Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From the Archives of 411Mania - Scene Anatomy 101: Rocky Balboa

From now on, Wednesdays will be the day when I peek into the vault and open up some of my older columns for 411Mania. Those who knew me at that time knew that I wrote the weekly column "Scene Anatomy 101" from 2004 - 2009, but I've met and befriended a lot of you since my columnist days came to a close. So without further ado, here's a look at a column from March of 2007...

Yes, we’re in the midst of “remake fever” right now in Hollywood, but there’s something else that’s going on at the same time – “revisiting fever.” Characters that we haven’t heard from for years are suddenly making their way back to the big screen, and they’ve come back in different ways. They’ve come either as the first part to a new trilogy that passes itself off as an unofficial sequel, as a re-make to the first part of a long-running series that re-invigorates a character, or as one last journey with a film icon sixteen years after we last saw him. (If I can make it happen, I’ll be sure to do a column on another revisiting film that’s currently in theaters, one that makes a transition from live-action to CGI animation.)

Even though I’m not fond of all these remakes that are being churned out, I do enjoy the revisiting. Each film that we’ve seen makes sure to pay homage to the preceding films in their own unique ways. They attempt to remind us what we loved about their predecessors while downplaying what brought them down. And most importantly, they give us the chance to see some closure. Too many franchises don’t end; they just stop. (Personally, I’d love to see one more Police Academy film to close out that series, but the latest word is that producer Paul Maslansky wants to do a re-make of the first film and not worry about ending the 7-part franchise.)

In one particular case, actor/writer/director Sylvester Stallone decided the time was right to re-visit the character that launched him into film history, and give him the closure he so richly deserves. The character, of course, is Rocky Balboa, and his final trip into the boxing ring is shown in the aptly named 2006 hit film…

It’s been sixteen years since we last saw Rocky Balboa, and he’s been through quite a bit since his injuries from his fight with Drago forced him to retire, and Paulie’s mistake of signing over power of attorney to their accountant lost all of Rocky’s money. Over five years after they re-located back to the old neighborhood in Philadelphia, Rocky and Adrian opened an Italian restaurant called Adrian’s. Seven years later, Adrian sadly passed away from breast cancer. The relationship between Rocky and his son Robert has had its ups and downs over the years, but lately, they’ve been on a downslide. Robert moved out of the house and got a job in the city, and he and his father rarely see each other anymore.

By the time we re-join Rocky, he’s still unable to let go of Adrian. The restaurant is going very well and he’s having a good time watching over the place and telling fight stories to customers, but if Adrian can’t be with him, he can’t bring himself to be happy. Neither can Paulie, who’s still working at Shamrock Meats and believes that this miserable existence will always be his life. There’s the meat house, the guilt he feels over treating his sister badly, and the annual trips he goes on with Rocky around the neighborhood, as Rocky dives back into the past and vocally remembers the first date he had with Adrian and the time they spent together.

But then, all of a sudden, a simulated fight on ESPN is produced, a computer fight that puts two fighters against each other in their primes. This particular fight puts Rocky Balboa against the current Heavyweight Champion of the World, Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver), and according to the computer, Rocky wins by a knockout.

The computer fight causes a stir in both Philadelphia and Las Vegas. For Rocky, it ignites a fire that he thought was long extinguished and it fuels his desire to get back in the ring for the first time since his classic bout with Ivan Drago. Since there’s nobody with him anymore that used to help make his decisions – namely Mickey and Adrian – Rocky steps up and truly becomes a pro-active character. He not only applies for a license to fight, but when it gets turned down because of his age and previous injuries, he talks the commission into granting him one.

Over at Mason Dixon’s camp in Las Vegas, Mason’s manager pushes his fighter to offer an exhibition bout with Balboa. It wouldn’t be for the title, just a simple 10-round fight with nothing on the line except personal pride for both men. Mason’s been spoon-fed bad opponents and the public has turned against him for not acting like a real champion. For Balboa, it’d be a chance to show the whole world, and most importantly himself, that he can still bring it.

Everyone is excited about this fight, except for Rocky’s son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia). Ever since Rocky’s re-emergence in the world of boxing, Robert’s been mocked by his friends, asking him, “What happened to you?” Why didn’t he follow in his father’s footsteps? He’s been trying his best to make a name for himself, and all of a sudden, his father’s past is practically pushing him back down. He decides to finally have it out with his father, and visits the restaurant to try to talk him out of doing this.

