Mongo to Face THE BEASTS OF VALHALLA on HBO…Maybe.

The Beasts of Valhalla

About a month ago, I wrote a post about ten books that had a strong impact on me over the years, and one of them was George Chesbro’s magnificent mash-up of science fiction and horror and the detective novel, The Beasts of ValhallaThis is part of what I said about the book:

It stars one Robert “Mongo the Magnificent” Frederickson, a PI who shares both sharp intellect and deep compassion with Robert Parker’s Spenser, but, as a dwarf, has nowhere near the physical power. Mongo is an ex-circus acrobat, professor of criminology, and black belt in karate, and he’s a wonderful hero starring in a series of books of which this one is by far the best. Beasts of Valhalla starts as a detective novel but winds up somewhere in a dark, science fiction/horror territory, with Mongo acting as the daring hobbit facing dread evil in a modern day Lord of the Rings. This book ROCKS.

Now, it’s being reported that HBO is considering a ten-part adaptation of The Beasts of Valhalla starring Peter Dinklage. Since Dinklage first popped up on my radar years ago, I’ve dreamed of a Mongo movie starring him (and indeed, in 2005 there were rumors of such that ultimately didn’t pan out), and now it looks like we might be getting a ten hour movie with him based on the best book in the series.

Mongo

Please, HBO. Please. Please please please. Also, please.

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FROGS OF DOOM! (ABC Wednesday, 2/19/14)

Frog of Doom

Lyonesse, Doc Wilde’s manor, was immense and imposing.

Its structure was an odd mix of gothic castle, log cabin, and Art Deco glass and steel, with an enormous white ash tree rising through its architectural core like Yggdrasil, the sacred World Tree of Norse myth. It sat on a high wooded hill eighteen miles outside the city limits of New York, a mighty guardian watching over the land.

Doctor Spartacus Wilde had designed Lyonesse, and oversaw its construction. He took its name from Arthurian legend: Lyonesse was the mystic island of Sir Tristan’s birth, a sunken land lost beneath the waves somewhere off the coast of Cornwall. Now, this modern Lyonesse was internationally renowned as the fantastic home and headquarters of the world’s greatest adventurer.

Half a mile from the hill on which the manor stood, a faint dirt track branched off the road into deep woods, ending at a well-camouflaged cave which penetrated deep into the bedrock beneath the rugged hillscape. This passage led to a spectacular underground bunker in which Doc Wilde stored his amazing assortment of vehicles.

As early evening twilight painted the hills above, an elegant jet-black automobile with three headlights zoomed from the bunker, eerily silent but for the crunch of tires on the gravelly cave floor. This muscular rocket of a car was a 1948 Tucker Torpedo. Only 51 of them had ever been made, and only 48 remained in existence. Some were in museums. Some were with wealthy collectors. They were virtually impossible to acquire.

Doc Wilde had three.

The Tucker accelerated swiftly. A titanium wall loomed in its path, but the vehicle did not slow. Seconds before impact, the wall snapped open, locking shut again after the car was through. Every hundred yards another such gate barred the way, but allowed the Tucker to pass. These indestructible gates were just one of the many security measures protecting Lyonesse.

The unusual automobile shot from the cave onto the dirt track through the forest.

Doc Wilde had made some modifications to the three Tucker Torpedoes so they would be truly adventure-worthy. Their steel bodies were reinforced with a spray-on armor coating, the windows were unbreakable glass, and the tires made of rupture-proof polymer gels. The old gasoline engines were replaced with solar/hydrogen engines of Doc’s own invention, eliminating all polluting emissions. And running boards had been added along the sides.

When the weather was nice (and sometimes when it wasn’t, if time was short), Doc liked to ride outside the car on the running board. In times of emergency, this served the additional purpose of making Doc visible to law enforcement officials, who knew that if Doc Wilde was breaking traffic laws, it had to be for very good reason, so they would try to clear the way and offer any assistance he might require.

The weather was nice now, and Doc was out on the driver’s side running board, the wind blasting through his hair, his mighty arms holding tight. He wore a white safari shirt with epaulets on the shoulders, khaki cargo pants, and leather boots. Over his shirt he wore his field vest, brown and full of pockets holding numerous useful tools and gizmos he always took with him on his travels.

