Wednesday, December 07, 2016

BOOKLOG 61: AN OBVIOUS FACT


AN OBVIOUS FACT
A Longmire Mystery
by Craig Johnson

Yes, it’s Walt Longmire again, but this time he’s out of the Absaroka County element, this time visiting Hulett, Wyoming, at the request of a friend, where a famous annual race means that there’s a flood of biker gangs in temporary residence, not unlike Sturgiss, center of motorcyclists, except much, much more menacing. At least to me; for the good sheriff, it’s just one more factor to keep in mind as he investigates an odd hit-and-run, and then a murder of a biker, and then the appearance of a…oh, you don’t need me to tell you all the things that happen. Here’s the thing I found funny as I was reading this (as usual intricate and well worth reading): by day I’m an editor, and I edit most anything (I have yet to edit anything mechanically oriented, so Popular Mechanics will not be contacting me anytime soon to take care of its articles). My amusement stems from the fact that as I was reading this book, which takes place in northeastern Wyoming but also touches on southwestern South Dakota, I was editing a South Dakota–based work (not a mystery, though) with another South Dakota–based work scheduled in the next few months. After decades of little or no consideration given to those states, I find it funny that all of a sudden, I have to think about them.

Happy holidays to one and all, and may you have a coming year NOT filled with horrible calamity!

Coming up: Well, it was going to be The Pigeon Tunnel by John LeCarre, but I can't find the book right now. So in any case, Season's Greetings!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

It's the Thanksgiving Day Song!

The result of a very short commute to a job a number of years ago, I present to you once again:
Turkey Day Song
by Elizabeth MS Flynn

TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY

LOVE MY TURKEY YES I DO
LOVE MY YAMS, MARSHMALLOWS TOO

TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY

LOVE MY TURKEY YES I DO
LOVE MY MASHED POTATO TOO

TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY

LOVE MY TURKEY YES I DO
LOVE MY GREEN BEAN CASSEROO

TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY

LOVE MY TURKEY YES I DO
LOVE THOSE TASTY BISCUITS TOO

Or

LOVE MY PARKER ROLLS I DO
SOFT AND FLUFFY, CHEWY TOO

TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY

LOVE MY TURKEY YES I DO
LOVE MY DRESSING CHESTNUTS TOO

TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY

LOVE MY PUMPKIN PIE I DO
LOVE MY APPLE CHERRY TOO

TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY

LOVE MY TURKEY YES I DO
BUT MOSTLY THANKFUL FOR YOU AND YOU

TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY DAY
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

BOOK LOG 60: LEAGUE OF REGRETTABLE SUPERHEROES


BOOKLOG 60: LEAGUE OF REGRETTABLE SUPERHEROES
Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History
by Jon Morris

Everyone knows about Superman, the granddaddy of them all, and Wonder Woman, the grandmommy. But what about the super-heroes who didn’t make the headlines, the ones who slipped away from the game, the ones who were (in many cases) not well-conceived or well-executed or just plain terrible? Well, you’re going to get a taste of some of them here. In cartoonist/graphic designer Jon Morris’s book—the title might have suggested a rollicking novel. It is not; it is rollickingly funny, however—the reader is introduced and even charmed by these comic evolution leftovers, most of which were (logically) forgotten. A quick look at the heroes and heroines in question when I first picked up this book made me laugh and then protest (some of them were familiar from when I was a kid, and I remember liking them!), and then ask where certain others, some of whom always showed up in lists like these, were. (Matter-Eater Lad, I mean. But he’s a great character! Even evolutionarily. Because if your planet suddenly changed, the residents would h…well, never mind. Not the point today.)

The book is divided into comic ages—Golden Age, Silver Age, Modern Age (because Bronze Age sounded not precious metally enough? Or the concept of lessening metals alarmed someone?)—and familiar and nonfamiliar names abound. What’s amusing is that in the constant search for new twists on an old trick, some of the least likely names have been resurrected for the comics, here and now. But the ones not likely to be resurrected are the ones I found most memorable, with names like “Bozo the Iron Man.” That name alone made me laugh out loud. Or that might have been the baseball game in the background. All I know is that I had tears falling down my cheeks after I read a few of these entries.

