Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Catholic reads: Declan Finn Returns

Catholics reads wanted me back.

I went.

Fun was had by all.

As you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..

Monday, April 15, 2019

Notra Dame, Paris, is Burning

The French revolution murdered tens of thousands of people. Many of them were priests -- even priests who had supported the revolution fell to The Terror. But they knew enough to not destroy Notre Dame.

In 1944, Adolf Hilter wanted Paris burned as his forces were driven out.

The military, however, knew better, and did nothing. If they had burned Paris to the ground, they feared that their lives would be forfeit. Considering the conclusion of the war, it was a smart play on their part. The Nazis knew not to destroy Notre Dame.

Modern day is not so smart.

2019 has seen a rash of destruction of Catholic churches throughout France. It's countrywide. 

There are only two real culprits.

The first is the same people from 1792. I don't care if you call them Robespierre or "Occupy" or whatever form the commie bastards are choosing this week, they're all the same pricks. They're anti-theist, they're nasty, and they have no qualms about destroying the past to further their agenda. In fact, the destruction of the past and the Church itself is part of their plan for success.

The second group of the usual suspects .... is exactly who you're thinking they are. If you're one of the few people who can't guess, some hints.

  • They like destroying other people's iconography (like big Buddhist statues)
  • They're responsible for trashing parts of Germany (like Hamburg on New Year's)
  • They've gotten a free pass in Europe for years because to arrest them for their crimes would be "racist against migrants."

That's right! The Amish!

No, of course not. I kid. I mean the Jews.

Oh, did I say that out loud? Sorry. I've been listening to Congresswoman Omar lately.

I meant Muslims.

There is a potential third group. There are more than a few dickheads lately who call themselves "Nordic" are anti-Christian dickheads who are your standard Incel, but feel the need to destroy things and pick on Christians so they can feel like a man. Look at Varg Vikernes. Of course, these dicks will usually pick on women. Charming, right?

I wouldn't define them as "Norse" though, since I have friends who worship Loki and Thor et al who are three times the human beings these cocksuckers are.

Either way, there are suspects. Fairly obvious and loud suspects.

Coincidentally, Notre Dame of Paris is on fire.

Now, it must, of course be too soon to declare arson, right? The fire only just happened within hours of my writing this. (Okay, the place is still on fire as I write this.) Anything could cause fire in a building that old. It's even under construction.

Look at that blaze and you tell me that went from zero to sixty before the fire department could reach them, and you tell me with a straight face that it's not arson.  Given how many churches have been trashed this year alone in France, to ask me to consider that it's NOT arson is an insult to my intelligence.

To the people who did this, I ask that you read these books and learn what your fate will be. You want to play by these rules? I war gamed the outcome.

Whoever did this will burn. We know the French are too cowardly to arrest the real perps (with luck, they'll have a quiet accident).

But that's what Hell is for.

On Gore and Horror

For those of you who read Hell Spawn, you might have noticed that it was the least glory bloody novel you may have read in a while.

Everyone knows the writing axiom of "show, don't tell." But with horror, how much do I need to show you? In fact, do I need to tell you?

Here, we have three levels of description.

If I tell you "Daniel tortures animals," that's .... very abstract. That's telling you what he does, not showing you.

If I write, "The kitten was pinned to the metal table with nails through the pads of his paws. Daniel took the scalpel to just below the cat's sternum and began the vivisection, the kitten yowling in pain and terror," do I need to show you that much more?

The third level of description involves going into specific cuts and blood and organs taken out of poor Heathcliff here, as he squirms and cries out as his life is cut away, piece by piece. But I don't think anyone needs to read that on the blog.

And this is how I got away with so much in Hell Spawn without the audience noticing. Later on in the book, I did go on into detail about what happened to our victims, but I made certain to discuss them in such basic, clinical terms, that no one made a single mention of excessive, gratuitous violence and gore. Everyone notes my fight scenes, but no one even points out ... things that I wouldn't even mention on the blog. Yes, that's how bad they are.

But no one objected, which tells me that I covered some really sensitive topics without triggering any but the most sensitive -- and the reviews tell me that they were largely the politically sensitive.

