Monday, March 30, 2015

Want to Win an Autographed Copy of Excelsior?

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Excelsior by George Sirois


by George Sirois

Giveaway ends April 03, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Now that I'm getting back some of the momentum I had when I started writing "Ever Upward: Part Two of The Excelsior Journey," I thought I'd try out the giveaway option on Goodreads. It's a very simple one: three winners each get a personalized autographed copy of "Excelsior," along with the Bonus Materials booklet and "Established 1992" sketch that I usually add in whenever I have a signing. The giveaway was approved last Thursday, and at midnight PST on Saturday, March 28, it was open for entries.

It's now Monday night, and the giveaway already has 155 entries! (Hopefully this number is outdated by the time I publish this.) Even better, over 60 people have added the book to their TBR list (to-be-read). To say it's an incredible feeling to see this much interest in my writing is an understatement.

So if you've ever been interested in reading "Excelsior" but haven't gotten a copy yet, now you can win one! Just click on the box above, and sign up. The contest is open until midnight PST on Friday, April 3!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Marvel-iest Franchise

"They look at you and see what they want to be. They look at me and see what they are."
-- Sir Anthony Hopkins as President Richard Nixon, Nixon (1995)


In less than two months, American audiences will be given the last installment in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Avengers: Age of Ultron. And just over two months after that, they'll be given the first installment in Phase Three - Ant-Man.

Now, do I count myself among the audiences that will be in the theater on both opening weekends? Absolutely! I've said numerous times that this is the greatest time to be a fan of comic books and comic book films. We're seeing characters we've known and loved for decades being adapted for the big screen by filmmakers who grew up with them as well and want to see them done right. And when you look at the interweaving Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can't help but think of this franchise as the ultimate example of what comics are, right?


If you look at Marvel Comics as a "perfect world," where everything is in sync, then yes, the MCU is the ultimate example of comics on the big screen. However, we don't live in a perfect world, and neither do our heroes. It's not just villains that they have to overcome; it's decisions made behind the scenes.

A member of a team can be thrown into their own spin-off series on a whim, and if it fails, then they'll be sent back to the team with their proverbial tail between their legs. Or a major character can die. Or two. Or three! And if those characters were so popular that their demise turns readers away, then it's up to the creative team to figure out how to bring them back. Even if it means a catastrophe of gargantuan proportions that disrupts the space-time continuum as we know it!

What we're seeing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn't that. Stakes are high and supporting characters fall along the way, but the ones with fanbases are either resurrected for television or are just incapacitated. The closest we've seen to the MCU acknowledging and fixing a mistake was when Trevor Slattery, Ben Kingsley's character in Iron Man 3, was interviewed in prison during All Hail the King!, the Marvel One-Shot short film on the Blu-Ray to Thor: The Dark World. Other than that, everything in the MCU happens in a very linear fashion and there's little to no participation needed by the audience. Just strap yourself in, enjoy the fun, make sure you've seen all of the ones that came before, and stay during the end credits, no matter how long they are.

So if the MCU isn't everything we know and love (or hate) about comics put on the big screen for the masses, then what is?

Yup, it's X-Men. And I know a lot of you who are reading are just rolling your eyes at this and letting your contempt for 20th Century Fox "messing everything up" and "not giving the rights to Marvel Studios," but take a look at where this film franchise started and where it's gone. The 2000 film played it safe so non-fans wouldn't get lost by introducing only a handful of characters. (They also had a pretty small budget, since Fox didn't know what kind of success the franchise would become.) Then they opened everything up with the second fim and allowed the characters to stretch their legs and show their full potential.

But then, Bryan Singer left Fox to go direct Superman Returns for Warner Bros. This threw the whole franchise up in the air and had everyone behind the scenes scrambling to get a replacement. So while Singer - the driving force of the first two films - was separated from the franchise, we got two major storylines crammed into one shorter movie, which included three major characters being killed and several losing their powers. Three years later, Fox decided to give us the (supposed) definitive origin story of the franchise's most popular character and the first of a new series of spin-offs. But when the box office slipped and the critical and fan response was dismal, those plans were scrapped and we were given a prequel that played fast and loose with established continuity, but still wound up being a very well-received film that some believe eclipses the previous trilogy.

