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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Virtual is Becoming Actual!

That's right--Virtual Pulp is coming to paperback! Dig that snazzy new cover.

I dreamed up this endeavor many years ago, wanting to bring readers the sort of exciting adventures (in various genres) once available in the pulp magazines. Think Conan, Tarzan, The Black Bat, Buck Rogers, Sam Spade, John get the picture, right?

Here's the back cover blurb:

From medieval Europe to Reconstruction; from a post-apocalyptic future to an alien world's Dark Ages, the drums pound in adrenaline-charged unison. Strap yourself in for a wild escape from the mundane, into adventures that transcend space and time. 

Allan of Barnsdale pledges loyalty to a doomed knight in exchange for inspiration to craft his tale of King Arthur...never imagining they are en route to an ambush by outlaws in Sherwood Forest. 

Pick Garver returns to his hometown after the Civil War a hero to some, a turncoat to most, and less likely to be with his true love than when he left. 

Three warriors from vastly different races must battle a sorcerer, an invading armada, and each other, while desperately seeking honor in a world where treachery is the norm. 

Mechanic, armchair engineer and hot-dog pilot Rebble Rauser and his fellow citizens of the "Barbarian Nation" protect their sovereignty with blazing wing guns; but an old rival of Rebble's makes a surprise visit during a war in a chaotic American future. 


Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Seventh Compass Point of Death by Richard Sanders

I'm tempted to classify this book as "hard-boiled," though it's not really a detective novel. It reads like one. The plot unfolds like one. The main character draws as much sympathy as Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, Mike hammer or Kinky Friedman. There are clues, surprises and twists... but not a mystery, per se. Still, I hesitate to call it a thriller, despite the terrorist plot and surrounding intrigue.
Whatever genre this book belongs to, it is a gripping, fast read.

Our hero, Quinn McShane, similar to author Richard Sanders, spent some time as an unwilling guest of state government before moving on to a career in the media. Through a once-casual acquaintance, he is ensnared in a terrorist conspiracy involving key players who are not quite what you expect. McShane is a bit too gullible a few times, as the classic hard-boiled flatfeet are on occasion (and real people like me are way too often). He also commits the cardinal sin of pulling a gun when he's not fully prepared to use it. But he redeems himself with decisive action and gutsy gambits at the point of no return.

The terrorists turn out to be a rather pathetic crew--but no less dangerous for their pathos. Not grim, fanatic killers, but more like neurotic delinquents who might have turned to "normal" lives of Big Apple crime, if not surrounded by a powderkeg rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites. Sanders cleverly portrays their ignorance of their own faith, and it is clear that McShane has studied the Koran (or is it Q'uran?) more than they have.

In keeping with the hard-boiled tradition (and I should point out here that I don't know whether Sanders intended to follow that tradition), McShane's romantic involvement during the plot is rather devoid of romance. And the point may not have been romance anyway, but just the reasonable development one could expect between two people in the circumstances McShane and Shala find themselves in. There is minimal emotional investment for either character...or the reader.

I can't count how many novels I've read that were set in New York City. Few of them, however, made that metropolis come alive for this reader the way Seventh Compass Point of Death does. Sanders evidently knows a lot about NYC, and enlightens while painting the backdrop without overwhelming the reader with details.

One final note: I seldom find the title of a book to influence me far for good or bad. But this title fulfills a savvy double entendre' that I really, really appreciate. Just one more thing to look forward to when you read this book.

US Military Jargon Part 1

Thought I might share some of the info off my website in between reviews and other blogs. I know I missed a lot in this glossary because I occasionally remember a term I should have included...but then I forget before my next chance to edit the pages.

Folowing is a list of GI jargon, spread over several pages. It is certainly not exhaustive, and perhaps not even contemporary for 2010, but much of it is used by characters in Hell and Gone. Some fairly common terms are included. I mean no insult to anyone's intelligence, but it turns out some fairly intelligent readers are unfamiliar with what I had assumed to be household words.

