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Category Archives: Famous People

The past year I have been working on a lot of things to “reboot” Beyond the Charts, and I’m not fully there yet, as well as having to endure some personal issues which have really taken up a lot of my time. As such, this blog has been on hiatus for almost a year now, so it needs to get started again. And since I’m retooling things, let me announce that this will no longer be known as “The Blog of The Lost Journeyman”. For quite some time now I have been signing my e-mails with “Chartsman” underneath my name and I think that fits with this much better, so starting with this post this will be “The Blog of The Chartsman”, and I can’t think of a better way to start out but to take part in a “blog hop”. Read More »

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Iscariot by Tosca LeeAfter a hiatus of posting on here, I can’t think of a better thing to do than post a book review, and I can’t think of a better book to review right now than Tosca Lee’s Iscariot, especially since this weekend is quite relevant to it.

Iscariot.

Judas.

His name brings up so many automatic thoughts to mind.

Betrayer. 30 pieces of silver. Kiss on the cheek. And other thoughts.

In her book, “Iscariot”, New York Times Bestselling Author Tosca Lee is able to give us another word to associate with him.

Love.

She was able to show how much Judas really loved Jesus and looked to Him to be the awaited Messiah promised in the Scriptures. She was able to show how much Jesus really loved Judas and cared for him even though He knew this was the man to betray Him later.

She starts with Judas as a child to show how he would become the man he became, then delves in to the actions of that man which then leads him first to John the Baptist, but ultimately to Jesus of Nazerath. Then she delves into the growth of his relationship with Jesus and leads up to what everyone knows will happen. Even so, when you get there, chances are your heart will be as wrenched as mine was.

She used a ton of research into the historical time period and the ins and outs of the Pharisees to show all of this. Based on history, the likelihood of Judas growing up and doing what he did the way Tosca Lee shows him growing up and doing it is very plausible.

Even more plausible is how she causes the reader to realize that if one were put in the same position, one would have done the same.

This book gets my highest recommendation. I think everyone should get this, read this, and let their viewpoints of the most reviled man in history be changed forever.

Follow this link to see my one on one sit down interview with Tosca Lee at her book signing in Atlanta and some extra footage too.

Related websites:

Beyond the Charts
Tosca Lee
Buy Iscariot at Amazon

The Amazing Spider-Man

Okay, so I just took my son to see The Amazing Spider-Man. We went to the IMAX and saw it in 3D. I was fortunate to have a couple of free IMAX tickets and decided to use them for this. Got a couple more free tickets I’ll be using in a couple more weeks for the guy with the pointy ears. 😉

I had gotten used to the Tobey Maguire version that Sam Raimi had come up with. As with a lot of fans when I heard there was to be a reboot instead of a fourth film I was left scratching my head wondering what they were thinking. Then when I heard they were going to have the same villain as what had apparently been planned for the fourth film in The Lizard I really couldn’t figure out why they just hadn’t left what I considered well enough alone. When I saw early still shots from the set and the costume with the weird attachments, I just figured it would be a terrible movie.

The trailers made me think otherwise. Otherwise enough to take my son as he got excited over seeing Spider-Man in the theater as opposed to the TV with daddy’s DVDs of the previous films and the cartoons.

Now I won’t do any spoilers here, but I will touch on some elements, so depending on your level of sensitivity before seeing something, just be warned.

This was a surprisingly well done version of Peter Parker. Going back to his high school roots – and staying there throughout the film – was an excellent move on the people creating this. I had always felt that with Tobey’s first outing they could have kept him in school a bit longer, but forgave them for the sake of the movie. I don’t know how long they intend to keep the Andrew Garfield version in high school, but the fact he was still in there at the end of the film was a good sign.

Another surprise was the way both Martin Sheen and Sally Field were able to pull off Uncle Ben and Aunt May. I had thought I’d be distracted by their star status, and for a bit there I was, but they proved their acting ability and made a believer out of me. The final scene with Peter and Uncle Ben was very heart wrenching, and that’s from someone that has seen a few different ways this story has been told.

I liked seeing the evolution of the costume. It was very believable and quite funny at times.

The family of Gwen Stacy was a really nice touch as we had dealt with Mary Jane already in the previous movies. Denis Leary did a great job playing the cop dad of Gwen that was out to get Spider-Man.

The Lizard was one bad ass character to have to deal with. This was a tough character and done in a way that I think was better than whatever Raimi and crew could have given us, and considering how well they had done the previous films, that’s saying a lot. I did think he could have used a bit more snout, but otherwise it was a top notch rendering and Rhys Ifans did an outstanding job playing Dr. Conners and showing his battle with The Lizard persona.

