Thunderbird Studios Now Live

thunderbird-bg_04You may have noticed my drop of output here. That’s because I’ve divided my personal blog from all semi-professional efforts like reviews and articles. Where have they gone?

Thunderbird Studios.

I’ve been dreaming about this for a few years now. Growing frustrated with the small press market, I wanted to do something bigger, something greater. But I also realized that we don’t need another company pumping out half a dozen titles a year. They needed more of a marketing answer.

I highly recommend you follow Thunderbird on Twitter or Facebook. If you’re a reader, check out the interviews and expect more in the next few months, or take a gander at the various reviews to look into something you like. And if you’re a writer, keep an eye out for the upcoming submissions window.

But yeah, I’m not giving up the blog just yet. But it would just be for my personal thoughts or the occasional book announcements these days.

Cultural Sabbatical for June

It’s been a while. Writing projects have kept me and the team remarkably busy. I’m happy to announce that we’ve finished the first round of edits for our novella series. More on this later, perhaps even as soon as next week. But for now, a little of what I’ve found time to enjoy.

TMitHKBooks

As the fictional adventures continue, I have a tendency to rarely return to the same author within a year. This happens for many reasons; to prevent burnout, to keep my head filled with new ideas, and to rotate the geek-with-the-chic. Sometimes you get books that can blend those two things together, but this doesn’t usually happen until the novel transitions to the the screen, big or small.

But on that point, the “no author more than once a year” guideline was violated twice this year by Philip K. Dick, with The Man in the High Castle and my current read, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which is rapidly disappearing in my hand. The story is a blitz that is hard to put down, interesting in its own right though vastly different from its film adaption, Blade Runner.

PKD was, and pretty much still is, the “idea man” that made science fiction what it is today. While many such authors tend to focus on the more academic sciences, the beauty in Dick’s concepts are their psychological inspirations. His themes ooze and seep, capable of invading any genre no matter how timeless. It wasn’t so much about androids, but what androids tell us about us. It wasn’t the facts and dates of Nazi occupation of America, but rather how we live in such times, how we felt and why we do. PKD used his head to tell it from the heart.

On the subject of fast reads, I’m also rather impressed with the vanishing act performed with The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which I finished over last weekend. The book was the perfect mix of fantasy and fairy tale, tying its carefully woven mix of behind-the-scenes theological suggestions with the philosophies of its characters. It spoke with such depth that one’s life felt changed after reading.

American GodsThe final achievement on the literature front was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods which I purchased before even knowing about the upcoming television series. The novel was my first book by Gaiman (outside of the movie Coraline and the graphic novel The Dream Hunters with Yoshitaka Amano), and I truly appreciated the effort he put into researching and cultivating the world’s mythologies and not just the most common, such as Greek and Norse. The overall story is fairly satisfying on its own, although there is a sense that there should have been more to the story at times.

Perhaps that’s something that Starz will soon rectify.

While a part of me is looking forward to the book’s television rendition (considering it stars Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle), there’s reason to be cautious. Especially since HBO attempted the script with three writers and just couldn’t get it down, eventually giving up. Still, although HBO generally employs good writers, the somewhat prematurely finished show The Leftovers would suggest that the channels struggles to engage its audiences in matters of theological consideration. Well, since we’re on that topic…

Television

On the live action front… I have a horrible confession to make ladies and gentlemen. I have never seen Orange is The New Black

“What?!” Some readers might be screaming. “The show is amazing! How could you not see it?”

For me, Orange is The New Black is kind of suffering from a form of TV debt. Simply put, right now there is actually too much great television these days. HBO and Showtime used to have the corner to themselves, then AMC came along and proved that ordinary cable can deliver, followed swiftly by the lineups at Netflix. Now, it seems every channel has at least one hit show of some kind. USA has Mr. Robot (of which I’ve seen season one). PBS has Downton Abbey (currently I’m on the third season). The History Channel has Vikings (unseen but on the to-watch list).

With so much television out right now, it’s difficult to really catch up on golden oldies and prior seasons of current hits. OITNB is just one of those shows I put on the back burner to spend time on other projects. I may pick it up.

PrintHowever, disappointment abounds that the third season of Penny Dreadful is the final of the series. I didn’t see this coming at all, but my understanding is that this was premeditated long ago.  I’ve yet to begin watching it, although anyone who is familiar with my blog knows how much I’ve gushed over seasons one and two.

I intend to start Penny Dreadful shortly, but have been catching Game of Thrones first whenever possible. It’s not that I value the latter series any higher but simply because thoughtless fools on social media continue to ruin it, spoiling events if I don’t rush to see it. This has happened twice this year alone due primarily to memes. I am truly looking forward to the finale however, considering how awesome the last (ninth) episode turned out.

A couple of years ago, the last thing I expected was to be pulled back into anime ever again. But here I am, working my way through both the new and old; the third season of the classic Armored Trooper Votoms and Netflix’s latest, Voltron: Legendary Defender, of which I’ve seen the 69-minute initial episode (I will be watching the remaining, 23-minute episodes later). The short lengths of both series’ episodes, and the fact that they’re all immediately available, is a factor in my watching them.