100mph tape: Similar to duct tape, but O.D. green, and strong enough to patch bulletholes in helicopter rotorblades, which spin at about 100mph.
201 File: A serviceman's dossier, reviewed when considering promotions or disciplinary actions.
4th Point of Contact (or 4th Point, for short): The backside, which is the 4th body part to hit the ground during a properly executed PLF.
5.56 NATO: 5.56mm ammunition. Same as caliber .223 Remington, which the M16 and many other assault rifles are chambered for.
550 cord: High-strength nylon parachute cord.
7.62 NATO: 7.62mm ammunition. Same as caliber .308 Winchester, which many medium machineguns and some main battle rifles are still chambered for.
782 gear: Or "deuce gear." USMC equivalent to US Army's "TA-50"--the helmet, canteens/carriers, ammo pouches, load-bearing equipment, etc., issued upon a marine's assignment to a company.
80pax: A "cattle truck"--theoretically capable of hauling 80 men plus their weapons and gear.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm Not Whining. Really, I'm Not.

I just read one of J.A. Konrath's blogs, in which he shares some sales data from his books and ebooks. Inspirational stuff, on the one hand.

Said blog, along with other observations I've been making, have highlighted two changes I need to make if I want to improve my own sales:

1) This one hurts, but it looks like I need to put Virtual Pulp #2 back on the backburner's backburner, and concentrate exclusively on novels. As much as I want to spearhead a revival of pulp adventure magazines, readers are just not as interested in shorter-than-novel-length fiction. It's not as profitable, and I'm in a spot now where I need to maximize profits for whatever I invest my time and effort in. As I write this, I'm working with Amazon to bring Virtual Pulp #1 to paperback. Sadly, I don't know when or if I can sacrifice the time needed to continue the series in either ebook or paperback.

2) I need to get more novels published, to have a wider presence and increase my chances of having my work discovered by readers in my target audience(s). This is the very thing I want to do, truth be told. At any given time, I have at least a dozen story ideas fighting for consumption of my creative energy and I'm going crazy for want of typing the words. But the struggle for my family's economic survival has me occupationally trapped. I work 12-16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, and have no shortage of fires to put out when I get an alleged day off. What I've been doing is paring down my sack time to be productive when I should be sleeping...but lately all that time has gone to marketing, not to writing. My marketing efforts have eked out some modest results--enough that I hesitate to neglect it to pursue what's really in my heart (writing).

So I'm caught in a web of Catch-22s, it seems. I know something needs to change. I just don't know how it can.

OK, maybe I am whining a little bit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Gotta See the Expendables

I've seen the title here and there, but didn't know what the movie's about. With a title like The Expendables, I would expect a war movie (in some of my blurbs/synopsis of Hell and Gone I even used the term "expendable" to describe the Has-Beens). But then I've learned not to assume anyone in Hollywood uses logic--even when choosing a title for a film.

Well, evidently, The Expendables is indeed the kind of flick the title suggests--with a comedic approach, that is. Kinda' The Dogs of War with a Lethal Weapon groove. Not since The Substitute can I recall a flick with good-guy mercs. And the cast! Almost...almost the dream cast I used to joke about for the Ultimate Summer Blockbuster Artistically Questionable Action Flick. Stallone; Swarzenegger; Lundgren; Jet Li...

(My own cast extended to Norris; Bronson; Eastwood and Jim Brown. OK, so considering human aging, the feasibility of this fantasy action flick evaporated after the 1980s. Still, they could have added Chuck Norris. Should have--obviously acting talent isn't the primary criteria. I suggest you do a Google search, BTW: "where is Chuck Norris?")

I feel a powerful magnetic pull from the cloud of testosterone which must be hanging over my neighborhood movie theater. How can I free myself from the missus for a couple hours?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Out of the Ashes by William W. Johnstone

I like the post-apocalyptic genre. Like reading, watching, and writing in it. Unfortunately, a lot of it is pap. After hearing much word-of-mouth about Johnstone and his "tri-states philosophy," I hoped this would be one of the better flagships for the genre.