Brian and Wren rode in the Tucker’s backseat, wearing clothes identical to their dad’s. The Wildes called these outfits their “danger clothes.”

Behind the wheel was Doc’s driver and pilot, an Irishman named Declan mac Coul. Declan’s hair and beard were shaggy red, and while he was just a few inches taller than 5 feet, he weighed as much as Doc. He was like a short bear and all muscle. There were many mysteries about Declan mac Coul, but one thing they knew for sure was that he could always be counted on completely.

Next to Declan sat Phineas Bartlett in a dapper suit and derby hat, holding a cane with an ornate eagle’s head handle of purest silver.

Spraying dust, the Tucker veered from the dirt track onto the main road into town. Bartlett scowled at Declan. “Slow down now, you misbegotten ape.”

“Funny you callin’ me an ape, all natty in that monkey suit,” Declan replied. But he did slow to the speed limit, as they were no longer on Doc’s private land.

When Declan and Bartlett addressed one another, the two men’s voices oozed disgust and dislike. But actually, they were the greatest of friends.

Wren interrupted their sparring. “Declan? Bartlett? Do either of you know what Ophrys means?”

Brian shot her a look. The little trickster hadn’t forgotten their squabble.

Bartlett chuckled. “You’ll need to wait till Declan learns English before you start tormenting him with Ancient Greek. But Ophrys means ‘eyebrow,’ if I recall correctly,” which he did. Phineas Bartlett recalled everything correctly; he had an eidetic memory (often called a “photographic memory”), and had total recall of everything he’d ever read.

Wren grinned at her big brother. “Gotcha.”

Declan snorted. “You would know that.”

Bartlett smiled. “The benefits of a high-brow education.”

Wren grinned at Brian even more. He scowled and tried to ignore her.

Bartlett gazed benignly at Declan. “Aristotle tells us ‘Educated men are as much superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead.’”

Bartlett was familiar with lots of quotations.

“Well,” Declan said, “I reckon that means I’m superior to Aristotle, me bein’ alive and him bein’ dead. So why should I listen to him?”

Where’s Dad?!?” Wren suddenly cried. Startled, everyone glanced out the windows.

Doc Wilde was no longer on the running board. Continue reading

New FROGS OF DOOM Review: “Tim Byrd is one heckuva author!”

A wonderful new reader review of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is up on Amazon:

Kudos Are well deserved!, February 11, 2014 *****For the uninitiated, the book is a fast-paced, cliffhanger-packed, pulp-style adventure story suitable for all ages. It’s also on sale in honor of Valentine’s Day through Sunday for only $3.99 (usual price: $6.99).

Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom

Valentine’s Sale: DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM $3.99! (Three Bucks Off!)

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOMI love readers. I particularly love my readers, and I love getting more of them. So, in celebration of the upcoming Valentine’s holiday, a day dedicated to love, I am putting the digital version of my novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom on sale through Valentine’s weekend, ending February 16 at midnight Eastern Time.

The sale price is just $3.99. Usual price is $6.99.

The book is an old-fashioned pulp adventure told through a modern lens, written for all ages; I hear from kids as young as eight, and grown-ups up into their eighties. It is fully illustrated by Australian comics whiz Gary Chaloner, and when I say fully illustrated, I mean it. There are a lot of cool pictures in this book. It is a labor of love, a celebration of pulp fiction, families, literature, and battles against armies of man-frogs out to destroy the world.

A Frog of Doom

The sale price is in effect at Amazon (Kindle) and at DriveThru Fiction (epub, mobi, and PDF).

Please share this post as widely as you are willing to your friends on Facebook and Google+ and Twitter and Pinterest etc. And if you enjoy Frogs of Doom and really want to help out this dashing author who’s desperately trying to make ends meet, please consider writing up an honest review. It can be just a few lines, but all reviews are helpful, even the not-so-great ones. On your blog or Goodreads or B&N or anywhere is good, but the most helpful in reaching a lot of people is, at this point, Amazon.

Thanks for reading, and stay Wilde!

HIRING ARTIST TESS FOWLER: GOOD IDEA OR BAD?

