42

Well folks, I am 42 years old. Yes, just over 30 days ago I reached my “Life, The Universe, and Everything” birthday. (I know, I should have posted this sooner.) And in that 42 years of life I have done a lot of stuff, met a lot of people, and learn a lot about myself. (To be fair, I learned more about myself after I turned 30 than before. I wasn’t as introspective before I reached 30.)

So now I bet you are expecting me to regale you with stories of my adventures here on planet Earth like how I brought about and aborted the Zombie Apocalypse while shopping for shampoo, or how I once set fire to and pushed 100 blood thirsty ninja vampires down a flight of stairs in the secret jungles of the main Amazon.com warehouse, or about the day I realized that you can not buy a main battle tank and 123 bottles of Bourbon with 176,000 counterfeit Canadian Pesos . Those are great stories. Someday I will tell all those and many, many more in my autobiography: The Fool that Pitied Mr T. Instead I am going to speak of a truth that I really began to understand around the time that I started podcasting. A truth so powerful and amazing that I could sell it for 27 easy credit card payments of $39.99 (or 176,000 counterfeit Canadian Pesos at the current exchange rate). Something that will shatter your world and leave you shocked amazed and wanting more. And that very truth is…

We make our own opportunities!

Let me say that again. We make our own opportunities!

Sure, once in a very long while someone get lucky, and unexpectedly everything just happens to fall in to place, but 99.9% of the time in is our hard work and persistence that pays off. (As a Christian I do believe that God influences this as well, but that is a debate for another day.) So in the end, if we don’t step up and pursue our dreams and goals they won’t be achieved.

Now, I suspect that some of you are unclear as to what I mean by we make our own opportunities. Let me explain via some examples.

I started podcasting in June of 2005 (more or less in the first wave.) I had no idea what I was doing. I had a cheap headset mic and a program called ACID and an idea. I went for it. And with each new podcast produced I tried new things, met new people, created a lot of different shows, did a lot of interviews, and in the end developer a reputation, a brand as it were, for doing a good interview, being interesting to listen to, and giving fair and honest reviews. I also developed an audience, although not a large as I would like, and inspired a lot of other people to get into podcasting as well.

All this work has resulted in publishers and authors sending me books to review. Film makes sending me film screeners. People coming to me wanting to be guests on my show. I chance to use my skills professional doing an internal podcast for a company. Offer of a very late night spot on a local radio station (which I turned down). And a few things more recently that I can’t talk about yet.

All the work and money, I put into my podcasting pay off in opportunities, created by my hard work and persistence. Opportunities that aligned with my goals at the time, to entertain and inspire people.

My hard work and persistence paid off. It created many opportunities for me to do thing and meet people I would never have had had I not started podcasting in the first place. Now those opportunities had a price, the decision to try podcasting and all the work and money that went into it.

Now as I start down a new road in the writing arena, I know that if I work hard at writing and do what needs to be done. At some point down the road it will pay off in opportunities as well.

Figure out what it is you want to do, and give it a try. Work hard and keep at it. Learn what it takes to succeed in your chosen endeavor. (There are tried and true method for getting to write, radio, film, TV, etc. Don’t discount them just because you want to do things your own way. Your unique style will show through even if you are using the same techniques as successful people in your chosen field.) Give enough time and effort, you will create the opportunities you want. (Remember it takes about five years to create a brand personal or otherwise.) But if you stick with it, it will pay off.

Get out there and start create those opportunities.

Nebulous

I love the British. They have given the world musical talents such as The Beatles and Motorhead. They have enriched our television programing with Top Gear. They have given us brilliant authors like Robert Rankin, Charles Stross, and J.G. Ballard. And they still produce radio (audio) drama.

It is one of those audio dramas that has recently caught my attention.

In the year 2099, mankind has survived a series on environment disaster’s including the “Withering”, many world wars, the destruction of the Isle of White, and various alien invasions. Humans have managed to piece together a civilisation and culture from the scraps of the past mixing them with today’s reality creating a new world. A brave new world defended from evil (and dirty laundry) by K.E.N.T., the Key Environment Non-judgement Task force. Lead by Professor Nebulous, the K.E.N.T. team must ferret out the evil that plots everyday to destroy mankind’s new world.

This vision of the year 2099 is the setting for the brilliant Nebulous radio drama that aired on BBC radio from January of 2005 to June of 2008. Nebulous was written by Graham Duff, directed by Nicholas Briggs, and produced by Ted Dowd for Baby Cow Productions. It stars Mark Gatiss in the title role as well as Rosie Cavaliero, Graham Duff, Paul Putner, Graham Crowden, David Warner, Julia Dalkin, and Matt Wolf. There are also guest appearances by Peter Davison of Doctor Who fame (he played the 5th Doctor) , David Tenant also of Doctor Who fame, Julia Davis, and Steve Coogan. Nebulous ran for ten seasons but unfortunately all but the first three seasons (18 episodes) have been lost in the BBC archives. You can find more information on Nebulous at it’s wiki page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/nebulous) as well as at the blog of the Zombie Astronaut (http://z0mbieastronaut.livejournal.com/tag/nebulous), which is how I discovered it, and Nebulous City (http://www.nebulouscity.com), a fan site for the show.

Now the real question is, with all that being said, why should you care? Well, you should care because Nebulous is a brilliantly written, well preformed radio drama. I have a long commute (I spend two plus hours a day on the road) and I spend an hour a day at the gym listening to audio on my iPod. And for me music just doesn’t cut it and talk radio just makes my angry, so I am constantly look for new audio to listen to. (I bet a lot of you are as well.) Nebulous with it’s sarcastic social commentary, puny and satirical humor, and surreal setting earned me many a funny look as I chuckle at it while torturing my body on a treadmill or exercise bike.

The cast of characters range from a super computer, Gemini – who isn’t very fond of humans, to a hover-chair bound victim of a science experiment gone wrong, Harry Hayes – whose voice box is turned up to loud, to the Minister in charge of K.E.N.T., Ronald Rolands – a classic big government bureaucrat. Not to mention K.E.N.T.’s leader Professor Nebulous with his flashbacks to his clownish up-bring and tendency to “drift” when talking to people. Combine them with villains like the evil Dr Klench (played by David Warner), sentient dust, madness inducing colors, and a aliens with aerosol based technology. And you get sci-fi comedy in the vain of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Brightonomicon, and The Scarifyers.

So if you like radio drama and/or sci-fi comedy, check out Nebulous. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Things you were meant to know

Hi, my name is Taylor, and it has been 10 days since I posted on this blog. And for that I want to apologize. And by way of that apology, I am giving you this post.

Now I recently finished reading a couple of books, finished listening to a radio drama, discovered a new fiction podcast (well new to me anyway), watched some movies, finished a season one of a TV series, and got addicted to an old, but awesome, game. Now I would like to say this post will contains reviews of all those thing, but it won’t. To be fair, many of the items in question deserve a far more in-dept discussion than I can offer in a single post of reasonable length. So instead I am going to tease (I know I am such a tease) some of them in order to wet your appetite for what is to come over the next couple or three weeks. (And I might throw in some other news as well.)

So here is my story, at CONvergence 2010, I sat a panel on the subject of the genre of Bizarro. In preparation for that panel I asked several Bizarro publishers and magazines for promotional material, books, catalogs, sample copies, etc that I could give out at the panel. Through those samples, I discovered a book called Morning Is Dead by Andersen Prunty. All of the free copies were given out at the panel, but I found out it was on Kindle. (Yes, I have a Kindle 2. Yes, I like it very much. And yes, I would recommend you get one.) So I ordered it, read it, and I loved it. Yes, I would recommend Morning Is Dead by Andersen Prunty. And you don’t have to buy a Kindle just to read it. It is available in dead tree format as well. But I don’t have time to give you a full review at this time. A full review of Morning Is Dead is forth coming, I promise.

By the way, he, Andersen Prunty, has another book titled The Beard. And since I have a beard and it is called The Beard, I figure I am destine to read it.

On a non-Andersen Prunty note, I also finished a book sent to me personally by Brian Keene: The Dreaming Pool by Gary Greenwood. (The copy sent was signed by the author and personalized to Brian.) I would like to say he sent it to me because we are best friends and he loves me so much that he wants me to have his love child, but, alas, that is not the case. Well, actual, I think I can call Brian a friend (in the real sense of the word not the Facebook, Twitter, MySpace sense of the word), but he sent it as part of the subscription I have to him. That’s right folks, I have one of 15 lifetime subscriptions to Brian Keene. (Well, his work anyway.) And yes, owning a piece of Brian rocks. But back to the book, The Dreaming Pool, I will review it soon. Needless to say the story was good, but the actually printed book left a bit to be desired. More on that when the review comes out.

I have now finished six (Zombies of Mass Destruction, The Reeds, The Graves, Lake Mungo, Kill Theory, and The Final) of the eight films from After Dark Horrorfest 4. (I have yet to see: Hidden and Dread.) I was not able to attend the event in theaters this year due to car trouble. But I plan to review all of the movies together once I have seen them all, which should been soon as the last two are in route to me via US Mail and Netflix as I write this. I will say this, in advance of the actual review, After Dark Horrorfest 4’s films are shaping up to be a damn sight better than the films of After Dark Horrorfest 3.

On the TV front, I discovered, and devoured, thanks to Netflix’s on-demand service a cartoon series made by FX title Archer. It is very funny and very wrong. Think James Bond meets Office Space. It is well worth your time to check out, but be warned it contains a lot of adult of material

Now that we have covered the video and print fronts, let us move on to audio. Thanks to the Zombie Astronaut, I discovered the wonderful BCC radio drama, Nebulous. I have a review written of the Nebulous series, which I am editing, that I hope to post later this week.

I also discovered the Drabblecast. I would like to say it is new and I just stumbled across it, but it has been going for a while. And I only found out about it because of my friend Justin. And Drabblecast rocks. In fact, Drabblecast may be my new favorite podcast. It is a great combination of weird stories, weird bits, and awesome production values. I have listened to four episodes so far, I start with 142, mostly because it was the first one in the feed. And thanks to bits like “In search of the Mongolian Death Worm” and stories like Varmits by Steve Lowe and The Golden Age of Fire Escapes by John Aegard, I am hooked. The host Norm Sherman, who does a great job hosting and has a wonderful voice, should be getting an email from me soon inviting him to do an interview on Snark Infested Waters. (You know, the podcast in which I interview cool people who create cool stuff, which can be found at http://thesnarkyavenger.com.)

And it is now a dream of mine that one of my Drabbles (exactly 100 word stories) or Flash pieces get published by the Drabblecast.



Finally, on the computer game front, I have re-discovered the addictive goodness of the best SIM game ever made: Evil Genius. Yes, this underrated, short-lived, James Bond like super-villian simulation was originally released in 2004 and is back thanks to the wonderful folks at STEAM. Yes, you too can build your secret island lair, recruit minions and henchmen, and commit acts of infamy all over the world. All in an attempt to take over the world with the ultimate super weapon. And all this goodness can all be yours for around $10.

Evil Genius is a great game. But like all SIM games it cen get a bit tedious at time, and it is highly addictive. I definately recommend it.

That’s it folks. I hope to have the reviews mentioned about done and released soon.

Thanks,

T

Review of Roll Them Bones by David Niall Wilson read by Jeffrey Kafer

Roll Them Bones
Written by David Niall Wilson
Read by Jeffrey Kafer
Audio book edition produced and distributed by Springbrook Audio, Macabre Ink, and Crossroads Press

Disclosure:
I received a copy of the Roll Them Bones audio book from Crossroads Press for review purposes.

It has been a while since I have done a review of a book, let alone an audio book, in print format so I have decided to break this review into two parts. One for the story itself, and one for the audio version.

Roll Them Bones is a good horror thriller which leans more toward the thriller side of things. It is the story of four friends, Jason, Frank, Ronnie, and Lizzy, returning to they childhood home, Random, Illinois, in an attempt to understand and get past events that took place on a Halloween night many years earlier. All of them, except Ronnie, have fled Random seeking a new life. And have returned to investigate why it seems that the events of that Halloween night seem to be playing themselves out again.

Each one of the character knows part of what happened on the faithful night that haunts each of them through their dreams. Each character has found different ways to deal with the lingering fear: Jason and Lizzy by running away; Frank, a very successful horror writer, by writing the story of the original events over and over again; and Ronnie by confronting the past head on. But in the end they all return to face the events once and for all.

Roll Them Bones is a good story. It leaves a lot of questions to the reader. The answers to which would have made the character’s more interesting as well as there motivations more clear.

What dark secret drove Jason away from Random? What did happen to Lizzy’s marriage and kids, and why does she seem to fear alcohol? Was there no other way for Frank to deal with his demons? What event’s caused Ronnie to go back to the woods?

The lack of details concerning Jason’s reason for leaving Random (there are hinted at family problems) as well as a lack of explanation concerning Lizzy’s avoidance of alcohol and the status of her kids (mentioned once early on) distracted me a bit. Lizzy also seems a bit to willing to just fall into bed with Jason.

I would have liked to know more about Frank.

The way the end of the story played out also bothered me. Not the end itself, but the way it was told. The explanation of the events of the story was fine, but the way they were told seemed a bit forced and drawn out.

So in the end the story itself is good and worth a read, but with a little work it could have been a great story.

Since I am reviewing the audio version of the story, here is my take on the audio.

The audio, which is just over three hours long, was clean and clear. The narrator, Jeffery Kafer, does a good job in reading the story, although there is not a lot of distinction between each character voice-wise. It is a well produced audio-book.

I really only have two complaints about the audio version.

One, some of the story is told in flash-back. This is fine, but there are a couple of awkward and confusing transitions from flash-back back to the present. In each case there is no audio cue for the listener to indicate that the narration has moved back to the present and I got confused for a few moments. Transitions like this are hard to do in audio versus print. In print you can put the flash-back in italic or use some print effect to distinguish the difference. In audio, you can use different effects or add some kind of musical cue. There is nothing special used in this audio-book to set those sections apart.

Two, and this is picky and might be in the text as well, there is a point in the story in which Jason refers to Ronnie as Frank.

Other than the issues listed above, I enjoyed the audio. Jeffery Kafer did a good job doing the reading and has a nice voice to listen to.

Overall, I enjoyed Roll Them Bones, both the story and audio, and I would recommend it if you are a short psychological thriller with supernatural overtones.

CONvergence 2010: The Recap!

Well it is done. Actually, it was done for me at about 3:00 PM on Sunday (July 4th, 2010) when I left the hotel CONvergence 2010 was being held at with my wife and my friend Hugh. And it was a blast.

CONvergence is really the big event for me each year. It is the place that I am a star and a nobody at the same time. It is carnival for fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy Fandom (and all their related things: Anime, gaming, art, costumes, etc.) An orgy of ideas and sensory experiences and decadence (I did manage to drink three quarters of a bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon as well as a dozen random shots of liquor and mysterious mixed drink) were almost everyone is accepted. A place were it is a easy to be the center of attention one moment, and alone in the crowd the next. Ideas are exchanged. Visions cast. Stories are told. Innovation happens. And fun is had.

And yet, in the end, I tend to find CON an introspective experience. I place were I get a glimpse of my place in the world. I place were I am truly with my people, my tribe.

(Now, you may ask, but your a Christian isn’t your place in “Church”? Well, I am a Christian. I do believe in God and Jesus and love them. But my experience with “Church” is that it is generally filled with those more interested in enforcing man-made rules on others and judging others more than exchanging ideas and information or reaching out to those not like them. In the end, I believe God make me to be one of the Fanish Masses. Not that being a Christian can be easy in Fanish circles, but God generally doesn’t make our lives easy or comfortable for long. And if He did, what fun would that be?)

CONvergence 2010 was no different. I was able to meet, renew acquaintances and friendships with, and talk with many interesting and exciting people. Some names that jump out at me are:

Rob Callahan – Author
Monilee Stormer – Author
Jeffrey Adams – Audio Drama/Radio Drama Producer
Tim Wick – Actor, Musician, and Comedian
Mark Temple – Akido Practitioner
Romeo Azar – Movie Fanatic
Paul Cornell – Writer and Cricket fan
Jerry Stearns – Radio Drama Producer

And I was able to participate in some much. I played Battletech in a Mech cockpit simulator (I took number 1 in my first match.) I got to listen to authors read their stories and poetry. I was present when a comic book was performed as audio by eleven random volunteers and it’s author on the fly. I participated in and lead discussions on: Bizarro (big thanks to Raw Dog Screaming Press and Grind House Press for sending books and t-shirts to give away), audio books, old time radio (big thanks to Jon at OTRCAT.com for sending OTR sampler disks to give out), MMOs, horror hosts, the end of the world in film form, ebooks, H.P. Lovecraft, producing audio theatre, giant atomic monsters, Steampunk, podcasting, and more. I saw costumes and props, many movie quality or better, made by amateurs. And so much more.

Now you will note, I said “introspective” above. And yet all I have mentioned so far is what I did. So what did I see that make me rethink where I am at, and what I am doing with my life? Well for one, I saw and met and talked to many successful authors. This forced me to look at how far I strayed from my writing plan and goals for this year, and it spurred me to up the ante at bit. I am now pushing myself to write 1000 words a day minimum rather than 3000 a week.

And on a related note, I want to tailor (no pun intended) my podcasting and blogging efforts to align better with my writing goals. Which is why I intend to focus my interview show on interviews with writers, musicians, and other artists of all kind.

I also need to embrace more of my crazy ideas story-wise. I realized this while participating in Jeremy C. Shipp’s Yard Gnome Army Fiction Writer’s Boot Camp, and I re-realized it while listen to the tail end of the Story Teller’s Jam hosted by Rob Callahan as well as listening to Rob read his amazing stories.

Another reason I want to streamline things toward a particular goal is to make it easier to market all the different things I do. With three shows of different focus, a web comic, this blog, and various other writing going on, I really need to find a better way to market stuff and focus. I think bring things more in alignment will help with that. (There is more to come on that topic.)

Later in the con, a discussion of Steampunk convinced me I want/need to embrace “punk” (i.e., D.I.Y.) more. Not because I want to re-invent the wheel, but because I miss actually doing things with my hands. And I have secretly always wanted to be a costumer. Steampunk affords that opportunity to me, in fact to anyone of any body size or type, because everyone looks good in Victorian and Edwardian fashion.

And I might actually try my hand at writing some Steampunk in the near future.

I also discovered I need more actually friends here in the area (and in general) with similar interests. I have a few, but not that many. I see now that there is more opportunity here than I though. I guess I need to work on abandoning my loner ways a bit more.

In the end, I had a great CON. It was exciting. It was filled with the free exchange of ideas by people with similar interests. It was innovative. I was inspired. And I know enough about Cricket, thanks to Paul Cornell, to be dangerous.

And I got to be a star and a nobody for a long weekend.

CONvergence!

Hey folks, I will be at CONvergence this weekend sitting panels and partying with his fellow fans and geeks. If you are attending CONvergence, please stop by and say “hi”. I would love to talk to you.

Here is my schedule for the CON.

Thursday (July 1st)

  • 3:30 PM – Audio Books
  • 10:00 PM – Monsters of HP Lovecraft
  • 11:30 PM – Whatever Happened to Horror Hosts?

Friday (July 2nd)

  • 11:00 AM – Reading 2.0
  • 2:00 PM – Giant Atomic Monsters
  • 3:30 PM – Bizarro: What Is It and Why Should I Care?
  • 5:00 PM – Ask a Podcaster Almost Anything!

Saturday (July 3rd)

  • 11:00 AM – Old Time Radio
  • 3:30 PM – Apocalypse Now!

Sunday (July 4th)

  • 9:30 AM – Producing Audio Theatre in a Nutshell
  • 12:30 PM – How to Play MMOs & Still Have a Life

I will also be on duty in the programming green room Friday and Saturday morning from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM.

I will try and tweet from the CON when I am on a panel or hanging out in a particular place so you can find me in you want to.

You can find the complete schedule at http://schedule.convergence-con.org/.