The nuclear war is triggered by a coup-gone-wrong involving rogue military hawks (think Jack T. Ripper with scads of accomplices). Ben Raines survives the dirty bomb holocaust, as do many others...inexplicably. He begins touring the ravaged southeastern region, intending to document the nuclear devastation for a memoir, but is unwittingly crowned the leader of a new resistance movement. Idaho, Montana and Wyoming become his empire. But he and his followers are headed for a showdown with the other 47 states.

The opening act was rather tedious to wade through. I suppose the convoluted, improbable conspiracy plot was supposed to rivet me to the pages with suspenseful intrigue as it unfolded, but I really wanted to just skim. Once the missiles struck home, and we got into Ben Raines' point-of-view, it was smoother going.

If Johnstone ever explained why some people survived the radiation and some didn't, I missed it. I thought it rather unrealistic that electricity was still on for so long after a nuclear strike, and that Raines never had trouble finding gas for his vehicles. There is some mention of looting, I think, but our hero never had any trouble finding weapons, ammo, gear, food or clean water. Also, just like Captain Kirk, women threw themselves at him pretty much everywhere he went. Nubile, supermodel-looking women, of course who "didn't like sleeping alone." All but twice, though, Raines and his current squeeze intuitively sensed that their affair would only be casual and temporary...and that was just okie-dokie with both parties. Such is to be expected from the genre, I suppose.

I can go on nit-picking for a while, but I'll try to limit my exclamations of disbelief to just two more elements:

1) His dialog is just outright painful in many places. I have come to expect this problem with inexperienced/immature (yet passionate) writers, but am REALLY annoyed when I see a successful, traditionally published author...of a popular series, no less...getting away with it. How did this ever get published as is?

2) Raines is a Vietnam veteran from a super-secret elite unit which, I guess, would supposedly surpass Delta Force. But at the story's inception he is an alcoholic novelist. Almost everyone he encounters has heard of him, and read his books. And everyone is convinced he is destined to be the savior who unites freedom-loving folks and builds a utopia out of the ashes. Evidently his greatness is plain for everyone to see--everyone but his humble self. He ignores the pleas for his elevation to leadership, but is finally drug to his destiny, kicking and screaming (OK, perhaps I exagerate a wee bit). His greatness is so powerful as to inspire slavish, blind devotion in all the good guys he encounters. Apparently his alcohol-heavy diet and lethargic lifestyle have kept him in supreme fighting condition, too. I don't have a PHD in Group Dynamics or anything like that, but I've studied history, observed the surrounding culture, and worked in/with conglomerations of human beings both in military and civilian contexts. Unless God himself elevated someone like Ben Raines to power (as He did with King Saul and David), that person would never reach the peak of any leadership ladder. People who rise to power...even in regulated structures...are shameless self-promoters; supremely confident in their own abilities (no matter how undeserved that confidence is); "type A" personalities; charismatic; ambitious; control freaks; opportunistic; remorseless; proactive and outgoing. They usually aren't the best choice for leadership, and many times are the worst. But they will beat somebody like Ben Raines in an election, mob takeover or popularity contest (which is what such things turn out to be, beneath the surface, anyway) every single time. It doesn't matter how many dead military officers have endorsed you, or even if the majority of the mob thinks you're the smartest guy with the perfect plan. The guy with the magic mouth and the zealous conviction that he is the best possible man for the job will climb higher and faster. I've taken pains so far not to be harsh or personally insulting to Mr. Johnstone, but this reluctant savior routine reeks of a misfit writer's closet egomania.

Up to now, I've also avoided commenting on the author's political ideas, which he unabashedly rams down the reader's throat throughout the novel. I won't discuss them in detail, because they're at least as convoluted as his expository chapters. But even while preaching racial equality, Johnstone strikes me as a bigot. He also takes periodic jabs at his Religious Right Boogeymen, denouncing the cult of personality embraced by their respective sycophants (kinda like what I touched on above). Meanwhile, his own cult of personality is the driving force behind the Tri-States kingdom. Hypocritical IMO. And while pontificating on his love of freedom, Johnstone/Raines build a utopia which is, in most respects, a totalitarian regime. So while I see all the problems in the USA that Johnstone saw, our viewpoint on feasible solutions are often radically different.

Plot, character(s), dialog, realism and (IMO) political savvy in Out of the Ashes is seriously flawed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My First Blog Review!

