Monday music: “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”

Usually I post videos of these songs merely as a delivery system for the song itself, and the visuals are less important. That is most assuredly not the case here, as what makes this amazing is the visuals that go with it. Just watch, and be amazed:

new on Patreon!

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I’m still behind on my TV reviews, but I’m pleased to say that everything else on Patreon is up to date, and I’m confident in my ability to finally get up to snuff on TV reviews in August.

Here’s what’s gone up in July alone:

That just July! There’s more movie reviews (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Proud Mary, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and The Incredibles 2, plus a retro-review of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones), more TV reviews (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., MacGyver, The Librarians, Major Crimes, Doctor Who‘s 2017 Christmas Special, Black Lightning, The Alienist, Lucifer, Lethal Weapon, Mindhunter, Jessica Jones, Deception, NCIS, and NCIS: New Orleans, plus retro-reviews of Feed the Beast, Breakout Kings, M*A*S*H seasons 3-7, New Tricks seasons 1-9, and Doctor Who‘s “The End of the World” and “City of Death”), weekly excerpts from my works in progress (including A Furnace Sealed, “Chaos Theory,” “Six Red Dragons,” and “House Hunting,” as well as my upcoming tie-in novel), more cat pictures than you can shake a stick at, and vignettes featuring the characters from the Dragon Precinct series and the Super City Cops series, as well as Bram Gold, Shirley Holmes, and Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet (plus Cassie’s friend Larry from his sordid past).

This is all you’ve missed if you’re not supporting me on Patreon. So now’s your chance! Go! Support! You’ll be glad you did!

4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

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Even Idris Elba can’t save this monstrosity of a sequel, weighed down as it is by the incompetence of Christopher Lambert and Johnny Whitworth, the somnabulence of Ciarán Hinds and Fergus Riordan, and the sheer, unbridled, inexplicable lunacy of Nicolas Cage in the title role. The great superhero movie rewatch looks askance at Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

An excerpt:

Thank goodness Elba’s in this, because he’s the only person who makes the movie in any way watchable. He’s obviously having a blast playing the freewheeling drunkard, which is good, because nobody else is having fun in this movie. But he also imbues Moreau with all kinds of passion, not just for wine and fighting, but also for his cause. The moment when he chastises Blaze and Nadya, reminding them that they were the ones who made deals with the devil, is one of the few dramatic moments that actually lands in the movie. Everyone else here is either intense (Head, Placido) or smarmy (Hinds, Whitworth) or incredibly boring (Riordan, Lambert) or looking like they’re having a fit (Cage).

midweek music: “Boom Boom”

John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” is a classic rockin’ blues song, one that has been covered by many people (including a great version by Big Head Todd & the Monsters heard over the opening credits of NCIS: New Orleans.

But my introduction to the song was actually from Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, who played it during the tour for Tunnel of Love in the late 1980s. Here’s a version from that tour:

Tuesday’s dead

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I have just sent the revision of A Furnace Sealed off to my in-house editor as well as to an MD to check over the medical stuff to make sure I got it right. (I’m quite sure I didn’t.)

Tonight and tomorrow I’m going to put a dent in my Patreon backlog, doing at least the July vignette and a few of the TV reviews I’m horribly behind on, as well as at least one, maybe two movie reviews. Oh, and I have to proofread Without a License for the new eSpec Books edition.

Thursday is the great superhero movie rewatch of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Then Friday I officially start up on the manuscript for Mermaid Precinct. Boo yeah.

First, though, I’m’na go to the dojo. Need me a workout.

What are y’all up to?

 

Monday music: “Ghost Rider in the Sky”

In honor of this past Friday’s great superhero movie rewatch (and also this Friday’s, truly), here’s a song from the Ghost Rider soundtrack: Spiderbait’s “Ghost Rider in the Sky,” used in one of the few great moments of that mediocre film, as two Ghost Riders ride across the desert on flaming conveyances (a horse and a motorcycle).

I’m interviewed on The Writer’s Pane

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Anna Palij recently interviewed me for her author blog, The Writer’s Pane, and the result of that interview has now been exposed for the world to see. Check it out!

An excerpt:

Which piece of your writing was the most entertaining/enjoyable to write? Why?
That’s a tough one to narrow down, but I think I’m gonna go with Blackout, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel I wrote that came out in 2006. The novel focused on one of Buffy’s predecessors as Slayer, Nikki Wood, who was established as working in New York City in 1977 before she was killed on a subway train by Spike. Writing a Slayer working in the Big Apple of the turbulent late 70s was a joy and a pleasure, as I got to basically relive my childhood growing up in NYC then (I was eight years old in 1977). Nikki was created as an homage to Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones and other heroines of the era, and I went full-tilt blaxploitation withBlackout, pretty much writing the book as if Buffy was a TV show created by Gordon Parks in the 1970s instead of Joss Whedon in the 1990s. Just a blast to write, with scenes at CBGBs in its heyday, Times Square at its grungiest, and Central Park at its scariest.

from the archives: a remembrance of my grandfather, Manfred Andreassi, 1916-1976, inspired by a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, of all things

In February 2001, an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer entitled “The Body” aired. It was the episode in which Buffy had to deal with the fact that her mother had died, and she found the body, and it was a devastating, amazing episode.

That episode had a particular resonance for me, because I had the bad luck to be present when my maternal grandfather died in 1976. I was seven years old. Watching “The Body” made me remember Grandpa, and write the following piece. 

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the day Grandpa died, and in his honor, I re-present that piece I wrote in 2001.

Grandpa

When I was seven years old, my grandfather died.

