Sunday, August 13, 2017

Childe Roland to the Cinema Came

Idris Elba as Roland, The Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as Walter, the Man in Black

 The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed….

            One of the best opening lines to any novel I have read. As a lover of pulp these words sang to me. And I met the news of a film adaption of The Gunslinger by Stephen King with apprehension and anticipation. Both feelings were justified and my concerns were realized with the film’s release. I will try to keep spoilers minimal.

            For the five people in the world that don’t know The Dark Tower film is based on a lengthy series of books by Stephen King that he was not even sure he would finish. Of course, I have my opinion on whether he should have or not. Which in turn King said was inspired somewhat by the poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came by Robert Browning.

            The series follows Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, a knight on a doomed quest to save the Dark Tower from the man in black, Walter, a wizard for all intent and purpose. The Dark Tower, a nexus point in the universe that holds it all together is being assaulted. If the Tower falls Darkness reigns. The story brings Roland a ka-tet: his own Round Table, Peers, or gathering of heroes to aid him on his quest. Overall after spanning between our world and Mid-World, to Thunderclap, it all ends badly. The End…..Kinda.

            Therein is why The Dark Tower did not perform well. Try to take Lord of the Rings and condense it into an hour and half movie. It took nearly twelve hours of celluloid to do that and many fans were still unhappy.

            Had I not read the books, was I not a fan, if I couldn’t have sat back to watch the movie as its own entity, I would not have been able to enjoy it. Even strong acting and imagery can only do so much especially for a summer movie season filled with super heroes and the Star Wars hype looming in the background. That is a lot of heavy lifting for any movie to pull off.            
Sony, like many of what should be surefire wins for them, dropped the ball. With, what appears to be over-cautious husbanding of resources and a lack of ability to go big, The Dark Tower is another in a long line of write-offs for them. The Dark Tower should have been as epic as King’s Magnum Opus, but better.

            I have railed that every movie does not need to retell the hero’s back story over and over again. We know how Bat-Man and Spider-Man came into being. We know Kal-El is the last son of Krypton. But we don’t know as a viewing public to a film how Roland became the last Gunslinger or that his life has been an inevitable journey to the moment he stood before the Tower and Remembered the Face of his Father very well.

            Roland needed his back story, he needed more than an hour and a half to tell his story. The Epic conflict and its world building that was fresh, new and different. There was the haunting familiarity and parallels to this world. So many lost opportunities for Roland’s ka-tet to be explored.  

            Had Sony slowed down, took their time to tell a more complex story with the promise to offer more, The Dark Tower would have had a stronger draw and would have been a profitable franchise. Instead, they offered a jumble that left casual movie goers scratching their heads, trying to understand what they had just watched.
Michael Whelen, Roland against the slow mutants

Leave all the other claptrap behind. I enjoyed the movie from Idris Alba as Roland to Matthew McConaughey as Walter, the Man in Black. Tom Taylor did well as Jake Chambers: Roland’s talisman and apprentice Gunslinger to defeat Walter. The visuals of Mid-World as a world that has “moved on” were well done and the battle sequences showing off Roland’s “little tricks” with his guns were spot on.

            Until that strong adaption comes about I wish Roland and his companions Long Days and Pleasant nights.
Michael Whelen, Gunslinger on the Beach


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Asheville Comic Con After Action Report

It was a blast! That is all….

No, not all. I wish I could post more pictures of the awesome cos-plays, and the general crowd. I was just too busy at my own table to wander much, and took far too few pics! But cos-play pics can be found on their Facebook page. Asheville Comicon

This was the first year for the convention put on by the League of Extraordinary Geeks, Zumbawolf Cosplay and Pmpfan13 Cosplay. I couldn’t tell you the numbers but the turnout was great, set back in the Agriculture Center in Fletcher, NC, think cattle yard but much nicer, in the Expo Center with awesome AC! Almost 90 degrees outside and people wearing sweatshirts inside.

So, I loaded up the yellow beast, my Jeep, with table bling (the bloody shield wouldn’t fit) the Erlik Saga books with awesome art by Michael Munson, and to the mountains I went. Those that have been to Asheville, NC already know how gorgeous the drive is, but it was particularly nice with the green valleys and low hanging mist. Then though a green tunnel of trees in Fletcher to the Expo Center.  

With my trusty sidekick Stephen Light Fingers, (if ever a kid exemplified the innocent wonder and fun of Kender, it’s this one), we got set up to sell.

That was the purpose but not the reason.

I forget why I love doing this, not the writing, but doing conventions. It’s the sheer fun of fandom and the people. You don’t need to go to Disney to see adults having a child-like good time. Even those with their kids, or grandkids, that have not been involved in a fandom taking it in with an unabashed smile on their faces.

I want to thank all the folks that visited my table. Those that bought a book, said hi, and commented on the beautiful sword nearby. To just talk about their own love of all things geekery, Dropkick Murphys and Great Big Sea.

A special thanks to Jacob and Timmy for letting me come play in their yard. And a thanks to all those that bought books like Molly, Buddy and Steven of the Kilt. A shout to Walter who attended his first con ever and loved it.

