Semi-Weird April 9, 2017Posted by bobv451 in business, fantasy, Haiti, movies & TV, outlaws, westerns, Wild West, writing.
Tags: fantasy, weird westerns, writing
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Weird westerns are like zebras, either black with white stripes or white with black stripes, depending on your viewpoint. Is it weird, ie horror oriented? Or is a western, complete with western tropes? Mixing the two requires some kind of a decision. Mostly, when I write weird westerns, I go with the western basis and the horror/fantastical added on top of it.
Considering the interests of the readership (is it western or is it horror?) I have chosen poorly going the way I have. Western readers don’t seem to like much outside the traditional. Horror readers are more eclectic in their tastes, and a western setting can be reshaped into Victorian or even Gothic. I tried a trilogy, which I quite like both in concept and execution, with the voodoo element causing the western protagonist all kinds of trouble. Marketed to western readers, it hasn’t done well at all.
Punished was called semi-weird by one reviewer because it isn’t the usual stew pot of weird (like Penny Dreadful with Frankenstein’s monster, vampires, witchcraft and about everything else in the supernatural arsenal). I stuck with one menace. A not very nice protagonist is cursed by a voodoo practitioner and slowly turns into a zombie. To lift the curse he has to cross country from San Francisco to New Orleans. Along the way the very people he hates most are the only ones who can help him hold the curse at bay. As a zombie he is old school, not George Romero brain-eating, shambling or hyperzombie.
Poor Vincente has lost everything and now deals with Navajo shaman, Chinese herbalists and reluctant black voodoo mama loi. But at its core, this is a western dealing with outlaws, riverboats and all the usual, including cavalry, hanging judges and snake oil salesman. I enjoyed writing the three books but if I had them to do over, I’d go the route of western romances (romance base, western setting). Undead, Navajo Witches and Bayou Voodoo would be horrific stories set in the West.
Playing In Someone Else’s Sandbox (Part 2)(God of War) February 23, 2014Posted by bobv451 in fantasy, iPad, movies & TV, writing.
Tags: fantasy, god of war, Joseph gatt, novelization, video games
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Last time I told some of my experience with a movie novelization. Doing novelizations of video games might seem the same but I found distinct differences.
Matthew Stover was originally signed to do the novelization of the Sony video game God of War. Matt had medical problems and wasn’t able to work full-time on it. Deadlines loomed. The book was slated to get out near the release of the second video game. I was asked to ghost write the book but ended up doing a large enough portion that I got front cover credit.
I had Matt’s outline and a couple dozen pages of the “cut scenes” from the game. This was new territory for me and I built a story around those scenes. Oops, not right. It had to follow the actual video game more closely. The problem with this is a video game is almost entirely action. Fight, solve a mystery, use a clue and fight some more until the conclusion. This makes for a dull book although it makes for a great video game.
I had just gotten an iPad and found that any number of people had put their entire solved games onto YouTube. Running a few seconds gave me the look of the scene, not to mention solutions to the hidden clues and deciphered codes. I am a terrible gamer and would still be on the first screen if I had to play the game before writing the book. The video solutions were exactly what I needed.
But simply describing action is boring. I had to throw in some connecting material and did this through the interaction of the gods and goddesses that wasn’t in the game itself–but was implied. But adhering too much to the action and not enough to this background story gave GoW1 a stilted feel.
I was asked to do God of War 2 and more successfully balanced a backstory of godly (and goddessly) conniving and backstabbing politics with swordplay. Again I used the YouTube videos (thank you, “Raven van Helsing”) and saw how to give less action and more story. This melding of the two made for a book that kept interest for diehard fans of the game as well as showing them a bigger fantasy world to explain what’s going on.
One of the unforseen benefits to doing the books was that I got to meet “Kratos” (or the actor who modeled for Kratos). I thought the cover/video artists had come up with a character out of whole cloth. Nope. Joseph Gatt *is* Kratos. (And don’t miss him in the upcoming Games of Thrones as Thenn Warg.)
A picture taken at the 2013 Albuquerque Comic Expo – Joe Gatt is the one on the left, if you needed such info.
Of Alien Worlds…and Adjectives and Nouns January 12, 2014Posted by bobv451 in e-books, history, iPhone, movies & TV, sci-fi, science fiction, steampunk, Wild West, writing.