...Of my book by another blogger, I mean. Ausjenny (Jenny, from Australia) posted an interview of me on her blog. I'm posting her comments below, but click on her link and scroll down the page to read the interview. More bloggers should be sounding off soon, and I'll keep y'all posted.


I found this book to be very insightful in many ways. There are three main sides to this story, The americans, Israelis and the Sudanese army. In this story Henry explains how some suicide bombers come about which I found interesting and after reading the passage could fully understand. We also see why Israelis feel like they do about other countries and how different solutions haven't always helped them. There were times some of the Americans were quite put out with what the was being said about America and some of the process they had been involved in. I learnt quite alot from this. Being I am not an America I could actually identify with some of what was being said. I got quite involved in the story and although it is a war story I found I was cheering for the good guys. Also references to the south of Sudan which is christian was interesting as at our church we have had dealings with some of the missions there and heard first hand how some of the issues there.
I also found it hypocritical at times what the ones in charge of the Islamic section were doing and one scene in particular really got to me it goes against what they teach and what they say they believe but seems is quite common. (I am not going to say more when you read the book you will understand what I am referring to). If you like military books or fast action this is a great read. If you dont like war or military or can't deal with killing in a book I would suggest its not for you.

(Another Surprise Review) L. Brandau posted this review on Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

Hell and Gone by Henry Brown is a top-notch military thriller. The author takes great care to create characters that are believable and unique. Normally I can get lost in a book with many characters, but the characters in Hell and Gone were introduced in such a way that it was easy to follow.

This is a realistic story about a teenager recruited by a terrorist training camp for an attack, and a group of elite ex-military men sent to prevent the use of a nuclear suitcase bomb strike upon Israel. Great writing creates scenes so well crafted that I felt like I was in a strange land in the middle of the action.

One of the parts of the story I found most interesing was the the author's descriptions of the physical effects on the men following a firefight. I think this author's work can compare with any of the more famous thriller authors today. I am very pleased to recommend this book to anyone that enjoys thrillers.

So far I've had two 4-star reviews and five 5-star reviews. I'm very pleased folks are enjoying my work.

Monday, September 13, 2010


A good rule of thumb is to watch the movie first, then read the book. Why? Because the book is always better, of course!

If I wanted to prove this point with a single adaptation, I would pick an extreme example like Exodus (book by Leon Uris, film by Otto Preminger).

But in actuality the above statement is not true. The book is better than the movie most of the time, granted. But not always.

Three films come to mind as I consider this topic:

1. The Searchers. John Ford directed what is probably my favorite western movie of all time. It's an epic! Ethan Edwards is larger than life (as are most of the characters, in fact). Memorable scenes full of vivid, beautiful imagery; great, quotable dialog; sharply defined characters; surprising touches of humor; ugly human characteristics on display like vengeance and bigotry, but without heavy-handed artistic commentary to ensure the audience interprets it the way the artist thinks we should. Alan LeMay's book isn't bad, but it certainly is different. The characters are hardly larger-than-life--they are painfully common. This is perhaps one reason the prose narrative is too small to ever achieve epic status. In print, the gruff, vengeful Ethan Edwards is hardly colorful, sympathetic or admirable, as is the screen character which was something of a departure for the Duke to play. It's hard not to admire John Wayne's Ethan Edwards, despite the character's dark, tortured soul.

2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Hmm. Another John Ford film. Again, characters were larger-than-life in the film version. Even though Ford reversed his stylistic trends (shot in black&white on sound stages, instead of vivid color on majestic locations like Monument Valley) and historic perspective (here he laments the taming of the West instead of celebrating it), he put his unmistakable stamp on this iconic, metaphorical tale. It was based on a forgettable short story by Dorothy M. Johnson. Ransom Stoddard is a character who might serve better as a villain, if he only had a little panache. As a hero or protagonist, it is hard to cheer him on. Of course with Jimmy Stewart cast in the role, even John Wesley Hardin would become a sympathetic character.

