Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

I haven’t blogged about any of my reading here lately, so I figure I’ll go ahead and post something. I’ve recently been in a re-reading mode and have just finished Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. I’ll admit to you that I re-read this one on accident. I meant to pick up and read Diamond Age, which I have not read before. However, I grabbed the wrong book and didn’t really notice it until I was about 50 pages deep. The problem was, I couldn’t remember how the book ended, so I just kept reading.

And while I liked Snow Crash, I absolutely hate the ending. Hated it the second time around, too.

SnowcrashThe story is about Hiro Protagonist, a pizza delivery boy in the real world and a hacker in the virtual world. In this world, though, the real and the virtual are tied closely together. Hiro delivers pizza for a mobster who is impressed with his pizza delivery skills, but then also needs him to work in the virtual world for the mob. The big threat of the book is the drug Snow Crash. It targets hackers. One look at the “drug,” which is actually data, and the user is off his rocker and effectively in a coma.

The world established by Stephenson is pretty interesting, too. The story is set on the west coast and small political blocks are in power. The cool thing about them is that many of the blocks are corporate in nature. The US still exists, but in limited areas here. It’s very much a corporate dystopia, and it’s very interesting.

Hiro is also an expert with a sword—both in the real world and the virtual. Thus the book has its share of sword fights and virtual head’s cut off.

My biggest problem, as I said, was with the end. The story reaches a nice climax…and then just kind of putters out. You finish with the expectation that there should be about ten more pages…but they don’t exist.

All this said, I still want to give Diamond Age a read…and will.

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I don’t watch “television,” but I might…

I don’t have cable…Nor do I have satellite. And I haven’t had it for over a decade. That surprises some people. But truthfully, I don’t miss it at all, and I miss it less and less. But I think we’re about to see changes—and that is kind of exciting.

Okay, how did I get to no cable? Well, thanks for asking. Lemme tell you.

For those of you who remember the 2000 elections, they were pretty nasty. Now I’m sure all of the … ahem … wiser readers of my blog might remember previous elections being just as nasty as that one, but to my memory, that was the worst one. And while there was certainly nastiness on both sides, part of my problem was that every time I turned on the television, someone of self-importance was condemning everything that I held dear (or at least that I believed) and applying all sorts of nasty labels to me.

Now, having grown up a white dude in Mississippi, I’m accustomed to the labels (my most asked question when I moved from Mississippi to California? “So, you hate black people? Are you in the Klan?” I kid you not) but I started noticing the attitudes and labeling started to spill over into my personal and some professional relationships. I couldn’t get away from it

Additionally, as a fairly new parent at the time, I was repulsed by all the advertising we were forced to sit through while watching cartoons and football games. It became such we didn’t really want to watch programs with the kids and the kids were such a huge part of our life. I actually blogged at greater lengths about this once before. It’s here if you want to go see what I said then.

But we turned it off and just didn’t turn it back on.

But I think what I really wanted to get at here is that I’m excited because I think the way television content is delivered is changing. I’ve always said to the salesfolks trying to convince me I need cable is that I’d talk to them if I could pick my channels. They always remind me that I can pick my “package,” but that’s not what I want to do. I want the History Channel, not the 400 channels that run infomercials. You can give me the ad channels for free if you like, but don’t put them in a package. Give me a checklist with a cost per channel per month, and then I’d consider getting television again.

I watched every college football game that I wanted to this last season. I watched many of them on European websites—which I’m sure the cable providers here don’t like. I’d even PAY ESPN to subscribe to their channels. But I’m not going to pay Comcast (or whoever) a subscription fee to get all the other channels I don’t want JUST to get ESPN. And since ESPN won’t take my money, I have to watch them on international websites.

But HBO offering their service to subscribers on the internet is a game-changer. Oh, I don’t know that I’ll subscribe to HBO, but I think it’s a great thing and that many other channels will follow. Yes, I’d consider subscribing to the History Channel for a reasonable fee if they would offer that via the internet. They don’t yet…but I think that time is coming.

Yay for all of us!

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The Old is…Published: The SadoMannequin

SadoCoversmallOne of the interesting things about creating as a writer is that projects are dead…until they’re not. The one I’ll tell you about today is one of those.

