Friday, August 31, 2012

Why Axe Why?

Today the mailman brought me a stainless steel two-bladed axe. Got it from Amazon. Why do I need a stainless steel two-bladed axe? That's a silly question. Look how cool it is.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Swipe Alert!

   I was looking through some comics online and came across this cover for Fiction House's Fight Comics issue #40 and my swipe-sense started tingling. If you're not familiar with the term 'swipe' it means when one artist uses the art of another artists as the basis for his own work. I an famous in fan circles for my ability to spot them. What can I say? I have a very visual memory. Anyway, it's fairly obvious that the 1943 Jungle Stories cover was the inspiration for the 1945 Comic. But hey, Jungle was a Fiction House pulp magazine so it was all in the family.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

StayCation II & Writing Report

 I scheduled the Thursday and Friday before Labor Day off, so it's another thrilling FIVE DAY WEEKEND for me. No major plans, though as usual there will be much reading, writing, and viewing of movies. I'm currently working on a Weird Western novella. I knew I'd have to try a Western since I've been reading so many lately, but I wanted some monsters of course, so mine is a supernatural western. Actually it's kind of a Sword & Sorcery Western. Six-Guns & Sorcery? We need another sub genre, right? It's set in and near Santa Fe New Mexico in 1868, Santa Fe being the only Western location I've actually visited. Been doing a lot of research about the area circa 1870. Fun stuff.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sword and Sandal Theater: Maciste in Hell

Of all the heroes of Sword & Sandal films, the just plain weirdest has to be the man known as Maciste. Now theoretically Maciste is another name for Hercules, but the movie Maciste seems to be a separate character who shows up to fight evil anywhere and any time. Wikipedia tells me that Maciste originally appeared in over two dozen silent films and then made a comeback in the 1960s during the Steve Reeve's generated Sword & Sandal boom.
   What's so weird about Maciste? Well as I said, he shows up in any time period and without any explanation. So far I've seen Maciste in ancient Egypt, Babylon and Rome. But he also shows up to fight Genghis Khan and in 13th century Scotland, about which I'll have more to say in a minute. And according to the Wiki, in one of the silent films he even fights in World War One. Oh yeah, and he meets Zorro and some point. Yes. That Zorro.
    It took me a while to notice that all of these movies were supposed to be about the same guy because most American re-dubs of these Italian films renamed him Hercules or Samson, or Goliath, or Atlas, so I didn't realize that these movies had originally been about Maciste. Also, a lot of different actors played the character, with Mark Forest making the most appearances. But Kirk Morris, Reg Park, and former Tarzan, Gordon Scott also portrayed Maciste.
   Saturday I watched one of the strangest Maciste movies of all, Maciste in Hell, which had been retitled The Witch's Curse for American release. The US version also had about 15 minutes cut out of it. I picked up a restored version in widescreen from Video Trash and checked it out.
   It begins in Scotland in the 12th century where a woman named Martha Gunt is being burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft. As the flames begin to rise she curses the villagers. Jump forward to 100 years later when a descendant of Martha's, also named Martha arrives at her ancestral home with her new husband. No sooner though, have the townsfolk learned that there's a new Martha Gunt in town then they set out to drag her from her home and put her to the fire as well. It seems that recently various young women in town have been going mad and trying to hang themselves on the limbs of a strange dead tree that breaks into flowers when one of the girls dies. The villagers figure the new Martha Gunt is responsible, so it's burn witch burn time again.
   But, and here's where things turn surreal, who should show up to rescue Martha, but Maciste! (Kirk Morris) Okay, let me paint this picture for you. It's 13th century Scotland. Everyone is dressed in trousers and tunics and cloaks and such. Maciste? You guessed it. A loin cloth and sandals. Now this wasn't overly noticeable when Maciste showed up in Babylon or Rome, but the nearly naked muscle man looks just a bit out of place here. And of course, no one notices. It's like "Hi Maciste. Thanks for saving us. Good to see you. Nice loin cloth."
   The villagers are still out for blood, so Maciste goes to the dead tree and uproots it, revealing a tunnel that leads to the underworld. Maciste descends and battles all manner of monsters and menaces as he tries to find the original Martha Gunt in the depths of Hell. Only she can end the curse.
   The inferno is a strange mix of the Biblical Hell and the classical Underworld. Maciste finds tortured souls writhing in agony and also runs into Prometheus of all people. He is seduced by hot Italian babe Helene Chanel and for a time forgets his mission, but eventually he manages to find the witch and get her to end the curse.
   On a technical note, the restored 15 minutes of footage hasn't been redubbed, so occasionally people break into Italian with subtitles. Just another bit of strangeness.
   Anyway, this is a weird weird movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Four out of five Sandals for Maciste in Hell.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Night Eyes Available FREE at Amazon

