Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hallowmass on Hold and Ace Sci Fi Doubles


No Christmas Launch for Hot Horror Book

In case you've been following along this year, there will be no Halloween, Christmas, Christmas eBook out before 2016. Such is life being married to a copy editor/managing editor who is working a a holiday job. I'm still leaning toward pitching a small press. One in particular would put out Hallowmass in eBook form, then see if it sold a hundred copies before releasing it as a soft cover. Fair enough. Strange are the ways of writing. For seven months, all I thought about was Hallowmass. Now it's fading from memory, like a torrid relationship cooling with the seasons.  I will say no more on the book pre-Yule.

Ace is the Place for Double Sci Fi

For a guy who never finished high school, my Dad was a tremendous reader. He'd be watching the White Sox on TV with a quart of Drewrys beer, a lit Pall Mall, and a book open in his lap, attention on the printed page during commercials. Wide-ranging in his genre tastes, Dad was fond of the science fiction of Andre Norton. And he was a avid lover of the Ace series of double paperbacks.  According to AbeBooks:

"One of Ace’s biggest coups was the Ace Doubles series.  These paperbacks contained two different novels that were bound together in the dos-a-dos style.  Their strategy was to pair a famous writer with a lesser known one and constantly introduce readers to new literary talent.  While Ace did not invent this concept, they did popularize it, and it became a fantastic marketing tool that benefited both the publisher and readers for many years.  Ace published several hundred Ace Doubles in the dos-a-dos format between 1952 and 1973, and many science fiction fans have built collections around these eye-catching paperbacks."

They were basically novellas, but it was really cool to flip one over and see brand new cover art and a different story. That said, I have two novellas from my frenzy of 2013 writing. Since both stories involve hapless travelers set upon by monsters, my wife suggested they'd make a great single edition. I immediately thought of Ace Doubles. These two stories are an Ace Double. But I gather it's a production pain since you have to commission two covers and arrange the text in a just-so manner. 

Maybe I can't swing a double, but the two tales of a mysterious, dangerous, wider world are what I shall write next. 

A most Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Paul Rugg and I Were Hired at Warner Bros.

And I Have the Video to Prove It

Yesterday,  December 16, marked 24 years since Paul Rugg and I were offered jobs at Warner Brothers TV Animation. We were over at Paul's house watching Zontar: Thing From Venus, drinking coffee, eating chocolate donuts, and smoking. We'd just turned in scripts for some new show called Animaniacs. (Mine was "Draculee, Draculaa.") Paul's wife was off earning money as a social worker, while my future wife was still employed at the magazine I'd quit two months earlier. Rugg and I were performing improv and sketch comedy at the Acme Comedy Theatre. (Along with cast member Adam Carolla.) Money was very tight. The payment for one script would really help out my Christmas. 

Then Kathy Page, Tom Ruegger's assistant, called to offer us staff jobs and the trajectory of our lives veered sharply into an unexplored cosmos.

We were amazed, stunned, numb. Walking outside, we smoked more and talked it over. Should we take the jobs or would they pollute our comedy pureness by turning it commercial? We would accept the work immediately. 

Now it all seems opaque. If it weren't for the Web and talking to Paul Rugg yesterday, I'd swear the whole experience never happened. But I'm glad it did. (Paul, too.)  So thanks to Tom and Sherri Stoner. (And her husband, M.D. Sweeney, our Acme director, who recommended us.) In honor of that day, here is "Draculee, Draculaa."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Thoughts on Part One of Childhood's End

Miniseries Opener Fails to Convince

Last night I watched the first installment of Syfy's Childhood's End, commercials and all. Based on a 1953 novel by British author Arthur C. Clarke, it tells the tale of alien Overlords who visit Earth in order to bring us peace and serenity by forcibly changing our ways, smarten us up, as it were. Well, it works and Earth is a better place for them. But there are questions as to their outward benevolence. These queries will be addressed, I'm betting, in parts two and three.

Our protagonist is a Missouri farmer named Ricky Stormgren, played by Mike Vogel. Because of his conciliatory skills, Ricky has been chosen by the Overlords as a go-between betwixt humans and aliens. He is called the "Blue Collar Prophet." Therein lies the rub. The character of Ricky Stormgren is about as blue collar as a Tesla.

Having been raised in a blue collar household in a neighborhood of cops and electricians and post office workers, I have some knowledge of things blue collar. Having worked in Hollywood and earned large in my day, I have some knowledge of the well-to-do lifestyle. (A memory now, believe me.) Was it the writing or the direction or the source material, I can't say. But Vogel comes across like a well-educated, progressive guy cast as a farmer.

