Thursday, October 29, 2015

Call back blog -- The Mind of the Maker

This post was originally put up over five years ago and yet, this is all still true.

Yes, at the end of the day, characters wander all over the place from where you initially point them. They eventually come back to where you pointed them at the end of the day, but you'd be surprised where they have to ricochet off of to get where you want them to go.

Heck, when I was doing Honor At Stake, I've still got those issues. I had cops and mobsters showing up, when they were never in the book -- not that they weren't planned to take on as big a role as they did, I mean that they were never in the book in the first place.  I had a cop appear at one point because I needed someone to deliver information. He was to never darken my plot ever again.  He wasn't going to be there, period.

By book three, he's got a subplot.

Hell, there is also a mobsters known simply as Enrico, who I based off of Michael Rennie, of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and he was only there so there could be just another bump in the rode. Nope. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just a thing that happens.

Now he's becoming a major player over time. Yeesh.

The fictional people are still taking over my life.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Call back post -- Bad Romance: How to be a Cynical Romantic

This first aired on my blog four years ago.

It's hard to remember that I had a blog for so long.

Anyway, this kind of tells you where I am as far as personal development goes. I went from "I'm a cynical bastard" to writing romance novels. Who knew?

Anyway, the next few days should be very much like this.  I have a guest coming into New York City for the next few days, and I'm going to be playing tour guide all the way.

This one is a little strange to look at.  The profile on Manana has been modified due to image issues, and the original pic is replaced with the lovely and talented author Kia Heavey.  If you haven't read her books, I do recommend them.

Again, there will be several of these over the next few days, so yes, I'll be out and about. There will be a radio show on Sunday, and that should go up, And I may even have a music post squeezed in somewhere.  But I'll be wrapped up until around Tuesday. And, since my blog audience has more than tripled since then, this should be new to a great many people.

Be well, all.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: Supergirl

My name is Kara Zor-el” …

And she spent 5 years on an island....

No, wait, that’s Oliver Queen. My, does Greg Berlanti love that opening.

Anyway, a feeling of excitement and dread followed the announcement of a Supergirl show. The media blitz looked like “OMIGAWWWWDDD!!!! A FEMINIST ICON! OH YAY!” I’m not sure if I have properly given a phonetic rendering of a Valley Girl there, but that’s what I was shooting for.

Despite the initial commercial, which looked like it would just be Felicity Smoake (from Arrow) with superpowers, the media buzz around this reeked of Social Justice Warrior, Politically Correct bull. In fact, the closer it got to the air date, the heavier it got. What excitement I had was starting to wane.

Then I saw the pilot.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What is a Jessica Jones?

Oh F**K this is going to be creepy as Hell.

.... Ahem. Anyway. I wanted to get around to doing this one now that we actually have a full trailer, not just bits and pieces scattered all over the universe.  There are possible spoilers ahead -- spoilers for the comics, anyway, not sure about the tv show.

So, in Marvel Comics earlier this century, they had a Marvel "Max" line -- mature content. No nudity, but certainly rated R ... well, R-ish ... especially around language. One of the headline titles was Alias -- no, nothing to do with the TV show of the same name with Jennifer Garner (how's that for 6 degrees of Marvel?).

Anyway, Alias focused around, surprise, Jessica Jones, a former superhero who was now a PI. She's a drunk, she's self-destructive, in a meaningless "purely physical" relationship with another hero, Luke Cage, just so she can feel something, (in quotes because they end up married with a kid by the end, if I recall correctly), and she's a borderline basket case.

In short, she's the poster girl for PTSD. What happened? What could destroy a superhero?

Enter, Zebediah Kilgrave, aka The Purple Man...

No, it's not the dumbest villain name in comic books -- I think that belongs to the Condiment King (yes, really) -- but Kilgrave has two characteristics. 1) Yes, he's purple. 2) He has mind control powers.

And, as you probably noticed in the trailer, Purple Man's favorite trick is telling other people to kill themselves. Originally a Daredevil villain, Kilgrave makes Hannibal Lecter look downright charming and friendly.

And when she was a superhero, Jessica Jones was held captive by Kilgrave for over six months. Because he was having "fun."

And that's how the comic book opened. With the full-blown PTSD aftermath.

So, if you were casting someone who could kill you by talking to you, who would you pick? Every time I asked someone this question, I was told "Vincent D'Onofrio." However, he's playing the Kingpin.

So, who else? Who?

Who indeed?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Music to Write to: The Avengers Theme - (Taylor Davis)

Somebody wants to be Lindsey Stirling when they grow up.

Violin skills, check. Next step: learn to play and dance at the same time.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fisking Tor's Strong Female Character

Oh,, how I have missed your endless douche-baggery. You have once against decided to talk about Strong Female Characters.  Considering how you nimrods totally botched women in military sci-fi, I suspect this will not end well.
Every now and then, I come across a blog post or an article about Strong Female Characters. (Sometimes several come along at once.) 
Of course you do. You're Don't you guys write half of them?
Often with the capital letters, usually decrying a simplistic reading of strength. True strength, these articles argue, goes beyond mere skill at arms and a sharp tongue. True strength encompasses so much more than shallow kickassery and badass posturing.
Um ... you know that those at least help, right? Emma Peel pulled that off with style.

And "shallow kickassery" ... so, what? Because Krav Maga is simple and straight-forward, it's shallow? How about something overly complicated and flowery like Tae Kwon Do.  Are you being anti-Semitic, since Krav is an Israeli self defense system. Are you against Israel now?

I joke, of course ... we all know that thinks that all kickass bits of business is shallow, because true strength comes from understanding the rapist and the ax-murderer, right, fellas?
Well, you know, I’m not likely to argue with that case. 
Of course you're not. After all, you schmucks went after Joss Whedon, trying to call him a sexist.  We know that Tor is shallow.
Strength, and courage, and virtue—notwithstanding its very manly Latin etymology—encompass more than surface-level traits. 
Um, one, you had to have a disclaimer on virtue? Really? Why not issue a disclaimer on the Cardinal Virtues too, while you're at it.

