Thursday, October 7, 2021

Lou Antonelli is dead

Louis Antonelli was a relative latecomer to being an author. He didn't publish until he was 46 years old, in 2003. But in less than 20 years, he wrote over a hundred stories to publications around the world.

His dayjob was a professional journalist, For the past six years, he was the managing editor of The Clarksville Times

His first novel was alternate history novel Another Girl, Another Planet, which was reviewed here at Upstream Reviews. When it first came out, I insisted that it be nominated for a Dragon award. He said that if he was nominated, he owed me a beer. Lucky for him, I don't drink. When a rain storm and massive traffic problems prevented him from attending DragonCon that year, he sent me his speech, just in case I had to give it for him. Sadly, it was a year Harry Turtledove was nominated.

When I came down to Dallas in 2019, Lou and his wife drove out to meet me and my wife Vanessa, and we hung out with Moira Greyland. Lou joked that it was "PuppyCon 1," and all we needed was Larry Correia.

When the Upstream Review went live last week, he texted me to thank me to the review. I was happy to hear from him, since I wanted to see him while I was visiting Texas this week. But he told me he was texting from his hospital bed. He was in for heart troubles. When I asked him how serious it was, he did not reply.

Lou Antonelli died on yesterday, October 6th, he was 64 years old.

I am in Texas for a wedding. I may have to stay for a funeral.

~Declan Finn

Texas, 2021.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Double Dragon (Award)

 If you’ve tracked … any of my movements on social media lately, you’ll know that I’ve talked often about the Dragon Awards.

What I have spelled out lately is… well… why I care. And why you should care.

Many on the right will cite the old adage “Politics is downstream from culture.”

If that’s the case, our culture is heading for a sewer.

Frankly, we should fight back. And I mean on every conceivable level.

Before you think I’m saying “Fight them except for…X.”

I’m not. But that’s another post, probably hidden behind a paywall so people who want to cancel me will have to pay for the privilege.

Why are the Dragon Awards a front in the culture war? Nerd culture is important. If you don’t believe me, look up “GamerGate“ sometime. While GG has been out of action for years (at least five years, IIRC) you’d think that it was a massive conspiracy theory on par with the Illuminati. It left a mark. You’d think the line was that “the Geek shall inherit the Earth.”

In 2020, no one cared. That front was ignored entirely. The Leftist dirtbags who are interested in taking over every aspect of American life moved in. And while DragonCon is not a bastion of the Right (just look at the parade of Handmaiden cosplayers a few years ago) it has always been a place where everyone can show up, do their own thing, and be left alone.

From my varied and sundry sources, people are trying to make it not that.

So yes, we need to push back.

Voting in the Dragons is a way of making sure that we can all push back without any investment … aside from a little bit of time.

Nominate here

Yes, the nominations are already open! I'm not even joking.

Yes, I have a list of who I’m voting for. Here, for you folks, I’m also going to give you my reason for why I’m voting for each, and why I think it’s important.

But first…

My thought process

I'm not nominating anyone who already has an award. Most of those who have won already have the attitude of “Oh, I don’t need more dust collectors.”

I’m leaving out Big Name Authors. Frankly, if you're Jim Butcher or a Baen author, you don't need my help.

If I leave the categories blank, it means I STILL got nothing.

You may wonder why I’m not having a full, massive, months-long discussion, gathering up every eligible author and product.

Been there, done that. It turned into an unmanageable mess. Authors came in a hit and run to my posts, screamed "ME ME ME" in the comments, then dropped links to their book and ran. There was no discussion. That’s it.


Best Science Fiction Novel

Image

Karl Gallagher: Storm Between the Stars.

I read it. I reviewed it. It's really quite awesome. It's like if 1984 were written by David Weber.

(My problem is that book 2 is even better... but it's probably best to nominate book ones whenever possible.)

Why is it important to nominate this?

