Friday, April 7, 2017

Anything But New Book Review: If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor

Welcome to another anything but new book review. These are reviews of books that are typically past their best-seller days, some of which may be languishing forgotten but are still worthy of a good read.

Today's anything but new book is If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor

Hail to the Chin, baby.

 I have always been at least a minor fan of Bruce Campbell, though as of late my interest in his movies has grown, so as soon as I found out he wrote an autobiography back in 2001 (with a reissue/update in 2002) I tracked it down. The book flows fairly well, beginning with his early childhood as well as what motivated him to become an actor before moving quickly through high school and off to his first feature film The Evil Dead.

Whereas it easy for an autobiography to come off as dry or disingenuous If Chins Could Kill gives us a peak behind the scenes of Bruce Campbell’s career while entertaining us as the reader.
Bruce Campbell as narrator of his own life is both charming and self deprecating with, we can see this with passages like:
“Waiting for that big call is where you second-guess yourself to death and play all of the ‘would have/should have/could have’ games over and over. I had two choices: wait be the phone and be tormented by every ring, or get as far away from it as I could. I chose the latter, and wandered the hills behind my house in southern California until the big verdict came down about thirty-0six hours later. Paramount had found their man and it was . . . Billy Zane.
Do not pass Go. Do not collect $100.
I was surprised at how well I took the news. It was more of a relief than anything, because I was tired of all the games I had to play to get that far. To quote Rocky, I ‘went the distance’ and it was good enough for me.”
Bruce Campbell is entertaining while being informative. My only real complaint is that after reading the book I may know about his career but I don’t really feel like I know the man. After watching hours of YouTube videos featuring Bruce Campbell I find that talking to us about himself without ever really telling us much is something he excels at. We only ever really get a hint at his politics and never really know much about his personal life. Perhaps that is for the best. By staying focused on his career Campbell has provided an invaluable tool for anyone who wants to get into the arts.

Who should read this book?

I try and avoid a straight up ratings system because they are so unreliable and open to interpretation. What you consider a 2/10 I might consider a 9/10. Instead I try and focus on who would enjoy this book, or at last benefit from it. If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor is great for those who want some insight in what it takes to become a working actor as well as what is involved if you want to try and reach a level of celebrity that Bruce Campbell tried to achieve briefly but quickly eschewed it when he realized he would rather be a working actor than go through the toil of attempts at celebrity. This book is great for ANYONE who wants to work in the arts. It shows the tenacity needed to push forward, and  though his path to become a working actor can’t be replicated the lessons he learned and shared can be applied to any field and by anyone.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Scrymea: The Northern Kingdoms

Scrymea is my personal setting. Most of my fantasy work will take place in the world of Scrymea, even if they do not call the world by its name. After all how often do you mention that you are on planet Earth?  My goal is to post all the different aspects of the world that I come up with, and when I have enough gather them into one single reference. It will be primarily for me, but available to whomever else has taken an interest. That won’t be for a while.

The Northern Kingdoms
The first region I am focusing on is the Northern Kingdoms.  The Northern Kingdoms are located on the north western most portion of the largest continent of Scrymea.  The climate of this region is primarily temperate, or at least it should be. In a world where powerful wizards and truly devout priests can call upon powers to change the weather, climate is more of a rough guide. This region experiences summer, winter, spring, and fall. 

This is a land of contradictions. At any one time one kingdom will be warring with another. Their borders change so often that they are rarely shown on any map.  About the only thing that unites the Kingdoms is the threat of the ever expanding Panthic Empire to the south, not shown here. Also not shown on the map is region of Rock Darr. Rock Darr was once a powerful kingdom, one to rival the Panthic Empire, and some even believed that it would rival fallen Eldara of old. Whether or not that was a possibility no one will ever know for sure as the kingdom was overwhelmed by undead and a vicious species known as lebrigs. Some describe the creature as an oversized gerbil with an oversize and carnivorous appetite.  Occasionally undead and lebrigs make their way west, and the kingdoms in their way have become more than experienced in how to deal with them. 

The threat of conquest from the south and painful death from the east has shaped the peoples of this region in such a way that they are among the few that dare sail the Kraken Sea. If you wish to Travel to the Druid Isles or the Lands of Frozen Wealth you’ll need to pay for berth on a northern vessel.  It is this source of trade, as well as the line of forts and fortifications known as the High Guard Line that discourages the Panthic Empire form bringing its full might down upon the region. 

The High Guard Line and the High Guard who man the forts are yet another contradiction as they seem to be a uniting element within the Northern Kingdoms. The High Guard are a monastic order dedicated to keeping the Northern Kingdoms safe.  As such they have free rein wherever they travel.  When a High Guard speaks a king listens.  The High Guard accept recruits at any of their fortified abbeys, in addition to always keeping an eye out for potential candidates through the great cities and small towns of the north.  Of all those who petition to join only one in ten survive the training. 

This is a small portion of what I have so far, changes will happen as well as focus on more specific areas as I write more and more within the setting. As always comments and critiques are welcome, keep them polite but honest.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Book Review: The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen

Now I will admit I have been a bit lax on keeping up with this blog. I have good reasons, most of which I am not going to share with you because I am not going to whine at you about  my life. Everyone goes through tough times.

There is one reason I have been lax that I am going to share.

I have been reading some really great books. One of which I was lucky enough to be asked to review, and as a result I received an ARC (advanced readers copy, and no you can't borrow it).

The book is The Lament of the Fallen, Book Two of The Last Bucelarii.

The Lament of the Fallen is a fast paced and addictive read. We pick up with our title character, The Hunter, after he has wreaked both vengeance and havoc against those who wronged him in the city of  Voramis. We are immediately enticed into wanting the Hunter to find peace but as readers we know it's not going to happen. We follow him through betrayals, addiction, mutilation, a bear mauling, and the loss of something so vital to his being that he is almost helpless without it. Almost.

