Letters to other blogs…

A few weeks ago, @soupytoasterson asked me if I’d be willing to write a bit about Greg Rucka’s novel A Gentleman’s Game for Comics! The Blog’s letter section.  Today, that letter ran, in the feature Um, Actually.  The actual letter is at the end of the section.  I’m not sure it closes with the power of

but, it’s hard to be better than Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading.

My letter discussed how I discovered the novel, some brief thoughts on it, as well as where I was going from here.  In short, I like Rucka’s comics, spy books are cool, and I’m going to read some comics.

What I didn’t talk about in the letter was my historical reluctance to ‘mix media’ with universes that I really enjoyed.  When I was younger, I consumed many, many books in the Star Wars expanded universe.  What I slowly, but surely realized, was that these books were ruining Star Wars for me, so I stopped reading them.  But, from about that point on, I can’t recall a single universe that I followed in one medium, then picked up in another.

It should be noted that in this, I’m not counting books made into movies.  I’m talking about the EXTENSION of a universe, not a RE-IMAGINING of one.

I don’t know what changed in the past year or so, but I’m going to say that because of some of the books in my comics file being so far off of what I’d pick on my own, I’m more willing to give (borderline) looking books a try.  On top of that, there were some damn good Star Wars books (in addition to the stuff I didn’t like), so, why care about the medium in which the story is being told?

If I stuck to my old ‘one medium per universe’ mantra, I’d be missing out on some really awesome looking stories in Queen and Country, a bad-ass origin of the Jedi in Dawn of the Jedi, and of course more background to the Mass Effect universe.  Frankly, that’s an injustice to me, a fan of these series.  Absolutely, there’s stuff I don’t want to explore in other formats (for instance, the Firefly, Battlestar Galactica RPGs), but damn, I’d love a sourcebook for playing as a CTU Agent in the world of 24.

Not all expanded universe material will be good.  I KNOW this.  But, by letting the stuff that I subjectively found uninspiring/uninteresting overrule the stuff that’s amazing, I’m pretty sure that’s letting the bad-guys win.

So readers, I’m going to read/watch/play in the universes I love.  I’m going to follow my favorite characters.  If a storyline doesn’t interest me, I won’t interact with it (I certainly won’t start a petition to change it).

Reading and visualizing

Last night, I put some heavy time into reading A Gentleman’s Game by Greg Rucka, as I was nearing the end and wanted to finish it before a little something called Mass Effect 3 arrived.  The good news: I finished the book this morning.

I’d write about the book itself, but there’s something else in the works for my thoughts there.  Don’t worry, it will be great.

What I’m wanting to talk about today is how authors (and in particular, one scene in A Gentleman’s Game) never cease to amaze me in their ability to write in a way that posts the scene directly into my head, as if I were watching it in front of me.

The scene that got me thinking about this topic is a bathroom fight scene, between the antagonist, Tara Chase, and an unnamed assailant.  The way that Rucka brings the fight to life made seeing the combatants engaged in an intense close-quarters battle was amazing.  Blow-by-blow, I could visualize this combat in my mind’s eye.  The fight lasted several pages, but what really hammered home the frantic nature of the scene was the fact that Tara checks her watch and notes that the whole fight lasted less than a minute.  Giving that sense of timing (which can be lost when a scene lasts over several pages) hammered home the whole scene.

The scene was vivid, and it always amazes me with how the words on the page are transformed in my head to something so breathtaking.  And this is exactly why I’ll never stop reading.

(For those wondering, I saw this scene was more brutal than the Daniel Craig Casino Royale bathroom fight)

The New Death and others

The New Death and others

Death gets a roommate…

An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question…

A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain…

44 stories. 19 poems. No sparkly vampires. There’s a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it – but from which direction?





Alternative Novel Distribution

The authors Scott Sigler and David Wellington get how to use the internet to get people excited about their work. While I’m not 100% sure that they developed their methods of content delivery for the same reasons, but they’ve been able to become quite successful at their craft through these innovative methods of reaching an audience.

If you’re not familiar with their works, allow me to provide a brief overview for each author. Interestingly enough, both authors write horror – I’m not sure if that fact is relevant or not, but its an interesting point.

Scott Sigler is known for releasing serial podcasts of his novels prior to their release in print. His offerings include EarthCore, Ancestor, and Infection/Infected. I’ve listened to EarthCore (and I’m anxiously awaiting EarthCore 2) as well as Ancestor. I recommend both, but I think EarthCore was stronger.  I found out about Sigler’s books through another podcast that featured a lot of New Media.

David Wellington is known for releasing his novels as serials on individual ‘novel blogs’. His offerings include the Monster Trilogy, 13 Bullets and Plague Zone.  I’m currently reading Monster Island, the first book in the Trilogy, but Emily quite enjoyed the ones she’s read.  We discovered Wellington’s work when we were browsing the horror section at Chapters.

What I like about these authors is that even though they’ve found commercial success, they continue to stick to the model they found their success through.  Even though the books are being given away for free (in an ebook, audiobook or as a blog story) when they are released in the book store, they still sell very well.  These authors have successfully used New Media to find a wide audience, which have shown them great loyalty and allowed them to enjoy success selling physical copies of their books.

If you like horror/thrillers, give these authors a try.  I’m quite satisfied with what I’ve read so far and I look forward to their new works.