Because 1984 should be a warning, not an instruction manual. And I think shoving it in the face of the Left would be absolutely perfect.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that my friend Richard Paolinelli also has a book up for nomination, Galen’s Way. I’ve reviewed it over here. It was a hard-run thing, but Karl won out.

Buy it here

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

Overlooked Again, by Jon Mollison 

Buy from the publisher

My review

Buy at Amazon

Why is it important? Because of the enemy. If you’ve read the first one, you know that they make the Illuminati look like a childish fantasy…

In part because this one looks like a very realistic nightmare. Jon even has a rigged election. And this book came out before November 2020.

You’re probably wondering: why is this in fantasy? What’s the first one a spy novel?

Our villains include a wizard and someone wielding an Atlantean artifact. Trust me, there’s plenty of fantasy in here.

Another option is from an acquaintance of mine, NR LaPoint. Since he did the graphics, I figure I should at least mention him. :)

Image



Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

Image

Paula Richey, Penance

My Review

Buy Penance

Buy from Amazon

How do I put this … do you miss the days when science fiction didn’t automatically turn into “atheist fantasy“? I’ve seen very few who have Christian SF, and I see even fewer who do it this well. And those I know who do it this good … haven’t come out with anything eligible.

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

Image

Kai Wai Cheah, Unmasked. Half of this is a military engagement of one sort or another. And he gives Larry a run for his money in the gun porn.

My review

Buy at Amazon

By from Publisher

Why nominate it? Because the last thing we want is for John Scalzi to get it. Ugh. He already won last year, which was bad enough.

Maybe the 2020 Dragons can have an asterisk next to it. It would only be fair. Heh heh heh.

Best Alternate History Novel

Educated Luck, Mel Todd. Heavily magic, heavy on alternate history and the development on the world. It would probably be best in fantasy, but I like it here.

My review

Amazon

Best Media Tie-In Novel

Everyone, feel free to suggest something.

Someone has suggested a Warhammer 40K novel: Penitent

Best Horror Novel

Image

Hussar, Declan Finn 

Amazon link

Publisher link

Best Comic Book

Image

Soulbound, #2, Paula Richey

Amazon

Yes, this is the same author as Penance. But just take a look at this comic, seriously.

Best Graphic Novel

Best Graphic Novel Demon Slayer, Koyoharu Gotouge Suggested to me by @ArchivistPulp on Twitter

It's Japanese, but I also get the impression it's also very Christian. Also…

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

Demon Slayer is also a TV show. Heh Heh heh

But wait, it gets better.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Demon Slayer.

Yes, Demon Slayer is also a movie. And it’s doing pretty damn good, really.

Next year, it’ll also be a video game.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

Hades

Steam Link

This one was suggested to me. But from what I’ve seen, it looks kinda awesome.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

I have nothing. For any of the above elements. So if you have anything, you let me know, would you?

However, I must stress a few things

1) The eligibility window for the 2021 Dragon Awards is from 7/1/2020 to 6/30/2021

2) The Nomination Deadline is July 19, 2021. It’s two months away. If you you have a suggestion, or want in on this conversation, now would be a good time.

But if you’re ready to go right now, click here

Vote here

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Two announcements

To begin with, you may already know that I've moved on to Substack. Largely, I'm using that in place of my mailing list. But I've discovered it doubled as a blog. And with Blogger no longer mailing out to my readers, I may move there lock stock and barrel.

While that's happening, I have an announcment.

I'm in a new anthology.

Has anyone ever heard of Starflight?

ARE YOU READY FOR THE NEXT GREAT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES? THREE RAVENS PUBLISHING IS HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE, STARFLIGHT: TALES FROM THE STARPORT LOUNGE ANTHOLOGY!

In 1986, Starflight, a video game so profound and cutting edge for its time was released, and the world of gaming was forever changed. Starflight was the first open sandbox game, where you could wander the entirety of the game, and never finish it. You could explore to your heart’s content without ever touching on the game’s primary storyline.