The creators of all these Regrettables (hey, it should be the name of a bad boy band, too!) were themselves of note, including Fletcher Hanks, creator of Fantomah (a heroine who debuted the year before Wonder Woman), who disappeared from comics after three years of creating odd characters. Then there was Bob Fujitani, a Japanese/Irish-American creator who was a prolific comics artist during the 1940s, who can’t have had an easy time of things during that period (who nonetheless had an interesting and lengthy career). The names that caught my eye, both good and bad, however, had to have been those of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman himself. While they gave birth to an entire industry (and didn’t get much else but fame out of that), they continued to create, both together and separately, for a very long time after their teenaged enthusiasm gave us the Man from Krypton.

Interested in comic history? Read this. If nothing else, read it and think about the drive to create a piece of history. And the Legion of Super-Pets.

Coming up: Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

BOOK LOG 59: MORE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES


BOOK LOG 59: MORE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
The Life and Death of Ferro Lad; Supergirl and the LSH: Dominator War; Enemy Rising; Enemy Manifest; Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes; Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds; Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th Century
Various authors and artists
DC Comics Entertainment

The problem with having a completist gene is that once you pick up a project, you feel the need to, you know, complete it. Unfortunately, in this case I’m hampered by only being able to read what the local library has available instead of the almost sixty years of Legion stories published (you can see the challenge and problem there; I know I could track down a lot of it, but a lot not), so I’m doing my best to read and reread everything that is available in the system. I know too many other Legion fans that if I have a question, there will be someone who can come up with an answer, so I’m not too worried about gaps in knowledge not covered in available narrative.

So in the latest batch, I tried to read them in chronological order—and the stories that made up the first compilation, The Life and Death of Ferro Lad, I actually read when the comics were originally published, written by a then-13-year-old Jim Shooter. After having not read them in many a year (even many a decade), I read them with a clear eye—and I have to say, they held up well. Seriously! Plotting good, dialogue sparse enough yet informative enough that I never frowned trying to get through murky writing and random art, too often the current case. The editor, a man named Mort Weisinger, had many flaws (many), but he did a good job of getting the best out of a kid writer, and the kid did a great job. Those of us who write stories in general should take notice (and notes).

What strikes me as interesting is that the villains in the DC pantheon over the years have been numerous and sundry, but over and over again the villains introduced in Legion stories, and by youngster Shooter, show up a lot even now, far far away from anything dealing with the Legion. We hadn’t realized how much until Mordru the Merciless, a longtime adversary of the Legion, made an appearance (without real reason, it turns out) in a Justice League cartoon. Out of nowhere and, as I said, for no good reason. But it was Mordru, and no mention of the Legion. Hey!

Then there was the Persuader of the Fatal Five, who made an appearance on the Smallville TV show. That made sense; Superboy (before the original Superboy was lawsuited out of existence) played a large part in the Legion’s adventures in the early days, so Smallville made sense (which was, after all, the adventures of Superman when he was a CW star, and the CW versions of the Legion’s founders showed up too). Those are the two that come to mind; other Legion enemies have popped up, one, the Khund, in a passing reference in the first season of Supergirl, and another, the Dominators (before BDSM was an everyday thing), are apparently the Big Bad Adversary that forces Supergirl to join forces with other CW DC super-heroes this season.

All this comes to mind because besides Lex Luthor and Brainiac (the original), Legion villains seem to come up with remarkable regularity. Seriously, there are THOUSANDS of villains. THOUSANDS. I’d say the current creators might want to come up with other old ones, or, heaven forfend, MIGHT WANT TO MAKE UP NEW ONES. Is that too much to ask?

Kidding. Well, I’m only kidding to some degree, because of course there have been many others who have been put to repeated use.

Why am I going on and on (and boring you to a comatose state)? Because even if you’re not writing comics, and if you’re writing something else, think of something NEW. I know we’re always told that there’s nothing new under the sun and to think of a new twist to something old, but come on. Is it too much to ask for a new twist on a twist?