And how nice, you think that virtues exist.  Wait, you mean they're not subjective, cultural, completely anthropological?  Or are we just going to go into Lefty virtues?  Any bets? Place your bets, folks, place your bets.
But I do find it interesting how this argument is almost always applied to female characters. How many posts and articles decry the shallow sorts of strength of the thriller hero—seldom sketched in more than two dimensions—a strength that can generally only be demonstrated by his competence with violence, his willingness to defy authority, and his occasional ability to make entertaining banter? 
Funny, I'm reasonably certain that the Tor article that slandered Baen authors pretty much did exactly that. Also, that stupid article on SFCs from a few years back -- for example, dismissing James Bond as a pure psychopath (which I'm not arguing, I like Bond less and less as time goes on). Come to think of it, half of the NY Times articles are highly, highly dismissive of thrillers, thriller authors and thriller characters.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Batman and Spiderman (a thought experiment)

I have strange playmates.

Our idea of a fun time involves what if experiments that go into borderline impossible fan fiction, or casting books we really want to see on the screen

For instance, there's one thought experiment that asks a simple question: What if Batman entered Spider-man's New York City?  And what if Spider-man ended up in Batman's Gotham at the same time?

The first thing Batman would do is start building his new identity.  Sure, he can cook up Bruce Wayne as a "fake" ID, and he'd then have to start rebuilding his fortune from there. And he'd probably end up with owning half of the Fantastic 4's Baxter Building, a good chunk of Stark Industries, and maybe even part of Black Panther's Wakanda. Where would he get the money for these investments? You mean that there isn't enough room in his utility belt for a million dollars in diamonds et al? Hell, he could patent some of his toys from his belt, and trade the patents to Tony Stark for stock options.

Or, Batman could do what the DEA does, and simply confiscate property of criminals when they can't be returned them to their proper owner. Either way, he wouldn't be hurting for money.

Option #3: Batman would go to Avengers Tower, or the Fantastic Four, and say "Hey, look, guys, I'm a superhero from another dimension. I need to get home, got any ideas? Can you help a brutha out?" At that point, Mr. Fantastic would get to work cycling through dimensions until he gets the right one (creating no less than six word-threatening crises), and Stark would probably let Batman play with his toys to build an Iron Bat suit (which I presume is what Batfleck is wearing in the next Superman film) so he can kill time.

After that? Can you imagine Batman resting on his laurels? This guy is more OCD than anyone else on the planet, as far as Superheros go.


The first and most simple aspect of this shift comes with the villains.  Batman generally doesn't have to put up with super villains, but Spider-man has to on a daily basis.

Lizard or Rhino: I grouped these two together since they're basic muscle.  They're also similar to other Batman villains: Killer Croc, Solomon Grundy and Bane.  This is actually easy when you consider it.  Batman doesn't have to deal with Bane all that often, but when Bane was written as someone with a brain, Batman beat him every single time except for their first encounter. But if you transplant Batman into Spider-man's universe, what do you get? Batman has to deal with either the Lizard or the Rhino, neither of which usually has a brain (the Lizard has his moments of having an IQ, but generally, he's just an animal with a Jekyl and Hyde thing going on).  They would be easy enough.  Expect Batman to lead either one of them into a building, and then drop it on them.

Sandman -- Another easy one, really.  Yes, Sandman can't be punched, or killed, but, heck, neither can the shape-shifting Clayface. And, knowing that Sandman is essentially immortal, Batman would probably just bring along incendiary devices to turn Sandman to glass.

Black Cat -- I'm not even sure that Black Cat is a villain anymore. She's a sexy cat-burglar in black leather who flirts with the local superhero ... oh, screw it, Batman already has enough Catwoman issues. Also, Black Cat would find Batman boring.

Vulture /Green Goblin -- two flyers that deal with projectile weapons, usually daggers or pumkin bombs. Yeah, Batman never has to deal with someone like that. However will he manage with ...

Oh, wait, Batman's dealt with Firefly.  If you're not familiar with the comic book version of Firefly, imagine a pyromaniac who can fly like Vulture, hover, and comes with firebombs and a flame thrower, as well as close quarters combat. Yeah, after dealing with this nutcase, Spider-man's flying killers will be almost easy.

Electro  -- Batman will have a rubber-insulated Batsuit and break every bone in Electro's body. Then he will throw Electro into the Hudson river.

Venom / Carnage: These guys might be a problem, since they're both older characters, and experienced. They're crazy, but they're not stupid.   Sure, they're both allergic to fire and sonic weapons, and Batman will get firebombs to slow them down, and sonic grenades and weapons installed on whatever toys he brings into Marvel's Manhattan, but it's going to be a stamina game. Carnage would be pelting Batman with numerous projectiles and melee weapons, and Venom can close quickly. If either one got their hands on Batman, it would be game over.  This would be an argument for Batman to have a pseudo-Iron Man like suit, even if it's a basic exoskeleton.  Why would fire and sonics not be an easy out? Because last time I saw him, Venom was getting used to sonics over time. In either case, it would require a combination of both sonics and melee moves to cripple them.

Mysterio: Mysterio is a master of illusion in the Marvelverse.  But, Batman has has his brain rewired by both the Mad Hatter and Scarecrow, a fancy laser light show wouldn't mean anything to him. Also, he's have specialized filters in his Bat suit.

Shocker .... I won't even go into Shocker, since even Spider-man makes fun of him.

Chameleon: Chameleon is a spy in the Marvelverse who has fancy tech that makes him look like anyone. He's not a supervillain, just a guy with fancy toys.  This would require detective work ... from the world's Greatest Detective muahahahaha

Doc Ock: This would be interesting, for the simple reason that Doctor Otto Octavius is quite smart, but if you can get your hands on him, most women I know could beat him to death with a baseball bat ... but you have to get past his four indestructible mechanical arms. That means that Batman would probably just go all predator on him, pick off his guards one by one, then drop out from the ceiling, straight onto his head.  Or concussion grenades.