Humorous bits between Peter Parker and Flash Thompson were nice, and I liked that they got Flash to be blond this time although I thought he could have used more hair on his head.

The cameo of Stan Lee was the best of his cameos I had seen yet! He never said a word and I was laughing the entire time. Excelsior, Stan the Man!

After having seen The Avengers, I was wondering just how well films such as The Amazing Spider-Man and the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises would fare. Completely different types of films. The Avengers was a kick butt team action film. The Amazing Spider-Man was a drama with action. Looking back at Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, I’d say The Dark Knight Rises will be as well. The Avengers still holds the spot for best comicbook movie I’d seen in a long, long time, but The Amazing Spider-Man cannot be compared to it.

I have to look back at what we had before with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire. Great films for when they came out, and I got all three on DVD and will be watching them again soon. But this film The Amazing Spider-Man is a film for today, and to keep the Raimi look and feel at this point would not have worked as well as I believe this one did. There were a lot of great shots of Spider-Man in the air, especially near the end, and his use of the webbing in this film was extremely slick.

Overall, I believe this was a great idea for a reboot and I think we’ll be seeing a few more with this cast and crew in the coming years.

And before I go, remember, this is a Marvel Comics movie. When the credits start to roll, be a wise person and keep your butt in the seat until they are finished. When you get up at the beginning of the credits, you will always miss out on something at the end of a Marvel Comics movie. Just know that.

Hellhole

Hellhole by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

This past Tuesday, Kevin J. Anderson was in Atlanta in his multi-city hop for his solo leg of the book signing tour for the new novel he and Brian Herbert have written called Hellhole. Hellhole is the first in a new trilogy of novels by this team that has been working for the past decade on the Dune novels set in the universe that Brian’s dad Frank Herbert wrote six novels about before he passed away. This is their first collaboration not about Dune.

As I am a member of a message board forum Kevin J. Anderson has up for friends and dedicated fans of his writing, I was able to be invited to a pizza party he talked Tor Books into giving for the people Kevin knew in the Atlanta area. While at the party I got to meet Brian Conway who I’ve interacted with fairly regularly at the message board forum and at times on Amazon. He was a very nice guy and we continued in person the friendship we had started online. While at the table eating I wound up sitting where a few people from Dragon*Con were sitting and got to hear some interesting stories as well as talk with some outstanding people. I also got to sit right beside the guy that used to drive Kevin around whenever he would come to Disney World back in the nineties. Lot’s of great people for sure. Here are some pics of that pizza party:

Me with Brian Conway, Kevin J. Anderson, and Melissa Arredondo

Me with Brian Conway, Kevin J. Anderson, and Melissa Arredondo

 

Me with some kind folk of Dragon*Con: Nancy, John, and Regina

Me with some kind folk of Dragon*Con: Nancy, John, and Regina

 

Kevin talking with some friends.

Kevin talking with some friends.

After the party everyone either walked or drove just around the corner to the bookstore and other people were already there waiting and others came in after us. We all settled down and listened as Kevin talked to us about how the concept for Hellhole came to be and how he and Brian Herbert decided to add the extra right turn twists to make it something beyond what it would first seem to be. Then he shared info on the next Dune novel The Sisterhood of Dune and what’s going into the work of that and how they had to decide who the enemy was this time. He talked about the wrap up of the Terra Incognita trilogy coming out and a new trilogy he just signed a contract to write.

Afterwards he took questions and answered about everything from how he and Brian Herbert decide to put the Dune books together and title them for each Dune series, how he and Brian Herbert met, how is he able to “write” stories while talking into a voice recording device that his transcriber then puts into a document file for him and how he is usually doing this while hiking in the mountains, how he and Brian Herbert work on the actual collaborating part of their team-up on novels, some of his novels with Doug Beason, and the potential of a summary of the Dune novels. After that he drew the door prize winner and then he signed whatever books anyone wanted him to sign as well as all of the books by him that the store had in stock.

Kevin signing books for a fan

Kevin signing books for a fan

 

Kevin signs all the copies of his books in the store

Kevin signs all the copies of his books in the store

 

Kevin finishes signing the store's stock of his books

Kevin finishes signing the store's stock of his books

Brian Conway and I did some poses for the camera and then we all said our good-byes as Brian headed back to the other side of Atlanta, Kevin had to go to his hotel and catch a little bit of shut-eye before getting up for the next plane ride over to Dallas (at the time he had been to 98 bookstores signing books in two weeks including a lot of dropby signings before the scheduled one in each city), and I had to do my two hour drive back to the mountains of the northeast part of this state.