   Night Eyes is a short story that James A. Moore and I wrote as a teaser to our novel Blind Shadows. We gave it away as a free pdf last Halloween, and now it's up as an ebook for the Kindle at Amazon. Night Eyes takes place on Halloween Night 1973 in the small town of Wellman Georgia, and involves a group of kids who learn the hard way why their elders have warned them never to be out in the woods on All Hallows Eve. It's available August 26-30 for Free!
   I'd forgotten how much fun I'd had writing the Wellman kids, and now Jim and I are talking about a possible YA novel featuring the characters.
   This is my first ebook and my first appearance on Amazon so I got a kick out of seeing it listed. Special thanks to writer J.A. Konrath, whose blog helped me find out how to do an ebook cover.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cartridge Creek

 Cartridge Creek is a Western novel by Ben Haas, working under yet another pen-name, Richard Meade. This one is a stand-alone, not part of one of Haas' series, and as a result, it doesn't hew quite as close to formula as his books about Fargo or Sundance. In fact the book is almost leisurely by Haas standards, and no real violence occurs before page 40. Fargo would have already shot a couple of people and had a fistfight by then.
   The hero is a fellow named Will Leatherman and he comes to the small New Mexico town of Cartridge Creek to see about purchasing the town and the land around it. Leatherman and his business partner have run into some financial problems and buying Cartridge Creek and the surrounding prime ranch land cheap, then developing it, could be a way to get them out of the red. But there's a problem. The town is overrun by gunmen in the employ of two ruthless Saloon owners, each of who has his own plans for Cartridge Creek.
   Leatherman's first impulse is to get out of Dodge, as he can't risk his failing business on a lost cause. But his instincts as a cattleman and his growing affection for Bettina Grady, the widow who owns the boarding house where Leatherman is staying, make him ignore his misgivings. Both saloon owners try to hire Leatherman after they see his skill with his fists and guns, but he makes it clear he's not interested. His very presence though is the final spark needed to ignite the long simmering conflict between the two bad guys and Leatherman finds himself just trying to survive the fall out from the battle.
   With the town in lawless chaos, it will take help from some unexpected allies and some hard personal decisions by Leatherman to save Cartridge Creek.
   I had a lot of fun with this one, basically reading it in a sitting. Given a little more breathing room, Haas adds more characterization to his usual fast moving plot. Since Leatherman isn't a series character, Haas is able to write a real romantic subplot. There's a woman or two in most Fargo books, but Haas has to get rid of them by the last page. He seemed to enjoy writing something a bit more stable between Leatherman and Bettina.
   But don't worry. There's plenty of action and violence. The last third of the book is pretty much non-stop action. I picked this one up cheap on Ebay and you can too. If you enjoy Haas' work on Fargo and Sundance, you'll feel right at home, and if you just like a good traditional Western, jump right in.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Into the West