As our scene opens, Robert and Rocky walk outside the restaurant...


Monday, September 29, 2014

Get "From Parts Unknown, Part 1" for FREE All Week!

This Wednesday, October 1, will be the release date for "From Parts Unknown, Part 3," the third installment of my five-part science-fiction serial. And to celebrate - and to hopefully bring in some more interest - Part 1 is available to download for FREE all this week, from Monday, September 29 to Friday, October 3.

You can download the book HERE. And if you don't have a Kindle, you can still download free Kindle apps for your smartphone, tablet, PC, and more. Just click HERE for those.

I hope you'll give this a chance. I'm very proud of how it's turned out, and if some of you choose to follow it through all the way to Part 5's release in December, then the 20 years that this story's been stuck in my head will have been worth it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cover Reveal for "Sins of the Past" Anthology

Sins of the Past was started on November 9, 2013 by Kelvin V.A. Allison (or as we've come to know him as Scoobert Mills). Sins of the Past is a historical horror collection of short stories and contains seventeen spine-tingling stories that will leave you hungry for more. Each story is different from the next and happens within different periods of time.

From World War I, World War II, the Civil War, Rome, Vietnam War, etc. Each author brilliantly paints an image of whatever time period their story takes place in. All stories being accounts of history that have taken place but have been twisted a bit to reflect the horror genre that was needed in each story.

From werecats to ghosts saving the day. Hangings to being maimed.

Stories featured in Sins of the Past:

  • VishKanya (The Poison Maiden) by Sunila Vig
  • Sic Semper Susurrus by Matt Lovell
  • Maleficium by Kerry E.B. Black
  • Good Puritan by Laura K. Cowan
  • Blood Tribe by Don Miskel
  • It’s All Good News by N.M. Scuri
  • Melusina by Kristin Roahrig
  • Sanctum by J. Kendall
  • A Ghostly Haunting by Chasity Nicole
  • Traitor Coward Betrayer by Joseph Lofthouse
  • The Beast of Alkali Lake by Jen Ponce
  • In the Stillness and the Silence by T.D. Harvey
  • Birthright by Andy Morris
  • Griddlebone by Debbie Manber Kupfer
  • Nature’s Revolution by Michael "Mad Mike" Nagy
  • We Pass From View by Misha Burnett
  • The Innocent by Cleve Sylcox
Now for the moment we've all been waiting for. The cover reveal.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tony Farinella Interviews Me for "From Parts Unknown"

I'm not just saying this because he's a friend and a fellow 411Mania alum; I'm saying this because it's true. If Tony Farinella gets to interview you, you're in for a real treat. The man has asked some of the best questions to his long list of interviewees from movies, television and music, and I'm honored that he sent me a long list of questions to answer to promote my five-part serial, "From Parts Unknown."

I hope you enjoy reading this (and checking out the attached video clips) as much as I enjoyed answering these questions.

TONY: If someone has never heard of your story before, why should they check it and why is it worth their time? Sell me on the concept and the idea.

GEORGE: It's usually a cop-out to talk about a story having "something for everyone," but in this case, I have to say it's true. On the surface, it may just be a run-of-the-mill wrestling-as-real story like what we've seen in No Holds Barred or Ready to Rumble. But there's so much more to it than that.

This is a dystopian science-fiction story that focuses on a fierce battle for control in front of and behind the scenes of the last remaining sport in the country: a hybrid of mixed martial arts and professional wrestling called the GCL: Gladiatorial Combat League. The main character, Stephen Barker, wants to be a success in the GCL for himself and his family, but he is injected by a potent experimental serum that turns him into a living instrument of destruction called Submission. Meanwhile, another battle is going on that's being fought by people called the A.F.F.D. (Americans for Full Disclosure) They're getting the word out about how the GCL is used by the US Government to distract the American people so they are free to conduct their business without anyone knowing about the specific bills being passed.

The whole story, as it is now, is a nod to the science-fiction films that came out before Star Wars, like Soylent Green and Rollerball, mixed with elements of one of my all-time favorites, Network.

TONY: How do you feel you have grown as a writer overall the past few years?

