Happy 40th Anniversary, Blue Thunder!

This ship is equipped with a forward-mounted, twenty-millimeter electric cannon. Its six barrels are capable of firing four thousand rounds of ammunition per minute. And that, gentlemen, is one hell of a shit-storm in anybody’s language!”


Frank Murphy, helicopter pilot for the LAPD and former Army chopper pilot during the Vietnam War (and whom we see suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his service during that conflict), is selected as a test pilot for a brand new helicopter packed to the gills with state of the art armaments and quasi-futuristic stealth and surveillance technology. It’s supposedly intended for use during large scale civil disobedience operations, but that doesn’t ring right with Murphy, particularly after the helicopter, nicknamed “Blue Thunder,” blows the shit out of a simulated city street setting with mocked-up vehicles and human-sized targets. That a former rival of his from the war, Colonel “Catch ya later” Cochrane, is in on the whole thing doesn’t sit well with him, either.

“She don’t look normal. She don’t fly normal. Cuz she ain’t normal!”

Murphy, along with his rookie partner, Richard Lymangood (aka “JAFO,” or “Just Another Fucking Observer”), uses Blue Thunder’s sooper seekrit peeping tech to follow Cochrane to a clandestine meeting, and collects evidence that the colonel and a group of government douche nozzles are behind the death of a prominent city councilwoman. Her murder is part of a larger conspiracy put into motion by this wannabe cabal, who plan to use the helicopter to assassinate political enemies. After Lymangood is killed, Murphy steals Blue Thunder and it’s a race for him to get the evidence to someone who can expose the conspiracy before the bad guys get to him, culminating in a helicopter chase between Murphy and Cochrane in the skies above Los Angeles.

“This sucker will do everything but cook your breakfast!”

Released on May 13th, 1983, Blue Thunder made a point of letting potential audiences know that all of the surveillance and weapons technology stuffed into the helicopter was real, if not used in this particular configuration. Of course, we look at it today and think, “Pffft. That’s all he’s got? Drones, dude. Drones.” Forty years ago, however, Blue Thunder was bad-ass.

Personally, I still think the helicopter looks pretty slick.

The plot of Blue Thunder is so thin that it makes Smokey and the Bandit seem like Inception, but a lot of what makes the movie work can be credited to actor Roy Scheider, who offers up yet another of his “every man” performances which served him so well throughout his career. Malcolm McDowell chews every scene with relish as the dick antagonist, Cochrane, and a young Daniel Stern provides much of the film’s early humor (both as instigator and target) as Lymangood the JAFO. Obviously, the hardware and the flying stunts take center stage, especially in the movie’s latter half, but Scheider is there to anchor things and keep them from going too far into the realm of absurdity.

Don’t get me wrong: I dig this film. It’s one that’s an easy candidate for a rewatch on a rainy day, and it’s interesting to see how some of the ideas it proposes stack up against our pervasive “conspiracy theory culture” and our “surveillance society” with cameras everywhere, expanded police powers, and even those drones we mentioned earlier.  How much of the stuff that seemed “far out” in 1983 is now at the disposal of law enforcement, or even has been surpassed by current technology?

Things that make you go, “Hmmm….”

The movie was successful, both critically and financially. A spin-off series aired on ABC the following year, which wasn’t a sequel but rather a reworking of the premise, in which the helicopter is used by a special unit to hunt down the baddest of bad guys, and so on and so forth. The show was cancelled after eleven episodes, ceding the helicopter action show bragging rights to the other 80s AwesomeChopper, Airwolf, which premiered that same year.

(So far as the helicopters go, I’ve always preferred Blue Thunder to Airwolf, even though I think Airwolf would win in a head-to-head contest. Yes, I’m a geek, and I put some thought into that particular battle royale.)

Blue Thunder seems like the perfect choice for a remake, and I’ve heard rumblings about that very thing from time to time, but so far nothing appears to be sticking. I’m sure someone sooner or later will get on with dicking that up. Meanwhile, we still have the original. I may have to spin it up tonight.

“Catch ya later.”

Terri Bridges, 1970-2023.

While a few close friends have known about this, I held off from saying anything to a wider audience until her family had a chance to notify everyone they wanted to contact. With that accomplished, I can now share that my sister, Terri Bridges, passed away unexpectedly last week.