Some of you may have noticed a lot of Western books creeping into the blog lately and wondered if I've abandoned sword & sorcery for six guns and Stetsons. Nah, just one of my other interests pushing to the front for a bit. The two are related, though, because now that I've pretty much read and reread the classic S&S stuff, I'm having trouble finding much hard edged heroic fantasy these days. As a result I'm having to seek my action fix somewhere else. As I've talked about before, I'm not so much a fan of fantasy as a fan of adventure stories in fantasy settings. Unfortunately most of today's fantasy is failing to provide the adrenaline rush so I'm falling back on crime fiction, historical fiction and now, Westerns.
   I've always enjoyed Westerns. I grew up in the era when the Western was passing from popularity on television, replaced by cop shows and sitcoms. However the mass quantities of Westerns that had once ruled the airwaves had migrated to the land of syndication and it seemed that I was always watching Gunsmoke, The High Chaparral, The Big Valley, The Virginian, and my favorite, The Rifleman. And I saw every John Wayne of Clint Eastwood movie that came down the pike.
   Reading wise I didn't gravitate toward Westerns until the 1980s, when I noticed that a lot of my favorite private eye and crime writers were also writing Westerns, so I sought out books by folks such as Loren D. Estleman, Bill Pronzini, Ed Gorman, and Robert J. Randisi. I also read a ton of Louis L'Amour novels.
   However the thing that recently brought the Western back to my attention was a comment by my friend Howard Andrew Jones about his reading Sundance and Fargo books. Howard, in turn had been pointed toward these action packed Westerns by John Hocking. These two series, written by Ben Haas under the pen name John Benteen had a lot of the same feel I got from the works of Robert E. Howard, no stranger to the Western himself. I have referred to Fargo before as Conan with a six gun, and I get that sort of ruthless but honorable vibe from Fargo that I get from Conan.
   Being me, though, one thing leads to another, and I began backtracking Haas and ended up at Western author James Reasoner's blog Rough Edges, which introduced me to a legion of current Western writers. So yeah, reading a bunch of Westerns now. Might try writing one soon too.
   Not to worry though. Halloween approaches and I'll soon be turning back toward the world of horror and weird tales. And I'm sure I'll be back to sword & sorcery too once I've recharged my batteries a bit.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Happy Birthday HPL!

   Today is H.P. Lovecraft's birthday. What a much poorer place the world would be if the Gentleman from Providence never had been born. Not only would we be deprived of his amazingly influential horror stories, and his iconic creation, Cthulhu, but also of all the work of so many authors, artists, animators, and other creative people who have followed in his macabre footsteps. So Happy Birthday, H.P.L. May it be full of eldritch, gibbering, slavering, squamous things under a gibbous moon.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wolf Creek: Bloody Trail

Wolf Creek: Bloody Trail is the first in a series of 'collaborative novels' by a host of Western writers, all members of the group Western Fictioneers. Sort of a cross between the old Thieves' World books and an ensemble TV show, the book features a host of protagonists, each written by a different writer. It's a nifty idea and if upcoming books are as high quality as Bloody Trail, then sign me up for the long haul.
   To again use the Thieves' World series as a comparison, each of the contributors has created a character to be his or her own and all of the protagonists exist in a shared universe, with the town of Wolf Creek, Kansas circa 1871 as the setting.  However unlike the Thieves' World books, which were collections of loosely connected short stories, the Wolf Creek books are novels, with the different writers doing one or two chapters, using their signature character's point of view. I have to say it works very well. Though I can spot differences in prose styles, the whole thing meshes admirably.
   The book starts off nice and easy as the setting and various characters are introduced. But just when you've been lulled into a false sense of security there's a brutal, violent assault on Wolf Creek by a ruthless outlaw gang. Characterization and exposition are dropped in seamlessly as the various members of the cast react to the attack. After the smoke has cleared, the surviving town lawmen round up a posse featuring some of the other protagonists and take off after the bad guys. The pursuit turns ugly fast and their are ambushes and gunfights of all sorts. The posse knows that they have limited time to catch up to the outlaws before they can lose themselves in the Indian Nations.
   This is the stuff of the traditional Western and the assorted writers know their subject. You'll hate the outlaws and cheer for the heroes, just like you're supposed to in a good Western.  And you'll learn some stuff too. I've already picked up some facts about the old west that I didn't know.
   The writers for Bloody Trail are Clay More, James J. Griffin, Troy D. Smith, James Reasoner, L.J. Martin, and Cheryl Pierson. The whole crew work under the collective house name of Ford Fargo. These aren't all the writers (or characters) though who will appear in upcoming books. The whole list reads like a who's who of current Western fiction, including some personal favorites like Robert J. Randisi, L.J. Washburn (creator of Hallam), and the aforementioned James Reasoner.
   Anyway, I really like the idea of the Wolf's Creek ensemble books and I very much enjoyed the first novel. For more information check out the Wolf Creek website.