Tags: alien worlds, characters, ideas, sci-fi, science fiction, westerns, writing
I have mentioned before that writing westerns is now equivalent to writing sf. Science fiction envisions new and different worlds filled with characters unknown or unimagined by the reader. The traditional western set in the post Civil War era through 1890 and the closing of the frontier is now the same. Growing up, my oldest relatives lived at the edge of that time. Now that the WWII generation is shuffling off its mortal coil, firsthand stories are lost. With iPhones, 3D printers and wifi our everyday reality, the 1880s is completely unknown to modern readers through personal experience of family story. That means the same techniques we use to bring sf alien worlds alive are now necessary for westerns. We need to take the reader to a time and place completely beyond their ken with vivid description–and explanation of why the world is as we write it with “alien” elements like horses and cattle drives.
The style of writing has changed immensely in the last 25 years, where idea driven stories have fallen out of favor to ones with character driven plots. Westerns need to gear up, too, but a lot of writers already understand this and are working to give depth and motive (other than “revenge”) to their characters.
Along with this change is the broadening (I hesitate to say diluting, but that is part of it) with so many cross-genre stories. The noun is always the dictating form. For instance, ranch romance is a romance with all those conventions set in the west. If you happen to come across a romance western, you will have found a rare entry. Most all “…” romance is above all a romance. Paranormal romance. That’s romance with creepy happenings. Historical romance. A romance set in some other time period. And so on.
One interesting backwater is the western steampunk story. It can as easily be steampunk western. Adjective defining the type of western. Or the weird western. There aren’t many other sub genres that let us do a western with different overtones (there might be western mysteries like Longmire but check the adjective and the noun) but to maintain the structure, the very world of western lore requires us to understand what we are writing.
I love traditional westerns, but they were/too-often-are action driven with little regard to the characters. The best in the field like Elmer Kelton either consciously or unconsciously realized a western becomes more vital with living, breathing characters doing things the reader can identify with. With this additional writing technique, we now have to describe a world so far removed in time and space that it has become science fictional.
For your perusal, check out this Western Fictioneers series centered on individuals in the Old West. My Jackson Lowry title The Artist is an example of what I have been rattling on about. It is set in the Old West with a real character with a history, motivation and depth to bring him alive to today’s readers. It’s on sale right now, so you won’t be out that much to see what I mean. You won’t go wrong with the other novels in the West of the Big River series, either.
Happy trails, buckaroos.
The Black Hole Passes September 8, 2012Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, death, hobby, movies & TV, New Mexico, nostalgia, science, sense of wonder.
No, that’s not a typo. I’m not referring to Campbell’s The Black Star Passes but to the Black Hole surplus store in Los Alamos. The Black Hole was a compendium of junk and history, useable tech equipment and stuff I’m not sure anyone knew what it did.
The owner, Ed Grothus, died some time ago and was mostly anti-nuke, pro who knows what, who bought lots of surplus equipment at the Los Alamos lab and sold them. On one trip there, Gordon Garb laughingly asked for a 50kw oil bath capacitor–they had 3 on the shelf. I had less luck hunting for keyboards with the function keys down the left side–all their IBM keyboards predated fn keys. Stacks of Beta tapes (including the entire Prisoner series!). Dual trace oscilloscopes, miles of wire and coax, gadgets nobody knew what they were good for other than asking, “What’s that thing? It looks awesome, but…”
Entropy sets in, even in such backwaters of New Mexico. Alas, Hawking was right and black holes do evaporate.
A bit of irony is the closing coincides with a mini-Maker Fair here in Abq. Gordon is maybe going to come for that, which is A Good Thing since he missed Bubonicon this year.
I have been busy tidying up a lot of writing chores. More on them later. Got a short story to do ASAP, then…lots more stuff. But some of it is actually seeing the light of day this year. (And there are still prizes for the trivia contest available…hurry hurry hurry, time’s almost up!)
I leave you with the establishing shot for The Black Hole.
Boo…Boo…Bubonicon. 44 August 23, 2012Posted by bobv451 in autographing, Billy the Kid, conventions, e-books, fantasy, Free, movies, movies & TV, New Mexico, nostalgia, science fiction, sense of wonder, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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This weekend. Starting tomorrow! Coming amazingly fast this year–and anticipated even more since I missed last year.
Brandon Sanderson is GoH and via reports from GenCon he will make one fantastic guest of honor. Michael Cassutt is the TM and Ursula Vernon artist GoH. Wow. And George RR Martin and dozens of other writers will be there, too. But you can read all about this at the convention web site.
Want more info? Great article in the UNM student paper about us.
