All posts by talon007

NUCLEAR mELTDOWN AND OTHER MUSINGS.

I don’t write a lot of reviews.

I wish I had more time since it’d make filling my blog and websites with content, much easier. But there hasn’t been a lot of media (books, movies, TV) that has really grabbed my attention.

Until Chernobyl.

For those who haven’t heard of this HBO miniseries or the event that is its namesake, take a moment and continue reading. It’s worth giving this series a try.

For many of us of a certain age, the name Chernobyl brings up sketchy memories of the nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union, near the city of Pripyat. Grainy black and white TV images of helicopters dumping sand onto the crippled reactor were what most of us remember since the Soviet government was determined to downplay the seriousness of the accident and were very controlling in what information was disseminated to the West.

The TV series starts off with a bang, a literal bang as we witness the explosion of reactor core #4 from the window of one of the city’s firefighters and his wife. From the first moments until the final scene, this series had me. Typically, I multi-task while watching a show, but not this one. Not certain about the show, I initially wasn’t expecting nothing more than another quality HBO series. Something that would be a good time, but forgettable overtime. What I got, was five hours of some of the best damn television I’ve ever seen. And once wasn’t enough. Since the first episode, I’ve watched and re-watched the episodes many times, totally engrossed in the brilliantly written and acted performances.

We see much of the story through the eyes of Valery Legasov, a leading expect in nuclear physics in the country. He is first to grasp the scope of the emergency, but more importantly, it’s through his eyes that we see the true nature of the Soviet government. While plant and energy officials attempt to downplay the event, without any regard to the dangers, Legasov forces the truth on the country’s leadership, even though they don’t want to hear it. He quickly learns that his real struggle is not against putting out the fires in the reactor core and containing the radiation, but getting the Soviet leadership to understand the potential dangers.

Legasov is played beautifully by Jared Harris. An accomplished character actor, Harris maybe best known for his portrayal of Lane Pryce on Madmen. In Chernobyl, Harris perfectly plays a man who is both timid and naïve in how his government operates, while also being desperate and determined to save lives and his country.

He is joined by Stellan Skargard, in what I think may be his finest performance. Skargard plays Boris Shcherbina, a no-nonsense deputy prime minister. At the start, he holds little regard for Legasov and like most in the government, downplays the seriousness of the situation. But in episode two, there is a moment as the men talk in their hotel room when the truth sinks in to Shcherbina. Legasov says that the amount of radiation they’ve been exposed to in their short time near the plant has reduced their life expectancy to around five years. The way Shcherbina’s expression shows that realization sinking in is priceless. That moment is so powerful, it should win him and the series an Emmy.

With such great performances all around, I’m not going to try to discuss them all. From the main characters to the one-offs, every performance is a work of art. The settings are bleak and authentic, making the viewer feel like they are watching a show made in the 80’s. The music is the perfect blend of eerie, while some scenes simply use the sounds of a Geiger counter to remind the viewer of the invisible threat to those on screen.

Having watched various documentaries on the accident over the years, I had a basic understanding of the scope of the disaster. But this series shows you the true size and nature of the Chernobyl accident. The human toll and the impact on lives are repeatedly hammered home, in each episode. Not just the loss of life and property, but the emotional impact it had on those working to clean up. That, plus the incredible cost for cleanup, resettling the homeless, and the impact on region.

The series presses that the real danger from the accident wasn’t radiation. It was, in fact, the lack of leadership and honesty from every level of the government. The event showed the Soviet people and the rest of the world how the Soviets tried to cover things up, until they were forced to admit the truth.  Watching the politicians denying and covering up their mistakes is as maddening to the viewer as it is to Legasov. Mikhail Gorbachev, last leader of the Soviet Union before its collapse, credited Chernobyl with a big part in the nation’s fall.

Let me just say that this show is brilliant, terrifying, and one of the best shows on TV. Do yourself a favor and watch.

Some thoughts on Game of Thrones.

Some thoughts on Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones is done and immediately the complaining began. After waiting for months, the anticipation for the final season had built for us to an all time high. A high that I quickly realized the writers could never top.