Even Christopher Lee, in his commentary on Lord of the Rings, pointed out how the unseen horror is scarier and more frightening to the viewer, because the vague, ephemeral horrors we can generate are probably more terrifying than what can be put on screen.

In this sense, I have an advantage over any filmmaker. Because I have you.

When I'm going over the crime scene of the first victim,
“Carol Whelan. Thirteen. She never made it to school. The parents work in the city, so they had to be up and out before she was even awake. She generally made it to the bus on her own.”
I nodded. “The bus stop is only a block away. Where’s school for her?”
“Grammar school down near the Cross Island. Saint Gregory the Great.”
I sighed and shook my head. “God. My son goes to Greg’s. She must have only been a year or two ahead of him. What happened to her?”
Packard frowned, stuck his hands in his pockets, and looked away. He stared off for a moment, and I was actually worried about him for a moment. My partner was perhaps the most sarcastic and cynical cop I knew in a profession that bred sarcastic and cynical.
Packard looked back at me with his deep blue eyes. “The question is more like what didn’t happen to her.
“Obvious signs of cause of death include dismemberment and disarticulation.”
I raised a brow. “Both? That seems like … I can’t tell if that’s overkill or the most disorganized psycho ever.”
“Embrace the power of ‘and,’ Tommy. From what the Medical Examiner guys could tell before they ran out of the room, most of the bones are broken, and the body cut to pieces at most of the major joints. It means ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, though he was at least nice enough to leave her head attached to her upper trunk.”
I held out a hand. I didn’t want to hear any more, and that was more than enough between now and the autopsy. “We can assume that he knows how to carve a turkey and wield a hammer. Got it. Time of death? Or did the ME not bother with a liver temperature before they ran out?”
“That would be difficult,” Packard told me. “The liver isn’t there.”
I rolled my eyes. “Of course not. It wouldn’t be a complete slasher film if the perp had left it behind. At this point, I’m just going to assume that there was a sexual component to this.”
Packard shrugged. “That’s the good news. For the moment, we can’t tell. Our brave boys from the coroner couldn’t hold onto their dinners that long. They say they’re going to go in again in a few minutes. And that was a half-hour ago.”
I sighed and shook my head. At the very least, I wasn’t there for when they had discovered any of this nightmare. It was bad enough to hear about this without having to perform an in-depth examination to discover these horrors myself. “Now here’s a real question: How did everyone beat me here? I literally walked to the crime scene, Alex.”
He shrugged, and finally gave me a small, cynical smile that I knew him best for. “There was a debate about whether or not we should invite you in. We had to get hold of Statler and Waldorf to make certain that you were clear to work a crime scene already. Wouldn’t want this guy to get off on a stupid technicality—though they’re all stupid, really. This assumes he makes it to trial. Circulate the crime-scene photos around Rikers Island, I wouldn’t lay money on him lasting long, unless he’s in solitary the entire time.” Packard’s smile became evil. “But I’m told that’s cruel and unusual punishment.”
I gave him a flicker of a smile to show that I saw what he did there, but I wasn’t in a mood to be amused. While I fully believed what I had told Internal Affairs that afternoon, and I knew that most of our perps were good people who did bad things, there were two exceptions that I had experienced: rapists, and people who committed crimes against children. It wasn’t a coincidence that those two had the highest recidivism rate, and they seemed to be completely unrepentant. Funny enough, other criminals tend to enforce their own death penalty on them when they could.
“Anything else?”
Packard nodded. He pulled out his phone and flipped through a series of photographs. He picked one, played with the magnification, then showed it to me. “Then there was this.”
I leaned forward. It was a photograph of the crown of Carol Whelan’s head. She was apparently a brunette, but that was the only detail I could make out about her. The picture was focused on what looked like a large-bore needle mark in the girl’s head, and possibly her skull. “What the hell?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, Tommy.”
I frowned. This was the “cleanest” part of the murder, from what was described, and the most puzzling. Then again, it was like there were two killers: one was precise and methodical, who made incisions to disarticulate joints and used a needle; and a second killer who was violent, deranged, and broke bones apart.
“It’s too much to hope for fingerprints left in a pool of blood?” I asked.
Packard pulled back the phone. “Yup. Even though he did enough finger painting.”
I blinked. Did I miss a memo? “Explain, please?”
“Oh, right, the Jackson Pollock in her blood. One second.” He flipped through the photographs on the phone again, then handed it back to me. “Make like it’s Tinder and swipe right.”
I did. It was like Packard had made it just for me. There were no images of Carol Whelan, but there were plenty of the walls. I presumed that the red and black “paint” was her blood.
There was a circle with some spikes coming out of it, and what looked like a hand with an apple being thrust at the circle. There was no reason I could think of, but the image left me cold. The next one looked like squiggles, though it could have been a language that didn’t use the Latin script. The third image was a triangle with lines coming out of it, and an oval in the middle. It looked like a bizarre child’s drawing, with art materials prepared by Stephen King. The last and final one looked like nothing so much as a demonic cow, complete with horns. If the circle and apple left me cold, this dropped the temperature to “sub-zero.”
“He’s not getting into art school, that’s for certain,” I drawled. I made certain to text the relevant photos over to my phone and then handed Packard his. “Has anyone checked the organs? Or is that also something the ME didn’t get around to yet?”
“The latter. But I can’t blame them. This is one meat puzzle I wouldn’t want to assemble.”
“Any sign of forced entry?”
“None. Windows are shut tight. Doors were locked. The parents had to unlock the front door with a key.”
I winced. “Which one found her?”
I nodded, and turned towards the house. It was time to head inside. “Shall we?”
Packard put away the phone, and we went inside.
I did my best and did not gag with the scent of blood the moment I opened the door. In fact, there was no decay in the air, which I would have expected, given everything that Packard had told me.
I will spare you the gorier details on the corpse of young Carol Whelan. It was indeed a mess. The only relevant detail was the layout of her remains. Each part that had been disarticulated was itself split in half. Each piece was carefully laid on the floor like she had been laid out on a bed, or a slab in the morgue. But there was nearly an inch of space between each part, just to show that they had been separated.
This was perhaps the neatest, most organized crazy person ever.
The second relevant detail … the floor was wall-to-wall carpet, so we all needed to slip paper coverings over our shoes, just to make certain that we didn’t tread blood all over the place. It was probably too late, but minimizing contamination was a real hazard. I was trying to reconcile how much blood had soaked the carpet with how much was on the wall. Who knew she had so much blood in her?
It's amazing what you can get away with when you're being clinical, isn't it?

