BB10-Q (vol4) – Stephanie Mirro

‘Tis a cold, wet morning in Japan. More so over the other side of the Pacific in the USA, where it is a colder-than-a-brass-monkey 40f for Stephanie Mirro, who has kindly agreed to sit down for vol4 of BB10-Q. Stephanie is an author I came across earlier this year and I have stormed through three of her Immortal Relics books. Extremely readable and full of supernatural suspense and mythological mayhem! Buckmaster Books welcomes Stephanie Mirro!

Hello Stephanie. Thank you for sitting down with me for the fourth BB10-Q interview. How are you doing?

I’m good for the most part! Covid threw us all for a loop, but I think we (in the Mirro house) are working our way through it well, now that we’ve gotten the hang of the new “normal.”

“Normal” is a very flexible word these days! I’ve just had another look at your web-site (https://www.stephaniemirro.com/) and was dazzled by some exciting covers there. Can you tell us about the books. What genre are they? What kind of characters do they contain?

This month I’ll have three books published in the Immortal Relics series, an urban fantasy that features sassy ancient gods, mythical creatures, and a heroine who has to overcome some pretty terrible events to learn her true strength. It’s not a trilogy, though, so expect more to come “soon!”

<Not a trilogy!? There’s more to come? Sweet!>

And what are you working on now?

I’m focused on an urban fantasy romance series, The Last Phoenix. It’s a planned 7 book series with lots of potential for spin-offs. All 7 will be published in 2021.

Seven in one year? Wow, not even The Seven could do that! Sounds wonderfully diabolical!

Do you have a writing routine, say getting up early, shunting everyone out the house and pummeling the PC, or sipping on some Chateau de Vinbeaucoup and letting the thoughts flow?

While I love the idea of a glass of wine and writing in the evening, I work much better as a member of the #5amwritersclub. I do some of my best brain dumping when my brain hasn’t woken up enough to start editing in the moment. I’m weird, though, in that I actually prefer the editing/revision process!

<There’s probably some science in there somewhere. I read that there’s a gradual increase in body temperature throughout the morning that improves our working memory, alertness and concentration. It peaks mid-morning apparently. Hmm, so I’m guessing winter mornings might be less productive!?>

And the big question! Why do you write books?

It’s such a cliché answer, but it’s truly what I was meant to do. My parents like to joke that I started reading before I talked, and writing came soon after. There’s very little in life more satisfying than writing and publishing a book, then seeing what people love about it in their reviews.

Destiny! And yes, I absolutely agree about how satisfying it is to write.

CURSE OF THE VAMPIRE

Buckmaster Books will give out two paperbacks of your exciting “Curse of the Vampire”, <competition details in Facebook post>, so could you please write a haiku describing the book? And we will plop a blob of blurb at the end of the interview for anyone needing more to sink their teeth into! <see what I did there?> Take it away, Haiku!

Sera meets old god

Wicked vampires break the rules

Yes, there will be blood

Nice!

Where did the inspiration for the Immortal Relics series come from?

Despite doing well in school, I was a bit of a space cadet when it came to sitting in a classroom. One day during college, where I studied ancient civilizations and mythology, I was staring out the classroom window and had this idea for the origin of vampires that involved Roman mystery rites. The idea continued to haunt my dreams for over a decade until I finally said enough was enough, and I sat down and wrote it.

This was what really drew me to the book! Roman gods, vampires, lots of claret…of both sorts.

This series is actually a re-release. Can you speak a bit about the rebranding? <Stephanie has delved deeply into the murky world of marketing in the self-publishing game. No mythological beasts but mazes that would fool a minotaur.>

The reason I rebranded my books was to let readers know right off the bat what the stories would include. I researched author branding and how the e-book market has changed reader expectations and buying behaviors, then I chose titles and covers that resonated with those expectations. I call my vampires bacchae, but they’re still vampires essentially. I also followed the same format, “blank of the blank.”

This does make sense. It’s very easy to go for a unique title which means a lot to the author, but will not instantly engage a potential reader. If we look at the Star Wars saga, there are a lot of “<something> of the <something>” and GRRM’s books are all “A <blank> of <blank>”. Food for thought to all you budding self-published authors out there!

I bought the previous edition of Stephanie’s books. And had to have a glass of wine to set up this photo!

And now we have the usual suspects, the more fun, regular questions.

Q1) What book are you reading now? OR What was the last book you read?

I’m reading an advanced copy of The Witching Vault by Kathrin Hutson. It’s a brand new urban fantasy series coming from a fellow indie author, and I just love her style.

Q2) What genre of books do you usually read?

Urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and I’ve just discovered paranormal reverse harem romance. I really love all things fantasy, including contemporary and epic.

<Paranormal reverse harem?! That’s another new one for me after BB10-Q vol3’s dark cottage-core witch-punk romance.>

Q3) What was the last book that made you cry?

Books don’t usually make me cry, but I did get a bit emotional at the end of Darkwind, book 1 of the Starchaser Saga by Renee Dugan.

Q4) What book do you remember fondly from your childhood?

All the Goosebumps books. I just about died inside when my dad told me he donated all my old copies (but to be fair to him, I left them in boxes in his garage).

<This seems to be a hardship all adults must endure: losing treasured childhood books and toys to garage & car-boot sales or charity shops. I sold all my Star Wars toys and my entire Fighting Fantasy collection. Noooooo!>

Q5) Apart from reading, what hobbies do you have?

Does drinking wine count??

Absolutely! Avec fromage, mon dieu!

Q6) Where is your favourite place to read? (Ex. On the train, in bed, on the sofa, in a park, in a coffee shop etc.)

I don’t think I have one! If the book is good, I’ll get absorbed into it anywhere I am, which could be bad on a train if I end up missing my stop. I have this vague memory that this happened once when I lived in DC. Highly possible.

I’m pretty sure I used to wrinkle up something awful when I read books in the bath back in England.

Q7) What book would you like to see made into a TV show and who would you like to play the lead character?

Obviously my own. 😀 But other than mine, I would LOVE to see Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series made into a HBO series like GoT. I would be all over that. But I have no idea who would play the lead, Phedre. Maybe Emma Watson??

Can Emma Watson rock that awesome tattoo?

Q8) If you could meet a fictional character in real life, who would it be and why?

Holy crap this is a tough question. It’s a toss-up between Arya Stark and Kate Daniels. The why is simply because they’re both badasses.

Q9) If YOU were a character in a book, who would it be? OR What literary world would you like to experience/live in?

I would love to experience the Kate Daniels world. I’m all about the dystopian feel to it all, the rise and fall of magic and tech, the need for both horses and cars. So cool. Oooo! Or maybe the Pern world if I got to ride a dragon. Either works.

Q10) If you could say something to the entire world, what would it be?

Making a career out of writing books is very much like opening a business—it’s exhausting, time consuming, drains your pockets, and can take years to earn any profit. “Hug” an author by leaving a review! Not only can your review encourage other readers to buy the book, but it can also help the book gain visibility. The boost of confidence helps, too. 😉

Please do “hug” an author! Reviews are a great way to help wonderful writers like Stephanie.

Here’s a bit more info on Stephanie’s Curse of the Vampire.

Curse of the Vampire” primarily follows archaeology student Serafina Finch, who doesn’t believe in mythological creatures like vampires, witches, and ancient gods. But after unearthing an ancient Roman amulet, her dreams of drinking blood and violent magic leave behind an eerie sense of foreboding, and even a skeptic like her starts to wonder how real everything might actually be.

When a sinister cult takes a deadly interest in the artifact, Serafina suddenly finds her life in chaos. She’s thrown into a world that shouldn’t exist, where vampires and witches alike claim ownership of the amulet. Her amulet.

