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Archive for July, 2018

There’s no question that it’s tough to get around the San Diego Comic-Con. I mean, it’s what, 150,000 in one (huge) building? And that’s not counting all the security staff, which has to run to several hundred. (And very nice people, too.)

So it goes without saying that if you want to do anything more in your two, three, or four days than stand in line with 14 Spider-Men and a Magneto in a Speedo (don’t ask. Please don’t ask), you need a plan. Your plan needn’t be terribly specific, more a set of guidelines, to know how to get where you want to be and see what you want to see.

Obviously, if your dream is to see the cast of “The Avengers” in Hall H, then you’re either going to have to camp out all night or, using the new system, get in line really early in the morning and stay for as long as it takes to get to your panel. (Note to SDCC: Guys, it’s the 21st century. Surely you can come up with a better plan…) The same goes, to a lesser degree, for Hall 20. But if that’s not you, I have a few suggestions on how to get the most bang for your buck and enjoy this convention like you would any other.

First, there is practically a side convention going on outside the convention center. Booths and displays are set up across the street. Storefronts have been set up in the Gaslamp, and function rooms in adjoining hotels. There are now panels in the public library (which I recommend you tour just because it’s so awesome, particularly if you’re a baseball fan). They don’t require a badge, and there are enough to fill an entire day.

Second, go to other panels. There are panels at Comic-con which are not held in Halls H or 20. They are really good, and they don’t require standing in line for four hours. (Although given the number of people around, it’s not surprising that they can and do fill up; still, we managed to get into 80% of what we wanted with little to no trouble.)

Lastly, and certainly not least, is the dealer’s room, that ginormous Bat-cave of comic books, movie ads, t-shirts, toys, art, and (to a surprising degree this year) books. If you’ve ever been, you know that the dealer’s room is more packed than a Tokyo subway. And it’s not just the fans, it’s their costumes, the strollers, and the motorized scooters. (Watch out for the latter, particularly in you’re in costume, because they’re not looking out for you. Someday a stroller and a scooter are going to collide and the ensuing traffic jam will collapse into a black hole.)

But there are ways around this conglomeration: (a) Come in on Wednesday, preview day, and never go back; or (b) wait until after 5:30 in the evening. The room closes at 7:00, but by about 5:45, many people have wandered off to find dinner. At that point, it’s easy to explore for over an hour without fear of being trampled, and if it takes more than an hour to see what you want, come back the next day and do it again.

So, yeah, SDCC’s really freaking big, and that’s my main knock against it. But this year I started to discover the cracks between the walls, and to my surprise, there’s a convention there I can actually enjoy. You simply have to wait until the crowd files into Hall H so that  you can see it.

#SFWApro

 

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Starting today and running all weekend, the first book in the Nemesis series, The Choking Rain, is available for free on Amazon. This is your chance to live in the days of the Great Depression–but not as they were, as they should have been, with all of the excitement, danger, and suspense of the pulp era that featured greats like The Shadow and Doc Savage, and led directly to The Batman, Superman, James Bond, and all the rest.

The Choking Rain finds Los Angeles in terror after a mysterious epidemic of stranglings occurs on city streets in broad daylight and in front of witnesses–but no murderer can be seen. When an ex-fighter pilot breaks up an attempt to kill his own sister, he finds himself entangled in an international plot to sabotage the 1932 Olympic Games–a plot that is only preparation for a scheme that will leave the entire world cowering in fear of invisible assassins with their hands wrapped around every man’s throat…

The Choking Rain is the first book to feature Nemesis, a mysterious and relentless enemy of crime, a man who shows the world a thousand faces, none of them his own. In The Scent of Death, he must travel to the exotic East to find a missing diplomat, and in The Killing Scar, his past returns to haunt him in the form of a fanatical scientist bent on claiming victory in a war that has yet to begin.

Nemesis has vowed that he will fight against the strong on the part of the oppressed for so long as he draws breath…and he is not about to allow being dead to stand in his way.

 

 

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One of the things I like to do at Comic-con (largely because it drives TBH to distraction) is to visit the comic book dealers (you know, the people for whom the convention’s dealer’s room was originally envisioned) and point out which of the back issues they have on display that I have at home. TBH knows that as soon as we find a dealer, I will be standing back, pointing: “I’ve got that one, and that one, and both of those…”

And then she points out, in all correctness, that if I had all of those issues in the same condition as those that are on display, we’d be retired and spending our weekends in Saint Lucia instead of San Diego. Because it’s not a matter of what issues you have (or in some tragic cases had), but a matter of whether they’re still fresh enough that anyone will pay for them.* Which brings me to the question:

Where do these dealers get these issues that are in such great shape? And I’m talking some old comics here; over the weekend I saw a copy of Action #1 that looked better than most of my Spider-Man comics from the 1970s. I bought comic books when I was a kid to read them–repeatedly. And I kept them in a drawer in my bedroom. Who keeps their comics in such great condition for 70 years?

I guess that’s the same issue with any collectible; so few of them survive, and rarely in good condition. I find it interesting that Hot Wheels cars from my childhood are so valuable now; there were so many, and unlike comic books, Hot Wheels never tear, or stain, or crease. (You want to talk about how I could have funded my retirement…?) But those little metal speedsters are lost to time, and I guess that’s true for just about everyone’s, or they wouldn’t be collectible now.

The trouble is, you can’t keep everything you’ve ever bought in pristine condition on the chance it might someday be valuable (oh G.I. Joe, had I only known), because most things won’t. I guess if you’re going to collect something, you should make it something you appreciate for itself, not for its investment potential; at least then you can enjoy having it.

As long as it’s NM (near mint). Oh, what the hell, I took them out and I read them. And if the only investment return I receive is the memories I made, then I guess that’s good enough for me.

