Shameless, SHAMELESS promotion (a.k.a. Who wants Cub Scout Popcorn!?)

Untitled-1Hey guys, my kids are both selling popcorn this year for their cub scout pack. They get an extra patch for making an online sales and military donation orders, so I thought I’d post the link on here and if anyone is interested buying any, great.  This has way more reach than my personal network or family/friends.

The link to the popcorn site is http://www.prpopcornstore.com/ and each boy has their own seller ID.

So when you check out either enter:

GNWEBJ to give a sale to my 10 year old,

-OR-

I2THJQ to make a sale for my 5 year old.

Thanks for indulging me in this completely shameless self promotion!

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Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories: Fantasy Review

You remember what I said in my review of the Sci-Fi volume of this planned 4 volume collection about somebody contacting Kevin J. Anderson for the upcoming Twilight Zone reboot?
At its best, Twilight Zone pinballed between Sci-Fi and Fantasy with ease.
But can KJA, who I feel is best known for his Sci-Fi work, bounce between the genres with the same effortlessness?
I say it’s time we find out.

As per usual, take this as your official warning of ****SPOILERS**** and let’s dive in.

I almost want to bury the lead here and make you dive deeper to find the answer to the above question, but I just can’t.
He does.
I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of his 2nd of 4 planned Short Story Collections and I can say for sure that there are some stories in here that rival anything Serling and Co. came up with on their best days.
For instance, the story Time Zone (which even KJA calls out as Twilight Zoney) ends with that same amazing stomach dropping feeling of episodes like Time Enough At last or the horrific unavoidable feel of eps like Spur Of The Moment.
A dude who just moved west gets a call from his panicked parents who just saw on the news that a devastating earthquake hit his area.
But he doesn’t know anything about what they’re telling him, thinking they must be confused by the change in timezones again, when the time they mentioned strikes and he feels a rumble.
That is such a fucked up and genius, but extremely terrifying, idea that leaves your head swimming, and I love it.

While I love the stories, his intros shine again.
Most writers seem to be okay giving off the vibe that they are distant, reclusive, stuck in their own imaginations, but these intros give you a peek inside.
He again talks about what inspired each story.
He shares stories about his childhood, when he and his wife (fellow author and frequent collaborator, Rebecca Moesta) were dating and newly married, Christmas traditions, friends he has known and worked with for years, and anything in between.
If you are subscribed to his readers group, you know these personal anecdotes aren’t in here as some attempt at being pseudo friendly while slyly slipping a nimble finger or two into your wallet for a dollar…or twenty.
He genuinely seems to want to connect with his readers, not unlike another well known Kevin we mention around these parts from time to time.

It adds a new layer to each story, specifically the ones set in and around a fictional small town called Tucker’s Grove Wisconsin.
I was not disappointed by a single one of those stories, Loco-Motive, Just Like Normal People (which has a great nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, aka The Laughing Bird, that I loved), & Mirror, Mirror On The Wall.
My grandparents came from a small town that we often made trips to so they could visit their siblings and these stories feel like they could be set there.
The dark history and suspicious attitudes he gives to this otherwise idyllic town are as real as you can get, chillingly so.

I have said it before and I will say it again and again, Kevin J. Anderson is one of my favorite writers because he gets important information across in the most economical way possible.
With both of these short story collections, all of the Shamble stories, and his DC work, he crams them so full of details without boring the shit out of you for a half page with meaningless minutae about a rocking chair that damn near makes you want to rip your eyes out and stomp them into jelly.
I feel he is legitimately on the level of J.K. Rowling in that regard.
Of the twenty-six stories included, I loved twenty-four.
The two that I didn’t love were enjoyable but in the end their focus was on subjects that I just didn’t care as much about.
That’s a great average no matter how you slice it.

The last stories I have got to mention are Dark Angel, Archangel & Heroes Never Die, they are among the grandest included.
The first features the former grim reaper and his replacement as they are waging a war for the future of humanity, and it is awesome.
The way he cross cuts between the combatants and humans, showing who is winning through the fates of random people is brilliant and a must read.
The second showcases a Thor-like hero of old in modern times as he relays stories to a young kid who just moved in next door and loves superheroes.
The whimsy from the kid as this man of failing physicality spins his yarn is both hopeful and beautiful.
His defense of his elder friend is the same.

The bottom line is this, the fun on display here is stunning.
It’s hard to express just how much I loved this book.
In here, he plays with the toys of Jules Verne & H.P. Lovercraft, fictionalizes the inspirations of H.G. Wells & Charles Dickens, takes us through time to before man walked the earth and into feudal Japan, and the beautifully trippy cover art is the cherry on top.
In short, this book is the perfect personification of what short fiction can and should be for me.
This is going to be a tough act for other writers to follow.

Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories: Fantasy is available September 15th in Paperback, E-Format, and Hardcover.
Pre-order it on Amazon or wherever you buy books.

Special thanks to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help on these reviews.