Kingpin: Batman would, for the most part, probably just make a deal with Kingpin. He would have a few run-ins with Kingpin, breaking apart illicit parts of his criminal empire.  They would go a few rounds.  Batman would break a few bones.  After about a month, they'll have a nice polite sit down, in which Batman will tell Kingpin that he's going into white collar crime from now on.  This is a deal he's more or less got going with the Penguin, who, in the comics, runs his own lounge, and more or less sticks to money laundering, information brokering, that sort of thing.

What happens when Batman meets the rest of the Marvel-verse?  He'd either ignore the Avengers, or try and take it over ... like he did with Justice League.

Well, he'd try

Let's face it, in Gotham, Batman is the big fish in a medium sized pond. Yes, I said medium-sized; Gotham was always the city with corrupt cops, corrupt city officials, overrun by the mob... you know, Chicago. And, since Chicago is the second city, well, Batman can keep it.

However, New York? Batman couldn't run two blocks without running into yet another superhero. They even break down some of them by neighborhoods.

The X-Men have Westchester (far enough out of NYC to avoid the city line, but close enough for a commute), so probably the Bronx. Daredevil has what used to be called Hell's Kitchen. Tony Stark is on 59th and Broadway, just off of Columbus Circle, the Avengers have Central Park East covered (890 th Avenge).  And the Fantastic Four (when they're in town) are off of 42nd and Madison, and SHIELD has a station at 59th and Madison. Midtown is covered. Luke Cage has Harlem (depending on what's going on there at the time), or the GEM/Amc theater on 42nd street.

Spider-man seemed to have the other burrows (let's face it everyone, he lived in Forest Hills, Queens). However, his newspaper seemed to be the Flatiron building, in lower Manhattan, so he has a swath to himself.

You think Greenwich Village isn't covered? Doctor Strange lives on Bleecker Street.

Batman would either have to learn to play well with others, or move to Brooklyn. Or worse, Staten Island.  Though, being Batman, he might want to move into the Bronx and take it over.

Meeting Tony Stark.

Ah, but what happens when some superhero gets cloned, or brainwashed, or turned into a villain? Shall we count the amount of people that's happened to in Marvel? Like Daredevil being possessed, or Wolverine being brainwashed, Captain America having his own twin and his own clone, or the 500 Iron Man knockoffs, or Deadpool being Deadpool....?

You get the idea.

Not to mention the "misunderstand" fight -- that's two superheroes running into each other, either or both thinking that the other is the badguy

Wolverine / Daredevil -- Batman would win against both of these men with heightened senses, and for the same reason: he'd bring itching powder.

Captain America: Batman vs. Captain America was already seen in a Marvel vs. DC crossover event in the mid-90s.  They'd be very evenly matched, and it would end in a draw, probably a double-KO. But that's if it's Captain America -- if it's a clone, or a twin, or anyone other than Steve Rodgers, Batman will probably win on the grounds of stubbornness

Doctor Strange: Batman would have a nice, calm, reasonable conversation with the good Doctor, and not piss him off.

The Vision: Batman deals with the Red Tornado, the DC comics version of Vision, every other day. He has a plan to kill Red Tornado (and everyone else in the Justice League, really) so he'd probably use that on Vision.

I could continue, but this is already over-long.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

November 16: Pius Anthologies

Apparently, this didn't want to work the first time. So, round two, fight

So, I mentioned that The Pius Trilogy was going to have short story collections.  Not only would we be doing two 99-cent kindle editions, but also a paperback that will be for, well, as cheap as I can manage it, since it will have both kindle editions in one bound copy.

I also showed off the covers I had designed using the Kindle cover creator.

Yes, I know. They suck

So, the "Guest Puppy," Dawn Witzke (okay, she wasn't a Puppy then, she just wanted to join in on my madness), took one look at them and had the appropriate reaction.

She made new covers.

Yes, the quality of my worked sucked SO MUCH, she felt compelled to fix them.

Yeah, I know, they look so much better already, don't they?

Leading to the bound edition that is, quite simply

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

#SadPuppies and the Revenge of File 770

This is awesome. Some days, I love my job.  I really do.

Because it's time to bring back the puppies of war.

Suiting up again already.
Okay, now for those of you just tuning in, there is a website called File 770.  It's been described to me as a sort of tabloid site for science fiction news around the net. I hadn't even heard of them until this blog suddenly started getting a large amount of traffic from them.

If you remember, they weren't very happy with my Sad Puppies Bite Back (SPBB) parodies. And by "they" I don't mean the owners of 770, because the real problem of File 770 isn't any of the writers, it's the psych ward of the comments section, who seem to be utter deranged, as is evidenced by their embracing of one Andrew "Clamps" Marston.

And now, if you look at their comments on this post, you'll see that I'm apparently public enemy #1. Or something. Read the comments, not necessarily the blog itself. Scan for my name, and laugh at how I'm the bogeyman who would lead to the utter destruction of the Sad Puppies.

Some examples, though, to save you some time, because it seems to have started with this.
Next year might be a bumper year for Declan Finn, he’s clearly leading the SP4 poll for ‘Best Related Work’ (Sad Puppies Bite Back), tied with Jeffro Johnson in ‘Best Fan Writer’ and a surprisingly close second in ‘Best Novel’ (Honor at Stake).
Yes, as far as I'm concerned, it's a perfectly neutral comment that leads into talking about Brad Torgersen ... because Brad has nothing to do with SP4, so, huh? (And yes, I think my "popularity" has to do with the fact that the year isn't over yet, and voting for Sad Puppies 4 is about two months old).

But then we have the inevitable follow up comment.
Having just googled Declan Finn, I’m almost hoping for some Puppy Democracy to put into play. The price for enough bourbon to get through last year’s packet was quite something; Finn’s work could make it prohibitive.
Well, honestly, now, if you need to drink to get through Sad Puppies Bite Back, you've apparently missed the point of the joke. Granted, I'm not exactly Robin Williams-level funny, but I'm apparently more interesting than some of the snide remarks that pass for comedy these days.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Agents of Suck, DOA

That's it. I'm done with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Period.

