This is the announcement I have been waiting a lifetime to make: New Mythologies Press, an imprint of Chris Kennedy, Publishing has accepted my novel, Across The Endless Ocean. I am honored to be their new editor, Rob Howell’s, first accepted author since he took over the press. We both hope and intend that this will be but the first of a series of adventures featuring Responsibility, the halfdragon heroine of the series.
While we are still hard at work hammering out the edits, we intend to get the novel ready to publish as soon as possible, and I can hardly wait to present it to you all. If you are interested in a foretaste, though, the story that started it all, “Abandoned Responsibility,” (and which comprises the first two chapters of the book) can be reached on Podcastle through the link.
Why is this novel so special to me? There are several reasons. Mostly, it is because it is the first time I have ever sent out a whole novel to a publisher, cold, and had it accepted. And while I will always be grateful to Jason Rennie and Superversive Press for giving All Things Huge And Hideous the green light, it was something that took shape over several stories. In some ways, it still IS a collection of short stories. It was funny and delightful to write, but it is also farce.
Across The Endless Ocean is not farce. It’s about courage, and honor, and what it means to become an adult in a hostile world. It comes from somewhere deeper inside, if that makes any sense. I hope you will enjoy it.
I’d just like to welcome you to the blog tour for the SATURN Anthology, a group of stories featuring everyone’s favorite ringed planet! I’m super proud to have my story “The Lords Of Titan” featured in this book. It’s the story of an old man who learns to give love, and a young man who learns to trust himself: and they’re the same man. Please enjoy this, along with the wonderful stories of all the other great authors!
Saturn. The Ringed Planet. Harbinger of ideas and wonder. These are the stories of Saturn, the great Titan. Tales of time, age and endings. – Saturn (Planetary Anthology Series) 2/16Tweet
Saturn Planetary Anthology Series Set 11 Genre: Mixed Fantasy, SciFi, Speculative
with stories byBokerah Brumley, Karl Gallagher, Carlton Herzog, G. Scott Huggins, C.S. Johnson,P.A. Piatt, J.F. Posthumus, James Pyles, Denton Salle, Ben Wheeler, Josh Young, Richard Paolinelli, Arlan Andrews Sr., J.M. Anjewierden, Dana Bell, Vonnie Winslow Crist,Karina L. Fabian, Rob Fabian, A.M. Freeman, Julie Frost
Saturn. The Ringed Planet. Harbinger of ideas and wonder. The planet that gave birth to the modern era of science envisioning the myriad of multi-colored rings circling the planet, one of the reasons for the invention of the telescope and the second largest in our solar system. These are the stories of Saturn, the great Titan. Tales of time, age and endings.
I just wanted to drop you a blog note to let you know that I’m appearing at Life, The Universe, And Everything this afternoon on three panels. LTUE is on DISCORD this year! It’s also hosted out of Utah, so all times are in Mountain Standard Time! Please join LTUE HERE!
They are: Creating Religions (4 pm) Gary Gygax Room Religion is important to many real-life cultures and regions in the world and can greatly increase the believability of a world. When creating a religion for your game world, it is often easier to base your religion on real-world examples. But if done poorly, this can create many difficulties, including offensive stereotypes. How do you create a religion while avoiding these possible pitfalls?
Disability Literacy (6 pm) C.S. Lewis Room Daily life for the physically disabled and neurodivergent is different. They have to be aware of things that some people take for granted or ignore completely. | Humor in the Fantastic (7 pm) Ursula K. LeGuin Room Fantasy sometimes has unexpected magic and consequences that can lead to humor. Many books have used this to great advantage. Let’s discuss how authors have found humor in the fantastic.
Okay, I think I may be the only person in the world who even remembers this film anymore.
Here’s the reason I watched it. In 1985, when I was twelve, this poster and its fellows TERRIFIED me. The body horror and the look of agony and terror on the victims’ faces made me think that this was going to be THE BLOB, a film that completely freaked me out, only worse, because The Stuff was so obviously already inside you… in other words, it was going to be The Blob meets Alien. I didn’t even think of watching it, because if it was ANYTHING like I imagined, I was going to have nightmares.
