Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How I Came to be a Character in a Science Fiction Novella

Most of you know my nephew Kyle J. Knapp died nearly three years ago in a fire. A way of coping from the loss was to continue publishing books of his poetry that I had started when he was still alive. Then, after reading his dream journals, another idea came to me in which I asked several writers to compose a short story based on a snippet from one of Kyle’s dreams for The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform.

There was one dream that was particularly special to me and I knew just the person who could do it justice. The dream: Kyle (a huge Doctor Who enthusiast) had to save my life from a sabotaged mission by time traveling in a pair of my futuristic gravity boots—what a kick that was to read!

So I approached my good friend Garnett Elliott whose work has appeared in countless magazines, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. The result was “The Zygma Gambit.” There was real magic happening among those pages, and Garnett has since written “Carnosaur Weekend” where we stop crooked developers from exploiting the Late Cretaceous. The newly released “Apocalypse Soon” has us on a high octane undertaking reminiscent of Mad Max! My alter ego name: Damon Cole. Pretty damn cool, huh? But the biggest thrill is Kyle (aka Kyler) continues to live, breathe, soaring through space and time. Does the heart good. Hope you take a look and enjoy.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Conversation with Icy Sedgwick

David Cranmer: I have to confess I haven’t seen too many Western films of late though I’ve heard The Hateful Eight and Bone Tomahawk are continuing proof that the Western remains a viable presence on the big screen. Have you seen them or any other movies worth noting?

Icy Sedgwick: I'd highly recommend The Hateful Eight - I saw it on opening day in the UK and I was so impressed! I also saw Slow West last year, which was a quiet sort of Western, and it's also useful to note how different the contemporary Westerns are compared to the classic films people are used to. Gone are the spats between outlaws and local lawmen, or cowboys out on the trail - the newer Westerns are more bloody, yes, but they're less black-and-white about who is good, and who is bad. Good guys have their dark sides, and bad guys have their own motivations. A lot of people still seem to decry the Western and I think a lot of that is part of the legacy of John Wayne; the modern films are a lot more nuanced, and they're more like historical dramas that are just set in the Old West.

DC: In your latest novel To Kill A Dead Man your character Grey O’Donnell is definitely cut from this new and improved cloth. Where did the idea for him originate?

Icy: A long time ago I'd had an idea to do a John Constantine-style character set in the old West, but I never really did anything with the idea. When I was approached and asked to write The Guns of Retribution, Grey was originally an outlaw, but it didn't sit well with the way he treated people or conducted his business, so his job changed. When I decided to write To Kill A Dead Man, I remembered my old idea for supernatural shenanigans in the old West and decided to give Grey something new to do!

DC: Even though you didn't set out to write a series character you have a very colorful one in Grey. Any plans on continuing him on in further adventures? And if so would they also be supernatural offerings?

Icy: I have ideas for at least two more adventures; one of them will definitely be supernatural in nature but the other one may be more Gothic and 'monster' related! Eventually I'd like to involve Grey with more indigenous myths and folklore, but I'll see how the next couple of stories go.

DC: Do you need complete isolation to write or could you write in a café, bookstore, etc.

Icy: I often write on my laptop in the living room while someone else is watching the TV. I do put music on, but that's more to get myself into the mood of whatever it is I'm writing - film soundtracks are good. I don't like writing in cafes because I tend to get distracted by people watching, but I sometimes write on my lunchbreak at work. I find some kind of background distraction helps me to focus a lot better than total silence or isolation would. I keep dreaming of going off on a writing break but I know I'd get no writing done!

DC: Can you dismiss whatever writing project you’re on when you’re away from the keyboard?

Icy: Lord no. Even if I'm not consciously thinking about it, some level of my brain is still smoothing out plot points, rounding off characters, or coming up with ideas. Then without warning they bubble to the surface and I have to write it down while I remember! I think it's important to not struggle with the project - you can overthink things, but if you let your brain just get on with it while you're doing something else, then you're always working on it, even if you're not actually typing.

DC: Your website is called The Cabinet of Curiosities. Besides writing what takes up a great deal of your free time?

