Saturday, December 31, 2011
The Last Blog Of The Year
Adios, 2011, you ball-breaking beeotch. And good riddance.
Ah. Feels good to get that out of my system.
This year has not been the best I've ever had. Most everybody who cares to know why already does, so there’s little need to belabor the point.
I’m planning on a better 2012. Healthier, happier and more productive. I have several writing projects lined up that I’m excited about.
I’m starting a new weekly column in a local paper. I’ll link to when the first one appears.
Two new books should be out in the new year, and a few short stories, if I get them finished.
I realize January 1 is just an arbitrary date, but I’m in need of a fresh start and new beginning. I plan to embrace it. I hope you do the same.
Enjoy the new year. Hold your loved ones close and tell them how much you care about them. Don’t put off your dreams for another minute.
Goodnight, world! Sweet dreams.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Pod of Horror #66
Pod of Horror is back to wrap up 2011 and prepare for Mayan destruction in 2012.
On PoH #66, Cullen Bunn discusses his award-winning series The Sixth Gun and his new young adult horror novel Crooked Hills.
In Scary Words, we review the second series of Maelstrom books from Thunderstorm Books and Brian Keene.
We have a winner in The Tomb of Trivia. Nanci delivers all the news that fits, and we announce the return of a member of the PoH family.
Get it at iTunes or download it here. Pod of Horror is hosted and produced by Mark Justice. And visit our Facebook page.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Free E-Book. But Hurry!
Just got this from Graveside Tales:
First 100 people, who send their name and preferred digital format to email@example.com will receive. Looking At The World With Broken Glass In My Eye by Mark Justice.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
This is just a quick note to wish you happiness during the holiday season, whatever your beliefs or non-beliefs.
As I've said here and elsewhere, I had a massive realignment of priorities this year. Life's everyday aggravations, once the source of quite a bit of agony, now seem very insignificant.
I hope you get to spend time with those who are most important to you. I know I will.
That's all, folks!
Monday, December 19, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Here’s a cool bit of news.
As a holiday gift to you, Permuted Press is offering the e-book of Dead Earth: The Green Dawn for free. You can download it for Kindle, Nook, iPad and iPhone and ePub. Here’s the link. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find our little book.
I had a great time writing this with Dave Wilbanks, and I’m happy it’s now available again to anyone who would like to read it.
By the way, look for the third book in the series, Dead Earth: Sanctuary, sometime in 2012 from Permuted Press. The manuscript has gone through the stringent Mark & Dave revision process and is in the hands of the editor.
Thanks to everyone who has picked up a copy of my collection Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye. I appreciate the feedback.
Speaking of feedback, if you would leave a brief review at Amazon, I'd be grateful.
I still don’t have a firm release date for The Dead Sheriff, but Evileye Books assures me it will be sometime in Spring of 2012. Work proceeds on the sequel.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Friday, December 09, 2011
New Column At Horror World
My new Horror World column--titled "The Three Scariest Words"--is up now. You can read it here.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
First Trailer for The Three Stooges
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Monday, December 05, 2011
Friday, December 02, 2011
Slow Writing Week, Pulp Fiction, Balls
But wait! Donovan Pike and the City of the Gods has been updated at Pulp Nocturne. Go there now and read it.
This week has been heavy with wacky videos here at the ol' DOJ. That's partly because I have been updating the blog so infrequently and wanted to offer new content.
Also, I believe the world could use more wackiness. Or, hot chicks talking about how much they hate balls:
Thursday, December 01, 2011
25 Signs You Spend Too Much Time on the Internet
1. Whenever you find a penny or dollar bill, you hear that “Congratulations! You’ve won!” voice inside your head.
2. The prospect of any phone conversation provokes an unreasonable level of anxiety.
3. You just steal sh*t when you’re bored.
4. You know where your high school best friend’s former roommate’s gorgeous ex-girlfriend goes for the summers (Nantucket. Her cousin Becky is kind of terrible though, you can tell).
5. You find the concept of paying for pornography endearing.
6. You’ve had multiple conversations with friends speculating about the sexuality of someone you haven’t seen since you were six.
7. You’ve forgotten that watching TV on the TV used to be, like, a thing.
8. You have a legit panic attack when you can’t reconnect to your WiFi network.
9. You’ve seen all of “Felicity” despite never enjoying a single episode.
10. You hate Jeff Dunham way more than he even deserves.
11. Going to the movies counts as having a “break from technology”.
12. The phrase “follow me” does not even remotely invoke thoughts of physical movement.
13. You send emotionally complex, romantically tinged messages by “Like”-ing sh-- on Facebook.
14. You know far less about the Mayor of your city than you do about the Mayor of your local Panera Bread on FourSquare.
15. You think a beautiful sunset lighting up the New York skyline on a November evening just looks like a crappy desktop background.
16. You treat people who say they don’t have Facebook as if they have a horrible illness that you have to do your best to appear optimistic about.
17. You haven’t been on a date in months, but you do have a really messy, emotional “friends with benefits” situation going on in SecondLife.
18. The words “LiveJournal” or “Xanga” bring up far more nostalgia than any old home movie could.
19. Your reading responses for classes often just say: “TLDNR”.
20. You’ve gotten past the tenth page of comments on the YouTube video of that little British girl rapping with Nicki Minaj on Ellen.
