Tuesday, July 10, 2018

DID WHAT I READ AS A CHILD INFLUENCE WHAT I'VE WRITTEN AS AN ADULT?





In late June, author Jean Rabe





took on one of those irritating Facebook challenges after having been nominated to do so.


I have been nominated by Laura Craig to post some of my favorite childhood books. No comments, excuses or explanations. One book a day for seven days. I nominate Steven Paul Leiva... 'cause I'm honestly curious what he read as a kid, Hey Steven, you don't have to participate (I usually don't in these Facebook things. But books, you know, a topic I love).”

A chilling prospect. I hate making lists, except for my personal use. Lists are weird. Wanting to read lists is weird. And yet, I could not not, for example, check out this one on Literary Hub:

Like it or not, we (dedicated readers and writers) become fascinated to know things about authors, and lists are a simple way to such knowledge. But favorite childhood books read? Well, they are a peek into something aren’t they? So I answered Jean thus (rewritten to make it a bit more comprehensive and coherent than a quick FB posting):

“Okay, well, here’s the thing, Jean, I dislike these Facebook list thingssee my 11/22/13 blog 12 Random Things About Me That Others May or May Not Know)—but as I love you I’ll give it a go. However, let me answer in one shot right here.  

My favorite childhood books? Well, none of them are going to be classics of children’s lit, as I was completely unaware of them until my young adult years. Although my mother was a big reader, we really didn’t have books in the house to catch my attention. And I had no relatives who would have ever thought to give me a book for a present. Rather books entered our house via Mom’s frequent trips to the public library where she picked out a stack of about ten British mysteries (mostly) to read over the next week or so. I would usually tag along and go through the aisles of the Children’s Section picking out a few books for myself. But more about that later. Because what I really read voraciously and with glee in childhood were comic books, then but a thin dime each at the local liquor or drug store (an interesting juxtaposition of products, don't you think?). Superman and the DC gang having most of my attention and passion
















although, for laughs, I would read an occasional Dennis the Menace or Little Archie comic.














These were my main childhood reading accomplishments. And, oddly, despite being comics they were what introduced to me the art of prose writing. Comics weren’t all pictures and dialog, you know. It wasn’t a lot of prose, of course, introductions and brief explanations and ‘meanwhiles’ and such, but it seemed to be enough to spark something in my little suburban brain, something about words with authority setting the scene, explaining things, revealing character.

But back to the library


and books of only words (except for the occasional black & white illustration) between hard covers. My rather poor memory recalls my liking biographies written for kids of such ‘heroes’ as Davy Crockett and other frontier legends (it was the 50s after all).



And I most likely read at least one book on Abraham Lincoln.



Lincoln fascinated me. I think because there were photographs of him existing, and not just paintings or illustrations, making him more real than mythic.



As for fiction, I remember reading some Hardy Boys,



really liking Tom Swift,Jr. books because of his neat inventions,



and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet because, obviously, he went into space and he live in the future, which I desperately wanted to get to.  



I also remember loving the sci-fi novel Star Surgeon by Alan E. Nourse.



I think it was because all the space service doctors wore different colored uniforms depending on their specialties. For some reason I thought that was really neat. So did Gene Roddenberry, I’ll betcha, if he read the book, which I betcha he did.



Oh, and I have a memory of checking out books on Greek mythology. Probably because I loved the film Hercules with Steve Reeves.



But then that’s one of the defining aspects of the 20th and 21st centuries—nothing ‘sells’ books like the moving image. There is irony there. But that’s okay. Writers love irony.

That’s all the reading I really remember beyond comic books. But, if we can extend childhood into the teens, at thirteen I was introduced to Ian Fleming’s James Bond through—guess what?—the comic book adaptation of the Dr. No film.



Then I started to read Fleming’s novels and I loved them.



Not just for their adventure and sex and danger but for the writing. I would have had no words to express it then, but somehow I knew that Fleming had a masterful style. Suddenly, beyond that little comic book spark, I saw what prose could do in defining character, describing mood and place and objects; setting a tone and creating an atmosphere.

Advance a few more years and I read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.


Wow! Prose that took flight! I was happy to hitch a ride.

Then I read Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham



and for the very first time I completely lost myself in a book—I mean completely, deeply, and thoroughly. Many years later I told Ray that he, Fleming, and Maugham were the writers whom inspired me to write. He responded with a big, wide smile saying, ‘That’s fine company to be in.’  

In my late teens I got involved in high school drama as a budding actor and was introduced to plays. Death of a Salesman by Miller and The Glass Menagerie by Williams





had a profound influence on my understanding of the 'authority' of the author. So profound that I left high school drama no longer wanting to become an actor but a writer, wanting, in a sense, to be in charge—to be the ‘authority’.

So there you have it, Jean, for what it’s worth.”


And I wonder what worth it is. What does it say about the writer and reader that I have become?  

Well, I’m eclectic in both what I write and what I read. I consider prose at its best to be an art and not just a craft. And, despite my continuing love of colorful comic books and well-rendered illustrations in general, I think the run of well-placed black words across a white page or screen to be the most beautiful landscape in the world. One can make of that what one will.