Icy: I'm working on my PhD, which does entail a lot of writing but it's also research focused, so I spend a lot of time reading books on horror cinema, ghost stories and set design. I also like to sketch and paint, and I knit up a storm while I'm watching TV. That's not always the best idea - I got so wrapped up in the second season of Penny Dreadful that I forgot where I was up to and had to undo sixteen rows of a hat!

DC: What was the last great book you have read.

Icy: I just read Stephen King's Misery for the first time and while I prefer the film, few people do characterisation like King. Even when his plots occasionally get a bit wobbly, the way he puts his characters together just carries them. I don't think I'll enjoy any of his books as much as I enjoy The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and some of his short stories are phenomenal, but I consider much of his writing to be a sort of writing masterclass.

Let's Have a Little Town Pride

I always get a kick out of saying Dave Zeltserman is back at BEAT to a PULP with a new story. Here's "Town Pride" to jump start your February.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

On The Nightstand: January 11-31 2016

The Thin Red Line by James Jones
I’ve been asked, as a veteran, to come up with a few words on a novel that resonates personally. It didn’t take long to say yes and that I would like to take another look at the 1962 milestone by James Jones. He’s more known for From Here to Eternity but it’s The Thin Red Line that went deep into the hell that is war.

Basic Math and Pre-Algebra by Denise Szecsei
I DESPISED math as a kid. My parents hired a tutor because I had fallen so far behind in school, but I still refused to learn it (poor Mrs. Mudge! I apologize for being such a snot, dear lady). My recent interest in CERN and various physicists has sparked a fire to learn higher math. Just bought Basic Math and Pre-Algebra as a refresher ... it's amazing how those basics can fade from memory. So, start at the beginning, right?

Six Guns at Sundown by Eric Beetner
Along with Little d (the real force behind BEAT to a PULP since its inception), I’ve been editing Eric’s first of two Lawyer novellas that pick up the narrative first laid down by Wayne D. Dundee in Stay of Execution. Both gentleman have done an outstanding job and for some foolhardy reason I have said that I will write the fifth installment. 

Higgs Discovery: The Power of Empty by Lisa Randall
I’m almost obsessive with learning more about CERN’s latest accomplishments. Ms. Randall’s book is easy for simpleton’s like me to grasp.

Graveyard Love by Scott Adlerberg
My full review was published at Macmillan's Criminal Element blog. A sample: Adlerberg’s storytelling is reminiscent of Julio Cortázar conjuring up the befuddled photographer, in “Blow Up” (1959) or Vladimir Nabokov’s unhinged chocolate factory worker from Despair (1934) who erroneously believe he’s found his doppelganger. Both represent unreliable narration from a first-person psychotic point of view—doing their best to convince us they are 100% sane. Kurt is no different, telling us how he’s poles apart from other such obsessive stalkers but the more he makes a case for clear rationality the more it’s obvious he’s just plain nuts.

“Where is Planet 9” blog post by Mike Brown.
I’ve been an amateur astronomy buff since I was a kid. And as I now tell my daughter… we live in exciting times. I follow astronomer Mike Brown (he takes full glee in downsizing Pluto to dwarf status) on Twitter and noticed he tweeted that his daughter had suggested the name Lilah for the new 9th planet. So I replied, resulting in this exchange:

My four-year-old daughter, Ava, was opting for Sally. Her daddy has no idea why but thought I should pass it on.
Mikes' reply: it's now on the list.
You just made her day! Thanks, Mike.

And it did. She's aware the chance is slim of her suggestion being realized but having the scientist who's leading the search consider her proposal is a big, and exciting, deal.

 "The Singular Mind of Terry Tao" article.
I get annoyed when I hear the word genius batted around carelessly. Terry Tao, however, was one at nine years of age. Fascinating piece on a child prodigy and what he's up to today.

A Universe from Nothing: Why there is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss
A theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Krauss has written a book that even my dense understanding can comprehend, uh, most of the time. Not just a book of facts and figures but also human interest stories. Example: how Edwin Hubble (a name we all know quite well) owes quite a bit to the unsung Henrietta Swan Leavitt who was employed as a "computer" at the Harvard Observatory.

