Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Review: Stories From the Grave

I am not one to publish a bunch of reviews. But it’s Halloween, so it seems apt to talk about a great horror themed project. Maybe my favorite scary project of the year is a new pen and paper role playing game from my friends at Spectrum Games: Stories From the Grave.

If the cover isn’t a clue, the work is directly inspired by anthology horror comics, movies and television, specifically classic EC style horror like Tales From the Crypt. Hosted by the Grave Hag, the game is designed to emulate the short quick tales of the horror comics of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

With a simple narrative system behind it, the basic premise allows the Grave Keeper (a.k.a. The Gamemaster) and the player(s) to trade control of a tale of horror or suspense. The Grave Keeper starts the basic narrative off, and the player uses his roles to try and take control of the situation. Divided into a three act structure, the goal here isn’t survival like in any other horror RPG. The goal here is great storytelling, so don’t get too attached to any player character.

Of course, PCs aren’t meant to be used more than once in Stories From the Grave. The game is designed for quick stories that allow room for two to three Installments (the game’s term for adventures) per game session. This might mean a bit of extra prep for the Grave Keeper, but with character generation basically set up to take no more than a minute or two, it’s easy to keep a session moving.

With everything included to design and run your own adventures, a low price tag and a simple but effective system, Stories From the Grave is a great one or two session game for anyone interested in a horror-filled diversion from their usual games. Writer Cynthia Celeste Miller clearly set out to emulate the genre as near perfectly as possible and it shows in her attention to detail in the streamlined 48 page package.

Don’t let me forget the art as well. Though the interior features only a few spot illustrations, the work by Bradley K. McDevitt, C. Michael Hall and Nolan Segrest perfectly captures the flair of classic comic horror. Hall’s cover is a great homage to classic EC covers, completed by design work that mimics the logo work of books like Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear and of course, Tales From the Crypt.

I only fooled around with the system a bit, but the collaborative storytelling aspect is incredibly intriguing to me as a writer. I could see using a similar structure if I ever wanted to create a story challenge for multiple authors.

Of course, as a huge fan of EC Comics and the Tales From the Crypt television series, the entire package is tons of fun to me. At only eight bucks, the PDF is worth checking out from DriveThruRPG. Give it a look and put a few scares into you and your friends’ lives!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Horror Heroes 2 on sale!

One of my favorite short works of the last couple years appeared in the second volume of the anthology series Horror Heroes. "The Beach House" played with menacing monster from the deep concept, as I introduced a strange genetic hybrid between man and Gillman.

But I am not one to take normal paths to stories, because if "The Beach House" is anything, it is a story of young love. The tale is narrated by a young woman just out of school, looking to live life for the very first time. She gets far more than she ever expected when she moves into a beach-front property with other young up-and-comers looking for one last summer of freedom.

With touches of 80s teen movies, horror movie tropes and Vanessa Carlton songs, I was super-proud to publish it just before last Halloween.

But this year, the book is on sale for Kindle readers! Anyone can now pick up a copy on discount for just 99 measly cents. They get not only my tale, but also new fiction from Travis Hiltz and Darrin Albert, featuring their own re-imagined horror icons!

Buy your copy of Horror Heroes 2 before the sale ends on November 1st!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Cosplay Friday: Vampirella

Panda Valentine brings this impressive costume of Vampirella to life, or at least undeath, to kick off the Halloween weekend.

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff on this week!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Work-In-Progress Wednesday: October 2016

This month has been all about catching up on what work I can in between way too many days worked at the day job. My main project has been a new short story for the upcoming third volume of the Pen & Cape Society's The Good Fight series. Readers might remember The Good Fight 2: Villains featured my very first "The Second Life of D.B. Cooper" story. Sadly, my co-conspirators at the society didn't choose a subject matter for the second volume that really fit my take on D.B. Cooper.

The new book will be titled The Good Fight 3: Sidekicks. I have only had two characters that have fit the term in my work, but I decided I would feature them both. Readers of A Dangerous Place to Live know Annabelle Montalvo, the new series' lead, but the new story will actually jump ahead in time, to the time period after the upcoming next Freedom Patton novel Long Hot Summer.