Tess Fowler, Artist

Hmm. Interesting.

For those who have been following the unfortunate tale of my wasting a thousand bucks on artist Tess Fowler and getting absolutely nothing but grief in return, there is some new information. This may be of particular interest to anyone who may consider hiring Tess for similar work.

I have been very open about my experience with Tess, how Ms. Fowler and I had a falling out and I lost a lot of cash. But I’d assumed that I was at least partially at fault, that even with her reactions to my criticisms and her hostility and refusal to negotiate and get back to work (or refund any of the money), that if I had somehow found the right words, perhaps we would have reconciled, and perhaps Tess Fowler would have then finished the job like a professional.

However, since posting my fully documented account of that experience, I have heard from not one, not two, but several others who have all started their messages with essentially the same statement:

It’s not you, it’s her.

Apparently, Tess Fowler is starting to be known for this sort of thing. While she promotes herself as a professional artist who is too cool for school to work for big companies, she is apparently leaving a chain of broken promises and unearned payments in her wake. It’s not my place to make public the specifics of what I’ve been told by the folks who’ve contacted me (though I wish they’d go public as I have, for the benefit of all the folks who may yet suffer as we have), but apparently Tess has a tendency to make big promises then react very, very badly at the first sign of disagreement or tough critique. She disavows even the tiniest bit of responsibility and turns very nasty very quickly, accusing her former collaborators of being horrible people of some sort (in my case, I was mentally unbalanced and potentially dangerous), and refusing to deal with them at all thereafter.

(Tess also publicly accused me of “stalking” her when I posted my full account of our disastrous collaboration. Apparently, if you hire someone, pay them a lot of money, then send them a few messages and try to call them to see if they’re going to do the job they hired on to do, that’s stalking.)

As I said, I have heard this from several independent sources over the past few weeks, and I’ve even been privy to the exact communications that passed between some of these folks and Tess. I am naturally interested in hearing from any others; I’ll keep your secrets, though I do encourage you to post a public, objective account of what happened. And my blog is available as a forum for all of you: feel free to comment below any of my posts on the matter, and if you need a place to post your full account, you can do it here with my blessing.

For the record: I am only passing on what I have been told here, and in some cases what I have seen in shared documentation. But that documentation was very convincing, and having been through what I went through hiring Tess Fowler as an artist, I’m convinced that it’s true.

UPDATE: Another victim has come forward and agreed to share his story. You can read about it here.

UPDATE: Tess victimizes the creator of the comic Rat Queens and his wife. Read it here.

10(ish) Books

It’s one of those memes spreading across Facebook, but one that actually has some merit (to my mind) in that it is designed to engage folks in conversations about books they love:

Rules: In your status line, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard – they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you.

I like that. I like that it specifies “books that have stayed with you in some way” rather than your all-time favorites. “Ones that have touched you.” I wouldn’t even start trying to list my favorite ten books of all time, but I’m happy to list a few favorites that moved me and now come to mind.

I also like the exercise well enough to share it here, for posterity, rather than as just a mote of data washing by in the social media stream. And I won’t simply list the books, I’ll tell you something about them, and about what they mean to me. (This also fits in with my recent pledge to get back to regularly reviewing books I read).

And I’ll do it now. Here they are, in no particular order:

Something_wicked_this_way_comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury This one would be on my list of all-time favorites if I ever made it. A tale of two small town boys, friends, born on opposite sides of midnight Halloween night, facing the surreal and terrifying threats of a dark circus that comes to town one chill night. This is a book about childhood and magic and dreams and libraries and laughter and books. Ray Bradbury was the writer who inspired me to officially decide I was going to be a writer, and this is his very best. It also makes me think of my best friend of many years, Rusty, the Will Halloway to my Jim Nightshade in the dyad of our youth.

WintersTale

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin Another wonderful book, an epic tale of fantasy and magic realism which explores New York City and life from all sorts of whimsical and tragic directions. I don’t know much about Mark Helprin as a person (I do know he supported and wrote speeches for Bob Dole, which deeply disappointed me at the time but seems a nearly insignificant fault in light of the monstrous Republicans who replaced Dole on the national scene), but he’s a brilliant writer. This book made me laugh out loud (there’s a brilliantly cartoonish gang of ne’er-do-wells in its pages), fall in love, and cry. It’s an overflowing treasure chest of literary wonder. (Apparently it’s now a movie, but I guarantee you should read the book before, or instead of, seeing it.)

