Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review: Making Peace

I've been following Adam Lane Smith on Twitter for a while now. A few months ago, he asked me to look over his (first) novel of Making Peace. The review was held off due to the fact that my Kindle died.

But, now that one of my wedding gifts was a Kindle Fire, I'm now back up and running again.

So, Making Peace ...
Interstellar romance author Belkan Candor has had a string of bestsellers, and his latest hit, My Mech, My Love, is flying off store shelves. When he takes a job as an embedded journalist with a peacekeeping organization, he expects a plush assignment with a big payout. What he gets is an exposé into human trauma and psychological pain, and a twisted conspiracy on an entire planet looking to stay off the grid.
Swords are swinging and magic is flinging, and Belkan is right in the center of it. Assassins, serial killers, prostitutes, and obsessed romance novel fans collide in a web of intrigue and violence which threatens to tear his world apart.
Will he survive, or will this novel be the death of him?
Image result for making peace adam smith
I even like the cover art.
Here's the short version: This is the best epic fantasy novel I've read in years. It's even better than Correia's Son of the Black Sword.

Hell, it starts with a flipping memo, and it isn't boring. Which is an achievement all by itself. Then again, the memo has a fun bit of meta-humans. ("I noted that bit in the waiver you had me sign: death by, among other things, giant lizards? This book had better make enough to settle all my debts")


Our hero, Mr Candor (really, Mister Smith? Really?) is essentially sent to serve in a less friendly Ankh-Morpork, only played less for laughs. (Or just shown from street level, which is fairly messy to start with). Only a war between the noble houses is brewing and the peacekeepers are the only ones who can nip it in the bud before there's riots and blood in the street ....

If you're also a fan of Terry Pratchett, you might think of this as Thud!, as told from the perspective of the city accountant who is sent to audit the Watch, only to be drafted into the front lines of the riot squad.

And yes, I'm comparing Smith to Sir Terry. If you have a problem with that, then buy the book, read it, and tell me where I'm wrong.

But, yeah, this was awesome, from start to finish. I wish I had been writing this well for my first published novel.

Overall, the characters carried this one for the most part. And there's a nice solid formula for character exposition -- because our narrator is an embedded, so of course he can interview each character for in-depth pieces. That formula isn't even that formulaic, because there's an issue while trying to interview the team barbarian, but what else can you expect from barbarians? We still get the character exposition in a genuine and organic manner -- while being held at knife point.

And yes, I will admit, there are elements that are formulaic and simple, but it's a helpful for the readers as they track the six characters we open with, before Smith goes into the depth of each character. And yes, each character has depth. Hell. even the character development and evolution was subtle and so gently sloping that you don't really notice it happening until it's already happened -- and yes, it was happening the entire time.

You could say that this is a very simple fantasy story, but that's only if you're not paying attention.

I spent a lot of Making Peace appreciating this from a technical perspective. "Gee, cute, I can track most character attributes through the names" -- which were Shield, Ugly, Candor and Vapor (the water nano-mage who's part cyborg and part Raven from Teen Titans). It was basically an RPG party-- barbarian, healer, mage, rogue, bard -- which will make the PulpRev crowd happy (I'd note more, but I the closest I've ever come to D&D is Order of the Stick). But this was both highly entertaining as well as technically sweet.

Smith also does a nice does of genre-blending. Mages come from nanite enhancements. We have magic and Valkyries, but three of our characters are from off planet. We have an odd sort of coming of age story, a thriller, at least one romance and total war. He's got political intrigue that easily outdoes George Rape Rape Martin, a story and setting that would make Terry Pratchett happy, and just enough philosophical depth that would entertain John C Wright or Tim Powers (certainly more deep than Neil Gaiman, who is about as deep as a dinner plate in comparison to Smith).

Frankly, my only problem with the book is that chapter 2 is almost pure data dump. Going from chapter 1, which is a fight in an alley, where he's been wounded, to the data dump of chapter 2 is a moment of whiplash. But even that is well-balanced within the story, due to the narrator serving as an embedded reporter. But honestly, it's not how I would have done it. I skimmed and skipped most of the chapter, and didn't even notice.

So yes, Making Peace was awesome. Go buy it now. Leave a review demanding a sequel, please, because I would like more of these characters.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Quick Updates

There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes over at Silver Empire and Declan Finn, Inc.

You all know about Hell Spawn. As soon as the sale link goes up, I'll post it on the blog.

Something you may not know, however....

Lover at First Bite is going to be coming out in hardcover.

Yes, hardcover. I'm actually quite excited about it.

If you're one of those people who will only read electronic (or paperback), they're already out.

With Hell Spawn, however, I should note that the first edition that will come out will be a hardcover.  The paper and e-editions will be coming out sooner rather than later. Within the month of the hardcover release.