My other sidekick character is Backoff, a young hero already dead as the F.O.R.C.E. series started. How can a dead character play a role in a new story set after the events of F.O.R.C.E.? For that, you will have to wait until the story is finished and released as part of the new volume of The Good Fight!

I have been breaking up what little project time I have left between the editing of a long delayed, quite unique new anthology I hope to yet have ready by the end of the year. I also have worked on the last two chapters of F.O.R.C.E. as I hope to wrap that series around the end of the year.

Of course, the last few days of this month are also about Nanowrimo prep. Next month will be all about the fourth book in the Lightweight series, but I'll have to talk about that one more in next month's Work-In-Progress Wednesday!

The image today is of actress and host Francia Raisa. When I first developed Annabelle Montalvo past her earliest appearances, her work on The Secret Life of the American Teenager was still fresh. While she has aged out of ever playing the character now, she still sits as the image of the character in my head.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

F.O.R.C.E. Files 8: Chase Hayes

Doc Tesla again takes the lead in the latest chapter of F.O.R.C.E, as she leads Bob Cat and Pirata Magico to Denver to investigate a familiar energy pattern.

But the new story is equally about Chase Hayes, a young millennial facing an uncertain future made far more uncertain by his sudden bonding with an alien intelligence and the source of the energy pattern. Even as the young hero meets the team and seeks to understand his new abilities, he faces his first super powered foe.

But the mystery of The Aviator's death also resurfaces as Chase's new power signature matches the hero killed in the very first F.O.R.C.E. story. This connection reveals a secret dating back to the earliest days of Doc Tesla's continuation of her family legacy.

These plot points also set up the next two chapters that will round out the year and the first series of F.O.R.C.E. But don't worry, even after F.O.R.C.E. 10 (no Alistair MacLean jokes intended), there's still a whole lot more F.O.R.C.E. planned for the months and years ahead!

The announcement of the major change for the future of the series comes on November 8th. Stay tuned for the news on that important day!

Pick up F.O.R.C.E. 8: Doc Tesla at Amazon today!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Influential 8: Two Legends Lost

Last week, two creative minds that have been influences on my writing have left the world. 

First was crime, mystery and western author Ed Gorman. Gorman was a fellow Eastern Iowan, regularly writing novels set in and around the area. But along with Max Allan Collins (another Iowan), he helped me develop a fan for crime fiction. I remember as a young reader always being stuck with straight mysteries and never quite finding them all that interesting. But with more of a focus on criminals and the horrors of crime, both Gorman and Collins drew me in. Unlike Collins however, Gorman also wrote several horror short stories, often with great Tales From the Crypt-esque finishes. His collection The Dark Fantastic still ranks as one of the best collections of horror short stories I've ever read. 

If you've never read anything by him, his novels The Poker Club and Wolf Moon are both amazing places to start. His short novel Cage of Night is currently only 99 cents on Amazon for a low cost look at his work.

Ed had a long and storied career, slowed in recent years as he battled cancer. Eventually it was that cancer that took him and left a massive hole in crime and western fiction. 

He is survived by his wife Carol Gorman, a writer of fiction for children and adults.  

Just over this last weekend, a very different creator disappeared. And though his medium and origins were about as far away from Gorman's as possible, he still left an indelible impression during my formative years.

British comic artist Steve Dillon is a name most people know for his legendary work on Preacher, an epic long running series he drew ever regular issue of. (Several side limited series were drawn by other artists.) He collaborated with Garth Ennis on several other books as well, notably Hellblazer and their revamp of The Punisher. It was actually the first Atom Special. Published in the middle of his John Constantine run, the book immediately made me a fan of his art style which brought a beautiful realism to the unreal world of superhero comics. He used those skills to great effect in Preacher, but it was his run on Wolverine: Origins that was in my opinion, his finest comic work. Despite his years as a critically acclaimed mature readers oriented artist, in recent years he had done more mainstream work like the aforementioned Wolverine stories, issues of X-Men: Legacy, Ultimate Avengers and Thunderbolts. Up until his sudden death over the weekend, he had been working on a new Punisher series with writer Becky Cloonan that I looked forward to seeing in trade. Now that work will go sadly uncollected. 

The obvious starting point for anyone wanting to enjoy his work is Preacher Book One.

