Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A New Champion

Ever since I wrote up the original video game treatment for the storyline that would eventually be called "From Parts Unknown," I had a feeling that it would go somewhere, but I didn't know where it would go, so for the next three years, I put it in different formats. First came the film treatment, then the screenplay, then lots and lots of drafts of that screenplay, and finally - in July of 2002 - I finished writing the novel. When I showed it to an acquaintance and waited for his praises, he instead responded with, "I think you should self-publish this."

Not the most encouraging words in 2002, when self-publishing was still looked at with an upturned nose and dismissed as a last-ditch effort of getting someone's writing out there. They had to PAY for people to read it, so it must not be any good!

I went back and forth with this option, and finally took the plunge with iUniverse in September of that same year, and the rest is a very small piece of history. It launched, friends and family picked up their copies, and then it faded out and I moved on, convinced that the story had peaked.

Only, it didn't. In 2011, I got the rights to the book back and decided to give it an overhaul. Four years later, the overhaul became the five-part serial that it is today.

So much of this story has changed over the years. It had a supernatural tone to it for a while, involving the spirit of a gladiator from the Roman times. It became more cartoonish, then more grounded, and finally it became a lot more political with some fairly heavy social commentary, similar to the sci-fi films of the 1970s before Star Wars was released. But one thing it never really had (with the exception of Charlie Kessler, who helped with the 2005 screenplay rewrite) was someone who would stand beside me and want to invest in it.

Until now.

It's my honor to give the news that I had been waiting to give ever since I published the first incarnation of this story in 2002: "From Parts Unknown" has a home. And more importantly, it has a new champion. Rocking Horse Publishing - the same publisher that re-launched "Excelsior" - will release the five-part serial as one large eBook in November of this year, and then prepare for a paperback launch in early 2016. If you still want to get individual copies of each part of the serial, you have until mid-September before they come down. Click HERE to see what I'm talking about.

Now, some may wonder why I'm going this route when I could have just self-published this new - and vastly improved - version. I definitely could have, but my reasoning is simple: it's lonely out there. With the market as saturated as it is, it's difficult for one voice to get any louder than everyone else's. And I've done a lot of shouting for this story. I believe in it, I know it works, and I'm shocked to even see myself typing that when I'm still my own worst critic. Something about this story makes me feel that I've got something here, that after almost twenty years of kicking it around, I finally got it right. And it means a lot to me to know that, now that this contract is signed, someone else will be shouting beside me.

This may come off as sappy to you, but this is the direction I need to take "From Parts Unknown." Ever since it was just a pile of Microsoft Word pages, nobody felt the urge to give it a chance, and I'm forever grateful that RHP is giving me the chance I've been craving for so long. So set some space aside on your bookshelf or your Kindle for this November or early 2016. This science-fiction / wrestling / dystopia-in-progress / comic book-esque / epic story finally has what it's been missing since the original idea came to me in 1995: a new champion.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Want to Win an Autographed Copy of Excelsior?



Goodreads Book Giveaway


Excelsior by George Sirois

Excelsior

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)

NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD. IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN ALL OF THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE OR X-MEN FRANCHISES, CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK.

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?

Well.....

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

Fear


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...


CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE.

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 www.rebeccajaycox.com (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!