new on Patreon!


Here’s what you’ve missed the last week if you’re not supporting me on Patreon:

And coming this weekend will be reviews of Black Lightning‘s pilot episode and 2011’s Breakout Kings for the $5/month and up crowd, and a review of Proud Mary for the $1/month and up folks. Plus, y’know, more cat pics…….

Get in on the fun!

a really nice review of Joe Ledger: Unstoppable


There’ve been several reviews online of Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, but until this week, I hadn’t seen any that even mentioned my story “Ganbatte,” except for a couple of quick kudos on Goodreads.

But my buddy Bethany Kesler reviewed the book for her “Writing from Neverland” blog, and she singled out my story and that of Mira Grant for praise.

An excerpt:

Ganbatte features a member of Joe’s team, Lydia Ruiz who is one of the first members of an all-female SEAL fire team.   She is easily one of the most badass characters in the series and this story gives us a snippet into how she got to be a member of Echo Team.   Lydia is a hell of a martial artist and Keith’s own expertise in that field shows in this story.    It also touches on a sensitive topic around one of the people in Lydia’s life and while the situation is an all too real one, the outcome was one that I appreciated the hell out of as much as I simultaneously wished that situations like that would really end that way in actual life.    Just like with Mira’s story, you don’t read this one so much as you experience it.   You feel the wind in your hair, that smell you only get when driving on the overseas highway.  It’s easy to get into Lydia’s head, to see what she sees.   Ganbatte deepens your understanding of Lydia Ruiz as a character and a person.

coming in June: Poison Ivy ruled journal


Insight Editions has been doing a series of notebook/journal-type things that have bits of text in the beginning that serve as the journal/diary of a fictional character. Last year, they released Supernatural: John Winchester Ruled Journal, which I wrote the text for, and in June, they’ll be releasing DC Comics: Poison Ivy Ruled Journal, which I also wrote the text for! It was fun getting into Dr. Pamela Isley’s head for a bunch of journal entries that tracks one of her schemes against the citizenry of Gotham City.

It’s available for preorder from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indie Bound.

irons in the fire update


Didn’t do this at the beginning of the year, and then got distracted by Dale’s death, and now I’m trying to get back in the swing of things………..

Bram Gold. I was finally kicking in on A Furnace Sealed when Dale died. Today was the first day since then that I made serious forward progress. Here’s hoping for a final draft soon. The book will be dedicated to Dale.

Precinct books. Next up is to write Mermaid Precinct, not to mention all the Kickstarter rewards for it and for “Baker’s Dozen” that I haven’t done yet. The book will be published by eSpec Books, who will also be re-releasing the previous books in the series, as well as the future books in the series. (Yes, really.) Meanwhile, there’s a Cliff’s End story that Jonathan Maberry accepted for Kingdoms Fall, but Jonathan’s in the midst of searching for a new publisher for that anthology. I also have a notion for a Kickstarter short story (the story I was going to do for the graphic novel that failed to Kickstart, so I’m gonna repurpose it as prose).

18th Race. I’ll be collaborating with David Sherman on the third book in this trilogy, also for eSpec. I have his notes and I just need to sit down and start writing.

Tie-in novel. My proposal was okayed by the editor and is now with the licensor. I’ll say what it is if it’s approved.

Collaborations. The serial killer novel I wrote with Munish K. Batra, MD, has some final notes from my agent that I need to incorporate, and then we start the process of selling the thing to a publisher who will give us large sums of money for it, ha ha. Munish also has two other novel ideas he wants me to do with him, one of which is under contract, the other of which is still in the talking-about-it stage.

Essays. I have two essays due on Battlestar Galactica and Buffy that I need to get up off my ass and write.

Little tie-in books. I’ve done three little tie-in projects, one of which is done and approved and will be out in June, the other two of which are awaiting licensor approval.

Tie-in short story. I signed a contract for this, just waiting for the editor to give me the green light.

Shirley & Jack. My second Sherlock Holmes pastiche, “Six Red Dragons,” just got copy-edited, along with the rest of Baker Street Irregulars: The Game is Afoot, and I sent that back. We’re looking to again debut the BSI anthology at HELIOsphere in March, and I’m also hoping to have copies at (Re)Generation Who 4. I have at least two more stories in mind, I just have to write them.