I can’t really explain what it is that keeps me hooked on Votoms. At first glance, one would think it’s a show about mecha– large, combative robots often in a war-drama that justifies their usage. Mecha shows are often characterized by the “tech creep” of an arms race through improvements or new models, and a “boxing title bout” mentality between pilots. But Votoms bucks these trends hard.

After the signing of a cease-fire, war veteran Chirico Cuvie is tricked into a mission against his own side. Unable to trust anyone and now a fugitive, Chirico makes reluctant friends with a group of smugglers and lovable low-lives while trying to stay under the radar of a corrupt police force. But Chirico’s quest for survival transformers into a hunt for the truth, which threatens to reignite the fighting all over again.

AT VotomsGritty is the best way to describe the series. Jaded Chirico Cuvie barely forms attachments to anyone or anything, as he burns through ATs (Armored Troopers) like popcorn. They’re merely tools, to be used and discarded when no longer useful. They don’t upgrade as much as they adapt; swapping out weapons and parts to adjust for battles in space or underwater. Repairs and replacements are fairly grunt work and commonplace.

Voltron is the exact opposite in every way. While Votoms is gritty, cynical and hard science fiction, Netflix’s new series is more mythical, hopeful and exponentially more humorous. The disposable nature of the ATs gives way for the unique and important lions. The always-on-the-run survival exchanged for a defensive campaign. And yes, Votoms is for adults while Voltron makes itself appropriate for the whole family.

Cheekiness is Voltron’s best element, with plucky characters who can’t stop poking each other in the ribs. But peppered between the jibes comes a moderate amount of personal drama to punch up the plot lines; Pidge seeks his missing family while Shiro (a rechristened Sven from the original series) can’t remember his life while he was a prisoner of the Galran Empire. Elements like these are ideal for preventing the gladiator match episodes that the first series became known for.

But two weaknesses dog the new series. First, the humor can sometimes be ill-placed and over the top. And second, the pacing was fairly rapid in the rush to establish the universe, such as how everyone shares the same language or why the main characters could be trusted with a considerable amount of power.

Here’s hoping the Game of Thrones finale is one to remember this Sunday.

The Art of Sincere Flattery

My life is somewhat rough right now. I am moving tomorrow, am waiting to hear back about a position I applied to weeks ago, and am currently ill. I don’t even known if it’s a cold or allergies, but my swollen sinuses have kept me from needed sleep last night.

However, I wanted a quick break from packing. And a discussion worthy thought came to me a few moments ago.

ENSo my friends and I have been discussing certain coming projects and the latest entertainment releases. The UK got to see Avengers: Age of Ultron before the United States did, and I’m thankful for those across the pond who haven’t mentioned any spoilers yet. One of my chums, Alec McQuay, saw the recent release of his novel Emily Nation, which is worth a glance if you’ve time.

Now I’ve been scratching my head, trying to remember who reminded me during our conversations. But someone caused me to recall this peculiar behavior a select few established authors engage in… where they do not read fiction.

In my time, I’ve only come across a single author who publicly admitted to disliking reading novels, despite writing them. This is not to say that this author does not read; they do. But they tend to stick to non-fiction, and there is fair merit to that. It’s easy to forget that scriveners like Robert E. Howard and living legend George R.R. Martin borrowed from the pages of history to spice their work.

Now… this has led me to ponder a few of my own approaches of input versus output in literature. Personally, I enjoy reading creative tales and novels. I tend towards a fairly eclectic blend of genres. In the vein of high fantasy or swords-and-sorcery I have read all the original Conan works from Howard, and everything available from Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Chronicles of Prydain a long time ago.

In the grand scheme of readership, this really isn’t much. I’ve never read anything by Terry Pratchett nor R.A. Salvatore. The first four books of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series rest on my bookshelf, still awaiting my eyes. A Wizard of Earthsea is the only piece amongst the works of Ursula K. Le Guin I’ve finished, and I barely remember it. Scott Lynch had my attention for The Lies of Locke Lamora but I haven’t invested in the rest of his series. The majority of my fantasy reading has actually been in the works of the Black Library’s Warhammer fantasy universe, and those are usually light and often polished off in a weekend. There are probably a dozen other fantasy authors who have at least one story worth studying, but I haven’t found the time yet.

I mention this because, as of late, I have been penning and finishing a growing number of fantasy pieces. It’s part of my efforts to become a “full stack” author, who moves from genre to genre to learn what they can. Perhaps even combining these types, creating new tales from the union. As I’ve set horror down for the time being, fantasy has become my newest focus.

I’ve had successes in horror, some of which are still on going. But I haven’t quite had that one breakout success with fantasy. I feel as though I’m closing in on it but… time will tell. What makes me curious is that compared to fantasy, I’ve read very little horror. I’ve seen many horror films, and the visuals have stuck with me. But not much in the way of reading.

Part of me wonders if the act of “researching” a writing market by reading successes within it kind of poisons the well. On one hand, it does inform the author as to what has already been done before, yet at the same time, can it make us prone to fearing innovation?