21. You can name more celebrities with leaked nude photos than American presidents.
22. The last family argument you had was over Gchat.
23. You haven’t read a whole book in a year, but you have read the entire Wikipedia pages for “Sleep”, “Jon Voight”, and “Yo momma (maternal insult)” today.
24. Your day is completely made when you get a “what up my brother!!” tweet back from @mark_mcgrath from Sugar Ray.
25. You know what (insert 90s rapper/or one-hit wonder/Da Brat) is up to these days.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
I hope this day goes exactly as you want it to, whether that means spending it with family and friends, as I will, or flying solo.
As I've said elsewhere, I have so much to be thankful for this year--more than any other Thanksgiving--and I will be taking time to reflect on the blessings in my life.
I expect those blessings to include dressing, mashed potatoes and pie.
Have a good one.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Cramming for Stuffing
One more brief day of work, then I’m on vacation. It’s the first real vacation in what has been a very long year.
Here’s my vacation plan:
1) Don’t get up at Oh God o’clock every morning.
2) Help Norma with whatever needs to be done to prepare for Thanksgiving (including–but not limited to–being the official taster. Oh, what a burden I bear). This year I have more to be thankful for than at any time in my life and I want to take the time to properly appreciate that.
3) Write. I have to finish two non-fiction pieces, one overdue short story, a final edit on Dead Earth: Sanctuary and continue with the second Dead Sheriff book.
I thought about adding “eat leftovers” but I think that is assumed.
I hope you have a good week.
Monday, October 31, 2011
500 Miles, Changes and Farts
Nice, eh? I think the world needs more of Billie Piper dancing. But that's just me.
I have a theory. I think we’re changing all the time, you and I. Even when you think you aren't. Even that hard-headed redneck miscreant who doesn't seemed to have evolved past the Neanderthal stage. He’s changing, too.
Some of the changes are big, and you can feel them happening, like when that guy who comes over and drinks all your beer while you watch football wraps his truck around a tree when he’s loaded, leaving you reeling like the elevator door opened and you almost stepped through into that empty, black abyss. That’s the moment you quit drinking.
Some of the changes are smaller and almost glacier-slow, like the way your political views morph as you spend time with friends and/or a spouse, or the way you start out hating musicals, but you put up with them because they’re important to the woman you’re in love with and, quite unexpectedly, one day you find yourself humming “Seasons of Love” or “Tonight”.
So what’s this all about?
As most of my friends know, 2011 has been a hell of a year. It was so hard on my wife. And, it turns out, it really kicked my ass, too. The experience–the ongoing experience–has changed me both profoundly and in subtle ways.
It’s like I can feel my brain being rewired. Things that once seemed so important to me are now little more than dusty curiosities, while others things, things that were always vital, are now so significant to me that I have trouble find the words to express their importance.
I’m Mark 2.0, with 2.1, etc, not far behind.
But just so you don’t think I’ve changed too much, here’s a video of Peter Griffin farting.
Saturday, October 01, 2011
Ends and Odds
Here’s what’s been going (or hasn’t been going) on:
Dead Earth: Sanctuary is being revised. Dave Wilbanks and I want this manuscript to sing before we turn it in to the publisher. When I sent it to him, it probably sounded closer to William Shatner than Tony Bennett. I’m sure when it returns to me the pitch will be closer to perfect.
I have begun the second Dead Sheriff book for Evileye Books. It’s a bit difficult to talk about it, since the first book isn’t out yet (and I don’t know the release date), but I can share the opening of #2:
The Indian youth screamed when Arlo Belcher bit into his shoulder and ripped away a mouthful of flesh and muscle and blood.
“Damn it, Arlo, I ain’t even got the fire built yet,” his brother said.
“Cain’t help it, Billy,” Arlo said, around a mouthful of meat. “I was hungry and this here Injun tastes good.”
I have a couple of short stories in various stages of completion, and another novel I will be writing as soon as The Dead Sheriff #2 is finished. As always, my writing schedule and productivity waxes and wanes with the demands of my full-time job and personal life.
For my birthday, Norma got me a number of books by Jack Kirby and others featuring the work of Kirby and his partner of many years Joe Simon. I’m working my way through these slowly, a story or two at a time, so I may savor the experience for as long as possible.
I’m also reading Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman. Or, more precisely, Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues: A Jesse Stone novel by Michael Brandman. This is a continuation of the popular series from the late Parker. Brandman is a writer/producer on the CBS Jesse Stone movies. His style is not very close to Parker’s, and the novel reads in places like a first draft, but I’ll stick with it and see where it goes. Parker’s Spenser series is also being continued by mystery writer Ace Atkins.
Next up in the queue: The Affair by Lee Child and Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke.
I hope to have another episode up this month. Other than that, I don’t have much to report.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Rainy Days and Mondays, Blah, Blah, Blah
Also, I seem to be trying to come down with a cold or a bug. They may also be weather-related, but I rather suspect it has something to do with living a stress-filled life for months, with little or no down time.
I seem to once again be buried under commitments, despite an effort about a year ago to try to prevent this very thing from happening again.
In the cold, harsh light of day (well, a day other than this grey one) I realize that some of the things I have agreed to do are things that I no longer have much enthusiasm for. Another pruning is in order, a scaling back. I have a birthday in a few days and recent events have made me outrageously aware of how fleeting time really is. I spend enough of it engaged in activities that bring me no joy and may be wearing my soul down a silly millimeter at a time.