Cassie Zukav. Nothing currently on the hopper for Cassie, but I have plenty more ideas for her. And if you support my Patreon, you got a Cassie vignette in December.

Super City. I’m investigating the possibility of doing more Super City Cops stories. Keep watching this space.

Original mystery/thriller. I sent a pitch for a mystery/thriller thingie to a publisher. I’m continuing “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch” every Friday. I’m about to kick it into high gear with the 21st-century renaissance in superhero movies, but for the moment, I still have a bunch of 20th-century flicks to get through, starting this week with Howard the Duck and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. In addition, I continue to review Star Trek Discovery the day after each new episode drops, and I plan to continue scribbling for them here and there.

Patreon. For folks who support me on Patreon, I’m doing weekly TV reviews, monthly movie reviews, and monthly vignettes featuring my original characters.

I think that’s everything……………

Star Trek Discovery: “The Wolf Inside”


Revelations come fast and furious and crazy in the Mirror Universe as more than one mystery is laid bare while rabid ferrets eat away at Michael Burnham’s soul. Plus, Saru gets a crowning moment of awesome. My review of Star Trek Discovery‘s latest episode, “The Wolf Inside.”

An excerpt:

It really does suck to be Michael Burnham.

I mean, first you had the whole thing with her parents being killed, and then she was raised on a planet that isn’t exactly kind and benevolent toward humans (or much of anybody), she got screwed out of going to Vulcan Space School, and then she got her captain and about 8000 other people killed in an incident that started a brutal war. And then she got herself assigned to a ship run by a loony with PTSD whose first officer is her former shipmate who hates her living guts.

And all of that is as nothing compared to the crap she goes through in “The Wolf Inside.”

new on Patreon!


Here’s what’s new on my Patreon over the past ten days:

I’m still a week behind on TV reviews, so the plan is to do two next week: a look back at A&E’s 2011 show Breakout Kings, which I’ve been rewatching on Netflix, and I’ll also review the pilot episode of Black Lightning on the CW.

Wrenn and I are talking about seeing Proud Mary, possibly as soon as tonight, so that will likely be the January movie review.

Haven’t decided on January’s vignette yet, but there’s time.

I’m hoping to seriously dive back into A Furnace Sealed, which means the $20/month and up crowd will finally get a completed chapter to gaze upon.

And there will continue to be cat pictures. Because duh.

Oh, and I promised a gift for folks who pledged prior to the new year, and that should happen this week, if all goes well.


from the archives: The Matrix is some overrated nonsense

Back in April 2000, I finally saw The Matrix on HBO. I’d missed it in theatres for some reason or other, and finally sat down to see what all the fuss was about. To say I was disappointed is a grave understatement. Here’s what I wrote about it on my newsgroup, which is where I posted rants before I started my blog in 2004. (Also yes, I used to record movies off of cable and onto VHS tapes. It was a different era….)


So I finally caught The Matrix on HBO.

This is what all the fuss was about??????

I want those 148 minutes of my life back.

Granted that I saw this on a television screen and not in a theatre, and granted that I am more steeply versed in the tropes of science fiction and comic books, this is still one of the most undeservedly overpraised movies I’ve ever seen.

First off, what I actually liked about it:

The effects were magnificent. After seeing this movie, I am, for the first time, convinced that Hollywood can do a convincing live-action Spider-Man movie. More to the point, the effects perfectly conveyed the flat, not-quite-real aspect of life inside the matrix, which is what they were supposed to do. (Two friends separately commented that The Phantom Menace had better effects than The Matrix, but I have to disagree. TPM‘s effects didn’t always convince me that I was watching alien beings interacting with humans; in fact, I never believed that the Gungam/battle droid war was fought in the same universe as the space battle. But the effects in The Matrix did exactly what they were supposed to do, and the filmmakers deserve praise for that. I especially liked the qualitative difference in the visual style of the scenes outside the matrix as opposed to those inside.)

But couldn’t they have put an interesting movie under the effects? The plot is a collection of the hoariest clichés from the SF/comics world, with nothing new added to the concepts at all, the pacing is abysmal, the acting is pathetic, and the treatment of the characters poor.