Available now (that’s a hint to you to go click on the link and purchase a copy!) is THE SADOMANNEQUIN. Now, don’t let the sexy image fool you, it’s NOT an “adult” comic. In fact, the story is a very Twilight-Zone kind of story. In a nutshell, a new security guard starts his job at a warehouse and is warned to stay out of the warehouse. Of course, weird things happen and he discovers the moonlight brings mannequins to life. Of course, he’s a dude so he doesn’t just choose any mannequins. He was, after all, warned!

The story is not an original one by me but an adaptation of the short film SadoMannequin by the now defunct PopGunProductions. PopGun was Jim Torres and Corey Hannah, two guys that I met while we were living in Florence, Alabama. The weird thing was Corey was working at the also-now-defunct Blockbuster Video when I first met him. Then, when I met PopGun thanks to Terry Pace, I put two-and-two together (and y’all know that’s tough for me to do).

After I saw some of their work, I immediately saw the talent of the two filmmakers and when they mentioned comic adaptation, I jumped all over it. They were already talking about feature length films and making it relevant to the local area and I was all about that.

Time is too far removed for me to remember the exact details, but my recollection is that they had someone who was about to invest in them, and part of what they were going to do with that money was print the comics. The idea was, of course, to package the comics with a DVD to get some bonus material. There was also to be a short story by a young writer named Mark (something—I can’t remember his last name now). Truthfully, I don’t recall whether Mark ever completed the story or not, but I printed an Ashcan version in 2001—it’s a real collector’s item now!

sadoSTILL3

This is a still from the film

But for some reason the money never materialized and the book sat finished but only existing in ashcan format. It stayed in my files until recently the realization came to me that with advances in technology and the whole digital revolution, there was nothing stopping me from getting this to press.

So that’s how it happened.

The story is adapted by me with pencils by Kris Hsieh (who’s now a lawyer with his own firm!), inks by Chuck Bordell, letters by Mike Belcher with the cover (the art you see) by Dave Roberts colored by Shawn Murphy (who I have no idea where he is now).

Go buy it. Digital or print! It’s a fun read.

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The pros and cons of digital comics

Some time back I was asked to write my thoughts on the pros and cons of digital comics…this is it.

One of the things I should certainly point out up front is that regardless of whether any of us like them or not, digital comics—in some delivery method or another—are here to stay. I’ll confess that I was resistant to the idea at first. Oh, I love it from a production standpoint; it’s so much easier dealing with digital files than having to mail paper pages back and forth, risking loss in the mail (rarely happens, but it’s still a reality) or (more likely) damage in transit. But I was resistant as a reader because there’s nothing like holding the paper in your hands and flipping it—taking it with you anywhere. And when I first purchased a kindle, that didn’t do much for my feelings. The kindle screen was about 8 inches and I couldn’t read the words when looking at the entire page. I had to zoom in to read them. It was more trouble than it was worth.

However, that changed last year when I got a tablet with a screen—wouldn’t you know it—the exact same size as a comic page. Truthfully, it made all the difference in the world for me. I can still “zoom” in if I want to get a closer look at some of the art (and I almost always do), but I can take the page as a whole—as it was meant to be.

And thus we get into some of the actual pros and cons.

Pros: they should be cheaper (they’re not—but they will eventually get that way) than their paper counterparts because the paper and shipping costs are seriously reduced. Sure there are costs associated with producing the digital file, but nothing compared to the paper versions.

They are easily storable. Any old-time collector can tell you: those comic boxes take up a lot of space.

They’re readily available. As I’ve said here before, when I was a kid, I had to search and search and search to find back issues that I wanted. Today, just find it digitally and there it is!

The art reproduction is truer to what the artist has intended that printing on paper will allow. It’ll almost never be perfect to the artists—they’re a persnickety bunch. But the digital versions come pretty close.

They’re more widely available than the paper versions because distribution generally amounts to the question of internet connection.

If you lose your personal property in a fire, you can usually just download the file again.

Cons: you can’t get creators to sign your digital devise. Well, I guess they could, but then you couldn’t read anything else.

The “collectability” of them becomes a moot point. It’s a digital file and can be reproduced any number of times. There are only so many copies in existence of Detective Comics #1.

Unless you have the actual digital file, you don’t have access to the copy unless you subscribe to the service.

Often the delivery method can be very small, forcing you to have to use the two-fingered zoom on your phone or tablet.