So, it was on Amazon Prime free last month, and 47 year old me decided to watch The Stuff.
It turns out that twelve-year old me was a MUCH better horror writer than anyone involved with the script of this laughably terrible film. So, by the way, were the poster artists, who did a masterful job of making it look terrifying, right down to the tagline: “Are you eating it, or is it eating you?” In fact, as a writer, I really do not understand how you can miss with this concept, but apparently it goes something like this:
1) You absolutely refuse to acknowledge that anything like the FDA or ingredient lists exist, and that you could totally market “mysterious substance that oozes out of the ground” to the public with no legal difficulty.
2) You don’t ever really acknowledge that anyone infected by The Stuff really suffers pain, or even make it clear whether they die or not. At least once in the film, The Stuff oozes out of a victim’s body, but he gets up and is apparently still controlled by The Stuff. Other times, the Stuff just kills.
3) You don’t really even show that anyone who didn’t voluntarily consume The Stuff can get killed by it.
4) You infect people for completely irrational reasons. One of the most lurid on-screen deaths involves one of the protagonists who lost his ice-cream business because of The Stuff, was always suspicious of The Stuff, has no reason to eat The Stuff… and yet, he shows up infected. I strongly suspect that this happened because he was Black and therefore disposable.
5) On top of all of this, you hire actors that have less chops than high-school leads. When the tagline is finally delivered, at the end of the film, it’s read with all the gusto of the slogan for an antacid.
So please, don’t see this film. It wasn’t worth it. Instead stay tuned for the collaboration I’m negotiating with 12 year-old me to turn this concept into the horror novel it should have been.
Been thinking about this rather excellent observation for a bit. And it’s been awhile since I did a good, old-fashioned listicle here on the blog. Okay, it’s been awhile since I really did much of ANYTHING here on the blog, but I’m a high-school teacher at the end of the Second Semester Of COVIDS and a Dad planning Christmas with 3 school-age kids, so give me a break).
There are always players — and, I think, writers — who confuse characters that are fun to play and write with characters that are fun to play WITH and fun to read. I’ll also admit that I haven’t always been innocent of these. So with that in mind, I’m going to dive right in to Characters That Are Dickishness In Disguise.
The Character That Can’t Be Told What To Do aka Contrarius: Most of these characters are power fantasies (which there’s nothing wrong with as such: that’s kind of what RPGs are for.), and this one is no exception. You kind of get the impression that the player is someone who is never allowed to say “no” to anyone in real life and he’s by all the gods gonna make up for it now. Often comes right out and says, “My character doesn’t like being told what to do,” and every experienced player cringes. It doesn’t matter how good a suggestion that your character makes, or some other character makes, or the NPC giving advice to your party makes, or how good an idea is. If it wasn’t Contrarius’s suggestion, that’s reason enough to fight it tooth and nail. Often, Contrarius gets his way because of Don’t Split The Party.
The Character Who Deliberately Annoys NPCs aka Impertinens: Impertinens doesn’t like it when the party has friends. To Impertinens, the rest of the world consists solely of people who aren’t good enough for the party. Gods help the king or duke or wizard who has the temerity to summon the party, pay the party, or warn the party. They are in for a heaping helping of mockery and abuse simply because Impertinens’s player finally gets a chance to say what’s on his mind. Impertinens can’t really be shut out, because he’s at his most annoying at the safest parts of the game, i.e. when the DM is desperately trying to actually establish a plot, and doesn’t really want to, for example, have Denethor tell the Guards of the Tower to throw Pippin off the Citadel for being an ass.