Share this on Twitter with the hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Doom And Dave Do A Doody

Hey gang, just wanted to give you a quick heads-up about a long time friend and supporter of the ours who has made the leap to Patreon.

Good ol @FlyinkDW has jumped over to create all new original podcast content over there and I guested on the very 1st episode of his new show, The Morning Growler.
We had a fun talk about AC/DC and general mucisness.

The 1st ep is free to listen too, so go check it out and let them know I sent ya.

Episode 059: You’d Be a Pincushion In Prison

1 0ycyUQqtYvWDFrUJlaYUCwIn this episode, the fellas are getting a wee bit hot button this time as they touch on the whole GotG Vol.3 situation and lay the pipe for their own Disney firings 10 years down the line.

DITKO, DEAD!

…also leads to a discussion on credits and creators, Doom finally watched Luke Cage and tells ya what he thought of it while making a connection Fitz hadn’t, and Fitz won’t watch the Fantastic Beasts 2 trailer even though Doom wants him too.

Fitz saw Black Panther, then he tells Doom some Walking Dead news, they kinda sorta go all over the place, tease what’s coming next ep, then sign off

…and proceed to keep on fuckin’ yappin’… Enjoy!

URL: Episode 059: You’d Be a Pincushion In Prison
Direct Download: tnb059.mp3

The Nerd Blitz Question Of The Week #7

It’s Tuesday, gang, and you know what that means, time for some hard hitting Questionizationings!
Let’s go!

What counts the most for you when reading comics?
Writing or Art?

Leave your answer in the comments below or post them on Twitter with the hashtag #TNBQotW so we can find and RT ’em.

Special thanks to @SteBoost for our QotW logo!

Fitz’s Toy Chest: #1 – C-3PO

Before we get started on this new semi-regulary blog feature, I want to take a minute to thank everyone that helped name this blog by voting in the poll we ran a few weeks ago.

Obviously Fitz’s Toy Chest won out over the other (much catchier title Figure Fan with Fitz, man). That name really grew on me and honestly I came THIS close to overturning the vote result to go with that one.

Ultimately we let the vote stand and went with the title that I came up with. Fitz’s Toy Chest may sound generic and cliche, but there is actually a specific reason I wanted to use it.

When I was a kid, long before we had major superstores like Toys R Us (#RIP) the big toy store in our area was called…wait for it…Toy Chest.

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This store was amazeballs and it was my paradise from about age 5 up until about age 12. I can remember the front corner of the building had giant letter blocks going up it, and a kinda like Home Depot has grills and lawn mowers out front this place had swingsets and playhouses lined up along the front along with the obligatory 70s/80s shitty steel swimming pool/animal troughs.

(Side note: This was the exact place that in 1983-ish I would see the Endor Garrison and Speeder Bike swingset. It existed. Look it up.)

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Sometime in the early 80s, the almost equally awesome Children’s Palace opened a location just down the street. This competition from a larger chain store with multiple locations would eventually drive Toy Chest out of business.

And Jesus wept.

The rest of my childhood toy buying days were spent begrudgingly going to Children’s Palace or the taint of toy stores, Kay-Bee. And while Children’s Palace was a mostly acceptable replacement for Toy Chest and I still have many fond memories of going there, nothing can touch the joy that was shopping at Toy Chest.

A good portion of my toy collection came from that store, as well as some big fish that got away (I’m looking at you Superion).

So the name of this feature is a direct homage to that hallowed hall…

And…

Now that I’ve wasted time explaining all that, let’s open Fitz’s Toy Chest and see what’s inside…

C-3PO
Company: Kenner
Acquisition Year: 1978
Acquired via: Purchase, Gacen Drugs
Years In Possession: 40

In 1977 a movie was released that changed movies forever and made such a profound impression on my 3-4 year old brain that I’m still in love with it and everything that has been spawned from it 4 decades later.

C3PO Card Front

The same monumental change that Star Wars brought to movies, it also brought to movie MERCHANDISING. And out of all the thousands and thousands of different kinds of Star Wars merchandise created and sold over the years, NOTHING could ever compare to the original line of action figures put out by Kenner. These toys were heavy and in a lot of ways crude representations of the beloved characters seen on screen but somehow felt as real to me as any flesh and blood actor.

C3PO Card Back

They were clunky but full of heart and joy. Kenner produced 100 or so different figures in a surprisingly short 8 year span from 1978 to 1985, never seeming to lose their uncanny ability to create the perfect assortment of characters and vehicles from all 3 films (compare this to the modern Hasbro line that started out as a Kenner reboot in ’95 and is still pumping out uninspired poorly sculpted toys 20 years and 8 movies later).

Of course much of my reverence for these toys comes from the fact that they were so much a part of me for all those formative years. I may very well have felt the same about the new line if I had been born in the early 90s. But I doubt it. There is just something about these figures, from the packaging to the solid heft of them in your hand that make them seem more like pieces of art than just a toy.

In 1978, not long after I had seen the movie for the first time, I got my first action figure. It was one of the original 12 released famously months and months after the initial hurricane of Star Wars mania. And as the title of this post has already spoiled, it was C-3PO.