God knows I don’t consider originality to be all that important. For one thing, it’s damn near impossible. For another, the most original idea in all creation can still suck if the execution is poor. Hell, Shakespeare didn’t have an original idea in his life. But if you are going tread ground that thousands of pulp short stories, SF novels, and comic books have already tread upon, at least give us something different instead of the stringing together of tired clichés that are only there because the plot calls for them — the betrayer, the female love interest, the hero who has to realize that he’s a hero, etc. It wouldn’t be so bad if these developed logically, but since there was zero chemistry between Trinity and Neo, their falling in love at the end was totally unconvincing, especially since it wasn’t brought out until it was necessary to the plot.

Of course, by that point in the movie the plot has finally kicked in. Certainly took long enough. It takes an hour for the story to finally get into gear, which is much much too long. Establishing the world and then establishing that it’s all a fake is something that should only take 20-25 minutes, not fifty, especially given how many of those fifty minutes were given over to cutesy FX set pieces, at least some of which (the thing that went into Neo’s belly button, for example) were totally unnecessary, and others of which (Neo being freed from his gunky prison) took twice as long as they needed to. It brought back not-fond memories of watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture again — the action is ground to a halt so we can see how much money the filmmakers had to play with.

Not that the pacing improves all that much. So much of the 148 minutes of this monstrosity is given over to people standing around explaining things. There’s a reason why the first rule of storytelling is “show, don’t tell.” Nobody ever shows anything in this movie (which is pretty ridiculous given what a visual feast the film is) — we just get endless exposition, delivered in the same dull monotone almost everyone in the film uses.

Which leads nicely to the next problem, which is the awful acting. One doesn’t expect much from Keanu Reeves, especially when he’s asked to act outside his limited range (that range consisting of Speed‘s Jack Traven and Bill & Ted‘s Theodore Logan), and he lives down to expectations here. I was never for one moment in any way, shape, or form convinced that he was at all special, messianic, or “the one.” (Up all night coming up with that neologism, huh, guys?) This goes back to the telling, not showing problem — we’re constantly (repeatedly!) told that Neo is “the one,” but there’s nothing on screen to support that until he performs superhuman feats at the climax. And there’s no indication as to what changed to lead him to this epiphany. This, in turn, makes it really hard for me to give a rat’s patootie about what happens to the supposed hero.

Laurence Fishburne is one of the finest actors currently drawing breath, but you’d never know it from this. His method of playing the inscrutable mentor is to talk in a dull monotone and stare straight ahead. It’s a sad commentary on his performance that the only time I ever felt like he was acting instead of just line-reading was when he was a captive of Smith’s. Just sitting there silently, half-broken, he did more acting than in all his “you must be one with the universe, grasshopper” scenes with Reeves.

The only actor I was even a little convinced by was Joe Pantoliano as Cipher — not surprising, as Pantoliano is probably the most underappreciated character actor around. He was a far more menacing bad guy than Hugo Weaving’s Smith (Weaving seems to be counting on his sunglasses to do his acting for him), especially since his reasons for betraying the rest of the rebels actually made sense. Of course, the scene where he reveals his deception is right out of the cliché handbook — he conveniently kills all the characters who don’t have billing first, but then is stopped in the nick of time before he can kill either of our stars. And, of course, the energy weapon he uses is powerful enough to kill Tank’s partner with one shot, and to kill Cipher with one shot later, but two shots to Tank do no appreciable damage, just leave him out of action long enough for Cipher to explain why he betrayed them — and Tank is in perfect shape after that with no ill effects whatsoever. Right.

Once Cipher is dead, the movie pretty much degenerates into a computer game. Trinity was supposed to be some major kickass bruja, but once she and Neo go into the matrix to rescue Morpheus, she’s reduced to the role of sidekick so Neo can do all the really cool stuff.

First we see them go in and shoot a bunch of cops in cold blood. This is nice: our theoretical heroes who are out to save humanity from the matrix — except for those who happen to be in the way at the time. Aren’t these cops also people who need to eventually be rescued from the Men In Beige? Not to mention the fact that Neo shoots up an entire room with an automatic weapon and somehow manages to never hit Morpheus. Right.