GEORGE: I feel like I've grown quite a bit, mainly in confidence. I'm usually my own worst critic. Just a few years ago, it was difficult for me to even re-read the last draft I wrote of "Excelsior" before preparing it for publication. Now I can look at that novel - after making one last round of changes before it was picked up by Rocking Horse Publishing in 2013 - with a sigh of relief and honestly say that it's a good book. And I can say with all honesty that I'm really happy with how this serial is turning out as well.

TONY: On a personal level, what does this story mean to you and what is its importance to you overall?

GEORGE: I had no idea that "From Parts Unknown" would stick around with me for as long as it has, but like I said at the beginning of the Author's Note for Part 1, "Some stories just won't let you go." I think, since it's been with me since 1994 (when I was walking around Amsterdam Ave on the west side of Manhattan and asking myself what pro wrestling would be like if the over-the-top characters, situations, feuds, and matches were 100% real inside and outside of the arena), I've been very stubborn about getting it right.

At first, the story was going to be the outline for a video game. Then it was a treatment for a film. Then it was 10 drafts of a feature-length screenplay. Then it was several more screenplay drafts. Finally, in March of 2001, I started writing the novel. It was finished in July 2002 and self-published through iUniverse that November. Finally, I took one more pass at the screenplay after my friend Charlie Kessler suggested some ideas about how the promotion in the story ties into the Government.

Thankfully, the novel version of this story didn't sell very well at iUniverse, so they had no problem giving back the rights when I asked them. Once it was completely mine again, I realized that I could not in good conscience release the 2002 version as an eBook and stand behind it. I had to do much more than just inject the new subplot (which took Charlie's ideas about the Government and twisted them into a darker, more malevolent version that I could really sink my teeth into) into the story as written years ago. It had to be re-worked almost completely from scratch, and now there's as much of the original version in this serial as there are pieces of Alex Murphy in RoboCop.

TONY: Talk to me a little bit about your professional wrestling fandom and how it has grown over the years and evolved?

GEORGE: Like a lot of people, I became a wrestling fan when I was in grade school. I remember being in third grade when I was flipping through the channels at my grandparents' house and coming across the World Wrestling Federation on Channel 9 in Secaucus, NJ. I don't remember the name of the jobber, but I do remember him losing to Adorable Adrian Adonis, managed by the "Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart. (Two decades later, I'd meet Jimmy at a Ford dealership where he was doing a promotional appearance. Nicest guy, very giving to the fans.)

I went to my first wrestling event with my friend Doug and his father Sal when I was in fourth grade. It was a simple house show at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, NY, and I had a blast. The show was three hours long and the time flew.

I was hooked from then on, but my fandom really took a jump when The Undertaker made his debut in 1990. Something about the way his character slowly stalked around the ring, and completely shook off a chair shot from Hulk Hogan, had me looking forward to his matches.

When he stopped Jake Roberts from hitting Miss Elizabeth with a chair and officially became a bad guy, I was interested in seeing where the character was going to go, and the WWF didn't disappoint me.

Sure, he was stuck in neutral when it came to the championship chase, but it was fun to see him overcome one challenge after another. I was even onboard for some of the more ludicrous moments in 1994, like the loss to Yokozuna at Royal Rumble 1994...

... and his big return at SummerSlam 1994.

It was during this time when I started asking myself the big "what if" question about wrestling, and all the over-the-top storylines, so even though the booking in '94 is looked at with a lot of disdain by the IWC, it played a key role in inspiring what I'm still working on today.

TONY: How is the writing style different from Excelsior?

GEORGE: It feels a lot more relaxed. When I'm working on "Excelsior," I have to make sure that the reader understands what I'm writing about when I describe the planet Denab IV and both races that make up its inhabitants, as well as the different animals, insects, religious cultures, etc. So there's a lot of world building and world maintaining, and making sure that the characters from another planet speak in a more formal way than those from Earth.

When I'm writing "From Parts Unknown," I don't have to worry about that kind of difference in tone; every character is from Earth. Plus, I can mention certain areas in New York City such as Times Square and Madison Square Garden and not have to worry that the typical reader won't confuse them with a desert and a gymnasium. That allows me to focus more on telling this story, which is a good thing since it's a more complex story than "Excelsior." Well, at least the first "Excelsior" book.

TONY: Moving to St. Louis, what has the writing scene been like out there compared to New York?