I’ve spent most of the time since that awful morning phone call from her husband, Scott, in a bit of a mental whirlwind. My first thoughts are of course for him and their daughter, Lindsey, an amazing young woman who’s just completed her sophomore year at college. They are a tremendously close family and knowing how devastating this is for them has helped me keep my own feelings in check. There are also all of Terri’s extended family members and friends, for whom this likewise is an enormous shock. My thoughts are with them, as well.

Unlike me, Terri chose to stay closer to home in Tampa after graduating high school. This ended up working out to her supreme benefit, as after a few tumultuous years she eventually crossed paths with Scott and her whole life changed for the better. To say he was a positive influence on her is a criminal understatement. He brought out the best aspects of her in so many ways — far more than I can easily articulate here — and I’d like to think she helped him open up and enjoy life a bit more than he might otherwise have done. Then Lindsey came along and the deal was sealed. This trio is a wonderful extension of both the Ward and Bridges clans. Later, Terri went back to school, got her degree, and took additional classes to learn things for the sheer fun of it. She took up cooking as something of a hobby-slash-obsession, and she even told me she planned to test all the recipes from the Jurassic World cookbook I helped write last year.

The two of us with Mom – Hawai’i, December 1970

Though I’d had a falling out with our father — a rift which only widened and worsened after our mother’s passing — Terri and I always had a solid relationship, and the older we both got the stronger that relationship became. When Michi and I had our kids, I’d call Terri for advice about this or that, and we’d end up chatting about silly things for a while. Our talks increased after our mother died, and again when our father passed. Still, we didn’t talk as much as we could have, and we definitely didn’t see as much of one another as we both wanted. The biggest obstacle always seemed to be the distance between us and the time needed for a trip we all could enjoy. After our mother passed, our families took a Disney cruise later that year, and we decided we wanted to do things of that sort again as time and other factors allowed.

That will always be my greatest regret. We would talk and make tentative plans about getting together, but something always got in the way as can happen when you have kids and things to do during the summer, or work and deadlines loomed, or the money you thought was allotted for that vacation was needed to take care of something around the house, or any of a hundred other things which at the time at least seemed important. Sooner or later, we’d get to it, right?

March 19, 2022: The last time Terri and I were together.

It’s simply not fair that someone as bright and happy as my sister left us far too soon. On the other hand, I know she missed our mother terribly and believed they’d one day be reunited. I’m not at all religious or spiritual, myself, but for their sakes I’d be okay if this was a real thing that happened.

Rest easy, Terri. We love you.

April writing wrap-up.

Step aside, crickets. I’m back.

Hopefully, folks who try to frequent this space will understand that a lack of activity here usually corresponds to me writing a bunch of stuff elsewhere. Last month was active on the writing front, and the spring and early summer is shaping up to be more of the same, but hopefully at a pace that will allow me to expend at least a few brain cells here and there on the sort of riveting content you’ve come to expect from my little mundane corner of the intrawebz.

It was definitely a bit crazy last month, and now here we are less than a month from my kids being out of school for the year. Wow. That happened fast.

I don’t really much more in the way of an intro for this entry, so maybe it’s best if we just get on with the April rundown….

Continue reading “April writing wrap-up.”

April 26-28: Pre-order Somewhere to Belong for 25% off!

To be fair, you can pre-order a bunch of titles for the same discount, but I’m gonna be selfish for a minute in this space and start with pumping up the volume on my own book.

Those of you who frequent my corner of the Intrawebz know that I have a new Star Trek: Discovery novel coming out on May 30th: Somewhere to Belong. What’s that? You say this somehow slipped past you? Worry not, friends. I’ve got a refresher all lined up for you:

Captain Michael Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery are finding that each day is a critical adjustment to their new lives and new missions in an Alpha Quadrant more than nine hundred years in the future. It’s here that Discovery is reconnecting with various worlds where the cataclysmic event known as “the Burn” has decimated Starfleet and, with it, the United Federation of Planets. There’s been precious little time for the crew to truly come to terms with their present reality, as their devotion to duty hides the emotional stress that could impact their effectiveness, and even threaten themselves or others.

After a successful journey to yet another planet cut off from the Federation, Discovery picks up a distress signal located in a nearby star system—a plea that harbors roots from their past lives in the 23rd century, and which may now lead to an entirely new crisis, plunging them all into mortal danger….

For those of you who might wish to pre-order to book and maybe save a little scratch along the way, you’ll be pleased to learn Barnes & Noble is offering a special discount of 25% if you place your order between today, April 26, through Friday, April 28.