Brian Conway and I holding up the Hellhole banner

Brian Conway and I holding up the Hellhole banner

 

Brian Conway and I "guard" Kevin

Brian Conway and I "guard" Kevin

I felt it was a great experience as there are now people I know and am in touch with that I didn’t know before, and I got to meet Brian Conway in person, and of course I got to see Kevin in person once again. It was a very good evening indeed. 😉

(At the time of this posting, I do not have the ability to post videos straight to the blog, and the video I want to post is too long to put on YouTube with the access I have there right now; I am trying to find a way to break the video down into more manageable chunks to post on YouTube and then link from there to here; if I am successful sooner, I’ll update this entry, if successful later, I’ll do a “Part 2” entry with the videos)

Stack of Books

I find it interesting as I talk with various writers of fiction – published and unpublished – that opinions vary as to just how many words should go into a novel of any kind. And I’ve found that a lot of it seems to depend on opinions based on whether or not you’re a first time writer, or sending it to a big publisher versus a small press, does the novel really need so many words, or can they be trimmed down a considerable bit, and the list goes on and on.

Nevertheless, there are always the novels that come out fairly regularly by different authors that easily have 150,000 to 200,000 words or more in them, with others that push it even further. And there are the authors that not only put these novels out regularly “on time” but put out a few of them each year too. Personally, I have always liked a big meaty book that I can spend many nights and days in going through whatever adventure or drama is being played out. Over the years as I find books getting bigger and bigger I’ve had equal feelings of excitement and being overwhelmed with what’s out there to read. There’s quite a few I still haven’t read that I certainly want to, and the ones I have read I have greatly enjoyed.

Let’s look at a few of them, shall we?

Big Book

One of the biggest series of books that have consistently been “BIG” books of increasing size and scope, and the one that sort of brought attention to this phenomenon in the Speculative Fiction world of publishing is Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series.

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

This series refreshed everyone on what a fantasy adventure is all about and even after the author’s passing away, the story is being completed. Now that’s a powerful story! Yet many readers of it have said that although he got off to a great start and seemed to be leading to a great conclusion, somewhere in the middle he got real draggy. Could it be that he was putting too many words in when fewer would suffice? Or could it be that readers are just unaware of how he wanted to conclude the story, so those extra things were more necessary than people at first realized? If the current writer Brandon Sanderson does a good enough job off of the notes Robert Jordan left behind, and if the notes were detailed enough to account for this, then we shall see if earlier concerns were justified or not. Of course, I’m still not into those “middle” books yet, and I’ve talked earlier about how my goal this year is to have every book in this series read before the last one comes out. You can keep track of my progress in my own ongoing journey through The Wheel Of Time series here. Each time I finish one I’ll be leaving a comment telling you it’s been completed.

Or how about Kevin J. Anderson? He pumps out books like it’s going out of style, yet he consistently delivers on story, action, intrigue, and vast scope, plus he has a way of creating characters that remain with you long after their part of the story is complete.

Hidden Empire by Kevin J Anderson

Hidden Empire by Kevin J Anderson

Ten years ago he began a seven book series set in outer space called The Saga of the Seven Suns starting with Hidden Empire. Each year he had a book out at right about the same time and since then he’s done a fantasy trilogy with the third book coming out this year. In the meantime, he’s written books set in the DC Comics universe, edited various anthologies, kept up with his ongoing collaborations with Brian Herbert including the first book of the Hellhole trilogy which just came out, and did other various projects.

I personally still haven’t read Saga of the Seven Suns, but I’ve seen the books in the bookstore. (Yes, there is still such a thing) They aren’t thin novels by any stretch even if they aren’t the biggest ones on the shelf either. But if they are anything like the fantasy trilogy he’s been doing since then and the other books I’ve read by him over the years, I know that I’ll be enjoying it and meeting a lot of characters that will stay with me.

Speaking of books not read yet, I’ve noticed another author by the name of Patrick Rothfuss. I read a recent mutual interview that he and Brandon Sanderson did with each other and people have been recommending his books to me. I’d highly recommend reading that mutual interview as it’s between two authors that have been successful in writing big books and they talk about it from several angles. It’s both a humorous and informative article.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind seems to be a pretty big book too. Maybe once I’ve gone through the books I’m reading this year I’ll pick this up and read it too. Anyone else out there read Rothfuss yet? Opinions? Is he too wordy, or are the words fitting what’s going on?