Now I am purposely being vague because you need to go out and READ THIS BOOK. It is everything you want fantasy to be, even playing with the Hero's Journey in such a way that you may not even recognize it at first. 

Andy Peloquin, the author, even has us rooting against people we would normally cheer for in other types of fantasy novels. We even come to question the concept of dogma, and the idea of being born of something evil versus doing evil acts in the name of something good. 

The Last Bucelarii both quenched and thirst and left me thirsty for Book 3. It was the literary version of blue balls or an unfinished sneeze. I don't just want to complete this series. I need to.

A faceless, nameless assassin. A forgotten past.  The Hunter of Voramis--a killer devoid of morals, or something else altogether? (The Last Bucelarii--dark fantasy with a look at the underside of human nature)

The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen
The Hunter of Voramis is no more.
Alone with the bloodthirsty voices in his head, fleeing the pain of loss, he has one objective: travel north to find Her, the mystery woman who plagues his dreams and haunts his memories. 

When he stumbles upon a bandit attack, something within urges him to help. His actions set him at odds with the warrior priests commanded to hunt down the Bucelarii.

Left for dead, the Hunter must travel to Malandria to recover his stolen birthright. There, he is inexorably drawn into direct conflict with the Order of Midas, the faceless, nameless group of magicians that holds the city in a grip of terror. All while struggling to silence the ever-louder voice in his mind that drives him to kill.

From feared assassin to wretched outcast, the Hunter's journey leads him to truths about his forgotten past and the Abiarazi he has pledged to hunt. His discoveries will shed light on who he really is…what he really is.

Buy Links:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Salvaging a Bad Story

We all have them.

Awful, horrible stories that we think should never see the light of day. These are words written or art that was crafted from the beginning of your career, or written last weekend when you may or may not have had too much to drink.  Not that I have done that, or not done that.

Just because something you wrote overall is bad doesn’t mean you don’t have a gem buried deep inside the muck. Think of it like a bad movie. Think of it like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Overall this movie is bad. It forgets the mythos that made the franchise popular, and apparently allows for the creation of atomic blast resistant refrigerators.  But there are some great parts. References back to what makes the franchise wonderful can be found all throughout the movie. We see Indie’s first love. There is humor, and even some quality action that is only slightly ruined by an unfortunate camera filter. The movie could have been a great addition to the franchise.

What I am trying to say is that the bones are there.  We have romance, action, an almost quality story line. Only the deep seated mystery needed to be changed. The same is most likely true of that garbage story you wrote. The bones are there you just need to go back to it and find those bones. Pluck out those unnecessary organs, like the inter-dimensional beings that have no business being there.

I recently had to do this with two novels. They had stalled, and a stalled novel can be a death knell. I kept thinking of ways to make it work. Places I could try and bring the plot. The characters had stopped talking to me. I realized I had to go through and perform an autopsy and figure out what went wrong.  I found quite a bit that I couldn’t use, but I also found quite a bit I could, and those parts were the real backbone of my story. I had lost that focus somewhere along the way. Kind of like when I blog but that is a different story.

I am going to go through a similar process for two other blogs I created that I had to step away from. They are up for a little while longer if you care to search for them. One is Jesse Magnan’s Blog of the Lance, and the other is Jesse Magnan’s Blog of the Realms. They are based on two table top games that I ran but had to stop recently for various reasons. But in those blogs (and the various notes I have to go along with them) are  bits of plot, action scenes, characters, and dialogue that I will pull out and combine into a new beast that is still the same (and doesn’t violate any copyright or intellectual property).

Bad work can still have some good writing. The hardest part can be recognizing what is quality versus what is something you are fond of. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Social Media is to CIgarettes as....

Necessity  of doing extra crap. For the up and coming writer doing a bunch of garbage that is not writing is now pretty much required.  Nine times out of ten I would rather be writing, but now I have to divide my time between social networking, establishing a platform on social media and trying to keep up with at least three other projects for me. 

I like being busy, but in all honesty some of the stuff I have to do try and build a career in writing I would rather not do. I would rather be writing. I am pretty sure we all would.  This is not about griping about something I cannot change.  I fully admit that I cannot change this and that it is better to accept that change and try and roll with it. 

But accepting is easy to talk about, much harder to do. Changing yourself in general is extremely hard to do. Everyone talks  about wanting to do something different and wanting to be different in some way. Well maybe not everyone but most people.  Better career, better shape, more money, advanced in your career. All of these are things people will usually want one of. But achieving it is hard because we as people like routines. Routines are easy. They aren’t scary because you know exactly want to expect. I think that is one reason some people don’t like to go to the doctor. The doctor may tell you that you have to change something about yourself. 

And when you are used to doing something like drinking soda, or eating pizza on a certain night of the week we don’t want to have to do that. That is one part of that makes cutting down on actual addictive substances like cigarettes (or tobacco ion general) so hard. 

My step dad is going through all the fun of quitting tobacco and my mom is getting to enjoy every minute of that lovely experience. 

As a former smoker one of the hardest times to not have a cigarette was when I was bored. There was a time that if I was bored and near a door I would duck outside and have a smoke. Even worse after dinner, or on long drives. I never developed the smoking after sex thing because if done right neither of you really have the energy nor the motivation to get out of bed, off the floor, etc. I have been non smoker for the better part of ten years (with the exception of a six months when I went through a very sad period in my life) and I sincerely liked it. But I knew I had to change. It was not easy. Was not the hardest thing to do in my life, but was also not the hardest. 

It was change. It was unpleasant. It was something I have to do. So I guess that is my overall analogy to what new authors have to do when building a platform. It is not easy, not always pleasant, but something you just have to do.