As her connection to the artifact grows, she discovers a dark secret about her past. Serafina realizes she must protect the powerful relic at all costs—even if the price is death.

<plus you can read my reviews of the Immortal Relics series on Goodreads>

Thank you to Stephanie for brightening up another BB10-Q! Buckmaster Books wishes her all the best with the new series, The Last Phoenix.

As always, good people of the world, take care, look after each other and have hope things will get better in 2021. In the meantime, pick up a book and lose yourselves in the world of a creative mind! Till next time.

BB10-Q (vol3) – Timandra Whitecastle

Top of the morning to all you wonderful folks out there! I am delighted to bring you the third volume of my BB10-Q interviews (where I grill authors and friends with extremely tough questions – they didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!).

And I am very happy to be sharing some time with an author I discovered through the Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers Facebook page, Timandra Whitecastle. Timandra is one of those authors that after reading four of her books, I’m there when she releases another. Her works are grim, funny, horror-tastic, packed with emotional hits, and damn good stories. Welcome to BB10-Q, Timandra!

Hello Timandra. Thank you for taking the time to join me in the third BB10-Q interview. How are you?

Thank you for having me! I’m … slowly adjusting to the new normal, I guess? Anxiously awaiting every new day filled with existential dread? So, I’m fine. I feel fine. How are you?

I’m not too bad here, thanks. Though it’s not so much a case of SSDD, as DSDD. Okay, let’s get started. Please tell us a little bit about the books you have published so far. What genre are they? What kind of characters do they contain?

I’ve published a (grim)dark fantasy trilogy of books called The Living Blade trilogy: Touch of Iron, On the Wheel, and Mother of Slag. They feature Noraya, a young charcoaler maiden who swears a lot, who runs away from home only to get swept up in an epic quest for the titular mythical Living Blade. Throughout the course of the trilogy she realizes that she has to become the hero her world needs, but doesn’t deserve, if you’ll excuse the Batman quote. CW for sexual assault and a villain who uses sexual coercion. The Living Blade trilogy has an accompanying spin-off novella called Bloodwitch, in which a character from Touch of Iron gets her own little origin story and the main location recurs in Mother of Slag.

The covers are beautiful!

<I’ll insert a snippet of my Goodreads review for Touch of Iron here: “Old school fantasy with modern smarts and a generous helping of Grimdarkian grimness. The main protagonist, Noraya, is fantastic! Determined but fallible, impulsive and wonderfully sarcastic.”>

I’ve also written a heroic fantasy adventure featuring viking moms, set against a Norse-inpsired backdrop. It’s called Queens of the Wyrd and features middle-aged to older women as our merry band of heroes, most of them working mothers with kids; there’s dread wyrms, Norse Fight Club, the goddess Hel, and smashing the Patriarchy. Also some bad language. Sorry.

<And I loved Queens of the Wyrd: “A tribute to mothers everywhere!”>

So what are you working on now?

Good question. What AM I working on now? This pandemic has me very scatterbrained, I’m afraid. My concentration is messy, so I try to write at least some words every day, but I don’t stay consistently in one project. Progress is harrrrrd this year. I’m currently writing Queens 2 (Reign of the Midnight Sun), also a dark cottage-core witch-punk romance? And a ghost story, an epic fantasy, and a historical Silk Road meets Nathan Drake/Uncharted kind of story… I said I’m scatterbrained, yes? Well, I’m all over the place.

Wohhh, that is quite a full buffet there! I’m stoked to hear about Queens 2 and intrigued by the “dark cottage-core, witch-punk romance”! Sounds like quite a niche you’ve found there. Good luck with it all!

Do you have a writing routine, say getting up early and hammering the keys, or drinking a glass of wine and settling down for the evening at the PC?

Alas. I don’t have a writing routine. I had one, but I lost it when the fire nation attacked and everything changed … wait. I mean when 2020 exploded into our faces, of course. The fire nation has not attacked. Yet.

<Fire Nation attacking is November, I believe. Right after asteroid strike in October.>

I used to write late at night after the kids were in bed and I had done all the school work prep I had to do as a teacher. But my brain just couldn’t get by on the constant sleep deprivation. I’ve also tried writing early in the mornings before everyone is up. I’m very much a morning person, so this would suit me fine. But it often backfires since whenever I want to write a really crucial scene, inevitably one of my kids will be up brutally early and need my attention…

“I’ll get back to writing once I’ve fought off these ruffians…”

I hear you. I have to wait till my wife and both kids are out the house, and only then can I sit down and start wasting time on Facebook…er, I mean, start pounding out beautiful prose. Anyhoo… Why do you write books?

I write because I get to see myself in the words I use and the stories I tell. I write because I need to heal and I do so by refracting the pain into a fantasy tale. I write because I feel that I had no voice for such a long time, and on the page I find it.

So glad you found that voice.

Buckmaster Books will give out two paperbacks of your wonderful “Queens of the Wyrd”, <competition details in Facebook post>, so please tell us a little bit about the book without giving away any plot details whatsoever!

Queens of the Wyrd. In haiku format:

Harried Viking moms

Going on an adventure.

The kids are alright.

Basho Matsuo would nod in approval, I reckon. And finally, what inspired you or motivated you to write this particular story?

Short answer: My life. 😉

I mean … I love to read. But as a female reader there’s often this strong disconnect? You know, SFF is marketed as this predominantly (white) male genre. The adventure! The exploration! The capable warriors saving the world! Fantasies in which the men go out and do all the things and be the heroes and the women get to be sexy fantasy creatures, or they’re dead, or awful human beings, or they’re just not there since someone has to stay at home minding said men’s kids?

There’s this trend in gaming which someone recently called: the daddening. You see more and more interesting dad narratives on your screens (or father figures, f’instance: technically Geralt of Rivia is not Ciri’s dad, but … you get my point). Hell, even Kratos is a dad now. Fantasy has always been filled with dads or father figures. It’s the classic hero’s journey: you come out of the shadows and into your own. You think moms and daughters don’t have that same experience? You don’t think daughters who then become moms grapple with this same issue? Why don’t we see it? Where is the mommening?

I had finished yet another great male-centric story and enjoyed myself tremendously, but then I thought huh, how is it that as a female reader I identify so much with the full cast of guys, each with their own individual characteristics, but with none of the, like, 3 female characters in this book? There’s something not quite right about that. I wonder if someone could write a book like this but make everyone a woman or, better yet, a mom…

How do you write a bunch of mothers going on a quest when fantasy day care is not a thing and do you include all the stigma surrounding mothers who leave their kids behind for self-fulfillment? Can someone write a book with positive female heroes in which staying at home, minding the kids, isn’t considered less honorable than actively seeking out your destiny? As anyone with kids will tell you, parenting is really hard work! You’re fallible and you know it. You’re out of your depth, but you must make it work. You’re on the knife’s edge all the time. You cannot really win. And if you fail, you damage another, potentially helpless, human on their course. Their pain will be your fault.

The responsibilities of parenting have stakes that make any world-saving plot-line pale in comparison.

And yet … we don’t see it represented that way?

And yet … parenting is hidden in the background. It’s done outside of the story. It’s at best hidden in the backstory. As parents, you grind away at lessons every day, teaching the same point in different forms over and over again. But we never quite get to see it. The only glimpse we usually get is if we substitute parenting for the relationship between the Chosen One and their mentor(s); the Chosen One gets a training montage/progression fantasy, their mentor is eclipsed.

There’s something not quite right about that substitution.

Ask me, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know if Queens delivers an answer. Writing is like that sometimes. I start with a lot of What Ifs, but then the story kicks in, shapes itself. But damn, I will say this: at least I tried to show a different perspective.

There’s nothing I can add to that. Only that I’m the at-home parent in our family and what you say here speaks to me on many levels. Thank you.

