“Hey, Dayton! Why don’t you have a podcast?”

No, the headline isn’t some oh-so clever way of announcing my new podcast. Far from it, actually.

So, yeah. Podcasts.

Lots of people have podcasts. I mean…a lot of people have podcasts. I should know, because I’ve been a guest on my share of them over the years. It’s too bad it’s not a paying gig, because that sort of thing totally beats donating blood or other body fluids for money, or being one of those guys who stand on the Strip in Las Vegas handing out cards with hooker phone numbers on them.

solicitorsYep. It’s totally a real thing. Totally.

Alas, I do such things for the glory and the fun…oh, and to talk about my writing or promote a new book or some such thing. I occasionally show up on a podcast for reasons other than self-promotion, and those are their own special brand of fun. Indeed, I tend to enjoy those situations more than the “Let’s talk about my new book,” shows, as I’m not the focus of the episode and instead we’re just talking about something we all love. For example, I “guest co-hosted” several episodes of Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast for just this reason, and I’ve popped into other shows like UnderDiscussion and the Sci-Fi Diner to talk about various geeky subjects. Then there are the podcasts I listen to just for my own entertainment. There are quite a few of those, actually, and I know I’m certainly not an outlier when it comes to this kind of thing.

BREAKING NEWS: Podcasts are pretty darned popular, by golly.

Continue reading ““Hey, Dayton! Why don’t you have a podcast?””

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: V!

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. I know I said it would be an irregularly recurring series of self-indulgent babbling, but it’s been a little more irregular than I originally planned or would’ve preferred. So, let me try to get back on the horse here and see what happens.

V-SeriesLogoA short while back on Facebook, I made a post mentioning the 1983 miniseries V. This four-hour “limited” or “event series” (as it’d likely be called today) depicted the arrival of aliens on Earth with seemingly benign motives. They show up in massive, saucer-like spaceships that hover over every major city around the world and proceed to make all sorts of awesome, too-good-to-be-true promises while asking for a comparatively minor favor in return: help with engineering a special compound for use fighting environmental contamination on their home planet.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: V!”

2019 Edition! Marvel Movie Tip: Stay for the credits, yo.

It seems like just a few short months ago that we were all running to the movie theater to see Avengers: Endgame, and now here we are with this week’s release of Spider-Man: Far From Home. We’ve been doing this in fits and starts since 2008 with Iron Man, the first movie in what was to become “the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

After all these years, you’d think some of the basic protocols would be all but ingrained into our collective consciousness, but we all know someone who’s going to drop the ball on this. Because of this, it’s a warning we need to repeat often:

“Stay through the credits.”

It’s been a while since we last visited this topic…all the way back to 2016 and Captain America: Civil War, so we’re definitely due for a look at the updated picture. Since 2008, we’ve been treated to:

Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Thor
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ant-Man
Deadpool
(yes, not an official MCU film but still here because fucking Deadpool, people)
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Spider-Man: Homecoming

Thor: Ragnarok
Black Panther
Avengers: Infinity War
Deadpool 2
(Again…fucking Deadpool)
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Captain Marvel
Avengers: Endgame*
Spider-Man: Far From Home

What’s the one rule that applies for each of these movies? Say it with me:

“Stay for the credits.”

(* = Endgame didn’t have such scenes until…you know, it suddenly did.)

And yet, there I was today with Clan Ward, watching people leaving the theater just as the credits began to roll at the conclusion of Spider-Man: Far From Home, even though there’s not one but two–count ’em…two–extra scenes: One during the credits, and one just after.

OH, THE HUMANITY!

Forgive them, Stan Lee, for they know not what they do.

marvel_truefan

Now, it’s arguable that several of these little add-ons aren’t essential to enjoying either their respective movie or the larger story arcs laid down over the course of these films, but some of them are. Besides, dang it! They’re part of the run, amirite?

You stay for the credits, people.

Always.

Friends don’t let friends leave a Marvel movie early.

If you’re catching these flicks for the first time at home with disc or digital download, then you fast forward if you have to, but the rule is the same: “Stay for the credits.”

With that in mind, I’ve instituted a checklist of tips to help Marvel moviegoers avoid missing out on the important stuff lurking in and around a given film’s end credits. Consider this a public service, movie nerds:

1. You stay for the credits.

2. You stay after the credits.

3. You stay until the lights come up.

4. You stay until they start the slide show between screenings, and you make sure you sit through the entire slide reel at least once.