The Character Who Is Deliberately The Opposite Alignment Of Everyone Else In The Party aka Spoilerus: Spoilerus loves being the party pooper. Everyone else is a champion of law and good? Spoilerus is going to be the chaotic evil sorceror that’s hanging back to eviscerate and torture the fallen. Everyone wants to do a thieving dungeon run? Spoilerus will be the worst example of the stick-up-the-ass paladin, looking for ways to give away the party gold. Spoilerus is basically Gollum, except that he’s not trying desperately to keep the rest of the party safe so he won’t lose his shot at the Precious.
The Character Who Can’t Be Told The Odds aka Kamikaze: DM: “Okay, you’re squatting outside the Black Gate of Mordor, honeycombed with caves full of thousands of orcs, bolstered by flying Nazgul. The Orc patrol gets closer and closer to your hiding place…” Kamikaze: “I CAST FIREBALL!!!” Kamikaze doesn’t believe that anything worthwhile happens in D&D that doesn’t involve attack and damage rolls, and believes that combat is the first, last and only option for dealing with anything. And Kamikaze always has an excuse for fighting literally everyone. They’re too strong? Well, they need to be taken down a peg. Too weak? Easy kill. You’d think that Kamikaze would get his throat cut in short order, but the problem is that he’ll take the rest of the party down with him.
The Character Surrounded By Theme Music aka Energizer Bunny: The Energizer Bunny NEVER STOPS. Is he a rogue? Well, he will steal things all the time. From other party members if nothing else is around. Is he a necromancer? He will animate everything that is dead, up to and including dead squirrels the party runs across. Is he a warrior? He will challenge shopkeepers to duels for haggling with him. The dead giveaway for this character is that he asks the same question in every room in the dungeon: “Is there a <object my character is obsessed with>?” Then he pouts when people get tired of him.
The Character That Hates Another Member Of The Party aka Nemecyst: Nemecyst is as much fun as a huge boil you can’t get rid of. He hates orcs. Or paladins. Or just YOU, because you know more about D&D, or you had an idea the party liked better than his idea, or because Fuck You, that’s why. Nemecyst my plot your death, but is more likely to simply argue with you at every turn and/or degrade your character gratuitously. Essentially, the character is a bully, and often a racist bully at that. Not that there aren’t sometimes moments where being a “racist” in D&D can’t be realistic (being racist against, say, vampires, can be a survival trait), but it sure as hell isn’t a fun thing to hang around.
Of course, confronting the players with these things tends to get a defensive response featuring the chorus, “I’m just roleplaying,” or, “Well, that’s what my character would do!” If you’re having to say these things more than once a campaign? Yeah, you might want to examine why that is, and whether one of these “characters” applies to your play style.
So, when I saw the trailer for SAVE YOURSELVES! (available for rent or purchase through Amazon) I was really excited. The premise of this movie is just awesome. A young, NYC couple decides that to rekindle their stagnating lives, they will go completely off-grid and stay for a week at a Cabin In The Woods owned by a friend of theirs. They do this right as the alien invasion begins.
The aliens, as shown in the trailer, are monstrous, carnivorous tribbles. So we have this city couple, who knows nothing at all about country survival, attempting to survive the Death Tribble Invasion all by themselves. And I thought, this is exactly the movie I want: a ridiculous space-horror spoof. It looked like it was going to be a cross between GalaxyQuest and Cabin In The Woods, two of my all-time favorite films.
And at the end of it, all I can say is that the title should be taken as an earnest warning to the viewer.
Tragically, this effort fell short. Far, far short.
It begins with a very, very slow build-up to the actual invasion. And I do not mind slow-build movies. Some horror movies work very well this way. The original Alien comes to mind. But Alien was not supposed to be a comedy. And in this case, the slow burn only serves to become tedious.
Once they get to the cabin, there are a few funny moments, as the protagonists miss signs of the invasion going on at the edge of the camera, but the movie relentlessly focuses on their boring, cliched relationship, leading me to conclude that this movie either a) did not really know what it was supposed to be about nearly as well as the trailer-writers did, or b) this script was born of the conflict between two factions: one of which wanted to make the goofball/spoof movie the trailer had promised, and the other of which was trying to make a sensitive movie about love in extremes and first contact with aliens, a la Arrival.