3. L.A. Confidential. I lost track of how many times I watched the film. I just had to read the book. When I reached the last page I was still waiting for James Ellroy to start writing something great. After that last page, and to this very day, I am baffled as to how such a spectacular film was inspired by such a lackluster novel. Kudos to director Curtis Hanson for making lemonade out of that lemon, or even detecting something worthy of adaptation within those pages.

Starting with #3 above, I'm sure I already started making enemies, but I'll mention other examples anyway:

The Dirty Dozen (I found the book rather depressing.)
Christine (My opinion--I know not many would agree.)
The Blue Max (Not by much, and the book WAS better in some respects.)
The Rocketeer (I did like both, but Cliff Secord is a lot more likable in the movie.)
The Natural (Even with Robert Redford. What a fantastic flick. What a depressing book.)

I'm sure there must be other examples...

A great book usually suffers when condensed for the screen. Scenes are cut, characters combined, character motivations sometimes lost. But trim the fat from a mediocre work of prose, and sometimes the right director can create a cinematic masterpiece from it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blog Tour and Other News

Scott Nicholson has a book blog dedicated to indie (independent) authors--in fact, my first author interview was given there. He has 12 of his own books available for download, and now he's participating in a blog tour in which you can win a new Kindle. Most of his titles are horror, though he does appear to be branching out from there. He's also a friend of Joe Konrath,who (if you don't already know) is an inspirational success as an indie author, and very forthright in sharing his knowledge of the business to us novices. You really ought to check it out:

For all my thousands of followers (ahem): You can probably tell by what I review here the sort of fiction I like. If you have some fiction that fits into my range and would like it reviewed, contact me. If I don't think it's good, I won't trash it (unless your an established tradpubbed "name"). If I do think it's good, I'll give you some publicity. But because of time constraints, I probably won't read outside my genre range at this point in time.

Followers, feel free to post comments, and don't be fearful. You couldn't possibly look as ignorant as some of the illiterate knobs who post on Youtube and Facebook. ;-)

I'm hoping to get a Kindle for Christmas (if I don't win one via Scott's blog tour!). There is a lot of new pulp being published besides mine--much of it with fantastic cover artwork. I will probably buy some of that and hope for a pseudo-vacation (I can dream, can't I?) to vegetate and read it. I was considering a Nook for a while because there's a brick-&-mortar Barnes & Noble right around the corner...but from what I've been reading, the Kindle sounds like the best fit for my needs.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Fastest Funnycar by Patrick J. Williams (also titled the Green Ghost)

This was written for a YA audience, but I would recommend it for anyone of any age who likes street rods and drag racing. It was written in the '60s and out of print now, but if you find it used somewhere, do pick it up!

I first read this book even before I got into cars, and enjoyed it then. As I did become obsessed with horsepower, my affection and appreciation only grew. Larry Cook is, superficially speaking, a stereotypical nerd--glasses, braces, and a talent for playing the piano. (But even before his epiphany, he shows signs of a rebellious, independent spirit: his secret jam sessions covering jazz numbers by Fats Waller and other niche legends.)

Then one day Larry sees a photo of a street rod on the cover of a magazine, and his inner rebel blossoms. With the help of a teacher, he rebuilds an old Ford (a Model A, I think). Then, after graduating high school (and loosing the braces), he is hired as the dining hall pianist at a snooty resort hotel (kinda' like the resort in Dirty Dancing). His summer promises interesting developments when he meets the spoiled, gorgeous debutante Barbera Wells, her filthy-rich grandfather, and her would-be suitor: Roger the Rednecked Romeo.

But the story really takes off when Larry becomes friends with the local mechanic and drag racer Finnigan. Finnegan's 392 Hemi-powered Green Ghost is the title vehicle. When Finnegan breaks his leg packing chutes for the Ghost, Larry must step in to drive in the upcoming drags, but without letting his hoity-toity employer...or any of the resort guests...catch wise to it.

The character interaction between Finnegan and just about everyone else is priceless (he's an incurable wiseacre), and Williams generates a feeling that something important is at stake concerning Larry and Barbera, without ever getting even close to mushy. Fantastic book for a teenage boy, especially one with an interest in fast cars, and a highly enjoyable book for men of any age, in fact.