5. And look on the back of your ticket and the underside of your popcorn. Just in case. (via Bernie Kopsho on Facebook)

6. Then run across the hall and sit through the credits of the non-Marvel movie. LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE.

7. Then run outside and look for skywriting, because who knows? (via Bernie)

IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO BE SURE.

In summation: “Stay for the credits.”

Goose-Tesseract

Okay, now we’re done. You can go home.

Today is National Film Score Day!

Who knew?

Not me. At least, not until I read about it thanks to one of my Facebook friends. As odd days of observance go, this one isn’t too shabby at all.

What are we talking about? According to the National Day Calendar website, National Film Score Day “recognizes the musical masterpieces called “Film Scores” and, more specifically, the very talented composers who create them.”

Sweet!

Though it’s been a while since I’ve written on the subject, those of you who spend any time here likely know that I’m a huge fan of film and TV music and love listening to it apart from the production for which it was created. It’s also my habit to listen to such music when I’m writing, as it always helps to set the “right mood” for the project-in-progress.

A well-crafted film score is a thing of beauty. The first album I ever bought with my own money was the vinyl 2-record LP score for the original Star Wars in 1977.

Since then, my library has continued to grow not just with music from newer film television and productions but also “expanded” or “complete” editions of scores from days gone by which were only made available in truncated form due to the limitations of the medium (LP records, cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, and even CDs once they took over). Thanks to companies like La-La Land Records and Intrada I’ve been able to enjoy updated, expanded, and remastered versions of scores of older films, and in some cases it’s like hearing the music for the first time EVEN THOUGH I know every note by heart.

STTMP-SoundtrackCoverWhat are some of my favorites? Well, some obvious suspects are the various Star Trek films, in particular Jerry Goldsmith’s The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier, and First Contact, James Horner’s The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, and Michael Giacchino’s music for all three of the reboot films. Everything John Williams has ever done for the Star Wars saga goes on the list, too, but I also must give props to Michael Giacchino for Rogue One and John Powell for Solo. 

Superman-ScoreJerry Goldsmith is well represented in my library, including personal favorites Planet of the Apes (1968), Rambo: First Blood, Part II (yes, really), Alien, Total Recall, L.A. Confidential, Outland, and 1999’s The Mummy. James Horner also had a lot going on beyond his Star Trek work, and I especially dig Aliens, Apollo 13, Sneakers, Glory, The RocketeerCommando, and Titanic (that’s right; I said it). And you can’t have a film score collection without stuff by John Williams, including stuff by John Williams that’s not Star Wars, which is good because I absolutely love the music he created for Jaws, the Indiana Jones films, Saving Private Ryan, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and…of course…Superman.

My taste in film music runs the gamut from Pirates of the Caribbean to The American President, Die Hard, or The Incredibles, or from The Shawshank Redemption to Gladiator, The Martian, or Black Hawk Down. Bill Conti’s The Right Stuff is wondrous. Old-school offerings like The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven or The Day the Earth Stood Still are in there, too. The truth is that I’m all over the map with this kind of thing. I hear it while watching the film and know I just have to have it without everybody yakking over it or everything blowing up around it.

TV’s the same way. Yes, Star Trek gets a lot of play around here (occupational hazard, you know), but what about Lost In Space or Mission: Impossible or Alien Nation? Battlestar Galactica? Hell, even seaQuest is in there.

I could do this all day, people.

So, Happy “National Film Score Day.” I think it’s time to stick a little of that action in my ears while I continue to write.

A Superman “mystery?”

I don’t typically advertise when I’m away on vacation, preferring instead to surprise readers after I’m back and let you know that HEY! I was on vacation last week.

So, HEY! I was on vacation last week.

It was an epic road trip in which Clan Ward joined forces with two other families with whom we’ve become good friends since our move to Ward Manor 2.0 in 2014. Our kids all go to the same schools, participate in the neighborhood swim team and other local activities, and my wife along with one of the other wives actually works for the third wife, so we find ourselves together in all sorts of weather and circumstances. 😀

This time, it was a 2,100-or so mile excursion: first to Nashville, Tennessee, where we spent mine and Michi’s 28th anniversary and St. Patrick’s Day. We followed that with a jaunt to Destin, Florida for a few days lounging on the beach, checking out local sites, and eating all manner of things plundered from the ocean that was RIGHT THERE. The last couple of days were spent in Hot Springs, Arkansas at the historic Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa, located right in the heart of the action directly across the street from Hot Springs National Park, Bathhouse Row, and all sorts of local coolness.