Let’s finish off with the standard, fun questions.

Q1) What book are you reading now? OR What was the last book you read?

I’ve just finished Gideon the Ninth which concludes my reading of all the Hugo nominees we had this year. My favorite of that batch was Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame. But Alix Harrow’s Ten thousand Doors of January was also a very beautifully crafted book. 10/10 would recommend.

Q2) What genre of books do you usually read?

I predominantly read SFF, but I also read a lot of non-fiction (whatever strikes my fancy) and I love cook books (I always borrow armloads from the library). They’re kinda like fantasy books in that poring over recipes and looking at the delicious pictures of food let me escape into an alternative reality in which I wear a starched apron, stir my pots and pans with a witchy smile all while having my act together, and finally create scrumptious meals that everyone loves. Of course, the ultimate fantasy with these books is that someone else does the work and all I have to do is eat.

<Ha ha, I have a similar thing. If I have a good beer to hand and I’m cooking British, I get quite in the mood of taverns & tales & ales.>

Q3) What was the last book that made you cry?

I don’t actually cry over books. I *do* get deeply moved. Sometimes even to the point of being choked up while reading. Or languishing in a state of mourning after having read a certain book.

Q4) What book do you remember fondly from your childhood?

I still have a book my aunt gave me for Christmas once. It’s a hardback book, a version of Sleeping Beauty, with artwork by Arthur Rackham. I love his art. All the details.

Arthur Rackham – art of another time but also timeless.

I also remember reading a lot of fables and fairy tales and a few classic mythology books. The librarian was always frowning when I came to her desk with a stack of Greek or Roman or Norse mythology from the adult section, but to her credit, she never asked whether I was old enough to read those books. I probably wasn’t. But I got lucky in that I grew up in the 80/90s where adults didn’t micromanage what kids were doing the way it’s expected of us nowadays.

Q5) Apart from reading, what hobbies do you have?

My hobbies are … I don’t have hobbies outside of reading, actually?

I’m a very boring person. Whenever I have some free time, I seem to spend it continually switching between three different apps and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. (Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, FYI)

Q6) Where is your favorite place to read? (Ex. In bed, on the sofa, in a park, in a coffee shop etc.)

I have a place at our dinner table that is exclusively mine and my kids know they can always find me perched on our bench there. Additionally, I try to read a few pages before going to sleep in bed, but I often find that I fall asleep while reading and then my Kindle is on all night until its battery dies quietly beside me.

Q7) What book would you like to see made into a TV show and who would you like to play the lead character?

I’m not very good at these kinds of questions because I don’t watch many TV shows. (This is a small lie since I *do* watch a lot of cooking related shows on Netflix … give me something like the Japanese Midnight Diner or Street Food or Chef’s Table and I will binge it over and over again. The secret sauce is the character portraits.)

Just going to slap a quick shot of tempura & soba in here, ‘cos you’re making me hungry!

A great TV show for me has to be so good that I want to watch it MORE than I want to read whatever book I’m currently reading …

Q8) If you could meet a fictional character in real life, who would it be and why?

Master Yoda. Because I am a Star Wars fan, but I have some questions about the Force and Jedi lore that I’m sure he’d be able to answer cryptically. Also because he’s basically a swamp witch. We’d sit in his cozy little swamp home on Dagobah and drink herbal tea and he’d offer me wisdom (There is no try? But Yoda, there is ONLY try. And he’ll be like: seagulls want to poke your knees.)

<Ha ha! My kids love this one. “I hate Brenda, a bad guy kicked me in the shins and I peed all in my pants!”>

Q9) If YOU were a character in a book, who would it be? OR What literary world would you like to experience/live in?

I’d like to think I’d be a traveling storyteller/bard. I recently read Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in the Ashes books and she has created a tribal people where the storyteller of the tribe is as important as the leader. I loved that. I loved especially that when asked to give the protagonists some information, one of the storytellers refuses, and says she needs to prepare the telling of such a dangerous and old story … as a writer myself, I felt that detail in my soul.

As a storyteller, I’d like listening to others tell their (local) stories and then wander along the dusty roads and think about them until I get to the next place. In exchange for telling them a story I heard in a kingdom far far away, they get to tell me one of theirs. And so it goes on and on …

Realistically, though, as a common born woman in most fantasy worlds, my life would generally be pretty miserable, and then I’d die in childbirth. So yeah … I think I’ll stick to nomadic storyteller, thank you very much.

Q10) If you could say something to the entire world, what would it be?

In my best Mom voice: I do not care who started it! I do not want to hear who’s to blame or what your excuse is! I want you to stop fighting and clean your room!

(‘Room’ is used metaphorically here…)

Amen to that!

Thank you, Peter, for all the awesome questions!!

And thank you so much, Timandra Whitecastle for a fascinating interview! I wish you all the best with the coming projects and will be waiting for the e-mail newsletters! Take care.

PS In my first (and so far, only) Jester Japan mini-vid, a friend picked your book out of many when we were judging cover art. Who is your incredible artist? Ah, found him! Tommy Arnold. Please check out his portfolio: http://www.tommyarnoldart.com/

PPS Timandra would like to draw your attention to a rather nice Kickstarter. Anybody who fancies seeing viking moms being bad-ass should take a peek! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/timwhitecastle/epic-viking-moms-fantasy-novel-special-edition

“We are the moms and we can’t resist the calling! We are the moms and we hear a baby bawling!”

Thank you to Timandra and thank you to any visitors today. Please take care and tell your mother how awesome she is! Till next time!

<Don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY! Details on the Facebook post.>

BB – Throwback Thursday, vol 2: “Red Sonja”

The second film I revisited was Red Sonja. This is something of a favourite for me, having watched it several times when I was a hormonal teenager and had a crush on Brigitte Nielsen as Red Sonja. It’s not in the same league as Conan the Barbarian but is worth your time. And as I hope for CtB, I hope Red Sonja too will have another big screen adventure. Any ideas for the lead? Any MMA fighters out there?!

It’s difficult not to compare Red Sonja to last time’s flick, Sorceress. I feel a bit harsh on that front but Einstein said something about relativity so… As soon as the film starts, you know this is a different level of production. Not just the fact that it’s a Dino De Laurentiis effort and not a Roger Corman party, but we kick off with a wide-shot that instantly makes you feel you’re in a fantasy world (and not a back-lot of some studio).

I believe Arnie was supposed to be Conan in this but the rights weren’t secured, so he is some chap called Kalidor <see below for more details>. Conan Re-Dux basically. He is big on the poster and his name is up first in the titles. But he doesn’t hog the film. This is Red Sonja’s film in name and spirit, and <“Introducing”!> Brigitte Nielsen does a good job bringing the fiery-haired heroine to life. She’s not the greatest actor out there but she had the physique and does fine work with the sword swinging (unlike the Playboy bunnies and their stabby-stabby style).

So with that wide-shot opening, we have the wind whistling and some on-screen blurb that sets the story up. It does say this is how the “legend began” so I presume more were planned.

We get an opening that has a fairly graphic depiction of rape for a PG-13. “Your body was violated by her soldiers.” Surprised that made the cut. And then we have a ghostly apparition giving Sonja strength, as does often happen in times of trouble…

“Hey Sonja, you need some special powers. Oh crap, gotta go, Ghostbusters are coming.

We have quite a cast here. Sandahl Bergman flips sides here and plays the Big Bad, and is great I think. Watch her in the last fight look genuinely frightened when losing to Sonja. We also have Paul “The Beast Rabban” Smith and Ronald “The Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath & Wales” Lacey…who also is immortalised now as a melting candle. C’mon people, keep up!

Ennio Morricone handles the score so we’re on safe ground here. A catchy theme and fantasy all the way. You can’t go wrong with Morricone though.