We know that, with Fox holding the license to X-Men in a stranglehold / death grip, AoS started using the Inhumans in place of mutants.

I just didn't know they'd be doing so much of the X-men plot -- not the awesome plot where they're fighting intergalactic empires, but the plot where people with superpowers are persecuted, and whine about how they have awesome powers and no one understands them.

Yeah. That.

You know what? When they started using SHIELD in place of the X-Men in an attempt to put together Secret Warriors from the comics, I should have known they would go the same exact route as X-Men -- angsty "WAAAHHHH, I'm a monster" bullcrap.  I'm sorry, Mr. "I shoot lightning, but I just want to be a surgeon," get off your pansey ass, grab some spandex, and throw lightning at some bad guys. "Waaah, I'm a Monster?" yeah, well, so's the Incredible Hulk, and the movie Bruce Banner is a lot less whiney than you are.

And you know what? That wasn't the only problem.  The problem was the entire plot is being effected by this. The whiney is spreading.

The last episode pretty much put a nail in the coffin for me. We had two stories -- which, right now, have nothing to do with each other.  Nothing. At All.

One's a swaggering badass. The other is on Agents of SHIELD.
On the one hand, we have an Inhuman from the camp led by Skye / Daisy / Quake's mother last season.  He's an MD who shoots lightning out of his fingers.  Really. And we spent the entire plot thread following this sky, who spends most of the time brooding and on the run, and he doesn't do it half as well as Bill Bixby. And, of course, once "Daisy" tracks him down and starts making out with him...

Wait? What?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

#TBT Writing the Catholic Revenge Novel - sort of

Technically, this isn't a throwback, because this is the first time this has ever been posted on the blog. It was originally a guest post over at Catholic Once Again.  

And yes, I did mention it once on the blog, in a link in another post, called Redemption in Death.

But riddle me this: how do you do a Catholic revenge novel when revenge is basically a sin?

Very carefully.

* * * *

How do you write a Catholic “revenge novel”? Heck, how do you write a Catholic thriller that doubles as a science fiction novel, including the requisite dystopia?

To full answer the latter question would involve spoilers, so if you’d like the answer, you’d have to read my science fiction novel Codename: Winterborn, which has all of the above elements, as well as a sequence that involves Catholic missionaries riding to the rescue.

First, let’s look at the standard revenge novel. Take someone who has an abundance of combat skills, and then promptly kill off a girlfriend / boyfriend / spouse/ fiancĂ©(e) / best friend / random family member. After that, you have said person go on a murderous rampage, and (usually) a person of the opposite sex to replace the person killed off in chapter two. This is a pretty standard plot, filled with the usual clichĂ©s.

However, last time I checked, there is no such thing as revenge in Catholic doctrine. At least, not the last time I read the Baltimore Catechism (okay, it may have been more of a scan than a reading). Killing people just to make you feel better isn’t justifiable. Catholics forgive our enemies and move on, even if our every instinct is to rearrange their dental work with a hammer.

Then again, there is an argument that can be made in Catholicism – via the natural law of Thomas Aquinas – for tyrannicide (killing a tyrant who needs killing). You could take the example of suggesting that someone should shoot Saddam Hussein, and thus preventing a war, as well as preventing his routine slaughters.

In Codename: Winterborn, intelligence officer Kevin Anderson is sent on a mission to the Islamic Republic of France – yes, France – and his team is betrayed by the politicians on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And just how do you arrest a senator in the United States? There has been more than sufficient evidence to arrest senators on everything from bribery and corruption to manslaughter, but no one leaves in disgrace, and if anything happens, they get a slap on the wrist. So, what’s a lone spy going to do against 14 senators who have betrayed their country, and who have not only killed his friends, but will probably kill others in the future?

Welcome to a new look at tyrannicide in a democracy – enforcing a new definition of term limits.

Morally ambiguous? Depends on how fine a line you walk. And how much fun you have pushing your main character. Most of my lead characters are highly detailed, and make choices that I don’t see coming. With Kevin Anderson, he has thought out his actions, and has come to the conclusion that the only way to protect the country is to fulfill his oath to defend against enemies both foreign and domestic – and these folks are very domestic. Rational, reasoned, and his actions fit within his conscience.

Unfortunately, then you get to a sticking point – when does a righteous cause become entangled with a personal vendetta? All the reason in the world can’t separate a person from his own emotions for very long. What happens when Kevin Anderson starts to enjoy his work? Answer: his conscience gut-punches him and leaves him crying into his New England clam chowder (long story).

In short – the key to Catholic “revenge novels” is making it so that the protagonist isn’t an insane, vengeance-driven fruitcake. The lead must be thoughtful, and reasonable, and s/he should take great care that the actions taken aren’t driven solely by revenge. And should the lead fail on the latter, s/he should stand up, dust themselves off, repent, and try harder next time. The bad guys aren’t the only ones who need redemption. We all do. If everyone could easily be perfect on their own, there would be no need for the crucifixion.

A final element to a “revenge novel” from a Catholic point of view – consequences. We are responsible for our actions, and our actions have consequences. And in the case of Codename: Winterborn, the consequences would spoil the plot.

And the Catholic missionaries in act three are another story.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Catholicism in novels

I was recently asked to write about Catholicism in my novels. Going through Honor at Stake, one might pick up on the fact that I'm Catholic. It's only in about a quarter of the novel, after all. I built my vampires around Catholic metaphysics. Whether or not they're adversely effected by religious icons or not revolved around free will.  Vampires are possibly connected to the nephilim ... okay, that part isn't so original.

Even my romance segments are Catholic -- because unlike most romance novels, my characters don't jump into bed with each other during an adventure that lasts a week, or a month at the outside.

Why so Catholic?

Um ... because I'm Catholic?

Though I must admit, even the reviews I've gotten from atheists liked the way religion was handled.  It's strange.

But the answer still stands, and it's simple: Catholicism informs my view of reality, mostly through Thomas Aquinas.  Why? Because I have degrees in history and philosophy.  Yes, I'm a nerd of many colors.  But still, it really does inform me on reality.