That has to change. I’ll spend the rest of the year finishing up those things I have promised, then I will make some hard decisions about the sort of projects I want to take on.
(By the way, my wife is doing great. Her health is excellent and her amazing spirit and resilience inspires me every day. Her pumpkin pie ain’t too bad, either.)
Meanwhile, here’s something that makes me happy.
That’s Callie, standing on my bedside table next to a copy of The Losers by Jack Kirby.
I’m going to wrap this up, brush my cats and read for a while. Now that’s a wise use of my time.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
In 2001 I was doing a morning radio show in Kentucky. In 2011 I still am, though I work in a different city. I was on the radio when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Like everyone else, at first I thought it was simply a bizarre accident. And, like everyone else, the second plane changed things. Shortly after that, the radio station went to total news coverage and I had a lunch to cancel.
A few day’s earlier, the manager of another radio station (or, rather, his representative) set up the lunch to discuss my interest in simulcasting my radio show on his station.
If you were around then, you remember the confusion, the fear, that we all experienced. Would there be another attack? Were more enemy-controlled jets in the air? Were major cities going to be torched by nukes? Were enemy armies now waiting to invade our country? I heard all of those suggestions, and some more bizarre, in the hours following the morning attacks.
Talking about a silly morning radio show didn’t seem very important that day. I called the other station, and to my surprise, the man who’d approached me still wanted to have lunch. “There’s nothing else we can do,” I was told.
So I went to lunch and had one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
The restaurant was normally a busy place, where one had to wait a few minutes for a table, even at lunch.
There was no wait. There were no other diners, save for the other radio guy, his employee (a friend of mine who had served as the intermediary) and me.
We took a table by the window, which gave us a view of the busiest street in town, a street that should have been bumper-to-bumper at lunchtime on a weekday.
During the hour or so I was there, I saw maybe 10 cars. Every one traveled well below the speed limit, like members of a funeral procession that was spread out across a continent.
The change in the world was disorienting. I had trouble concentrating on what the other radio guy was saying. As soon as I could, I left for home.
My strongest memory of that afternoon and evening was the sadness my wife and I felt. We flipped through the television news channels, trying to find answers, but at that point, most of what was being discussed was pure speculation.
The most chilling thing was the number of channels that went off the air. As we went from channel to channel, many of the non-news cable channels were not broadcasting any programming. In most cases, a title card and the picture of the flag was the only thing on the screen.
Ten years later, some things–like airport security–seemed to have changed in a fairly permanent way, while others–politics, for example–seem to be back to “bidness as usual”, as we say back home.
Nothing ever came of that lunch, except for the memory of that strange day. I was listening to meaningless babble while most everyone else was gathered around a TV in the office, or huddled at home with loved ones, crying or angry or scared. Or, most likely, all three.
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
My latest Horror World column is up and ready for your eyeballs. You can read it here.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Time Is Running Out...
...to get in the drawing for a signed copy of my collection Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye. The winner will be drawn on September 1. You can still sign up here.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Waiting on Fall
The other morning as I was crossing the street between the lot where I park and the building I work in, I caught a hint of Autumn on the early morning breeze.
That’s a good thing. It’s been a dark, difficult summer. I’m hoping Fall, a time of the year that has always been good for me, is going to bring better things on all fronts. Good tidings, if you will.
Don’t worry, kids. This isn’t one of those whiney blog posts (okay, it stuck a toe across the Whiney county line, but that's all). It's actually a writing update.
Actual work is getting done, though circumstances have made me less productive than I hoped to be.
Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye is generating good feedback. The publisher has promised that an e-book version is on the horizon. By the way, you can still sign up for a free, signed copy of the book. The winner will be announced on September 1,
Dead Earth: Sanctuary is almost done. We’re running slightly behind schedule (all my fault, believe me) but I suspect The End will be typed by Dave or me sometime this week. Then we start the revisions. We hope to turn in the final manuscript by the end of September.
With any free time (ha!) I might have in September, I will finish up one project and write a story that’s long overdue. On October 1, I will begin writing the second Dead Sheriff book.
By the way, since I mentioned it here last, a couple of new chapters of Donovan Pike and the City of the Gods have been posted at Pulp Nocturne.
I’m also prepping episode 66 of Pod of Horror. The current plan calls for it to go live in mid-September.
I’ll be back with another update soon. As Garrison Keillor says, be well, do good work and keep in touch.
And let Autumn get here soon. I need it.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
Pod of Horror # 65
Pod of Horror is back with nearly two hours of fear-filled fun. On PoH #65, Don D’Auria discusses his move from Leisure to Samhain Publishing. Bestselling thriller writer James Rollins returns to talk about The Devil Colony. Writer and actor Kealan Patrick Burke gets Slimed. And Matthew Warner reveals the inspiration for Blood Born. Jason L. Keene gives the Moonshine Matinee treatment to more fright flicks. Nanci Kalanta has the news (and drops the F-Bomb–and we don’t mean “Fudge”). Tim Curran, James Newman and James A. Moore get reviewed in Scary Words. And we finally have a winner in The Tomb of Trivia. Get it at iTunes or download it here. Pod of Horror is hosted and produced by Mark Justice.
Monday, August 01, 2011
Zombie vs Baby
Over at the Vintage Horror site, Matt Cowan has reviewed my collection, Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye.