Neither creator might be an immediate obvious influence on my writing, but both had an incredible knack for grounding the fantastic in the real. It's a skill I've tried to emulate in my Freedom Patton novels: A Dangerous Place to Live and the upcoming The Long Hot Summer and Champion City. Ultimately, they remain creators I will continue to enjoy and learn from, even if we sadly see nothing more from both legendary creators.

Rest well, good sirs. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cosplay Friday: Typhoid Mary

Nothing can bring the pre-Halloween horror like a crazy psychopath obsessed utterly with you. Typhoid Mary fits the bill, and we once again end the week with her craziness, this time brought to life by the always amazing Florencia Sofen.

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff on this week!

What's Up for October 21, 2016

What's Up is a simple post where I give you links to the books, comics, movies, games and/or music I have been enjoying as of late. Feel free to check them out if you would like to enjoy them as well or give your opinions of these works in the comments below (though do try to keep it spoiler free.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Great Art: Cryptkeeper and Vampirella by Steve Mannion

I have a fondness for both these characters and an equal fondness for the amazing art of indie comic dynamo Steve Mannion, a man that has kept his Fearless Dawn series and himself afloat for years now through Kickstarter and original art sales. I am sure I will talk about both Tales From the Crypt and Vampirella in the days ahead here on SPF, but for now just check out the gorgeous art.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Cosplay Monday: Morrigan

Darkstalkers has long been a favorite game franchise of mine, and perhaps no character exemplifies that franchise as well as Morrigan. Street Fighter certainly doesn't have any sexy succubi that will literally suck the soul from your body. Tons of cosplays exist for the character, but Dalin Cosplay certainly ranks among the best of them.

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff on this week!

Kickstart the Week 46: Werewolf Run

Daniel Leister is a great artist that's worked on several books I've enjoyed over the years, like The Sire and Hack/Slash. He's now drawing and writing a new series and he's funding it through Kickstarter. And it just conveniently is Halloween themed!

Check out Werewolf Run and help make it a reality!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Great Art: Rom by Sal Buscema

I've been greatly enjoy Rom's new series by the creative team of Ryall, Gage and Messina. But I absolutely love this Sal Buscema cover for the book. Just great work by one of the last few living legends of comics.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cosplay Fri... er... Sunday: Venom

A snafu in scheduling kept Friday's post from going up, but here's some great weekend cosplay for your enjoyment! 

I kickoff a month of horror-oriented or monstrous Cosplays, because hey, it's almost Halloween! First up, I take a look at the character that is second only to The Brood in Marvel's answer to creepy tentacle porn. But Venom does make a great body paint cosplay (as we've seen once before). Pantara Lynne brings an equal level of sexy mixed with creepy in this new cosplay for the character.

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff on this week!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Kickstart the Week 45: Eagle Force Returns!

I make no secret that I am a bit of a toy collector. I am not nearly as bad as some folks, but I do spend a few bucks every month on weird and wonderful toys I come across. Most of my collection these days are six inch figures, but when I grew up it was all about a certain team of 3.75 inch military men. Sadly those men barely get any action figure releases these days, but several independent lines have popped up to fill the void.

And now the other 80s line of military men have made their return, at the same size as the 80s era G.I. Joe.

I never collected the Eagle Force line. I only have the barest memory of them in fact. Produced by Mego Toys, they were much like every other line Mego produced in its dying days: a clear answer to what was popular made in a bit cheaper format. Smaller than G.I. Joe figures but with more metal parts, the line was famous for featuring a ton of gold paint.

Now revived by the teams at Fresh Monkey Fiction and Remco Toys (a.k.a. Zica Toys), Eagle Force Returns looks like it has everything in place to be a great new line of military action figures. While not as customizable as the similar Marauder Gun Runners line, these figures come with far more personality. With over a dozen characters in place already for the first line, stretch goals could bring the entire line into the twenties. The team clearly knows what they're doing in designing a great line and also re-using parts and designs.

The entry point for figures is pretty decent as well for an independent toy manufacturer. Give them a look and if you want to see some great military figures back in action, give them your support.

Oh, and what did I buy? I'm in for a Gold Captain Eagle. Who else?