The Books That Made Me – Part Three

Back in August I took the first pass at starting a series of posts inspired by the excellent occasional series of interviews that The Guardian newspaper conducts under the title “Books That Made Me.” – In that post I talked about what I was currently reading, and a book that changed my life. In December I picked up the challenge again and talked about if there was a book I wish I’d written, and a book that influenced my writing.

It’s been a while, so I think it’s time tackle another couple of questions:

The Book That Changed My Mind.

I’m not sure this book changed my mind about any one thing specifically, but it did make me look at the world around me from a different perspective. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.

Norman combines backgrounds in engineering and psychology and applies them to the world of human-centered design where usability is just as important as aesthetics. The book gives many great examples of when designers get things right, and equally valuable where they get it wrong. I highly recommend this for anyone who is interested in how we interact with the physical world we inhabit, and how good design can make that experience more enjoyable.

The Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman

The Last Book To Make Me Cry

As a young man Adrian Gill’s dyslexia was so bad he was classified as functionally illiterate, his early adult years were lost to alcoholism. Then he discovered a talent for expressing himself through words and a love for food. We first came across him in his early days as the food critic for The Sunday Times. His reviews of places we’d never eat in and food we’d never try were the first thing we read. A.A.Gill grew to be one of British journalism’s best. A man who told it like he saw it, wasn’t afraid to pull his punches, and was unapologetic about his own life and views. The Best of A.A. Gill collects his best writing in food, television, travel, life, and most movingly his cause-celebre – the global refugee crisis. It ranges from cynical truths, to outrage, as well as the humorous, and heart-warming. It concludes with a heart wrenching piece where he talks honestly and brutally about is own imminent death from cancer. Overall this volume is an excellent celebration of an honest man.

The Best of A.A. Gill

Loving the Lexicon Launch

Thanks to everyone who made the recent launch of our new book THE JAMES BOND LEXICON such a success.

Thanks to the folks who posted selfies with their copies, or took it on themselves to help spread the word.

With sales in the US, UK, Germany, France, and Spain in the first week, we hit the #1 New Release spot in the Movie Reference, Video Reference, and Movie Guides & Reviews categories on Amazon.

Feedback so far as been very positive, and we’ve had great fun appearing on several podcast interviews, such as the recent one on James Bond Radio – and there’s still more to come.

You can keep up with all the latest news on The James Bond Lexicon at the companion website, JamesBondLexicon.online, or by following us on Twitter @BondLexicon

A New Touch of Swashbuckling for Your Bookshelves.

Now available on Amazon the first volume of The Musketeers’ New Adventures which includes my story “Noblese Oblige” – A lost letter written by the Queen must be found or else it threatens a new war with Spain. Desperately she calls upon a retired Musketeer to find the missing message. – Available in either paperback or kindle format – Need some adventure? Just click here.

The Books That Made Me – Part Two

Back in August I took the first pass at starting a series of posts inspired by the excellent occasional series of interviews that The Guardian newspaper conducts under the title “Books That Made Me.”

In that post I talked about what I was currently reading, and a book that changed my life.

It was a fun exercise to go through, so let’s pick up the challenge again with the next set of questions.

The Book That I Wish I’d Written

I’ve given this one a lot of thought, and it may seem like a cop-out but there isn’t one.

Let me explain. Sure I’ve picked up many books and thought something along the lines of I could have written a pretty good book on that subject, or I had a story idea like that once, or even, Wow that was very cool, I wonder what inspired it; but nothing that provokes what could be called a feeling of regret because I didn’t do it. For one simple reason, they clearly weren’t my books to write.

I believe that writers write the books they are meant to write.

As an example, I recently became fascinated by the story of the lost World War 2 bomber Lady Be Good. I found a couple of books on the subject but the most recent dated back 25 years or more. I started thinking that maybe this was a subject I could write an updated book on. I had even started pulling together a pitch to send to the imprint of a publisher I’ve worked with before that specializes in aviation history. While I was working on the pitch that very same publisher announced a new book on the Lady Be Good. No problem – I guess it just wasn’t my book to write.

The Book That Had The Greatest Influence On My Writing.

I’m taking this one to mean books about the craft of writing. Over the years I’ve studied quite a few of them, and while many passed unremembered there are a definite handful that I would happily cite as having a positive impact.

Just looking at the shelf by my office desk I see well thumbed and bookmarked copies of

You may notice a pattern in that list. Most revolve around the visual story telling mediums of comics and film, and both heavily influence my prose style. I see all writing as being on a continuum of storytelling, and the lessons leaned for one medium can inform another.

And there is one book I refer to more, and cite more when I’m speaking about writing at conferences. It’s the quintessential examination of graphic storytelling that informs and influences all my writing. Scott McCloud’s masterpiece Understanding Comics.

It doesn’t matter if you have no intention of ever writing a comic, or even have never read a comic – if you are in the business of communicating ideas in any medium you owe it to yourself to read, study, and absorb this work.