============================================
You can find out all about my books and their hopefully well-placed words on the MY BOOKS page on this blog.  Or you can check out my AUTHORS PAGE on Amazon where the purchase of said books is easily done.

On JEAN RABE'S AUTHOR'S PAGE on Amazon you will find a cornucopia of fine literary entertainment in the mystery, fantasy, and science fiction realms.  






Monday, June 4, 2018

SOME DAYLIGHT SHINES ON MY "MOON"



My novella Made on the Moon, recently published by Crossroad Press, has been getting some welcomed publicity.































Now live on the internet and on several radio stations worldwide is my interview on The Stuph File Program hosted by that Titan of Talk, Mr. Peter Anthony Holder.  







In about a twelve minute conversation Peter and I talk about Made on the Moon and its genesis, history, story, the protagonist Stanley Lewis (who wanted to go to the moon from the time he was an infant), and exactly why this particular work of mine is a very personal one indeed. 

It was a good conversation. You can listen to just my portion of the show HERE or the full program HERE

As much as I love a deep concentration on just myself, I can highly recommend the full program so that you can experience Peter's wit and charm and a rerun of his wonderful conversation with the late astronaut Alan Bean, someone who actually did go to the moon.

And three days after my recent birthday I received the gift of a fine and smart review of Made on the Moon by Ricky L. Brown in Amazing Stories the online reincarnation of the classic magazine of science fiction and fact founded in 1926 (although it will be coming back into print as a quarterly soon).



The current logo


The first issue April, 1926


You can read the full review HERE but here is a excerpt:


“Even though you will most likely feel the urge to often pause as you digest the plot, the story is surprisingly a very quick read with a satisfyingly surprise ending reminiscent of something one might find in a Twilight Zone episode. Once all of the loose pieces come together, readers will be able to look back and give an agreeable, “I see what you did there,” kind of nod to the author. So, stick with it.

With just enough satirical elements to emphasize the blurred line between logic and insanity, true fans of Science Fiction will find a kindred attachment with the Stanley Lewis character. It is a hero’s journey, a relentless determination to dream the impossible. Made on the Moon by Steven Paul Leiva shows us that reaching for the stars is not just a dream, for some, it is a way of life.”

Made on the Moon, a novella ($3.99), can be found as an ebook in all the major online bookstores worldwide in various formats, including, of course, Amazon, which the title above is lined to. I do hope you'll check it out, purchase it, read it, enjoy it, and, if you do, leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

Cheers to one and all!



ADVANCE PRAISE FOR MADE ON THE MOON


"Leiva has crafted a satire - perhaps a self-satire - with a very warm heart. If you've ever dreamed of flying in space or walking on the Moon, you'll get the point of this story and you'll love every page." -- Russell Blackford, author of Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination.

"In a wry and oddly affecting voice that alternates between the parodistic and the plangent, this taut short novel by Mr. Leiva is about Stanley, a disaffected mid-century sci-fi loving American Nerd who would rather be a space taxi cab driver than an accountant (or a gym teacher or a mortgage broker or a podiatrist). Stanley's dream, to live on the moon, is very much an American dream, redolent of long-vanished American yearnings: the Westerning impulse: grab your hat and Bowie knife and disappear over them 'thar hills. It's not an unfamiliar hunger, or loneliness, that is being examined under Mr. Leiva's microscope here, but in addition to cocking a good snoot at some of the more preposterous aspects of myth-making generally, our author also manages to encase his ruminations in an amusingly Monty Pythonesque carapace: bureaucrats with a mysterious purpose are put to the task of discovering whether Stanley's particular obsessions just might serve their own dark ends . . . This brisk and touching comic novel has mysterious and profound things to say about the price of freedom, and it is not without relevance to the way new, and disturbingly pernicious, myths about freedom are being propagated every day in Trump's America. Highly recommended!" -- John Billingsley, "Dr. Phlox" on Star Trek Enterprise and voracious reader.

"Leiva brings his delightful wit and facility with language to a tale that feels personal and honest. It unravels in the most unexpected ways, and, as is so often the case in his work, I found both my curiosity and my funny bone tickled. A great read. -- Jeff Cannata, host of the We Have Concerns and /Filmcast podcasts.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

GREAT COINCIDENCES AND GREAT CONVERSATIONS -- On Two Books Recently Read


GREAT COINCIDENCES

Prolific and versatile author Steven Savile
Steven Savile
has gone quite Dickens in his novel,
Parallel Lines (2017 Titan Books), depending on more than several coincidences to tell a neat and compelling story of both despicable and desperate wrongdoing. But like Dickens, Saville does not use what in the real world might seem improbable coincidences just to move the plot forward, but rather as a metaphorical demonstration that in life, unlike in geometry, parallel lines sometimes do meet. As Dickens’s friend and biographer John Foster put it, “The world, he (Dickens) would say, was so much smaller than we thought; we were all so connected by fate without knowing it; people supposed to be far apart were so constantly elbowing each other…”  And this is essentially what Savile portrays in his story of the strangest bank robbery imaginable that goes weirdly awry connecting the lives
and deathsof several disparate characters in contemporary Chicago.