It was this past Saturday afternoon, as Michi and the girls were availing themselves of the hotel’s embedded Starbucks cafe when the barista started making small talk, which brings us to the reason for this latest blog posting and its title. As she prepared the girls’ triple latte double caff whatevers, the barista pointed to a building across the street and casually mentioned, “They used it for the Daily Planet building in the old Superman TV series.”

Continue reading “A Superman “mystery?””

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Planet of the Apes!

Yep, it’s time for another walk down Nostalgia Lane that you didn’t ask for and probably don’t need. Since that’s the running theme of this entire blog thing of mine, we can at least agree I’m consistent.

Back at the beginning of the year, I decided that I would offer up an irregularly-recurring feature that I’d use to revisit favorite movie and TV tie-in books. After taking a fond look back at novels based on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman and knowing that I wanted to avoid talking too much about Star Trek novels (at least right away), it seems obvious to me that the next old-timey series deserving of some love is Planet of the Apes!

As is true of Star Trek and the “Bionic shows,” Planet of the Apes was another series (of movies and television shows, in this case) that I came to love very early on. Though I never saw any of the original five films in theaters, I did watch both of the subsequent television series as best I could during their original broadcasts in 1974-75. Just as I was learning about books based on the other two franchises around this time, so too did I discover the same was true of Apes.

First I found a copy of Pierre Boulle‘s original 1963 novel at the library, after which I found a paperback of Jerry Pournelle’s novelization of Escape from the Planet of the Apes occupying space on a department store book rack. Unlike the Star Trek novels and episode adaptations which seemed to be everywhere, tracking down the books tying into the other Apes films would prove to be much more challenging.

PotA-OriginalNovelCover1

(Left: the cover that seemed to dominate re-issues of the original novel throughout the 1970s and into the early 80s. Right: The cover on the edition I own.)

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Planet of the Apes!”

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman!

A while back, I mentioned that I might be doing an irregularly-recurring feature here in the blogspace, in which I’ll revisit favorite movie and TV tie-in books. As I mentioned in that introductory post, I’ll probably avoid talking about Star Trek novels and such to a large degree, as they already get a lot of attention in these parts (occupational hazard, you know).

This means I’ve got more room for other books and series, from childhood favorites to newer offerings. The former category is likely to get more play early on because the tie-in books of my youth filled a void that nowadays is largely addressed by the easy access to favorite TV shows and movies which did not exist in those days. With that in mind, I knew from the jump that I’d likely start with one of two other fondly remembered “franchises,” and after a coin toss I decided to go with the novelized adventures of Steve Austin, astronaut; a man barely alive and how they rebuilt him and made him better stronger, faster, etc.

For those who don’t know, the television series The Six Million Dollar Man began life as a 1973 TV movie which was broadly adapted from the author Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg, which was published the previous year. The movie hits most of the wickets laid out in the book, but Steve Austin – the test pilot who suffers ghastly injuries during a flight accident and later “rebuilt” using cybernetic components – is presented as a rather more likable character than his prose counterpart. For this first TV outing, there are also a few changes to Austin’s abilities and the depictions of his bionics, many of which would be tweaked by the time the television series came along.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman!”

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Introductory post!

For those of you who are tuning in late or just passing by because you’ve heard the rumors, I have a confession to make: I write tie-in novels. To help folks who don’t know what that means, we’re talking about books springing from an existing entertainment property, such as a movie, television series, video game, and so on.

Specifically, I’ve written a cartload of Star Trek novels. It wasn’t a career aspiration or anything like that. I just sort of fell into it after following what is admittedly a very unlikely path to regular, paid publication. I’ll be the first to tell you what ended up happening is damned screwy. Why do this kind of writing? Because it’s damned fun, for one thing, but also because they pay me, which when you say it out loud is definitely kind of weird.

In addition to Star Trek, I’ve also dabbled in a few other properties: The 4400, 24, Mars Attacks, Planet of the Apes, and Predator. Given the opportunity, there are other franchises I’d love to play around in. Every so often, a movie comes along and I wish I was the guy they’d called to write the novelization – adapting the film’s script for novel form. That sort of thing is a bit of a dying art these days, but when I was a kid and young(er) adult? Such books were everywhere. Now when I look back at older tie-ins – be they adaptations or spin-off novels based on a particular property – I start to wonder if I was born a decade or two too late and missed the heyday of this often overlooked, misunderstood, and underappreciated corner of the publishing world.