My schedule is packed to the gunwales. First out of the chute on Friday (that’s tomorrow as I write this!) is the Crazy Buck Rogers panel. 4-5pm. Following that I have a reading or discussion or whatever you want for an hour, 7:30-8:30PM. I’ve got a trio of stories I can offer up. A horror story (Avian Evisceration Device) from Career Guide to Your Job in Hell,, a fantasy (Memory of Wind) or a mystery mashup with Sherlock Holmes and Sir Denis Nayland Smith (Adventure of the Greenwich First Light). I don’t like to read so I am quite willing to talk about writing in general, ebooks, e-making your own, what to e-expect and all that good stuff. After all, my ebooks are now available in India via the Kindle. I can even be paid in rupees. If they offered royalties in a hard currency (say, Canadian loonies) that would be better. But I’ll take it in soft currency, ie, USD.
But wait, there’s more. There is the Cheesemagnet Panel at 9:30-11PM, if you don’t get enough cheesy movie talk in your workaday life.
Saturday the 25th? Why, yes, I have a panel 4-5PM on marketing sf via stuffing it into a teeny little niche. Instantly following that in the same room is the 5:20-6:30PM mass autographing, if your Higgs boson provides you enough mass to autograph. I don’t anticipate having much in the way of books to sell, so stock up from Nina and Ron Else in the huckster room (Who Else? Books), but I will have a copy or two of some titles (credit cards accepted). If you ask during the autographing, I will tell you how to get 44% off e-titles from my online store. Ebooks only, please, for this offer.
For most fans this would be enough. Not for yhos. Sunday.1:00-3:30PM auction. Super stuff. Super silly stuff, all auctioned off by the Bcon team of crazies (sans Gordon, alas–doctor things prevent him from attending this year)
This is coming up over the weekend. The past couple weeks have been filled. Finished 1.5 stories in a min-anthology I am doing before I speak at the 23rd Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium.
Also finished copyedits on China Jack, due out Dec 11 (you better read it quick–only 10 days from release date until the Mayan Apocalypse). And almost done on the edits for the final Star Frontier title, Black Nebula.
And work proceeds apace on the final touches for God of War 2.
Plus work on tax accounting stuff, student mss and generally goofing off. I leave you with this. My very first published book has been e-reprinted. This is it! Grab it at this low price while you can.
Time Enough For…Time August 12, 2012Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, End of the World, fantasy, Free, movies, movies & TV, sci-fi, science fiction, VIPub, web & computers, westerns, writing.
Woefully absent from these pages during the past 10 days or so, I have experimented with time management and trying to see where It All Goes. A good 3 hrs a day can be sucked up by kitty videos, Facebook and other nonproductive pursuits. The question is: do I garner enough enjoyment from these online time wasters compared with dealing in real world stuff.
While I’d rather watch the cat videos or guys getting smashed in the balls in new and extraordinary ways more than cleaning the garage or doing bookkeeping, they ought to be treated as candy. A little bit is good, a lot will ruin the waistline. I am getting more work done (and amazingly enough, looking forward to doing it) and not missing the blog quite so much.
A momentary diversion. About FB. I have been nailed finally with the Timeline format. Don’t like it, don’t see how it is an improvement, but Zuckerberg can flip us all off and there’s nothing we can do other than stop using FB. I find it useful to let everyone know what’s going on in a timely, concise way that stays around (unlike Twitter, which I have also cut waaay back on) such as the release of Sandcats of Rhyl and how it was free last week. And only $3.03 now. But I don’t want to play games and I will delete anyone posting to my page (I hate that feature letting anyone else post to my page) anything I deem unsocial. This can include but is not limited to calling anyone a Nazi (and I don’t even agree with Godwin’s Law), politics, and how “fill in the blank” is a baby killer who wants granny to eat dog food before shoving her over a cliff to steal her wheelchair. But that’s just me.
All that eats away at my time, hitting that delete button. I would rather be writing. I suppose in the old days watching TV was the time killer. Now it’s the Internet. Another fun tool to be managed. I do have the odd picture of time wasted on the Internet swirling down a drain that clogs up and then the temporal pressure gets so immense that it explodes in a Big Bang and creates a new universe. Maybe the Internet does have a purpose
How have I used my freed up time? Four titles in the Jade Demons Quartet are prepped and getting ready to be posted. A western short story is about half done. The synopsis for a new sf book is shaping up and another western synopsis is about ready to launch into writing phase. Western Fictioneers has a fabulous new project in the works, of which I intend to be a part with my novel contribution. And Empires of Steam and Rust is showing signs of life once more with new stories promised because of my time shiftings so I can pursue this.
I never thought of my time as being wasted reading, but I do watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet. Why is that? More to think about until next time.
Writing the High Desert June 17, 2012Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, e-books, history, movies & TV, New Mexico, outlaws, Texas, westerns, writing.