This combination did not work well.
The upshot is that just as the protagonists realize the Awful Truth, and Team GalaxyQuest‘s film is starting to take off comedically, Team Arrival’s film raises the stakes by introducing, among other things, a traumatically orphaned baby. And with that, dear readers, the comedy is dead. Adding a baby to anything even remotely resembling a real situation — and by that I mean anything less goofball than say, an Airplane! movie — is going to kill the funny faster than potassium cyanide. It just raises the emotional pitch far too high.
From there, the film staggers on to a complete non-ending. I really don’t want to do spoilers, here, but the whole serious/horror thread was much better done by another Amazon film, The Vast Of Night, which is a available to watch for FREE on Amazon Prime. And if you’re in the mood for it, I sincerely recommend you watch it instead.
Back in the bad old days when I worked at that wretched hive of scum and humorlessness, Barnes and Noble, I invented a game. You see, we were located directly across from Michigan State University’s campus, and every summer as the students returned, we were inundated with wave after wave of clueless students, who expected us to receive their needs via a secret magical pipeline. Bear in mind that this was 2003, and everyone was confidently predicting that Amazon was going to tank, just like the rest of ebusiness had. So, no. No magic pipeline. Anyway, one summer, bracing myself for the inevitable waves of inane inquiries, I came up with the following Scavenger Hunt for my fellow booksellers. It got me in trouble, because my boss had agreed to the excision of her soul in exchange for her lordly title of Store Manager. So I reproduce it for you, in memory of days well gone by, and in reminder to treat the retail workers extra well this year:
I can pretty much swear I got asked every one of these questions.
Student Scavenger Hunt
Good between 8/20 and 9/20, all employees may play. This game depends on the honor system; lying to get high point totals makes you a loser. Count up the number of times you hear each phrase from a student and add points according to value.
Is this… . . .Barnes & Noble? (+1) . . .Borders? (+2) . . .The Student Book Store? (+3)
Why don’t you carry textbooks? (+3) But my professor said you carried textbooks. (+5) But my professor said you carried this textbook. (+5) But my professor said all we had to do was mention his/her name and you’d be holding copies for us. (+6)
Do you have maps of campus? (+1) . . .that show where all the bars are? (+3) . . .that show where all the frat houses are? (+5)
Where can I find books for (particular course number)? (+1) But none of the other bookstores have it either. (+2) But on the internet it said you had it. (+4)
Can you order it? (+1) How long will it take to get here? (+1) Why does it take so long? (+2) But I need it tomorrow. (+2) What am I supposed to do now? (+5)
How much is this? . . .when there is no price on the book (+1) . . .when the price is visible only in the bar code (+1) . . .when the price is in small print on the back or inside cover (+2) . . .when the price is in large print on the back or inside cover (+3) . . .when the price is in large white print on the blue back cover of Test Yourself IQ Tests (+35)
Do you have. . . . . .Hamlet? (+1) . . .Walden? (+1) . . .On The Road? (+1) . . .The Great Gatsby? (+1) . . .Enchiladas, Rice and Beans? (+1) . . .I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? (+1) . . .Structural Dynamics of Thermonuclear Exchange Systems? (+2)
How come you ran out of. . . . . .Walden? . . .The Great Gatsby? . . .Structural Dynamics of Thermonuclear Exchange Systems? (+1 x number of words in the title)
Can’t you look it up by. . . . . .the course number? (+3) . . .my professor’s name? (+5) . . .my name? (+15)
BONUS: Most hilariously wrong title requested (e.g. Good Gatsby, or Why Don’t Caged Birds Sing?): +50
Yeah, BATTLE GROUND isn’t out yet. So I can’t spoiler it.
So, obviously, Jim Butcher has a lot of fans, and I have gotten more hits off my last Jim Butcher post about my theories of what’s really going on in PEACE TALKS and I think I’ve figured out something.