LookingForRachelWallace

Looking For Rachel Wallace by Robert B. Parker Many of you will know the private detective Spenser from the old Robert Urich TV show Spenser: For Hire, which, as such adaptations go, was pretty good; Urich was personable, growing into the character over time, and his costar Avery Brooks was the definitive Hawk. I wanted to have a Spenser book here because Spenser — and his creator — have been great personal and professional influences on me for years. But there are a lot of Spenser novels, so the question was, which to feature? I decided to go with the very first I read, in which Spenser, manly man with a poet’s soul, is hired to bodyguard a rabidly feminist lesbian writer who most definitely doesn’t like having a seeming brute like him around. The interplay between the two as they intelligently argue sexual politics, along with Spenser’s relationship with his beloved Susan Silverman and the easy action of the tale, hooked me for life. Spenser is the thinking man’s gumshoe, big and brawny but just as quick with a Yeats quote as he is with his fists, and Parker rarely fails to deliver the goods. Continue reading

I’m Batman (ABC Wednesday, 1/22/14)

I'm Batman

I’m Batman.

That may seem a cocky statement. I am not the world’s greatest detective. I am not the most accomplished hand-to-hand combatant on the planet. I am not a scientist/inventor with an unending inventory of cool gadgetry to rival that of Doc Savage. I don’t battle the forces of evil night after night wearing an incredibly cool batsuit.

But there’s a deeper truth here. It’s not that I’m projecting some Mary Sue wish onto this comic book character, or that I’m patterning my life in any way after the life of Bruce Wayne (though his money would certainly be welcome). Rather, there are a set of resonances in the character of Batman which, you might say, send me a signal. This has been so since I was a little kid, watching Adam West on television, even though I despised that show, just because nothing else was on. I wanted Batman like he was in the comics. Dark, agile, clever. Drawn by Neal Adams with no laugh track. Not cheesy as hell. And haunted…as I was haunted.

I didn’t consciously realize that last bit then, and not for many years. But Batman and I share something besides blue eyes and square jaws: loss. Terrible, heart-rupturing loss.

Everyone knows about Bruce Wayne’s loss: the gunshots in the alley, the clatter of falling pearls, the bodies on the ground. Fewer know the less operatic tale of my loss: a teenaged mother, riding home from her restaurant job to see her baby, her life crushed out in a high velocity encounter with a careless driver.

Loss drives us like a poisonous fuel.

For years, I thought I’d recovered from whatever trauma I’d suffered when my mother died. I had been so young, I couldn’t remember her. She was just an ancestor, if a recent one, no more a part of my life, of me, than a great grandmother I’d never known. But that was naive. Over the years, as depression kept me from the life I wanted, I realized that many of the traumas I brought into my life were refractions of the loss. Somewhere deep inside me was that small child, screaming over my mother’s body. Is it any wonder I found it easy to identify with Batman?

I had no Alfred in my life to raise me, to look after me. My father was a half-step away from cotton mill white trash, and a mean ass drunk. Over the years, he brought in two stepmothers, both cruel. He and they weren’t my family, they were my rogues gallery, the sideshow villains who plotted my destruction in nefariously neurotic ways. Batman’s villains are archetypal, each reflecting something within. The Joker is his mania, his enjoyment of the pain he brings to bear. The Riddler is his compulsion for mental challenge, Bane and Killer Croc his drive for physical dominance. The Scarecrow is his fear and despair. And Catwoman is his playfulness and his libido, trying to break into (or, rather, out of) the adamantine safe that is his heart.

Batman — Bruce Wayne — is the sort of man I strive to be: a successful man, a productive man, a noble man. A man who helps. A man who uses his anger and pain and loss not to hide or lash out at the world, but to fight the darkness (within and without) and keep it at bay. You may really love the Dark Knight, and thrill to his adventures, as millions do. But I’ve lived his dark night, I’ve fought its overwhelming darkness.

Because I’m Batman.

Mourning

B

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter C. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday