Friday, December 28, 2012

Talk about a Resolution (an extra set of fives)

By Russel D McLean

Yes, I managed to miss the big list of five of the year (which were awesome, by the by), so here is my self imposed penance: a little extra post in the midst of the holidays.

In a few days time, it will be Hogmanay. My plans are simple, and involved a goodly amount of wine (and perhaps some whisky). But its got me thinking about some things, notably where I’ve been and where I’m going.

So lets start by looking back at five highlights, or at least important events (for me) of 2012:

1) Back to the USA:

I wasn’t at Bouchercon this year, but I did go to NYC and Toronto to accompany The Literary Critic on the small tour for her US PB release of BETWEEN THE SHEETS. It was strange to see it all from the other side, both the highs and the lows, and I came back with a sense that as much as the author has to work for a tour, so too do the bookstores. You get out as much as you put in, and it was NYC’s Bluestockings Bookshop who really impressed me.

2) Book Number The Third: FATHER CONFESSOR was released in the UK by Five Leaves and took to the digital field as well. The book got a lot of nice notice and I’ve had a lot of support for it via email and social media. After three years in the wilderness, it felt good to be back.

3) The Good Son hits Italy: L’Impicatto hit the shores of Italy with thanks to Revolver. A great cover by a Vertigo Artist and some very nice reactions, at least through what Google Translate tells me.

4) World Tour of Scotland: I hit a lot of places to promote Father Confessor. Some were successful in terms of attendance, others less so. But it was all great fun. I think I did one event too many, of course (At least once, I was befuddled and shattered by my time on the road, and I was saved by the grace and smarts of a fellow author) but by God it was so much fun and I remembered that the fun of events is meeting and entertaining readers. This was one of the most fun tours I’ve done yet, and what I want to do next is get back to the US for another roadtrip tour there like I did in ‘10.

5) More Work: Yes, I still have the day job but ‘12 saw me stretch my repertoire with a few extra writing related jobs that bought in the money. All of these have been great fun and more importantly have helped me to better understand myself as a writer. With thanks to all those who helped me get these gigs; they’ve been great fun and I look forward to doing more!

Looking Forward

My new years resolutions, or at least those I can talk about here:

1) New book: It may have been three years between The Lost Sister and Father Confessor, but I have an early draft of MOTHERS OF THE DISAPPEARED on hand and a possible delivery date. I’ll keep you up to date as we go on but I hope 2013 sees this new novel find a home.

2) More reviews: I have abandoned Crime Scene Scotland for much of the past year, but I really want to start reviewing again. Its a tough gig to do when paying stuff keeps cropping up, but I love reviewing and there’s so many damn good books out there to talk about.

3) No BSP. Or at least very little. One of my pet peeves of 2012 as a reader are the author who spam other authors and twitter/facebook stream with BSP and utter bullshit. More often than not it puts me off, so why would I subject you to it? Of course I’ll let everyone know when things are happening, but I’m not ramming it down anyone’s throat. Ever.

4) New shorts. Its been so long since I’ve written any short stories, I need to get back on the horse. I love shorts. And I loved doing the e-special Death of Ronnie Sweets last year so I really want to get back on the horse.

5) Back to the USA. This may be hard to do (unless someone wants to pay me a buttload of money) but I really want to do Bouchercon this year. I miss my US friends and readers (sometimes and often the same thing).  So somehow, I’m gonna get there. By hook or by crook.

Anyway, those are my public resolutions for this year. I have a few more private ones. But they’ve all been influenced by my experience this last year. I have to say, despite a few bumps, 2012 has been a great year spent with some great people. Lets hope 2013 goes just as well!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Our Favorite Fives of 2012

Joelle Charbonneau's Top 5 Children’s books

Since I have a recently raised to 5-years-old child in my house, most of my reading this year has been aloud and involved books with pictures.  But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t as entertaining for me as they are for my son.  My 5 favorite discoveries of the 2012 are:

1) Goldilocks vs the Three Dinosaurs as retold by: Mo Willems – If you aren’t familiar with Mo Willem, you will be by the end of this list.  This I the newest book by an author who deserves every single starred review he has garnered.  This book is fun to look at.  It is also hysterically funny to read.  In fact, I think I might have enjoyed it more than the tot.  Perhaps we will read it again tonight so I can be sure.

2) Dinos Are Forever (The Adventures of Jo Schmo) by Greg Trine and Frank W Dormer.  – This is a chapter book meant for mid-grade readers about a fourth grade girl who receives a superhero cape in the mail from her uncle and decides to give superheroing a whirl.  With a drooling, side-kick dog and fabulous evil guy laughs (Mwa-ha-ha),  this book has been read several times and no doubt will be read again soon.

3) Froggy Builds a Tree House by: Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz – My son loves the entire Froggy series and was thrilled when we bought the paperback of this through his school this year.  Froggy is tons of fun.

4) Can I Play Too? by: Mo Willems – Gerald and Piggie are best friends and all of their adventures are worth reading.  This one came out in 2010, but we just discovered it, much to our delight.  If you have a child in your life, please check out this series and the Pigeon books.  You will be glad you did.