Somewhere to Belong is part of that promotion, allowing you to pre-order the book in trade paperback, eBook format for Nook and compatible devices and apps, digital audiobook, and even the audiobook in CD format for you lovable Luddites (my people!).

(For those of you who’ve asked, I’m now pleased to tell you that January LaVoy performs the audiobook adaptation. Among many other things, she also read Una McCormack’s Disco novel, Wonderlands, and I can’t be more thrilled she and her amazing voice were available for my book.)

B&N has set up a “Coming Soon” landing page to make it easy for you to see what’s inbound over the next couple of months, so feel free to take all sorts of advantages of the offer by using the promo code PREORDER25. Did I mention I have a new book of my own coming out in trade paperback, eBook format for Nook and compatible devices and apps, digital audiobook, and even the audiobook in CD format?

Let’s fly, yo.

Happy Birthday, Lee Majors!

The Six Million Dollar Man himself celebrates his 84th birthday today!

Yes, I know he’s had a long, full career, both before and especially well after his bionic adventures, but he’ll always be Colonel Steve Austin to me. Okay, with a side of Colt Seavers. And maybe a dash of Christopher Chance. And Pop Scarlet.

A check of his IMDB page shows he’s still finding ways to keep plenty busy. I’m actually kind of tired just reading it all. He’s currently involved in a handful of upcoming projects, and recent interview appearances just show he still looks like he could outrun me pretty easily. Here’s hoping I can find my way to having half his energy when I’m his age.

Also? I fervently maintain that Lee Majors has the manliest running stride in the history of running men. Fight me. I offer into evidence this bit of bionic bravado from the very first episode of the TV series, “Population: Zero.”

And yes, I was definitely one of those kids who would offer up my best bionic sound effects as I ran around the neighborhood in something attempting to resemble “Steve Austin slow motion.” I somehow managed to avoid breaking any bones while performing all manner of “bionic” stunts.


Geek Fact: When I was a kid, I so wanted a jacket like the one in this pic.

Geek Fact 2: I kinda still do.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Majors!

Cover reveal for Double Trouble: Two-Fisted Team-ups!

Oh, I do so love showing off a new cover.

A while back, I shared with readers of this space info about an anthology project in which I’d been invited to take part, Double Trouble: Two-Fisted Team-ups. The brainchild of writers/editors Jonathan Maberry and Keith R.A. DeCandido, the anthology is to be a publication from the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), of which I’m a member and for whose other members I have much respect and affection.

Yeah, even that one guy. You know who I’m talking about, and HE KNOWS WHAT HE DID.

:: ahem ::

As I was saying, Double Trouble is the IAMTW’s baby, and hopefully just the first in a series of new anthologies we hope to see realized in the coming years. The premise for this one intrigued me a great deal, as it called for authors to pair together pulp adventure fiction heroes and heroines of yesteryear who’ve entered the Public Domain, and/or colorful personalities and larger-than-life figures from the annals of actual history and whose exploits and personalities lend themselves to these sorts of shenanigans. A crowdfunding campaign was carried on Kickstarter to finance the project’s modest publication requirements, and readers and fans flocked to come help realize the collection.

One of the items on the publication To-Do List was a cover, and of course it had to be a snazzy cover. For this, Messrs. Maberry and DeCandido enlisted the unrestrained talents of artist Lynne Hansen, who saw fit to grace us with this little slice of Awesome:

Click to Biggie Size

As of this writing, the current author roster looks like this:

Marion of Sherwood meets Annie Oakley by Rigel Ailur
Captain Nemo meets Frankenstein’s monster by Kevin J. Anderson
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde meet Dracula and John Henry by Derek Tyler Attico
Gulliver meets Sacajawea and Ernest Shackleton by Diana Botsford
Ace Harlem meets the Conjure-Man by Maurice Broaddus
Van Helsing meets Athena and the Medusa by Jennifer Brody
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die must survive the Night of the Living Dead by Greg Cox
Jill Trent meets Fantomah and Fury by Debbie Daughetee
Lord Ruthven meets Lydia Bennet by Delilah S. Dawson
Ayesha, a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed, meets Egungun-oya by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Flaxman Low meets Mezzanotte by Nancy Holder & Alan Philipson
Prospero meets Don Quixote de la Mancha by David Mack
Tang Sanzeng (Tripitaka) meets Emperor Taizong by David A. McIntee
The Moon Man meets The Man in the Black Cloak by James A. Moore
Dan Fowler meets Stinger Seave by James Reasoner
Bastet and Fenrir meet Quetzalcoatl by Ben H Rome
Dr. Moreau meets Audrey II by Scott Sigler
Captain Battle meets Blackout by Dayton Ward (Hey! That’s me!)