Now, obviously, I'm not using Thomas Aquinas to explain science to me. But Aquinas does come in handy to go the next few steps beyond what science tells us. And, for the most part, Aquinas still works (I say "For the most part" to cover my backside on this, I haven't read every last word Aquinas has ever written).

But then again, I'm strange.  I don't really have faith that God is real. I Know He's there. Don't ask for the details, but let's just say that I view it as common sense. (Am I dissing atheists? No, just the ones who throw insults at me -- I'm looking at you, Dawkins.)  There's no other way for the world to work, really.  Though my brain's kinda funny.  Does this make me super-Catholic? No. Because I'm still human. And my preferred deadly sin is wrath -- so much so I'm relatively certain that I might be a spree killer if I wasn't religious.

Being Catholic really does just inform my worldview.  This goes from how the world works to Vatican Ninjas.  Yes, Honor at Stake has Vatican Ninjas.

So yeah, my head works funny.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Music to Write to: Jurassic Park - (Acappella by Peter Hollens)

Everyone has got the original Jurassic Park theme somewhere.  If you don't, I'm going to worry about you.

However, try this one.  It's fun. Something to pump out pages.

Or, you could read Honor At Stake..... think I'm subtle enough in my marketing prowess?

Monday, October 12, 2015

#SadPuppies 4 -- Biting Back

Apparently, to get a coveted Sad Puppies​ nomination, it helps if I have more than just my hat in the ring.  Votes help. Who knew?

And yes, coveted. As in I would really, really like it. Thank you.

Now, it was suggested to me many moons ago that my parody series Sad Puppies Bite Back could qualify for fan writer *or* Best Related work.

So, if you fondly recall Sad Puppies Bite Back, please swing by and vote. I'm hoping that some of the people whom I SWATted might want to kick in a few votes.

I don't know if either Wright recalls it. And I can't imagine Lt. Col Kratman wanting to play.  Brad Torgersen gave me some advice a few months back, as did Katie Paulk, but I haven't reached out to them for support in this. And I suspect the phrase "Undo influence" might be tossed around if I tried.

And, SOMEbody submitted Honor At Stake for best novel. I wouldn't have insisted on it ... but someone thought it was a good idea, so, maybe? If you think it's worthwhile? If you liked either SPBB or Honor at Stake and think either is something to be spread around, could you please go to the official Sad Puppies page and say so?

Yes, there's a reason I use this meme alot.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Catholic Geek: Costumes with Jonna Hayden

The Catholic Geek: Costumes with Jonna Hayden 10/11 by We Built That Network | Culture Podcasts

Check Out Culture Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with We Built That Network on BlogTalkRadio

Host Declan Finn (Honor at Stake) is happy to present Jonna Hayden, costumer extraordinare. Just in time for Halloween.

Dual Review: Neeta Lyffe, and I Left My Brains in San Francisco

Today will be a dual review.  Why? Because it's hard to review one book without reflecting on the other.

Yes, parts of this are cannibalized from an earlier review, but it's been a while.

You might remember that, a while back, I had been involved in a Catholic Writer's Guild online conference. I ran a workshop on fight scenes, and ran a discussion on creating a villain. During the course of that latter chat, I mentioned that it helped if the villain had the brain. Mindless, shambling zombies were not really that much fun, as villains go … Then I remembered that one of the people in the chat was Karina Fabian … who had written – surprise – a book about a Zombie Exterminator.

Now, if I had had my wits about me, I would have noted how, in zombie films, zombies are generally NOT the main bad guys. They set the scene, they act as cannon fodder (for an action franchise like Resident Evil, where the real villains are the Evil Corporation du jour), but most zombie movies are more about the people in the Zombie Apocalypse du jour rather than about the zombies. The zombies are window dressing.

Instead, my witless wonder moment had me hasten to add "Though I can't speak for every zombie storyline, I have yet to read Karina Fabian's." I think I inserted a smiley and went on from there.

Within two minutes, I heard an email click. I had just received an e-copy of Karina Fabian's Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator.

See, when I shoot from the lip, I have no idea what'll happen.

Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator, takes place in the 2040s, several decades after the zombie outbreaks started. There are no zombie apocalypses here.  It never happened. However, the undead can be annoying, so exterminators have to be called in -- exterminators with chainsaws.  Zombies are attracted to certain strong smells, and they don't like standard household cleaners.... don't ask.

Neeta Lyffe, a second-generation exterminator (motto: "I want to be buried like my mother, with my head cradled in my arms") is sued after an extermination call went into property damage. Now, in order to generate income, she's agreed to do the most terrifying thing in her life..... host a reality show.

Yes, you read that right. The reality show Zombie Death Extreme, where Neeta is stuck with a handful of exterminator wannabes, training them to re-kill the occasional nests of undead that threaten LA (then again, if parts of LA were turned into shambling mindless hordes, would anyone notice?). Also included: re-grief training ... for when you have to mourn for loved ones a second time, when they come back; and flash cards to tell the difference between a stroke victim, a drunk, and a zombie.  And you can probably guess, this has a sense of humor, unlike most zombie films ("We throw the grenades on the count of 3. 1, 2, 3."  Second person shouts "Five," and throws the grenade ... sorry, Monty Python joke.).

Karina, with chainsaw
The cast looks like it should be stocked with the standard cliches: an ex-marine, a farm boy with a stutter, an African-American woman from an urban environment, an Afghan emigre who's first language isn't English (he speaks it perfectly well, but the producers want him so speak more like Hasan from a Bugs Bunny Cartoon). The Producer of the show is the standard two-dimension cardboard cutout, which means he's drawn very accurately -- however, he's never had to negotiate with someone who carries a chainsaw on a daily basis, including the occasional brainstorming session for the show.

All of the characters are vivid and brightly drawn ... and heavily mocked, in some cases. Everything you have ever hated about reality television is skewered ruthlessly, and wonderfully.

Possibly one of the best parts of this book (and there are plenty to choose from), use the running excerpts from a documentary on the rise of zombies, detailing a somewhat funny look on the matter, down to and including Darwin Award winners who tried to play tag with a zombie. That was fun.