“Shhh! Shut up and listen to the music!”

The dialogue is not dire but still a bit clunky, but that’s par for the course with 80s fantasy. We’re not yet at the Tyrion Lannister level. “No man may have me unless he has beaten me in a fair fight.” Ugh! Also…”God of the High Gods!” seems a tad lazy but it works here as it’s… FANTASY! Yee-hah!

The action is decent. The first battle scene at the temple has some real whammy to it, the swords making harsh contact. For a young kid, I remember this was tense. I hated the bad guys for killing all those lovely ladies. When I watched it today, my primary thought was, “Nice hats, dudes!”. The helmets are a bit OTT, with the queen having a pineapple on her bonce and the Bishop of Bath & Wales sporting an entire Christmas decoration.

There are the usual nonsensical fantasy rules. “Only women may touch it!” Right… So it reacts badly to testosterone then?

“You know, you’re the spitting image of that Conan guy…”

Arnie brings his Conan sword skills to the screen once again with a nice decapitation early on, and Nielsen also impresses with her blade, and also earns a sweet head-chop. Sorry, Mr Creepy Wizard.

The kid is annoying at first and only slightly less annoying later on, but does have a bit of a character arc. He learns humility, thanks to Red Sonja’s dignified manner. He-Man would be proud!

Comic relief is a bit thin on the ground but I’m not complaining. Comedy in fantasy often falls flat. Paul Smith has some decent lines, the pervert wizard gave me a chuckle and… Auf Wiedersehn Pet!, Pat Roach’s mere appearance brings a smile.

“Next time we meet, it’ll be swords and sorcery!”

I totally forgot about the mechanical sea monster. Wasn’t there a similar monster in Conan the Destroyer? One thing I noticed in this scene is Brigitte Nielsen nailed her dives. Very impressive!

The gorgeous Janet Agren played Sonja’s sister, Varna. Too bad her role was pretty small. Quite an enchanting beauty.

Below are my ratings for Richard Fleischer’s “Red Sonja”. Being only the second film I have reviewed for Throwback Thursday, and being a far superior flick to Sorceress, it comes right into the number one position. Who will challenge the flame-haired warrior for the top spot?

Acting6/10Not going to trouble the Oscars but decent enough. Bergman makes Gedren come alive and Nielsen is a worthy Red Sonja.
Dialogue6/10The delivery is sometimes a bit laboured but in general, the dialogue works well for the material.
Tension7/10I give this a fairly high mark because I remember the tension I felt watching it as a lad. The music & sword choreography ramp it up.
Action7/10It’s got Arnie, Sandahl Bergman and Brigitte Nielsen swinging swords with a high level of skill. Plenty of action to go round.
Comedy4/10Not much there but half of me is glad they didn’t have naff one-liners.
Special FX6/10The storms and monsters are believable even if the disappearing soldier is a bit dated.
Production Values8/10You can immerse yourself in this world. Not quite Conan-level but some wonderful cinematography, well-crafted sets and a whole armoury of weapons.
Score8/10I hear it and I think of Red Sonja.
Blu-Ray Extras0/10Erm…none. Think I should do a bit more research before I click “Buy” on Amazon.
Ending7/10The snog is a bit icky but the stirring music and heroic finale make up for it.
OVERALL RATING59/100Whereas the Extras lifted Sorceress, here they let the film down. But that is my bad so I will try and find some interesting info/trivia on YouTube etc. to hopefully bump up the score a bit.

Edit: just found some info on the Conan/Kalidor issue and it’s typical of the wrangling that goes on in the film industry. Valorum writes on Stack Exchange:

“Arnie was tied into a multi-picture deal with Dino de Laurentis and that Dino’s strong desire was to create another Conan feature given the financial success of the two previous films. He’d even gone as far as pre-announcing that the next film would be based on the book “Conan the Conqueror”.

Dino de Laurentis unfortunately faced two major obstacles, both of which related to his budget;

  1. The character rights for the Conan character were held by Universal and de Laurentis was evidently unable to secure them at a reasonable price.
  2. Arnold’s bargain-basement salary deal meant that he couldn’t be forced to work a full shooting schedule

Rather than simply abandon the whole project, de Laurentis had what must have seemed a master stroke. He managed to secure the rights to a less well known (and much cheaper) comic-book property called Red Sonja. Sonja was still set in the Hyborian universe which saved him from having to rethink the screenplay and he wouldn’t need Arnie to work full time since he would effectively become the co-star of a Sonja film rather than the star of a Conan film. As an added bonus, his writers could simply rehash some existing Conan + Sonja books into the screenplay without having to worry about the rights issues.

Unfortunately for de Laurentis script issues, rock-bottom budget and dire casting choices would ultimately produce what Arnie referred to as “the worst film I’ve ever made”.”

A little bit sad to learn Arnie trashed the film. I’d also argue it’s not the worst film he’s ever made (Expendables 3 anyone?). Even sadder is this little nugget on iMDB: “Maria Shriver said in a TV interview that at the premiere she remarked to her then-husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, “If this doesn’t kill your career, nothing will”.”

Well, I for one, think Red Sonja is a decent flick with nostaligia value, fantastic music and a mighty warrior in Brigitt Nielsen’s Red Sonja. Anybody with me on this one?

Tune in next time for another amazing 80s adventure! Please take care everyone and in this current world of divisiveness and nastiness, be kind to others, even if they don’t share your world-view. We’re all trying to make our way on this tiny blue planet. Don’t be a dick!

“Where are the damn extras?!”

BB – Throwback Thursday, vol 1: “The Sorceress”

I’m going to start watching (or re-watching) fantasy flicks from around the 80s. I’ll be looking at the classics like Krull, Clash of the Titans, Conan the Barbarian and The Beastmaster. And also the personal favourites, like Hawk the Slayer. And other brave efforts.

I start with a Roger Corman production, “The Sorceress”. If you have seen this film, then… well done for sitting through it. It’s not so much so bad it’s good, as so bad it’s just bad. But if you watch the interviews on the Blu-Ray, you get a better appreciation of just how much effort went into it.

The poster above does not realistically depict the film, I think it’s fair to say. There is no-one in the film who looks like the lady on the left, the chimpanzee warrior does not wield an axe and the flying lion-dragon was only in the film because it was on the poster (more on that later).

The film begins with 80s fantasy music and then a very generic opening scene. Riders with flaming torches, a very eeevil man snarling “We have them now!”, and a noticeably narrow angle for the camera. Bit of action, bit of eeevil deeds, and Mr Good Wizard handing off a couple of babies to some peasants.

“Just take care of these children for me, will ya? No biggie!” “Don’t I get a say in this?”

The action jumps forward sans montage (no Wheel of Pain here). The babies have grown up and are now Playboy Bunnies! Well, the Playboy twins, Leigh & Lynette Harris, are warriors now. Fifteen minutes into the film and we arrive at Boobs Time. Corman says in the interview that the girls “look good, especially in the nude scenes”. I somehow doubt today’s internet-roaming youth would be shocked or even raise an eye-brow at this breast jiggling, but it was probably a bit of a thrill back in the day.

But now we get one of the better characters in the film, Pando the satyr. Actor David Millbern did a fantastic job I reckon, bringing this quirky creature to life. The overlaid goat (?) bleating and the actor’s frisky movement are excellent. I just checked his iMDB entry and was pleased to see he’s continued working in TV since.

“Bahhahaha!”

We’re well into the film now and you will probably be aware that the dialogue is dire-logue (“Do you know where babies come from?”, “Give me the great power!”), the acting is sub-par and the budget was obviously tight. And the music sounds suspiciously familiar! Oh yes, it’s from “Battle Beyond the Stars”. Corman seems to have re-hashed a lot of that film into other projects.