And while you're at it, check out the Western Fictioneers blog too. I highly recommend their recent collection The Traditional West.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Expendables 2 Delivers

As I was walking out of the first showing of Expendables 2 I turned to another middle aged white guy who was exiting the theater and said, "Was it everything you hoped for?" He grinned at me and said, "It truly was." Me too. Expendables 2 is a love letter to the action movies of the 1980s-1990s and it has everything fans thought was missing from the original. Bruce, Arnold, and Sly actually fight side by side against the bad guys.  And when Chuck Norris showed up, seriously, the crowd I saw it with actually broke into applause. I kid you not. There are explosions and gun fights galore and the heroes spew the one liners just like in the old days.
    Stallone is a savvy enough movie maker though that EX 2 isn't just a throw back. There's story here and some decent characterization in the few quiet moments. There's also a female expendable this time in the very likable and attractive Nan Yu who can do some serious kung fu style butt kicking.
   But it really is still a boys club movie and it's great to see all these classic action stars finally sharing the screen. There was more cheering from the crowd as Sly, Arnie, and Bruce all walked toward the bad guys with machine guns blazing. There was a lot of laughter too at the self-depreciating humor as the boys joked about their ages and insulted each other.
   Just like in the first one, the surprise standout performance was by Dolph Lundgren as the hulking, unpredictable, unstable Gunner. Who would have thought Lundgren would have such good comedic timing?
   Oh and Jean-Claude Van Damme, who at 50 is the youngest of the old guard cast members, can still throw some serious kicks.
   Basically if you're a fan of movies like Rambo, Terminator, Bloodsport, Die Hard, Commando, Lone Wolf McQuade, and other action films of the 80s/90s, then you're going to get a kick out of Expendables 2. I may go see it again, and I'll buy the DVD the day it hits.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fargo: The Phantom Gunman

   As some of you know, I've lately been reading a lot of Westerns from the 1960s-1970s by a guy named John Benteen, which is a pen name for writer Ben Haas. Haas wrote a ton of Westerns for various publishers, both series and stand alones, but he's best known for two series, Sundance and Fargo. I just finished up one of the Fargo books called The Phantom Gunman. The premise is somewhat audacious, the idea being that Pat Garret didn't actually kill Billy the Kid back in 1881, but rather helped the kid escape and go into hiding. Thirty years later, one of Billy's enemies, a man named Selman, hires Fargo to hunt the Kid down and kill him.
   Now Fargo won't usually take assassination jobs, but the warrants that were sworn out on the Kid are still in force, and truthfully Fargo wants to go up against the legendary gunfighter in a fair fight, so he takes the job. However, as often happens in Fargo books, his client isn't shooting square with the mercenary and things get very complicated once Fargo gets to New Mexico. Much like a comic book superhero team up, Fargo will end up joining forces with the Kid against a common enemy.
   What impressed me about this book was the amount of research Haas had obviously done. I'd read a biography of Billy the Kid just a few weeks back and I can tell you that Hass knew his stuff. All the names and the places and the history of the infamous Lincoln County War are dead on. Not bad for what a lot of writers would have considered a throw away job back in the day. And that seems to be what separates Ben Haas from many of his contemporaries. He didn't abandon his craft just because he was doing formula Westerns. I've talked before about what an impressive writer Haas was. The Fargo books have strong characters and are well plotted, and the narrative drive is relentless. Nice to know that they were well researched when they needed to be as well.
   The other thing that impressed me was that Haas managed to make the idea that Billy the Kid was still alive circa 1910 almost believable. He mixed just enough fiction with the facts to make me think, "Hmm, that might have actually worked."
   Anyway, Phantom Gunman is another excellent, fast moving Fargo adventure with all the guns and fist fights and such that one could want. And hey, it's got the return of Billy the Kid. Who could resist that?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Joe Kubert Passes