GEORGE: Surprisingly, it's been beyond my wildest dreams. I was convinced when my wife and I moved here in 2011 that I would be able to corner the market on "guys sitting in a Starbucks or other kind of coffee shop with a laptop while wearing a Yankee cap." Turns out the only part of that I was able to claim for myself was the Yankee cap. (Everyone in St. Louis is a devout follower of Cardinalism.)

There are a lot of indie bookstores, even more indie authors, small press publishers (including Rocking Horse Publishing, who released the latest version of "Excelsior" in November 2013), and two major writers guilds, one for St. Louis and one for the whole state of Missouri. Thanks to the big move from NYC to St. Louis, I've done book signings in several stores, been part of a St. Louis Writers Guild outdoor festival, made some great contacts and even better friends, and got one of my books picked up by a publisher here.

When you're in New York City and you have a book to sell, it's equally inspiring and intimidating since you're competing for attention with people who have been picked up by the big publishers there. So even though I had written and released two books there, I felt like the first step to being noticed was over twenty feet above my head. In St. Louis, the atmosphere is much more relaxed, the successful writers that live here are willing to give advice and speak with those who have less experience (an awesome example is Heather Brewer, New York Times bestselling author of the Vladimir Tod Chronicles), and there are readers willing to give local authors a chance.

TONY: Why was the decision made to do it in parts?

GEORGE: Almost a full year into my rewrites, I reached the page limit of what the 2002 version was, but I was only around the halfway point of the story. I was thrilled with how the quality was enhanced, but it had me feeling more than a little lethargic. The sense of "All right, let's get on with it!"

But then, something popped into my head, the idea to tell this story in the same manner as the season premieres of G.I. Joe, one big story told in five parts. As soon as that decision was made, the project came back to life within me and it didn't seem so much like a Sisyphean task. Now, readers can download the first part for just 1.99, and if they don't want to read any further and it's only a little over 100 pages long.

TONY: What do you get out of this story creatively compared to Excelsior?

GEORGE: This story and "Excelsior" are pretty similar in one major way: both are stories that have hung around in my head for around twenty years, and I can finally get them out in the best possible way and then move on to the next.

TONY: How was the writing process? How did motivation come? Was it more difficult than you imagined?

GEORGE: I made the decision to rewrite this story in early 2011, but I didn't start until September of that year. I spent as much time as possible from February to July just jotting down notes about where I want to take the Gladiatorial Combat League and how I want to change different plot points from what was in the 2002 version. I made sure to have a small notepad in my pocket as much as possible so nothing would be forgotten.

Writing it has been more difficult than expected, since the story became much more complex than the original version and it's been pretty intimidating. Can I pull this off? I keep asking myself. Can I make this work? I'm still asking myself that while I wrap this story up with Part 5.

TONY: How are you feeling about what you have so far and where you can take it?

GEORGE: I feel it's become something that I can be proud of, and I hope that when people read it, they agree with me and want to know more about this promotion and these characters.

TONY: So much time, effort, blood, sweat and tears have been put into this. What makes it all worth it to you?

GEORGE: More than anything, it's just been about getting it done and moving on. Once I'm finished with writing and editing Part 5, I'll finally be finished with the writing process of "From Parts Unknown" and I'll be able to move on to the next projects that have been on hold for so long.

TONY: How has the feedback been so far and what has it been like following it?

GEORGE: The feedback's been pretty sparse so far (I hope that there are people who are interested, but want to wait until all five parts are released), but those who have read Parts 1 and 2 really enjoyed it.

TONY: You seem to have such a great support system, both online in your community and at home. How much has that helped you along the way?

GEORGE: It's been an absolute blessing. Between family and friends, fellow writers, past and present 411Mania contributors, past and present co-workers, old classmates, everyone's support has been so appreciated. And it's been a real motivator for me to keep writing, since I know there are people that actually want to read what I have to send out into the world.

TONY: What’s next?

GEORGE: Quite a bit. After the last part of this serial is released on eBook in December, Rocking Horse Publishing will release the paperback edition that combines all five parts into one in March of 2015 (in time for WrestleMania XXXI).

I can also get back to finishing the first draft of the first of two "Excelsior" sequels: "Ever Upward: Part Two of The Excelsior Journey." Also, I have several smaller stories waiting in my mental queue that are based on characters I created back in grade school and kept refining over the decades.