Which brings me to the point of this post: Before I started writing tie-ins, I read them. A lot of them. Heck, I still read them. Of course, these days such reading tends to be divided between different points of focus:

  1. Enjoyment. Such books are still fun, particularly when written by someone I now am able to call friend thanks to my own writing experiences.
  2. “Keeping an eye on the state of the industry.” Seeing what’s working (and not working), and how the business of publishing such works continues to evolve in a world increasingly cluttered with alternative modes of entertainment.
  3. Petty jealousy, as in “Oh maaaannnn! I wish I’d gotten to do this.”

Books based on favorite TV series and movies were a huge chunk of my leisure reading in the 1970s and 80s. Star Trek was there, of course, but also other shows: Planet of the Apes. The Six Million Dollar Man. Space: 1999. Battlestar Galactica. Oh my.

And films? Holy crap, people. That list is huuuuuge. As a collector, I still have a whole bunch of those books, along with a healthy selection of pulp/action-adventure novels published during that same period. You know, stuff like Mack Bolan/The Executioner, Remo Williams/The Destroyer, MIA Hunter, etc. Yeah, that’s another niche of publishing I largely missed out on. As it happens, these qualify as being “tie-ins,” too, because they’re almost always written as work-for-hire projects where the contributing writer doesn’t own the parent brand/series/property/etc.

Where was I? Oh, right. Tie-ins.

Anyway, I decided the other day I want to revisit some of these older books/book series. Not to review them, though I won’t be able to help pointing out charms and flaws here and there, but instead just as a nostalgic jog down Memory Lane. The world of tie-ins has been good to me, both as a reader and a writer, and I figure it’d be fun to go back and take a fresh look at some of these books, many of which have been in my collection for decades.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, it means every so often, you’ll find a new installment of “Tied Up With Tie-Ins,” filled to overflowing with reminiscing and whatnot popping up here. Since tie-ins are still so very prevalent, I don’t plan to confine my musings to tales of old. Nope, I’ll use this space as an excuse to yammer a bit about more current offerings from worlds seen on TV or the silver screen (and maybe the odd video game, here and there), including some odd and even occasionally flat out bizarre selections from my library or elsewhere. After all, many of these books are/were written by friends and professional colleagues, so this is also a way to give proper shout-outs when the situation calls for it.

(So, if there’s something you want to talk about, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.)

Star Trek already gets a lot of love here, so I’ll likely steer clear of those books, most of the time. I don’t have a schedule or a real “plan” about which books I’ll tackle, or in what order. Probably something expected, like Planet of the Apes, but then what? I mean, we could go in several different directions, from the novelization of both Smokey and the Bandit *AND* Smokey and the Bandit, Part II to Lethal Weapon, Midnight Run, or Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (okay, maybe not that last one), and those are just off the top of my head. Then there are the odder selections, like a book of recipes “written” by the cook at the 4077th M*A*S*H. Yep. Not even kidding.

I guess we’ll see what we see.

Let’s tie this on, or up, or in. Whatever.

The Shield series ended 10 years ago today, and I’m ready to watch it all over again.

Holy crap. Really?

Yep. Tonight marks 10 years since the finale to one of my all-time favorite TV shows knocked me on my butt: The Shield.

For those who don’t know (and what the hell is THAT about?), The Shield was a police drama which ran for seven seasons on FX. Created by Shawn Ryan (The Unit, Timeless, the rebooted S.W.A.T.), it starred Michael Chiklis as police detective Vic Mackey. A corrupt cop who didn’t start out that way, Mackey did everything with an attitude of “the ends justify the means,” which led him from being effective if not orthodox toward the dark side, and we get to watch his high swan dive toward oblivion as his actions destroy or assist in destroying pretty much everything and everyone around him.

The Shield was absolutely stuffed to overflowing with all manner of riveting performances delivered by talented actors. Filling out Mackey’s strike team were Walton Goggins, Kenny Johnson, and David Rees Snell, all of whom were rock solid in their respective roles. The rest of the main cast – Benito Martinez, CCH Pounder, Jay Karnes, Catherine Dent, Cathy Cahlin Ryan, and Michael Jace – was just as stellar.