The current plan calls for Double Trouble to be published this summer, but we don’t yet have a firm date. I only just delivered my story to Keith this past Sunday (sorry, Keith!) and I know editing is currently underway. More info on this it’s made available!

The way-late March writing wrap-up.

And once again, I have to apologize for it being pretty uneventful in this space over the last month, but I promise it’s for good reasons. Honest!

It’s been busy on the work front, as you’ll hopefully see down below. My wife and I celebrated 32 years of marriage last month, and the kids are now on a headlong flight (no, not that one) toward the end of yet another school year.

In the meantime, while I wasn’t typing gibberish into this space, I was busy elsewhere. Here’s a peek into what some of that entailed, otherwise known as the March rundown….

Continue reading “The way-late March writing wrap-up.”

Happy 55th Anniversary, 2001: A Space Odyssey!

Eighteen months ago, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered. It was buried forty feet below the lunar surface, near the crater Tycho. Except for a single, very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter, the four million-year-old black monolith has remained completely inert, its origin and purpose still a total mystery.

Hey! It’s time to salute 1968’s other enduring classic science fiction movie. You know…the one without the talking apes. It’s perhaps one of the most discussed, debated, analyzed, respected, reviled, misunderstood and even frustrating films ever committed to celluloid, made all the more fascinating by the fact its director — at least at the time — basically told all of us, “Have fun with this shit, kids. I’m out.”

Following its world premiere in Washington, D.C., the night before, 2001: A Space Odyssey opened in wide release in the U.S. on April 3rd, 1968. Is there really anybody who’s not at least familiar with the film’s basic plot? In a nutshell, there’s some mysterious uber-peeps way out on Jupiter, who may well have muddled about here on Earth millions of years ago and thereby influenced the development of early humanity. These same peeps bury a benign booby trap of sorts on the Moon, and our finding and digging it up trips a switch that fires off a message back to Jupiter that–more or less–says, “The children are out of their crib and are snooping around.” We send a spaceship and some astronauts out to Jupiter to see what’s what, and…well…let’s just say things get weird from there, and that’s before the ship’s computer, HAL, loses its shit.

The film has been the subject and target of much scrutiny pretty much since the moment of its release. Countless theories abound as to its message(s) and meaning(s), and opinions are about as wide-ranging as the selections of beef jerky at a truck stop. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

Directed by the late, great Stanley Kubrick, 2001 has its genesis in a couple of short stories written by Arthur C. Clarke, most notably “The Sentinel.” Clarke and Kubrick developed the story behind the film, and Clarke also penned a novel which was released later in 1968. The novel does much to fill in some of the blanks Kubrick deliberately left in the movie, though it diverges from its onscreen sibling on one major point: in the book, the spaceship Discovery is sent to Saturn, rather than Jupiter. Saturn was the movie’s original destination, as well, but was changed when it became evident that special effects footage of the ringed planet would not measure up to the rest of the film’s opticals. The practical and visual effects–many of them employing techniques developed for 2001–still stand toe to toe with more recent and lavishly-budgeted FX-heavy films.

Speaking of the production side of things, there are numerous books, magazine articles and essays, and documentaries devoted to that effort. If you can find them, I recommend these:

The Lost Worlds of 2001, by Arthur C. Clarke
The Making of Kubrick’s 2001, by Jerome Agel
2001: Filming the Future, by Piers Bizony

And if you can find it, the German publisher Taschen released a lavish, oversized book, The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in 2015. Formatted so the book resembles the Monolith, it is stuffed with gorgeous photographs, drawings, and notes from the film’s production. Good luck getting your hands on a copy, though, as it’s been sold out for years.

Clarke would revisit the setting he created with Kubrick with three more novels: 2010: Odyssey Two (1982), 2061: Odyssey Three (1987), and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997). The first sequel, of course, was the basis for the 1984 film 2010, which actually works better on its own when/if you can set aside the fact it’s supposed to be a follow-up to “the greatest science fiction film ever made.”