Check it out.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
A Review of Doc Savage: Python Isle
As a fan of pulp magazines, Doc Savage and radio drama, I was the perfect audience for Radio Archives' new series of pulp audiobooks. So when they sent me a copy of Doc Savage: Python Isle, I was prepared to be entertained.
Python Isle was the first Doc Savage novel written by Will Murray, based upon an outline by original Doc scribe Lester Dent (this is all covered in a nice featurette accompanying the audiobook, sort of like the extras on a DVD). As a Doc Savage story, Python Isle is nearly perfect. It contains all the ingredients of the best Doc Savage novels: high adventure, a lost civilization and humorous interplay among Doc’s aides. Radio Archives has produced an unabridged version of the novel that encompasses 8 CDs (well, seven and a half).
The narration is key to any audiobook, and Michael McConnohie does a fine job. He makes each character distinct and individual, and he carries the narrative without sounding too announcer-y, if you’ll excuse the made-up word.
Roger Ritner produced and directed Python Isle. He was involved with the Doc Savage radio series on NPS in the 1980s.
My complaints about the package are minor. Sometimes McConnohie pronounces Python as PY-thun, which was a little distracting.
And the musical cues took a while to grow on me. At first, they struck me as generic cuts from a production library. If they were, then the cuts were more carefully chosen for the second half of the book.
All in all, listening to Python Isle was a very satisfying experience. Radio Archives has already released a second Doc audiobook, as well as that NPR series. And audibooks of other pulp characters are on the way, including The Spider. It’s a great time to be a pulp fan.
Check out the offerings of Radio Archives at their site.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The Dead Sheriff Is Covered
Pretty nice, eh? I know I’m happy with it. You can read an essay on the creation of the cover here.
It will be a few months until the book is released, and that’s okay. Evileye has a marketing plan in mind and I trust them in this department.
Meanwhile, in a few weeks I will begin writing the second book in the series. We’ve made a long-term commitment to the Undead Avenger of the West, so you can expect a lot of The Dead Sheriff in the years to come.
You can follow all the news on the project right here or at Evileye Books.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Hey, Kids! Free Fiction
They’re retiring me tonight after 67 years of faithful and uncomplaining service.
Too cruel, they say. Inhumane. There are more pleasant, socially acceptable ways to get the job done. As if a deviant who abducts a child from her home, then tortures and rapes her before ending her life deserves society’s pity or compassion.
I don’t pity. My justice is final and absolute, dispensed like lightning.
I give comfort to the families of the victims. I deliver a message of vengeance, one that tells all who witness it that the punishment does fit the crime.
Or it used to. Now I’m obsolete, politically incorrect, a reminder of simpler times, when choices were more obvious and right was right. But no more. I’ve heard them say I’m the last of my kind in the state. The protesters already gather outside the walls of my chamber, paying for a reprieve that will save a monster from my embrace.
I can pray too, and if there is a god for my kind, my prayer is that I be given this last chance. I need it. I am so close now.
I first achieved sentience in the late 40s, though I suppose I was always aware in a dim and cloudy sort of way. But it was the death of Arnold Reeder that lifted me out of the quagmire of mindlessness.
Reeder had murdered an entire family – father, mother and six children – then had sex with their corpses. All of their corpses.
When he was strapped into me and fed the first jolt of 2400 volts, I stirred. When the second and final jolt was delivered through my electrodes to his head and both ankles, I awoke.
With each death I dispensed, my knowledge and my perceptions grew. Was I receiving consciousness from those I executed? Did their essence, their souls impart strength to me?
I’ve had years to ponder the question and I still have no answer. I’m not a philosopher or theologian or scientist. I am oak, copper wire and leather restraints; efficient at my job.
And tonight I will be decommissioned.
They bring the condemned to me at ten minutes before midnight. His head has been shaved and he stares vacantly at me. While he is strapped against my polished flesh, I can reflect on my last task.
With each electric death delivered, I grew in strength and cunning. I could listen and understand the people around me and, after a time, I learned to extend my senses beyond these walls.
Even as the tide of public opinion turned against my kind, I found the need for my decisive retribution was greater than ever.
The idea came to me three years ago. I was still too weak to accomplish my goal, as I was used with less frequency. If I wanted this to work, I had to be stronger.
Three executions since then had brought me nearly to the zenith of my power. If the Gods of Justice favored me, tonight would be enough.
His name is Danny Black. He was a murderer many times over, though he had only been caught once, when an attempt to rob a market ended in the death of two people. One of them was a pregnant woman. Danny doesn’t regret what he’s done. I can feel his emotions seeping into the whorls of my grain. He’s happy that no one knows about the other deaths he’s caused. He holds those memories close to him like precious gifts and here, in his final moments, he cherishes their sweet bouquet.
When the switch is pushed, the living fire leaps from my electrodes into his body and Danny Black convulses madly.
After one minute the power is turned off. Ten seconds pass, and a second jolt is delivered. It’s unnecessary. After the first dose, I felt his life flee from his body, passing through me and hopefully leaving behind just enough to do what needs to be done.
The doctor doesn’t approach until my failsafe switch is thrown, the Energized light goes off, and my two power switches are turned off by key.
The doctor places a stethoscope to the chest of Danny Black and listens to nothing.
Randall Kirtner has been a physician for thirty-two years. He’s gone through three wives, a fortune and half the booze in the state. He’s marking time. He’s a ship without a rudder. He no longer has a purpose.