So what comes next, after what's been released? Well, what was supposed to be a sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine winds up being a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand: 2013's The Wolverine. This installment has a more mature tone than the other films and plays like a graphic novel, or like the miniseries that inspired it. And at the very end of the X-Men line, as of now, we have X-Men: Days of Future Past, the big event storyline that combines the prequel cast with the original trilogy cast and winds up retconning all of the bumpier moments from the past out of existence. (It even knocked an entire film - X-Men Origins: Wolverine - into non-canon oblivion.)

So after one completed trilogy, two prequels, one stand-alone sequel, and a "big event" film, we're kinda right back where we started and the slate is clear for a whole new generation of fans to discover the X-Men. Just like DC's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and "The New 52," or Marvel's "Ultimate" line-up, along with the constant rebooting of various characters' histories, the X-Men film franchise is filled with all of the frustrating twists and turns that plague comics, yet are necessary in order to fix previous mistakes or keep them from being intimidating to new readers.

Despite its continuity issues, the X-Men franchise accomplishes something really special that the MCU isn't: it's leaving major elements open to interpretation. It's up to you to decide how Wolverine got his steel claws back between the end of The Wolverine and the start of Days of Future Past. It's up to you to decide how much of the original trilogy still stands. And speaking of standing, it's still up to you to decide why Charles Xavier was walking without a problem when he met Jean Grey. Was it because of the serum introduced in Days of Future Past? Or was it because of the argument I put forward in my X-Continuity post?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe may be a fine representation of what Marvel Comics are supposed to be like, with their team-up adventures and galaxy-wide continuing storyline, but when think back to the rocky histories that come with decades-old characters and remember the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, whether you like it or not, you're thinking of the X-Men franchise.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Let me tell you a little something about fear. It exists in many shapes and sizes. For some, the fear could be of heights, or ladders, or failure. And for others, like me, it could be all of the above, plus - and this one trumped them all for a very long time - driving.

Now, this may seem trivial to so many of you reading this. Hell, looking back on it, it's trivial to me. What do they call the fear of driving? "Driving anxiety." It doesn't even have an official-sounding name like Arachnophobia (fear of spiders), Claustrophobia (fear of tight spaces), or Anitadeaphobia (fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you). But this was crippling to me. So much that it became part of who I was in both Richmond, VA, and New York City.

During Drivers Ed in high school, my teacher wasn't very encouraging (okay, he was an asshole), and it was embarrassing for me to see everyone else take to driving like it was second nature, and there I was, every day, drowning. The breaking point for me was when I forgot to check my blind spot during a passing exercise and barely dented the bumper of the car behind me. (High school being high school, it went from a tiny dent in 2nd period to "Heard you wrecked the car" by lunch.) From that day on, I decided that driving wasn't for me and focused on going to college in New York City, the home of public transportation.

A year after Cheryl & I moved to St. Louis, I got my permit in August of 2012, and tried various times to get comfortable with driving. And this HAD to happen this time. It wasn't like when I tried again in 2001 with my dad since I knew I was planning to live in Queens with friends. There was no such safety net now. This was trial by fire, or tire.

We went to secluded areas like empty parking lots, and I even went on some of the outer roads, but I was practically hyperventilating while trying not to let the car drift to the right. Little by little, I got more experience behind the wheel and got less nervous along the way. (I even drove while my mother and aunt were in the back seat, quite the milestone.) But it always felt like I wasn’t where other drivers were, and I didn't think I would ever get there. I would only drive if it was absolutely necessary, and never unsupervised.

Then, in late 2013, I went for my first drive with someone else in the passenger seat, our friend Kyle. I don't know what it was that night, but something just… clicked. And I wasn't shaking or getting anxious. I felt relaxed, and even spoke with Kyle while driving. I didn't question it, and I definitely didn't try to fight it. As the months passed, I drove more, and even drove home from work a few times. Finally, in August of 2014, 22 years after my fellow high school students got theirs, I got my drivers license.