The dialogue is bad, but one reason the whole delivery of it is rather woeful is that many of the actors were non-native English speakers and had their lines over-dubbed. And the folks that did the ADR? Wikipedia tells us: Director Jack Hill says “the dialogue was unfortunately all dubbed in by amateurs and office employees, of which I was not involved in.”

And then we have a viking (with horns!) who seems to have fallen into the movie from some Monty Python production with that ridiculous wig. He literally just strolls along at the right moment and makes an oath. Don’t expect foreshadowing and build-up in this movie.

“My hair is my own. And I’ll have words with any man who says otherwise.”

The action scenes are unfortunately also a tad lacking in tension and pretty much everything else. The Harris twins obviously weren’t trained and have a stabby-stabby fighting style. Some of these scenes look a bit sped-up but that might have been me dozing off and jerking awake.

The sex scenes? Cringe-worthy.

The zombies? Good! The FX guy, John Carl Bruechler, did a wonderful job here. The zombies are decaying and desiccated. If Balder the Gimli-wannabe fell in from The Holy Grail, these guys fell in from a chilling 80s undead horror. Then the fight starts and the magic disappears in a puff.

“Anybody got John Carpenter’s number?”

The final battle is about as exciting as the rest of the film. You hear light-sabers, see sacrificial strobe lighting, and a weird stand-off between two gods or something. Now we come back to the poster. Roger Corman had the poster made I believe before the film was finished, and told Hill and Bruechler to put the lion-dragon-thing into the film, even if it were only for a bit. Corman reckoned the poster would bring in the punters (it did!) and so needed to have that fantastic mythical beast actually in the film (along with the chimpanzee creature). Bruechler valiantly delivered again and whilst the scene is a little goofy, the creature is awesome!

I wasn’t aware but John Carl Bruechler seems something of a legend in the business. He continued creating FX for a whole host of horror films and other productions, but sadly died in 2019. I think you could make a film festival out of the titles on his iMDB entry. He certainly worked his magic on Sorceress and his interview on the Blu-Ray is worth the price alone.

Rest in Peace. The work lives on.

It’s difficult to know how to feel about Corman’s B-movie modus operandi. On the one hand, you feel bad for all the staff who work so hard to spin gold from poor quality wool, but on the other hand, if Corman didn’t cut corners and re-use back-lot props, the films might never have been made. Any thoughts?

Here below are my ratings for Jack Hill’s “Sorceress”. Being the first film I have reviewed for my new slot, Throwback Thursday, it comes in at No1 in the charts! Can it keep that place? I’d wager probably not.

Acting2/10I feel bad for giving this such a low mark as the actors were not exactly given a lot to work with. But it’s clunky.
Dialogue2/10The final line in the film book-ends with that opening “We have them now!”
Tension1/10Non-existent.
Action3/10A lot of it but you never really feel the pain. Some of it is at the level of throwing a towel in the villain’s face.
Comedy6/10Some good moments. The satyr brings a bit of comedy and the zombie joke is funny.
Special FX6/10The creature make-up is great but the CGI is severely hampered by a lack of budget.
Production Values2/10Corman didn’t want to spend money on backdrop paintings so you really get that low-budget feel due to the lack of any sense of a wider world.
Score4/10Not bad but feels somewhat unsurprisingly like music pinched from another movie.
Blu-Ray Extras8/10Some very interesting interviews that give you a sense of how these low-budget flicks are made, the effort & passion involved despite the limitations, and the inevitable tales of behind-the-scenes turmoil.
Ending1/10That joke is utter crap.
OVERALL RATING35/100The extras lift Sorceress up a bit but not enough to recommend this to friends. Maybe having an actual Sorceress in the film might have helped (the title was market-researched).

Hope you have enjoyed this little effort by myself. So much good & bad fantasy back in the day. So much wonder for the kids we were, so much nostalgia for the man-children we are now (and women-children; is that a thing?!). Take care everyone, stay safe and be sensible. Cheers!

“When all seems lost, use the name!”

Games of Yesteryear

In my lifetime computer games have changed dramatically. It’s gone from that TV console tennis/badminton/football to Doom Eternal (94% on PC Gamer). Anyone remember the original Doom? Playing that late at night was pretty atmospheric. The graphics were blocky by today’s standards of course, but those stomping demons had me tense as a boy who should have been doing his art homework (teacher was scarier than Baron of Hell!).

“Come on in, mutha-f*cka. Old Painless is waiting!”

So we have come a long way in 50 (??) years. Hang on, fifty years is a long time…

My Dad worked in the IT industry and so there was always a computer in our home. We went from ZX81, to Vic20, then onto C64, C128 and then the Amiga. After that it was PCs, which I can’t really remember. Any Spectrum 48k folk out there? Amstrad?

I think we had two games for the Vic20, both cartridges. Cosmic Cruncher, which was essentially Pac Man, and a Space Invaders clone. Very green & black graphically, very entertaining. Simpler times.

The C64 was where gaming really went up a couple of gears in my world. It began with cassette tapes (the days of shift + run-stop!) and went onto floppy disks. I was a big fan of exploration games and I’d say Jet Set Willy is a golden memory. I never did complete the game but I loved finding new rooms. That was a real thrill back then, actually getting past one of those weird demon-heads or a witch or a guardsman, and making it to the next room. Where I inevitably died.

Just Googling C64 games and getting a blast of nostalgia.

Impossible Mission – “We have another visitor…”; searching for stuff by standing legs akimbo and thrusting your groin at it…; somersaulting through elevators ‘cos it was Hot Lava!

Bruce Lee – One of you plays the sumo and just relentlessly beats up the Ninja, and Bruce leaps over… some zippy, electric charges or something??

Pharoah’s Curse – Damn thing always crashed just as we were getting anywhere.

Archon – Epic chess game! I preferred the dark side (or blue team). Goblins were cool.

Monty on the Run – So much damn fun! And what a soundtrack! …which leads me onto music.

Possibly my favourite piece of music from back in the day.

The music was quirky and electronic, but awesome! It made the load-time fly by. I even miss that screeching mind-melter of a sound that came with Novaload. It’s testament to how good the music was back then that orchestras are playing the tunes now. Fred Grey & Rob Hubbard, we salute you! Anybody have any other composers that deserve a call-out?

With the Amiga came better graphics. I remember being blown away by how good GI Joe was. The game sadly was a bit limited in scope however. My memory now combines Snow Job fighting Destro in the snow but with the voice of the spoof PSA. “Get off my f*ckin’ ice!”

I’d say the game I played most back then was Dungeon Master. I spent literally hours on that, beefing up my heroes by slaughtering Screamers & Purple Worms. Even wrote a lengthy piece in A-Level English Literature centering around a fight with a winged serpent. Gothmog was secretly in love with Sonja She-Devil and gave his life for her. Tragedy of Shakespearean magnitude. I thank Dr D for patiently encouraging me with that, when he was probably thinking “Any chance of getting out of the dungeon, Peter?”.

I have no idea what the equivalent is of DM these days. Would love to play a game like it, dungeon-crawling, monsters roaming, searching for weapons and learning how to send sun-sized fireballs up the arse of a Boss Monster. <Did you know there is a card game called Boos Monster? Bought it on our last trip to the UK. Pretty good. Cards have old school graphics.>

Also enjoyed the point-and-click games like Zak McKraken & the Alien Mindbenders, or Maniac Mansion. Never did complete the latter. I get on my kids’ backs now for playing too long but I reckon I clocked in many hours on many games. I haven’t turned into a total weirdo so probably no harm done…

Okay, will keep it short today as I have so much to do. I hope I have brought some nostalgic niceness to somebody’s day. Take care everyone and continue being careful when going out. It’s unfortunately far from over.