Check out my vendor neighbors: Kayla Leonard at Season of the Geek (Look for the Blue Call Box)  and J. Rutland with his Robot (Samurai) Penguins, and the spooky cool Antler Hill.

Closing time actually came too soon. Here is looking forward to the next show in Asheville and the next convention to experience all again.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ilustrated Havamal by Sam Flegal

The Havamal was written down around the 9th or 10th century, and like most Northern European literature it was put down after Christian conversion. Attributed to Odin as “sayings of the High Ones” collected in the Codex Regius around the 13th century it is like many other sayings and advice from other cultures on how to conduct oneself and how best to live.

There are numerous sources and places where the work is gathered, one in particular is an illustrated version that I backed as a kick starter from Sam Flegal.

Sam is an impressive artist and not because I am partial to his Nordic themes. He can be found here:

The hard bound edition is a quality production with a red cover and pen and ink art throughout. Flegal utilizes the 1923 translation by Henry Adams Bellows with annotations on stanzas themselves, in their relations or how they might have been combined though not related or from different authors. The right column is English translation with the Norse to the left. The stanzas are laid out in the traditional “books”.

His table of contents consist of introductions followed by seven sections.

The Wisdom of the High One

The Story of Odin and Billing’s Daughter

Odin and the Mead of Song

Odin’s Tale of the Runes

A List of Charms

A couple of my personal favorites:

On friendship:

A bad friend

is far away

though his cottage is close.

To a true friend

lies a trodden road

though his farm lies far away

Work Ethic:

Wake early

if you want

another man’s life or land.

No lamb

for the lazy wolf.

No battles won in bed.

Again, like many of the sayings of other cultures, the Havamal of the Norse resonates today. Sam Flegal’s edition is a beautiful work to find that timeless advice.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Podcast: Brannon (Ashy) Hollingsworth

I just wanted to spread the news. My good buddy co-author and sometimes public-house wingman, Brannon (Ashy) Hollingsworth was featured in a recent podcast with Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast.
This master of self-promotion touches on the business model that is Four Fools Press which has been dubbed a "publishing cooperative".
So he talks about the writing process, multitasking, and what Four Fools Press is all about!

So here is the link with all the gobbledygook:

Brannon (Ashy) Hollingsworth

Four Fools Press: Four Fools Press is an all for one and one for all publishing organization formed by several good friends with a common love for writing, adventure, and getting the opportunity to make a little money along the way. Ultimately, to us, this endeavor is all about having the opportunity to tell stories and having someone enjoy what we've done.

Four Fools Press is as much a publishing venture as it is an experiment: We're trying to do the self publishing thing in a totally different way. By dividing the work load of writing, editing, layout, art design, and marketing each of us in Four Fools shoulders part of the responsibility of producing quality digital creations.

So, if you're interested in top shelf story telling, compelling characters, beautiful art, and well composed tales, this is the place for you! And, if you like a little "crazy" thrown in as well, then our name says it all. We welcome you to try our products, and let us know what you thinks, precious.
Brannon Hollingsworth: Brannon Hollingsworth was born to create. An author, speaker, poet, publisher, game designer, content creator, script writer, art director, and unapologetic Christ-follower, Brannon is a passionate creator and teacher of youth who promotes family-oriented ministries. Brannon is the proud father of five, four of whom are home-schooled. By day, he writes and produces entertainment and educational content from his top-secret, hidden base in north Alabama. By night, he creates new ideas with boundless enthusiasm.

Brannon is the co-author of
H20 the novel, the first in the Eternal Elements Series, from AMG Publishers. His other recent works include the comic "Sundered", for Awful Good Games, “Tenet’s Tale”, part of the mosaic novel Skein of Shadows from Dark Quest Publishing; “Firestarter”, part of The Guestbook, an Amazon best selling horror anthology from Four Fools Press, The Truth Is Out There, the first part in the new supernaturally-laced Tenet's Tales series, and last but not least, Robot Dad, which is his first foray into fully illustrated children's' books.

Brannon has also been published extensively in the role-playing industry, writing fiction and designing games for several publishers including: Paizo Publishing, Sword & Sorcery Studios, Green Ronin Press, Bastion Press, Sovereign Press, Necromancer Games, Atlas Games, Fantasy Flight Games, Eden Studios, Skeleton Key Games, Ignitus Innovations, Wandering Men Studios, Dark Quest Games, Ambient, Inc., and Citizen Games. Brannon has also been published in several role-playing periodicals such as Dragon Magazine, Gaming Frontiers, and The EN World Player's Journal. He was also a co-creator and producer of his own card based role-playing game, Untold, called “…a clever idea well executed…” and “Excellent” by Forbes.

Brannon’s publications are not limited to game design and fiction, however, as he also creates online content, such as educational and entertainment videos for sites such as YouTube, Udemy, Curious, PublicVine, and others. Recently, a children's video series he wrote and co-created,
The PicTrain, was optioned by TBN, the Trinity Broadcast Network, also known as the largest Christian cable channel on the planet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Introducing the newest addition to the jester's table of writing fun from Four Fools Press. Davis Riddle. I had the pleasure of meeting Davis at Omega Con in Birmingham Al. eons ago along with the majority of the Fools. A great student of history and an outdoor adventurer and do it yourselfer.