And as I pointed out, Brandon Sanderson is the heir to Robert Jordan’s legacy to finish The Wheel of Time series, but he now has his own massive multi-book (ten projected) series called The Stormlight Archive. Book One is The Way of Kings.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The hardback is on my shelf right now and it’s MASSIVE. Just over 1,000 pages. Not a quick read for sure, and one that I am definitely looking forward to getting into later on this year. I’ve been going through the PDF download of Warbreaker on my computer whenever I’m not busy with something else. It’s been a really great read so far, so if this first book of this new series of his is anywhere near as enjoyable as that one – and many have told me that this is his best work to date – then I know I’ll have a good read ahead for me.

But even before Robert Jordan, and even outside of regularly accepted Speculative Fiction, there were people that wrote the occasional massive book.

Let’s look at the one by L. Ron Hubbard that has had a lot of praise over the years.

Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard

Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard

Battlefield Earth is a massive volume that tells a complete story in and of itself. This I’ve been told by those who have read and enjoyed it. It’s a book I intend to read one day. For a long time there I didn’t want to read it because I had seen the movie and didn’t care for it, but people that have both read the book and seen the movie have assured me that the movie is a terrible adaptation and to not judge the book by that. Considering other movie adaptations of books I’ve seen over the years, I’m willing to give it a go one of these days.

But what about Tom Clancy? From the beginning with The Hunt For Red October he has consistently written big books and it just seemed for a good long while there that each book would just get bigger and bigger. When Executive Orders came out, it was dubbed “A Collosal Read” by the Los Angeles Times. The paperback version on my shelf is at 1,358 pages in length. With such a massive volume, I figured that would be his last novel. I mean, honestly, I was wondering how he could write anything bigger?

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

Fortunately, he did write more even if none have exceeded that one in size, although, the one he just put out has had mixed reviews and the one right before that was terribly thin for him. I’ve been reading Tom Clancy for over a decade now with a break that’s lasted for a couple of years or so. I’m just two books away from reading Executive Orders. I think it’s the biggest book page-wise that I have on my bookshelves. I think it even tops the master for the length of a novel.

Yep, the master.

How could I write about massive books without mentioning my all time favorite author?

Quite a few of you that know me well enough should know who I’m talking about without having to scroll much further.

But I’ll go ahead and say it.

Stephen King.

Stephen King Motivational

This man was, and still is, a writing machine. He is the only author that I’ve seen that can consistently pump out massive volumes of text and keep the reader coming back for more each and every time. And he has proven over and over again that he can write about anything. And he has written some massive tomes for sure. And his average is certainly more than “one” book per year too.

The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand by Stephen King

When the mini-series of The Stand came on ABC in the nineties, I had no idea what I was going to watch. Most of my friends had read the book, but for me, it was all fresh. A few years later I read the complete and uncut version of the book, and honestly, I can’t imagine what the cut version must have been like. At this point, I don’t even want to know. These are some of the greatest characters that I’ve ever read, and there are times I swear (can I do that?) that I’ve had dreams about some of the minor characters and have even heard names mentioned and thought I knew someone just because of that book. The Stand is the biggest book he’s ever written, but it’s not the only one that’s big. No, there’s yet another that’s almost as big as The Stand, and if you’re wondering what it is, this would be:

It by Stephen King

It by Stephen King

I got through this one about a year or so after I finished The Stand. As a person that was also at the time reading through his Dark Tower novels (and boy do THEY get big near the end too) I was beginning to see some connections with his “regular” novels and The Dark Tower. That’s another blog post, but as I began to see these connections, I began to have an even greater respect for the man as an author. Wow!

But now he’s gone and done it again a little over a year ago.

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Under the Dome by Stephen King

I’m not even sure when I’ll be reading this one. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it though, and once I’ve finished some of the other books by him that I need to read first, I know that when I do read this one, I’ll be having another many days and hours of enjoyment.

Well, those are some of the books that I’ve either read or want to read that are huge in size. I prefer those kind myself. What kind do you prefer, and are you more into series or stand alone novels?

Feel free to leave comments below. Thanks for reading what I had to say about these books. 😀

The Path Of Daggers

The Path Of Daggers

I remember when I first saw The Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan. It was about ten years ago when The Path Of Daggers had already come out in paperback. I have no idea how I had missed this series, but I remember looking at this turnstile in this grocery store and seeing all the paperbacks that were available. It was one of the many series coming out at the time that felt they needed as many pages in each volume as the Bible itself, but this one actually was attractive to me.

I was completely enthralled by the cover of The Path Of Daggers. This image of some crusader like army marching with this “king” of sorts with a sword before him and the two flags with one being the yin-yang symbol – yet not being one as the dots weren’t there to make it a true yin-yang – and all the armor and other details of just the painting and the title of the series “The Wheel of Time” which seemed to give credence to why there would be an almost yin-yang symbol…..well all of that just captivated me so much that I just wanted to take that book right then and there and start reading it.

