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Monday, January 30, 2012

Filtered Future, The Land of Oz and Other Dark Tales of Science Fiction and Horror

I'm excited to announce the publication of my new book of short stories, Filtered Future, The Land of Oz and Other Dark Tales of Science Fiction and Horror.

The book is downloadable VIA AMAZON KINDLE for only $2.99. A couple of the stories are pretty edgy, so consider yourself warned.



Here's the official description from Amazon:

Written by Brett Weiss, a frequent contributor to such magazines as Fangoria and Filmfax, this eclectic short story collection pulls no punches, taking readers down a rabbit hole of fear, wonder and imagination. From the Orwellian “Filtered Future” and “What Do They Do While We Sleep?” to the deadly dark “Strange Children” and “Wormboy,” Filtered Future, The Land of Oz and Other Dark Tales of Science Fiction and Horror will keep anyone with a taste for the bizarre reading late into the night (and the next night and the next).

Other stories in this collection include: “I Have No TV, and I Must Watch” (a Harlan Ellison homage/parody); “Washed in the Blood” (a seriously warped religious yarn); “The Land of Oz” (about an early ’80s arcade); “The Creation Proclamation” (an amusing evolutionary tale); and “The Lady Loves Dancing” (introducing a morbidly obese woman’s “Little Helpers”).

Bonus features include a poem (“A New Kind of Light”), an interview with legendary horror novelist Bentley Little and introductions to each story. More than 34,000 words in all.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 -- REVIEW

A nice review of my latest book, Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990, appeared on About.com. You can read it here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Livia J. Washburn


The January issue of Mystery Scene contained my article on novelist Livia J. Washburn. Here's the text from that article:

While she’s never held a traditional day job, former bookstore owner Livia J. Washburn has been a hard-working freelancer for more than 30 years, cranking out historical adventures, romance novels, westerns, and, most prominently (not to mention most prolifically), mysteries.

Washburn is best known for her cozy “Fresh-Baked” and “Literary Tour” series, both of which are populated with strong women, supportive men, faithful friends, and, of course, a rascal or two. The question of “whodunit” hangs over every novel, and romantic entanglements sometimes ensue. However, sex and violence are downplayed in favor of humor, yummy food, and small-town charm. In short, these are books you could recommend to your teenager or your grandmother.

The “Fresh-Baked” books star feisty Phyllis Newsom, a devoted cook and retired history teacher living in the relatively small town of Weatherford, Texas. Phyllis, a widow who loves to cook, runs a boarding house that is home to other retired teachers, including romantic interest and former high school basketball coach, Sam Fletcher.

“Using retired teachers was a natural since I was surrounded by teachers in my family,” Washburn says. “My mother, my mother-in-law, two sisters-in-law, and now both my daughters are (or were) teachers.”

It’s no accident that Washburn set the “Fresh-Baked” series in Texas. A Texan through and through, she’s a lifelong resident of Azle, which, like Weatherford, is a smallish suburb of Fort Worth. Washburn enjoys experimenting with recipes, so the baking theme is also a natural. In fact, each of the “Fresh-Baked” novels includes several recipes created by Washburn.

“My agent, Kimberly Lionetti, let me know the publishers were looking for foodie mysteries, and she asked me if I thought this was something I would be interested in trying,” Washburn says. “And of course I was. Kimberly’s a terrific agent. She actually had bidding wars going for both the ‘Fresh-Baked’ and ‘Literary Tour’ series. It was very exciting.”

In the first “Fresh-Baked” mystery, A Peach of a Murder, Phyllis yearns to win the top prize in Weatherford’s annual Peach Festival baking contest, an honor one of her housemates, Carolyn Wilbarger, has won twice before. Unfortunately, one of the judges dies after sampling Phyllis’s cobbler, placing the peachy protagonist in the role of amateur sleuth.

The sixth and most recent “Fresh-Baked” book is The Gingerbread Bump-off, in which Phyllis, a budding Sherlock Holmes at this point, has decorated her boarding house for the annual Christmas Jingle Bell Tour of Homes. She’s also busy preparing a Christmas Eve bridal shower and a New Year’s Eve wedding. Naturally, someone gets murdered on her front porch, putting the intrepid cookie maker once again in pursuit of a pestiferous perpetrator.

In addition to cooking and writing, Washburn, who went to Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, but had to drop out due to various health issues, enjoys working with power tools and traveling. The former she does frequently, but she doesn’t get a chance to travel nearly as much as she’d like, thanks to the responsibilities involved in taking care of her elderly parents.