   Joe Kubert, one of the last legendary comics artists of the Golden Age has passed away at age 85. When Cliff called to tell me, I was stunned. It seemed like Kubert, who started his professional career while still in his teens and was still doing artwork right up to the time of his death (I read a comic book he had inked, just last week.) was indestructible. He had been active in comic books almost since their creation, producing work from the 1930s right up to 2012.
   I think my first exposure to Kubert was his work on the DC incarnation of Tarzan in the early 1970s. It's possible that I had previously seen some Sgt. Rock comics, the work for which Kubert is arguably best known, but I know it was his Tarzan that really caught my attention. Later I would see reprints of his artwork on Hawkman, Rock, Tor, Viking Prince, and so many other features.
   Kubert's style changed a lot over the years, but his strong inkline is identifiable very early on. His layouts were also easy to spot, original and personal, not like anything anyone else had done. Kubert was one of those artists who could lavish a lot of detail on some panels and make stark minimalism work in others. His visual storytelling was among the best. leading a reader from panel to panel and making it look easy.
   In addition to being an amazing artist, Joe Kubert also opened a school for comics art. The number of professional artists working today who owe their careers to the Kubert School are vast. Two of Kubert's sons, Adam and Andy, are well know comics artists today. Kubert's influence on the comics industry is huge.
   After learning of Kubert's death I pulled out the Dark Horse collections of his Tarzan comics work and sat down to once again marvel over Kubert's amazing artwork. It seemed a fitting tribute. The comics industry has lost a true legend this week.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Conqueror of Atlantis

  Continuing my renewed interest in the Sword & Sandal movie genre, I watched Kirk Morris in The Conqueror of Atlantis yesterday. This one came out in 1965, and was one of the last entries in the Peplum genre. As a result it's more of a fantasy film than many of the earlier ones, with almost Flash Gordon-ish elements.
  Hercules (Morris) washes up on a beach after a shipwreck and is rescued by an Arabian caravan belonging to the desert princess Virna, played by the very sexy Italian babe Luciana Gilli. Virna nurses Hercules back to health, and there is obvious attraction between the two, but Virna tells him that he would be better off without her because of her father, who is a big shot desert prince and apparently pretty ruthless. Virna and the caravan ride off and Hercules eventually follows. He becomes involved in a struggle between Virna's father and another desert prince, Karr, each who thinks that the others men are raiding his caravans and camps. Turns out they have a mutual enemy in strange golden skin 'phantoms.'
   A truce is struck, but the phantoms attack again and Virna is carried off in the night. Hercules and Karr track her to a hidden city, a last outpost of Atlantis where they run afoul of the evil Queen Ming and her even more evil sorcerer Ramir. Ramir has found a way to turn corpses into almost unstoppable flesh-robots and even the mighty Hercules can't outfight a mob of them. There are also Amazon warriors, ray guns, death traps, and all sorts of pseudo-SF trappings. Ramir's laboratory is a technicolor nightmare.
   This is the sort of movie that I'd have gone ape over at age ten or so and I enjoyed it quite a bit even now. A great Saturday afternoon sort of movie with plenty of action and wild occurrences. I picked up a widescreen version from Video-Trash who have a store at Ebay. Very good quality video at a cheap price. You definitely want the wide screen as the old 'pan and scan' can't capture the over the top color and spectacle of this one. I picked up a couple of other sword & sandal films from them as well, but more about that later. For now here's a (German) trailer of Conqueror of Atlantis.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mickey Spillane on Screen

 The term 'exhaustive' is often misused when applied to a biography or reference book, but there is no other word to describe Max Allan Collins' and James L. Traylor's book MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN. This one, as Stan Lee is fond of saying, has it all. The movies. The TV shows. Pilots. Scripts. The beer commercials, even. You name it. If it has to do with Mickey Spillane on the big or small screen, it's here. And it contains a biography of Spillane and an interview with him that are worth the price of admission all by themselves.
   The truly enjoyable thing about this book is that it isn't just a history of film adaptations of Spillane's books, but that it keeps up a running commentary on Spillane's life and writing career. You learn what he was (or wasn't) working on at the time that the various films were made and what he thought of them. You'll see who Spillane wanted to play Mike Hammer in the early films and why that didn't work out.
   The most fun for me was all the behind the scenes info on my favorite Spillane Mike Hammer film, The Girl Hunters and on my  other favorite Spillane movie, Ring of Fear. I  knew John Wayne was involved in the production of Ring of Fear, but not precisely how.
   I also have a small personal interest in the book because it was one of the authors, James L. Traylor, who loaned me his Beta Max copy of Ring of Fear many many years ago so that I could see it. Now I have a shiny DVD copy, but back in the day the movie was almost impossible to find.
   Anyway, if you are a fan of Mickey Spillane, you need this book, even if you're not particularly interested in the movies. The title, MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN is apt. It's all about Mickey.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Signatures and Lots of Them

