Saturday, November 26, 2005

Stuffing, Nano & Kitty

I hope everyone who celebrated it enjoyed their Thanksgiving. I know I ate entirely too much. Of all the traditional Thanksgiving foods, I think the actual turkey is at the bottom of the list for me. Give me a plate filled with stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy and I'm happy. The turkey is almost an afterthought.

Yesterday I posted my official review of Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn. I liked it much more than I thought I would. It is always nice when a book does that to you.

Lastly, with only a few days left to reach 50K for NaNoWriMo, I've come to the realization that I won't be hitting that goal. I'm not even halfway there right now (20k), but it served the greater purpose of getting me in a more strict writing schedule. I'm still having a lot of fun with the book, despite the difficulties some of it is presenting.

Monday, November 21, 2005

New Review, wine, and music

I posted my review of E.E. Knight's Dragon Champion yesterday. This was a solid coming of age story about a rare gray dragon. Knight shows some great characterization and solid world building in this one. I liked his Vampire Earth novels a bit more, but this is still a very strong book. And he did what every writer should do – he has me interested in the characters and looking forward to where he next takes the story.

We had some friends over this past weekend and I discovered how well a good red wine can compliment beef, in this case Chateau Breon, which Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff cooked to absolute perfection. I would normally be very happy with a Guinness or other rich beer to accompany my beef experience. However, our friends brought over a nice red wine and I figured I’d give it a try. I’m not a big wine drinker, but I do enjoy it on occasion. This was something of a blend of a Merlot and Chianti, wonderfully smooth with no after taste. I’ll have to try wine with my steak more often.

It is always interesting when two types of art/entertainment cross. I'm speaking of music flavored with fantasy and science fiction. Listening to Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime got me thinking of this once again. For those not in the know, this is probably Queensrÿche’s most critically acclaimed album (Fuck Silent Lucidity, MTV killed that thing) and tells the story of a junkie, a nun/prostitute in a dark grim future where Dr. X is leading a cult to overthrow the government. Though not blatantly science fictional, the elements of a disillusioned populace, a dark big brother like figurehead, and a cult preparing a revolution fit the bill for me. This album ranks very highly in my personal canon of "great albums."

Less known (outside of those who are metal fans like myself), though no less interesting and entertaining is the band Dream Theater. Many of their albums are concept albums and boast a wonderful line up of great musicians. I've liked the majority of songs I've heard by them is Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory which deals with past lives.

The German group, Blind Guardian based their album, Nightfall in Middle-Earth, on Tolkien's Silmarillion. The album starts out with clashing swords and some spoken words. Another German based group is Helloween, with their epic Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, the songs Dr. Stein, Future World and the epic Halloween.

Rush is a group that has flirted with fantastic elements, particularly their 2112 album, which tells of a dystopic future and the talisman of a guitar.

David Bowie was flirting with the genre with his The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars as was The Who with Tommy. Even though Tommy isn't quite sf, it does play with the Christ Figure so popular in fantastic fiction. Alice Cooper’s horror-themed music is also germane to this discussion as well.

Of course a discussion of this nature would be incomplete if Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were not mentioned. Many of Zeppelin's songs are just about outright homages to Tolkien (Misty Mountain Hop, Ramble On, The Battle of Evermore). And Sabbath, who took their name from the Karloff film, is perhaps the defining group, in terms bands with fantastical elements in their songs. From their song The Wizard, to the epic and legendary Iron Man, and the song Black Sabbath, the dark gothic feelings their songs evoke is unmistakable, often imitated and perhaps the most influential sound in all of Heavy Metal. The imported three disc set: Black Sabbath: The Ozzy Osbourne Years is one of my most cherished CD compilations.

I’m sure I missed some, let me know.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Writing, Reading, Observing

It has been a hectic week, but what else is new. I haven't written as much as I would have liked, but I have been adding to the NaNoWriMo book just about every day. I’m having fun with it, as I’ve said, and surprising myself with what I’m putting to page. The story is becoming more personal than I was expecting. Hopefully, a pot of coffee will help me to a long writing session into very early tomorrow morning.