This is going to be so much fun.

Monday, October 8, 2018

DEATH CULT COVER REVEAL

Since the Kickstarter broke two of three stretch goals. you have unlocked cover art for Book two of Saint Tommy, NYPD.

There are only 20 hours left to the kickstarter as of this minute. Thus far, stretch goal 1 and 2 were books 4 and 5. We need less than $400 to meet stretch goal #3, which is book 6.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Vampires in Legend, Folklore, and Fiction, DragonCon 2018

So, this panel was described as follows

Description: Long a staple of urban fantasy, vampires first appear in folklore, often unrecognizable from the versions contemporary readers and viewers are familiar with. Our panel explores how those early stories have influenced the fictional depictions they create, and others they admire.

Time: Fri 10AM Location: Chastain 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

Melissa F Olson, E.J. Stevens, Declan Finn, Clay and Susan Griffith, J.F. Lewis, Dacre Calder Stoker

This is the complete panel   



For those of you who might want my parts, as for some reason, they have the best audio, right here:



For those of you who are new here and wanted to see the video, we have the complete Love at First Bite Collection





OR





Tuesday, October 2, 2018

VIDEO: Looking at Classic Fantasy from the Viewpoint of Today, DragonCon 2018

You will note that I have embedded this video twice in the same post. That is not a mistake. The audio and video quality is variable at different points on each video. So, I thought I should give you an option.

The above video was shot by my wife at DragonCon this year, in part because this was our honeymoon. Aww, isn't that cute?  (Okay, there was a bit of CYA, after what happened to Dave Truesdale at WorldCon a few years ago.)

The video below is the official DragonCon video footage.

To be honest, this was a fun, fun panel to be on. The audience was great, the panelists were amazing. Everyone was sane. Who knew?

The description of the panel is as follows:

The Isms: Looking at Classic Fantasy from the Viewpoint of TodayDescription: Social consciousness changes, but books are forever. Something that was once progressive today may seem anything but. Are these works simply products of their time or true reflections of the person? Let's not toss the dragonet out with the Hatching Sand and shells. *Trigger Warning*

Time: Sat 10:00 pm Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

(Panelists: Jody Lynn Nye, Larry Niven, Declan Finn, Lisa Manifold. Moderator: Toni Weisskopf)





Monday, October 1, 2018

Hellspawn: A Change in perspective

Before I knew anything about the characters of Hellspawn, before I ever started the plot, I was only certain about a handful of things.

The premise was a cop who would become a saint versus a serial killer possessed by a demon.

And that the first line was "My name is Thomas Nolan, and I am a Saint."

Yes, I know, fun, ain't it?

But that's not the point in this instance.

I always knew it would be first person. In part because that was the only way to get the premise through immediately.

Anyone who knows anything about Catholic doctrine and sainthood should already know how Nolan's story ends. Just from that one line.

But no, it had to be first person. There were other options, but none felt valid. Why? Because "I'm going to tell you all about this Saint" really just sounds like I'm painting him in pastels and bright pretty colors. Perfect characters don't change. They don't grow. They don't have to. After all, they're perfect.

The best way to keep him from being perfect was to show his actions from his point of view.

Why? Because even Saint Francis is on record as saying "I am the worst sinner I know."

You see, Saints didn't go around boasting about how awesome they were. Heck, by all accounts, Saints like Thomas Aquinas were a little bit flakey and spread jokes about his own weight and about how fat he was.

If I tell you, as a 3rd person omniscient narrator that Nolan will participate in church functions and charities and guards the little old ladies praying outside of abortion clinics, he looks almost Mary Sue level perfect and awesome.

However, if I'm inside his head, and I show you that his mind sees church functions / charities as the only way he's going to interact with people outside of his job, or he sees protecting the little old ladies as merely an extension of his job, it sounds an awful lot more practical than being holier-than-thou. In fact, he sees a lot of what he does as "Why not? I have the time / energy / etc." He thinks he loses nothing. But he has no idea what his "Why not?" will cost him in the long term.

You see, one of the problems in character generation that a lot of people have seems to be creating a character who is both a good person, and also interesting. This is largely a conversation for another time. But I didn't want to fall into the trap of "Christian Fiction Mary Sue." Lord, I hate that.

But just because he's good doesn't mean he's not dangerous. As I noted earlier, in the middle of a firefight, he has no problem shooting people in the back -- especially if announcing himself will merely serve to get him shot. I can't even discussed some of the other fight scenes...

Then again, since I've written two of them back to back, the lines sort of blur between the books. Also, there's so much action, it's a bit of a problem picking them out. Right now, the fights that come immediately to mind is the shootout in Bellevue, the machete duel, the backyard battle .... and that's all book two, Cult of Death.  Oops.