For me as a fan, it inspired my sense of adventure and exploration. I would imagine myself exploring the unknown like Captain Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Not only that, the game inspired me to learn more, about things like the elements of the periodic table and chemical compounds encountered on these planets. It inspired my imagination with images of these alien worlds, their landscapes, and the life forms inhabiting them.

One day a few months ago, I had this thought pop into my head. Why hadn’t anyone written stories in this amazing game universe? After some searching on the internet, I hadn’t found anything, even fanfiction, so I went on the hunt to ask that exact question to the creators of the game.

Soon after I had managed to track down Rod McConnel and Greg Johnson, part of the original game development team from Binary systems. And before I knew it, I had struck a deal that allowed Three Ravens Publishing to write stories and create official content for the Starflight Universe. Thus was born the first anthology of short stories, Starflight: Tales From The Starport Lounge, to kick off a series of novels that I’m sure any fan of the original games, or good old-fashioned science fiction will enjoy.

We have gathered a team of talented authors from a wide range of experiences and genres to flesh out the universe in its entirety. From pirates to smugglers, to colony ships and the seedy underside of Arth society, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

So join us and the Starflight Series team in bringing this beloved classic to life for us, the fans of the original games, and the generations of science fiction gamers to come.

Like, follow, and subscribe to any of our social media pages or sign up for our newsletter at https://www.threeravenspublishing.com to keep up to date on the Starflight series of stories.

Stories by:

Robert Silverberg
D.J. Butler
Michael J. Allen
Christopher Woods
Bart Kemper
Benjamin Tyler Smith
Brisco Woods
David A. Tatum
Declan Finn
J.F. Posthumus
Marisa Wolf
Michael Gants
M.J. Ciaravella
Nick Steverson
Philip K. Booker
R.J. Ladon
William Joseph Roberts


Monday, April 5, 2021

Enter: the Dragons



Last year for the Dragon awards, many people in my circles hated the finalists.

And trust me, I mean it when I say that they hated the finalists. There was one caveat to that, but that's all I recall.

My response was simple

"DUH! Why do you think I try to have this discussion EVERY MONTH FOR HALF THE YEAR? YOU THINK I LIKE THIS? IF I WANTED IT FOR MYSELF, I'D ONLY TALK ABOUT MYSELF." [Insert sound of hair pulling and rage]


Ahem.


So, anyway, let's talk.


Why talk?


Because the nominations are already open! I'm not even joking. Click here, you'll see! And they're only open for less than three more months 


So, I have put together things **I'm** considering voting for. (Because we all know it's going to change in the next few months).


To share some of my thought process on the matter: I'm not nominating anyone who already has an award. And frankly, if you're Jim Butcher or a Baen author, you don't need my help.


If I leave the categories blank, it means I STILL got nothing.


Fair warning: if you come to my blog and screaming "ME ME ME" in the comments before you drop links to your book and run, to Hell with you. I am NOT having another Dragon Awards discussion that rolls like that. It's happened every damn year, and I'm DONE playing those games. I tried to be nice about listing EVERY LAST THING that's eligible, because I though that would mean we'd all have a discussion about it. It never happened and I'm sick of it. 


Best Science Fiction Novel


Karl Gallagher: Storm Between the Stars.

I read it. I reviewed it. It's really quite awesome. It's like if 1984 were written by David Weber.

(My problem is that book 2 is even better.... but it's probably best to nominate book ones whenever possible.)


Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

Overlooked Again, by Jon Mollison 

Amazon link 

Review 


Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

Paula Richey, Penance

Amazon Link

My review


Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel


At the moment, my best guess is Kai Wai Cheah, Unmasked. Half of which was a military engagement of one sort or another. And he gives Larry a run for his money in the gun porn.


Best Alternate History Novel


Educated Luck, Mel Todd. Heavily magic, heavy on alternate history and the development on the world. It would probably be best in fantasy, but I like it here.


Best Media Tie-In Novel

Everyone, feel free to suggest something. I'm going to just assume hat Timothy Zahn is going to get it. After all, he wrote a Thrawn novel in the past year.


