Friday, September 28, 2018

Hellspawn: Making the Demon

When I started writing out the outline for Hell Spawn, 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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Catholic Geek Returns, #AGundam4Us with Brian Niemeier

The Catholic Geek Returns, with Brian Niemeier 09/23 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts:

Dragon Award Winner Brian Niemeier joins host Declan Finn for an in-depth discussion about Brian's latest project, Combat Frame X-Seed. Along the way, we talk World Con, Dragon Con, and the publishing industry.

To check out Brian's IndieGoGo project, click here.

To check out my kickstarter for Hellspawn, click here.

Enter: Hell Spawn


I've mentioned that Hell Spawn is going to be the first in the series of a cop with saintly powers.

I've mentioned that it features this Saint Cop versus a possessed serial killer.

I've mentioned that it's gonna be awesome.

I didn't mention that there's gonna be a kickstarter.

Yes, it's all the rage these days, I know. Comic books and mecha novels and hero series and such like. And you're probably wondering, "Declan, what does a publisher need with a kickstarter account?"

Good question.

The answer is: sales are going too well. Once upon a time, Silver Empire could pay quarterly royalties ASAP. Instead of waiting the TWO MONTHS Amazon holds the royalty payments on, it was a simple matter of paying out of pocket. After all, my publisher is the owner of TWO of his own businesses.

Now, sales are too good. And while Silver Empire waits upon Amazon to pay up, Silver Empire is doing six other things.

This kickstarter helps them pay me faster than Amazon can pay them to pay me.

Not only that, but the kickstarter is going to the costs of cover art, printing books, promotional artwork, and .... again, me.

What are the goals of the kickstarter?

As Russell notes on the main page:
Stretch Goals
$1,000 - Mr Finn will commit to at least a fourth novel in the Saint Tommy, NYPD series!
$1,500 - Mr Finn will commit to at least a fifth novel in the Saint Tommy, NYPD series!
$2,000 - Mr Finn will commit to at least a sixth novel in the Saint Tommy, NYPD series!
So, if you like the idea, and the samples thus far, you're going to want to get in on this soon.

You'll also like the description from Russell.
You'll get some of the best horror books ever written, from an author who has been a Dragon Award finalist for "Best Horror Novel" twice in the three short years of the award's history. These books are available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats for your convenience. What's more, all hardcover and paperback editions will be signed and personalized by the author!
Come to think of it, I think the only people who have been nominated 3 times already have been me, Jim Butcher, Mark Wandrey, and perhaps JF Holmes. Which puts me in some nice company.

What's the schedule like on release.?
Book 1, Hell Spawn, is nearing completion and will be shipped by the end of October. Book 2, Death Cult, will ship 4-6 weeks after that, and book 3, Infernal Affairs will ship 4-6 weeks following Death Cult.
And don't worry. While book three is not done yet, I'm already over 20,000 words into it in 2 weeks. And, as Russell notes.
Mr Finn writes books so fast that we at Silver Empire have suggested "the Declan" as the new SI unit of measure for writing speed. We have 100% confidence in his ability to not only finish any books he commits to, but also to finish them in a very timely manner.
In other words, probably the end of the month.... Okay, okay. The start of October.

What's the rewards tree look like?
  • Pledge $1 or more: The first 50 pages of HELL SPAWN. Available immediately. 
  • $3 or more -- You get the ebook. The whole ebook. Probably before it comes out, but that's just a guess. In PDF, MOBI, and EPUB formats for your convenience. Notice that it's probably cheaper than most e-books. So you're just buying the damn thing early.
  • Pledge $12 or more - Not only do you get all of the above, but you get a SIGNED paperback edition of HELL SPAWN.  You'll get the paperback in November, and everything else ASAP. Which means that you're getting the SIGNED paperback and the e-book for cheaper than the price of most paperbacks.  Yes, I'll be signing them. 
  • Pledge $15 or more -- Hell Spawn paperback
  • Receive a SIGNED paperback edition of HELL SPAWN, book 1 of the SAINT TOMMY, NYPD series. Also receive an ebook edition of HELL SPAWN in PDF, MOBI, and EPUB formats for your convenience.
  • Pledge $30 or more -- Hell Spawn hardcover - Early Bird!  To heck with you, I want want of these. I get a hardcover. Ahh... Yeah, I've always wanted one of those. It'll be awesome.  It'll also come with the e-book versions. Also due to backers in Novermber.
  • Pledge $30 or more -- 3-book Paperback collection - Early Bird  ($40 if you don't get in there quick.) It'll probably come together by April.
  • Pledge $35 or more -- the hardcover for those people who come a little later. See, the people who show up first pay less.
  • Pledge $80 or more -- 3-book Hardcover Collection - Early Bird ($95 if you don't get in there ASAP). Again, I think even I'm going to want a set of these.