James A. Moore brought the signature sheets for the signed limited edition of Blind Shadows to the comic book store last night so that we could sign them. So I ended up writing my name several hundred times. The limited edition is only 150 copies but I think we signed about twice that just to be safe. The sheet features a nifty illustration by cover artist Alex Mcvey. Wish I could show it to you, but I can't just yet. It's very creepy and cool. Anyway, that sort of thing is old hat for Jim, but it was pretty exciting for me. I'm this much closer to being a published novelist. Yeah, I've been a published writer for decades, but this is a hardbacked book, kids. That's pretty darn cool I must say.

Hanging In

   First let me thank everyone who has commented or emailed to express sympathy over the death of my cat, Amelia. Believe me, I appreciate it. Secondly, some of you have asked about how my other cat, Bruce, is doing. So far he doesn't seem to be overly affected by Amelia's absence. He is aware that she isn't there. In the mornings he keeps looking down the hallway to see if she's coming out of the bedroom. But his behavior hasn't altered much that I can tell. I am giving him a lot of extra attention, especially when I get home from work. Fortunately Bruce and Amelia weren't inseparable pals as some sets of cats are. They played together some, but often on weekends when I was home to observe them all day, they barely interacted. So I'm hoping it won't be too lonely for him. Some folks have asked if I plan to get another cat and at the moment that depends on Bruce. If he seems okay as a solo kitty then I may wait a while. Time will tell.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A Cat Named Amelia

 I had to have my older cat Amelia put to sleep today. She had chronic renal failure and my vet told me euthanasia was the best course so she wouldn't suffer. I understand that on a logical level. She couldn't go on as she was. So I have been to the vet and I have said my goodbyes. My friend Cliff met me at the Clinic to offer much appreciated and much needed moral support. Amelia won't suffer now and as I said, logically, I understand it was the best and right thing to do.
   But oh I will miss her. She was a hard cat to get to know. When I adopted her four years ago from my friend Trish, Amelia hated my guts. I often joked that I was afraid that she would murder me in my sleep. But over time, as she came to think of me as 'her' person, she became a very affectionate cat. She wouldn't let you pick her up or hold her, but she would sit beside you and let you pet her and rub her head. I loved to hear her purr, because she only did it sparingly. And please don't tell my other cat Bruce, but she was my favorite.
   Amelia didn't take crap from anyone. If you got in her space she would let you have it. This especially went for her younger and much larger brother Bruce. He may have had more weight and more muscle, but she had the most attitude. She was the most cat-like cat you can imagine. Proud. Independent. Scornful. Barely tolerant of her brother and me in our dog-like maleness. A Bengal breed, she had long soft fur and beautiful green eyes.
  From what I've read of CRF, it builds over time but the symptoms don't really show until the cat is very far along. Amelia didn't show any signs of any problems until just a couple of weeks ago and that seemed minor. But when the real symptoms came she went downhill fast. In some ways that's a blessing. She didn't suffer for long. Instead she had more than ten good years, four of them with me, and she was a happy, crazy, quirky, loving cat for all of that time.
   Last night she slept in her favorite spot on my bed, leaning against my leg. She had her favorite treat, deli turkey, for breakfast this morning. Her appetite had been failing and that was all she would eat.
   I once told someone that after dealing with life for all these years that there wasn't enough of my heart left to be broken again. I was wrong.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Late Night and Nostalgia