Another, larger part of horror?


In the middle of the day, a loud thud in your house is annoying. If you're alone in the house, and it's someplace upstairs, you're wondering what valuable thing fell over. Or what the cat jumped on now. Or what bit of breeze trashed part of a room. Worst case scenario, you pause and hold your breath, waiting for some second bit of noise to tell you if someone has broken into your house. If you're really concerned -- you live in a bad neighborhood or have a string of robberies lately -- then you grab a gun or call 911.

A loud thump outside a hotel room is similarly annoying, especially in the middle of the night. Even a loud series of thumps isn't going to scare you that much. Some idiot is screwing around in the hall, some family can't keep their kids under control.

However, when the floor above your head is going THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP   THUMP THUMP.... and there's no one else in the house, that's when you grab a gun and call 911... Or if you are a cop, you go and investigate yourself.

Then he turns the lights on and the thumps stop, and no one is in the attic.

This is when the problems start.


Anyway, those are just my thoughts on horror.

When I start writing City of Shadows, I wanted that. Which is why Tommy should pay really close attentions to the shadows. Heh Heh heh

Anyway, please buy City of Shadows. As you wait for the book to download,  please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Lunch Stream: Catholicism WOW! With Declan Finn and Jon del Arroz

Obviously, this was done late last year .... and I only just got around to posting it. Because I'm six places at once these days.

Butthis was fun.

The audio on my end sucked, though.

As you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..

Saturday, April 13, 2019

City of Shadows, Chapter 1 Playlist

When writing City of Shadows, it was the first time I had ever noticed that the music was integral to the plot. Strangely enough. It's one of the few times I had marked the music as I wrote.