When Washburn’s agent suggested she write a series of mysteries about literary books, she jumped on the opportunity. “I thought that writing about literary tours would give me the perfect excuse to do some traveling,” Washburn says. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t work out. Just as I started writing the first book in the ‘Literary Tour’ series, my mom’s dementia got worse, and she had foot surgery. Also, my dad fell on their icy driveway, broke his ankle, and had to have a plate put in.”

Although familial responsibilities keep her close to home most of the time, the “Literary Tour” series lets Washburn (and her readers) travel vicariously to places both real and imagined, including: the Tennessee Williams Literary Tour in New Orleans (Killer on a Hot Tin Roof); a Mark Twain-themed cruise on the Mississippi River (Huckleberry Finished); and an old plantation modeled after Tara from Gone With the Wind (Frankly My Dear, I’m Dead).

The protagonist of the “Literary Tour” series is Delilah Dickinson, an independent-minded divorcee who opens a travel agency in Atlanta. Full of sass and brass (and a touch of class), Delilah is a character readers will find themselves rooting for again and again.

In the next “Literary Tour” book, For Whom the Funeral Bell Tolls (Feb. 2012), the always adventurous Delilah takes a tour group to Key West, Florida to explore the literary heritage of Ernest “Papa” Hemingway. Fortunately for mystery buffs everywhere (but unfortunately for the poor victim), Hemingway’s former residence becomes the scene of a murder.

For mystery fans who like their novels a little less cozy, Washburn’s darker, edgier “Hallam Mysteries” may be just what the doctor ordered. Set in the 1920s, during the glory days of the Hollywood western, these books star former Texas Ranger Lucas Hallam, a rough-and-tumble movie cowboy and private detective who tangles with gangsters, zombies, religious cults, the Ku Klux Klan, and other disreputable sorts.

There are four books in the Hallam series: Hallam (featuring the first appearance of the character); Dead Stick (someone tries to sabotage Hallam’s current film); Dog Heavies (Hallam must take a spoiled New York actor to a ranch in Texas to make him a credible cowboy star); and Wild Night (winner of The American Mystery Award and The Private Eye Writers of America's Best Original Paperback Award).

Along with writing her own books, Washburn proofreads her husband James Reasoner’s novels. The author of the 10-volume “Civil War Battles” series (among numerous other titles), Reasoner often writes more than a million words in a single year, keeping Washburn plenty busy. While it’s a time-intensive chore, working as an assistant to her husband has paid off for Washburn, who grew up reading, but never really saw herself as writing for a living.

“In school I was the weird child that enjoyed writing papers, especially research papers,” Washburn says. “But I never dreamed of writing professionally until I saw James succeed. He was writing stories in longhand for Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, and I would type them up for him. I kept telling him of other ways his stories could have gone until he finally suggested that I try to write my own.”

Washburn took her husband’s advice, and suddenly a career was born. Her first published story—“The Lord Will Provide”—appeared in a 1978 issue of Mike Shayne. Her first novel, The Emerald Land, was published in 1983 by Fawcett Gold Medal (as written by Livia James). Her first mystery novel was Wild Night, published by Tor Books in 1987 (as written by L.J. Washburn).

To research the people, places, and things she writes about, Washburn used to visit as many as half a dozen libraries in a single day. But now, thanks to the Internet, that aspect of her job has gotten easier. “I still use books,” she says, “but Google has become my friend. When I want to get the description of a setting right, I usually call up as many images as I can. With the maps they have now, you can ‘walk’ down the roads you’re trying to describe. Also, I belong to several email lists where the other members are also writers, and if I run into something that really stumps me, I ask the group. Chances are someone usually knows the answer.”

Currently, Washburn is hard at work on Wedding Cake Blues, the next novel in the “Fresh-Baked” series.

“In many ways writing has been a dream job for me,” Washburn says. “I've been able to raise a family, work with my husband, and tell stories that entertain people all over the world. I can't think of anything better.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1000 Comic Books You Must Read



1000 Comic Books You Must Read
Krause Publications
$29.99, color, 272 pgs., hardcover
Writer: Tony Isabella

A labor of love from “America’s most beloved comics writer and columnist,” who’s been cranking out comic book commentary for almost four decades, Tony Isabella’s 1000 Comic Books You Must Read is a big, slick, lavishly produced volume. Each chapter represents a different decade—from the late 1930s to the present—and each page is illustrated with rich, colorful, beautifully reproduced comic book covers.

Accompanying each cover is publisher and copyright information, along with creator credits, historical tidbits, plot synopsis, and/or short, but pointed commentary. As always, Isabella writes clearly and enthusiastically without a lick of pretension. Eschewing false modesty, Isabella, who created Black Lightning (DC’s first major African American hero), includes a number of comic books he wrote. In fact, it could be argued that a disproportionate number of the featured comics bear his name.