   I enjoyed watching Son of Samson so much that I decided to watch another Sword & Sandal movie.  However, I decided to add a nostalgic twist to this one. Back when I was a kid, before the Internet, before DVDs, even before VCRs, the only way to see some classic science fiction film was to wait until it was shown on regular old Television. For some reason, the various channels that ran things like Forbidden Planet and Seventh Voyage of Sinbad always seem to show them at like one in the morning. Many was the time that my cousin Rick and I would camp out in the living room at his house or mine and stay up until these near legendary movies came on.
   Been years since I had to stay up to watch a movie. Decades. So I thought I'd see what the experience would feel like. I chose Hercules and the Captive Women, a movie I knew to contain actual sorcery and monsters. It starred Reg Park who played Hercules in my all time favorite Sword & Sandal film, Hercules in the Haunted World. So I sat up late reading, and didn't start the movie until well after midnight.
   And you know what? I actually was able to capture just a little of that old feeling. That 'sand in my eyes and I really want to see how this ends but I kind of wish it would be over so I could get to sleep' feeling that I haven't had since I was 14 or so. Now if I'd only had a sleeping bag.

The End Again

Just typed The End on the first draft of Congregations of the Dead. Sent if off to Jim in case he wants to add anything to the last chapter, but for now I'm done until the rewrites.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Sword and Sandal Theater: Son of Samson

   Cliff had emailed me the other day about a remastered re-release of a Sword and Sandal movie he thought I might want (The title of which is so awesome that I will wait until it arrives to reveal it) and thinking about it put me in the mood to watch one of these movies, also known as Peplums. I dug out a collection I bought a while back,  called 50 Warriors, which is a big set of these films and decided on Son of Samson (aka Maciste the Mighty) mostly because it takes place in Egypt and I hadn't see many Peplums with Egyptian backgrounds. Turned out to be a good choice because not only did the movie have better than average sets and production values, but it also featured Chelo Alonso, a fabulous 60s era babe, playing an Evil Queen.
   Maciste (Mark Forest) wanders into Egypt just as the aforementioned evil queen has her husband the Pharaoh assassinated. Seems Pharaoh had just learned that the queen had been selling peasants as slaves to the Persians. The Pharaoh isn't thrilled and the queen decides she has a better chance of controlling the Pharaoh's wandering son than the old man, so zap, it's an arrow to the back.
   However the son has just saved Maciste's life and also been saved by Maciste. This will be important later when Maciste tries to help the peasants and slaves and he thinks he can rely on the young Pharaoh for help. But Pharaoh's slinky former step-mother puts a magic necklace on him that makes him forget his friends, so Maciste is on his own.
   There are the usual strong man stunts and pitched battles you'd expect. As I said the production values on this one are high and the costumes and sets are impressive for the genre. Mark Forest looks massive and heroic. Chelo is hot. What more do you want from a Saturday afternoon movie? I had a lot of fun with Son of Samson. 3 out of 5 Sandals for this one.

Congregations of the Dead

   Even as I write this, James A. Moore and I are finishing up the first draft of our second collaboration, so we decided we could release the title. Where Blind Shadows was a mix of crime fiction and horror, but in the Weird Tales mode, the second adventure of Sheriff Carl Price and private investigator Wade Griffin is crime fiction and just plain out and out horror. If people thought Blind Shadows was gory, wait until they get a load of Congregations of the Dead. The book and the title were inspired by a verse from the bible. Proverbs 21:16:

   "The man who wandereth out of the way of wisdom shall abide in the congregation of the dead."

More thrills and chills in the small Georgia town of Wellman. I think this is a darker book and that's saying something. More later.

In the meantime, since I haven't mentioned it for a bit, Blind Shadows will be out in October. Available for pre-order here:

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How to Write 80 Thousand Words in Five Weeks

   First you need a collaborator who's a madman. Fortunately both James A. Moore and I can make that claim. We did the first 60 thousand words without even a story conference, which shows that evil minds run in the same channel. We hit 80K today and we're bouncing emails back and forth a lot right now as we roll up on the end. It's very possible that we'll be finished with the book by this time next week. My next book will be called, How to Write a Novel in Six Weeks. The first chapter will be called "Get Jim Moore as a Collaborator." I used to wonder how he got so much stuff written. Now I know. The man's a machine.