The single biggest con (at this time) is the money. Piracy is a substantial issue and people who steal the content are slowly destroying the format without really realizing it. What comics needs is an “itunes” to step in and help. Comixology might be that, but it’s still too early to tell. So many comics are given away for free on the internet, or they are priced too high (same as the paper versions) and readers opt for the paper. I think once this issue is addressed, I think we’ll see a real revolution in comics.

What do you think? What would you add to the pro or con list?

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College Football is Changing

Y’know, I’m very much a fan of college football. Not so much a pro football fan. Part of that probably has to do that there weren’t a lot of pro football teams around where I grew up. In Mississippi, our choices were pretty much the New Orleans Ain’ts or the Atlanta Falcons. There were a handful of Dallas Cowboy fans probably because of their dominance on television. This was also before the Titans came to Tennessee.

The regular season is a lot of fun, but the bowl season is also a lot of fun. The SEC put 12 of the 14 schools into bowls. Generally, I pull for the SEC school to win. And while I hear all of the complaints that ESPN is biased toward the SEC, it’s all about the money. SEC schools just generate more money as a whole conference.

But I’m not sure that I buy that entire bias argument. Just listening to Brent Musberger during the Miss. State game, he mentioned the LSU and Ole Miss losses and said the SEC was “reeling.”

Really?

So, the SEC starts 4-3, with 5 games left to play and the conference is “reeling?” The conference finished 7-5, which isn’t shabby.

Another problem I’ve had with all the ESPN broadcasts thus far is the sound (I’ll stay away from the commentating—I didn’t even know who the commentators were for the Arkansas game). I get that they want us to hear the sounds from the stadium; the cheering, the pads, and band, but they crank that up so loud that I can’t make out what the commentators are saying. Of course, maybe that was the point. Who really wants to hear Brent Mushburger anyway? So just turn up the noise so we can’t understand him.

One change college football has seen is the hurry up offense. In general, I don’t mind it. Not the style I enjoy watching, but it is what it is. What I don’t like, though, is how technology has taken some of the “chess match” out of the game. With an offensive coordinator in the press box, he can see the defense as the offense comes to the line. He doesn’t like the call so the entire team looks over to the sideline as the he radios down a new play…and they switch to that one. Yeah, no, I don’t like that. It ceases to become about the players and about how quickly the coordinator in the press box can call a new play. I say let the quarterback change the play at the line of scrimmage if he doesn’t like it. That’ll get us smarter quarterbacks.

Sigh.

It seems to take so long to get here when it’s over…then it goes by SO quickly.

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2015 to come

Well, last week I rehashed some of the highlights of 2014 for me. This week, I’ll talk about what I’m looking forward to in 2015. Thus far, I’ve got two appearances lined up, but I’m optimistic more will happen. I’m always on the lookout!

In early April, I’ll be a comic guest at MegaCon and will be in Independent Press Row with my friend and hot new comic writer Wes Locher. If you’re in the Orlando area and you like all things geek, you can’t not be at MegaCon!

My other planned appearance is the Florida Writers Conference in Orlando in October. The details aren’t finalized yet, but I’ll be giving a presentation or two and probably be on a panel or two. Last year was my first and it was fantastic! I’m very excited to be returning.

I’m hoping the new year will bring me some news of the two projects I have floated about: Cat & Mouse and Beah. If I haven’t finished them by the time of this writing, I hope to get two other pitches circulating which I’ve told you about: Citizens and The Rejects. Just click on the titles to go “like” the Facebook pages for each of them where you can find art and updates on the projects.

I’m excited that Trumps has new life in it because Anthony Pereira emerged and is alive and well—and drawing the 2nd issue. Plus, I’m hoping to announce an inker on the project soon!

I’ve hinted at it before, but I’m working with a publisher to try to come to a happy agreement to see The Gifted come to fruition. While I’ve written it as a novel, he’s very interested in pursuing it as a graphic novel. The challenge is to find a way to get the art done for the small press. I’m very optimistic about it because the publisher seems to want it to happen.

I’ve also talked to artist Kevin Tuma about doing a Champion one-shot. Tuma wants to publish the work himself, so I’m excited about seeing that happen.