I finished up E.E. Knight's Dragon Champion a couple of days ago and I'm polishing up my review. Overall reaction, I liked it, but I'll go into more detail when I finish and post the review.

I also read All Star Superman #1 this week and thought it was just about everything a Superman comic book should be. Even if many of Quietly's faces look like they are sucking a lemon, his overall layouts and details are amazing. Too bad it will be 2 months until the next one hits shelves. Speaking of Superman, the trailer for Superman Returns ran during Smallville last night, which only left me wanting to see more. Smallville itself was good, even if it seemed like a big commercial for Ford. Even if resolution always hits about 8:43 every episode, they are delivering some good Kryptonian back-story, focusing more on Clark, enough on Lex, and still a little too much on Chloe. I think Jor-El has somehow inhabited Lionel Luthor.

Continuing on the comic book theme, I have to say, I’ve been impressed with Image Comics output lately, both current and future. I'm sure I'm not reinventing the wheel by stating this, but they are no longer the splash-page in your face artist turned writers they were when they started up in rebelling to Marvel & DC. Sure Spawn is still ongoing and Larson's Savage Dragon is picking up again, but they are doing some interesting things there, in addition.

Rex Mundi is one that comes immediately to mind – an alternate history dealing with a powerful church and the Holy Grail. The art is good, the story is deep, mysterious and often spooky with a minimal supernatural element. The only problem is the somewhat erratic shipping schedule.

GØDLAND is another one. Cosmic superheroics in the Kirby tradition! Seriously, I have the first issue and liked it a lot, Joe Casey is telling a fun story here. Scioli’s art just explodes off the page. I've got issues 3 and 4, but can't seem to get my hands on the second issue. For anybody considering this thing, the whole first issue is posted for free at Newsarama. (Thanks for triggering that memory Mahesh!)

Fear Agent, by Rick Remender, Tony Moore and Cory Walker has only one issue on the shelves right now, but I liked it a lot. So far this is SciFi adventure with an Indiana Jones like feel. On both GØDLAND and Fear Agent, the coloring is spectacular, too.

Another book coming out next year that looks interesting is The Portent, described as "a sweeping fantasy epic" launching in February.

Here is a page with a bunch of previews of their comics. They have also recently started a great all-Image-encompassing blog.

Lastly, this week and part of last week the blogosphere (at least the FSF portion I consider myself to be a part of) has been caught up in what has come to be known as the Venom Cock controversy. I’ve been observing this from a distance with some morbid curiosity. As a person with aspirations of becoming a successful, published writer who also spends a great deal of their time reading and reviewing fantasy and science fiction, I've found myself in an odd place on this one. Any large group of people eventually becomes divided into cliques, this is only a natural thing. Between cliques a natural "they said" and "No THEY said" thing will develop. The result of all this, of course, is that Janine Cross, the author of Touched by Venom, will likely see a nice increase in the sales of her book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Churning along

I'm still not quite where I want to be with NaNoWriMo, but my Friday overnight writing spree brought me to 10K and I'm approaching 13K right now. I'm finding the key to doing this thing, and this probably isn't a surprise to anyone, is falling into a writing schedule.

I'm trying to add to this thing everyday, even if it is just re-reading what I wrote over the past couple of days and make some edits and the addition of a couple paragrahps. Half the time I write more than I expect, other times I hate myself for not writing as much as I want.

This week at comic shops the much anticipated All-Star Superman #1 hits the shelves. This should be a lot of fun.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

NaNoWriMo in the night

Blogging right now is providing a brief distraction from NaNoWriMo. This Devil of a book I'm working on has some supernatural, scary elements to it. I'm finding it tricky to not be too blatant with these facets of the novel, but it is fun too. I'm also enjoying balancing the real with the supernatural, and trying to set my characters in as "real" a world as possible. Certain writers are described as "subtle," and I suppose I'm aiming for that with some of the scenes I've just crafted.

Considering there are scenes I've written which I hope will set the reader's hair on end, is it a good sign that I was a bit spooked writing them and felt goose-bumps?