But I didn’t.

I’m just too much of a person that if something is in a series I know that I’m going to start at the beginning. And you want to know the weird thing? None of the other covers of the books that came before quite captivated me like that one did. The others were nice enough, but none seemed to capture for me what seemed to be the essence of “The Wheel Of Time” with this menagerie of images that seemed to be gathered from various spots in time and Earth’s history and various locations to be collected in one cover of one book, and here I am standing in the grocery store holding the book I’d never looked at before then, and I’m making this judgment of what is the “essence” of this series – and I hadn’t even read one word of it yet.

I really, really, oh for Jesus’ sake, you just don’t know how much I really wanted to pick up that book The Path of Daggers, but I knew that if I did, I’d need the other ones, and I just didn’t have enough money to get them all, and I didn’t want to get the first one and not be able to later on get the rest leading up to (what I erroneously thought of at the time) the “last” novel that I was so interested in reading. Heck, I’d seen enough fantasy and sci-fi series come and go, I wasn’t in the mood to start yet something else only to have it ruined because I couldn’t finish it. Same reason I didn’t start the Dune novels until Frank Herbert’s son Brian and his co-author Kevin J. Anderson picked it up and wrote the prequels and then the finale a few years back based on Frank’s detailed notes.

And you want to know something else that sort of contributed to me not picking up the first book? As I mentioned, and most of you should know, this was one of those series where each volume seemed to want to rival the Bible in page numbers, and here I’m looking at not just one book, but eight books I would have to read of fairly equal length, and here I was at the time still trying to work my way through The Stand – The Complete and Uncut Version by Stephen King and had been working on that one on and off for a couple of years. So yeah, even though I was deeply attracted to and captivated by the cover of The Path Of Daggers, I was equally overwhelmed by so much to have to read just to get to the one book I was wanting to read.

So then I wind up back in Florida (I had stayed there for a year a few years before then), and over the time of another couple of years, I see the books of The Wheel of Time series added to, and I get a chance to talk with some people who are reading them. The opinions varied from “too confusing” to “can’t get enough”. All I knew was that I was still interested in this series and wanted to know why the items portrayed on the cover of The Path Of Daggers were the way they were. So I finally broke down and in 2003 I bought the first two books in paperback even though I wasn’t able to buy all of them. I started reading the first book, and admittedly, I had a bit of trouble getting through the beginning. It was so much deeper and richer than even Tolkien right from the first few pages. I was overwhelmed again.

After stopping it and starting it a couple of times, I finally got past Chapter 3 and really got into the novel. This all happened during a nine month lease I had at this apartment complex. By the time my lease was up, I was about half way through the first novel and feeling pretty durn good about myself with it.

Then events changed, and for the next three years I was unable to pick up that copy of the novel because it was not near me. Later, things came back to where I could have it again (the same copy I had originally purchased mind you, even though it wasn’t near me didn’t mean it wasn’t in my “possession”), and a friend of mine that was needing something good to read and didn’t have any books and didn’t have money or transportation seemed like he was in greater need than I, so I told him a bit about this book I had began some time back but hadn’t had a chance to pick up in some time, and when he liked the sound of it, I gave him both of the books I had purchased three years before and he later told me how much he was enjoying reading them. That made me happy. I figured I’d always get the paperbacks again one day since by that time I had already long figured out that it didn’t seem to be one of those fly by night series that I had initially been worried about when I first noticed it.

Shortly after that, I became a part of a book club and when I found out I was able to order hardback copies (which I had seen hardbacks in the store but didn’t think I could get them) and just pay it back upon receipt, and when I saw what a good deal I was getting by getting all of the series that was available at the time, well, you know I ordered them. It seemed that good favor had come on me by giving away the two books I originally had in paperback and now I had all up to The Path Of Daggers and beyond. 😉

R.I.P. Robert Jordan

R.I.P. Robert Jordan

So, I got started reading again, and was in the middle of my second book when I heard the news of Robert Jordan’s passing. It was then that I discovered that Robert Jordan was but a pen name for James Oliver Rigney Jr. and I was completely blown away by how this impacted me. I mean, first I was wondering what kind of family the man may have left behind – if any – that he felt the need to write such a vast and complex series (just within the relatively little that I had read at that point) under a pen name. I wondered if there might be a son that would later come along and take over like Brian Herbert had done for his dad, or Christopher Tolkien had been doing for a long time for his dad, or even how it already seemed that Todd McCaffrey is already doing for his mother as she gets older. I figured if this was the case it would occur much later on like at least a decade or so later. I knew I’d wind up reading the rest of the series just because I had already read too much to not do so, but I was sooo disappointed that this would be yet another series I’d probably never see the end of, and I had no idea if there was an heir or not.

