Sunday, May 15, 2016

"The Box Maker" Nominated for Best Short Fiction from Western Fictioneers

I am a proud member of the Western Fictioneers group from the start. In fact, one of my Calvin Carter stories, "You Don't Get Three Mistakes," has the honor of being the first story I ever wrote actually be published in a physical book. That was in Western Fictioneers first anthology, The Traditional West."

A few years ago, I volunteered to read and help judge the short fiction contest. I read so many good stories that it was very difficult to narrow down my choices to a mere five.

This year, however, I entered a couple of stories and one, "The Box Maker," is a finalist for the Best Short Fiction Peacemaker Award for 2016!

Over the years, I have heard artists, writers, musicians, actors, and all sorts of creative folks claim that it is an honor just to be nominated. My goodness, how that rings true today. I am truly humbled merely to be on the list.

And huge congrats to Robert Randisi who earns the Lifetime Achievement Award. What he has accomplished in his career is staggering and something for which to strive.

The full list of nominees are here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Book Review Club: Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner

leonard(This is the April 2016 Edition of Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club. For a complete rundown of all the books, click the icon following this review.)

I was taking my turn staying with my son as he recuperated in a hospital when I heard the news that Leonard Nimoy had died. His death didn’t hit me as hard as, say, David Bowie’s did this year, but Nimoy’s passing was unique. I’m a Star Wars kid who discovered Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock only after I learned who Luke Skywalker was. Through the years, however, as I grew older, the more cerebral Trek spoke to a certain part of my psyche, and Spock was a big part of that.

Another thing I really enjoy is learning all the lifetime steps a celebrity went through to get them to the spot when I know them. I love learning about an artist’s early work, the struggles to get noticed, and what they did once they became famous.

So it was a natural that I would gravitate to William Shatner’s latest book, Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man. But, I made a crucial decision: I got the audiobook. Shatner himself reads his work, and that made all the difference.

Shatner uses his friendship with Nimoy as a framing device to tell Leonard’s story. Full confession: I never knew Shatner was Jewish! I knew Nimoy was, but it blew me away when I learned that about Shatner.

Throughout the book, Shatner tells how Nimoy grew up in a hard life in Boston with Jewish parents who emigrated from Europe. Nimoy’s work ethic—always show up on time, be prepared, be professional—is what should be considered normal, whether in acting or anything. Too often it’s not any more, so it makes Nimoy’s example that much more appealing.

I especially loved hearing how Shatner and Nimoy got work in the early golden age of television in whatever role they could land: bad guys, tough guys in westerns, and the like. As a fan of early television, these sections were among my favorites.

The Star Trek gig was especially great for Nimoy because he got a dressing room with his name on the door. He had been working for nearly twenty years at that point, and the Trek gig was his first true steady work. That Nimoy kept at his acting profession and added to his income by teaching and other jobs is a noble example, especially in a day and age when lots of folks think they should get the golden ring right out of the gate.

Shatner pulls no punches when it comes to some of the times he and Nimoy had disagreements. I figured I get the behind-the-scenes story of why he missed Nimoy’s funeral—charity function—and how Nimoy likely would have done the same thing if their positions were reversed.

At the end, however, is when the audiobook earns its keep. Shatner cannot keep all the emotion out of his voice, and it was those passages for which I bought the audio. I wanted to hear Shatner tell this story, and he does so in a wonderful fashion.

If you are a Star Trek fan or enjoy hearing the hardscrabble story of a working actor in the 1950s-2000s, this is a great book because you get two stories for the price of one.

Live Long and Prosper, Mr. Nimoy…and Mr. Shatner.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

My Thoughts on Batman v Superman

If you want to know my thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and have seen the movie (or don't care about spoilers), head on over to DoDomeDamage and take a read.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

On discovering The Struts

So, yesterday, I was flipping through Facebook and ran across a Facebook ad for Rolling Stone. The photo was small and I didn’t recognize the band. Heck, I didn’t even know the band name: The Struts. Anyway, the little one-sentence headline read something like “Blah blah blah blah GLAM ROCK blah blah blah blah.” I honestly can’t remember. All I saw was “Glam Rock.” That’s enough for me. I read the article. [Here’s the link] Hmm, I thought. They sound interesting. The article mentioned Spotify. I’ve got the free version so I headed over there.

I found the album, “Everybody Wants,” and set it to play. The free version of Spotify doesn’t play the albums in order, so I had to suffer the shuffle play.

 In retrospect, it would have been nice to note which song I heard first. I can’t remember. From the opening lines of the first song, I was hooked. Shades of the band Slade from the early 70s were all over this song. The second song just kept up the momentum. The lead singer has a way of rolling his Rs just like Freddie Mercury. By the fourth song—this one I know: “Put Your Money on Me”*—I was grinning like a goofball, tapping my foot at my cubicle and bobbing my head. I hadn’t even finished the new LP before I was up and asking my co-workers if they had heard this band and telling them all about the new LP.