To further add to the creepy, or Twilight-Zone-esque feel, I just did a word count and got exactly 8000. It could have been worse, it could have had 666 in it.

On the TV right now, providing background noise is Wondershowzen - what a fucked up show.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

One Year Ago...

Yeah I just posted something similar, but I did start this blog shortly after my birthday last year, so you will all have to suffer some of my wistful remembrances.

I figured the one-year mark was as good a time as any to change up the look here at your Friendly Neighborhood Blog o' Stuff. I was getting a little bit bored with the orange and white and felt like going for something blue.

So what has happened since I began this thing last year? Probably the biggest was buying/moving into a new house and selling our townhouse. This provided a great deal of stress to lives of Mr. Blog o' Stuff and myself, as selling a house without a realtor, whilst cheaper, is somewhat frustrating. Still, I like the idea of not having to pay a realtor thousands of dollars for something I can do myself. That took up a couple months of my life and after putting a nice amount of work into the new house to bring it up from repair work to simply maintenance work, Mrs. Blog o' Stuff and I are growing much more comfortable with the idea of this being our home. As if on cue, I received a call from informing me the tax assessor came for her scheduled visit.

We had some very good memories of our first 5 years of marriage in the townhouse. We shared our first Christmas there, after all. As much as we wanted a house with land, it was still a little sad to leave a place with five years of memories.

My parents also moved, too. They just moved to the other side of town. This was odd for me, since the house they moved out of was pretty much the house in which I grew up. My parents bought the house when I was 3, and I lived there up until I married Mrs. Blog o' Stuff at the age of 25. Sure, I spent 4 years on and off living in New Brunswick, but this was the home where I grew up. Still, it is odd for my parents to be in a different house than the one they were in for 30 years and I don't think I'll ever drive down their old street. I don't think I want to see how the new people there changed it.

SFFWorld has continued to grow, with the expansion of our forums to include the OFFICIAL forums of several authors. (Gary Wassner, R. Scott Bakker, Matthew Stover, Steve Savile, Madeline Howard, Caitlin Sweet, Kevin Radthorne, Alison Croggon, Richard Tuttle, Samit Basu, Glenda Larke, Marienne de Pierres, Richard Harland) We recently started expanding our coverage, on the Web site as a whole, to encompass graphic novels and comic books. People in the world of FSF are beginning to take notice of our presence, I'd like to think, especially with more blurbs of our reviews appearing on or in published books.

The Yankees failed to make it to the World Series again, the NHL returned, and it looks like my alma mater may actually make it into a Bowl Game for the first time in many, many years.

Lastly, I suppose this is a mild case of serendipity, the Web site for Superman Returns went live yesterday.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Lazy post

Just a meme placeholder today from mastadge. Something of more substance tomorrow.

1. First thing you did this morning?
Hit the alarm clock

2. Last thing you ate?
Some kind of danish my mom brought over on Saturday.

3. Is your cell phone a piece of crap?
Pretty much.

4. What's the thing you look forward to most in the next 6 months?
Spending the first Christmas season in my new house with my wife. Finishing a novel or two.

5. What's annoying you right now?
Having to wake up everyday and go to work. To quote pal Justin – “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?”

6. Whats the last movie you saw in a theater?
Batman Begins

7. Do you believe in long distance relationships?
I suppose

8. What's worse, when you try so hard for something then you end up not even getting it, or losing someone you love?
Losing someone you love.

9. Is there someone you miss?

10. What inspires you?
My Wife and my Life.

11. If you could put together a concert of 4 bands or artists, who would they be?
Godsmack, Black Label Society, Black Sabbath (from before Ozzy was kicked out the first time) and Shinedown.

12. Song that sums up your love life?
Take a Look at Yourself by Plant/Paige, Unanswered Prayers by Garth Brooks

13. What's one thing you wish you were better at doing?
Keeping to my writing schedule.

14. If you could be anywhere this second where would you be?
Back home, in bed with my wife.

15. What's your most vivid memory from 6th grade?
That was middle-school, the three worst years of my life and they all blended together. Being harrased several times a week by kids in the 8th grade sucked.