In short, it's one part satire, one part action, and all parts fun.

5/5 stars.  Best zombie book ever. Period.  Buy it now.

Interview with Karina Fabian on Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.

What made you decide to evolve Neeta's character the way you did? She didn't seem the type to get PTSD -- in fact, in her training, it seems geared to combat that sort of thing.

Actually, Roscoe had PTSD, not Neeta. Neeta is dealing with issues of guilt and anger that have to do with Bergie’s death on Zombie Death Extreme – or more to the point, her having to kill him by decapitating him while a hoard of zombies munched on him.

You’re right that Neeta’s training has prepared her for dealing with the undead and even the possibility of losing someone. In fact, she had lost business partners and friends before. But Bergie’s was a stupid death that had more to do with reality TV than zombie extermination. Despite her wanting to halt the show, she was overruled, Bergie was stupid, and she had to decapitate a friend on national TV. She’s angry at a lot of folks, but it’s her nature to shoulder all the responsibility, and in this case, it’s wearing on her soul, and affecting other things.

What guided your development of Neeta and Ted's relationship?

The principle of writing what you don’t know. Their relationship is alien to any I’ve ever had, but similar to some I’ve seen. Neeta is, as Ted mentions in the book, a neat freak, especially now when things have gotten out of her control and she’s having a hard time dealing with Bergie’s death. As such, she could really use Ted making a strong stance and telling her how he feels.

Ted, however, is kind of clueless. He knows she needs things neat, so he’s doing what he thinks is low-pressure courting – friendly, casual dates, easy on the passion. He knows he loves her, so he figured she knew it, too. He was holding out to give her the big surprise proposal in San Francisco. Unfortunately, what he did was leave her in the dark.

But it all works out. Bottom line is they love each other.

By contrast, my husband and I had professed our undying love ten days after we met. We’re celebrating our 25th in November.

How did you decide to develop the tech at the con?

The demo robot was an outgrowth of demo bots I’ve seen at technical conventions – or rather, videos of technical conventions. The monofilament swords are kind of a cross between a light saber and the knife that slices toast on Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Mostly, I wanted a technologically conceivable light saber that was different from the usual SFF tech.

The Neeta books take swipes at the EPA, trial lawyers, eco-terrorists, the Occupy movement, and I'm sure a few other political targets that I'm missing. Were you hard pressed to find new targets for I Left My Brains in San Francisco?

Every time I think I won’t have another idea, the world plops one into my lap. You gave me at least one for the next book, Shambling in a Winter Wonderland. People just love to take common sense and crush it under their heels.

I just saw a news story about a guy who has to go to court because he posted a warning sign for a neighborhood water balloon fight by saying bypassers might be exposed to dihydrogen monoxide. Some idiot called the FBI because they were too stupid to know what the chemical name for water is – despite the hundreds of dihydrogen monoxide memes populating the internet, even. As a result, some poor event organizer made an intelligent joke and was detained for several hours and now faces fines. I think in a future story, someone will sue the Give Back Memorial Gardens claiming that because it exposed the undead to extreme amounts of dihydrogen monoxide, it caused them to become zombies.

Why eco-terrorism for this book?

Original book cover
I needed a reason for zombies to attack a refinery. In my universe, zombies generally don’t emerge en masse or make coordinated attacks, which challenged me to create a situation where they would act against their natures. I had established that they can act according to past habits and attitudes, so I created a cult group that believed making fuel out of manure would destroy the environment…somehow. Thus, TREE – Terrorism for Radical Environmental Enhancement – was born. I also had a great time coming up with the backstory for the documentary.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Guest Post: Entertainment or Importance?

So, Karina Fabian is back.

So are the Hugos.


Entertainment or Importance? 

The Hugos are over, the asterisks have been handed out, and the respective sides are gearing up for what I hope will be a more civil contest for next year.

All the back-stabbing and politics aside, one of the prime arguments the Sad Puppies and the “CHORFs” have is, which comes first – the importance of a book or the entertainment value? They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Many years ago, I came across this great blog by A. Lee Martinez called "The Han Solo Factor."  He talks about the dangers he sees in taking fantasy too seriously. He says it better than I but in a nutshell, he finds that when people--perhaps as an apology for writing "kids' stuff," are too focused on making their fantasy stories Important, they lose the joy of the story itself. He holds Han Solo as an example as a hero that can be serious (or bring in the serious issues) while still being awesome and fun.

I agree with Martinez. You can be important while you entertain. I think it’s harder to entertain while striving to be important. At least, it is in my experience.

I don't worry about my theme. I enjoy torturing my characters for fun and plot-fit. Yet sometimes critics surprise me by finding social, political or religious commentary in what I thought was a cheap (albeit funny!) joke. Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator is a prime example.

I think a lot of it has to do with two things: letting your characters live the story, and not writing to make/preach a point or to explore an issue, but to enjoy an adventure. Not that you can't explore issues, even intensely, or hammer home a point, but when you let it be organic to the story, you can have deep themes and excellent adventures.

There isn’t a dichotomy between being important and being entertaining. Stories can do both. However, I think that if you strive to entertain while being true to yourself and your characters, your readers will find the importance in your story.

And if they don’t, they still get several hours of entertaining escapism. And that’s just fine by me.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I Left My Brains in San Francisco audio book tour

This will be taking over the blog for the few days. Karina's on another book tour rampage!  Runnn!!!!!!

I Left My Brains in San Francisco
(Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator 2
Author Karina Fabian; narrator Becky Parker
From Damnation Books

Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator--but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she's looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it'll be a working vacation after all.

Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.