About a year back, I was very proud of a tale I wrote. It was swords and sorcery meets Indus Valley Civilization, the area that was proto-India. Compared to European inspired fantasy, there is a tremendous amount of cultural differences to communicate. There was the caste system. There were the different kinds of weapons which we see as exotic, and they see as normal. They have their own pantheon of gods. It’s easy for us to take knowledge of Zeus or Thor for granted, but gods like Agni or Indra may require a little prefacing in English speaking markets.

I was very proud of this story. I still am despite its rejection, if for no other reason than the sheer scholarly effort to try and… just widen the door a crack, hoping for something inspired. I’ve read articles and blog posts about people who are a little tired of European centric tales and I kind of see their point. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that there is so much of it.

Maybe I’ll dust that story off and try again someday, and I’m hoping the wheel is finally turning a little. And if you’re one of those types seeking something new and inspired, try Emily Nation by McQuay.

For me however… back to work.

March

beertoastIt’s the middle of March. It’s actually St. Patrick’s Day, or better yet called “Writer’s Refueling Day”.

I really should have been writing the last week but I haven’t. I’ve been horrible at it. Distracted by other tasks and chores. Too many video games, too much reading. Too many little work assignments and friends coming out of the woodwork. I kind of want to go home, lock myself in my room and just write, page after page, word after word until I pump out a handful of short stories to send to various publishers. That may happen on Tuesday.

We will see.

Distractions are understandable but the timing was bad. Spring is the time that many magazines and publishers open their doors.

On the plus side, I did finish editing all the stories that were passed to me for the Marching Time anthology that Narrativium is organizing. I am debating whether or not I should involve myself in the next Bolthole Anthology in anything other than an advisory role. I think it a great learning tool but I really want to break into the more professional publications. The Bolthole Anthologies require a considerable investment of time that is becoming a scarcer resource.

After reading so many great stories, I’m a bit at a loss for crafting plots again. My head is just… out there. Hopefully something will come to me today.

Just a Quickie

I have a new job starting soon. I’m still writing but slowly. Life is okay.

As of late, a lot of my work has focused more on input than output. New games, like Assassin’s Creed. New books, as I’ve finished All Quiet on the Western Front. Studying Java and the like.

The new book I started is called Shantaram. As part of my research into modern India, the title was a passed along to me. Despite the length of the book (over 900 pages), it is proving to be a fairly easy and enjoyable read. I’m already 600 pages in.

But although I’ve been reading and playing more, the cost is I haven’t been writing as much. I got about 3,000 words into a new sci fi piece, but have gone no further. I am being bad.

Need to Read

Faithless readers, I need your help with book selections.

In little more than a week, I’ll be on a plane to London. I’ve got some planning to finish up on, some travel and lodging arrangements to make that I’ll take care of tonight. But of more interest, the flight will be a good 12 or so hours of reading time, one way. That’s time enough to finish off an entire book or two.

At the moment, I’m four chapters away from completing The Return of the King. A friend of mine was quite surprised that this was the first time I ever had read it and not the dozenth. I have the Black Library’s Fear to Tread to read, but chances are I’ll take a chunk out of that before I ever board the plane. I would prefer to finish it before I leave for that reason, if only to have a fresh book on take off.

I still have Mockingjay and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, but my copy of Mockingjay is hardback and would not pack as easily as the latter choice. So I could use a hand in deciding what to read before take off.

So my fellow book cultists, I am open to ideas, suggestions, innuendo and insinuations as to further reading to cultivate my dark and evil mind. It is preferable that the books be of the Black Library persuasion, but any classic literature or modern (and good) pop culture hits will be fine as well.

Why I No Longer Do Book Reviews

Picture filler for fun.

Picture filler for fun.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review of any kind. While I have no problem doing reviews for television, movies and games, books are not on my list anymore.  I’m still reading of course. The writer who doesn’t read is basically covering his ears, screaming at the top of his lungs. Very annoying and very close minded. But I don’t want to do book reviews anymore.

I have my reasons.

There are many books out there that could have been great if the author put a spot more effort into it. Or editing that could have used more polish.

Sometimes, the only reason a story suffered was due to production limitations. Other times, maybe the writer needs considerable practice.

One of the interesting aspects about writing, from an economic perspective anyway, is the incentive for writers to cooperate rather than compete. We’re very used to the concept of competition in the marketplace. And fictional books belong to a very, very wide market with many, many alternative products. Why read a book when you can watch a movie, play a game, go drinking with friends, take a vacation, so on? It’s all the same thing: Entertainment.

But cooperation has considerable value as well. Some have argued, and I am inclined to agree on many points, that cooperation is more valuable than competition. As such, we find ourselves pitching for story anthologies rather than striking out on our own. We swap stories for review, proofing and editing. Word of a new anthology or publishing company is passed around.

Your writing rival today maybe your editor tomorrow, so consider that incentive to mind your words and actions.

That is the primary reason why I no longer wishing to judge the work of others, at least not openly and publically. Or at the very least, not in a negative tone. When in doubt, silence is golden.