Best Horror Novel

Hussar, Declan Finn 

Amazon link

Publisher link

Best Comic Book

Soulbound, #2, Paula Richey


Best Graphic Novel

Demon Slayer, Koyoharu Gotouge


Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

Demon Slayer


Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Fatman? Maybe?


Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

Thursday, April 1, 2021

You don't want to be a writer.

Inspired a bit by a recent post by fellow author Ben Cheah. Check his stuff out, btw.


 People tell me they **want** to be a writer.


No, you don't.


Seriously, you don't.


Look, you can hotwire your brain to write. It's relatively easy. I did it to myself when I was 16. I wasn't even trying. I just wanted this idea out of my head. Half a million words later, I had novels on my hands.


To be a writer, your brain is basically ON all the time.


You're (re)writing TV shows and books. You're calling plot twists.


When the story goes a different way, you want to rewrite it because your idea really was better.


That news story is now part of your thriller.


Your demonic plot to destroy a city becomes current events within a year or two.


You're basing people on friends. 


If you're male, you ask the women you use as models what their bust size is, because bra holsters are dictated by boob size.


Then your friends are asking how you came up with this great character... that they don't recognize as themselves.


You didn't pay attention to that conversation with friends / family about something really important to them, because something they said ten minutes ago started a plot outline in your brain.


Your brain occasionally overclocks from writing from 8-6, occasionally remembering to eat.


You take a break so  your brain can cool down, but then the compulsion to keep writing presses on your brain like a heavy blanket.


You need a notebook next to your bed so you can make notes--because the ideas don't let you sleep until you write them down.


It's why I tell people that there's a difference between "I want to be a writer" and "I have to be a writer." Because there is.


If you want to be a writer ... no, you don't. If I had my druthers, I'd have been an electrician or a plumber. I'd probably be using electricity to kill people in murder mysteries, but I'd have a 9-5 I didn't have to take home with me.


If you HAVE to be a writer, you don't have a choice. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

But it's binary. You are a writer, and you write, because you have to. 

Or you WANT to be a writer, and you don't write.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

How writing doesn't go to plan

I have been writing for 32 years.

Some of my earliest stuff holds up surprisingly well. 

See my Williams and Miller series. I wrote it in 2000. I did a mild rewrite. The biggest flaw was gun stuff I thought I had fixed (apparently, I didn't catch everything. And the website I was using at the time lied to me. Damn Russians.) The biggest issue is that it was three times my usual novel length. That solution was easy-- break them up into parts.

And now, there's "HT." 

Those who know the parlance knows it means Hostage Taker. If you didn't, you do now. It was a hostage novel I had written after reading Deaver's "A Maiden's Grave." It is the only case I can point to where I read a book and said "I have my own spin."

Funny thing is that HT was basically the first book in my thriller universe. 

Yeah. You know how I published the MurderCon book, then Pius, then Miller and Williams? Thing is that this is the nearly the exact OPPOSITE order of publication.

Originally I had written my thrillers as...

It Was Only on Stun!

HT

Williams and Miller 1, 2 & 3 (the latter of which isn't published yet).

A Pius Man 1, 2, 3

Yeah. The Pius Trilogy was supposed to be the crowning moment of a massive cast spread out over four other books.

Remember the Kraft Brothers? Merle and Dalf? From my Vampire novels? They debuted in Dances With Werewolves, the second Williams and Miller book. There was also the third brother, Tal. 

Scott Murphy? Showed up in the third Williams and Miller.

For those of you who remember Father Frank Williams in Pius? Brother to the Williams in the thrillers.

Everyone was in this damn series.

Merle was also supposed to make an appearance in The Pius Trilogy, and had appeared in all but the last few drafts. If you wondered why Sean AP Ryan ended up hearing everything by coincidence, that would be because SOMEONE had to know what Merle knew. 

Why did I cut Merle? You mean aside from there being too many people in Pius in the first place? Because when I wrote him in Pius, he had been following up on a lead ... from Dances with Werewolves.