Last September, I made another big step when I drove for the first time without anyone else in the car with me. And it was at that moment, turning on to Forest Park Parkway and heading towards Skinker Blvd, when I got it! I understood the appeal of getting in the car and just taking a drive! I was cautious, but relaxed, and it felt amazing. I felt lighter. I felt confident. And on New Year's Eve, I tossed the albatross off my neck for good when I drove myself to and from work.

After all this time, I can finally say that I have conquered my fear of driving. It is no longer a part of my life. And while I'm thrilled to say this and believe it, it also makes me sad. I was held back for so long by this fear. What else held me back because of any other fear? Turns out, a lot. But while there's nothing I can do about the past, there's a lot I can do about the future.

So please keep this in mind when you're afraid of starting a new project, or afraid of sending that big query letter, or afraid of approaching the "un-approachable" people: If George Sirois can get in the driver's seat and feel comfortable there, anyone can!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

From the Archives of 411Mania - Scene Anatomy 101: Batman Begins

The comic book film genre has been in existence for many years in Hollywood, but it really made its mark in 1978, when Superman became a box office sensation. That film allowed for many other big budget movies based on comics to come in over the next couple of decades and change. One of the most successful was 1989’s Tim Burton film Batman, which stood as Warner Bros. biggest moneymaker in its history until The Matrix came out ten years later.

Batman’s success, of course, guaranteed sequels and so we were treated to Batman Returns three years later, then we were amused by Batman Forever in 1995 and then we were utterly disgusted by Batman & Robin in 1997. Ever since that 2-hour toy commercial, the character of Batman disappeared from the big screen, quite possibly never to be seen again.

But then came Christopher Nolan, who requested to resurrect Batman for a whole new trilogy of films. He was allowed a clean slate, unbound by the previous films’ chronology, free to revamp the character and his universe for a new generation of fans. David S. Goyer – who was very much responsible for Marvel’s big screen success with the Blade franchise – came on as the writer and really helped Nolan out with his endless knowledge of the Batman character. (He later said in an interview how writing a Batman movie was the culmination of a childhood fantasy.) With these filmmakers’ intent on making a Batman movie not only dark but also realistic, fans’ fears were put at ease.

Even more uplifting for fans was the announcement of the film’s cast. Michael Caine. Morgan Freeman. Gary Oldman. Liam Neeson. Cillian Murphy. Rutger Hauer. Tom Wilkinson. Katie Holmes… well, she didn’t hurt it. And the man who will be scrambling on the rooftops of Gotham? Christian Bale – Patrick Bateman himself! Fans were on edge as the release date approached, asking themselves, is it possible that this revival of Batman won’t suck?!

Well, it did more than not suck. It took every element that we have seen in so many comic book movies and, in my eyes it became the greatest comic book film of them all: the 2005 hit film...


Monday, February 23, 2015

When We Last Left Our Hero...

... he was pushing to get one paragraph after another written for the last part of the five-part serial he had been writing since September of 2011. After twenty years, over ten drafts of a screenplay and a novel in 2002, the story was finally reaching its conclusion, but the author felt like every word was a chore to write.

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've posted anything on here. December was a very busy month with work and at home. But once the new year started, I promised myself that I would finish this damn story, and my opportunity came on Friday night, January 9th. I started writing at 11pm CST, and six hours later, I wrote two of the best words in the English language: "The End." I turned the monitor off, shuffled out of the office, turned out all the lights, and laid down on the couch in the living room.

To quote the narrator in Fight Club, "Babies don't sleep this well."

Ten days later, the last of the edits were made and "From Parts Unknown, Part 5" went live on Amazon. The entire story has been told, and I was so anxious to make sure the world knew about it.

But more than anything, I wanted to sleep, and over a month later, I still want to sleep. I've finished projects before, but I've never felt more physically drained than I have these days.

This story has been with me for so long, but it's never been fully realized until now. I knew it had potential to be a really fun novel when I wrote it in 2002, but since then, it felt more like a missed opportunity. More ideas came up for this little world after I self-published it through iUniverse, but I felt like I didn't have it in me to start over.