I briefly mentioned this a few months ago, but I “internet-met” a talented artist who is a martial arts student of a good friend of mine. I don’t know her that well (I did say “internet met”) and I don’t think she’s a huge comic fan, but her pencil work is astounding! So I hope to finish putting together a pitch for a sci-fi piece with newcomer Gabriella Rossetti.

Around Y2K I did a short comic adaptation of a short film by some folks in the Muscle Shoals area. Thanks to the changes in digital technology, I’m going to see that it becomes available. It’s being colored by my old Malibu colleague Albert Deschesne.

Speaking of older work, I’m in the process of collecting some of my older work and making them available as both a compilation and in digital format. Works to be collected will include Demon’s Tails, Krey, and some others.

Something else I want to do is an anthology that collects some of my shorter comic work. I’ve only got a couple at this point, but I’m hoping to get some others done.

I’ve talked to a few other artists who expressed interest in putting something together: Patrick Rolo did some work with me back in the Malibu days and Moye Daniel almost did some work with me…but disappeared. Both of them have reappeared, so I’m hoping we can make something happen.

Lastly, I really hope to finish my Cat & Mouse novel and send it to an agent who has already agreed to read it. I’m more than 30,000 words into it, I just need to get BIC!

So…as you can see, quite a bit of stuff that I’m excited about that will hopefully make 2015 an exciting year!

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Happy New Year 2015!

Happy New Year everyone! I think I’ll do for 2015 what I did for 2014: I’ll post “a look back” this week…and “a look ahead” next week. WordPress provided me with an interesting report, but they’ve gussied it up so it’s more flair than substance this year. A few interesting tidbits from it though:

My most popular post for 2014 was The Origin of Hotty Toddy, a post I wrote in an attempt to poke fun at the obnoxious University of Mississippi football chant. I think what happens is that since they were winning this year, more people heard the chant and wanted to know a little something about it and my post turned up in the google search. Kinda funny.

The most popular day for my blog in 2014 was Oct 4, which was, probably not coincidentally the day after the Black Bears beat Alabama. Yeah, I post about other stuff (like this entry), but random googlers tend to find the Hotty Toddy post.

032714_2005_MegaCon20142.jpgMy top commenters are some pretty decent writers/bloggers, so I’m honored they visit AND comment on my page. Because of that, they get a shout out from me now! Krystol Diggs, who is a former student of mine from Full Sail. Kayla Dean, who I met when she attended the Hemingway Writers Retreat in Piggott, Arkansas. Freeda Baker Nichols, another writer I met at Hemingway and who is a far more consistent blogger than I am! Dot Hatfield, yet another writer I met at Hemingway! You see a trend, don’t you? Rounding out the top five is my mom—thanks, Mom! Show these writers some love and check out what they have to say since they’re often nice enough to leave comments for me here!

I did a handful of shows/appearances/speaking engagements again this year and had a blast at all of them. In March I returned to Memphis where I was the keynote Speaker at the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference. I met a small press publisher that expressed interest in my work. We’ve been talking for several months. Nothing hard and fast, but it’s promising.

In April, I returned to the Hemingway Writers Retreat where we had a great retreat. I was also a comic guest at MegaCon again this year. I moderated a panel “Break-in Stories” with a handful of really talented folks!

In September I got to go back to the Shoals Alabama area where I was a guest at the Geek Gathering in Sheffield. It was a fantastic little con and I sure wish they’d had something like that when I lived there. That area remains the only place I’d willingly go back to in a heartbeat! Then in October, I was a presenter at the Florida Writers Conference where I met a whole slew of new people.

Creatively, it’s been a decent year, too. I’ve been talking to a few artists not mentioned on this page before about projects, so hopefully something will come of those and you’ll see it here.

ArkansasReviewIn August, my short story “Broken Down Truck” was published by Arkansas Review (v.45 #2) and in September, my graphic novel adaptation of The Remaining was published.

With all the advances in digital media, I’m looking to release some of my older comic work digitally and possible make it available via print on demand.

My novel, Buying Time, was made available in print via Amazon and in Kindle format on Christmas day! So I hope you’ve picked up your copy! Autographs are free! J Oh! And if you’ve already read it, pop on over there and leave a review on Amazon. I hear they really help!

It’s cool to see technology advancing so quickly…cool, but a little scary. Hopefully you’ve all “liked” my author page on Facebook so you can keep up with all the new stuff.

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