Then, not very long at all after the news of his death, I hear news that I most certainly didn’t expect to hear so soon, that another author would continue and finish the series.

What? Really? So soon? Wow.

I figured that maybe Jordan had picked someone before he died, but later I found out his widow had picked this author, and I had never heard of this fellow before, a guy named Brandon Sanderson. I was quite surprised that an author was on the scene so quickly for this series. But Jordan’s widow had picked him, and it seemed she was very invested in her late husband’s work, so I figured she would be the best to pick a successor if anyone was. So, with the hope renewed that I would indeed see the end of this series, I shrugged my shoulders and began reading again, here and there, as I went on to find other books and new series to explore in the meantime.

I’ve now witnessed two new books hit the store shelves with the names of Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson on them, and I have been reading Sanderson’s blog for several months now keeping track of things there too, and I even downloaded his free novel that he has on his site to try him out. (Sanderson’s blog is one of the Top 10 Blogs that I’m following this year that you can see the complete list of here) And that brings me up to this year where I have now decided that I am going to finish through all of the original Jordan novels (and thus finally reach that book that still captivates me so much with its cover painting), and see if I can also get through the two Sanderson co-authored entries before the last one hits the store shelves by the end of the year.

Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson

Not only that, but I have Sanderson’s Jordan-inspired The Way of Kings on my shelf waiting to be read so that I can start yet another long series of books with each volume seemingly trying to outdo the Bible in number of pages. 😉

And indeed, Jordan’s expansive story is very inspiring and I’ve recently started having some ideas of a huge sci-fi epic with many books that are so thick, but it’s such a small germ of an idea at this point that I will most certainly have to work on it in order to bring it up anywhere close to the standard set by someone like Jordan. And of course, to really see how encompassing his overall story is, I must finish the series that he started and that I’ve heard good things of how Brandon Sanderson seems to be finishing so well. And my goal is to do that this year.

And the books by Jordan and Sanderson aren’t the only ones I have scheduled to read this year. I’m right now in the middle of an ARC of Hellhole – the first of an original trilogy by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson that in March will be available in stores – and the third and final book of Kevin J. Anderson’s Terra Incognita trilogy will be out this summer, and with both April and October there will be about six more Marcher Lord Press novels to read, not to mention however many various surprises Grace Bridges will bring us from Splashdown Books, and both Mike Duran and Greg Mitchell each have debut novels out next month, and who knows what else just might come along that will catch my attention? Not to mention that I still need to finish reading the complete Dune saga and do some more re-reads after that for the extensive overall review and individual reviews that I intend to do about that series.

So it’s quite clear that I have a lot of reading to do this year.

Hope I can get it all done. Time will tell as the Wheel turns. 😉

This year has been an interesting year for publishing and entertainment. For me, it’s been a chance to start a blog, join a group blog, and begin seriously reading other blogs while figuring out just what to do with this Beyond the Charts thing I’m embarking on.

I’ve decided to make a list of the Top 10 Blogs I know I will be following on a regular basis in the coming year. The one you’re reading is a given. 😉

1. The New Authors Fellowship – This is the group blog I am a part of and I’ve made some good friends there as well as have read some very interesting entries over the last year I’ve been a part of it. These are some great writers with some stories to tell, and they don’t do a bad job of blogging about things either.

2. Kevin J. Anderson – Kevin and I became friends online a couple of years ago when I contacted him as a fan and that friendship has grown beyond the fan/author to where we’ve talked about deeply personal issues. He’s a really good person and an awesome author, and his blog is chock full of tid bits on writing and productivity, not to mention that he recently reposted his 11 Tips for Writers which he often cites at conventions and workshops.

3. Mike Duran – This is a blog I’ve been following with much interest this year as he writes in two areas that I am very much interested in, but rarely see blended together and done right: Horror/Thriller fiction and Christian fiction. With the way he’s talked on his blog this past year about this ghost story he’s written, I have some high hopes for his book coming out in February. I hope I’m not disappointed. The Resurrection hits bookstores’ shelves in February.

4. Dean Wesley Smith – A long time hand in the field of writing, he is keeping up on all the goings on in the publishing industry and keeping new and current writers abreast of all the scams and false hopes and then telling them what they need to know and keep track of. A true expert if there ever was one.

5. Brandon Sanderson – I’m really just discovering him. I first heard of him because he took over Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after the unfortunate passing of the original author, but since I was still working my way through Jordan’s books, I just took that as a good sign that I could actually finish reading the series when I get to that point. Since then, I’ve discovered that he had a good reason for being picked for that task as I’ve started reading him with his free download Warbreaker. Once I’m finished, next up from him: The Way of Kings. I’m following his blog to see about news on his projects and to see what else he might say about the industry.