 I heard The Struts for the first time around 10:00am or so. By 12:40pm on my lunch hour, I had purchased the entire record. The last time an album has so captured my imagination was in 2013 with Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.

If you like FUN music, unabashedly flamboyant songs as cheeky as they are catchy, and unashamed to tout their artistic influences, The Struts are the band for you.

*Side Note: I *heard* this music before I even saw the band. The music is so fantastic. The presentation, specifically in lead singer Luke Spiller, is over the moon.

Check them out for yourself.

Put Your Money on Me

Could Have Been Me (This appears to be the single)

 Kiss This (good concert footage here)
Here's the Amazon link for the new 2016 reissue (with extra songs!)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Book Review Club: Bounty on a Baron by Robert J. Randisi

(This is the March 2016 edition of Barrie Summy's Book Review Club. For the complete list of other books this month, click on the icon following this review.)

A few weeks ago, I found myself at my local Half Price Books. By the way, do you have good and bad it is to have a Half Price Books location within biking distance? Anyway, the Men's Adventure section and the Westerns overlap. I check the men's adventure section looking for Bantam editions of Doc Savage. Up there on the top row were a smattering of Robert J. Randisi novels. Now, I know the name. Who doesn't? When you have written over 650 books (not a typo), you are pretty well known. But I had never read anything by Randisi. So, I picked up BOUNTY ON A BARON and took it home.

The main character is a bounty hunter named Decker. Based on the back cover, he was falsely accused of murder and had reached death's door with a hangman's noose around his neck. He was spared the death penalty, but kept the noose as a reminder of his second chance at life. In fact, the noose, casually looped around his saddle, is his calling card. Now, he rides for himself and the bounty money he earns.

The Baron is the name given to a recent Russian immigrant. A professional killer. He took the name Brand, but his reputation takes the Baron.

As you can imagine, this story is a tale of the hunter and his prey. Decker talks to an old friend who has a line on where the Baron might be holed up. Decker makes his way to Wyoming and picks up the trail--and a sub-plot involving a logging community and the recent death of their leader.

The story moves along pretty much as you'd expect for a western of this stripe. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. Decker as a character is intriguing, with just the right amount of honor and hard-edged realism. Sure, he'll shoot you, but only after he's exhausted all other possibilities. The Baron comes off as a killer, yes, but one who actually has some honor to him as well, despite his job. 

"Lean" is the term used to describe many westerns, be they Louis L'amour, Luke Short, or Robert Randisi. I appreciate story told in a straight-forward fashion with little fat. It makes for an easy read. Having said that, I wouldn't have minded just a tad more fat. For example, there's a scene where Decker asks a woman a few questions. She's never described other than "the woman." Now, as a reader, I filled in the blanks--and I'm fine with that--but it surprised me a little. Perhaps I just have to read more westerns, a task I've given myself for 2016.

You want to know how much I enjoyed BOUNTY ON A BARON? The day after I finished it, I went back to Half Price Books and picked up two more Decker novels. Turns out there are six novels total in the series. I have a feeling I'll be reading them all in short order.

P.S., since this is a western, I'll go ahead and wish y'all a happy Texas Independence Day!

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@Barrie Summy

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lillian Saxton #1: Excerpt #1

Lillian Saxton made her debut in Wading Into War when she hired private investigator Benjamin Wade to find a missing reporter with knowledge of her brother’s whereabouts in Europe torn apart by World War II. Now, Sergeant Lillian Saxton, U.S. Army, stars in her own mission.
Sergeant Lillian Saxton receives a cryptic message from an old flame: meet me in Belgium and I’ll not only give you the key to the Nazi codebooks but also information about the man who murdered your brother.

Lillian conducts her missions for the Army with panache and confidence, even when bullets start to fly and enemy agents zero in to kill her. She’s more uncertain of how she’ll react when she sees the man who broke her heart or how she’ll get out of Belgium when the Nazis launch their invasion.