Stay safe!

The 80s!

Ah, the eighties. What a time to live! The music & movies, the comedy & cartoons…all were magnificent! The fashion? It is interesting from a historical perspective. What are your memories from this glorious decade? <the drop-cap there is A. I pity the fool who doesn’t get that reference!>

Office budget not enough to hire assistant to take photo, nor even enough to purchase a selfie-stick…

I was born in 1975 so my formative years were in the 80s. I had the power! I knew who I was gonna call! My dreams were electric! But Mum didn’t let me put the volume up to 11.

Let’s start with the music. If you say 80s music, I think most of us would think of synthesisers. “Inner city pressure!” I found this wonderful line-up of 25 of the best synth songs from the 80s. Such incredible music. Difficult to choose a winner from all of that.

https://www.smoothradio.com/features/best-electronic-synthpop-songs/

I’ll go with Gary Newman, or Tubeway Army I should say, and the song “Are Friends Electric?” I bought the 7-inch single “Cars” back in the day (E-reg version! Remember those license plates?) and this was the B-side. I’ve been playing it on YouTube lately, a live performance in Brixton. My sons love it. Also worth checking out his performance of “Ruin”, where he brings his daughter on stage.

“Do androids dream of electric sheep, Gary?”

The movies were brash and brilliant! The Goonies grew up to be an activist, a stunt choreographer, an attorney, Samwise Gamgee and the Mad Titan himself, Thanos! Didn’t see that one coming. Anyone else have a crush on Kerri Green back then?! Oh to have the luck of Mikey!

Gremlins & Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop & Blade Runner, The Princess Bride & The Shining, E.T. & Empire Strikes Back, Raiders & ROTJ, Back to the Future, Batman & Beetlejuice, The Thing & The Abyss, Top Gun & Terminator… the list is endless. Many stand the test of time due to the stories being damn good or the mood of the film transcending the decade. It’s difficult to see these being as successful if they were made today (internet toxicity being one reason), with pretty much everything these days being darker and somehow more bitter.

Didn’t Harrison Ford also play one of the walkie-talkies in E.T.?

The comedy was clever and didn’t rely on saying F*ck every other word. I’ll only mention two here. Being British I have to give a shout-out to Blackadder. Rowan Atkinson is well know around the world for his Mr Bean character but if you really want to laugh, check out Blackadder season 2-4 (first season’s Blackadder is totally different), and you will understand why British people say “I have a cunning plan!” all the time. I think I learnt half my sarcasm from Edmund Blackadder. And a song about a little goblin.

Over the other side of the pond we had Airplane!, one of the most quotable films of all time. And yes, I am being serious there, Shirley. Maybe you prefer gladiator movies but this is a laugh-out-loud comedy with iconic scenes. I only understood the “drinking problem” gag years later when I was old enough to quaff ale myself.

“Had to ask the guy next to me to pinch me…”

And the cartoons! They really don’t make them like this anymore. Fair enough, the animation these days is incredible but the old school cartoons are legendary. He-Man, Thundercats, Ulysses, Dungeons & Dragons, GI Joe… Hang on, I’m British! Why did I watch Gung-Ho & Stalker chase Destro and Major Bludd? Well, my father’s work took us to Califronia for 18 months (’83-’84). That week when GI Joe was one every day was the best! Back then GI Joe was bad-ass but not overly violent. It managed that fine balance of the 80s: explosions & bullets flying everywhere, yet no gun-shot wounds and no deaths. The A-Team had it down to a fine art. Someone make a live-action Joe that keeps to the original. That short scene at the beginning of Bumblebee showed there is a great yearning to see our childhood on the big screen as it is meant to look, not some “modern interpretation”! We’re Man-Childs, damn it! We want! I hear a Masters of the Universe is on its way. Oh yes, that would be sweet. Though I wonder what they’ll call him. He-Man is a bit of an odd name. Please check out the documentary on MOTU. Apparently all the characters were going to have names of ***-Man, even Teela, who would have been Wo-Man. They hit a snag with Mer-Man, who was originally Sea-Man. Yeah, mothers might have got a bit worried if they heard their kids shouting in the garden, “My Sea-Man is going to drown your Wo-Man! Yaghhh!” Ahem…

Just Googled and found this chap (Noah Centineo) will be He-Man in the 2021 live-action film. Thoughts?

“I said Hey, what’s going on? HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA!

Okay, I shall leave it at that for now. Maybe I will find time to do a part two, focusing on the fashion and food of the decade. Amazing we’re still alive after drinking Panda Pops and gulping down that orange star-dust that basically exploded in your gut.

<Please note I have no ownership over any images used or videos linked. I’m still not entirely sure how that works on the net. If anyone objects to their inclusion above, please notify me.>

Can I recommend this wine to anyone reading this? It was excellent! Haven’t had one from Uruguay before. Stay safe friends and if you haven’t checked out The Old Wounds trilogy yet, please do! On Kindle Unlimited.

See ya!

BB10-Q (vol2) – Takada Ayuko

Hello to everyone out there in this uncertain world we find ourselves in. I hope this second installment of BB10-Q finds you well. After our maiden voyage with author Elle Lewis, we turn now to a reader & adventurer, Takada Ayuko.

Ayuko was kind enough to answer my questions and give me a glimpse into the many activities she keeps herself busy with. This lady doesn’t sit still much!

So if you enjoyed the first volume of BB10-Q and are in need of a little distraction now, read on! Ayuko’s English is close to perfect so I didn’t need to employ my mangled Japanese. Here we go!

Q1) What book are you reading now? OR What was the last book you read?

Last book was “My Stroke of Insight” and I will read a fictional book or journal about Gaza-work purpose. 

41vvdfLhjqL

Q2) What genre of books do you usually read?

Mystery and sci-fi, sometimes nursing or medical books

Q3) What was the last book that made you cry?

I don’t remember. Maybe none! <I must remember to suggest Watership Down to you next time we meet!>

Q4) What book do you remember fondly from your childhood?

俺があいつであいつが俺で。A story about switching body between a boy and a girl. <the drama can be viewed on YouTube; if you like quirky Japanese dramas, try it!>

Q5) Apart from reading, what hobbies do you have?

A few. Scuba diving, hiking, Acroyoga and recently I discovered skin-diving and bouldering. <more on Ayuko’s hobbies below> 

Fresh air!

Q6) Where is your favorite place to read? (Ex. In bed, on the sofa, in a park, in a coffee shop etc.)

By the ocean or at the beach.

Q7) What book would you like to see made into a TV show and who would you like to play the lead character?

No idea, I only think of comic book into a tv show. <hmm, anyone have any suggestions for Ayuko?!>

51S924AB6fL._SY346_

Any takers?!

Q8) If you could meet a fictional character in real life, who would it be and why?

Doraemon, because he is my fantasy pet from childhood.

51nLmiax3oL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_

This cool cat is seriously popular in Japan. Think Boney M wrote a song about him… “There was a cat that really was gone…” Oh no, that was Rasputin the Mad Monk. Close.

Q9) If YOU were a character in a book, who would it be? OR What literary world would you like to experience/live in?

A girl who uses a magic and goes on adventures with her friends to find treasure🤣I’m always dreaming about fantasy worlds.

97889971_669526270495005_6182132825865584640_n 

Q10) If you could say something to the entire world, what would it be?

I’m so grateful that I have an opportunity to meet new people and wonderful doors  are opening. Always have joy and be playful with a smile and love. 

<We need more happy people like Ayuko in the world!>

Ayuko’s hobbies are so fascinating I asked her a few more questions about them.

  • Where is the most beautiful place you have gone scuba-diving?

I would say Belize, but underwater is Miyakojima.