As is typical with this type of book, certain fans will bemoan the absence of their favorite titles—where the heck are James Robinsons’ Starman and Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come?—but the diversity on display here, encompassing every genre from romance to horror to crime to war to humor to super-heroes and beyond, is truly impressive.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

1000 Comic Books You Must Read is indeed a nice looking book that is fun to flip through, but it would benefit from more text. Virtually every entry is brief, but the book’s large pages offer plenty of room where Isabella could’ve expanded some of the more interesting or important entries.

Originally published in 2009, 1000 Comic Books You Must Read deservedly sold out of its initial print run and is back via a second printing. If someone were to write a book called “1000 Books You Must Read,” Tony’s titanic testament probably wouldn’t make the cut. However, comic book fans who enjoy bite-sized chunks of fun-to-read info could make a fairly convincing case that it should.

Click on the following link to order the book:

1000 Comic Books You Must Read

Monday, January 2, 2012

How I "Broke Through"

The new issue of The Writer, currently available at Barnes and Noble, features my story on how I broke through as a freelance writer.


Here's the text from the article:

Breakthrough -- Brett Weiss

A lifelong reader, I love perusing the printed page—books, magazines, newspapers, comic-books—you name it. And I’ve always wanted to be a writer. However, I never seriously pursued this longing until 1993, when I sold my business (a pair of comic-book stores) and suddenly found myself with plenty of time to write.

My first goal was to learn the craft and get published, which I did in 1997—with a whopping $10 sale to an online fiction magazine. I continued cranking out short stories, but only found limited success, netting a sale here and there in an assortment of long-forgotten small-press magazines. Undeterred, I kept plugging away: read-write-repeat.

Breakthrough

In 1998, my brother-in-law emailed me a classified ad for the All Game Guide (www.allgame.com), a database that would catalog, describe and review every video game ever released. As an avid video game collector, I jumped on this opportunity and quickly got the job.

My part-time All Game Guide gig transformed into a highly profitable (relatively speaking) writing/editing position, inspiring me to seek additional non-fiction venues, including the Comics Buyer’s Guide, where I became a member of the long-running magazine’s Review Crew.

Unfortunately, following the post-9/11 economic downturn, the All Game Guide released its off-site writers, leaving me frustrated and heartbroken. A friend who happened to own a garage door company offered me a job as a dispatcher, which let me work at home and gave me plenty of time to write between phone calls.

In 2006, I attended Comic-Con International in San Diego, where I networked with an editor working for McFarland Publishers. Much to my surprise, she emailed me a few days later, asking if I had any interesting book ideas.

And that is how my Classic Home Video Games book series was born, the third volume of which was released last fall. The series credit has not only looked good on my resume but has helped me get countless freelance assignments, including steady work for AntiqueWeek, Filmfax, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and various other publications.

What I learned

For most writers, especially those of us who didn’t exactly excel in school, writing clean copy doesn’t come naturally, no matter how much you have read or how much you have dreamed of one day becoming a writer. You have to work at it every day, whether you are getting published on a regular basis or not.

Without writing all those bad short stories, I may not have been able to work my way up to editor with the All Game Guide. Without writing hundreds of reviews for the All Game Guide and the Comics Buyer’s Guide, my writing probably would’ve lacked the polish to justify a book contract. In short, I learned that real, working writers write constantly and feel compelled to do so.

Advice

Begin each day by waking up a couple of hours before everyone else, fixing yourself a strong caffeinated drink, and getting in some time at the computer or word processor while you are fresh and the house is quiet—you’ll soon find yourself looking forward to this morning ritual.

Act like a professional, even if you haven’t had a single word published. Call yourself a writer, establish a fully outfitted office area in your home, and keep business cards in your purse or wallet. Carry a notebook wherever you go, jotting down anything interesting you may hear someone say or any idea that might pop into your head.

Keep an organized filing system containing such things as publisher contact information, query letters, story ideas, and rejection and acceptance notices. Never throw away anything you have written, no matter how bad. That terrible piece you wrote years ago could provide the skeleton of an idea for a terrific screenplay or novel.

Prior to submitting an article, story or query, read at least a couple of issues of that publication to get a feel for what they publish (free sample copies or PDF files are often available online). No matter how sparkling your prose or how clever your turn of phrase, ill-fitting, inappropriate material will be rejected every time.

BIO BOX

The author of the Classic Home Video Games book series, Brett Weiss is a full-time freelancer living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife and two teenage children. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Auction Exchange, Fangoria, Farm World, Game Informer, Robot magazine, Toy Shop, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.