If "From Parts Unknown" really takes off, I do have a sequel in mind. I always wanted to do an angle similar to the ill-fated WCW/ECW InVasion in 2001, and I have a 1-2-page premise written out, but I'll likely work on that only if there's enough demand for it.




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

From Parts Unknown: The Final Countdown!

Just one week away.

August 6 is not just my birthday; it's also the release date for Part 1 of my five-part science-fiction eBook serial, "From Parts Unknown," This story and I have had our share of ups and downs ever since the concept popped into my head almost twenty years ago. The simple what-if question - "What if professional wrestling was no longer pre-determined?" - had me dwelling on it throughout all four years of college and for three years after that, when I struggled to figure out the right medium to tell this story.

It started out as a video game outline, then a treatment for a film, then at least ten drafts of a screenplay, until finally a novel that was finished in July of 2002 and published the same year by iUniverse. I thought that I had told the story in the best possible way. I was wrong.

If it weren't for iUniverse completely failing to follow through on a deal they called me to propose, I wouldn't be preparing for this upcoming eBook launch. Their sales department (which is pretty much the only department they have left) offered me this: if I order 25 copies of my book at 50% off, they'll add the eBook format to it for free. I took the plunge, I got my copies in the mail after just a few days, and then… nothing. Months passed and there was no sign of the 2002 version of "From Parts Unknown" on eBook.

Almost a year later, I was encouraged by Carolyn McCray to see if I could get the rights to the book back and then just release the eBook myself. I called iUniverse one more time to see if the formatting was at least in the pipeline. It wasn't. It had apparently fallen off their radar, as had I, so I told them that I wish to sever my relationship with them. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your POV), my sales had dried up so they had no problem whatsoever with letting me go.

I spent almost three years re-working the storyline and realized that it was getting much more ambitious and longer than I imagined, but thankfully, another idea popped into my head. "From Parts Unknown" would work better as a five-part serial, similar to what opened every season of G.I. Joe when I was a kid. Instead of one 500-plus-page story that was going after a niche market (There are plenty of sci-fi fans and plenty of wrestling fans, but I doubt there are many that want to read a story about a government subsidized wrestling promotion taking place over forty years from now), it would be five 100-page stories that won't seem as big of a hill to climb.

After spending all this time rewriting and then rewriting some more, I can finally say that Part 1 of this story is ready to go online. (It better be, since the release date is just one week away.) It will be exclusive to the Kindle, so anyone who has Amazon Prime or recently subscribed to Kindle Unlimited will be able to read this for free. For everyone else, Part 1 is just $1.99, and Parts 2-5 will be 99 cents each.

"But wait, Sirois!" you might be saying. "Is it going to be released on paperback?" The answer is simply, yes. Rocking Horse Publishing - the same people who were kind enough to allow "Excelsior" to play in their sandbox - will release the omnibus edition of "From Parts Unknown" in one paperback book in early 2015 (I'd personally love it to be in late March, since that's when WrestleMania takes place, but we'll find out). However, if you don't have a Kindle and want to read the serial as it comes out, you can download FREE KINDLE APPS HERE.

For those of you who have heard or read my constant rambling about this story, I want to thank you all for your patience, or for at least nodding, smiling, and giving off the illusion that you're listening. I hope you all enjoy this brand-new, fully updated version of "From Parts Unknown," and I promise you all that as soon this is uploaded, I will NEVER rewrite this story again.

And this time, I mean it!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Celebrating STL and STL Authors!

Thank you so much to Elle Marie for inviting me to be a part of this great multi-blog promotion. And all the best to my fellow authors who now - or always - call St. Louis their home!

"Books Are For People Who Wish They Were Somewhere Else" - Mark Twain

Read on for mini-interviews from a slew of St. Louisans and check out their awesome books!

"Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else." - Mark Twain

One thing all these books have in common is that their
authors are from or currently live in St. Louis. Apart from that, they're quite diverse. How to decide (other than just whipping out the credit card and buying them all right now)?

Each author picked two of the following questions to answer:

1. What is your book's or your personal connection to St. Louis?
2. Which scene in your book might a fellow St. Louisan recognize?
3. If your book was made into a movie, who would play the part of your hero/heroine?
4. What Missouri activity would your main character enjoy most: a float trip, a Cardinals game, or a winery visit?
5. What's Missouri's best season?
6. If your book was on death row, what would it choose for its last meal?