And this time, it's all Sabaton.

Chapter 1: Missionary Position

Do I have to mention that the first scene takes place in Rome?

This one, strangely enough, was almost more of a Ghost story. Don't even ask me why I thought it worked. It just did.

I was writing a short story for Daniel Humphreys for his Place called Hope series. Elements of that found me using this song a lot.

And so I ended up using it for this. Let's say there was spillage.

I, too, was a fan of the movie 300.

Obviously, so was Sabaton.

Considering the title, I'm surprised I didn't use this song more during my vampire series.

Anyway, you can get City of Shadows here.

While you're listening to the music,  please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Review: Murder in the Vatican, The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes

I recently discovered that this blog post disappeared from the blog.

It needs to come back.

When I was thirteen, I started reading through the collected stories of Sherlock Holmes. I made it about halfway through. I had been stopped dead by "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott"—one of two times that Holmes was the narrator.  I wasn't the only one who had a problem with that story. Another author of the day, G.K. Chesterton, said that the Gloria Scott showed why Watson was relevant: because Holmes was an awful storyteller.

Since then, I have been critical of anything about Sherlock Holmes written after the death of Arthur Conan Doyle. Some stories went wildly off track. Others were riddled with so many anachronisms it was painful. Of the vast quantity of Holmes-related material published, my family of readers owns only a fraction.

When Robert Downey Jr. starred in Sherlock Holmes, I crossed my fingers and hoped it didn't suck … instead, I got a checklist of what they did right.

When Doctor Who scribe and show runner Steven Moffat created a show called Sherlock, I also crossed my fingers. It was surprisingly awesome.

Then I heard about Murder in the Vatican. The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes on the newsletter for the Catholic Writers Organization. It had an interesting premise: author Ann Margaret Lewis takes Watson's offhand references of Holmes working on cases for the Pope, or involving religious figures, and turns them into entire stories.

I experienced the same feeling of dread. How off would the narration be? Would someone try converting Holmes? How lost would a detective from Victorian, Anglican England be in Catholic Rome? How many different ways were there to screw this up?

I stopped worrying when I read the first sentence.  And, oh my God, this book is awesome!  I loved this book....

Lewis caught the voice of Dr. John Watson as though she had taken it, trapped in a bottle, and used it to refill her pen into as she wrote. I liked the voice. I liked Watson, the doctor, trying to diagnose an ailing Leo XIII (85 at the time of the events of the first story). I like the brief sketch of the political situation between the Vatican and Italy. I even enjoy Watson's discomfort at the Pope slipping into “The Royal We” when he speaks of himself as The Pope.  Even the artwork was as though it had been lifted from issues of The Strand magazine.

Someone had fun here, and it shows.

Thankfully, there is no overt attempt to convert Holmes, evangelize or proselytize him. There is only enough theology in the entire novel that explains to the casual reader exactly what the heck the Pope is doing. The closest the book comes to exposing Holmes to theology is a page-long sequence that ends with Leo saying, “Perhaps you should spend some of your inactive time pondering that conundrum [of Jesus] instead of indulging in whatever narcotic it is with which you choose to entertain yourself.”  That is the best zinger I've ever seen a character use on Holmes regarding his drug use.  Even the most secular person I know can appreciate a page of theology for one of the better one-liners I've ever seen.

Also, the little things were entertaining for a nerd like me. For example, the casual mention of John Cardinal Newman, referred to as “a recent convert.” The political situation at the time is given just enough of a sketch to explain what's going on, but nothing obtrusive; history nerds like me can be satisfied, but you don't have to have a degree in it to comprehend what's going on.

There are truly parts where the novel seems to merge all the best qualities of Sherlock Holmes with those of G.K. Chesterton's Fr. Brown short stories ...

At this point, I must make a small confession. I write these reviews as I read the book. There is plenty of backtracking, to fill the blanks, and rewrite it as the book goes. I wrote the above line when I finished the first tale. In fact, the interview questions I sent to Ann Margaret Lewis were written before I even received a review copy of the book.  I then read “The Vatican Cameos,” and discover a Deacon, named Brown …

I swear I didn't see that coming.

