Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The kind of story you can't make up

Fellow International Thriller Writer Patry Francis has written a book, "The Liar's Diary." It's her first novel, and like any first novel, is a pretty huge accomplishment.

Francis also is fighting off an aggressive form of cancer. Her prognosis is good. And that's a much larger victory.

Here's a video trailer for her book (truly a sign that all forms of media have merged into one, called, say, pribroadernet):

Now, go check out her engaging blog, Simply Wait. And while you're at it, check out "The Liar's Diary."

Sometimes truth is more moving than fiction.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Things you can still smoke in Chicago bars

Oh! Oh! I'll take "barbecued meat" for $500, Alex.

Wait... did I phrase that right? I got it backwards. Anyway. "Jeopardy" is not important. Barbecue, as you know, is.

I'm a Kansas Citian, and as such am always on the lookout for new purveyors of the tender, juicy ambrosia known as barbecue. Arthur Bryant's is the best stuff on the planet. Period. But finding a favorite place here in Chicago is a bit more of an adventure.

I've mentioned my favorite places before: Honey 1, up on the Northwest Side, and Lem's, down on the South Side. Both are finger-staining good.

And now we can add Risque Cafe to my top 10 list. The meat is smoked in bourbon barrels--that's one bonus point. They have more than 200 (actually, when I was there, 197) domestic beers available--that's another bonus point. And there are '50s style pinup girls on the wall--that's, like, two bonus points wearing fishnets and high heels.

The food itself, what you should rightly judge a barbecue joint on, is tasty. The brisket is nice and tender, and the smoked sausages were good too, if not particularly well-seasoned.

On the minus side of the culinary ledger (some call this a "menu") were, unfortunately, the sauces. As the kids might say, they were weak. Although the mild, spicy and sweet all contained bourbon, none really stood out. Like Bryant's. Yeah, despite being a Royals fan, I do set the bar high.

Ignore the white bread, you fools!

If any of you have any questions about Chicago barbecue or Risque--which I give, I dunno, three sauce mops out of five, for those of you keeping score at home--let me know. I enjoy barbecue snobbery almost as much as I enjoy barbecue munchery.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Check it out! No, literally

I've been informed by a Kansas City source--we'll call her "Operative A"--that "From the Depths" is in my hometown library system. I think that's pretty cool.

Who knows why? Maybe it's just because I remember tearing through the young adult section at Mid-Continent Public Library (for those of you living further north in K.C., don't worry; it's also in the KCMO system) and like the idea of some other gangly kid discovering thrilling fiction. Or maybe it's because my name is officially in a card catalog someplace.

Now, if some student at Center High School can just do a book report on me, I think I can call my writing career a success.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's all part/of my rock 'n' roll fantasy

OK. Those of you who made it past the Internet's only Bad Company reference so far in 2008, let me explain myself.

A benefactor who shall remain unnamed--we'll call them Terry and Helga for anonymity's sake--provided me with Guitar Hero II for Christmas. Yes. A video game in which I pretend to me a badass axe-slinger.

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, let me sketch the electronic ridiculousness out for you. There's an XBox 360, right? And you put the game in it. Then you plug in the controller, which happens to be shaped like a guitar. On this guitar-shaped controller are five buttons, which represent frets. There's a little flange where you normally would strum, and just below and behind that, a whammy bar for really making that sustain wail.

The game puts you on tour with a band. The band has a set list. You are the guitar player. And instead of reading music, you kind of follow these notes scrolling down a guitar neck, strumming, fretting and whammying in sync with the guitar part. And since I'm doing a great job of making this sound boring, here's an example of what it looks like onscreen:

So anyway, having gotten that explanation out of the way, let me get to the point. Or the solo, as it were.

Guitar Hero is just. Plain. Fun. It's addictive. The temptation to do "just one more song" is as hard to fight off as a pack of star-stricken groupies. When the songs get more complex, if you squint your eyes just right you can imagine that you're actually playing the guitar.

Yes. I'm a huge dork.

I used a few of the stickers that came with the guitar to decorate it. One of them is an ace of spades.

Did I mention the part about me being a huge dork?

Anyway, I had to get this off my chest. Think of this as an electronic AA confession, except my "problem" doesn't hurt anyone. And I can quit anytime I want. Honest.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The match of the (19th) century

Who would win in this scenario: Six fully armed special forces types sent back in time to fight the entire combined armies of the U.S. Civil War?

If your answer was, "Gerry, this is a REALLY dumb question," you win! It is. But there also are some pretty hysterical responses to the question in this thread, where it was originally posed.

A few of my favorites:

-"this thread is so stupid, that's like asking who would win in a fight... 1,000,000,000,000 dinosaurs vs chuck norris." [actually an intriguing question that has perplexed modern science for decades. -ed]

-Poster 1: "How much prep time? That is crucial for these sorts of discussions." Poster 2: "No. That's only relevant if it's the entire civil war army vs Batman."

-"Are you a scab [writer] coming up with Time Cop 2?"

-"Travel back in time and stop future discretions from ever happening by wiping out all of America with their own special tactical forces! THE PERFECT CRIME."

Please, feel free to contribute your own sarcastic responses here. Me, I'm taking the Civil War guys and the points.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Like Chicago authors?

Besides certain Lincoln Square-dwelling, Boulevard-swigging journalists, I mean.

Michael Black, a Chicago-area cop and writer, has a great first novel called "A Killing Frost." I just finished it on the way to work (thanks, pointless CTA construction delays!), and it was a great read. It's kind of a hard-boiled detective story, features a lot of Chicago locations (including a sly mention of the Chicago Tribune) and a well-crafted plot.

It also includes two cats, kickboxing and car repairs, if you're into that kind of thing. Go check it out!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vote, or face the wrath of Barack Skywalker

With the primaries all starting to roll together into a big ball of gooey electoral goodness, I think it's time we step back and consider an important political question: Should politics include deadly science fictional weapons?

Think how super Super Tuesday could be!

For instance, I'm not sure I'd vote for this guy (if for no other reason than his hair is a little frightening in itself) but it's gutsy bringing The Force into a school board race. Gutsy or something else. But, in the spirit of enfranchisement, I invite you to decide for yourself:

Next on CNN: The all-important "geek vote."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Dr. Myers, the (blood-spattered) envelope, please....

It’s 2008, which means Dec. 25—not to mention Dec. 31—has come and gone, and THAT means that the first annual From the Depths Character Discussion contest is officially over. And no, I didn’t just come up with the name for the contest off the top of my head as I typed this. That’s crazy talk.

Here are the lucky 15 winners, who will receive their own signed copies of “From the Depths.” Yes, my signature really is that messy.

-my tattered pages
-jeanette J
-wednesday (the poster, not the day)
-jayhawk prof

Some of you will be contacted shortly by the friendly and harmless folks at my publisher, McBooks, who only want the best for you. In this case, that means a book. The rest of you need to get me your e-mail address… or your real address… or SOMETHING, so I can extend hearty congratulations and the aforementioned book.