6. Wil Wheaton – Yes, most of you probably remember him as Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but there’s a lot more to this fellow besides that role from so long ago. Read his blog to find out.

7. Michael Stackpole – I first read him with the Star Wars novels he’s done. This year I’ve looked over some of his other books online to decide what to read beyond that and have followed his blog some too. I’ll be following him even more this next year. Also, I’ve chatted with him some on Facebook and he’s a very gracious conversationalist.

8. Splashdown Books – This small independent publisher is definitely making a “splash” on the small press scene. As a publisher of Speculative Fiction with Christian perspectives, founder Grace Bridges from New Zealand talks about the themes of the novels she publishes as well as other thoughts and topics associated with the emerging genre of Christian Speculative Fiction.

9. Greg Mitchell – Much like Mike Duran, this fellow seems to have a decent story put together that combines the two areas I want to see more of. I hope he does well. I’ll be following his progress. The Strange Man hits bookstores’ shelves in February.

And what about 10?

Well, 10 will be that one that surprises me as I get into the first couple of months of the next year. It will be the one that I either had never heard of before, or will have considered for this list but didn’t think would be as “must read” as the rest I’ve mentioned and then it suddenly pops out as a winner. Number 10 is a mystery now, but before too long, I’m sure that it will reveal itself.

I hope you have found some new blogs to follow because of this list. Feel free to comment and link below to any blogs you like to follow.

Dragon*Con

The annual madness that hits downtown Atlanta major hotels and surrounding area for a full four day weekend in the late Summer/early Fall. For years I had meant to attend, and now for two years I have been able to do that. In 2009 I went down by myself for the whole weekend and had a blast being able to meet folks such as John Schneider, Dwight Schultz, Lou Ferrigno, Kevin J. Anderson, Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, Peter Mayhew, Patrick Stewart, Peter David and many, many others. I had such a good time that for 2010 I thought it would be nice to take the family down. My wife wasn’t too sure about going for the whole weekend, so we made a day trip out of this one for Friday which is the first day of the con. We had such a great time as a family that she wants us to book a room for next year so we can stay the whole weekend.

During the day we were there, I made sure that I wanted to make sure I made my way to the Walk of Fame at least once. Once there, I got to see a lot of actors as I did the previous year, but what surprised me was the turnout of Star Trek actors. John DeLancie, Denise Crosby, Rene Auberjonois, Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, Armin Shimerman, Garrett Wang (who actually headed up the Star Trek part of the con this year), and many others. A few I got to talk with and shake their hands, and most were quite nice although one of the few I just mentioned was a little standoffish, but he may have just been having a long day of it. But that’s not who I want to talk about today.

The one I want to talk about today is a man named Brent Spiner. For those who for some reason are not familiar with Star Trek, he played the android Lt. Cmdr. Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation for seven years and in four feature films after the television series was over with. For some people, this is all they know him as, but he’s been in quite a number of other roles before and after Star Trek, such as guest shots on series such as Night Court and Hill Street Blues and later in films such as Independence Day and Dude, Where’s My Car?, and these are just scratching the surface.

I want to say that my experience talking with Brent Spiner was a pleasurable one even though I was overwhelmed seeing all these Star Trek stars (I grew up on the classic Star Trek reruns and first run episodes of the spin off series such as Brent took part in), so I probably came off more goofy and word stumbly than I normally would. We talked about his role as Data and a few of the other things I had seen him in, but I did notice something that really got to me when I told him about a short story I had written.

I mentioned to him about how I had written this Star Trek short story a few years back that I had no idea what to do with as Star Trek is property of Paramount and all, and I thought he might be interested in seeing it since it featured Data the character he had played and I offered to send it to him by e-mail. He sat back and used his hands for expression as he informed me that after seven seasons on the show and four feature films portraying the charater of Data that events such as Dragon*Con were as close to Star Trek as he wanted to be and that he really wasn’t interested in seeing it.

Now don’t take that the wrong way. He was very nice about it and wasn’t rude at all. I believe he was being quite sincere and had no intention of just simply brushing me off. Indeed, by him explaining that, I got the distinct impression that he wasn’t simply brushing me off at all just because he didn’t have to say that. He could have just given me an e-mail address to send it to and then ignored it when it went to him. But his response got me to thinking about something.