Then we get the problem far too many people have when they dramatize people with super powers: they don’t use them except when it’s convenient to the plot. We’ve established that Neo can now leap tall buildings in a single bound and catch people out of exploding helicopters and leap out of the way of an oncoming train and dodge bullets — so why, exactly, does he need to run up a fire escape to get to the third floor, thus leaving him vulnerable to gunfire? (Not that it matters, since the Men In Beige can’t hit the broad side of a barn in the computer-generated world they created.) And why can’t Tank send Trinity back into the matrix after she’s come out? There’ve been hopping in and out of the matrix all movie, why is it suddenly impossible now?

We won’t even go into the abject stupidity of Neo brought back to life by the love of a leather-clad woman. *braaaack*

Not only that, but the entire structure of the world is based on the premise that the Men In Beige need human energy. OK — why humans? Why not bunny rabbits? They produce more heat and bioelectric activity per ounce of body mass than humans, they reproduce like — well, like bunny rabbits, they take up less room in the tank, they’re very easy to entertain, and they are extremely unlikely to get messianic delusions. (As for the complaint that bunny rabbits would make for a less interesting movie, I beg to differ, and submit as evidence Watership Down or any Bugs Bunny movie besides Space Jam.)

One can make the argument that I should’ve seen it on the big screen to really appreciate it, but to that I say hogwash. I have, on one of my movie tapes, The Hunt for Red October, Star Trek: First Contact, and Tomorrow Never Dies. All three of these films were most assuredly made for the big screen, and all of them work better on the big screen — but I can happily watch any of those three movies on my VCR and still get tremendous enjoyment from them. Hunt has some phenomenal performances, a tight script, and an excellent plot. ST:FC is perfectly paced, also has some fine performances, and a very strong villain in Alice Krige’s Borg Queen. Tomorrow has some magnificent byplay between Michelle Yeoh and Pierce Brosnan, a superlative villain in Jonathan Pryce, and some brilliant fight scenes.

The Matrix is a lot of sound and fury, but it doesn’t signify a goddamn thing.

(Thanks to Michael Burstein, James Harrahy, Dave Mack, John J. Ordover, Terri Osborne, and Shanti Feder for their contributions to this rant.)


some of my upcoming conventions


While I backed out of appearing at MarsCon this weekend — it’s too soon after Dale’s death to deal with a convention weekend, honestly — I’ve got a bunch of con appearances on the docket for 2018.

This isn’t really a convention as such, though it’s being organized like one: I’m one of the speakers at LitCon at South Hunterdon Regional High School in Flemington, New Jersey on the 25th of January. I’ll be giving a talk to the high school students there about career management for writers.

In February, I’ll be, as usual, appearing at Farpoint 2018 in Cockeysville, Maryland on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of the month, doing both my author thing and my percussionst-for-the-Boogie-Knights thing. Then the next weekend, from the 16th to the 18th, I’ll be in Kansas City for Planet Comic-Con, where I’ll be appearing at the Bard’s Tower booth all weekend, and possibly also doing some programming.

In March, I’ll be at three shows. From 9-11 March I’ll be back at the second HELIOsphere convention in Tarrytown, New York. Then — as was officially announced today — I’ll be back at (Re)Generation Who 4, the east coast’s only Doctor Who convention, in Baltimore from the 23rd to the 25th. Then the final weekend of the month, also Easter weekend, I’ll be the Author Guest of Honor at ConGlomeration in Louisville, Kentucky.

Beyond that, I’ll definitely be at Balticon 52 in May, Shore Leave 40 in July, and Dragon Con 2018 over Labor Day weekend (be warned that, as I type this on 12 January 2018, Dragon Con’s web site is having serious issues, so click at your own risk). I will also definitely not be at either Arisia or MarsCon this weekend (see above) or at Treklanta (it conflicts with Balticon, which is the convention where Wrenn and I met, so I ain’t missing that for nothin’). It also looks like there won’t be a Lunacon or I-Con this year, which is a shame.

There will be many more cons besides the above, worry not. I intend to be back at PhilCon and RocCon and I suspect I will be joining Bard’s Tower at several other cons as well.

Looking forward to seeing lots of folks…..