Anyway, yeah, we need good people who aren't annoying. My best way to do it was making it first person. Because one of the nice things about saints? They don't become egomaniacs. It's probably best to show that off in order to avoid Mary Sue issues.

Click here, and support the kickstarter so you can get a sample of the first 50 pages of Hell Spawn right this minute.


Meet the Authors, Dragon Award panel 2018

This took forever to get up. Mainly because I wanted to see if anyone posted something with better audio.

Then again, I listened to it and discovered, nope, you can hear most of them.

Description: Listen to the nominees of the Dragon Awards. Maybe we will even have this year's winner sitting with us. We will have past year nominees.

Time: Sun 05:30 pm Location: International North - Hyatt 

Panelists: Declan Finn, Marina Fontaine, Larry Correia, Bill Fawcett, Mark H Wandrey, R.R. Virdi, Jonathan P Brazee,


OR

THE OFFICIAL DRAGONCON VIDEO




For those of you who are new here and wanted to see the video, we have the complete Love at First Bite Collection





OR






Friday, September 28, 2018

Hellspawn: Making the Demon

When I started writing out the outline for Hellspawn, I didn't know I was going to be writing a horror novel. I figured it was going to be a bit of a tossup between Urban Fantasy meets a police procedural.

Then I went into the details of the adversary for Hell Spawn.... and realized this was full horror.

Let's put it this way: I was congratulated by several readers on portraying R-rated murders in PG-13 ways. The only time it went really gruesome was when I described the murder in perfectly clinical terms by the ME.

It was also less the gore (since I only hinted at it) and more the impending sense of dread throughout the novel. This evil SOB felt like he could appear anywhere, at any time, for any reason. And he does.

After all, the adversary here is a demon. Just imagine every nightmare from The Exorcist, only with an adult male. And we're not simply talking about making a bed shake. I figure if this SOB is going to be telekinetic, we're going to be throwing cars.

Also, this is one villain who prefers to use a knife. Because demon -- bullets are too quick.

Of course, I also started looking into demonic infestation. Which was a problem when I'm writing scenes at two in the morning. Because take a guess what element can sometimes bring on infestation?

Thinking about it too much and too hard for too long.

Lucky me, huh?

But yeah. Part of the thing about demons? You have to read the book of The Exorcist. Why? Just so you can read all of the tests they put the possessed through. Because if you can find someone more skeptical of demons than the Catholic church without going full atheist, I'd be surprised. Not only are their a hundred tests to run, there are a hundred layers of church bureaucracy to get through. There's an army of doctors and an army of red tape.

But what happens when there are no doctors? There is no red tape? There's only a psycho trying to kill our hero and he's literally hurling cars so he can escape?

The short version: it's gonna get messy.

Click here and you can find out how to read the first 50 pages of Hellspawn TODAY. Right this minute. Then you can tell me if this is the best thing I've ever written.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

What makes Hellspawn different

Hell Spawn was a nice change because I was forced by the character to make him a good guy.

If I have one running theme in my books, it's that "People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Probably the most true thing Orwell ever wrote.

Sean A.P. Ryan in Pius? Dark.

Marco Catalano in Love at First Bite? Darker.

Then there's Tommy Nolan, a saint.

But then, just because I made him a good guy, a saint, didn't mean that I made him an angel.

Over the course of the novel, I was surprised at some of the darker choices he made, but he made them all for practical, prudent reason. And prudence is also a gift of the Holy Spirit.

But no, some of the decisions surprised me.

For example, there's a shoot out in front of the police station, an attack on the precinct house by MS-13. Now, I have been not-a-fan of MS-13 for nearly years. Around the time I learned that they were a "street gang" with RPGs, automatic weapons, and trafficked women and children for sex. We won't even go into their drug trade. Even Vince Flynn (RIP) made them a villain well over a decade ago. They are not nice people, and they need to be put into the ground whenever possible.

But during this shootout, my hero, this saint ... shot someone in the back.

I was taken aback, but he explained in the first person narration
"They're shooting at a police station. Shouting freeze! Police! would only serve to give them fair warning. Marquis of Queensbury is not written down in the Bible. The only fair fight is the one I win."
Every time I was worried about a Saint being almost mean or cynical about things here and there ... I then tripped over some real saints and how they acted. I quickly came to the conclusion that Nolan was still eligible to be a miracle-using saint. He can't be a good man if he's weak. If he's weak, then his restraint is because of weakness. If he's strong and capable of violence, but uses his might judiciously, only then can he be good.

Let's face it -- when confronted by evil, there is no negotiation. You don't negotiate a rapist down to only raping a few people. You don't ask killers to cut down on his per diem kill rate. They are either arrested, or dead. I prefer dead, which is why no one wants me to be in charge of law enforcement.