Wait, what?

Coming up: West of Everything by Jane Tompkins

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pets in Space Anthology


Pets%20In%20Space.jpgPets in Space Anthology

Release Date: October 11 2016

ISBN:  978-1-942583-40-0


Even an alien needs a pet...

Join the adventure as nine pet loving sci-fi romance authors take you out of this world and pull you into their action-packed stories filled with suspense, laughter, and romance. The alien pets have an agenda that will capture the hearts of those they touch. Follow along as they work side by side to help stop a genetically-engineered creature from destroying the Earth to finding a lost dragon; life is never the same after their pets decide to get involved. Can the animals win the day or will the stars shine just a little less brightly?

New York Times, USA TODAY, Award Winning, and Best selling authors have nine original, never-released stories that will capture your imagination and help a worthy charity. Come join us as we take you on nine amazing adventures that will change the way you look at your pet!

10% of the first month’s profits go to Hero-Dogs.org. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.


Loglines:
Nine incredible stories from today's leading SFR authors that will take you on action-packed adventures.

Nine of today's leading SFR authors combine their love of Science Fiction Romance and animals to show that sometimes even an alien needs a pet.

Join the adventure as 9 of today’s leading SFR authors combine their talents and deliver nine original action-adventures in space that you won’t forget.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

BOOKLOG 58: LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES (THE MODERN VERSION)


BOOK LOG 58: LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES (THE MODERN VERSION)
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Early Years; When Evil Calls; The Choice; Consequences; Volume 1 (Hostile World); Volume 2 (The Dominators); Volume 3 (The Fatal Five); Legion Lost; Great Darkness Saga
Various authors and artists
DC Comics Entertainment

Instead of telling you about the prose books I’ve been reading (or editing), I should tell you about the graphic novels I’ve been reading this year, from time to time, in between projects. There are other graphic novels I’ve been reading (manga, actually, but I’ll tell you about those another day), but since I have a lot of Legion books near me right now, I figured I should tell you why these are memorable.

First (of course there’s a first; how else would I set the scene, aside from a literal “As you know”?), I got interested in comics and the Legion in particular when I was a teenager. From then on I read them voraciously, got in contact with others of a similar comic persuasion (by mail; these were years long before the Internet, my children), wrote letters to the editors of the comic books, even sold a few stories, and worked at a comic company for a short while. Let me sum all this up by saying I was intrigued. Of particular interest to me were the stories about the Legion of Super-Heroes.

The Legion was first introduced in the late 1950s, about a group of three teenagers with amazing powers from the 30th century inviting Superboy to join their club. The stories about their adventures that ran in the 1960s had a particular cachet because a number of the most memorable were written by a teenaged boy named Jim Shooter, often inspired by whatever he was studying in junior high and later high school. Stories by a teenager about teenagers! These were stories about Superboy and his pals when he went into the 30th century, teenaged heroes with names like Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5 and Matter-Eater Lad. (Yes, Matter-Eater Lad, often named as one of the most ludicrously titled. But logical. Again, a topic for another day.)

Later on, I found out that there were other readers who also found them of interest, one of whom I married (yes, dear reader). To this day, I count many as friends. I stopped reading comics after a few years because other matters took precedence (making a steady living, among others), but I kept the Legion close to my heart. (Considering by then I was married to someone who could cite issue number and other details of the early Legion stories, it was always going to stick around.) The Legion kept popping up in DC books in various forms, and even though Marvel was getting accolades for their group and teen books (do the Avengers and the X-Men strike a chord?), the Legion were generally mocked (Matter-Eater Lad often mentioned in the mockery).

Skip to the present day (finally! You say). The Legion has changed a lot since I first read them back in the 1960s. They’ve gotten older, they’ve lost members (the team even has a hall of fallen heroes), they’ve gone through turmoil, all reflecting not only their readership but the turmoil and complexity of the world and society. I liked a lot of the storylines (a lot of it could have used blunt editing, frankly, but there’s a reason I wouldn’t work there), a lot of the art worked while a lot didn’t (pretty pictures don’t tell a story), but there was enough that I kept reading.