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The Western Writers of America convention ended last night after a 5 day run. I passed up some of the events only because this is home territory for me (I’ve seen enough of Santa Fe, thank you, which was the field trip this year) and I had impossible amounts of catchup work to do. The Albq Comic Expo ended last Sunday, Monday was “off” for me and WWA started Tuesday.
A huge tribute to Max Evans provided some rare moments of insight into the movie biz, along with jokes and reminiscences that were touching and informative.
The outstanding panel had to be the innovative “New Mexico vs Arizona” faceoff since 2012 is both states’ centennial of statehood. Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble and editor Bob Boze Bell vs the NM team of Centennial Historian Don Bullis and former feature reporter Ollie Reed. Trimble ought to be a standup comic (he comes from a town in AZ that’s so small its sister city is a Taco Bell in Nicaragua). Cowboy Mike, Sherry Monaghan and I were chosen (and bribed) as a jury by judge Johnny Boggs. After great tale telling and, perhaps not a little tall tale telling, the winner was declared to be … Iowa.
The writing western mysteries panel lacked a microphone and I lacked hearing acuity so I went to what proved to be a great presentation on the Civil War and various backwaters of its history that have been unexplored (or under-explored). Fascinating listening to Boggs talk about baseball and Pati Nagel on the war in NM, Jerry Poole on medicine and Terry del Bene on, well, just about everything I never knew and ought to have.
There were two autograph sessions, one I arranged at Page One Books for Chuck Tyrell (aka Charlie Whipple from Chiba, Japan), Courtney Joyner and Jackson Lowry to plug The Traditional West
Newer writer Rob Kresge was there, too, with a series of mysteries set in the west.
The other autographing, this one WWA sanctioned, happened at B&N. 73 authors officially participated but some, like LJ Martin, were signing but not at formal tables hawking their goods. This pointed out another problem with big dead tree bookstores: books they refused to order but sold on consignment will take 6 weeks to 3 months to be accounted. I am not sanguine about our chances of ever seeing money off those sales, or at least an accurate accounting.
The final panel I took in was on promotion with Steve Law, a rancher from WY, Jim Frenkel and David Morrell. You’ve heard all this via me or Mike Stackpole or Kris Rusch or Dean Wesley Smith. But simple things like QR codes were new to most of the audience. The rancher seems to have the finances to pay $800/mo for a media consultant and $300/mo to have someone do his tweets. Must be nice and, sorry, “you can start out paying less” doesn’t make it for me or most of the folks in the audience. As they say, YMMV. I am also less sanguine about doing autographings in grocery stores (I did one once sitting next to Tony Hillerman–the display of Pennzoil next to us did far better sales). High traffic, yes, but directed interest traffic seems more productive to me (such as the Albuquerque Comic Expo, the upcoming Cowboy Symposium and next year’s SW Book Fiesta.)
I survived, had fun, met lots of new people and am looking forward to doing it all again next year in Vegas (and then Sacramento and still thenner, in San Antonio). Masochistic me testing to destruction. And I love it.
Thern and Texas June 6, 2012Posted by bobv451 in fantasy, history, iPad, movies, movies & TV, outlaws, sci-fi, science fiction, Texas, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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Or maybe Thurn and Taxis, if you are a Crying of Lot 49 fan.
But therns. I saw the supposedly awful John Carter movie again on Monday. 2D this time, a better look for the movie (the colors die in 3D, it appears). I say “supposedly awful” because that is a critics’ opinion, not mine. I liked it even more the second time. I might even try for a 3rd view before it leaves the big screen, or as big a screen as the $1 movie theater has. This is a movie that deserves to be seen in IMAX.
The look of the movie is good, the pacing is off, taking too long to get moving, but the plot is heroic fantasy and the sfx are lovely. (That adjective can be applied to Dejah Thoris, too). Taylor Kitsch (what a name!) might not have been my pick for the John Carter role, but he does fine. I even liked Woola a lot more this time around. The reworking of the original book plot makes it into a stronger movie–face it, a 100+ years makes astral projection kinda clunky. Go for that Stargate!
An entertaining movie which comes out in Blu-ray today (or soon–I don’t have a Blu-ray so don’t pay close attention). I’ve heard that there will be an iPhone/iPad app that will add to the experience. No idea what it is but this pushes the connection of home theaters and iPads a bit closer together.
Also of note are the new westerns. History Channel did Hatfields and McCoys starring Kevin Costner and Bill Pullman. I enjoyed the first 4 hrs or so but began to tire of the repitition in the final 2 hours. All this killing over a pig. Sort of like the War of Jenkins Ear. Lots of background to what sounded like a trivial reason to go to war.