 Which I hadn't released yet.

And then there's HT....

I have a serious problem. Most books of mine that I reread, I hate. I want to spike the whole thing, and kill it with fire. 

I'm reading HT and wondering if I should just forget this one exists.

I think this is why most indie authors have street teams. In part to provide a slightly more objective look.

But yeah, I'm going to have to work on this for a while and see if I shouldn't just throw this down a memory hole

[For the record, all covers are done by my beautiful wife, Vanessa Landry]

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Catholic Geek, Reloaded, Penance with Paula Richey

Join host Declan Finn as he interview's author Paula Richey as we discuss Indie publishing, Soulbound, her latest release, the superhero novel Penance, from Silver Empire Press. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Review: Penance, by Paula Richey

What can I say about Penance that I haven't already said about the rest of Silver Empire's Heroes Unleashed universe?

Quite a bit, actually. Much to my surprise.

The Story.

The "Prime" (The HUU's version of someone with powers) in this case is Penance Copper. At 17, she's been on the streets for most of her life. She's been raised by a street thug named Acid her entire life. Then the day comes that Acid asks her to take out a local hero named Justice. 

That's the last straw.

Unfortunately, this last mission from Acid leads Penance in the middle of an interstellar invasion by Kail-- a supply sergeant from another planet. His men need food and they need water. And the nearest planet to raid? Earth. And they have a place full of food and water. It's called a football stadium, and there's a game on, so there are plenty of hostages. 

And Penance is the only one who can get inside.

Hilarity ensues.

This story was just so well told, I breeze through more than half of it in a single night. Good plotting, action, and character. It's all well put together. 


The Characters

Penance is interesting. Because she's the Artful Dodger with superpowers, working for Fagan-as-super-villain. She's a character that has to think about using her superpowers--like used her electromagnetic powers and abilities to copy anything with an RFID chip (electronic keys, alarm system codes), or her plasma abilities to cook microwave popcorn in her hand. Also, the ability to shock someone back to life, something I want more electricity-based heroes to do (I think Endgame may have been one of the few times someone tried it). Paula even highlights how Penance can have these powers without cooking herself.

She's also stronger than the average bear (a literal bear). And she's Southern...By the time we get a quarter of the way through the book, Penance sounds and looks like Rogue, with additional powers that feel like "What if Jubilee was useful."

And yet, Penance isn't so overpowered that she overcomes anything that gets in her away. At least four times in the book she gets her ass kicked fairly thoroughly--once by simple science.

With Kail, our alien, it's interesting that his story could be easily summed up as "the quartermaster needed some lousy supplies," but boy, does that spiral. Seeing things through his eyes tells the reader more about his planet, his culture, and him, more easily than a chapter-long data-dump on societies. And the culture clash is as effective as Crocodile Dundee, if sometimes less funny.

Not to mention that limiting the POV to these two main characters highlights just how much one knows about the other, that even the other isn't aware of about themselves....

Yes, I think that sentence made sense. Honest.

And I like that Kail, as supply sergeant, makes his own clothing. And bookshelves. 

And the nicest thing? Kail even thinks like an alien. 


The World Building

Separating out the world building from the characters and the story required a crowbar in this instance. There are no data dumps here. There are no exposition paragraphs. There isn't even a chapter where Kail regales Penance with the exact nature of their cultural and societal differences. 

And it's unnecessary. Paula Richey spent the entire book worldbuilding. It's shown in almost ever interaction between the two, and their actions.

If David Weber could do this in his novels, they'd be at least 20% shorter.

The impressive thing is that Penance created and explained an entire alien civilization with stopping to spell out how it worked. And it works like Ming the Merciless learned to make an entire generation put themselves in debt, and be in chains forever. I didn't know he was a Democrat. Paula does a great job of making and unrepentant SOB you just want to see have a stake rammed through his heart.