*When I talk about “issues” I have, I’m talking strictly about comic books. At least for now.

#SFWApro

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(First in my reports of the 2018 San Diego Comic-con.)

Apparently, the entire city of San Diego had been bad, and sent to bed without dessert.

That, at least, was the lesson I learned Thursday night of Comic-con. After a half-day at the con, we were already tired. We had dinner, and I had been promised dessert as a reward for doing all the driving that morning. Given the choice of venue, I decided we should venture out and sample a dessert and coffee at one of the many fine dining establishments downtown San Diego has to offer. (Note to the host of people out there awaiting their chance to take me to dinner, do not let me choose where to go.)

Unfortunately, most of those fine dining establishments, as it happens, are bars. Although they feature excellent cuisine, they are not the kind of place you simply plop yourself down and order a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. No, we were seeking a (wait, I know there used to be a name for them), coffee shop. You know, the sort of little diner where the waitress calls you “hon.” (I know they exist; I went to one once. The waitress literally called me “hon.” I had been having a bad week; it was exactly what I needed.)

Anyway, we gamely trooped into town, finding it easy enough because the crowds hadn’t descended yet. Nothing. Then the light shone forth: a Du-Par’s! Perfect.

It closed a month ago.

We asked around; no one had any idea where we could find what we wanted. At one of the hotels, the staff recommended a nearby vendor with homemade ice cream. Promising… Turns it it was a small shop which, while it normally offered seating, had taken out its seating for Comic-Con. We pledged to return at a more opportune moment (and we did, with friends, and the ice cream was fabulous). But it wasn’t what we wanted then.

By this time, it was after eight. The Better Half suggested we should return to our hotel, on the theory that she had seen a Denny’s within walking distance of there. This gave us the option to repair to our room and call it a night, or hike the short distance to Denny’s and grab some joe and pie. Seizing upon this as a capital idea, I agreed, so we boarded our shuttle, rode to our hotel, and determined that, despite the darkness, the stroll to our local eatery was feasible and safe from a traffic perspective.

We were worried about getting there! Silly us.

First problem: Everyone in our neighborhood decided that 9:00 pm was the perfect time to take the family to Denny’s. I mean, it was standing room only. Twenty-minute wait.

Second problem: We were in the Twilight Zone. Between the five-year-olds planning Armageddon on their cell phones, and the woman whose shoes and stockings looked like something worn by the Wicked Witch of the West, in addition to the normal Comic-con attendees, this was an odd crowd. We should have taken it as a sign. Or at least taken the opportunity to look at a menu.

Because, you see, after an hour of walking around, several false alarms, a bus trip, and a walk through the dark (past what turned out to be the local cannabis retailer), I had to read the menu three times before I could bring myself to believe that Denny’s does not serve dessert.

There was no pie. There was no ice cream. (Well, there was, technically, but “the machine is broken.” The “machine”?) The menu actually suggested, if one wanted dessert, to try one of their fancy pancakes. Which I did, with mixed results. At least there was coffee.

So that was our first night. In common with many of our interactions at Comic-con, we learned a valuable lesson, the first of those which I am going to share with you:

Life is uncertain; eat dessert first. Just not at Denny’s.

#SFWApro

 

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In an ideal world, a story would come to one all at once, beginning to end, and all one would have to do is transcribe it. Of course, in an ideal world, there would be no conflict, so what would you write about? Unless it was the ideal writer’s world, which would have lots of juicy conflicts…but that gets into the idea that everyone’s view of Paradise is a little different, which is a different column for a different day.

Suffice it to say that stories do not come all at once, fully realized. (Well, maybe some people’s do, but we hate them.) Personally, I have an annoying habit of starting to write a story that hits close to home, and I get into all the little personal bits that make a story really sing, but when it comes to the ending the whole thing just stalls. It’s like knowing the question to ask, but not the answer. And since no one else is going to supply the answer, I’m stuck.

It seems that the solution (as opposed to the “answer”) lies in this rule of thumb: If you find yourself trying to graft an ending onto your story, you’ve written the wrong story.

While that ideal world doesn’t exist (for most of us, anyway), an ending must grow organically from what went before. That’s a rule.* So if you’re trying to write to a particular ending, and it’s not working–or if you can’t find an ending at all–don’t mangle some words to make them fit. You’ll end up with a Rube Goldberg contraption that looks like a vacuum cleaner made love to a model train set, and still won’t make toast–or worse. Instead, back up–and keep backing up, to the point where the story went wrong, even if that point is the line right after the title.

They say, “There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always enough time to do it over.” I say, “There’s never enough time to write, but if you don’t get to the end, it’ll never be over.”

*Yes, I know there are no rules. Except this one.

#SFWApro

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This weekend only, my debut novel, The Invisible City, will be available for free on Amazon.

The Invisible City, first book in The Stolen Future trilogy, tells the story of Charles Clee, a World War I infantry officer who stumbles onto the greatest secret of the war–perhaps the greatest secret in history. Pursued by German troops lying in wait for his own men, Clee escapes by leaping through a mysterious silvery door and finds himself 800,000 years in the future, an Earth where everything has changed–except the heart of Man. Even after his incredible journey, Clee is still hounded, by the assassins of the Time Police, and the Earth’s new masters, the alien Nuum–the former who want to prevent all knowledge of time travel, and the latter who will stop at nothing to obtain it.

When the woman he has fallen in love with is kidnapped, he must follow her trail across the exotic planet he once knew, but which is now home to apocalyptic nightmares created out  millennia of dangerous experimentation. Whatever the hazards, his path is clear–until he learns that a working time machine may still exist which could return him to his own era and allow him to prevent the massacre awaiting his troops.

Captain Charles Clee can follow his heart, or fulfill his duty, but not both. Whatever he decides, someone he loves will die.

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