So I watched this last season and felt bad, not for the characters but for the writers.

They were given an impossible task, six episodes to wrap-up years of character development, multiple plot-lines, and watch as they dove into unknown territory. What also didn’t help was the lack of source material. The last two books in the series are not out, and the direction Martin planned was unclear. Even though he gave some input, Martin’s past writing proved a perfect crutch for the writers to lean on, during the earlier seasons, not so this year.

Most people are complaining that the show didn’t end they thought it should. Many were upset with Dany’s dark turn, even thought it’d been foreshadowed throughout the entire series. Many complained that not enough characters were killed during the Battle of Winterfell, despite the fact that we saw a lot of deaths. Thing is, if every show ended the way we wanted, why bother watching it?

Surprises and plot turns are what make complicated stories like GoT great. We’ve loved them earlier in the series, so why hate them at the end? Is it because it is the end? I think so. We can handle an unpopular plot twist in early seasons because we know that the writers will explain or correct things in the seasons to come. Good writing can explain why that surprise in past seasons was needed and necessary. But they can’t do that with the last season or the last show.

I read several posts, after the show ended last night, where people complained about the writing. Some said they could do better.

Really? If that’s the case, why aren’t you writing? If you think you can do better, give this simple exercise a try. Write an outline for season eight that does the following, concludes all aspects of the story in six episodes, wraps up all the plot-lines that’d built up since season one, continues the character development of all the characters and uses that to the final season’s benefit, and most importantly, end the series in a way that carries on the show’s tradition of shocking plot twists and surprises, while not upsetting anyone. And that final part, I think you’ll find is impossible. Trust me on this, you’ll never be able to make everyone happy.

So as for me, I’m happy with the ending. Things didn’t go the way I’d hoped and that’s okay. I’ve enjoyed this ride for years and now, I’ll look forward to the next series that captures our hearts.

Getting Caught up

It’s been a while since I updated this, so here is a recap since the last time I posted.

After Southern Festival of books, I attended a few more conventions before wrapping up 2018. The Full Moon and Horror Fest turned out to be a snoozer. It was split into two locations, and they were not close to one another. Attendance was lite as were the sales.

Hallowcon was its typical good time. Joe McKeel knows how to throw a party.  The Nashville Comic Con was fun, although attendance was lite as well. Still, the networking was great at all three.

Then with 2019 starting up, I got to put on my big boy pants and play the part of Master of Ceremonies at Chattacon 44. And by play the part, I mean speaking at the Opening Ceremonies. I wonder if anyone told them I’m terrified of public speaking?  Apparently not.

Still, a good time was had by all, and luckily, I didn’t goofy up on anyone’s name.

2019 Has a lot in store. More conventions, more books, and all that. Let’s see how this goes.

Southern Festival of Books – After action report

Southern Festival of Books after-show report.

 

For the past several years, I’ve been selling books at the Southern Festival of Books. That is, I was running the booth for the Nashville Writer’s Meetup. While I’d sell my own books there, I was also responsible for pitching books from a dozen or more other authors. A month or so before those shows, I’d start collecting books from the other authors, price them, and then spend weeks afterwards returning the unsold books and distributing the earnings.

It was a lot of work for very little in return for me.

This year, I wanted to do something different. So with my partner in crime, Nikki Nelson-Hicks, pitching in half, I got a booth. Given my sales from the NWM’s booth in past years, I knew I’d have to hustle to make enough in sales to cover the booth fee. But, I felt up to the challenge.

I have to admit, not dealing with everyone else’s books this year felt like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Instead of a month or more of prep time, I only needed a couple of days. Books were priced, signs were printed, and boxes packed. The weather forecast called for a wonderful weekend. I was ready for anything.

The Weather

Friday was a beautiful day. My youngest daughter, Amelia, helped me set up the booth. Nikki and her husband Brian showed up and got her half of the booth arranged in no time flat. The sky was clear and the temperature fell within that perfect Fall range, not warm but not cool. Just perfect.