And, at the same time, Penance spells out a lot of life on the streets for Heroes Unleashed. Every time I expect them to go bigger, they manage to do a lot with very little. Paula manages to take one element and write a good chunk of the book around it.

There are also at least two threads that tie Penance back to the original Heroes Fall book. 

Not to mention that I enjoyed having the alien invasion spun by the Men in Black as "he's a new supervillain. Nothing to see here." Seriously, if John Ringo did the politics of superpowers, this would be the series he lifted it from.

Not to mention that Paula has a grasp of technology no one points out. For example "your invisibility suit is nice, but what happens if it's really dusty?"

What's the politics?

There is only one way there is a political angle to this novel. Penance is reading a Bible throughout, because she's trying to learn about this Jesus person. I think that along will turn off certain readers. And we all know some of them, don't we?

Imagine if "Christian Fiction" only started having conversations about Jesus at natural points in the story.... like if an alien asked questions.

TLDR

Penance was just plain fun. I can usually tell what writing tricks are executed when "This is the data dump. This is act one finale. This is how the slip in backstory." Not here. It's all smooth and effortless and makes writing look easy. Why couldn't I have written like this when I started.

And yes, this is labeled "YA." How? Why? Aside from the age of the characters, I can't really tell you. It's not like anything in the rest of the HUU has had egregious violence, or sex, or foul language. (And nothing has been as bad as the icicle in Die Hard 2, not even John Wick's pencil.) And, as one reviewer said of Narnia, "This is too good for children."

Anyway this book is fun, it's awesome, and you should buy it. Links are below.

Publisher link: https://silverempire.org/product/penance/ref/274
Amazon link

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Review: Galen's Way, by Richard Paolinelli

 From the Dragon Award nominated author of Escaping Infinity, as well as the author of When the gods Fell, we have Galen's Way

A KIDNAPPED PRINCESS.

THE ANDROMEDA GALAXY'S MOST FEARED MERCENARY.

AN EVIL EMPIRE ABOUT TO BE BORN.

The Princess Rhiannon of Salacia has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom on the fortress planet Nammu. Galen Dwyn, the most feared mercenary in the Andromeda Galaxy has been hired to rescue her and bring her home.

But even as his rescue mission succeeds, Galen will soon find himself on the run with the Princess. Caught in the middle of a web of political intrigue, even as he begins to fall for the Princess, he will have to use every ounce of his skill and cunning to keep them both alive as forces from several planets seek them out.

For her love, he will stand alone against the forces looking to establish a new, and very evil, empire.

Galen will look to keep her safe and bring the budding empire to a halt before it can gain a foothold in the galaxy. He will choose to do so the only way he knows how.

Galen’s Way.

Dragon Award finalist Richard Paolinelli takes us on a grand adventure in this Space Opera offering set in the first book of the Starquest Saga. Set in the 4th age of Dragon Award winner John C. Wright’s Starquest universe that will feature several books by Paolinelli, Wright, and other authors in the months and years to come.

Just to make that clear, yes, Richard is writing in a John C. Wright universe.
 
Galen's Way is very much what Star Wars used to be, only with more of the interstellar scheming of Dune

Here and there, you can see how there are early Star Wars influences sprinkled throughout the book. There's a Totally Not a Death Star ... that makes more sense than the actual Death Star. There's a backwater planet that everyone wants to get away from, and uses it to bolster the local economy by acting as an interstellar dead drop for criminals -- which explains the economy of Tatooine, and Mos Eisley.

However, this is a long time from now, in a galaxy very far away. Because we don't have an Earth anymore. It's quite gone.

Overall, this was a fun book. Despite being set in a John C Wright universe, and being written by Richard, it was not as deep or as involved as Infinity or When the Gods Fell. It's odd. When compared to Richard's other books, it almost feels like a comic book-- but better than anything by Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman.

And going through the book, there are great bits of world building and technology. And you know what? It was just plain fun.

Let's make this ... 4/5? Maybe a low 5/5. It it helps, it's better than any other attempt I've read lately to join the ranks of space opera.