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I can still remember being in the aisle of one of our two neighborhood drug stores (oddly the other one never got into the toy game) with my mom, watching her rifle through the figures on the peg. I’m not sure I knew what they were or had any interest in them, I’d never really seen toys like that before. “Action Figures”, especially in the 3.75″ scale were unheard of before Star Wars. But my mom was convinced I would love them. She would say “Oh look at this one! Oh how about THIS one!” and lower them down to my level so I could see each one. There’s even one particular statement she made that is forever burned into my brain to this day, but I’ll save that for the next volume of this blog…

Eventually, for no reason in particular, I chose C-3PO. He wasn’t my favorite character in the movie but for some reason I was drawn like a magnet to his gleaming gold finish.

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I still remember taking him home, my own miniature treasure, the first of what would become an army of tiny plastic friends which would see me through childhood, well into adolescence and remain as much a part of me as my own organic appendages into middle age.

That afternoon I laid on the couch, and with no other figures to interact with 3PO, I created a cave out of a pillow and imagined him hanging out in there by himself waiting for his master to show up.

Which he would eventually.

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Thanks for reading guys, I’ll be back to share another piece of my collection and more boring stories that no one but me cares about!

Burn Notice: The Reformed Review

Burn Notice is a show I loved, and in many episodes of the Pod I have gone on the record and said the novels I had read up to this point, along with the Monk and Psych novels, were among the best media tie-in novels I’ve read.
But, this is a new novel and there is always a chance it may not live up to the standard set by the others.
Time to find out!

As always, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Michael: [VO] My name is Michael Westen.
I used to be a spy.
Until…
Voice on phone: We got a burn notice on you.
You’re blacklisted.
Michael: [VO] When you’re burned, you’ve got nothing: no cash, no credit, no job history.
You’re stuck in whatever city they decide to dump you in.
Michael: Where am I?
Fiona: Miami.
Michael: [VO] You do whatever work comes your way.
You rely on anyone who’s still talking to you.
A trigger-happy ex-girlfriend…
Fiona: Shall we shoot them?
Michael: [VO] An old friend who used to inform on you to the FBI…
Sam Axe: You know spies, bunch of bitchy little girls.
Michael: [VO] Family too…
Sam: [phone rings] Hey, is that your Mom again?
Michael: [VO] …if you’re desperate.
Madeline: Someone needs your help, Michael!
Michael: [VO] Bottom line: As long as you’re burned, you’re not going anywhere.

For those unfamiliar, that’s how every episode of Burn Notice opened.
And every single time I picked this book up to read a few more chapters, that rolled through my head.
Tod Goldberg has such a great grasp of this world that it’s stunning to find out he wasn’t in the writers room on the series.
In all honesty, the worst thing I can say about this book is that it feels a lot like Star Wars: Dark Disciple, in that it feels like an arc of the show that they didn’t film.
It really is like 3 episodes in 1 book.
I can see Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless, Jeffery Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, and all of the rest of the cast acting out every single expression, muscle twitch, and flare of anger.
I can visualize the graphics explaining who is the client, bad guy, and asset.
It’s fantastic!

The story goes like this: a former street gang leader that Mikey knows from his youth and time as a spy found God in prison, turned priest, and is in the midst of trying to atone.
But now the collar’s new public image is being threatened with blackmail by a former fellow gang member.
After a chance meeting spurred by Madeline, Mike’s Mom, Mike takes him on as a client and gets dragged into this seedy underbelly.

This novel really crystalized one thing for me, something that would occasionally swim around in my brain from time to time as I watched the show.
That fact is that these characters are so strong and so well defined, far beyond most shows that fall into the same sort of villain of the week formula that this show did.
Mike is the strong leader who is capable on his own but isn’t afraid to rely on his friends and family.
Fiona is an incredible presence that I would dare say is one of the best female characters of all time, without falling into stereotypical female archetypes.
She’s occasionally soft and sweet, occasionally The Punisher in a dress.
And then we come to Sam, the wise crackin’ best buddy who is more than just comic relief.
He can actually handle himself and rescue the hero if he is forced to.
It all comes through so well, it’s perfection on the page.

Mike makes his plan to take down the baddie, who has cops on the payroll. After some clever twists to complicate things and challenge the crew, they unseat the villain, protect a mother and her child, save the priest and his youth workers he’s trying to pull out of the life.
And all is well, for now.

If you are a fan of this show, there is absolutely no reason you won’t love these books.
They legitimately feel like missing TV Movies from the middle of the first three seasons or something.
I don’t know exactly how Goldberg does it, but the dude does it well.
It’s a damn shame he only did 5 of these novels because in the absence of the show, that I deeply loved and terribly miss, these are a magnificent way to extend the experience.
I highly encourage you to check this and all of the others out.
Meanwhile, I’ll just sit here hoping he’ll get an idea some day and they let him do more.

Special thanks to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help.

Be sure to come back tomorrow, gang, for the launch of Fitz’s new Bi-Weekly Figure Feature!