Books That Made Me – Part One

A recent post on Twitter from a good friend reminded me of the excellent occasional series of interviews that The Guardian newspaper conducts with various writers using a set outline of questions under the title “Books That Made Me.” Reading over a few of the more recent interviews made me think that it might be fun to take that outline and use it for my own series of blog posts. – Just how would I answer those same questions?

So with apologies to the Guardian, let’s take a look shall we:

What book am I currently reading?

It’s very rare that I am reading just a single book at a time, often it’s three or more. At the moment I have a pretty eclectic list of reads underway.

Fleming

“The Life of Ian Fleming” by John Pearson. I recently received a copy of “Ian Fleming: The Notes” published by Queen Anne Press which collects many of Pearson’s research notes from when he was writing his acclaimed 1966 biography of James Bond’s creator. Before diving into that much-anticipated volume I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the actual biography first.

R&R

“The History of Rock & Roll: Volume 1” by Ed Ward: My current bedside table read is this excellent, entertaining, and informative first volume on the history of rock from 1920 to 1963. As an aside, over the last few months, I’ve been listening to a podcast on The History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, which, other than common subject matter, has no connection with the book, yet as I’m reading I hear the text in the voice of the podcast’s presenter, Andrew Hickey.

bat100

On the coffee table in my library sits “Batman: 100 Greatest Moments” by Robert Greenberger. Covering the last 80 years of the Dark Knight’s career it’s providing some trips down memory lane from my years as a serious Batman collector while opening me up to some of the more recent tales I may have missed.

Disco

While the Kindle app on my phone is loaded with a copy of  “Star Trek Discovery: The Enterprise War” by John Jackson Miller featuring the tale of what happened to the iconic spaceship while under the command of Captain Christopher Pike during the Federation/Klingon conflict shown in the first season of the new Discovery series. It’s a fun read that sheds some interesting light on characters we feel we know but have never really been that deeply explored before. A good “stood in line at Starbucks and want to catch up” read; which is what I want from the books I read in digital format.  Something I can read anywhere whether I have a spare 5 minutes, or a spare 50 minutes.

What book changed my life?

This is a tricky one that took a lot of thinking about. Was it “Tom Swift and the Cosmic Astronauts” that I got out of the library as a youngster that introduced me to the concept of cosmic adventure, or discovering DUNE at college and realizing how mind-expanding  SF could be? The Readers Digest abridged books version of The Man With The Golden Gun that introduced me to the works of Ian Fleming, or the James Bond Annual that sparked my fascination with the 007 movies? The various comics that proved to be turning points in my life (that is probably fodder for another blog post)?

ZEN

In the end, I think the vote goes to “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by  Robert M. Pirsig. I read the book while serving on-board container ships as a junior engineer, and it helped me come to the realization that as much as I love, and am fascinated by, machines I didn’t really gain much personal satisfaction from working on them. I wanted to share knowledge about them, I wanted to share about what they could do; and that despite the fact that I couldn’t spell (and still can’t) I really could do that one thing I’d wanted to do since the age of seven despite being repeatedly told I couldn’t do it –  be a writer.

Next time I’ll be thinking about:

  • The book I wish I’d written.
  • The book that had the greatest influence on my writing.

Till then, keep reading.

The Ones That Got Away – Buck Rogers

For every story, comic, article, or book that gets published there are those that for various reasons never happen. I thought it might be fun to do an occasional post on a variety of pitches, ideas, and almost happened projects.

The idea of revisiting these was prompted by this recent bookstore find:

Buck

Many years ago I reached a verbal and handshake deal with a publisher to do an official history of Buck Rogers.

We had the outline agreed, had lined up in interviews with Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering themselves (Gil Gerard and Erin Gray from the 1980s TV show), started to pull together research items, and then it all went quiet and the final contracts never materialized.

Unfortunately due to a variety of reasons outside our immediate control the book never got to happen.

One of those projects that got away, but I remain fascinated with the subject, and hope to get the chance to revisit someday.

 

The Last Ramble of 2016 – Actually it wasn’t all that bad after all.

It seems to be the general consensus that the last twelve months has cumulatively amounted to a pretty shitty year. It’s definitely had its moments, and most of them have seemed bad.  On a personal front we as a family have had some down times in 2016, but we’ve also experienced some profoundly incredible moments.

Writing wise I’ve also had some disappointments this year with work not getting published as originally planned; but that’s all part of the game. The year finished strong with two new books published that contained some of my work. So keep a look out for:

quatermain2

Quatermain: The New Adventures Vol. 2 – that contains my new short story “Stones of Blood,” that takes Quatermain from the streets of London, and an encounter with a certain young consulting detective, to the battlefields of the first Boer War in search of diamond smugglers.

BoldlyGo

Outside In Boldly Goes – that includes “Trouble in Tombstone” – An alternate report of the events of the classic Star Trek episode Specter of the Gun.