Anyway, here's the link for the Kickstarter. Go ahead, you know you at least want to give $1. Just $1. That way, you want to look at the first 50 pages, and decide if you want the rest. You may even want them in hardcover, because look at that cover, why wouldn't you?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Hell Spawn: Cover Reveal

It occurs to me that I should have done this before I got married, but I was a little busy....

Getting Married.

Anyway, welcome to Hell Spawn, the first in my latest, newest series. Saint Tommy, Detective. It's about a NYPD detective with all the powers of a Wonder Worker ... ie: a future Saint.... and I put him up against a serial killer with a special history: he's a serial killer.

Long term fans of mine will be amused by this cover.

Are you not getting it? Don't worry, here's the first edition cover for A Pius Man.

Yup. Some of the same stock art.

For the record, my publisher, nor the cover artist, had any knowledge about this edition of APM. Please remember that I had come to Russell's attention around my vampire series. By then, Dawn Witzke had already done the cover art on book 1 again. After release.

Yeah. This is only the start. Just wait until you see some of what's in Hell Spawn.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The #CaptainMarvel trailer

Image result for miss marvel
Oh look, the trailer is out for the upcoming Marvel film....

For the record, Miss Marvel, which was Carol Danvers' first of many identities, was a six-foot blonde who got her powers through less than conventional means... even for the Marvel universe. On the right, you get to see Miss Marvel in her original, and best, outfit. She's muscular and feminine at the same time. So, not bad.

Now, Captain Mar-vell was an alien who turned on his people to save humans from his own people, eventually dying to save humanity.

Marvel comics would eventually give Danvers a promotion in the air force and they would relabel her Captain Marvel, which is something that a lot of old school fans are less than happy with. Then they redesigned her suit so that it was ugly, then retooled her look to cut her hair to a crew cut. Then, eventually, removed her boobs entirely to give her pecs like Captain America.

Don't believe me? Look at this picture.

Captain Marvel is the one in the middle. The one on the right is supposed to be She-Hulk. Yes, these characters are all supposed to be women. Ugly, isn't it? There's a reason I super sized the top pic.

Now, knowing a little bit of the backstory so you can understand my trepidation going into this, let us begin.

7 seconds: Ooooooo. It is that ancient temple to the vid gods known as Blockbuster. Surely we are in ancient times....

Yes, I know it's a good way to establish setting, but this is a trailer. They're already lingering on it too long. It's 7 of the first 13 seconds. That's at least three minutes too long.

20 second makr: "War is the universal language?"  No no no, Nick Fury, that's "War. War never changes."

22 seconds: And good God I hate that outfit. It's so flipping ugly.

22 - 52 seconds: Nothing but Sam Jackson narration and special effects. This is a Nick Fury origin movie! This'll be great.

(Also, Fury knew about aliens in the 1990s? Really? Then why blame Thor for the Tesseract powered weapons in The Avengers? Why hasn't everyone been trying to develop new super weapons since this film?)

52 seconds in, SHE SPEAKS. And she sounds so .... what's the word? Pathetic? Wimpy? I'm not finding the right word. After

1:00: She has flashes of memory ... oh FFS, another hero with amnesia problems? Are we kidding? And the whole film will be told in retrospect? Oh, screw you people. I'm already having problems getting psyched for this film, and you want to BEGIN by taking the tension out of it by showing us she survived in advance?

1:06: Female fighter pilots ... in the 90s. Am I the only one with bad memories about that?

1:14: Are they going to subject her to her entire life story? Because if so, I'm bugging out of this film already.

1:15: FINALLY we get space stuff. Took them frigging long enough. Except the more I look at this image, the more I think everything is CGI in this shot, including her and her suit.

1:20: Oh, look, she has resting bitch face and apparently no charisma. I am not enthused for this film. Do something, trailer! DO SOMETHING!

1:22: ..... Should I know this actor that you're spending a close up shot on him? This is a trailer. Every second counts. Give me SOMETHING to latch onto aside from Sam Jackson trying to look like he did in Pulp Fiction.

1:30. We have Skrulls! Evil, shape-shifting SOBs. So we have a villain! This trailers has something for me to care about?

1:27-1:31:  "What makes a hero?" followed by our lead punching a little old woman in the face. Without any context at all for people who don't already know that the Skrulls are shape shifters. Way to sell this film to the general public.

1:33: Oh, look, it's Agent Coulson back when he was cool.

1:40: Oh good sweet Lord, not that costume. That costume is ugly.

1:45: "I'm not what you think I am."  Oh, lady, you don't wanna know what I think you are.

Is it me? Am I the only one who is less than thrilled about this movie? Don't get me wrong, this looks like a great film for the backstory on Fury and Coulson, but this isn't supposed to be a SHIELD origin story is it?