The first story in this collection is "The Death of Cardinal Tosca."

In this memorable year '95 a curious and incongruous succession of cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous investigation of the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca -- an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of His Holiness the Pope  . . . .

—Dr. John H. Watson, “The Adventure of Black Peter
Imagine Sherlock Holmes on vacation … if you see that vacation turning out like an episode of Murder, She Wrote, with a body hitting the floor at some point, you pretty much have the setup. It has a poison pen letter, with real poison, some Masons, references to two different cases in the space of two paragraphs, and a Papal commando raid with a real pontiff. This story is so delightfully odd and over-the-top, but still preserves as much reality as any other Holmes tale. I enjoyed every moment of it. And I can't argue with any story where the pope gets most of the amusing one-liners.

Heck, even the murderer gets in a good line.  When confronted, our first killer sneers.  “Let me guess. You're going to explain, to the amazement of your friends, how I did the deed?”  Holmes replies, “I've already told them that. It would be old news. They already know you blundered badly.”

I think the story concludes on a nice, solid note.  As Holmes tells Watson, “[Leo XIII] is genuinely pious. He is also imperious, but in a most endearing way.”

Watson merely replies, “Yes, well. I'm used to that.”

The second tale, "The Vatican Cameos," is a bit of a flashback episode to when Holmes first met the Pope. Leo XIII has sent a collection of cameos to Queen Victoria. The cameos are secured tightly in the box they're delivered in, but upon their arrival in London, the box is empty. The Queen has a simple solution: send Sherlock Holmes. Watson is busy with a medical emergency, so he wasn't around.

When Watson asks Sherlock about the incident, Holmes says, quite clearly “Watson, I am incapable of spinning a tale in the way you do. The narrative would read like a scientific treatise.”

Madam Lewis certainly read "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott."

So, there is only one person left who can narrate this tale … the Pope himself. This was the story that truly showed that the author did her research, assembling little details of Leo XIII's interests and hobbies and putting them together into a rich, vibrant character. He is shown here as witty, humorous, and bright.

The byplay between Leo XIII and Holmes in this story was marvelously entertaining. The Pope is shown to be about as smart as Watson … maybe a little smarter. When Holmes first meets the Pontiff, and rattles off conclusions in his usual rapid-fire manner, the Pope takes a minute, and deduces how Holmes came to most of them. Not all, but most. This is a wonderful inversion of what is so typical of early Sherlock Holmes films—in the Basil Rathbone movies, whenever Holmes walked onto the screen, the IQ of everyone in the room dropped about ten points. Making Leo this smart only serves to make Holmes as impressive as he should be—yes, everyone else may be smart, but Holmes is smarter.

Also, having Leo XIII using Thomas Aquinas to talk with Holmes of reason and science … it works for me.

And the scene with Holmes, the Pope, and the gunman was fun, too.
"You know that I am preoccupied with this case of the two Coptic Patriarchs, which should come to a head to-day."

Sherlock Holmes, “The Retired Colourman”
"The Second Coptic Patriarch": The third and final tale is from yet another throwaway line of Arthur Conan Doyle's.

In this case, a former criminal comes to Holmes to solicit his services; the priest who converted him away from his life of crime is in jail for murder. A bookstore owner has been murdered with a book (“The Rule of Oliver Cromwell--weighty subject, no doubt,” Holmes quips), and the priest will only say that the victim was dead when he arrived.  It's almost Sherlock Holmes meets Alfred Hitchcock ... I didn't know someone could do I Confess like this. It's a fun little read, and possibly the most traditional of the Holmes stories -- it's a good tale.  From the perspective of the overall book, it's a perfect cap to the character arc.

Now, after reading Murder in the Vatican, I think I'm going to go back and finish the Sherlock Holmes series -- and keep Murder in the Vatican handy, so I can read them all in chronological order.

Ann Lewis said that the book was "meant to be fun and lift your heart for a short time. I had a blast writing it, and I hope you have a blast reading it."

Mission accomplished.