Likewise, a number of familiar faces and up-and-comers provided strong supporting turns in recurring or guest star roles: Forest Whitaker, Glenn Close, Reed Diamond, Anthony Anderson, Laurie Holden, and Michael Pena to name just a few from a very long list. The series was filmed in a very immersive, “you are right there in the shit” style, with handheld cameras looking over characters’ shoulders, around corners, through doorways or over the hoods of cars…whatever made it feel like you the viewer were embedded with Mackey and the gang. Way, way more often than not, the writing was tight and gripping, and I quit counting the number of times I sat there watching an episode and thinking, “Daaaaaaaaaaaayum. They really went there?”

When the series premiered, I watched it with curiosity because I’ve always been a Chiklis fan and the strength of the main cast was enough to make me give the show a look. Even before the first hour was up, I was adding it to my TiVo recording schedule (remember those?) but then we get to the episode’s last scene and it just smacks you right in the mouth. From that instant, I knew I was in for the long haul. If you’ve not seen it, I won’t even hint at a spoiler. Just watch the first episode. Trust me.

Vic Mackey is a role Chiklis seemed born to play, and despite the indefensible deeds he committed as the series progressed–many of which he and his “strike team” of fellow detectives were able to pull off without being caught–part of us still wondered if he might get away with it all in the end. We watched with horrified fascination as Mackey and his team kept finding ways to compartmentalize and justify their actions while still holding on to lingering shreds of morality and decency as they pursue criminals. Then, as everything inevitably started to come apart, we wondered if Mackey and the others might somehow pull off an unlikely miracle and escape unscathed.

SPOILERS FOLLOW!!!
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
If you watched the show, you know he didn’t get away “clean,” and his team fared rather worse than he did. With his professional and personal life crumbling around him, Mackey goes to the feds and cuts a deal. He secures employment with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as well as a plea bargain which grants him immunity from all his past sins. In exchange, he must offer up a full confession of everything he and the strike team have ever done, as well as secure the bust of a major drug dealer.

The scene in the series’ penultimate episode, in which Mackey offers this confession is perhaps my very favorite in the series’ entire run. It’s all Chiklis for nearly a full minute of deafening silence as we watch him gather his thoughts and collect himself before starting to lay it all out, with I.C.E. agent Olivia Murray growing increasingly horrified with every passing second. For whatever the hell my opinion is worth, this single scene should’ve been enough to nab Chiklis an Emmy. That he wasn’t even nominated the year this originally aired is a fucking crime.

(And remember, we haven’t even gotten to the finale, at this point.)

I.C.E., now properly horrified at everything for which they’ve just given Mackey a free pass, force him to serve out his 3-year employment contract by manning a desk, writing endless, boring reports. Any failure to abide by the conditions of his agreement nullifies his immunity deal, and he can then be prosecuted for his past crimes. For a man used to all-but unlimited power as the leader of an elite police unit, this is a fate worse than death for Mackey, made all the worse by his status as a complete outcast from his former police department and the disappearance of his wife and kids into the federal Witness Protection Program. The final scene of The Shield, which takes place after his first day of work at I.C.E., very heavily implies that Mackey might not be keen on keeping up his end of the bargain for the ensuing three years….

And scene.

Ten years later, I still consider The Shield‘s series finale one of the best endings to any show, ever. The entire series is unfailingly rewatchable, which is good since it’s about to be released on Blu-ray in December (hint, for anyone holiday shopping for me.). With the new fad of reviving older shows, one has to ask if a return to the world of The Shield might be in the cards. Series creator Shawn Ryan is on record as saying he’s happy with where things ended, but he’s not opposed to reopening that box provided he can come up with something that makes the effort worthwhile. While I totally respect his position with leaving things be, if he ever does decide to scratch that itch, I will totally be there.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something that’s not at all your typical “cop show,” then I cannot recommend The Shield highly enough.

Reading about writing about war.

Huh?

Yeah, I know. Bit of a tongue twister. I’m such a stinker, ain’t I?

Reading books on various military topics was something I started when I was a teenager, thanks to my uncle and his rather voluminous library. Later, when I was wearing my own uniform, the Commandant of the Marine Corps instituted a rank-specific reading list as part of our continuing “professional military education program. Today, such lists are commonplace across all branches of the service, and individual units even have their own additional lists to foster guided discussions and other education-related activities. They typically include titles focusing on history and leadership including biographies and memoirs, and other topics relevant to the profession of arms and the challenges our military faces, such as strategic and regional studies.

Continue reading “Reading about writing about war.”