Book Recommendation: Had a Glass 2008

Had a Glass 2008

Had a Glass 2008

I recieved this book from Emily’s parents for my birthday this year, as I had asked for wine related stuff.  Inside, you’ll find 100 quality wines for under $20.  I have only had the opportunity to enjoy three wines from its pages thus far, however, they have all been quite tasty.  The book itself is written in such a way that anyone can figure the wines out, which is handy, since I don’t know anything!

The introduction to the book has some background on wine and a bunch of information on the varieties of grapes used.  It also provides some basic guidelines for food pairing, mood pairing and the like (the advice is deeper than Red with Red, White with White).    The authors also present a half case (6 bottles, for us non-vinos) of wines that they recommend storing for a few years (they are also quick to caution, don’t store it too long, or it will go south!).  This information is basic, easy to understand, and perfect for a newbie.

The wines are separated by “type”: White, Rose, Red, Apartif and Dessert.  Each page is dedicated to an individual wine.  The label is clearly presented, paired with a short paragraph describing the wine (usually in a funny, non-uptight way), followed by two recommened food pairings (sometimes, these are quite specific or quite general) and event suggestions (eg, BYOB, Romance).  The variety, the vintage and price is listed on the bottom corner of the page.

The authors of this book, Kenji Hodgson and James Navison also write a weekly column for The Province (A Vancouver newspaper) and an E-zine at www.halfaglass.com.  Their goal is to make wine more accessible and fun – which this book definately does.

In a somewhat related topic, I shall be creating a page (or two) dedicated to listing my ‘cellar’ and wine recommendations/or list.  Keeping in mind my ‘ratings’ will likely only consist of something like “Good”, “Great”, “Gross”, at least until I learn more; I hope somebody will find it somewhat helpful.

Slinging guns, reading books

Over the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve been reading Stephen King’s epic series, The Dark Tower.  I did read the first two or three novels several years ago, but like alot of things I read when I was a teenager, I don’t think I really fully understood what I was reading.   If you’re a fan of Stephen King, you’ve already read these books.  If you’ve enjoyed anything writen by King, you’ll probably find these novels up your alley.  Of course, once you start reading Roland’s tale, you’ll realize many of King’s stories relate to the world in your hands.  Which of course, if you’re like me, makes you want to read and re-read everything to try and catch everything. 

In short, I highly recommend these books.

The Dark Knight Returns

If you haven’t read anything by Frank Miller, you’re missing out.  Up until the movie Sin City, I wasn’t aware of how great Frank Miller’s (of course, I wasn’t back on comics then either)  stories were.  Watching that movie really kicked me back into comics, which I’m quite thankful for.  I’ve re-discovered a great world, and my collection of graphic novels keeps growing.

Now, I didn’t pick up Sin City, mostly because I could never find the first volume to start with.  After I heard about the movie 300, I had to have the source material.  It was FANTASTIC.  I dabbled around in a large number of Marvel series (the only exception was Identity Crisis and Watchmen from DC).    My friend Kent, gave me Batman Hush for my birthday (or was it Christmas…), which gave me a new perspective on the Dark Knight (and DC comics, in general).

During my vacation in Vancouver, I purchased a number of comics, including the first collection of Sandman (but Neil Gaiman is for another post entirely), the graphic novelization of Red Prophet, The Ultimates 2.2, and The Dark Knight Returns. I just finished The Dark Knight Returns, and I’ve been blown away. The story was amazing, and really makes you feel the emotions of the characters. The raw anger/hatred shown by Batman towards the Joker was intense. You want Batman to pull the trigger. This was what Batman was ment to be – dark, gritty. This book has revitialized Batman as a comic for me. Its did the same thing asBatman Begins did for the movies.

His Dark Materials

Over the past few weeks, Emily finally pursuaded me to start reading the Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. I think it was also helped along by the movie trailer. I’m glad she did. I started the Golden Compass, not expecting much depth. As I read through the first few chapters, I thought that I had been correct. Daemons? Dust? I assumed these ideas wouldn’t be fleshed out nearly as much as they could have been.

WRONG. I should stop trying to predict what the books Emily makes me read are going to be like…(Harry Potter) I’m always wrong.

While The Golden Compass left the concept of daemons and Dust somewhat unanswered, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglas close alot of things up nicely. The story is excellent, and I think everyone would walk away from it differently. I believe I’ll have to re-read the series to truly appreciate what Pullman was presenting.

I’m finding children’s books to be alot deeper than I remember them. Of course, His Dark Materials and Harry Potter aren’t quite the same as Gordon Korman. As I read books that I keep hearing about that have been around for ages, I find myself wondering how I missed out on great titles like Ender’s Game. Now, I’m not saying that I would have really enjoyed the remainder of the series as a kid, in fact, I would have probably hated Xenocide and Children of the Mind, but Ender’s Game would have been enjoyable as it stood.

Maybe it is better that I found these books later on in life, so that I could really look at them differently. Or maybe, I missed out. If I enjoyed the book as a kid, maybe I would create a false memory of the story and find it to be not nearly as satisfying as an adult (much like classic tv shows – Titus was HILARIOUS when I saw it on TV…the DVD…not so much.). TV and Books are likely a poor comparision. I guess I’ll find out how things go when I pick up The Sword of Shannara for the first time since grade 7 or 8. I remember that book (and series) being amazing. We shall see.

But before that, I’ve got comics to read. Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter; I hope your comic doesn’t suck.