Monday, May 18, 2015

Alphabet of SFF

Mark Lawrence did an intriguing blog post where he posted photos depicting from A to Z his favorite books by authors whose last names began with each particular letter. It got me thinking about my book shelves and in the end I just had to try it myself!

It ended up being somewhat difficult because there are so many books still to be read, so I decided not to list any of those, which left me with some letters unused. It also turned out that in many cases a single letter, like 'M' had multiple of my favorite authors.

Here you see me cheating right off with Robert Asprin listed first when he was the editor of the Thieves' World series, which was written by a bunch of terrific writers. But I just LOVE the Thieves' World series and think it's a shame that more people don't seem to remember it. I could have listed Joe Abercrombie there. Then comes Terry Brooks. I know most people sneer at The Sword of Shannara, but I loved it. Louis Bujold gets a secondary nod for 'B'. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't include my own writing under 'C', but I stuck Glen Cook in there as well to make it legit and because I love his work. Who can beat Philip K Dick for 'D'? Steven Erikson wins the 'E' category. I didn't have much under 'F', so I went with Alan Dean Foster.

'G' goes to William Gibson. No one can touch Robert E Howard, though Joe Haldeman deserves a mention. I didn't have any I or J that I had read, and Stephen King just doesn't fall under SFF for me, so I move to 'L' with Le Guin and Leiber. I know, it seems wrong to leave out Lawrence when he started this idea and I do like his work, but honestly, who can touch Le Guin? Or Leiber? I didn't even get to include Scott Lynch! The M's were trouble, so I put George Martin, of course, but I decided to throw in McKiernan and Morgan as well. Then Larry Niven for 'N'.

Pohl for 'P'. 'R' was hard since I just love Rothfuss's work, but I didn't want to leave out Chasm City by Reynolds, which is awesome. Scalzi slips in to 'S', though I was sorely tempted to include Dan Simmons. 'T' is flat out owned by Tolkien, naturally. 'V' goes to Vinge, who is amazing. I could have gone with Tad Williams for 'W', but I decided to choose Westerfeld, since The Risen Empire is great and so few people seem to have read this series.

Well, that's it! I have plenty of other books I love that didn't make it here since I didn't want to duplicate too  many in each category. For example, Ender's Game by Card feels like it should have made it. What about you? You up to the challenge?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Acting in Swedish Comedy

Some time ago I wrote about my various movie acting experiences on this blog, and today I was thinking about my favorite one, a Swedish comedy called The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. Yes, a very long title, but it comes from a hit book and the movie is the highest-grossing film from Sweden and quite good. It has been driving me mad that it hasn't yet been released on DVD in America.
Last time I posted about it, I posted this picture taken by the Swedish star Robert Gustaffson (He is the one on the right). We had done several takes of this scene and Robert suddenly told us all to look over, and he snapped this 'selfie'. I realized I had never posted any shots from the scene, so just now I paused the scene a few times and did screen shots so you can see what the scene itself turned out like in the movie. For the actual scene, you'll need to look up the film. It is out on DVD in Europe, but in the U.S. we'll just have to wait.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Interview With Author Michael Patrick Hicks

I'm very proud to get to interview author Michael Patrick Hicks today. He first came to my attention when I learned he was a quarter-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Having tried that contest a couple of times myself, I was well aware of how difficult it is to get that far, so I knew he had to be a very good writer. Luckily for me his novel, Convergence, was also just the type of sci-fi that I enjoy. For those who haven't yet read it, I recommend it, and there couldn't be a better time than this week: Convergence will be free all week long! And if that isn't good enough news, the brand-new sequel, Emergence, that I haven't even read yet myself is just coming out and will be .99 cents all week as well! That won't last, so do yourself a favor and pick up two great high-octane books for one tiny price.