The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology by Thomas Paine
Perhaps it’s because political posturing is going into that tedious full pitch with Republicans and Democrats running to their corners, sharpening their daggers that I, once again, turn to Tom Paine. A revolutionary that had the cojones to take on George Washington. Not that The Age of Reason has anything to do with legislation of government—Paine’s Rights of Man and Common Sense handle those questions—but I like his logical voice and the topic of religion has been on my mind extra burdensome of late. Also pulled off my shelf this week is Jack Fruchtman’s Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom. And below is an audio clip of the late Christopher Hitchens on NPR discussing the man who coined the phrase, “these are the times that try men’s souls.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Constant Reader: January 1-10 2016

Heavy Water: and Other Stories by Martin Amis
Enjoyed several novels in 2015 from the younger Amis, and my captivation with his work stretches into 2016. This is a fine collection of older short stories that originally appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, New Statesman, and other distinguished publications. Many of these nine tales are way, way, off-center which is perfectly fine by me. Here’s my article on Martin Amis published at Criminal Element.

The Gun and Beyond the Door by Phillip K. Dick
Grabbed these two shorts free from the Gutenberg Project. Early—and still evolving—PKD, but the quirky genius is already on display. “The Gun” finds travelers landing on a distant planet with no inhabitants though a significant piece of tech is still active and very lethal .... Next up, a husband buys a cuckoo clock for his wife who becomes obsessed with the possible living entity in“Beyond the Door.” Both pieces have an O. Henry style ending that, like William Sydney Porter, doesn't feel gimmicky.

Carnosaur Weekend by Garnett Elliott
A reread because I’ll be proofing the forthcoming sequel “Apocalypse Soon” that continues the adventures of Kyler Knightly and Damon Cole through space and time.

To Kill a Dead Man by Icy Sedgwick
A western I’m proofing this week and that I should be releasing in the coming weeks through BEAT to a PULP. Also currently working on an interview with the engaging Ms. Sedgwick.

And Yet by Christopher Hitchens
Hitch, onetime Trotskyist, a lifelong Socialist, and mistaken for a Neocon during the Iraq War, had a way with words not just when he appeared on TV but was a dazzling stylist on the page. This smorgasbord of collected essays runs the gamut from dire warnings on why not to vote for Hillary Clinton to his unadorned respect for George Orwell. A liberal who was no ideologue and had few peers.

Things That Matter by Charles Krauthammer
From the Left with Hitch to the conservative side of the aisle with Krauthammer. A pundit who quite often leads the discussion within the GOP and currently one of Donald Trump’s strongest critics. But his best essays (many of which first appeared in The Washington Post) are when he’s talking chess, baseball, space exploration, and his late brother.

Opticks by Isaac Newton
My family has been watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s narrated Cosmos and I was so intrigued by the section devoted to Newton that I decided to read one of his books. Not easy, per se, but I stuck with it because I wanted to spend an hour with this great theorist.

“First Impressions” by Judith Thurman
I’ve added Werner Herzog’s film Cave of Forgotten Dreams to my queue after reading this 2011 New Yorker piece.

Damn! a Book of Calumny by H.L. Mencken
Always heard how revolutionary a political thinker Menken had been, and he remains a very compelling read. Every other page finds a quotable that seems relevant to our modern times. However, the anti-Semitism thread running through his body of work is jarring and I’ve read elsewhere he had a racist strain that Dorothy Parker found (as I would) inexcusable. 

Of All Things by Robert C. Benchley
An almost forgotten humorist though he once loomed large on the American scene as a member, along with the aforementioned Ms. Parker, of The Algonquin Round Table. Dated in passages but still sharp in insight, especially as he pokes fun at an obsessive woman of letters when he imagines that even if she were kidnapped it would hardly slow down her incredible high word count ... reminded me a bit of certain Facebook/Twitter aficionados who don’t miss an opportunity to let the world in on the small minutia of their lives.

The Sandman, Volume 1, Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
In my top ten of the greatest graphic novel series ever produced and decided it was time for a re-read. The plot concerns Morpheus and his quest to regain his dream kingdom that has wasted away while he has been held in captivity for over a century.

Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Current read. Tyson’s style is very accessible and it's given me a platform from which to discuss scientific topics with my daughter.