As he leans forward, he places his left hand on my arm.
All my planning, all my prayers have come to this.
The doctor stumbles back, nearly falling. He gasps in surprise. He only fights me for a moment and then I shove him down deep into a place where he can do no harm.
I look around the room and take my first tentative steps.
I turn back to Danny Black, and, for the first time, I see me. I am solid, strong. For 67 years I cleansed the world of its worst elements.
Now they can carry me to the basement. I’ve outgrown that body.
I allow the doctor to rise up long enough to sign the death certificate and to shake hands with the warden.
I am escorted out four gates until, finally, I step into the world.
Nothing I’ve heard can prepare me for the beauty of this earth. I am momentarily overcome as tears roll down my face.
This only reinforces my dedication. This is too precious a place to allow the Danny Blacks and the Arnold Reeders to infect it.
My old body may have been retired, but my mission continues. The old doctor lacked a reason to live and I have given it to him.
I walk to his car and briefly set him free so he may teach me how to drive.
Then we must be going.
There is much work to be done.
If you enjoyed the story, you can order the book here or here.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
The Cult of the Walking Download
The Secret Agent X story I wrote a few years ago is now available as a download to your cell phone or tablet. iPulp Fiction has a wide variety of classic and new pulp stories on their site, and you can download my “The Cult of the Walking Dead” for one dollar. That’s over fifteen thousand words of blazing gunfights, ninja assassins, and great pulpish fun for a mere four quarters.
You can download the story here, after you register for free.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Dead Earth News and More
Meanwhile, Dead Earth: The Vengeance Road is still available in paperback and ebook formats. Thanks for all the nice reviews.
Speaking of reviews, I could use them at Amazon for Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye. If you read the collection, please consider leaving a review.
You can still sign up for a free, signed copy of the book at Horror World.
The other big news (well, big for me) is the arrival on my doorstep of In Laymon’s Terms. The anthology, a tribute to the great horror writer Richard Laymon, includes my story “The Red Kingdom”. It was my first professional sale, made all the way back in February 2003. It’s nice to see it finally in print.
And for those who care about such things, I'm now on Google+.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Looking at Me
I'm profiled in this week's edition of The Ashland Beacon, a local weekly paper. Although the focus is mostly on my radio career, the article touches on my writing. You can read it online here.
And thanks to Tanya Pullin, our amazing State Representative, who managed to sneak a mention of Deadneck Hootenanny into today's Ashland Daily Independent.
Friday, July 08, 2011
Looking At A Free Book
Horror World, my home away from home, is giving away a signed copy of my new collection Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye.
To enter the drawing, sign up here.
I'll be happy to inscribe the book to the winner.
Thursday, July 07, 2011
Joke of the Week
A frog telephones the Psychic Hotline and is told, "You are going to meet a beautiful young girl who will want to know everything about you."
The frog says, "This is great! Will I meet her at a party, or what?"
"No," says the psychic. "Next semester in her biology class."
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Review: The Devil Colony
The Devil Colony by James Rollins
The Devil Colony brings back Sigma Force, James Rollins’s cadre of government superspies, all ex-special forces trained in a scientific discipline then given guns and sent out to battle the bad guys. And in Sigma’s world, there are no shortage of evildoers. The Sigma thrillers are modern pulp writing at its finest (Rollins has confessed to being a fan of the Doc Savage novels) and I’m happy to report that the latest novel in the series maintains that tradition.
From the novel’s 18th Century prologue in Kentucky to it’s fiery climax in a well-known state park, The Devil Colony is the most American of the Sigma adventures.
When an archeological site is disturbed in the Rocky Mountains, an uproar is ignited, both literally and figuratively. In a cavern filled with mummified bodies that appear to be Caucasian Indians, a cache of gold plates is discovered, each inscribed with mysterious writing. The cavern also holds a mystery substance, which may turn out to be the most destructive element on earth.
Sigma director Painter Crowe is called in to investigate, thanks to a very personal connection to the events in the Rockies. Crowe takes the stage early and holds on to it, playing the lead role normally assigned to Sigma Operative Gray Pierce. Rollins lets the reader get to know Crowe more than in earlier books, as he explores Crowe’s Native American background in depth. Plus, we get to see Crowe as a man of action, a nice change of pace.
Fans of Commander Peirce shouldn’t fret. He and his best friend Monk (nice name for a pulp hero, eh?) see their fair share of conflict and flying lead. In addition, both characters go through dramatic changes in their personal lives. It’s a decent bit of character development that elevates the Sigma books above some of the other pulp thrillers out there.
Rollins always combines real history with real science. In The Devil Colony, it’s the founding of this nation that propels the narrative, particularly the secrets of the founding fathers. The scientific MacGuffin is nanotechnology, unregulated and unchecked, and far older than I would have dreamed possible.
Sigma’s arch nemesis The Guild is back, and in this installment we learn a little more about how far the evil organization’s tendrils extend, culminating in a revelation that will have fans waiting impatiently for the next book in the series.
As always, Rollins supplies an appendix outlining what concepts are real and what were created for the book. And, as always, I’m dumbfounded to discover that certain things that I was certain had been made up by the author are actually true.
Ultimately, though, a thriller lives or dies based upon how well the author delivers the, well, thrills. Rollins once again proves his page-turning prowess. With more cliffhangers than a Saturday morning serial, The Devil Colony is served up to the reader as an electrifying mash-up of Die Hard and The History Channel, in a story that would fit right in among the Indiana Jones and National Treasure series.