  • Do you prefer hiking up mountains or in forests?

Mountains!

  • What is Acroyoga?

Acroyoga is sort of a partner yoga that combines yoga with acrobatics and Thai massage. Practice is supportive, trusting and communicative. There are several definitions of Acroyoga. Helping yoga poses by supporting one another also.

  • How far down do you dive when you skin-dive?

I’m just starting, maybe 5,6 m so far.

  • Which activity is the most tiring for you?

Staying still😂 Anything fun with good people!

Thank you so much for taking part in the second volume of BB10-Q, Ayuko! I’m envious of all your outdoor activities. It’s great to see someone enjoying life so much!

Please tune in for the next blog (something totally riveting by me, yay!) and the next volume of BB10-Q (talking to someone more interesting than me, yay!). Stay safe out there. Wash your hands, wear a mask and let’s all be civil. We’re all in this together. Till next time!

IMG_20200208_142150

You Are The Hero!

Beneath+Nightmare+Castle

Yes, you are the brave adventurer who will take down the warlock Zagor, the demi-sorcerer Balthus Dire and the necromancer Zharradan Marr! You are the mighty hero who will stop Malbordos the Storm-Child, Shareela the Snow Witch and Ikiru, Master of Shadows! And you will be the guy whose car broke down and you ask for help at the house of a Satanic cult…oops!

So how did I do there with my spellings? And who else grew up on Fighting Fantasy? And who still has the original books?! Sadly, as with much else from my childhood, I sold them all at a car-boot sale. I remember it well because I was maybe 14 years old and I thought I’d be selling them to another kid. I was a bit surprised when an adult bought the whole lot. Oh, how naive I was! I just threw away treasure for the sake of getting enough pounds in my pocket to buy a Transvision Vamp single. No offence, Wendy James, but I wish I had kept the books.

mainWJAMES

“You would choose orcs and goblins over me?”

I was introduced into Fighting Fantasy in an unexpected way. At our primary school we had story groups, where all the juniors (9-11 yrs old I think) split into groups and the teacher would read a story. I joined a group reading The Lord of the Rings (Mrs Guttery I do believe) only to ask to switch a week later. I’d read The Hobbit and LOTR was feeling a bit heavy in comparison. Down the corridor, in the headmaster’s group, they were reading the literary classic, The Forest of Doom.

“The Forest of Destiny!? Lame-O! This is Fighting Fantasy, not frigging Narnia!”

My friends told me the game-book was cool so I turned traitor to the Hobbits and hot-footed down to where the dice were rolling! And we hardy adventurers helped the Dwarves of Stonebridge, then got killed in Deathtrap Dungeon, and then surprisingly went to the House of Hell. Not sure the teacher knew what she was getting into when she took over the headmaster’s group and pretty certain she had no idea what was inside this house. Although the title drops a heavy hint…

P264illo

“Erm, did any of you know this book contained images of human sacrifice?”

And so began my love affair with the incredible work of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. I had most books up to Beneath Nightmare Castle and can still recite the order…which I shall do now for sheer nerdiness.

  1. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
  2. The Citadel of Chaos
  3. The Forest of Destiny… ha ha, just kidding, The Forest of Doom
  4. Starship Traveler (did not possess)
  5. City of Thieves
  6. Deathtrap Dungeon
  7. Island of the Lizard King (dnp)
  8. Scorpion Swamp
  9. caverns of the Snow Witch (dnp)
  10. House of Hell
  11. The Talisman of Death
  12. Space Assassin
  13. Freeway Fighter (dnp)
  14. Temple of Terror (dnp)
  15. The Rings of Kether
  16. Seas of Blood
  17. Appointment with F.E.A.R.
  18. Rebel Planet
  19. Demons of the Deep
  20. Sword of the Samurai
  21. Trial of Champions
  22. Robot Commando
  23. Masks of Mayhem
  24. Creature of Havoc
  25. Beneath Nightmare Castle

Beneath Nightmare Castle was notorious for having some of its art censored (was pretty sick!). Also had Vault of the Vampire (had a teenage crush on Katarina Heydrich; yeah, I didn’t get out much); and Armies of Death.

Katarina_Heydrich

“Keep drinking the blood of virgins, you beautiful lady of the night!”

The adventures were great but the art was really something to behold. Google Image a bit and you’ll see some of the most incredible fantasy art ever to stir our imaginations.

Which is why it’s such a shame that the re-prints on sale now do not have this art. I’ve tried to find the reason but come up with nothing. I can only assume it’s a matter of rights. Scholastic re-published them and either couldn’t get the rights to the artists’ works or didn’t want to pay for them. I see both sides here. 40-something nostalgia junkies is not much of a market, whereas teenagers are. It’s great if a whole new generation discover and enjoy FF, but it’s sad to see something that isn’t the fantastic books we held. Is there no collection of FF art?! I would pay good money for such a tome!

Just Googling now and I see there are books available for some of the artists. And here is a list of the books and their artists.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Fighting_Fantasy_gamebooks

Oh man, I’m down the rabbit-hole now. Just looking at ArtStation web-site and they have some prints that are pure nostalgic joy! My bank account is sweating, “No, no, you already have a huge TBR pile!”, “Silence! An adventurer must be bold! …and a man-cave must have awesome art!”

Fighting Fantasy were a big part of my childhood and definitely influenced my imaginings. I would spend ages looking through Out of the Pit and Titan, write lists of monsters and how many there were in each book, dream up stories where I ruled over a cabal of all the sorcerers, good and evil, and basically escaped from the real world.

“Take me back to the days of death and glory!”

Above is Creature of Havoc (l), which I consider to be the greatest FF book. It is staggeringly hard and incredibly complex compared to the more traditional maze & monster-type adventure. The Trolltooth Wars (which I have a copy!) is an excellent companion to this, and Warlock of Firetop Mountain & Citadel of Chaos. The Demonic Three!

Okay, I have lingered long enough in monstrous memories and nightmarish nostalgia. Time to have some breakfast! “Bar-keep, fried bread, mutton and a mug of ale! An extra silver if you keep my flagon full!”

Dragonspell

PS I obviously don’t own the rights to any of these images. I post them here to share my love for the books, the authors and their artists. And if that guy I sold my books to is still around, I hope you treated them well.

Till next time, good people. Stay safe and take care!

A Month of Staying Home

Hello everyone. How are you? It’s an anxious time for the world and a tragic time for many. We can only hope the world learns from this and realises just who the essential workers really are in our societies.

Schools here closed on the 3rd February so it’s been a month now of the boys at home with me. I’m going a bit nutty but only need to watch the news to get some perspective. I’d like to write about the more positive aspects of this social distancing and what it has meant for my family.

First thing is that we have spent a lot of time together. In the last year this hasn’t been the case as Japan has a tendency to invest as much time in everything as there are waking hours to the day. People leave for work before 7am and most get home after 9pm, 14 hour days being nothing unusual. Kids go to school, come home, then go to juku (cram school), come home and go to bed. Sports clubs meet often and for long periods (T’s basketball is four to five times a week, often full days at weekends; H’s volleyball met every Saturday, Sunday and national holiday). The adults who run the clubs are volunteers and I am grateful for them, but I believe children need variety in their lives, the time to experience a whole range of activities and importantly, the time to be bored! Professional athletes don’t train for 8 hours in a day (I believe I am correct in saying that).

So, grumble over, what have we done with this gift of time together? I’ve finally had time to practice English reading with the boys, which considering Haruki is about to start JHS, is none too soon! Both of them have cooked. We’ve played games together, watched movies together and Eriko has actually been home for dinner some days.

With the cooking, we were going round the world for a while. Mexican, Italian, American, British, Chinese, Korean and of course Japanese. But that faded a bit, mainly because I was putting on weight. Not moving around as much and eating high-calorie food which simply must be accompanied by beer, is a dangerous combination!