Then I read it again in 2011, and everything changed. I couldn't leave the story like that, just left alone at the bottom of the iUniverse bin to rot. So I took it back from the publisher and, after moving to St. Louis that August, I started the journey that led me to January 19, 2015, when the last of this five-part serial went online.

There's also the scope and the overall length of the story. Yes, it's broken up into five smaller pieces, but I always envisioned all five parts in one big paperback. I'll know in time when that will become a reality; I just have to be patient. However, it's hard for me to not get excited when I think about how big this story became.

How big? Well, the 2002 version was just over 230 pages long. This one - all five parts combined - is over 520 pages long. I still can't believe that. It's like my own personal The Stand, especially when you consider how Stephen King gave his 1970s version a full re-write for his 1990 re-release.

So if you want to give this story a look, I hope you enjoy it. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out, and I'm looking forward to your feedback.

Click HERE to read "From Parts Unknown: The Complete Five-Part Serial."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Interview with "The Other Inheritance" Author Rebecca Jaycox

Last week was a very special time for a good friend of mine, Rebecca Jaycox. Her sci-fi novel The Other Inheritance has been finally sent out into the world, available as both an eBook and paperback, and I got to speak with her about being a newly published author, hints of a series to come, her upcoming signings, and more!

But before we go to the interview, I'm sure you're asking, "Who is this Rebecca Jaycox?" Well...

Rebecca Jaycox grew up in the tiny town of Berryman, which borders the Mark Twain National Forest and the Courtois River about 70 miles south of St. Louis. The beautiful landscape fed her imagination, and she began writing stories at age 10 and never stopped. Always seeking adventure, Rebecca moved to France after she graduated college with a journalism degree to teach English at a French high school. Bitten by the travel bug, she has recently visited Italy, Greece, Austria, Spain, and finally made it to her bucket-list destination of Istanbul last summer. Rebecca now lives in New York City with her husband, Gregory. She is the curator and program director of the YA Lit Series at the 92nd Street Y—one of New York’s premier cultural centers. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction.

Pretty awesome, right? :) Read on for more!

GEORGE SIROIS: We're only a couple days removed from the moment when "The Other Inheritance" went live on Amazon. How have you been feeling since then?

REBECCA JAYCOX: Awesome, scared, and relieved all mixed together. I’m proud that the book I’ve worked so hard on for the past eight years has finally been published. I can officially say I’m an author! But with that pride comes panic; yeah, now my book is actually out there for the public to read and judge. I just I hope they like it.

SIROIS: Let's take a few steps back to the beginning. When did you know you were going to be a writer?

JAYCOX: I guess I’ve always known. I was writing stories on my grandma’s antique typewriter before I even knew how to type, but when you’re a kid, everyone wants you to become a doctor or a lawyer. You don’t think, yeah, writer, that’s a valid career option. It wasn’t until high school that I started taking creative writing classes and winning some awards. It just felt natural to me, and even though I tried other things, I always came back to writing. Always.

SIROIS: When did the initial idea for "The Other Inheritance" appear? Tell us about the moment when you knew that you had something here.

JAYCOX: I don’t really know; I’d been kicking the idea around in my head since my early twenties. I love fantasy and science fiction, and I wanted to create a strong heroine who yearned for and struggled to be “normal” only to accept that she was extraordinary and that was okay. Creating a magical world around that concept was easy. I first knew I had something when my fellow writers in one of my workshops responded so positively to the character of Reggie and to the magic of the world I was building.

SIROIS: Other than Reggie, who is your favorite character?

JAYCOX: Hands down, Brwyn! He’s seductive and charming and outrageous. He’s a guy you definitely want to have a drink with; the stories he could tell you!

SIROIS: How long did it take to write this, from first to final draft?

JAYCOX: From first draft to last, it took me a total of eight years. It was worth it.

SIROIS: Is this the first book in a series? How far do you see the story going?

JAYCOX: This is the first book in a series. I originally imagined it as two books, but now that I know what story I want to tell, I might have to push for a trilogy.

SIROIS: Is there anything that you can tell us about the future of this series without giving any spoilers?