The door opened a crack. Half a face peered out. She made eye contact and the person’s eye widened in surprise. He grunted and tried to close the door quickly. She rammed her shoe in the space and prevented it. Next, she slammed her shoulder into the door. Taking the other person by surprise, she flung the door open, banging him in the face.
Lillian Saxton stormed into the room. A distinct odor, a new one, met her. She recognized it but had no time to determine what it was. The man had quickly recovered and was moving towards her.
She recognized him as Brown Suit in the instant before his fist flew at her. It came from her right side. She raised her right arm to deflect the blow while, at the same time, pivoting on her right foot. She used his momentum in her favor. His fist met air and he momentarily lost his balance. That gave her time to crash her left fist on his face.
Years ago, when Lillian had joined the Army, she knew her size and weight would never prevail for long in a fist fight. Lillian felt confident in her abilities if her opponent was a woman. When fighting a man, however, she knew her size and weight meant she needed to end it as quickly as possible. Speed and dexterity were her greatest allies. She knew her blows couldn’t end fights with a single thrust, so she honed her ability to rain multiple blows on her opponents.
Her left fist landed on Brown Suit’s jaw. She brought her knee up a second later and smashed his chest. Finally, with her right arm now free from deflecting his one swing, she placed her hand on the back of his neck and shoved him downward.
Brown Suit toppled to the floor on his hands and knees. He held his head at such an angle that Lillian knew she had stunned him good. She took a step back to regain a proper fighting stance.
His hand shot out and clipped her ankle. She lost her balance and stumbled backward. She reached out for something to stop her movement and found only air. Lillian backpedaled a few more steps, her thick heels clogging on the wooden floor. A few more feet and she hit the back of a couch. This stopped her backward movement and gave Brown Suit time to stand.
He charged.
Still not quite on perfect balance, Lillian gambled. Brown Suit expected to body slam her. In response, she fell to the floor, landing on her back. A few puffs of air escaped her lungs but she was rewarded by the surprised look on his face as he sailed over her, arms outstretched.
Lillian rolled over and got to her feet. Brown Suit hit the wooden back of the couch and fell to the floor again. A grunt of rage erupted from him but she didn’t press him nor did she move closer. His hitting her ankle told her he knew how to fight. Better to get a good handle on her surroundings than to risk another swipe at close quarters swipe.
The interior of the apartment was spare. The couch she had met. Only a coffee table fronted it. The large room had a small kitchen off to her left. A modest wooden table and chairs were to her immediate left. On the far wall was a door that likely led to the bedroom.
Lillian looked around for a weapon. She found none. Not even a plate or a knife on the counter. Only a radio. She judged it too heavy for effective use.
Brown Suit now stood opposite her. His hair had fallen in his face and he swiped at it. A stream of blood coursed from his lip. The red spot left by her fist was already starting to bruise.
“You’re an interesting one,” he said. “How did we miss you?”
We? Lillian didn’t have time to think about that now. She studied his face, watching his eyes and his body for the next move. What she saw took exactly one second to process. It was a subtle change in his expression. A relaxing of his grimace. And a slight shift of his eyes to a spot behind her.
She ducked. In the same moment, she swept her leg out behind her. It met something solid. Another person’s leg. She heard a cry of surprise from that person—a man. She hoped her action might give her a precious few seconds to readjust to this new scenario. Two to one. Not good.
The other person lost his balance and fell. He landed almost directly on the seat of one of the kitchen chairs. The momentum and his weight cracked the wood. It gave way and splintered into pieces.
It also gave her a weapon.
She reached out and grasped one of the broken chair legs. Out of the corner of her eye, she noted Brown Suit was reaching his hand into his suit pocket. Chances were good he wasn’t trying to be gentlemanly and offer her a tissue.
Holding the chair leg like a baseball bat, she swung. With his hand buried deep in his suit, there was nothing he could do. The wood connected with Brown Suit’s face. He crumpled to the floor.
Not waiting a second, Lillian pressed her advantage. The other man was now on his knees. She recognized him as the man reading the newspaper in the lobby. Unfortunately for her, Newspaper Reader had already drawn a pistol and was bringing it to bear on her.
She shifted her grip on the chair leg from a baseball bat to a fencer’s grip. She extended her arm and jabbed at the gun hand. Newspaper Reader, having just witnessed Lillian swing with two hands, was momentarily surprised at her action.
He swatted away the chair leg. That was exactly what she had hoped for. She wanted him to think that was her only move.
It wasn’t.
Lillian let the shattered chair leg leave her grip. She leapt into the air and brought her leg around in a roundhouse kick. The thick heel of her shoe found its mark. Already on his knees, the man huffed in pain and crashed to the floor.
She landed on both feet. In a single movement, she kicked the pistol across the room. She pivoted and assumed another fighting stance just in case either man had more fight in him.
They didn’t.
And that’s how Honeywell’s men found the situation when they stormed into the room, guns drawn.

Lillian Saxton #1 will be published May 2016. Check back often for more excerpts.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review Club: February 2016

Well, I didn't get a chance to finish a book review for this month's edition of Barrie Summy's Book Review Club (Book Launch activies), but that doesn't others were not successful. Click on the icon and head over to Barrie's site to get the full list of reviews.

Click icon for more book review blogs @Barrie Summy