We could tell you Karina Fabian is an award-winning author, that she writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, and devotionals (15 books and counting.) It would all be true, but makes for a boring bio. If you really want to learn about her stuff, go to She has book trailer videos, excerpts from her books, and pictures of her dogs and her Mazda Miata, all of which are more fun to see.
However, if you’re interested…
Karina is a native Coloradoan who lives in Utah because she and her family like it better. With 270-degree view of the mountains and the Great Salt Lake, great neighbors, lots of geeky conventions (Salt Lake City Comic Con rocks!), what’s not to love? She works full-time at Top Ten Reviews, where she is a proud member of the business team (Business Badgers, unite!). Honestly, researching mortgage companies and the like is deadly dull, but her coworkers are nerdy and funny. It’s like what she imagined high school would be in a perfect world.
She’s married to Robert Fabian, a retired Colonel, project manager for BAE systems and VP of Propulsion for Rocket Crafters, Inc. She definitely married up! Her first words to him were “Live long and prosper,” and they have been ever since. They have four great kids who love to pun, watch anime, read fantasy and play D&D. Their bedtime stories were often her rough drafts, but no one’s gone to therapy for that yet.
Everyone likes to know about pets! They currently have two dogs: Toby and Marley. Toby, the coon shepherd, is beautiful and soft, and Marley, the lab-basset, is bassadorable. Toby’s favorite pastime is pulling 2x4s from under the porch and running across the yard with them, while Marley dreams of killing chickens. Again.
Oh! And the Miata. Bright red, hardtop convertible… She will drive it in 20-degree weather with the top down. After 21 years of minivans, it was time for a fun car, and it’s the most fun she’s ever had behind the wheel.
Karina is founder and active member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, and she teaches writing live and in monthly webinars. Check out the website above. She’s always glad to do guest appearances.


"Hi! Welcome to Zomblog! It's ‘Time to Re-kill!’ This is Kelsey Gardenberger, and we are reporting to you live from Fisherman's Wharf, where zombie exterminators Rii and Hi Lee of Bay Exterminations have been called in to take out a zombie."
Police held back spectators who had cell phones to film the event. On the ground lay a man in a black-and-white striped shirt, black pants with suspenders and gold makeup on his rotting skin. He pounded on the air with imaginary fists, and then felt along imaginary walls with his hands. Where he should have had fingers, only mangled skin and bare bones showed. Rii and Hi, both in protective gear, watched the prone figure and spoke among themselves. The zombie continued his act unconcerned, except to pause now and again and make drinking motions before pointing to the top hat waiting beside him.
"It looks like Rii Lee and Hi Lee have decided on their strategy. Despite the fact that the zombie appears so docile, it could turn violent at the slightest provocation--and if you don't believe me, check out 'Don't wave that thing at me!' on the Zomblog archives. They're starting!"
While Rii stood by with a power blaster of anti-zombie foam, Hi ambled up to the prone zombie, sword relaxed but ready in his left hand. He watched the undead mime its struggle against the imaginary coffin, nodded appreciatively, and tossed a twenty into the hat. The Wasted Mime started clawing with fervor, dug himself up, and brushed himself off.
Some of the crowd in the front stepped back.
It picked up the hat, checked the money.
The crowd took in a breath.
It faced Hi.
Hi bowed.
The crowd gasped. Cameras flashed.
The zombie bowed back, deeply and theatrically.
Hi lashed out with his sword, its blade cutting deeply and theatrically into the zombie's neck.
The re-killed corpse folded over.
The crowd broke into wild cheers.
Kelsey smiled big for the camera. "And there you have it! Looks like a mime isn't such a terrible thing to waste after all."

Find Karina at:

Find I Left My Brains in San Francisco at:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Reviews for Honor At Stake, cont

I've done a few posts here and there for the collected reviews of Honor At Stake, and I figured out that I should probably gather them in one place.   You can buy the book here if you like, and since Jim Butcher came out with his latest book .... please? Pretty please?


I have 19 reviews thus far on Amazon, but there are other reviews on websites.  Gotta catch 'em all.

Yes, Pokeman.  I went there.

I noted one or two reviews I've already excerpted that I got -- one in a private communication, and one was a blurb from Karina Fabian.

Margot St. Aubin took a while to get to me.  But I have her review. There are some minor spoilers in it, but the safe part is
This guy writes about… ahem, real vampires, not the sparkly f**ked up Jar Jar Binks of the vampire world. They are deadly hunters, with vestiges of humanity that make them more frightening.
And yet, it is one of the most powerful love stories I’ve read in a long time. For a wonder, he’s not all angsty and whiny and whatnot.
I especially liked the sparkly Jar Jar line. Yes, she was referring to Twilight.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Revenge of The Pius Trilogy

So, I'll be coming out with three other books this year.

Yup, Three more publications from me. But, instead of more Honor At Stake, this features a return to The Pius Trilogy. Why? Because this trilogy has taken over about a third of my life already, might as well top it off.

However? They're short story collections.

The first is....

Yeah, I know. "Declan, what are you doing? Haven't you already posted these to the blog?"  Well, no, I haven't.  Some stories are new, and some have been expanded. I've also added commentary to them. You didn't think I was just going to merely put a shine onto old material, slap a label on it, and pass it off, did you?

However, the one that I hope to sell a little more is ...

Because everyone likes it when stuff blows up around the holidays.

And, before anyone asks, yes, I'm going to be working on the covers some more.

As for round three, I don't have a cover yet. Why? Because that will be a paperback version of both of them, only in one volume.  Each short story collection above is about 26,000 words each, about half of a full novel, and I'll price it at $.99 each. Why? Because Kindle readers look for the $.99 books, and, well, might as well give them what they're looking for. And, when in doubt, hope that they like these and follow along to the rest of the novels.

Yes, this is me trying to open up my market.

The third item, as noted, will be a paperback that will unite both Kindle books because, well, guess what -- there are people out there that don't read Kindle copies -- the title will be something like Pius Tales.  With luck, the production costs won't be prohibitive.  I expect the paperback to be around $5, but please, don't hold me to it.

For those of you who are wondering about when this will release, I intend to have it up and running and on sale before Thanksgiving. That way you can do your Christmas shopping in short order and get it done in one fell swoop.

Be well all.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Return of Scott Murphy, and Baba Yetu (Civilization IV, by Peter Hollens)

How have I not posted this one already?