Read the authors' responses and check out their books!

The Waiting Room, by Piper Punches

The Waiting Room
by Piper Punches

What is your book's or your personal connection to St. Louis?
Although The Waiting Room takes place in the fictional farming community of Marion, Missouri, I wrote my debut novel with the intention of highlighting the various flavors of people that make up the rural communities that surround the St. Louis Metro area, which give it its one-of-a-kind hometown atmosphere. Readers that grew up outside of the city limits, even outside of the major suburbs of St. Louis County, will find that they can relate to the pull of the big city, while still finding equal amounts of comfort and aggravation living in a small town that refuses to accept anonymity.

If your book was on death row, what would it choose for its last meal?
Oh, that's easy! My book would choose a home-cooked meal of mashed potatoes, smothered steak, and green beans drenched in bacon fat and butter. For dessert? Oh, yes! There would be dessert. My book is not a diet book. It would enjoy every last morsel of a cherry pie topped with whipped cream and a heaping side of vanilla ice cream.

Genre: Women's Fiction

Buy now or read the book's description:
Paperback: $11.95 | Kindle: $0.99

Connect with Piper:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Google+

On The Buckle, by Candace Carrabus

On The Buckle
by Candace Carrabus

What is your book's or your personal connection to St. Louis?
On the Buckle, Dreamhorse Mystery #1 is set on a horse farm in Missouri about an hour and half from St. Louis. The main character, Vi, and the hero, Malcolm, go the art museum in an early scene, and later, Vi meets a friend at the symphony. Guess what? We live on a farm outside St. Louis, and we enjoy our beautiful art museum and our fantastic symphony, too!

If your book was made into a movie, who would play the part of your hero/heroine?
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, who plays Penny on The Big Bang Theory, would be perfect as Vi Parker. She's the right age, smart as a whip, funny as heck, and--the icing on the cake--she's an accomplished equestrienne.

Genre: Humorous romantic mystery

Buy now or read the book's description:
Paperback: $12.99 | Kindle: $3.99 | B&N $12.99/$3.99Kobo: $3.99 | Smashwords: $3.99

Connect with Candace:
Website | FacebookTwitter | Goodreads

Looks That Deceive, by Braxton DeGarmo

Looks That Deceive
by Braxton DeGarmo

What Missouri activity would your main character enjoy most: a float trip, a Cardinals game, or a winery visit?
Lynch Cully would certainly be the typical St. Louis sports fanatic, supporting the Cardinals, Rams, and Blues. He's likely to go to as many games as he could fit into the consuming, unbalanced schedule of a police detective working with the Major Case Squad. Amy Gibbs, on the other hand, is definitely the winery aficionado. With a variety of friends, she's managed to visit every winery in Missouri -- no small feat -- and she has her favorites. Yet, like Lynch, her schedule as a flight nurse doesn't allow much time for this pleasure anymore.

What is your book's or your personal connection to St. Louis?
Looks that Deceive is a thriller based in the St. Louis area. From scenes in Ladue, at Mercy Hospital, in Creve Coeur Park, and involving the region from Troy, MO, in the north, to the Big River, west of Hillsboro, MO, in the south, how much more connected could it get? I frequently get comments from St. Louis area readers about how much they enjoy the local flavor. Yet, readers outside of St. Louis won't find that flavor off-putting, as the pace keeps them moving and the characters pull them into the story.

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Buy now or read the book's description:
Paperback: $16.95 | Kindle: $4.99 | Nook: $4.99

Connect with Braxton:
Website | FacebookTwitter | Goodreads

Catskinner's Book, by Misha Burnett

Catskinner's Book
by Misha Burnett

What's Missouri's best season?
October. The continental United States has five distinct weather patterns, and four of them collide in the air above the central Mississippi flood plain. In practical terms, this means that we usually get the worst weather that this country has to offer. We get Gulf Coast summers and Great Plains winters and springs that are downright schizophrenic - rain and scorching heat and snow, sometimes all in the same week.

However, for one brief shining moment, usually from about the middle of October to Halloween, St. Louis - like Mars - is Heaven. Clear, dry days, nights just cool enough that you can sleep with the windows open if you have a comforter or a lover of a dog to keep you warm. Don't blink - you'll miss it.