Possessed with an enduring love of the outdoors and an explorer’s soul, Davis started backpacking before he was old enough to shave. Tied with his love of the mountains, where good hard stone could be found under foot, is a passion for experience. He has hiked with nothing but a traveling kilt and a bed roll through the mountains, drank from running streams, bathed in roaring waterfalls, and slept in the wilderness in earshot of mountain lions. 

He has flown in antique bombers, slept on floating warships, chased tornadoes, swam salt-marshes, descended into abandoned mines, and ate his meals on the crumbling remains of a lost fortress. His explorer’s heart has brought him miles down lonely bayous to explore forgotten Spanish ruins, led him on journeys down the mighty Mississippi River where he slept on desolate islands, and guided him through the remnants of ghost towns now lost to the world from Hurricane Katrina’s wrath.

Davis has conducted workshops in creative writing and has led numerous backpacking expeditions in Alabama, Georgia, and the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. Following Hurricane Katrina, he was involved with relief efforts on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, roofing disaster sheds, running chain saws, as well as flying numerous damage-estimate flights in a small, two-seat Cessna.

Davis E. Riddle is married with two children and lives in southern Mississippi. He is a consulting forester and president of his own firm. He also teaches mathematics, bringing his real-world experience to students in the rural South. His other works include the novel Rise of the Dark Son, as well as “Boared to Death” in the horror anthology The Guest Book, “Fiend Fighter” found in the mosaic novel Skein of Shadows by The Wandering Men, “Mountain Ghost” in Southern Fried Weirdness, as well as the web serial “Grey Beginnings.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Signing the Guest Book: A Writer's Retreat

This past Valentine Weekend was the first writer’s retreat for Four Fools Press. This quickly became a tag line since this ill-fated venture kicked off on Friday the 13th. We found ourselves in a secluded cabin in the middle of the woods with little cell reception, no internet to speak of, and we sat directly on the Eastern and Central time zones. One side of the room was an hour behind the other. You see where this train is headed right?

Six writers in the woods…. Friday the 13th…. Yup one anthology of horror and silly homages to the genre and good natured ribbing at each other.

Corey Blakenship and Brannon Hollingsworth
The actual get together was not as pretentious as it sounds. It was six guys who love beer, food, and camping. It was deer camp, without rolling out of bed early to get to the deer stand. But it was also a creative smorgasbord of ideas, brain storming, and working on individual projects without the interference of normal life and especially actual jobs. Writing and the end result: publishing, is hard work. It just doesn’t seem like it when it is fun, rewarding, and feeds the soul.

The location of course lent itself to the idea and joke that we were a horror movie waiting to happen. So we decided that a horror anthology was the answer to this all too obvious situation.

This was not to be an anthology of separate horror tales with a central theme, like having it all take place in a secluded cabin on Friday the 13th. No, that is too easy. No, we were going to write about the same events, happening at the same time, to the same people, from six perspectives.

The result became The Guest Book.  
The news paper account of the mysterious events

It was a Free For All with only a few ground rules for something that might resemble consistency. I shall not state them here as they would lead to some spoilers for the actual story. I will only give the List of Tales to be found within:

Red Rum By John Langley

Running Scared by Corey Blankenship

Firestarter by Brannon Hollingsworth

Boared to Death by Davis Riddle

20 Paces by R.R. Hunsinger

Road Rage by Brannon Hall

Brannon Hollingsworth and John Langley
John Langley and Davis Riddle authored the Prologue and Epilogue respectively. Brannon Hollingsworth Edited the anthology and Brannon Hall the art direction.

The events within the anthology, that really clocks in at about 10,000 words so in essence a collaborative short story, the resemblance to the actual authors is frighteningly accurate only in caricature.

For a horror story that is part stream of consciousness and Hat Tip silliness read The Guest Book and let me know what you think.
From left to right: Brannon Hall, Brannon Hollingsworth, Davis Riddle, R.R. Hunsinger, John Langley, and Corey Blankenship

Monday, January 12, 2015

Four Fools Author: Corey Blankenship

Introducing a talented young man who is a story teller and wanderer in the old Celtic style.
Be sure to check out his collection of poetry that ranges from thrilling adventure as the sagas of old to the introspection of a man alone before a camp fire.
Wander's Musings and Mutterings

I’ve been a traveler since a wee lad and a lover of literature almost as long. My favorite tales come from myth, British literature, and Medieval lore. I would have loved to have been a Medieval traveling scholar, a bard, or simply privy to the British think-tank known as the Inklings. That said, I am thankful for my own adventures, educational exploits, and literary brotherhood. I spend my “free” time continuing the life of a peregrine storyteller--exploring, reading old or obscure books, writing my own, and connecting with people across cultures.
Corey Blakenship

You can find these traveler's tales at Amazon for Kindle!