But Nolan is different in that he can smell evil. The problem for him is that when evil gets a good look at Nolan, and realize that he's looking at them a little too long, the weapons come out and the fun begins.

Thankfully, Nolan is good. But that doesn't make him weak, or limp-wristed. He doesn't mind hitting first when he sees trouble coming. He doesn't mind shooting someone in the back during a full fire fight.

And that's BEFORE the demon shows up.

Click here to see how you can read the first fun-filled 50 pages of Hell Spawn TODAY.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Hellspawn: the best thing I've ever written?

My next new release is entitled Hell Spawn, part of my "St. Tommy, NYPD" series.

It may also be the best thing I've ever written, if I go by some of the responses I've gotten.

People who read it already want to nominate it for a dragon award.

My publisher has said he thinks it's the best thing I've ever done.

My new editor (more on that later) thought it was awesome when she was only 25 pages in!

I post small snippets on Facebook, and I have get least three MORE new readers who want to read it NOW.

This isn't one of my newer ideas. I took a course on Christian Spirituality and Mysticism course in college, some (muttermumble) years ago. While I listened to some of the abilities of certain saints -- like the ability to levitate, or smell evil, or bilocate -- all I could think was "Nice. When do we get that superhero movie?"

The short answer is, as usual, if I want to see if done, I have to do it myself.... (This is usually the point where someone tells me that it's already been done, but please, I was part of the Catholic Writer's Guild for years. If someone had done it and the CWG HADN'T heard of it, then they don't deserve the name)

I don't know why, but originally, I had considered my Saint as a uniformed patrolman. Probably because I wanted to see someone wearing all of that equipment floating in the air.

When Russell asked for "a new Urban Fantasy IP," I had bounced a quick summary off of him, and he loved it.
Officer Thomas Nolan is a saint. He can smell evil. He's forgiving to the lesser criminals who are merely desperate, and even the criminals he put away tend to like him. But when a serial killer wages war on the city, he's going to face the darkness on more levels than he can imagine. Because this killer leaves a stench Nolan can follow a mile away: but proving it is going to be a problem: because how do you do forensics on a killer possessed by a demon?
That was the pitch. Russell caught it, and it became a fastball... and that expends all of my baseball metaphors.

Somewhere along the line, between the time I pitched it and the time I started pounding out the outline, my main character, Thomas Nolan, had become a detective. Huh. I'm still not 100% certain how that happened. And he's married. Which also came out of nowhere. I usually have a romance subplot somewhere in all of my stories -- be it Pius, or Winterborn, even UnSub, to some degree.

The hard part was doing the outline...

For those of you who are new here, I generally don't outline. I sit down, I start writing, and I don't stop until I need to eat or sleep. This tends to be a general strain on my ability to rest, but it keeps the words flowing. I work 9-5, if not 10-6... sometimes, 8AM-10PM. No outlines usually mean that I can throw in a gunfight whenever the I feel the plot slows down.

But Russell wanted an outline.

After a few days of dwelling on it, I had an outline. There were only two murders, but they utilized everything I knew of serial killers and everything I could put together on demonology.

Unfortunately, there was a slight error as I went along...

You see, I used everything I had on hand about demons and serial killers.

Everything.

Think about that for a moment.

Yeah, not fun.

So, this will get a little messy

So, what started as an urban fantasy definitely turned into horror.

Oops.

At least next year, when I'm nominated in Best Horror at the Dragon Awards, it'll be right on target.

Obviously, once I started writing, the outline didn't quite survive first contact with the enemy. I felt the plot slow down at least once ... so I threw in a gunfight. In the outline, I had a random encounter at his precinct ... during the writing of the novel, I had a completely different random encounter (that I hadn't outlined) that allowed me to tie everything together, and created a subplot that I hadn't known was there. This became a subplot that's running through all three novels.

And there's at least three chapters that went entirely the right direction by the wrong route.

For the record, no, that car bomb wasn't in the original outline.

I finished this novel at just under 60,000 words in 6 weeks. I was slowed down by Christmas.

Right now, the most difficult part of the series was a title -- either for the series or for the individual novel. I decided that this was going to be the series where I would name the book after the villain.

Hence Hell Spawn.


I even had a few different choices for the series. My initial idea, Patron Saint of Detectives, was a little long. Then there was NYPD Saint. Blue Saint (I didn't like the initials). Someone suggested Tin Saint. "St. Tommy, NYPD" won out.

It'll be out in October. Making it eligible for the Dragon Awards in best horror in the 2019 Dragon Awards. Heh.... Yeah. I really do want one of those awards. Not for the PR, or for the honor, necessarily, but damn those are shiny.

Book two, Cult of Death is already written, and ready to be launched.

Go to the kickstarter, and find out how YOU can read the FIRST 50 PAGES of Hell Spawn TODAY. This very minute.