I kept waiting for some explanation, like Stormgren was originally from Silver Springs, Maryland, the son of attorneys, but always had a hankering for the land. Even Stormgren's fantasies are upper income, specifically his honeymoon at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City and the playoff tickets for an unnamed sport that he never used. Possible for a blue collar guy? Yes, but unlikely as a characteristic of blue collar life is trying to make ends meet and not always successfully. (My parents were married in Chicago and honeymooned ninety minutes away in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for a few days, then went back to their jobs.)

Why the big fuss? Because the production wants me to believe that alien Overlords have arrived and are interfering with life on earth. In the dramatic story teller - story viewer relationship, that's the one fantastic buy-in the story teller is allowed. I agree to accept this, but the story teller should make everything around the aliens as believable as possible. If they don't, my willing suspension of disbelief refuses to be suspended. In fact, it sits on the floor with both arms wrapped around a table leg.

A yuppie farmer is like a play where you can see past the actors to the stage manager, smoking back stage and reading pornography. That said, the Overlords finally showed themselves. They look, well, different. And we shall see how matters turn out tonight and Wednesday.

I'm hoping the aliens aren't fans of Lena Dunham or read Gawker.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Hallowmass Horror Novel Coming Christmas

Far Beyond My Capacity

Name Change for 'Dunwich Diversity Seminar'

I typed out the old title followed by a page of possible replacements. In the end, I settled on the new moniker "Hallowmass." It refers to a black magic ceremony in the book as well as the climactic sorcery clash atop haunted Sentinel Hill in this update of Lovecraft's Dunwich Horror. Hallowmass is one word, evocative of dark doings, and takes up less space on a thumbnail than the old title. (I also came up with titles and story lines for books two and three, but let's not get presumptuous.)

Beta readers finished their tasks and I collated such of their notes as I thought helpful. Cover art is on the way. Alas, my wife and copyeditor/production manager has been swamped with day job work, hence unavailable to provide the final edit. But it appears her schedule will clear enough to allow the Hallowmass eBook version to go live on Amazon right before Christmas. Hopefully, the soft cover version will be out in late January.

After around six weeks of depression, I'm ready to start the next book, chosen from the many drafts I completed in 2013. Something genre, I believe. I'm looking at another horror story set at sea, a sic fi bildungsroman—fancy talk for coming-of-age-story—taking place in a decaying section of our galaxy, and a fantasy comedy-thriller about a forensic, crime-fighting bear from another dimension which was formerly an animated series pitch.

All shine with the high gloss finish of a new project, untested by the fires of story construction. In three months, I'll be complaining about the new book and thinking about dropping it for something easier.

In other words, business as usual.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

My Annual Birthday Post

My lazy man's birthday post.

From December 5, 2011, I repost my birthday thoughts on fame and fortune. What have I learned in three four years? A kind word opens many doors, and that no man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a homunculus.

Also, writing a novel is a butt buster. Thank God I'm almost finished . . . with the book, that is.

Thank you very much to all who have, so far, wished me Happy Birthday. In thinking of this day, I am reminded of several famous Americans who share my date of birth. I will list three and examine their accomplishments as compared to mine.

1. Martin Van Buren - b. Dec. 5, 1782

2. George Armstrong Custer - b. Dec. 5, 1839

3. Walt Disney - b. Dec. 5, 1901

4. John P. McCann - b. Dec. 5, 1952

1. Martin Van Buren succeeded greatly in becoming the 8th President of the United States but was hardly remembered even in his own day. He had a large bull frog stuffed and used as an ink well in the White House. However President Taft later sat on it by accident and they had to throw the thing out. That's about it.

2. George Armstrong Custer succeeded greatly as a soldier in the Civil War but had a mixed record fighting Indians. (1-1-2, I think.) He is best remembered for his spectacular fail at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. At first, everything was going well; then it all fell apart under an Indian tsunami. In later years, Custer had a park named after him as well as a monument and a movie where his part was played by Errol Flynn. That's a whole lot more than Van Buren ever got.

3. Walt Disney succeeded greatly in animation, a pioneer in the field, creator of iconic characters—but not the word 'iconic' which has been seized upon by junior execs.—established Disney studios and Disneyland and is fondly remembered to this day. Nonetheless his body is frozen in a vault beneath Disney's Burbank lot and should Walt be reanimated and start making decisions again it could effect his legacy.

4. John P. McCann was greatly successful as a Hollywood atmosphere player. McCann was the ship-board stand-in for a Canadian actor portraying Errol Flynn in My Wicked, Wicked Ways. In addition, he is visible catching Dennis Quaid's jacket at around 1:19 in a clip from Great Balls of Fire.
More successful in animation, McCann created the non-iconic character of The Huntsman. For the next fifteen years, he piggy-backed onto as many successful shows as his friends would allow. While the record is still being written, outsiders agree that McCann will be remembered by Bank of America and several other creditors who might reasonably feel aggrieved should he pass from the scene within the next several months.

Images:, Parcbench, fold3

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