This is the main theme for a video game, Civ IV ... as is obvious from the title.  Another Peter Hollens song.  And, really, this guy is amazing. I'd ask how this guy is not considered a professional, but looking at his recording equipment, he looks like one to me.

Anyway, it's really music to write to -- and no, you can't sing along to it. :)

However, don't worry people, this will not be just a music post.  There is, of all things, a short story. Yes, a short story. It's been a while since I did one of those.  If you remember Scott Murphy from The Pius Trilogy, you might remember that he's just a spy.  He's, at most, an infiltrator.  He doesn't do fights. He doesn't punch people. He doesn't do shootouts. He doesn't believe in violence -- because he's a spy, if he has to fight, he's not doing his job.

In this case, a fight comes to him. And Scott, a pale, anemic fellow, who has to fight a legion of terrorists with absolutely no preparation or warning.

Have fun.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Music to Write To: Now We Are Free (Gladiator) - Peter Hollens

I've noticed that it's been a while since I've done something with Peter Hollens.

But at the same time, people tell me that it's hard for them to write to something they can sing to.

Try singing to THIS. Bwahaha.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: Blindspot

Blindspot-logoA bag is found in Times Square with a tag for the FBI. In it is a woman who is wearing nothing but tattoos-- which, for the record, cover her entire body. She has no name or memory -- possibly wiped by a drug designed to wipe traumatic memories of PTSD sufferers -- but also has skill sets right out of Jason Bourne.

One of the tattoos is literally a label "to be delivered" to an FBI agent Kurt Weller -- a badass with a penchant for creative thinking, which we see in his first scene. Someone is thinking here.

If you've seen the trailer, you pretty much have 75% of the pilot episode, but you don't have half the story.
Let's start with something simple right here: the conceit is a standard plot device, like Blacklist, or Person of Interest, and is obviously going to develop into something more long term (obvious from the last few minutes of the pilot). But I have to tell you, I like it.

The pacing is very 24 -- a good season, not a bad one. It moves as fast as possible while also jamming in a surprising amount of character along the way, in-between the shootings, bombings, and car chases.

The acting is surprisingly top notch. No, seriously. Jane Alexander pays the most vulnerable badass I have ever seen. When she's falling apart (because hey, guess what, Matt Damon, people don't just take amnesia in stride like a walk in the park) she looks like she's going to crumble. When she's "on," I'm seeing a lot of berserker tendencies... which is probably why she was hired, after all, she did play a Valkyrie in the Thor films. But she has these wide, expressive green eyes that the cameraman has noticed. Yes, she's a plot device, and in any other situation, she might come off as a bit of a Mary Sue, but they way they're playing it just makes her look like a solid badass without making her look like an OP character in an RPG -- mostly because she's not the sole solution to every problem.

Kurt Weller is played by Sullivan Stapleton (300: Rise of an Empire) who comes off as a slightly more cuddly version of Adam Baldwin ... if you can imagine such a thing. Who also has a set of bright green eyes. As Weller and "Jane Doe" both have similar coloring, if they don't capitalize on this in the long run, I will be surprised.

But yes, I like the show. I like the writing -- while not witty, it is at least engaging, and they're FBI, they're supposed to be stiffs. I like the pacing, because I really miss 24. And am curious and care enough about these characters to want to know what comes next in the long run. Strangely enough, I even like the camera angles. Our heroine is nude and topless repeatedly in the pilot, but you see nothing interesting. Just proving that this is not a premium cable program.
But, truth be told, I've seen some strange, strange critiques of Blindspot. Tor Books whined that the lead actress, Jane Alexander, lounged back pouting sexily at the camera in the shows ad, above. (I don't know how they define "sexy pouting" or even lounging, but that looks like neither one.) The author Kim Harrison complained that Blindspot just used a stereotyped a strong female character for the lead.

In both cases, I have no idea what either of these two groups are smoking, but I'm sure I don't want any.

I've seen both episodes aired thus far, and I look forward to round three.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

#TBT: Villains, Antagonists, #GamerGate, and #SadPuppies

I originally did this one two years ago. Personally, my opinion hasn't changed, really.

Though there are more and more people who are putting aside the idea of "Oh, the villain doesn't think they're evil" and are replacing it more with the concept of "Nope. We just don't think about good and evil." Heck, more frequently, it's "Good and evil are just soooo subjective."

Just look at the anti-#GamerGate crowd backing pederasts, or the Puppy-Kickers backing the generally creepy ... and maybe pederasts (Apparently, Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband were both utter douchebags, though I don't know how well known it was at the time). The justification?  "Oh, it's a lifestyle / it's just another orientation  / who are YOU to judge?"

No, a villain doesn't necessarily see a villain in the mirror ... but sometimes, a villain doesn't acknowledge that there is such a thing as a villain.

And sometimes, people just want to be the villain.

Yes, there are people who are just plain antagonists. They're wrong, or they're insane, or they're just out for themselves.  My antagonists can be reasonable. They can be reasoned with. They can be talked down...which is why I don't write many of them. Just read Honor At Stake, and you'll see what I mean.

Time to let the world burn as we define a villain, or an antagonist.

* * * *

An antagonist is an opponent, but a villain must be stopped.

I'm going to be a little nerdy here and use some rather clear-cut and obvious examples of a villain vs an antagonist, using enemies of Batman....

Yes, I know ... Batman? Really?  Yes, really.  Why? Because everyone at least knows of the majority of the Batman rogue's gallery, so it acts as a good common denominator for everyone involved.

Let's look at some of these folks ...

Few people would think of the Joker as anything less than a villain.  And that would be correct -- but what makes him so?  A complete and utter disregard for human life, for one.  He thinks he's funny when he kills large groups of people, and not only that, but he insists that everyone else finds it funny too.

Is Joker insane? Perhaps -- his fashion sense would indicate that if nothing else -- but does that make him not-evil?  It reminds me of the argument that some victims of child abuse go on to become abusers themselves -- which is garbage. I know more victims of child abuse than is possibly good for me, and while they have an array of neuroses and psychoses, none of them have gone on to be abusers themselves.