Is it that the trailer is poorly edited? Long lingering shots, excessive focus on everyone but our main character? I remember the trailers being more interesting than this. Then again, I'm coming into it with some preconceived notions. But this just looks like a mess.

Anyway, here, have a heroine who's feminine and badass, a hero he's manly and lethal, and hordes of the damned trying to kill them both.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Reviews for Good to the Last Drop

When Good to the Last Drop first came out, I had some awesome reviews by some long time fans.

Sadly, I never had a chance to post these reviews.

Now that the new edition is here, time to have a party.

To start with, JD Cowan. Just some excerpts.
What makes these books so successful is how much fun they are. There are clear good guys and definitive bad guys, there is humor, there is plenty of action, there is a solid plot with developing characters, and the central romance is engaging. It's the sort of vampire tale not seen since at least the days of The Lost Boys when you could be serious and fun at the same time without insulting the lore or the audience. It also helps that the vampire mythos the story is built on is well established and builds off of concepts Bram Stoker used way back in Dracula and are given solid rules that must be obeyed. There are no glittering pseudo-vampires here.

As an end to the series, it's a suitable final chapter. Each book had slowly grown with scope and ambition leaving few places left for the series to go without devolving into self-parody. But the author avoids that trap by ending it at just the right point when the stakes hit critical mass. You will see carnage and death, and you will see if good really does ever win in this world of horrors. The last encounter is the final statement on all four books and the definitive last period on just what it is all about. I would argue the last few lines of the book sum it up even better, but I'm not going to spoil that.....

As it is, this is the best vampire series I've read. An engaging run from start to finish as each book improves on the last and finishes with a conclusive ending that wraps everything up neatly. If you've been waiting for vampires to be great again: these are the books you've been waiting for. 
Good to the Last Drop, as well as the whole series, comes highly recommended. You can't get better vampire-related entertainment than this.

You can see why I wanted to hold onto that review until the latest version.

Then there was Lori's review.
If you thought the other books in the series were full of great fight scenes and characters, hold on to your hats, because this one is the best yet.

The fight scenes are a lot of fun, well done, and intense.  The characters are still convincing, compelling, and occasionally hilarious, in an understated, New-Yorker kind of way.  Marco and Amanda are full of their various faults, but loveable for them.

My favorite aspect about Amanda?  How many times can you watch a TV show or read a book with a “tough girl” who isn’t automatically an evil, catty, bitch?

Other than that rare feat of talented writing, the best part of this book is the way he managed to tie in the worldbuilding and the plot in a perfect end-of-the-series sendoff.  Without any spoilers, let’s just say that the idea of a good vampire that makes sense pays off magnificently at the end.  There’s a perfect juxtaposition of downright, pure evil on the one side, and rare, beautiful goodness on the other.
....... I think that's all I need to say here.

Buy the novel here.

Buy the series here.  Because it's out and it's complete.

Back from the Honeymoon, and DragonCon

Yes, I'm back from my honeymoon. And from The Dragon. I'll be posting pics soon enough. But I'm sure everyone wants to hear about the Dragon Awards....

Assuming they haven't already....

Best Science Fiction Novel went to. .... Artemis by Andy Weir.

...Are we surprised? Heck no. Even I figured this much out ahead of time.

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal).... Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Again, even I called this.

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel ....Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Who? I knew at least two or three of the YA authors, and this isn't one of them. This one is a bit of left field.

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel ... A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Thomas Pope

Again. Not shocked at all.

Best Alternate History Novel ... Uncharted by Kevin J. Anderson

I'm so happy to see that KJA has FINALLY gotten an award. He's only had about 60 bestselling books. And no, I couldn't call this one. It was a four way shootout.

Best Media Tie-In Novel ....Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray

[shrug] Whatever.

Best Horror Novel .... Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Oh. Look. King won a horror award. I'm. So. Shocked.

... Is anyone?

Best Comic Book ....Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron and James Harren, Marvel Comics

Does anyone care?

Best Graphic Novel .... again, went to Brandon Sanderson’s White Sand Volume 1 by Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin, and Julius M.  Gopez, Dynamite Entertainment

This was just too easy.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series ...Game of Thrones, HBO

Eh. I voted for Lucifer.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie .... Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler

Four Marvel films. I'm only surprised that they they didn't cancel each other out.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game ... Middle-earth: Shadow of War by Monolith Productions

Considering all of the loot box controversy, I was surprised at this one. But I liked the first game. I will buy this one.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game .... Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery by Jam City

I wanted the Shadow of War Mobile game. But it won PC, so cool.

As for the rest, I neither know nor care.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game
Red Dragon Inn 6: Villains by Slugfest Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game
Magic: The Gathering Unstable by Wizards of the Coast

While you're here, if you haven't checked out my Dragon Award Nominated series, Love at First Bite.