The games we’ve played have been some of the old favourites like Castle Panic and Small World, and also new friends like Zombiecide. Last game Haruki slew a horde of shufflers with a Great Sword, Tomoki took down numerous Walkers & Runners with an Orcish Crossbow (which can be used as a melee weapon – cool!), and I kept missing the damn undead goons with my short bow (I was an Elf, had a +1 to my die roll so only needed a 2 or above; rolled a 1 several times…”Doh!”). Great co-op game!

I’ve also had time to read more. Currently reading The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman at night and “Grotesque” by Kirino Natsuo in the day. Recently finished “The Wolf of Oren-Yaro” by K.S. Villoso and “Genesis Rising” by Elle Lewis.

We did manage one social gathering with some friends and I put on the chef’s apron. Did pretty well, if I do say so myself.

And Haruki graduated from elementary school! Can’t believe it’s been six years!

Please stay safe everyone! Please think about all the people working right now because we need them. Please keep in touch with loved ones and maybe drop a line to old friends. You never know who might need a friendly text/mail/voice right now.

Hoping next time I write, we will be past the worst. Though whenever I say something like that, I always think that for some, the worst happened and life will never be the same.

PS Please check out Buckmaster Books on Facebook. I’ve been running more giveaways than usual recently, mainly because I haven’t been doing much so have a bit more spare coin at present. “Toss a coin to the Witcher…” Never far from my brain, that one.

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BB10-Q (vol1) – Elle Lewis

BB10-Q (vol1) – Elle Lewis

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Hello to everyone. And how are you? That’s almost a scary question these days. COVID-19 is ravaging the world and nowhere has been spared its indiscriminate touch. I hope people are following the advice of the experts, being sensible and staying home if possible. So many workers don’t have the option to sit it out and we should be grateful for them EVERY single day. I sincerely hope that there will be a new appreciation for the people who are truly vital to not just society but to the lives of each and every one of us.

If you are at home and in need of something to read or distract you, then please keep going here! This is volume 1 of BB10-Q, hopefully the first of many interviews with fellow authors, friends and anyone who shares a love of reading. Buckmaster Books 10 Questions, BB10-Q for ease. Let’s move straight on and meet Elle Lewis!

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Elle Lewis has been a great source of nerdy humour these past couple of years!

<news of competition giveaway to follow so stay tuned till the end!>

Hi Elle! Welcome to BB-10Q! Let’s start with talking a bit about you and your writing. How are you?

Good! Considering the crazy state of the world at the moment. Trying to stay hopeful and positive. 

Glad to hear it. It’s an anxious time for sure. How are you taking care with the current corona-virus situation?

As a nurse, I’m accustomed to working with blood-borne pathogens, contact isolation, droplet precautions etc. But it’s strange to have that setting transitioned into everyday life. My primary focus is my family, keeping my son and husband safe. I’m always reminding them to wash their hands, change their clothes when they get in…. but I’m ready for this to be over and for life to go back to normal. I’m sure everyone feels the same. 

You are now releasing the sequel to Dark Touch, Genesis Rising. How would you describe the book without mentioning any of the plot whatsoever?

Genesis Rising really takes the reader further down the rabbit hole. The series introduces new supernatural creatures and original lore. Genesis Rising expounds upon the world building established in Dark Touch. The readers are able to become immersed in the world of Warriors and Dark Ones. It is very fast paced, with a lot of action!

<please head to Goodreads to check out my review of Genesis Rising!>

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GOODREADS>>>

Why did you want to write a book, and what was behind specifically writing The Glass Star trilogy?

I have always been an avid reader. To write a book has been a dream of mine since I was young. Dark Touch actually started as a short story exercise, to get my feet wet in the world of writing. And the story grew! I felt very strongly that I wanted to create new supernatural creatures and original lore. I’m glad I did! It has been a wonderful creative experience and readers have received Warriors and Dark Ones quite well!

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I certainly enjoyed both books! What have you found is the most difficult part of the self-publishing process?

I’m fortunate to have been offered a traditional publishing contact with an independent press. Their guidance and resources are invaluable. But I still have trouble navigating social media and attempting to market online. I’m trying to learn how to use Instagram and Tik-Tok. LOL. May the gods have mercy on my soul. 

I’m still on my quest for fire so you’re way ahead of me. The final installment of the trilogy is expected at the end of the year. What will be your next project?

My next project will be a medical horror novel, entitled O.R. 16. I’m really excited about crossing into the horror genre and using my medical knowledge in a creative way!

Yay! Definitely looking forward to book three and then the horror, oh the horror!

Okay, now onto the ten questions of BB10-Q!

Q1) What book are you reading now? OR What was the last book you read?

Currently I’m reading Markus, by David Odle. He is an author in my publishing house. It’s really good! Although I’m reading at a snail’s pace because I have a deadline for book 3. The last book I read (and loved) was The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young. Her world building is astounding, and I really admire her ability to craft a story that feels genuine and organic.

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Q2) What genre of books do you usually read?

I read a little bit of everything. Primarily, Fantasy or Grimdark Fantasy. Urban Fantasy. Occasionally Horror. I also dabble in YA Fiction and I absolutely love grabbing a middle grade fantasy book on occasion. I adore exploring what is available to young readers.

Q3) What was the last book that made you cry?

Hm. Let me think a second- YOUR BOOK. Ragnekai Winds. Yeah. That’s right. I’m still upset about certain elements of that story. You know very well what I’m talking about good sir. (…oops!)

Q4) What book do you remember fondly from your childhood?

It would have to be The Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Q5) Apart from reading, what hobbies do you have?

I am really big into personal fitness. I work out and enjoy planning my meals/nutrition etc. Is laundry and housework considering a hobby? LOL. I’d include going to the beach and watching movies at home. I know, so thrilling. I’m a bit of a hermit (which I love and wouldn’t have it any other way).

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Hermits are cool!

Q6) Where is your favorite place to read? (Ex. In bed, on the sofa, in a park, in a coffee shop etc.)

Snuggled in bed or curled up on the couch. Both require a blanket, water within reach, and Chapstick.

Q7) What book would you like to see made into a TV show and who would you like to play the lead character?

I’m going to be totally selfish and say either my book or your book. For Sloan, Jennifer Lawrence! (You have my vote there!)

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Q8) If you could meet a fictional character in real life, who would it be and why?

Lestat. Please turn me into an immortal. I promise I won’t become whiney and worry about my soul. (Ha ha!)

Q9) If YOU were a character in a book, who would it be? OR What literary world would you like to experience/live in?

OMG so easy. Harry Potter. I want to attend Hogwarts so badly! I’d take any house. Even Slytherin. But to add a twist- there is a cool world I wouldn’t mind being in- the alternate reality featured in the movie Bright. I’d LOVE to be one of those elves.

Q10) If you could say something to the entire world, what would it be?

Support indie/self-published authors! Writing is our passion and purpose. If you enjoy our work, please leave a review. And if you need a break from the stress of the current world environment, please check out Dark Touch by yours truly or Ragnekai Winds by Peter Buckmaster. I promise the stories will sweep you away. XO.

(I owe Elle a beer for this last answer!)

 

Thank you so much for taking part in the first BB10-Q, Elle Lewis! It’s always great to hear what other readers and authors like and think. Please take care, thank you to you and all the health-workers on the front lines right now, and may many more people enjoy your writing!

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Please check out Buckmaster Books on Facebook as there will be a giveaway for Elle’s books (hopefully up & running by tomorrow, 24th March). And please comment on this blog post, even if it’s just to wish Elle the best of luck! Take care everyone and wash your hands.

Soapy hands of little child hand-washing in the sink