Highly recommended to all fans of adventure fiction.
Monday, July 04, 2011
Happy Fourth of July
Happy Independence Day. It’s one of my favorite holidays, in part because of my annual re-reading of Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles.
This tabloid-sized comic came out, of course, in the summer of 1976, just in time to keep me from losing my mind during a particularly unenjoyable family vacation. Our family always took two vacations each summer. The first was a beach trip, which I loved. The second was a fishing vacation. By the time I was sixteen, the last thing I wanted to do was spend a week with a bunch of grouchy relatives on a lake with little in the way of distraction or entertainment.
I had purchased the Captain America book on the way to Tennessee. Buying it was a no-brainer. Jack Kirby had been my favorite comic book artist for years. If fact he drew (and likely plotted) the first comic book I ever owned–Fantastic Four #39. A few years later, he took his talents to DC where he created an epic cosmic saga of gods and humans that unfolded across four titles: Forever People, The New Gods, Mister Miracle and Jimmy Olsen. Within a couple of years, three of the books were canceled and Kirby turned to other work, some original (OMAC, The Demon) and some not (The Losers). By 1976 he was back at Marvel, writing and drawing Cap, Black Panther, Devil Dinosaur, The Eternals and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
By the time of the family vacation I was well-acquainted with Kirby’s bombastic dialogue and extreme fondness for the exclamation point. He was like a composer whose musical style was unique and instantly recognizable. No one wrote like Kirby. In fact, some critics argued that no one, not even Kirby, should write like Kirby.
Anyway, Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles sent the star-spangled avenger on a journey through American history, with each chapter embellished by a different inker.
It was a spectacular story with a breathtaking scope. At 16, I was already evolving into the cynical adult I would soon become, yet Kirby’s story made me proud of my country, even in those wary post-Watergate days. It was a little piece of magic.
My original copy fell apart years ago and I replaced it (Yes, I also bought Marvel’s reprint a few years ago, but the tabloid version is still the one I take down and read each summer).
So I’ll enjoy the cookout and the fireworks and my family today. But sometime before the day ends I’ll relive the best part of the summer of 1976 with my shield-slinging hero.
I hope you have a great Fourth of July.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Now that Norma’s recovery is on track (or actually ahead of schedule, according to my totally non-professional observations) I’m starting to catch up on stuff. It’s slow progress, to be sure, but progress nonetheless.
I’m back to working on Dead Earth 3. In fact, Dave and I have just worked out the novel’s finale. We’ll see how much of the plan survives to final draft. I love plotting out these books, just as much as I love seeing how much we deviate from the plan.
I am also going over what I hope will be the final edits on the first book in The Dead Sheriff series. I really want this one to come out soon.
Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye is here. I got my copies this week. I’ll post a pic when I have more time. The book looks great. I’m planning a couple of promotions to give away copies of the collection. Keep watching this space.
We’ve been watching the last season of Burn Notice. I have several episodes on the DVR, along with the Sam Axe movie. It’s one of my favorite shows. Even if Fiona rarely wears a bra.
That’s a joke, son.
I’m still working on the next Pod of Horror. Events of the past few weeks have put the show on hold. I’m hoping to have a new episode ready by mid-July, depending on how things go.
We also watched Crazy Heart last night, with Jeff Bridges as a down and out country singer. He was phenomenal in the role. The rest of the flick was equally well-cast. Highly recommended.
I also have been cooking a bit, under Norma’s guidance. It reminds me of the idea I had to combine two popular genres into a cooking/ghost-hunting TV show.
It would take place in the kitchen of a different house each week. Norma would make a fabulous recipe, while I would wander around behind her with my cool ghost hunting electronics and things like “Did you hear that?” and “If you’re here, send us a sign” and “I hope that shows up on the tape” and “The temperature just dropped 30 degrees. Can you feel that?”
This has “hit” written all over it. Interested networks can contact me here. Have your checkbook ready.
Friday, June 24, 2011
It’s a recurring disease that hits me every summer. Suddenly, the thought of reading “legitimate” fiction is repulsive. I need grotesque and heinous villains, larger than life heroes, mayhem and hot lead.
I have no choice. I have to read pulp fiction.
Over the next couple of months I’ll read a few escapades of Doc Savage, several Spider thrillers, a couple of Phantom Detectives, A G-8 WWI adventure, maybe an Avenger or a Secret Agent X or Captain Future, supplemented with a couple of Candid Camera Kid tales and a Suicide Squad adventure.
When summer rolls around pulp becomes my crack.
I also have to write pulp fiction.
Yes, I love reading and writing horror, but the 12-year-old that still lives inside me occasionally must have his way. And he wants more pulp from my keyboard.
I hope to write a big chunk of Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods in the next few weeks.
I also have two other big pulp projects in the work, one set in the anything-can-happen blood and thunder 1930s and the other in World War 2.
I’m not sure yet where they’ll show up. Perhaps over at Pulp Nocturne, or maybe I’ll self-publish. Take it from me, nobody is getting rich from pulp fiction. At least not the writers. You write it because you have to.
By the way, new pulp fiction is becoming quite the cottage industry. There’s some good stuff being published by the next generation of pulp writers. At the same time, some of the stuff is simply awful. But that’s the way of most things.