Grandpa was a wonderful guy. My mother’s father, he lived nearby and — since my grandmother often babysat for me after school — I got to see him quite a bit. He was a construction worker — in fact, he worked on the refurbishing of Yankee Stadium in the mid-1970s, a fact this Yankee fan has always been proud of — and a joy to be around. He always had to own a Cadillac, all his adult life. Whenever one broke down, he went out and bought another Cadillac. Nothing else would suffice.

He always used to give me Juicy Fruit gum. I was a voracious gum chewer as a child, but my mother would only let me chew sugarless gum. So whenever Grandpa gave me a Juicy Fruit, he’d always make sure that I promised not to tell my mother. I swore I wouldn’t, and I never did. (She knew, of course. Mothers always know these things.)

My grandparents lived in the upstairs of a two-family house. The downstairs part was owned by my great-uncle Cal, but they sold their half to move to Westchester, and my parents bought it. So I was living downstairs from them.

One summer afternoon, I was staying with my grandmother. She was watching soap operas, as usual, and I was either watching them with her or playing on the porch or something. Grandpa was over at their friend Palma and Emil’s house. Emil was a barber, Palma his wife — Grandpa was doing some paneling for them. Palma called Grandma and said that Freddie had fallen and hurt himself, could you come over? It didn’t sound like that big a deal, but Palma didn’t sound good, so Grandma and I walked over, concerned.

We arrived around the same time as the fire truck. Palma had called 911. I was never sure why the fire trucks came, but they worked to help Grandpa, who — I later learned — had had a heart attack. An ambulance showed up eventually, too.

Grandma made me sit on the stairs. I sat there for what seemed like days while people gathered around my grandfather. I only had the dimmest notion of what was really going on. At some point, someone asked me how to get in touch with my parents, and I gave them their numbers (conveniently, they both worked at the same place at that time), and they came up pretty quickly. It’s funny, it would’ve taken them an hour or so to get up there, but the way I remember it, they arrived within minutes of my giving out their phone number. Then again, I was probably only on the stairs for fifteen minutes or so, not the hours it felt like.

Little-kid memories are more like snapshots. I remember moments, like my earliest memory: my grandfather (the other one, my father’s father, who died in Italy when I was in college) standing in the middle of a field surrounded by pigs in cages. The moment I blew out the candles on my fifth birthday. Dancing with my uncle to the strains of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” one night when he was babysitting for me. Eating a spaghetti dinner with Grandma, Grandpa, and my aunt Monica. Sitting on the couch as people came in for my birthday party the year it and Easter were the same day. Sitting amidst the broken glass when I knocked over a standing mirror at my aunt’s house.

And sitting on those stairs wondering what was wrong with Grandpa.

I have to confess that I don’t think about Grandpa all that often. After all, he died almost twenty-five years ago. But when I do think of him, I think about his Cadillacs and the way he snuck me Juicy Fruits and how much I loved him. Actually, I always think of him whenever I hear Bruce Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch” (which was released four years after he died, and which I always think of as Grandpa’s song).

Tonight’s episode of Buffy was one of the finest hours of television I’ve ever viewed. Few shows have managed this accomplishment, and fewer still have pulled it off more than once.

And it made me think about my Grandpa.

Scribe Award winners — including me!!!!!

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As is customary at San Diego Comic-Con, the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers have announced the winners of the Scribe Awards for the best work in licensed and derivative fiction in the previous calendar year. This year I was nominated for the ninth and tenth time — for Best Short Story (“Ganbatte” in Joe Ledger: Unstoppable) and Best YA Novel (Marvel’s Warriors Three: Godhood’s End) — having never won one.

That streak is over. “Ganbatte” was the co-winner of Best Short Story, alongside Jonathan Maberry’s “Banana Republic” in Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone. (I think Jonathan deserved an award just for the chutzpah of titling a POTA story “Banana Republic.”)

Here’s the full list of winners:

Adapted Speculative and General
Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet by James Goss

Audio
Warhammer 40,000: Agent of the Throne: Blood and Lies by John French

Original General
Don Pendleton’s The Executioner: Fatal Prescription by Michael A. Black

Original Short Story (tie)
Ganbatte” by Keith R.A. DeCandido in Joe Ledger: Unstoppable
“Banana Republic” by Jonathan Maberry in Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone

Original Speculative
The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox

Original Young Adult and Middle Grade
X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate by Jonathan Maberry

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I have to say that I’m particularly pleased that my first major award for something I’ve written is for “Ganbatte,” for several reasons. Two are fairly superficial: the story brings together two things I love, to wit, the Florida Keys and martial arts.

But more importantly is that it’s a story about sexual harassment, about how depressingly easy it is for someone strong to be put in a position of weakness, especially when that someone is a woman in a male-dominated area. I wrote this story in the summer of 2016, before we elected an avowed sexual predator to the highest office in the land, before the #MeToo movement, before Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken. In the two years since I wrote it, in the nine months since it’s been published, it’s become even more important and more relevant, which, frankly, depresses the shit out of me.

I hope that this award helps raise awareness. I hope that this award helps give people who are harassed, who are beaten down, who are broken by people who have power over them, real or imagined, to speak up, to fight back.

It’s a great honor to win this award. It’s an even bigger honor to win for this story. Thanks go the short story jury, thanks to editors Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Jonathan Maberry, and thanks to all the readers and fans.

 

Friday fanfare: “New York State of Mind”

A wonderful live performance from a 2009 Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band concert in Madison Square Garden, as he’s joined by the great Billy Joel in what Bruce himself describes as a meeting of Long Island and New Jersey on the neutral ground of New York City. Joel is one of the few people worthy of unseating the E Street Band’s Roy Bittan from his piano, and he and Bruce duet magnificently on one of Joel’s classics.