Saturday on the other hand was mostly cloudy and cold. Not freezing, but the temperature dropped to a level that made it uncomfortable for everyone. Did it hurt sales? Hard to say but foot traffic wasn’t where I’d expected it to be.

Sunday sucked. The forecast called for overnight rain on Saturday, continuing into Sunday but clearing out by lunchtime. That’s what all the experts sadi.

No. The rain fell all day. Heavy at times and light enough to be annoying at others. By early afternoon, the moisture in the air began to take a toll on the books, causing the covers to curl and the books to warp. So we call it a day and packed up before more damage could be done.

Thing about Nashville is that it can’t figure out what season it is. Summer, Winter, or Monsoon.

Sales

Having run the NWMG for years, I had an idea of what kind of foot traffic to expect and a rough idea of what my sales should be. Friday, we had a good turnout, capitalizing on the lunchtime crowd. I moved a fair number of books, roughly equal to what the total Friday sales were for the NWMG’s booth, but this time, all the sales were mine.

Saturday was good despite the chill in the air. While good, the number of people passing by the booth wasn’t impressive as in years gone by. We later realized why this was, but I’ll get to that.

Despite the rain, Sunday turned out to be a good sales day, with my numbers beating the ones from the sunny and warm Friday. I’ve noticed this trend before. If it is raining, wet, and miserable, I’ll sell books. No idea why.

The setup

In the past, the event planners utilized the whole of Legislative Plaza for the event, with all of the event and vendor booths set up together. Last year, they expanded some of the bigger booths, such as Parnassus and the SFoB booths. This led to pushing some vendors into booths on Anne Dallas Dudley Blvd. This year, far more booths were relegated to Dudley. While the road connects the main branch of the public library, where the panels were being held, and Legislative Plaza, it didn’t have the same number of passersby as the main plaza.

One Friday, we learned that Mckays Books, who’d been a staple at the event for years, pulled out due to being forced to set up on Dudley Blvd. They saw no reason to lose money by being pushed to the sidelines. Another large book seller reportedly had their sells drop to a third of the usual sales figures, last year after being pushed on to the side street.

When I did escape my booth and wandered around, it was clear that the bulk of the traffic was staying in the plaza and not exploring the vendors on the side street.

 

Thoughts

I’m happy with the sales figures. While I’d love to have made a profit, I am content that I broke even. Nikki did well, but I’m not sure where her final numbers fell.

All this leads me to wonder what could have been if our booth has in the plaza instead of the side street. Will I go back? Maybe. But it may depend on whether or not we can negotiate the location of a booth. That, however is something for next year.

Upcoming events

I have a busy few months coming up. If you attend any of the conventions, come say hi.

September 29th & 30th      Clarksville Dr. Who/ Steampunk con

October 12th – 14th     Southern Festival of Books -Nashville

October 19th -21st  Full Moon Tattoo & Horror Festival – Nashville

October 26th – 28th    Hallocon – Dalton, Ga.

December 8th & 9th    Nashville Comic Con

January 25th – 27th    Chattacon  – Chattanooga, Tn.

 

Updates or I’m sooooo behind on things.

Updates or I’m sooooo behind on things.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog, so I thought I’d post some updates for my works in progress. A lot has been going on, so I’m behind on some projects.

 

Voodoo Rumors book 4: Wild Pooch.   This chapter in the series finds Dietrich and Natalie working to figure out who is killing young women in Nashville’s south side. They know it’s a werewolf, but which one? The book is about halfway completed.

 

Voodoo Rumors books 1, 2, and 3: audio books. Contracts have been signed on the first three books to record them for Audible.com. Murdoch Pennington is the reader. I’ve already listened to the first part of The Blood Red Ruby and it sounds great! I think you’ll love it.

 

Keely: My first self-published work was the novella Keely. It has also been one of my best sellers. But with every first attempt at something, a few errors crept in during the process. A re-edited version is in the works, along with a new cover. Look for it in time for the Dr. Who/Steampunk Convention in Clarksville, TN in late September.