If you go back and read my last post, you’ll know that my major theory is that Justine is a lot more than she appears to be in the story. Even Harry notices that Justine’s first question is not about Thomas, but about what Lara knows. Add to that that she is pregnant, which she really shouldn’t be. But mostly, there’s Thomas’s repeated attempts to say something that sounds like “Justine,” and each time, Harry takes it as a plea for him to help Justine. Each time he does this, Thomas breaks down.
And the whole theme of the story is misdirection: Harry is warned repeatedly, even by himself, that he is being betrayed. And yet, by the end, no betrayals have happened. Eithniu’s appearance unites the Accorded Nations. Not even the ghouls dare betray it. So where is the betrayal coming from? The only betrayal we see is Thomas’s attack on Etri, which apparently fails, and before that, Thomas says to Harry that he has “a solution in mind.”
I have already theorized that Thomas is trying to warn Harry about Justine, not ask him to protect her. So who could imitate Justine so well that it would fool Thomas, and possibly become pregnant all at the same time? Where have we seen an enemy that can imitate others at will, down to the smallest detail? Who is expert at offering the solution to impossible problems? And who has a great interest in hurting Harry?
I suggest that “Justine” is Hannah Ascher and Lasciel. She, possibly at the bidding of the now-discredited Nicodemus, possibly as part of a bid to replace Anduriel as Captain of the Fallen, has replaced Justine and seduced Thomas into impregnating her, possibly using her powers to ensure a viable pregnancy. Presumably, Lasciel would be able to ensure that Hannah lived through the pregnancy.
There are now two possibilities that explain Thomas’s “attack” on Etri, the details of which we know very little: only that he “entered under false pretenses” (Evanna) and was caught “on camera” (Lara).
Thomas tried to get help from the svartalves, possibly seeking to pay them with the “third favor” that Mab had already done for Lara. We know faerie favors can be held and traded. Lara may have “spent” it by giving it to Thomas. “Justine” accompanied him, but veiled herself to everyone else. She then attacked Etri, and Thomas tried to defend him. To Etri and everyone else, it would have appeared that Thomas launched an attack.
Alternatively, “Justine” may have exposed Thomas to a coin (maybe even her own), in which case he has a piece of a Fallen, like Harry did with Lasciel. Lasciel in that state projected herself into Harry’s mind and made him believe he was talking to someone who wasn’t there. This fragment may have imitated “Justine” and taken him to the svartalves and launched an illusory attack, with the same results as above.
Either way, Thomas now knows what “Justine” is, and wants to warn Harry, but can’t. And Justine is now guarded by the FBI, cops, Goodman Grey, and Lara, a seemingly helpless, loyal spider at the heart of the White Court, defended by the very people she is plotting to destroy.
So, the launch of ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS is truly well begun. Over 100 copies were purchased this week. 11 reviews. Exactly how many, I don’t know, because the print books haven’t shipped yet. I know that’s pretty small potatoes for some authors, but it’s a big helping for me.
I truly want to thank some people by name. Please know that if I did not name you, I still very much appreciate your purchase and your word-of-mouth spread of the book’s title. If I tried to mention everyone, I would inevitably leave people out.
Thanks to fellow authors Larry Correia and Jim Hines for using their HUGE platforms to spread the word. Thanks to fellow authors Chris Ruocchio and Dave Butler for blurbing the book. Thanks to superfans Ralph Seibel and Kat Adams for giving copies of the book to people. Thanks to my good friend Jon Miles and most of all my wife, Katie for encouragement, and in the case of Katie, a LOT of veterinary information so I wasn’t TOO much of an idiot.
The launch is going extremely well, thanks to awesome fellow authors like Larry Correia, Jim C. Hines, Brad Torgersen, D. J. Butler and Chris Ruocchio, who have graciously blurbed and/or spread the word about the relaunch, sales are beyond my expectations! And thanks are EVEN MORE due to my awesome fans who have also shared the news about my book! Thank you all!