JAYCOX: There is going to be a giant cornfield in the next book. If there is one thing that Stephen King has taught me, it’s that nothing good ever comes from going into a cornfield! They hide nefarious things…

SIROIS: You have two upcoming launches for this. Tell us about them. Where and when?

JAYCOX: The first launch is at The Book House in St. Louis on December 13 from 1-3pm and the second launch is at Lange General Store in Steelville, Missouri from 12-2pm. I’m also going to do a launch in New York, but I haven’t determined the location yet.

SIROIS: Where can fans find you?

JAYCOX: Fans can find me on Facebook HERE.
You can follow me on Twitter at @rebeccajaycox.
My website and blog are at (but it’s undergoing some remodeling right now)
You can find my author page on Amazon HERE.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! How would you like to win a copy of the paperback or eBook of The Other Inheritance? Just click HERE to take part in RHP's big giveaway!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interview with "Final Empire" Author Blake Northcott

Mark Waid said her writing "grabbed me from the first page and wouldn"t let go." Mark Millar called her "the most exciting new voice to come to superheroes in over a decade." And for the third straight time, her Kickstarter campaigns to fund production of her novels brought in 270 percent of their original goals. Blake Northcott is definitely a treasure in the world of indie publishing, and in just a few days, her latest campaign on Kickstarter will be coming to a close.

In 2013, after releasing her novels "Vs. Reality" and "Relapse," Northcott wrote the first part of her "Arena Mode" trilogy, with illustrations by some of the top artists in the comic book industry, and the response has been absolutely incredible. So much so that when she announced the first sequel - "Assault or Attrition" - 638 backers pledged over $30,000 to continue reading her work. Now, with the third of three successful campaigns in its final days, and Blake ready to finish writing "Final Empire," the conclusion of the "Arena Mode" saga, she was gracious enough to answer some questions for me.

GEORGE SIROIS: In celebration of the upcoming final chapter of the "Arena Mode" saga, let"s go all the way back to the beginning. Take us to the moment when this world popped into your head.

BLAKE NORTHCOTT: The title for "Arena Mode" came to me in the middle of the night, actually. I was half asleep, thinking of a podcast I'd just heard where there was this deep, hour-long discussion about a Hunger Games, Battle Royale-type of scenario where Marvel and DC characters fought to the death.
And then it occurred to me that this was the conversation that every comic book fan has had at some point in their life.
Of course that alone isn"t a story – it's just a backdrop – but I thought about weaving a story around the events of a sporting event in a not-too-distant future, where superhumans exist and the world is a little more dystopian than it is now.

For those who came in late, here is the summary to "Arena Mode."

In his twenty-nine years, Matthew Moxon had done virtually nothing with his record-breaking IQ and unparalleled problem solving abilities. Until one morning, after a dangerous fall lands him in the emergency room, he discovers that a tumor is pressing against his brain.
Unable to afford experimental but potentially life-saving surgery, Moxon takes drastic action; he volunteers for Arena Mode: 2041's most vicious sporting event, where thirteen superhumans fight in an urban combat zone for a multi-billion dollar prize.
Moxon is forced to battle opponents possessing ungodly speed, strength, and abilities once thought to exist only across the pages of superhero comics – and he’s armed with nothing more than his rapidly-diminishing brain cells.
With the odds stacked impossibly against him, Moxon fights to not only survive the wrath of the other competitors, but to unlock the mysteries buried within the Arena itself.

SIROIS: Was "Arena Mode" always going to be a novel? Did you explore other venues for this?

NORTHCOTT: Yes, that was always the plan. I wanted to get deeper into character development with the protagonist, and dig into his inner monologue a little – so that kind of storytelling really requires a novel. Without his viewpoint and his take on the world around him, it's a lot more of a straight action story.

SIROIS: When did you know that you had something special with this story?

NORTHCOTT: Probably when the feedback started coming in. At first I thought it would be geared towards this really specific, comic-centric audience, but I think it swelled beyond that. Men and women of all ages have responded positively, and that"s been a blessing.

SIROIS: Was there a particular character that you knew the readers would gravitate to?