Some of the other highlights of 2016 have included (in no particular order):

  • My weekly blog post series at the OpenText Blog, as well as a new monthly column at CMS Wire.
  • A return to doing movie reviews for RevolutionSF
  • Fun times at various conferences and conventions including the Content Marketing World, Lavacon, DX Summit, Peoria Comic Con, Comicpalooza, Armadillocon, and WizardWorld Austin.
  • Guesting on several podcasts such as Batman vs James Bond, Pros@Cons, White Rocket and more.
  • Having two of my stories recorded as Audio Book versions on Audible.
  • and of course writing a lot of stuff that’s still in the pipeline that will be published next year.

Talking of next year I’ve decided to drop the (mainly) monthly Ramble format for this newsletter and instead I’m planning on diving back into my archives to present some behind the scenes stuff, as well as some insights into current projects, on a  (hopefully)more frequent basis.

Look out 2017  – it’s going to be fun.

 

 

November Rambles.

AlanPorter_003

I’m in the middle of doing some research for an essay that is scheduled to appear in a friend’s business book, but decided to take a quick break to do my monthly update post (Although I just realized I missed last month – oops).

The essay in question is the last of the various essays and short stories I had scheduled for 2016. By my count I now have the following work sitting at various publishers waiting for projects to be completed and published:

  • Short story featuring Rick Ruby, Private Eye
  • Short story featuring Allan Quatermain (and special guest).
  • Essay on Action Man
  • Essay for a Star Trek Original Series project
  • Essay for a Star Trek: The Next Generation project
  • Essays for two business books

Hopefully some of these see the light of day over the coming months.

For 2017 I’ve decided to take a short sabbatical from accepting these sort of short side assignments and focus on completing my four major ongoing projects.

  • The FORGOTTEN CITY comic book series (of which I have the final three issues to write).
  • Complete the revisions and additions to the James Bond Lexicon
  • Complete the research phase for the U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon
  • and get a polished draft together for my novel-in-progress.

So here’s to focus and a productive year ahead at the keyboard.

August Rambles

Wow where did the year go? It’s definitely been an interesting and eventful one for us, with more fun still to come.

If things work out to plan the following books will be heading to a store near you or available on-line before the year is over:

  • The Joy of Joe – with my essay “So Who Is This Joe Fellow You’ve All Been Talking About,” on my recollections of  Action Man.
  • Outside In Boldly Goes – which will contain my take on the classic Star Trek episode “Specter of the Gun.”
  • Quatermain Adventures Vol. 2 – containing my story “Stones of Blood.”

In the meantime you can find a new page on this site with direct links to some of my existing books for sale on Amazon.

Work is continuing on editing the James Bond Lexicon project and compiling information for the follow-on U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon, and I’ve made a return to movie reviewing in my Editor-at-Large role for RevolutionSF. You can find my thoughts on the recent Suicide Squad movie online HERE.

SUICIDE SQUAD

A lot of my focus over the last few months has been around my business writing with several white-papers under my belt as well as developing regular series of weekly blog posts which you can find HERE. This has lead to a couple of additional opportunities to write a regular monthly piece for a leading industry thought-leadership website as well as an article for another prestigious media industry magazine. More on these as stuff is published over the coming months.

 

 

 

The February Ramble (Only Just…)

I guess I really snuck under the wire to be able to call this the February edition of my newsletter (Hey there may only be a few hours left on the evening of Leap Day, but it is technically still February.)

A definite highlight of this month was the signing we did at the excellent Lit. On Fire used bookstore in Peoria. The signing was held in conjunction with their “open mic” night, with local singer Caron Easley kicking off events. I did a short intro talking about the books I had on sale that night which quickly evolved into an hour or more of questions and discussions about  whole range of topics. There were some great questions and some fascinating conversations. – Oh yeah, we managed to sell a few books too. In fact Jessica Stephenson, the owner of Lit. On Fire, has been a great promoter of local authors and did sterling work in getting the word out about the event and continuing to promote the books afterwards. If you are ever in the Peoria, IL area make sure to stop by and visit her excellent, and growing, bookstore.

litonfire1

Our next event will be a trip to the C2E2 show in Chicago at the end of March – looking forward to what should be a fun weekend of pop-culture goodness.

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In terms of writing projects the focus this month has primarily been on the current (but still unannounced) work-for-hire licensed comics series with two scripts having been completed and turned in.

Rewrites for the James Bond Lexicon and research for the U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon book projects have also been continuing as a background task as we slowly, but surely, make progress on those.

I’ve also agreed to contribute an essay for an upcoming book that celebrates the long lasting appeal of the G.I. Joe toys; however I’ll be taking a slightly different approach as I’ll be writing about his cousin from across The Pond – The British version “Action Man,” that recently celebrated it’s 50th anniversary.

myorig2

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Some of you may have spotted the appearance of a new entry on the list of pages above. I have started to pull together a full list (as far as possible) of all my writing credits over the years. – More on that next month, but if you want to check out how it’s progressing just click on the Bibliography menu item.

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