got me a gen-u-wine series now, i guess.

This is the color version of the current Amazon Kindle screensaver ad for the Frontlines series. I’m biased, of course, but I think it looks massively cool. Can’t be long now before I have enough books out for a boxed Frontlines set…

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Yes, there are indeed a million ways to die in the Frontlines universe. And I have listed them all alphabetically and then again by embarrassment factor in the appendices of Angles of Attack!

(The cover art is done by Marc Simonetti, by the way.)

how to story, in sixty seconds.

Yeah, it’s a commercial for a beer, but it’s also a perfect master class in storytelling. Setting, characterization, conflict/motivation, peril, emotional climax, satisfying resolution, denouement. Themes: friendship, loyalty, love. All squeezed into one minute. Not a second is wasted on anything that doesn’t drive the narrative.This is how you do Story.

you should totally support this anthology.

I’m a big fan of crowd-funded fiction anthologies. In fact, my second professional fiction sale ever was to a crowd-funded anthology, Alex Shvartsman’s “Unidentified Funny Objects”. (That was the short story “Cake Whores From Mars”, written on a dare from Chuck Wendig, and a crowd favorite at readings.) The UFO sale was a major motivation boost for me at the time, so I’ll always have a warm and fuzzy feeling when it comes to SF/F anthologies.

Allow me therefore to draw your attention to just such a crowd-funded SF/F anthology. This one is called “Athena’s Daughters: Women in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Vol.2”. My good friend and fellow Viable Paradise XII alum Tiffani Angus has a short story in there, and if the anthology has writers of Tiff’s caliber in it, I can assure you that it will be worth the money. Go check it out and see if it’s something you may want to drop some coin on, and support some great up-and-coming writing talent.

Athenas Daughters 2

now this is how you do a movie trailer.

I like movie franchise reboots in general when they take a tired or campy old property and breathe new life in it. (In recent years, the Batman and James Bond reboots come to mind as well-done examples.)

One property in desperate need of a good kick in the script is Godzilla, because the last effort in that direction left us with the utter stinker that was the 1990s US reboot. There’s a new version coming out in 2014, and it has a trailer now:

It looks dark and terrifying and not the least bit campy. If they can manage to not fuck it up, this one may be that elusive Un-Sucky American Godzilla Movie. If anything, it evokes the feel of the original 1954 Godzilla, which was also dark and scary (for the times) and not at all like the later cutesy dude-in-a-suit Godzilla flicks.

music recommendation.

I’m sort of a late adopter, but I love Pandora now. I was suffering from severe Playlist Fatigue Syndrome with my iTunes library, and Pandora has fixed that issue for me rather handily.

We paid for the annual subscription to get commercial-free streaming. It’s nice to have an infinite playlist matching a particular mood or kind of song, but it’s also damn nice to discover stuff you hadn’t heard of before. I like writing to movie soundtracks and instrumentals because there are no lyrics to distract me from what’s on the page, and some of the very best stuff I’ve found has been by the Nick Cave & Warren Ellis collaboration. The soundtrack to The Road, for example, is very powerful and haunting.

But the best of the Cave/Ellis albums so far is the soundtrack to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It’s a great, great album of elegiac mood music, and the last track (“Song for Bob”) is worth the purchase price of the album all by itself.

I’ve discovered so many of my favorite writers or musicians this way–there’s a sample or a free copy available online, you sample, you like, you buy. Reading the free copy of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, for example, resulted in me buying all the rest of Scalzi’s books with cash money, so I’d say that the “First One’s Free!” strategy really does pay off.

just around the riverbend.

When we moved to New Hampshire, we tossed our joint collection of CDs into a bunch of boxes. After our move, they languished in the garage for a good long while before I got around to sorting through them and ripping worthy stuff into iTunes.

One of the CDs I found in the wife’s half of the collection was the soundtrack to the Disney movie Pocahontas. Being an open-minded fellow and a sucker for movie soundtracks, I checked the whole thing out from start to finish several times. Half the tracks are instrumental, and the other half are the vocal tracks of the musical performances. The CD is really good from an artistic and technical perspective–both the instrumental and the vocal portions–but the stuff that really stood out to me was the parts featuring Judy Kuhn.

I’m fiercely attracted to talent, and even though I don’t have a finger on the pulse of the musical or classical music scene, I know that Judy Kuhn was–and is–a major talent. She performed all the singing parts of Pocahontas in the movie. The eye-opening contrast was the song “Colors of the Wind”, particularly the two versions on the CD. You see, the commercially known version is performed by Vanessa Williams, and that’s the one that took off in the ’90s and won a shit-ton of awards. The movie version is performed by Judy Kuhn, and it didn’t have the commercial exposure of the Vanessa Williams version. As a piece of vocal performance, however, it’s the far superior musical accomplishment. Vanessa Williams has a lovely voice, to be sure, but her version of “Colors of the Wind” is a very un-subtle 1990s ballad that hasn’t aged very well, especially when contrasted with Judy Kuhn’s no-frills performance of the same song. Kuhn’s classically trained soprano just blows Williams’ version away in its power and simplicity. No orchestral bombast, no tricks, just a strong voice and a clear, powerful tune. I just love raw displays of talent like that, and it makes me wish I could carry a tune.

Anyway, that’s what art is about, isn’t it? It makes us stand in awe and want to emulate it, makes us strive to transcend the caffeine-dependent lumps of inertia we are, at least for a little while. I don’t call myself a spiritual person, but if there is such a thing as spirituality, it’s what I feel when I listen to Judy Kuhn’s soprano belt out a beautiful song. Art may not generate stuff to eat or structures to shelter us, but it’s as essential to our species as grain cultivation. It makes the whole survival business worthwhile.