To this day, 2001 continues to inspire, befuddle, and annoy viewers and critics, which is pretty much the most you ever can ask of any story. If you’ve not seen it, then you owe it to yourself to give it a spin. Same goes for Clarke’s novel; it’s definitely worth the read.

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

Announcing Iron Man: Tony Stark Declassified!

So, yeah. Here’s a thing that’s happening.

Last year, I was approached by friend and fellow word pusher Robb Pearlman, who at the time was working as an editor for BenBella Books, about coming aboard there to work on a new project, which was to be the first in a series of tomes, highlighting various popular characters from Marvel Comics. Robb thought the deep dive which would be required and the need to write with a strong “in-world voice” was something for which I was well-suited, as apparently evidenced by my work on (among other things), the Star Trek travel guides for Vulcan and the Klingon Empire.

Hey. What can I say? It’s nice to be loved.

After convincing Robb (it didn’t really take much convincing) that my collaborating with my hetero life mate, Kevin, would be a wise move on part for the project being described, we signed contracts, had our first meetings with representatives from Marvel, developed an outline, and then we were off to the races. The result?


Cover for Iron Man: Tony Stark Declassified
(Click to enlarge)

The challenge of boiling down 70 years of comics* and related information into something approaching 75,000 words was no easy feat. Even Marvel’s famous “sliding timescale” with its inherent streamlining, revising, and updating of major events across the character’s entire publication history to fit within a supposed 13-year timespan still left us with a lot of information to summarize and organize.

* That’s right! This is all comics continuity, rather than the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

Sure, this presented a challenge, but what made it fun was the idea this isn’t and never was intended to be a simple distillation, recitation, or adaptation of events from the comics. Instead, our task was to climb into Tony Stark’s head and try to find out what makes him tick, how he’s navigated the twists and turns of his rather remarkable and just plain weird life, and perhaps gain a bit of insight into Tony Stark, the man who would be Iron Man.

From the back cover:

Millions of comic book fans know Tony Stark as Iron Man. But few, if any, truly know the man inside the armor.

This fully authorized book tells the story of one of Marvel Comics’ most heroic, heralded, and complex characters—in his own words as well as notes, interviews, and files assembled from the Avengers’ archives.

An unprecedented, comprehensive firsthand chronicle, Iron Man: Tony Stark Declassified draws on more than a half century of classic tales to present an insightful, personal take about—and by—one of the most talked-about heroes of all time.

Featuring Tony’s perspective on his most important friends, allies, and enemies including  Captain America, Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan, James Rhodes, Ironheart, Bruce Banner, Hellcat, and Arno Stark, and his thoughts on the Marvel Universe’s most memorable moments, this first-of-its-kind archival collection is a must for fans of all ages.

Pretty cool, amirite? Want a sneak peek at some prototype pages? Note these are early samples and don’t reflect anything final. They were created before the manuscript was reviewed by Marvel or even copyedited, so just relax and breathe regular, all right?

Sample pages 2-3. Click to enlarge
Sample Pages 1
Sample pages 4-5. Click to enlarge

Iron Man: Tony Stark Declassified is currently scheduled for publication on November 14th in trade paperback and eBook formats. Pre-order links are already available for Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but if you have an independent bookstore near you I’d highly encourage you to patronize their shop and let them take care of you.

Also, remember when I mentioned this would be the first of a series? Well, the second book, Black Panther: T’Challa Declassified is currently gestating under the mighty fingers of noted author Maurice Broaddus and is currently slated for release on January 30, 2024. As I write this, I know of two additional books in development, with announcements to come at the appropriate time.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out the official announcement of these first to titles over at Marvel.com.

We’ll be sharing more info as this moves ever closer to publication, so stay tuned!

Happy Birthday, William Shatner!

Today we’re celebrating the 92nd birthday of the Man himself: Captain Kirk, T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911 Guy, Denny Crane, Priceline Negotiator, and CAPTAIN JAMES TIBERIUS BY GOD KIRK.

:: ahem. ::

We’re talking about a guy who’s been in front of a camera over a span of eight decades. Seriously, go look at his IMDB entry. I get tired just reading it, and that’s not even counting writing, producing, and directing credits. It’s even money you can find him somewhere on your TV right now. He’s working on three or four new projects even as I type this, and he shows no signs of slowing down. The dude even went to space, for crying out loud.

The one and only William Shatner: 92 years old, and still running circles around people half his age. I’ll have what he’s having.

Happy Birthday, sir. May you enjoy many more.