16. Latest addiction?
Cheese. Every day when I get home, I have the almost uncontrollable urge to cut a piece of cheddar or smoked provolone.

17. Have you ever had the slight urge to kill someone?
Define ‘slight.’

18. How many people would you say were interested in you?
I’d like to think my wife would be at least one. As for others, whatever.

19. What do you love doing?
Being with my wife. Reading. Writing. Spending time with either my dog or my wife’s dog. Drinking beer. Eating.

20. Do you think someone thinks about you daily?
See number 18.

21. Who was the last person you saw or talked to?
A friend at work.

22. What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m 31 and still trying to figure that one out. Is Award Winning New York Times Bestselling Author a bit much to shoot for?

23. What is your favorite food?
Steak, (porterhouse or filet mignon wil do) medium rare with a bit of salt and a pint of beer to accompany it.

24. How many people do you know with the same name as yours?
About 10

25. What was the last thing you spilled?
Water on myself.

26.Express yourself right now:
Frustrated, excited, anxious.

Monday, November 07, 2005

31 years ago...

To quote Jesus on the Christmas episode of South Park,

"Happy Birthday to me."

31 years old. Shit, it is all downhill from here. It really sunk in when I was at the gym and the exercise bicycle, in an attempt to provide a customized work out for each individual, prompts you for your age. That just made it real. The real question is, when do I begin to feel like and adult?

And thanks to mastadge, I found the following about myself:

You're Nada from They Live.
They Live.

Which B-Movie Badass Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

God I love that movie, one protagonist is portrayed by mullet-sporting wrestling legend Roddy Piper, the other by Tony-Award winner Keith David. Keith David has perhaps the coolest voice in Hollywood. I just checked David's IMDB entry, dude's been in a lot of stuff - Pitch Black, John Carpenter's The Thing, Something About Mary, Road House (maybe that's not one to be proud of), plus a bunch of Video Game voices and the voice of Goliath in Disney's Gargoyle's cartoon.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bakker Review & NaNoWriMo

I’ve posted my review of R. Scott Bakker’s The Thousandfold Thought. My god was this a great book, I really need to re-read the entire trilogy at some point in the not-too-distant future. This book, and whole series, was extremely compelling and will cast a long shadow for many years in the Epic Fantasy genre.

NaNoWriMo is underway and as of last night, I've got about 2200 of the 50K words we are all all working towards. However, when I attempted to continue my W.I.P. last night, the file on my floppy would not open. I usually save the file of whatever I'm writing on the hard drive as well. Unfortunately the version on the hard drive was missing a decent portion of what I’d written the day before, Wednesday. As things turned out, last night in attempting to re-write the portoin that went missing, my protagonist, Larry, developed a better relationship with his friend’s wife. In my fervor to replace what was lost, the story became stronger. That my friends, is turning a bad situation into a good one, and something I’ve seen/heard other writers do with scenes they mysteriously lost.

This past week Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff and I had our house vinyl sided, and the contractor did an absolutely fantastic job. I’d provide a link, but he doesn’t have a Web site and I don’t think it likely anybody else reading my blog actually lives in New Jersey and needs work done on their house. It almost like having a new house, and we couldn't be happier. The neighbor two doors down was so impressed with the craftsmanship of their work that she called them Wednesday to set up an appointment for an appraisal to get work done on her house.

I’m wishing I could have gone out to Madison, Wisconsin for this year’s World Fantasy Convention, a bunch of my pals from SFFWorld and Frameshift are there right now mingling. Oh bother, perhaps I can make it in two years when it is in Binghmaton, which I can get to by car.

Sadly, Keith Parkinson passed away earlier in the week. I always liked his artwork, particularly his covers to Terry Brooks’ Shannara books. The quality of Parkinson’s art was superior to the words inside the book, however. Parkinson’s wonderful art was also the primary basis for the Everquest game. RIP.

Lastly, speaking of Terry Brooks, there is an “Interesting” discussion about Terry Brooks and the Fantasy genre at Nightshade books, of all places (via The Slush God)