NORTHCOTT: I had a feeling Brynja would be a favorite… not just because she has blue hair and a pet manticore – because those things are indeed awesome – but because she has this quick wit to her, combined with a quick temper. She's always the first one to say something clever, but she's also the first one to throw a tantrum. It makes for a fun character. And her power is pretty unique.

SIROIS: Was self-publishing always the plan with this? Or did you originally consider shopping it around?

NORTHCOTT: I was committed to self-publishing for sure. I figured “I"m a nobody – who is going to care?” Publishers want guaranteed cash, not an unknown commodity. So that route was always the plan.
And now that a couple publishers have come knocking, I think I might stay self-published – with Amazon Kindle and other avenues, it might be in my best interest to keep going it alone!

SIROIS: Can you tell us about how you put together your first "Kickstarter" campaign? What was it like getting so many talented artists to come onboard with you and your story?

NORTHCOTT: Well, I'd spent a year or so writing articles for blogs and making contacts, so it was just a matter of asking friends if they'd be down for it. Putting the book together was one thing – a huge challenge, as any author could tell you – but co-coordinating artwork from a ton of different people who all work for different companies, comics, etc. was a whole other job!
One of these days I"m gonna learn my lesson and just stick to writing, and leave the managing, marketing, and everything else to someone more qualified.

SIROIS: The first "Arena Mode" Kickstarter campaign was a huge success, bringing in over 500% of your original goal. As the pledges kept coming in, how difficult was it to come up with more stretch goals?

NORTHCOTT: To be honest, I just kept trying to think of ways to give back. I looked at other successful campaigns at the time, and stole their best ideas. Whatever looked good, I copied and offered for my backers! I think it worked out pretty well in the end.

SIROIS: Did you always envision this as a trilogy?

NORTHCOTT: I did, but I wanted each book to stand on their own as well. The middle chapter is definitely not The Empire Strikes Back – there is no huge cliffhanger. I did an Epilogue, more to serve as an "after-credits stinger" of sorts, but the story very much ends.
For the larger arc, though – yes, three books was always the charm. Things will be revealed and will wrap up at the end of Final Empire that will be the culmination of all three books!

SIROIS: As I typed this, we"re getting very close to the 30K goal for "Final Empire," the third and final installment in the saga. Passing this goal ensures a third straight audiobook recording. What has it been like hearing your story come to life in this format?

NORTHCOTT: It has been incredible, actually. Kiri Callaghan is such an incredible performer. She "acts" each character as if she"s portraying them on-stage, and the result is just unbelievable. I"ve been good friends with her for some time and I"d seen her act in plays before, so I knew she"d do a fantastic job, but she really blew me away with both books.
And another dear friend, Jeff Geddes, helped a ton with editing and pulling the books together – especially the second one. I have to mention him because he"s a magician.

NEWSFLASH: Blake has not only surpassed the $30,000 goal as of this posting, but she's already unlcoked the $35,000 goal and is getting closer to unlocking the $45,000 goal! Here is a video of her sharing the news, and sharing a celebratory drink...

SIROIS: Tell us about cosplayer Destiny Nickelsen and how she became involved in this new campaign.

NORTHCOTT: I met Destiny online just recently and saw her work. I instantly because a huge fan of hers not just for her modeling, because she"s a gorgeous girl, but for her dedication to the craft. She really goes all-out making sure her cosplays are accurate, right down to the last detail. It's so fascinating to me.
I immediately envisioned her as Brynja, and she thought that was an awesome idea, too!

SIROIS: Do you ever see yourself going back to the "Arena Mode" world?

NORTHCOTT: The trilogy is it – after “Arena Mode,” “Assault or Attrition,” and now “Final Empire,” there won"t be any more additions to the Arena Mode Saga. It would be like another “Hunger Games” or “Harry Potter” – they"re over, and shouldn"t be continued.
There are going to be some short stories in the Arena Mode Universe, but the story of Mox, Peyton, Brynja, and everyone else will most definitely be concluded after “Empire” has wrapped.

SIROIS: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Here is your space to plug whatever and whomever you like. If there"s anything I missed that you want to mention, fire away!

NORTHCOTT: Yay! Plug time! Well I hope everyone checks out “Final Empire” at Kickstarter – hurry, it ends November 16th – and also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.