Better is A&E’s Longmire. A modern day western with cowboys and sheep herders and Indians and six-gun totin’ marshals set in Wyoming, or maybe Montana. The pilot was a bit contrived, making me think the bad guy would never have been caught if he hadn’t used an antique rifle and instead relied on a .30-06 but the show has promise. I’ll tune in again.
Not Just Another Dead Teenager Movie April 17, 2012Posted by bobv451 in death, fantasy, movies, movies & TV, sci-fi, science fiction, sense of wonder.
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Cabin in the Woods is certainly more than that. I saw the trailer and thought it had some small, itty-bitty twist. Wrongo. I’m not going to spoil anything here, so read on, stalwart souls.
Joss Whedon has taken a lot of ideas from his other series and mixed them together here. There’s some Dollhouse and definitely some Buffy tossed in with Cube and any number of dead teenager movies. By that I mean the predictable cast of characters being knocked off one by one. “We’re safer if we stay together, so let’s split up so the machete-wielding maniac in the hockey mask can kill us one by one.” That plot has been used repeatedly. Only Whedon tells us why in this movie, and it makes sense.
Other than the nifty ending which is not the one you’d expect anywhere along the way (and the scene where a guy is impaled by a unicorn–or maybe the flesh eating merman who has a blood blowhole in the middle of his back), Whedon makes use of every trope imaginable. But he explains them so they are reasonable and makes fun of them and has some nifty characters.
What impressed me was the technique in the movie. Every time you are sure the characters are out of danger or know what’s going on, Whedon ups the ante. More death, more blood, unexpected twists. But I sorta wish, along with a character in the movie, there’d been more of the flesh eating merman. That’s a critter not seen before. Whedon is a master of pacing and playing on the “shock factor” (which means you jump, even if you know the scare scene is coming up–for me, that was the way I went through Jaws. Predictable scare scenes and they were still enough to make me yelp.). What makes Cabin different is the mixing of genres. It’s a dead teenager movie with the blonde slut, jock, geek, stoner and virgin, but they fight back. They are meant to be pawns and rise above the chessboard. But it is also an sf movie. And a horror movie. And the final scene is something else entirely.
The movie was caught up in the MGM bankruptcy so spent two years on the shelf. Glad it escaped.
I am still leery about The Avengers. Too many heroes spoil the broth. After seeing this one, though, Whedon might surprise me pleasantly there, too.
Barsoom! March 7, 2012Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, fantasy, movies, movies & TV, nostalgia, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, Texas, Wild West.
Saw the 3D version of John Carter last night and enjoyed it a lot. There are few movies that need 3D, but ones with huge vistas and gaggles of cgi attacking armies nudge into that category. I’m not sure it’s exactly necessary, though, and if you saw only the 2D version you wouldn’t be disappointed. (I won’t even mention the truly deplorable Princess of Mars since John Carter is light years better)
The tharks are incredible. Wonderful thought behind how a 4-armed goober would act and move. They seemed skinnier than I pictured them but Barsoom, after all, has a lighter gravity and that’s why John Carter can leap tall buildings, etc. But, perish the thought, Dejah Thoris was well endowed and not the least bit undernourished looking. (The actress, Lynn Collins, had a weird accent, but IMDB said she was born in Texas, classically trained in NYC and lives in London). My one complaint about her role was that, unlike ERB’s description in the books, she didn’t go around nearly nekkid enough.
The voice talent for the tharks was a known quantity in Thomas Hayden Church and Willem Defoe while the onscreen live action actors were, to me at least since I don’t watch Friday Night Lights, unknown. Oddly, Taylor Kitsch (what an unfortunate name) who played John Carter is a Canadian who plays a Marfa high school football player on tv?
The dog critter Woola was fun and the airships definitely unusual, though Roy Krenkel sorta formed my images of them in the Ace editions back in the ’60s. The white apes are nothing like I envisioned them, but in a way this was a throwaway scene.
The plot is pure pulp but one great improvement over the books was how the Therns were pictured. The writers worked them into the story, indeed made them the driving evil force, and gave us something better than astral projection for John Carter to get to Barsoom. Very clever, very well done, especially for the payoff at the end.
A lot of interest in Barsoom-esque stuff out there now. Stephen D Sullivan has his Elf Princess of Mars and a book I did a cover blurb for is Nathan Long’s Jane Carver of Waar, a most enjoyable book..
If only we could read our pulp stories under the light from Barsoom’s twin moons…