At the time I read this book, I had been reading another recent work of Sherlock Holmes-related fiction called The Sherlockian.  It was written by a Graham Moore, and it was about a Sherlock Holmes nerd who was sucked into a murder mystery.

Between the two of them, read Murder in the Vatican.

And, now, a surprise .... a sneak peek of the novel.


An Excerpt

From “The Case of Cardinal Tosca”

“Good Lord.” Harden’s face grew pale. “Rosalinda—!”

Pope Leo blanched as well. Tapping his right fist in his opposite hand, he turned to look out the window behind him. The rain clouds had now blotted the sun, making it seem as dusk in the early afternoon sky.

The pope turned back to us, his dark eyes flashing with decision. “Giocomo!” He commanded suddenly. “Come here.”

Father Dionisio came quickly to his master’s side.

“Remove your cassock.”


“Subito!” As Leo spoke, he lifted the pectoral cross over his head and set it on the table. He then unwrapped the sash from around his waist and tossed it on his chair. “Presto! Presto! We have no time to waste.”

Hurriedly, the young man unbuttoned his cassock even as Leo unbuttoned his own. Holmes came around the table and knelt to help Leo with the lower buttons.

“What on earth —?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” said Holmes.

Dionisio removed his cassock and stood in simple black shirt, clerical collar and black trousers. Holmes helped Leo slip out of his white cassock and into the black gown provided by Dionisio. The black was almost the right size, though fuller through the midsection due to Dionisio’s thicker frame.

“You’re not serious, Holiness,” said Harden. “You’re not actually leaving the Vatican. Someone may recognise you—”

“‘If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship,’” Leo replied, quoting what I later learned was Aquinas. “‘He would keep it in port forever.’” He buttoned the top of the cassock while Dionisio crouched to fasten the bottom. “We must go. An innocent child is in danger for my sake.”

“Signore Harden is right, Holiness,” said Dionisio from floor. “This is madness.”

Basta.” Leo pulled the young man from the ground by the elbow. He gestured emphatically with an open hand to the top of his head. “Portami un cappello. Presto!” Dionisio dashed into the next room. “And black stockings and shoes—ah, never mind I’ll find something.” The pontiff marched with remarkable energy into a side room that I guessed to be his sleeping area and returned promptly with black calf-length boots. His gentleman servant now trailed him protesting in rapid Italian as His Holiness moved. While the pontiff sat on a small bench to kick off his red slippers and pull on the boots, the agitated servant knelt beside him rambling so quickly that neither Harden nor I could decipher any meaning from him.

Apparently the meaning didn’t register to Leo either. “Basta, basta, BASTA!” He barked, stomping his boot-covered foot. He pointed a thumb to his chest. “Ego sum Petros!” He made sweeping gesture to drive the man from in front of him. “Vai!” Struck with terror, the butler dodged from the old man’s path as Leo charged to a baroque style cherry wood cabinet. From it he removed a worn, black leather case that he tucked under his arm. He finished buttoning his cuffs and Dionisio returned with a small, wide-brimmed black hat, which Leo snatched from him. He then plucked off his white zucchetto and slapped it into the bewildered priest’s hands.

“Allora, Signori,” Leo said to us, dropping the black hat on his head. “Andiamo.”

“You’ve forgotten one detail, Padre,” said Holmes, in reference to the pope’s new attire.


“L’anello.” Holmes held up his right hand and pointed to his fourth finger.

“Ah.” Leo pulled the fisherman’s ring from his finger and dropped it into the left pocket of the black cassock. The young priest then handed him a tall black umbrella, and Leo set its end to the floor with authoritative thud.

It is amazing how clothes can change the appearance of a man. Where once stood the proverbial Vicar of Christ on Earth, now stood a simple, venerable Italian priest. Strangely, he resembled the aged Italian cleric persona Holmes once adopted to avoid the notice of Professor Moriarty.

I glanced at Holmes and saw him giving me a knowing grin. “Very well then,” he said. “As the man says—let’s go.”