Of particular interest was the storyline about a xenophobic character named Earth-Man who’s turned down for membership to the Legion, and in retaliation, he builds up another super-hero society and attempts to destroy the Legion. He calls himself as Earth-Man because he views the Legionnaires not from Earth to be an infection, a detriment to the world, and becomes a terrorist. (I told you it reflects modern society.) He’s foiled by the Legion, goes to jail—but in a twist, he’s forced to join the Legion, even as he keeps in touch with his xenophobic terrorist allies, plotting to kill the Legion and its offworlder components. He doesn’t want to be there; the feeling is mutual. How he changes made for interesting reading (along the way, he sleeps with a blue-skinned Legionnaire, so yes, he does have to change). In all, I found it worth reading.

(Matter-Eater Lad? His world and everything in it was poisoned, so to survive the people had to adapt to eat every- and anything. See? Very logical!)

Coming up: West of Everything by Jane Tompkins

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Organizing Work (and Life)



Recently, I finally picked up an appointment book after years of using a digital version, then printing out a copy of each month’s activity. Then about two years ago, for whatever reason (the wireless connection in my house has always been iffy, and the router finally died earlier this year), the printer became a solitary unit (that is, it wouldn’t connect with anything; it scans and copies, and so it will print as well, but only if I bothered to figure out where to insert a memory stick). I haven’t had a chance to figure out why; I hadn’t needed to use it, and when I need printouts, I went to the library one block away. (I’m not good with technology. Not uncomfortable, but it would take me a longer time to suss out the problem than I wanted to waste when I could have been working.) Of course, for a long time that worked fine. When I wanted something more than a few pages from the library printer, I could go to the Staples a mile away (and since I don’t have a car, I walk to, but again it has to be something I have to make sure I have an hour to waste walking there and walking home).

It’s getting to the point, though, that not having a printer is getting inconvenient. And because I don’t have a printout of my month’s goals, I was getting frustrated that I’d miss deadlines (like those for OtherWorld Diner) that I shouldn’t have. I kept telling myself I’d fix the connection or break down and call a repair guy (grr!), but I never have.

And I still haven’t. At least for the deadlines, now I have a little book made up of months, weeks, and pages on which to write notes. Just like I had...before the digital age. Like the big leather binder I still have on my desk, gathering dust. It’s shut and put in a safe place; I have no space on my desk for something that size.

Life as a story guide
Why hasn’t the whole “I have all the deadlines I need to remember on my laptop/phone/other device” worked for me? I had all those deadlines on my computer’s calendar, but I’d get a reminder and I’d say oh yeah I should get on that and that would be it. More often than not, the reminder would come up when I was working on a project and wasn’t at a point to work on it. With a binder of paper, small (mass market paperback size), I have it propped open to the proper month, with everything I have to do coming up not giving me a gentle reminder. No, in my own handwriting, scrawled, sometimes in CAPS. For me, that works.

I think of it in pretty much the same way authors—including me—have story binders. My life and work as a story, basically. This is particularly useful for those writing series and crucial for those writing fantasy and science fiction series. I’ve seen remarkably elaborate versions, in thick binders, color illustrations and maps, so the tiny details of a fictional world remain fresh. An organizer is the same thing for real-life folks. (And a great start for a story, come to think of it! You can see it, can’t you? “Dental appt 9am. Mktg meet 11am. Lunch/blind date 1 pm. Note: Pick up toothpaste.”)

I know someone who actually offers a service to build story binders for those who need to keep track of the details for a series. Doesn’t matter if it’s historical or fantastical or science fiction or small-town contemporary; she’ll keep all those details for you, and if you decide to insert a tiny detail, tell her and she’ll make sure she has it for you. Yessirree, it’s an organizer for your story! (If you’re curious about her service, ask me!)

Meanwhile, my life organizer is being populated by the day with projects, deadlines, workshops, and even appointments. And it works for me.