 

The Adventures of Anastasia Hawk. I’d written a short steampunk story a few years ago, based on the mother of the Hawk girls from my novel, The Lightning Bolts of Zeus. The Celeste Affair has been a good seller and I’ve had a number of folks asking to see more of Anastasia’s adventures. Therefore, I’m working on a short story collect, due out by end of the year.

 

Upcoming releases from Pro-Se Productions: These anthologies should be out soon and each has one of my short stories.

High Adventure History 2:  My story is A Life for a Life. It is a tale of the infamous fem fatal, Mata Hari and her big adventure to deal with an out of control German General.

Black Pulp 2: My story, A Wolf in the PussyCat Casino is another Black Wolf story.

 

Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming works.

 

The Last Encore – Voodoo Rumors book 2

The Last Encore – Voodoo Rumors book 2

I’m proud to announce that the second book in the Voodoo Rumors series is now available. The Last Encore follows Thomas Dietrich and his girl Natalie as they work to solve a rash of vampiric killings outside of a popular Nashville nightclub. The clues all lead to sinister forces working in the music industry, and their connection to an old blues singer named Spence Danger.

Dietrich and Natalie find their lives on the line as they follow the trail to a dark conclusion.

 

The Last Encore follows up on the characters and landscape first established in book one of the Voodoo Rumors series, The Blood Red Ruby.  While the series follows a loose timeline, each book is written to be a stand-alone story, allowing readers to jump into the series at any point.

 

Click here to Purchase

Origin – A review

Why do I keep doing this to myself?

God help me…  I’ve always been a fan of Dan Brown’s type of stores, the puzzles, the history, and the chase to solve the mystery or gain the ultimate knowledge first. That being said, Brown’s love-hate relationship with the English language drives me crazy. And when I say hate, I’m not referring to a strong dislike.

No, no… Brown demonstrates his hatred of the English language, much in the way an Irish gang-member might demonstrate it, by tying it to a tree, shooting it in the gut and then smiling and softly chuckling as he watches it slowly bleed out.

But then again, who am I to cast judgement?

Origin is the fifth book to feature Robert Langdon, Brown’s Harvard professor of religious symbology. After facing down every conspiracy theorist’s top ten villains, the Freemasons, the Catholics, the uber wealthy to name a few, the story has him facing peril again from the Church, the Spanish Government, and possibly an A.I. created by his old pupil.

In every one of Brown’s books, Langdon goes after some lofty bit of knowledge that’s destined to change the world. This book is no exception.

Summoned to the Guggenhein Museum Bilbao to attend an event where his former student, Edmond Kirsch plans to announce a recent discovery that will alter our perception of the world, our future, and organized religion. Needless to say, Kirsch is killed and the hunt is on for his Earth-shattering discovery.

I’m not going to go into details about what follows. Instead, I’ll say this about the story as a whole. I loved every bit of it, up to the closing. The ending left me unsatisfied and I found most of the revelations, predictable. While using a magnifying glass on the writing, word choices, and Brown’s particular style will show a lot of flaws, the story is fun to read, moves at a good pace, and gives the reader a good feel of the environment Langdon is moving through.

This is a far cry from the last book in the series, Inferno, where Brown did his best to cram everything about Daunte’s Inferno into a mysterious chase across Florence. A chase which felt more like reading a tour guide to the city rather than a painfully bad mystery.

Brown’s first two books in the series, Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, had reasonably good and satisfying ending.  The Lost Symbol did not and Inferno was just a train wreck. The reader should take the ending for what it is, not a perfect wrap-up to the mystery, but something to make you think and speculate with like-minded friends.

The Blood Red Ruby – two weeks away.

The official release of The Blood Red Ruby, the first in the Voodoo Rumors series is just two weeks away.

One gem, five men, forty-eight hours of sheer terror.

Book two, The Last Encore will be released in March and then a new book in the series, every other month for the rest of 2018.

If the series is successful, then I’ll continue writing more for 2019.

The series mixes the hardboiled P.I. genre with the darkest elements of the paranormal. Set in 1950’s Nashville, Thomas Dietrich is cynical yet idealistic; amorous yet full of despair. He’s a man capable of harsh violence and unfettered compassion in a world where the darkest things walk the streets of his city at night.