature is actually very intelligent and well-spoken. So personally, I don’t see anything wrong with humanizing him a bit further and referring to him as Frankenstein, since he is Frankenstein’s son.

Now if you were to refer to the monster as Victor Frankenstein, we’d have to have a talk…

Pro Se Promo Party!

This is a really exciting New Pulp development! Pro Se Productions and Shindig are teaming up to host a massive event, spotlighting every single aspect of Pro Se! Tons of creators will be taking part in this event, and I encourage everyone to check it out!

I was invited to participate as well, but unfortunately, my schedule (and time zone) makes it impossible for me to attend. Still, I hope the rest of you will, as this is a really exciting New Pulp development! Tell your friends!

I’ll let Tommy explain the details:

Pro Se Productions, a publishing company known for adventure, action, crime, fantasy, super heroes, New Pulp, and original stories featuring Classic characters, announces the beginning of a partnership with a new internet platform that will bring a brand new experience to Pro Se Fans, literally bringing a convention like activity into the homes of anyone wanting to find out more about Pro Se.

On Saturday, October 13th from 1 PM CST to 7 PM CST, Pro Se Productions will be hosting an online Promotional Party spotlighting the entire company. This event is being done in conjunction withwww.shindig.com, a platform designed to host small, medium, and even massive book tours, promotional events, Q & As, or in this case, a gala event focusing on one of the up and coming Publishers of cutting Edge New Pulp fiction today. Writers, artists, and creators associated with Pro Se will be providing readings, panels, and one on one question and answer sessions online while participants can wander in and out, just like an actual convention, and enjoy the events as they take place. Also, fans who attend the event at any point in the day can actually enter into private chats with up to four other people and set up their own ‘rooms’ while also participating in the reading/panel/etc. that is taking place. This allows for hundreds and hundreds of participants to be available.

“This is the ultimate con experience in a sense,” Tommy Hancock, Partner in and EIC of Pro Se Productions stated, “taken and turned into an all Pro Se event. People can attend panels, go to readings, meet authors and creators, and do it right in front of their computer. Pro Se is definitely excited about this opportunity, not only because its a neat thing to be able to do, but also because it’s a platform that allows us to reach out not just to our own little conclave of fans who frequent our site, see us at Conventions, and/or buy our books. This is an opportunity to open the doors of Pro Se up to any and all who have ever read a thriller and enjoyed it, who have ventured into Space and wanted more, who sneered with the villain and celebrated with the hero of some great story. Pro Se has all that and more to offer readers today, and although there’s stories of every genre under our banner, they all have something in common. They are pure escapist over the top fun. And now, thanks to Shindig, Pro Se’s ‘Puttin’ The New In Pulp’ Promotional Party is a chance for readers of all type to see what we do, meet our creators, hear some great stories, get great one day deals on Pro Se books, and even pick up some giveaways!”

Attending the ‘Pro Se- Puttin’ The New in Pulp’ is free for anyone who wants to attend. Interact with creators, hear readings, participate in panels, take part in contests and simply learn about one of the brightest stars in modern Pulp and adventure publishing. Both established Pro Se Authors as well as new authors will be present. Past and current releases will be focused on, but there will also be much discussion on books and events to come from Pro Se. Come in for your favorite author or a panel subject that interests you, leave when you’re done, then come back whenever you want to. Anyone interested in attending can RSVP atwww.shindig.com/event/prose. This is the sign in site for the event and will also be where times for panels, readings, and Q & As will be posted as a schedule becomes available.

Pro Se also announces today that this event is only the first. Pro Se will be providing opportunities for readings, panels, and creator meet and greets as well as online launch parties for Pro Se staff and material in the future. “Expect,” stated Hancock, “that an event, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours, from Pro Se will happen every two weeks at a minimum, even more than that possibly with the fantastic books and such we have on the horizon.”

Saturday, October 13, 1 PM – 7 PM CST Pro Se Productions – ‘Puttin’ the New in Pulp’ Promotional hosted by shindig.com. RSVP and find out more at www.shindig.com/event/prose or by emailing Hancock at proseproductions@earthlink.net! And expect updates on this fantastic event in the coming days!

Schedule for Pro Se Promotional Party- Puttin’ The New in Pulp
TIMES ARE CENTRAL STANDARD-Please Adjust for your Time Zone
SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE
1:00-1:30- Pro Se- Puttin’ The New In Pulp-Introduction to Pro Se by Tommy Hancock, EIC and Partner of PRO SE
1:30-2:00-Pro Se Presents-THE MAGAZINE THAT PUT THE MONTHLY BACK INTO PULP-Moderated by Tommy Hancock and featuring various
2:00-2:30- Reese Unlimited –Featuring the Works of Barry Reese
2:30-3:15-Sovereign City Project with Tommy Hancock, Derrick Ferguson, Barry Reese
3:15-3:30-Hansen’s Way- Featuring the Works of Nancy Hansen
3:30-4:00- Hugh Monn-Featuring Lee Houston, Jr.
4:00-4:30- The Black Centipede featuring Chuck Miller
4:30-5:00-The Silver Manticore Strikes- With PJ Lozito
5:00-6:00-Pulp Obscura-Classic Characters, New Stories-Featuring Various Writers and Creators
6:00-7:00 WHAT’S COMING SOON FROM PRO SE-Featuring Various Writers and Creators

For further information, contact Tommy Hancock at proseproductions@earthlink.net or at 870-834-4022.