One has to wonder what kind of toll this sort of fame has to take on these people. And by “these people” I’m primarily talking about the actors from Star Trek, although other popular speculative TV and movie series could be true as well. I remember when I was growing up and getting all into Star Trek, one of the things I did was read about the history of the show and what occurred with the actors. And by “the show”, I mean the classic original Star Trek that starred William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

Leonard Nimoy was being called “Spock” everywhere he went so much that he had to write a book entitled “I Am Not Spock”. Later once he got used to the notoriety a bit more and relaxed more into the role with feature films and a reprisal of Spock on an episode of The Next Generation he wrote a book called “I Am Spock”, but that was much later. He even reprised the role one last time as a much older version in the recent reboot feature film simply called “Star Trek” that featured Zachary Quinto taking over the role of the much younger Spock.

William Shatner is well known for when Star Trek conventions first took place and his apparent rudeness and lack of grace when fans approached him about minutiae that he had forgotten about. Shatner said later that he just didn’t get it. He played the role of Kirk but wasn’t a fan of the series. Later on, he got into it so much as a fan that when he played his final portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk in the film Star Trek Generations where Kirk dies, he was already writing novels in the Star Trek franchise that had Kirk surviving that “death” and has had many novels come out in sets of trilogies with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens helping him with them. He typically teams Kirk up with Picard in some fashion or another which he knows is a real fan pleaser.

So if the original crew of the first Star Trek series felt that way, indeed, how must the actors that portrayed the characters of the various spin-off series feel? They must be quite overwhelmed with it all as they move on with their lives in other projects as they keep getting called back for conventions to greet fans and what not. I know that when Brent Spiner was telling me how things like Dragon*Con were as close to Star Trek as he wants to be even though he was being quite nice about it I could hear in his voice the seriousness of what he was saying. As I’ve only met him once and don’t know him personally, so I cannot say anything with definitiveness, I’ll just say that chances are he’s much like how Shatner and Nimoy were when they thought they were done with Star Trek in the 70’s and even when they started making feature films later on before they relaxed with it. They just saw it as them doing their job of acting and had no idea how it came across to the fans that had watched them even though they had enjoyed playing their characters.

Now although I had known Brent had been in other roles onscreen (such as Night Court or Independence Day), until I came across his official site http://www.therealbrentspiner.com I was unaware of his musical and singing talents, although in retrospect it makes sense as he did get to use them in the rare episode of Trek. He’s got an album available that looks like something I just might get a copy of called Dreamland.

The lesson here for all of us is two-fold:

For us as fans, we need to really treat these people that portray the characters we enjoy as the people they are and not the characters they portray and realize that they have lives outside of those characters. If you come up to them on the street or at a convention and geek out on them, they probably aren’t going to know what you’re talking about and will not likely be enjoying the encounter too much unless they just happen to be familiar enough with what you’re talking about and are a fan enough their own selves.

For the actors that portray the characters, even if you aren’t “getting it” yet, or you are in that you know there are fans but you just aren’t a fan and simply saw it as a job you were doing, be as kind and gracious as you can with the fans that approach you. They may not fully understand, or even have yet to realize, that you’ve done things outside of that character, but if you’re nice to them they just might decide to look you up on the Internet as I did with Brent and find out some of the other things you either have done or are doing and get into them as well.

So even though I got to talk with several famous people that day and had a couple of more encounters that got me thinking, my meeting with Brent Spiner was the main one that got me to pause and think about things even this morning as I looked back on that weekend a couple of months ago to the point where I wrote this blog entry and posted it this afternoon.

I wish him well in his future pursuits, and if you would, go by his website and check out the other things he has done if the main thing you know him from is Star Trek. And if you happen to run into him at a convention or on the street, be sure to mention some of those other things he’s involved in as he’d probably appreciate it. And if you happen to also mention that you liked him as Data, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind hearing that too, just remember that he does other things and try not to focus just on that. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it if you show interest in him as a person rather than just the character he portrayed.

Indeed, I think this would be a good way to go in regards to most actors and famous people you meet and not just Brent Spiner.

Space, the final frontier!

Tonight the hit film Star Trek becomes available for sale and Beyond the Charts is the place for Star Trek this week!

Tonight you’ll find the feature film for sale along with all four seasons of Star Trek Enterprise, the prequel series to the original sixties series the film is based on, so it also acts as a prequel to the film itself. These will be available at midnight tonight eastern time on Beyond the Charts. But wait!

Throughout the night watch for other Star Trek DVDs, Blu-Rays, and collections show up including the original classic series, boxed sets of the three spin-offs, and other items.

Then through the rest of the week, keep your eyes on Beyond the Charts for more Star Trek items as they are posted.

This week is the week of Star Trek!

Live long and prosper,

David James
Founder – Beyond the Charts, LLC
beyondthecharts@beyondthecharts.com
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