5) The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie (The Guardians of Childhood) by: William Joyce.  -  Yes, this is one of the books that inspired the Guardians movie.  I haven’t seen the movie, but my son loves both books that are out.  The pictures are lovely and the story is filled with action.  The story is a little dark since it is about guarding children from nightmares, but my son got a bang out of it.

Dave White's Top Five Beers

1. Kane Head High IPA:  Jersey’s own and my favorite IPA.  Hoppy goodness.
2. Carton 077XX Double IPA:  Another Jersey IPA.  More hoppy goodness.
3. Founders Breakfast Stout:  A classic.
4. Schlafly American IPA:  Finally available in NJ!
5. Southern Tier 2X Milk Stout:  Sweet, solid, goodness

Scott D. Parker’s Top Five

Redshirts by John Scalzi – If a book can not only make me cry while reading it but also make me cry when I’m trying to talk about it, that’s a great book in my opinion.

Fatman on Batman podcast – Kevin Smith’s regular podcast devoted solely to the Caped Crusader and interviewing the creative types that have brought him to life. This is the most passionate, entertaining podcast on my iPod and I’ve listened to just about every episode more than once, the Mark Hamill entry a full three times.

Monster by KISS – This 20th studio album by my first, favorite rock band has echoes and homages to all their past decades of sound. They may not have reinvented the rock and roll wheel, but I sure do love their raucous sound and brash style. Looking forward to the tour next year.

The Movie Quatrain – There were 4 movies I circled on the calendar as 2012 dawned that I wanted to see for different reasons. I enjoyed all of them. “John Carter”: to see, on film, the Mars of Edgar Rice Burroughs come to life was thrilling. “Avengers”: in some ways, the quintessential *comic book* movie and the most fun I had in a theater all year. “The Dark Knight Rises”: A fine, messy, yet poignant way to end the excellent Batman trilogy. “Lincoln”: Seeing our 16th president literally come to life was utterly engrossing.

Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith – This was my big biography for the year and it happened to be my first about Ike. Good, even-handed account of the general’s life, with special comparisons made to President Grant, our other famous war general. Learned a lot I didn’t know about Eisenhower and my respect for him has only increased.

Jay Stringer's List Of Stuff

1) The Duck Tails Theme Tune
2) Raiders Of The Lost Ark
3) Knock Knock
4) Who's there?
5) Pennance By Dan B. O'Shea
6) Do The Struggle by Franz Nicolay

Brian Lindenmuth’s Top Five

I decided to break up this list of recommended things I like in 2012 into six categories: movies, TV, music, comics, print only book, and ebook only.

The two movies I enjoyed the most in 2012 were Argo and The Avengers. Argo was a tense thriller that shows just how solid of a director Ben Affleck has become. Alan Arkin and John Goodman were laugh out loud funny and no one ever had so much fun saying  "argo fuck yourself" as Arkin did here. The Avengers was one of the best movie  experiences I've had. The boy and I saw it in a sold out show and the audience was pulled along for the ride and it was a great collective experience. I don't know if the experience of watching The Avengers will be the same at home but I do recommend both movies.

We've been playing some catch-up with TV shows lately and watched the first two seasons of Justified. It quickly became a favorite. There is a lot to like about Justified though it has its faults too (the biggest being that the other two Marshall's are woefully under developed for two people who are in the main credits). Raylan is a great character and so is Boyd, who walks that fine line so you don't know he's believing the God game or not.  From top to bottom this is a great cast of characters and actors, the writing and dialog are up to Elmore Leonard's standards. The second season is stunning with Mags Bennet standing tall as of the great characters of the medium.

Where the hell did The Alabama Shakes come from and why did they take so long getting here.  Their EP last year was concentrated greatness and the full length this year didn't slacken the pace at all.  Hell of an album.

I'm reading a book right now that is available in print only, Uncle B's Drive-In Fiction which is a collection of six novellas by Jimmy Callaway, Alec Cizak, CJ Edwards, Garnett Elliott, Matthew C Funk, and David James Keaton. So far I've only read the first two novellas in the collection and have high hopes for the others. You should check it out too.

My ebook only pick is Hot Wire by Gary Carson. Carson's first novel was, at times, a little too dense for its own good. Hot Wire is more streamlined and works better. It is a crazy novel that is like Repo Man (without the aliens) told in a New World Order setting.

Scalped by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guéra came to end earlier this year after 60 issues.  I hate to compare to other mediums when this clearly stands so well on its own but sometimes you must when trying to make an introduction. Scalped plays out with the type of quality that one has come to associate with this golden age of TV that we are in. All of the quality and long term story telling possibilities that we've seen played out on the screen play themselves out in a different visual way here. Don't let comics scare you, this is a brilliant.

Steve Weddle's Top Five

1) Favorite Retired Five: George Brett
2) Favorite Liquor Five: Fifth of Jack Daniel's
3) Favorite Movie Five: Five Easy Pieces
4) Favorite Book Five: Slaughterhouse-Five
5) Favorite Lunch at El Caballo: The Number Five