What is your book's or your personal connection to St. Louis?
I am from a lot of different places, but I call St. Louis home. It's where I decided to settle down and raise a family. My books are almost set here. I say "almost" because I never come out and say that St. Louis is where James & Catskinner and all the other characters live. If you know the town, though, you'll recognize the neighborhoods, South City and West County and the Riverfront.

Genre: New Wave Science Fiction

Buy now or read the book's description:
Paperback: $8.99 | Kindle: $2.99

Connect with Misha:
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Chronicle of the Mound Builders,
 by Elle Marie

Which scene in your book might a fellow Missourian recognize?
Most people from Missouri or eastern Illinois will recognize the mysterious Cahokia Mounds. A lot of action and excitement in Chronicle of the Mound Builders takes place there, in both the ancient and the modern timelines.

What Missouri activity would your main character enjoy most: a float trip, a Cardinals game, or a winery visit?
Definitely a float trip! Angela Hunter is a very outdoorsy girl, which is one reason she chose a career in archaeology. She loves hiking and exploring when she's not solving mysteries.

Genre: Mystery/Action-Adventure

Buy now or read the book's description:
Paperback: $14.99 | Kindle: $4.99

Connect with Elle:
Blog | Twitter | Goodreads

Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, by Vicki Lesage

What Missouri activity would your main character enjoy most: a float trip, a Cardinals game, or a winery visit?
Well, I'm Confessions of a Paris Party Girl's main character, so on a trip back to St. Louis from Paris, I would most enjoy an afternoon at a winery. Not just because of the wine (but that's a definite plus for this party girl!) but because of the beautiful Missouri scenery. A Cardinals game is a close second, though!

If your book was on death row, what would it choose for its last meal?
A huge pot of fondue. The melted cheese deliciousness is a running theme in my book and several scenes take place in my favorite fondue restaurant in Paris. And of course a glass of red wine!

Genre: Memoir

Buy now or read the book's description:
Paperback: $14.99 | Kindle: $4.99

Connect with Vicki:
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Excelsior, by George Sirois

by George Sirois

If your book was made into a movie, who would play the part of your hero/heroine?
Matthew Peters is an ideal spot for either a young television star making the transition to the big screen or someone brand new to the industry. The characters around Matthew, however, are perfect for bigger stars. My editor and I have ideas for his mentor, Katherine Sierra. I think Mariska Hargitay would be a great fit, and my editor wants Marg Helgenberger. (Either one would be terrific if they ever want to do it, of course.) My wife's "second husband," Jeffrey Dean Morgan, would be the older Denarian known as Radifen. And I'd love to see Adam "Edge" Copeland play the ambitious Danaak.

What is your book's or your personal connection to St. Louis?
I always envisioned Excelsior as a coming-of-age story, but it never really kicked into gear until my wife and I made the decision to leave New York City (where I was born, and where I went to college and spent more than 15 years) to move to St. Louis (where my wife was born and raised). Matthew is the next in line to become a god on another planet, but that means he has to leave everything he has ever known, and leave his dreams to become a famous writer & artist behind. And even though I didn't reach the heights that Matthew does, the move to St. Louis – away from my friends and family – got me a great job, a great house, and opportunities I could never get in New York City.

Genre: YA, Sci-Fi

Buy now or read the book's description:
Paperback: $12.95 | Kindle: $2.99

Connect with George:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Reduced, by Robin Tidwell

by Robin Tidwell

Which scene in your book might a fellow Missourian recognize?
Reduced takes place mainly in Jefferson County, but also in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis. The Arch, of course, makes an appearance, as do Grant's Farm and St. Mary's Hospital. Several roads and highways are mentioned, and the characters are surviving at "an old, abandoned" Girl Scout camp - which is, at present, still in use.

What is your book's or your personal connection to St. Louis?
My family has been in the St. Louis area since 1847, when Friederich Kuhlmann arrived from Germany and bought a lot in what would become the city of Clayton - the Sevens Building is there now. A few years later, he purchased farm land in St. Louis County - several scenes take place there. I was born and raised here (Parkway Central), moved away for a while after college (the first attempt), and returned seve
n years ago. St. Louisans almost always come home...

Abby did the same - moved out West for a few years, then returned; she and her group go way back, decades even, and stick together through the collapse of their civilization. So many dystopian stories are set in LA or NYC, but STL is right in the heart of the country, and that makes all the difference.