Your first book, Convergence, was an action-packed thrill ride. Will the second be the same or will there be a change of pace?
I think Emergence is even more action-packed. I always kind of saw Convergence as a sort of cyberpunk-noir, while Emergence is a straight-up sci-fi thriller, almost a summer action-movie blockbuster. If readers thought Convergence was a thrill ride, then they should be quite happy with the sequel.
In Convergence we learned that China has somehow invaded and now holds part of America, but we don’t learn a lot about why and how that came to be. Do you delve into this in more detail, either in Emergence or in a later sequel?
I do not, but there may be room for exploring these things in a future sequel, or maybe even a prequel sometime down the road. While there is a brief return to a Los Angeles under PRC occupation, there’s more of a road-trip vibe to Emergence and we get to see what’s happened to some of the other Pacific regions, like Washington, with a detour further inland to Nevada. There’s also a fun trip to the seasteading community that was briefly teased in the prior book. Readers will see more of a future America “as is” in that timeline, without a lot of background or infodump.
Tell us more about Emergence (without spoilers of course!). 
Emergence really grows out of the end-game from Convergence. Readers of Convergence will recall that some awful things happened to Mesa, the daughter of our central character in book 1. Mesa is still recovering from all that, and she’s really the focal point of this new novel. She’s got some secrets stuck in her head that she’s slowly becoming aware of, and she’s on the run for her life. There’s corporate mercenaries chasing her, she’s in serious danger, and so are her friends and her father. She’s really boxed into a corner and fighting for survival against some heinous characters in order to protect this secret that, if it got loose, could really change the world.
Will you only write sci-fi or do you plan to write in other genres as well?
I’m itching to write some more horror! I released a short horror story last Halloween called Consumption that readers seem have been enjoying. My current project is a title for the Apocalypse Weird series, and that’s going to be a nice blend of science fiction and horror, and I’m really pleased with the angle I get to tackle in my little corner of the ever-growing AW bookverse. I’ve got a small sci-fi/western/horror story that’ll be in an anthology due out in the fall. After that, we’ll see.
What were your major influences?
From the writing end of things, Stephen King was definitely a big influence on me, along with other authors like Tom Clancy and Richard K. Morgan. I think each of those authors have really helped to define my own writing style and my approach to telling stories.
The news, too, is a constant source of influence. Because my two novels have a strong technological backbone to them, I did a lot of research in order to make things plausible. A lot of the tech stuff is actually based, in part, on current research that DARPA is doing to aid wounded soldiers suffering from brain damage.
How has your publishing experience been so far?
So far it’s been good, and I certainly hope that continues! I’ve heard from several readers who enjoyed Convergence quite a bit, and that’s always very rewarding and fulfilling. I hope I don’t let them down with my future releases! I’ve also met a number of terrific writers, and was able to collaborate with them on a recent anthology, with another coming out soon. I’ve certainly had a terrific time of it, and a few very nice doors have been opened for me because of my work. I’m enormously grateful for that.
Did you always want to write, or was there a catalyst that made you suddenly decide to go for it?
I have, yeah. It was always the one big dream I had in life, and I wanted to get my first book out there by the time I was 35. I beat my goal by one year! I had been planning on pursuing a traditional path, but that’s such a massive leviathan to try and wrangle.
After Convergence placed as a quarter-finalist in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and my book’s early readers supported it in that contest, and Publisher’s Weekly had a lot of positive things to say about it, I decided to just go for it and self-publish.
Based on that contest and the feedback I was getting, it definitely looked like there was a market for my book and letting it sit in a drawer for, what would likely be, years on end trying to find an agent and a publisher lacked a certain luster. I knew that I could publish it myself and work with some terrific professionals to make it into the book I wanted it to be. I think it was a smart decision, and I’ve had zero regrets about jumping into the indie pool feet-first.
Do you have a goal with publishing?
My goal, first and foremost, is to write books that readers enjoy. A more long-term goal is to be able to write full-time, but I think I’m a ways off from that. But, if Mr. Speilberg wants to make me an offer on a movie deal I’d be hard pressed to say no!
Do you have a particular target audience for your books? What books are out there whose readership might love yours?

Sci-Fi fans are the first target audience that leap to mind, of course, but also readers who like mysteries and thrillers. Both Convergence and Emergence straddle a number of different genres, and I think they’re open to just about any reader. If you’re a reader but a bit afraid of the sci-fi label, don’t be! The titles are Earth-based, human-focused techno thrillers, so if you like 24 or Michael Connelly or James Rollins, I think you could certainly enjoy my books and find a lot of things here that are familiar, but just a few years ahead of us technology-wise.

Here are links to both books:

To learn more or to become a fan of Michael Patrick Hicks:
His Goodreads Author Page
Michael's Website