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Writing City of Shadows -- #PulpRev speed ahead

People have noted that I pump out a book in 4-6 weeks. That's usually when I'm dragging my feet or when someone is trying to get me to work on real world projects when I'd rather be working the day job -- which is pumping out books.

I am the KU book factory. Bwahahaha.


But for City of Shadow, I was going to go a little deeper into the pulp rabbit hole.

Enter "the Soul Stone."

Before anyone starts Googling, the closest I've ever seen is has been an accessory for weapons in Elder Scrolls ... and the stones are charged by sucking the souls out of the things you kill. If you get a black soul stone, you can suck the life out of a human being. You can then use the power of a soul to ... keep a magical weapon charged.

Oh please. Surely we can take a human soul, something with enough power to mold and shape the world, and use it for somewhat grander goals, right?

But where do you find something like that in human history?

I'm a historian. I know we don't have any....

I also know that human history doesn't anywhere near cover the existence of the human race. The entire Silmarillion could be a textbook, set before a natural catastrophe that hit the reset button on the planet, and we never would have known.

And in Genesis we are told of a time when giants walked the Earth, and Nephilim wreaking havoc.

I can play with this.

In the book, I describe it like this.
It was beautiful, in a goth sort of way. It was like a black, Satanic Faberge egg. It was brilliant, translucent, and dark. The very sight of it filled me with dread. There were natural, almost fluid striations on either side, within the stone itself. They were clearly below the gleaming, faceted surface. One set of striations were blood red. The other set was a startling silver. If they weren’t embedded inside of a millennia-old diamond, I would have thought they were runes. They're a language that no one has ever seen before. It predates … everything. Yet there are no tool marks on the stone. There’s no way that this should exist. The soul stone is entirely impossible. 
The legend is simple: that it was given to the first pharaoh by Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead himself. And if it was ever misused, it would annihilate any who use it.... And it wiped out Thinis, the first capital of Egypt. So much so we barely know it even exists.

Now, since a weapon that levels the city (like, say, the entire Greater London area) is something you build up to, and not confront over the course of the entire novel.  Unless of course, you can use the main threat to create other threats, more manageable threats, that won't annihilate the entire city... but will kill the hero.

How about taking little flecks of the stone and giving it to casual thugs? They can use it for their own whims -- which will be, of course, to give them superpowers.

In short: I wanted to fight the X-Men as casual minions. Heh heh heh.

Then there was going to be a running shootout in a flaming temple, a chase scene in the middle of London in the middle of a riot, escaping an exploding skyscraper from the top floor, and then a knife fight with an SAS commando.

Then it gets crazier when Tommy has to confront the Soul Stone itself. Because an unknown artifact from the dawn of time may have an attitude problem.

So yeah, it's gonna be FUN.

As you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Writing City of Shadows -- a return to Horror

City of Shadows is going to be a little tonally different from Death Cult and Infernal Affairs. In fact, it's going to feel a little more like Hell Spawn. Not because I'm going over the same ground, but because I'm going back to a horror novel.

Yes, I know I stumbled into horror the more I wrote Hell Spawn, but hey, it worked. For  Death Cult and Infernal Affairs, I was focused on my original mission -- make an urban fantasy novel.

I didn't put any thought into the tone of the books. Death Cult had a similar tone, but that was largely because of the subject matter being handled. Infernal Affairs just threw it all out the window as the larger world of demons and monsters came at Nolan in a fast and furious flurry of fighting,

With City of Shadows, oh, we're going back to horror.
London is alive with the sound of shadows.

When Tommy Nolan was sent abroad to avoid being made a saint too soon, he thought he'd be a glorified tourist. But when an impossible prehistoric artifact the Vatican is looking at is stolen from the British Museum, they do the first thing that comes to mind -- they call the cops.

But Tommy is soon convinced that the artifact is more than it seems. The crime scene looks like a war zone. The owners of the stolen merchandise eye him with suspicion. His new partner has a shady, mysterious past. The police are ready to arrest him. The city itself seems primed to explode.

Worst of all, the darkness itself is closing in on Tommy, the city, and everyone who lives there.

But Tommy isn't one to curse the darkness. The darkness curses him.
Yeah, I had fun with this one.