As befitting its title, there is no one protagonist in Parallel Lines, but rather an ensemble of characters that Savile moves from one to another, jumping into their interior points-of-view, telling the stories of their individual pasts and current moments. There may be something revolutionary about that in the current academic-literary world of MFAs in Creative Writing and writing workshops where the simple-minded rule of “Show, don’t tell,” has become as important as if it was the eleventh commandment of Moses that just didn’t fit on the second tablet but otherwise would have been there. Not that Savile doesn’t show you some fine action containing some sharp dialog, but the key to this novel is what he tells you about his characters. For what Savile understands is that it’s not whether you show or tell but when you show and when you tell and, more important, how you show and how you tell. When Savile tells you about his characters you not only walk in their shoes, you put on their full wardrobe to a fine fit. Savile is a consummate storyteller (if he had wanted to be a storyshower, he probably would have gone into film and TV) who is in command of his craft both intellectually and, I’m assuming, intuitively.

But, Steven (meaning me, not Savile) what’s the plot? Well, given that it’s a story about parallel lines that do connect, you can imagine that the plot is intricate with interweavings and any summary of it could only do it injustice.  Suffice it to say, it is a compelling story, smoothly written, and unrelenting in its forward motion. But it is also a story of people, their trials, their tribulations, their plans, their pains, and the choices they makenot always wise oneswhich are often forced upon them by the greater society they live in.

You can find Parallel Lines by Steven Savile


on Amazon.com right HERE.


     *                       * *
GREAT CONVERSATIONS
Peter Anthony Holder

Holder Overnight was a popular late-nite radio show in Montreal for twenty-years in which Peter Anthony Holder interviewed, or rather conversed with, a host of celebrities that he hosted as if they were honored guests in his living room. For Peter never was, and still isn’t (he currently hosts the syndicated radio show, The Stuph File), a “gotcha!” broadcaster. Peter genuinely likes people. Although he can and often does report on the sillier actions of our species, he is basically a fan of us, and especially the us who have brought him pleasure in popular entertainment. Peter has gathered some of those conversations into Great Conversations: My Interviews with Two Men on the Moon and a Galaxy of Stars (2017 BearManor media), and it has certainly brought me pleasure.



I’ve known Peter since 1990 when I attended the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal with famed Warner Bros Looney Tunes animation director Chuck Jones. Every year Peter would time his vacation from his radio show to allow him to work for the festival hosting shows and doing video reports, and he asked to interview me that year for some video project on the festival. I think he only asked me because he liked the white suit I was wearing, thinking it would look good on camera. In subsequent years I produced shows for the festival and I got to know Peter rather well. Later, when my novels started to be published, I was pleased to have guested on his show several times plugging my books.

But I’m not in Peter’s book. Well, I am, but only in a brief mention that, although brief, does, I must say, add a certain intellectual depth and philosophical gravatas to the tome.

But seriously, folks..., as that great classic and silly comedian Milton Berle might have said.

Berle, who may have killed vaudeville, but who certainly midwifed the birth of American television, is not interviewed in the book. But chapter fifteen, “The Milton Berle Bet,” relates an incident Peter eyewitnessed at one of the Just for Laughs festivals. It beautifully shows what a wonderfully professional and damn fine talent Berle actually was. And just why Peter admires such great entertainers.

Those that Peter did have great conversations with and who are in the book include Ed Asner, Karl Malden. Steve Allen, Bob Denver, Christopher Plummer, George Takei, and even Thurl Ravenscroft, who you might know as the original voice of Tony the Tiger, but who also, more importantly, sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch in Chuck Jones’s now classic animated TV special based on the famous Dr. Seuss book. Peter also talked to the Holy Trio! of Burt Ward, Yvonne Craig, and Julie Newmar from the 1960s Batman TV show; Shirley Eaton, forever a golden girl in the minds of many men my age for her short but memorable role in Goldfinger; and the absolutely charming Carol Channing and the absolutely funny Phyllis Diller.

Also included in the book are interviews with moon walkers Alan Bean and Harrison Schmitt. Yes, not from the world of entertainment, but if you had a chance to converse with men who had gone to the moon, what would you do?

In another non-interview chapter, “A Tale of Two Celebrities - Lynn Johnston and Ivan Reitman” (the chapter in which I am briefly mentioned, I will briefly mention again), Peter tells another story from Just for Laughs that shows the kindness and generosity of one celebrity in contrast to the lack of same from the otheror, at least, from the other’s “people.” I won’t reveal who was who except to say that the kind one does not produce and direct movies and the other one did not write and draw a comic strip.

Despite, as I’ve mentioned, Peter did not play “gotcha” when he interviewed these celebrities, that does not mean he did not “get” them. He has an intuitive feel for what makes each subject unique as an entertainer and often as a person, and a talent for letting them reveal that in conversation. Which makes for a pleasant, informative, and nostalgic book.

You can find Great Conversations: My Interviews with Two Men on the Moon and a Galaxy of Stars
on Amazon HERE.

And you can check out all my books
on the MY BOOKS page on this blog.