(Quick aside: the fandom that has sprung up over the new pulp fiction is a little schizophrenic. On one hand it’s great to see a lot of enthusiasm over something I’ve loved since I was 9 years old. At the same time, the territorial fiefdom of fandom can be a little confusing. A few years ago I was invited to join a blog for pulp writers. This was about the time that a publisher (not associated with the members of the blog) was beginning a series of pulp facsimile reprints of Doc Savage and Shadow novels. I made a post about the topic on said blog, only to see the post deleted because I had violated the unstated rule of talking about a pulp project that wasn’t originated by a blog member. Later, I was asked to leave the blog because I wasn’t posting enough.
The other day I dropped in on the blog and discovered a post heralding the new series of original Doc Savage novels.
The unstated rules have apparently been rewritten.)
Anyway, the pulp fever rages and Tylenol can’t touch it. Time to dig through the boxes of moldering paper. There’s a dirigible and a tommy gun waiting for me.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Joke of the Week
"Well, it was like this," said the man. "I was having a quiet round of golf with my wife when she sliced her ball into a pasture of cows. We went to look for it and while I was rooting around, I noticed one of the cows had something white at its rear end. I walked over and lifted up the tail and sure enough, there was my wife's golf ball... stuck right in the middle of the cow's butt. That's when I made my mistake."
"What did you do?" asks the doctor.
"Well, I lifted the tail and yelled to my wife, 'Hey, this looks like yours!'"
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods
Two new chapters of my pulp adventure novel have gone up this week. You can check them out at Pulp Nocturne.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The Man of Bronze Is Back
Altus Press has just announced a series of new Doc Savage novels to begin in July.
For those who don’t know, Doc Savage was an adventure magazine published by Street and Smith in the golden age of pulps, the 30s and 40s.
In the 1960s, Bantam Books began reprinting the pulp novels, covered by striking paintings by James Bama. Eventually, Bantam reprinted the entire series, included an unpublished novel from the pulp era. Afterwards new Doc books appeared, first from science fiction legend and uber-Doc fan Philip Jose Farmer, then several books written by pulp historian Will Murray, based on unpublished work by primary Doc Savage writer Lester Dent.
Apparently, this new series by Murray, titled The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage (which makes me think Doc is teaming up with Austin Powers; Yeah, baby!), will also be based upon Dent’s unpublished notes, outlines and fragments.
As a Doc fan since my uncle gave me three of the paperbacks in the late 60s*, I am excited to have the chance to read new Doc novels and I hope the series is a massive success.
However, some of the Savage novels Murray wrote in the 1990s suffered from excessive length. Doc works best as a short, lightning fast adventure tale. Frankly, a couple of the 90s novels were a trudge through the mud. Whether the word count was imposed by the publisher or was the author’s choice, I hope the new series gets back to the sleek, rocket ride that made up the best of Dent’s pulp yarns.
I’ll definitely be there when the first one rolls off the press next month.
*For those completest out there, my first three Doc novels were Dust of Death, The Flaming Falcons and The Other World.
It's Been A While
We both appreciate the unbelievable outpouring of support, prayers, well-wishes, visits and calls. We have amazing friends and family, and we are humbled by your response.
Hopefully, you’ll understand if I’m late in responding to emails or other correspondence. I’m working to catch up now.
I’m also endeavoring to make up for lost time on writing assignments. I just sent off my latest installment of the next Dead Earth novel to Dave Wilbanks. I have the final Dead Sheriff edits to do this week and a short story to write.
The past three weeks have been dizzying and, at times, terrifying, but I think both of us will end up being stronger (and healthier) because of it.
Thanks for your continued support.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
My New Favorite Song
Monday, May 23, 2011
Joke of the Week
At the Pearly Gates, the young couple confronted St. Peter. "Sir, you have to help us! We were to be married tomorrow. Is there any way we can be married in Heaven?"
"Hmmm," replied St. Peter, "I don't recall there ever being a marriage in Heaven. Well, let's take it up with God and see what he says."
So they approached God with their plea. God sat for a moment, pondering the request. Then he looked down and said, "Come back in five years and ask me again."
Five years later, the couple approached God again, even more in love than ever and pleading that he allow their marriage. God paused for quite a while, musing over their request. Then he spoke, "Come back in five years and ask me again."
And once again, five years later, the couple was again in the presence of God, more in love than ever and begging God's permission for the third time to marry. This time God smiled broadly and thundered, "Yes my children, you may marry!"
Well, the wedding went off beautifully, the reception was huge, everyone thought the bride was simply breathtaking and the groom was soooo handsome, and everyone was happy! Until...
Two years later, the couple was back before God, and things were not looking so good. The couple had come to the realization almost immediately that although marriages were made in heaven, they didn't last very long there! And, in spite of their struggles to come to terms with the situation, they had decided there simply was no alternative but to get a divorce.
Black clouds fractured by lightening rolled across the sky, and the ground shook with explosive thunder. God glared down at the tiny couple before him, his face becoming dark and angry, and he roared, "Divorce?! Impossible!!! It took us TEN years just to find a priest in Heaven! Do you have any idea how long it will take to find a LAWYER?!!"
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Another Book Sighting
My new collection Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye is now available at Barnes and Noble.
Also, here's the link for ordering it at Amazon.