You might be thinking "does this sound familiar?"  Only a little. When I wrote Infernal Affairs, I was disappointed in only one thing -- that one of the tricks in the last fight scene wasn't something that I had spread out throughout the novel. That element is where I realized that I had fallen a little too far off of the horror train.

All aboard.

Now, granted, most of this is atmospherics. But when the darkness seems to be closing in even at midday, it helps.

When the darkness itself reaches out and grabs you, that's when we start having fun.

City of Shadows should still be only $.99 this week. Enjoy.

As you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Saint Tommy Abroad -- Writing City of Shadows

To my knowledge, the NYPD is the only city police force that has its own international intelligence operators. It's getting to the point where the NYPD operates like the Texas Rangers -- their jurisdiction is wherever they are.

So, when Infernal Affairs ended the way it did, it was obvious that Tommy Nolan had to get the Hell out of town, it was easy enough to transfer .... elsewhere.

Anywhere else.

But why London? In large part because it's one of the places I know best. Sadly, I still needed to use a lot of Google maps, since I was last there 20 years ago. (Also, I've blown up a lot of Rome already in The Pius Trilogy.)

But one of the nice things with getting Tommy abroad is isolating him. He loses his friends, his family. I get to give him a new partner. He gets a total stranger. I get to grind him down and tear out his soul.

And if you're going to nail someone who gets power from God, you're going to have to grind him down and sever his connection.

Me? Sadistic? I'm a writer. That part is redundant. You can tell when even Jim Butcher enjoys talking about how much he tortures Harry Dresden.

But then again, a large part of the fun in fiction is watching our heroes get the ever loving stuffing beaten out of them and still come back for more, and stop them if you can.

And if you can't tell that I like the results I get from beating up Tommy, you should remember everything I did to him in Hell Spawn.... and remember that he still has scars from all of that.

If you think that's bad, you should see what I do to him in City of Shadows.

But isolating him works on multiple levels. You may remember in the first trilogy, Tommy called in backup. He could do that. He did do that on multiple occasions -- when he could.

But now, he's a New York Cop in the middle of Europe. The nice thing about Europe in particular is that it's slowly becoming the wild west again. Acid attacks. Rape gangs. London itself is so scared and so timid, they're banning kitchen knives and recording who buys a shovel or an ax. The next step is to ban spoons. Just wait until they learn what the average convict can weaponize....

Oh, I should note that it's still legal to carry acid around in the middle of London. Because I can't make this crap up. I really can't.

But yeah, it's a nice setup for a rough and tumble world in "civilization."

Oh, and of course, we can't forget -- our hero isn't allowed to carry his own damn gun. Because Europe.

So Tommy has no friends. He has one uncertain ally. The cops are antagonistic. The civilians aren't much better. The criminals wouldn't help him on a bet. He's got no one to back him up except for a total stranger and God Himself.

I won't say that "Then the Winged Hussars Arrived"... but close.

So there's a lot of fun elements to taking Nolan out of his element and dropping him straight into the fire.

It worked in Hell Spawn, Death Cult and Infernal Affairs.

Also, City of Shadows is $.99 this week. So this is the time to jump on board.

As you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..

Monday, April 8, 2019

NEW RELEASE: City of shadows.

City of Shadows is live and only $.99 on Amazon right now.

London is alive with the sound of shadows.
When Tommy Nolan was sent abroad to avoid being made a saint too soon, he thought he'd be a glorified tourist. But when an impossible prehistoric artifact the Vatican is looking at is stolen from the British Museum, they do the first thing that comes to mind -- they call the cops.

But Tommy is soon convinced that the artifact is more than it seems. The crime scene looks like a war zone. The owners of the stolen merchandise eye him with suspicion. His new partner has a shady, mysterious past. The police are ready to arrest him. The city itself seems primed to explode.

Worst of all, the darkness itself is closing in on Tommy, the city, and everyone who lives there.

But Tommy isn't one to curse the darkness. The darkness curses him.
But while I think about it, the entire series is $.99 this week. This means the other three books are on sale right now. Click here if you haven't gotten them already.

And, as you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..