Genre: Dystopic

Buy now or read the book's description:
Paperback: $13.95 | Kindle: $3.99

Connect with Robin:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Which of these books sounds interesting to you? And have you ever visited St. Louis? If so, what was your favorite thing about it?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

X-Continuity: Days of Movies Past

In less than two weeks, the latest installment in one of my personal favorite film franchises will open nationwide: X-Men: Days of Future Past. There are many reasons why I’m looking forward to this. First of all, it looks great. Second of all, I’ll be seeing it with my father and we saw the first and second X-Men films and X-Men: First Class together (this has become one of “our franchises”). Third, I get to hear John Ottman’s score once again, and I was a huge fan of what he did with the second film. And fourth, I get to see how the skewed continuity throughout the seven-film-franchise will be repaired.

For those of you who have seen the movies, you know what I’m talking about. The third and fourth films (X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine) show Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier without his wheelchair, walking around as though he never needed one. But two years later, we saw in X-Men: First Class (SPOILER ALERT!) how Charles was shot in the back and lost the use of his legs. To some people, this meant that the filmmakers were disregarding the two films that showed an older Professor Xavier walking, and that was okay with them since the third and fourth films are looked at as the weakest of the franchise. But others - myself included - didn’t appreciate the splitting of the continuity. It doesn’t matter if The Last Stand or Origins: Wolverine were as good. Disregarding films in a franchise creates a slippery slope. Even the original Friday the 13th movies started where Jason was put down in the previous ones.

As time passed, however, I realized - through little clues left in the first and second movies - that even if they don’t come up with an extra element that has young Charles Xavier walking again, the continuity is very much intact. How, you may ask? Well, let me take you back fourteen years to the very first X-Men film.

We see Charles Xavier speaking with Senator Kelly at the mansion and entering his mind to see what Magneto had done to the senator. Once the connection is made, we see Xavier at Magneto’s lair, watching the machine turn Kelly into a mutant. And what does Xavier do to show us that this is happening within Kelly’s head? He stands up, and he does it very quickly. Charles is one of the most powerful mutants in the world, which makes his inability to walk all the more frustrating.

We see a flash of Charles’ attitude toward his disability in the second film, when Jason Stryker is manipulating his thoughts. He looks down, sees himself standing up, and smiles. And years later, when we are introduced to the younger Charles Xavier, we see how much of an ego he has. So it’s safe to say that when he thinks back to previous years, he doesn’t see the wheelchair at all. He sees himself standing and walking without any difficulty. That’s what we see at the beginning of X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s not a full-on flashback; it’s Xavier thinking back to the day when he met Jean Grey for the first time.

But wait, you may be yelling at your computer. What about Magneto’s appearance in the same scene? If First Class showed the end of Charles and Erik’s friendship, then why is Erik there? Well, you know how in the first and second films, both Xavier and Erik say how they built Cerebro together? The only way they could have done that is if there was still a mutual understanding between them and that circumstances such as that forced them to work together. Meeting Jean Grey is one of those circumstances, and the first line in the movie is Erik saying, “I still don’t know why I’m here.” If they were still the best of friends, there wouldn’t be any confusion about why Erik joined Charles for this visit.

And then we have the brief cameo of Sir Patrick Stewart in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. How can I POSSIBLY explain that moment where Xavier is standing tall at the end of the film? Well, the only response I can possibly give comes from Wolverine himself, when he told Xavier at the beginning of X2: “I need you to read my mind again.”

If the adamantium bullet in Origins (which, I will admit, was one of the clumsiest ways to wipe someone’s memories that I’ve ever seen in a film) would have completely destroyed Wolverine’s memories, he wouldn’t have those flashes in the first two films. We can only assume that those memories are still there in his head, just lying dormant because of the bullet. So when we watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine, we’re seeing what Xavier sees, a combination of his mind-reading of Woverine and his memories of how he met Scott Summers. He now knows much more about Logan’s past and the tragedies he experienced than he’s saying, but he chooses to leave it in the past and tells Logan, “Sometimes the mind needs to discover things for itself.” By walking away from Col. Stryker and choosing to stay with the X-Men at the end of the second film, it’s safe to say that Charles made the right decision.

Of course, all of this will wind up being a moot point later this month, when Days of Future Past is released. But now that this theory is out there, I hope it gives fans something to think about between now and May 23.