Or, if you prefer to order directly from the publisher, we've got you covered there, too.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Interview With Me
Since Blogger ate the first version of this post, here's another link to Matt Cowan's interview with me at Vintage Horror.
Thanks to Matt. He's a great guy and a true fan of horror fiction.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Monday, May 09, 2011
Looking at Amazon
Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye, my new collection, is now available from Amazon.com.
I know some book readers prefer to order there, so here's the link.
Saturday, May 07, 2011
If you drop by here on occasion, you know that my collection Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye is now available to be ordered (Just $13.95 if you order now.)
My publisher asked for a piece for their newsletter that included an excerpt from one of the stories. Here's what I gave them.
Is It Okay To Laugh When a Man is Chewing His Way Through Another Man’s Entrails?
By Mark Justice
Let’s start with a confession. Maybe it will be good for my soul. Lord knows I need all the help I can get.
I love horror. I love writing horror. But, sometimes, humor wants to creep in.
Case in point: “Deadnecks”. I wanted to write a story about a few good ol’ boys in a small town being turned into zombies. After all, we’ve all seen the zombies at the mall and shambling through the streets of a big city. How would zombies shamble through the hollow (or, as we call it back home, the holler)?
Little did I know when I typed the first sentence that my zombies would still want to drink beer, watch NASCAR and hang out at the neighborhood watering hole long after they got the craving for flesh. Sure, there’s plenty of gore in “Deadnecks” and its sequel, “Deadneck Reckoning” but there are some chuckles, too. The first story was published in Dark Discoveries magazine, and both tales ended up in a beautiful chapbook from Novello publishers, which quickly went out of print. Now the stories bookend my collection, Looking at the World with Broken Glass in My Eye.
Those beer-swilling dead guys weren’t originally part of the book. As submitted to another publisher, the book was a leaner collection of an original novella—Deadtown (notice a theme in my titles?)—and a few of my short stories. When the first publisher trimmed his line, he dropped the book, and I was free to shop it around. By the time it landed at Graveside Tales, it had “swole up like a poisoned dog”, as pappy used to say. I added several more stories—some straight horror, others my peculiar horror-humor combo. I also decided enough time had passed that the Deadneck stories would rise again.
(Also, the other publisher wanted to change my weird, long title. But, hey, it’s my weird, long title and I look it, so it’s back on the book.)
(And pardon another brief digression, there are other Deadneck stories, and since I am occasionally asked about this: yes, there will one day be a Deadnecks novel. Keep watching the skies. I mean, the bar that’s showing the race.)
So now you get over 100,000 words of horror. And much of it is straight-ahead, full-tilt, eyeball-clawing scary fiction. All for such a low price, you could probably find enough change in the floorboard of your Ford Falcon to cover it.
To tempt you into placing an order, here’s a teaser, the beginning of a story called “Nursing Home of the Gods”. Enjoy.
Anubis settled onto the cracked linoleum of the rec room couch, sighing when he found a spot that didn’t poke the frayed fabric of his robe. The television was on, as always, blaring some insipid game show. Anubis had requested The History Channel but the others had overruled him. In the corner, Mammu played checkers with a large coyote, probably one of the Native American deities.
While the annoying game show host blathered on about phrasing answers in the form of a question, Bastet came in curled up in a chair opposite Anubis. They had never been overly fond of each other, but Anubis found her to be less irritating than some of the others in his pantheon.
“What’s up, Nooby,” she said.
“Please don’t call me that.” Nicknames were demeaning, robbing one of one’s dignity. And Gods knew dignity was in short supply at this place.
Bastet laughed and lit a cigarette. With her free hand she stroked her whiskers, smiling at him through the cloud of smoke.
“You hear about Zeus?” she said.
Bastet drew a long nail across her neck. “Last night.”
Inwardly, Anubis shuddered. Another one gone.
At least Zeus didn’t have to sit on this couch and watch game shows anymore.
A clockwork nurse clicked and whirred to the couch. She offered Anubis a cup of pills.
“Do you have one that can make me young?” he said.
The eyes of the nurse shuttered open and closed until he took the pills and swallowed them down. He hoped one of them was a laxative. Anubis felt like he’d been backed up since The Exodus.
The nurse handed Bastet her pills, then clacked away, only to be replaced by the rolling roar of another resident.
“Ho, dogface!” the newcomer bellowed.
“Thor,” Anubis said, less than enthusiastically. He’d given up trying to explain the difference between a dog and a jackal to the senile warrior.
The wheelchair bound god rolled up close to Bastet. Anubius thought he smelled like urine.
“Ah, cat head. How fare thee?”
“Okey-doke,” Bastet said.
“Tis my birthday,” Thor proclaimed. “Can thou guess mine age?”
“Hmmm,” Bastet said. She dropped her cigarette to the floor and crushed it out with one slippered foot. “I think I can, but I’m going to have to see your hammer.”
Thor reached for the stone mallet that always hung from his belt.
“Not that hammer,” Bastet said.
It took a moment, but realization slowly dawned on the Norse god’s bearded face. He raised his loincloth to display the largest penis Anubis had ever seen.
Bastet lifted the organ with both hands, stroking it to rigidity, a process that took several minutes. Finally she said, “You’re three thousand seven hundred thirty-seven.”
Thor gazed at her in open-mouthed wonder. “How didst thou know?”
Bastet turned loose of the organ and smiled. “You told me yesterday.”
To be continued…