Pro Se Productions

Casting Call #3: Christian Pierce

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, but Alias has now been added to Netflix and I’ve started to watch it. I saw about half of the first season, but then ended up missing the rest. Anyway, I’ve started watching it again and I started paying more attention to Bradley Cooper. I had no idea he was in this show, and it reminded me of this Casting Call segment. Particularly one of the protagonists of Love & Bullets — Agency operative Christian Pierce. In the book, Christian is not only an Agency operative pursuing Dante, but he was also once partnered with Angela’s late husband. When he discovers Angela is working with Dante, he tries to turn her into an asset, but in the process ends up falling for his friend’s widow.

One of the reasons I stalled this segment for so long is because I was stuck on who would make a good Christian. It’s not like it’s a very complicated role, but something just didn’t feel right about other actors who came to mind. Now while re-watching Alias,  I’m also reminded of two other films Cooper was in recently — The A-Team and Limitless.

Cooper has a tendency to play laid back guys, but he can also do more serious roles. If you take a bit of his performance from The A-Team and combine it with his performance in Alias, I think you’ve got a very good basis for Christian.

Do you think Cooper would make a good Christian Pierce? Sound off in the comments. And if you want to know more about Love & Bullets, you can pick it up for $9.95 in print or $0.99 in digital (also available at other online retailers).

ComiXology and the future of digital

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a fan of digital. There are a few reasons for this. One is convenience — having everything at your fingertips as opposed to digging through boxes or shelves makes it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for or just to browse. Another is space. As I mentioned when I talked about digitizing my movie library, I live in Japan and as such, space is a premium. While my area tends to have a lower cost of living than what most people think of Japan, space is still difficult to come by and your chances of finding a big house if you aren’t rolling in cash is pretty slim. A third reason is security. Say you have a ton of books and your house burns down — those books are gone. But if you have digital books, you can back them up in a cloud.

Now this brings us to the point of this post and that’s digital comics. ComiXology is the big dog in terms of digital comics and they have a pretty nice looking app and the guided viewing mode is very cool, zooming in on different panels one at a time.

There is a big problem with digital comics, and digital movies for that matter. The issue of digital rights management or DRM. When you go down to the store and buy a comic book, that comic book is yours. You own it. When you pay the same amount for the same comic on the ComiXology app, you do not own the comic. What you have bought is a license. And it’s a license ComiXology reserves the right to revoke at any time for any reason.

So you’ve paid the same amount of money for the same product, the only difference is the method in which it’s presented. And in one case, you own it. In another, you’ve just paid for a right to view the material, you do not own it. What happens if ComiXology goes out of business? You’ve lost your money and the product you paid for.

Not too long ago, someone created a script that would allow people to back up their ComiXology purchases to CBR or CBZ (archive files that can be read with a comic book reading program). It was posted on Reddit and ComiXology asked for it to be removed. Which they have a right to do. But the problem here is that ComiXology is basically telling me, “you may have bought our product, but it’s not yours. We still own it. All you’ve bought is our permission to look at it, and we can revoke that permission at any time. Without giving you a refund.”

Imagine if you went into a store and the cashier told you, “by the way, we can come into your house at any time and take this back. We don’t have to warn you in advance and we don’t have to give you a refund, because you do not technically own this product.”

Seems pretty draconian to me.

I get that piracy is a big problem. I understand the argument to fight piracy, but my belief is one of the primary reasons people resort to piracy is because it’s just more convenient. When Napster came out on the scene, iTunes didn’t exist. And when iTunes came along, there was still lots of stuff that couldn’t be found. So, people who would have been willing to pay, but they found it easier to just steal.

I’m a humanist, I believe people are mostly good. I think if you give a person the ability to steal something or to pay for it and both options are easy, then most people will pay for it (yes, you’ll get people who will steal, but I do believe these are the minority).

And in the case of ComiXology, it’s not like going digital created comic book piracy. It was around before then in the form of scanners. And a vast majority of comic book piracy is still old-fashioned scanning.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying piracy is right. What I am saying is that imposing draconian restrictions and basically telling your customers, “we own these products and once you’ve paid for them, all you’ve paid for is our permission to use them. You cannot resell them. You cannot keep them. They are ours, not yours.” It’s another way of screwing the consumer.

I basically stopped reading comics when I came to Japan and aside from a few select titles, I’ve more or less stayed gone. I don’t want to get invested in these things only to have them taken away at a moment’s notice. If I can’t have a way to back them up, what good are they?