Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Review: Fade, by Daniel Humphreys

Fade (Paxton Locke Book 1) by [Humphreys, Daniel]
A week or two back, I noted that I found the successor to Terry Pratchett.

Now, it seems I've tripped over the spiritual successor to Jim Butcher.

Where the hell have all of these people been hiding?

Yes, yes, I know I've been busy with building my own damn shelf of novels, but this is ridiculous now. These people are some awesome writers, and I've been hip deep in writing my little heart out.  Gah. It's a bit frustrating.

But anyway, it's Halloween...

Time for a ghost story.

Welcome to Fade.
From Dragon Award nominee Daniel Humphreys
Son of a Witch

Family drama is bad enough without adding magic and human sacrifice. Ten years ago, Paxton Locke’s mother killed his father in a mysterious ritual that – thankfully – went incomplete. Now, Paxton makes his living as a roving paranormal investigator, banishing spirits while Mother languishes in jail.


When a terrified ghost warns him of a dangerous, newly-freed entity, Paxton faces a fight far beyond simple exorcism. In a battle for his very soul, will he be able to endure – or simply fade away?

Harry Dresden's sorcery goes on a Supernatural-style road trip. Cool car sold separately.
Frankly, the last line isn't branding. It's fairly accurate .... and despite having his own family drama, Paxton Locke is no where near as angsty as the Winchester brothers, whose own angsty bullshit killed any interest I had in Supernatural, no matter how good the plots were.

Let's skip to the short version: This is NOT a Dresden knockoff, but he is most certainly a successor. He wanders like the Winchesters, has a motorcycle like half of 80s action heroes, and an RV like ... no one. No one has an RV. At least no one who comes to mind.

And sure, there are a lot of similarities between Dresden and Locke. Locke is a snarky sumbitch who uses a lot of quips and media references, as well as guns. Hell, he even gets beaten up like Dresden, though Locke is much better at fixing himself. But that's about where the similarities end.... Also, the first client in the novel is a woman named Shirley Jackson, and her house is haunted.  Did I mention that the author is also a smartass? Heh.

"I take quite a bit of pleasure in sticking my thumb in fate's eye whenever possible." 
But seriously, I've read Dresden knockoffs. Like Kevin Hearne ... seriously, fuck that Iron Druid shit. That crap was terrible. THIS is the descendent of Harry Dresden.

I like his magic system. When it comes to most of these, I've never really noticed or felt a cost for the magic in each system. With Harry Dresden, a wizard is literally a different species from humans. Here, the magic has a concrete cost that has echoes and impacts on our hero, and other people can see just how much it costs him. I even like his concept of ghosts, where they are less the soul of the departed and more like the echo of the pain and suffering they went through as they died.... usually in terrible, horrible ways. I even like the grimoire.
"There are way too many ghosts standing on the side of the road, glaring at traffic. I've long suspected ... that they're responsible for those mysterious pieces of rock that tended to hit you out of nowhere when you're driving along. They can't all be from dump trucks."
Oh, yes, and the evil mother? Adjunct professor of cuneiform studies at the University of Chicago. Also, she was an evil vegan, which I know is redundant, but still. If you thought that Harry Dresden had family issues? Mommy dearest is freaking evil. And she has fan mail.

The ending .... was a wonderful setup for book two, setting up a villain and introducing new elements to be explored in the next book. Including one thing that I always noted that Harry Dresden seemed to lack -- more than just a local interest in magic. (Seriously, Jim, if you're reading this, does everything go to Chicago? No where else in America? We've had magic destroy entire buildings in odd and bizarre ways, and no Feds have ever put two and two together?) Like Larry Correia's MHI series, the Feds know there's magic afoot. But they get developed more in book two.

When I read Harry Dresden, if I didn't have a three in one volume, I never would have finished the series. Fade is book one of the series, and it's better than Storm Front or Fool Moon by Butcher. Unlike those two by Butcher, when I finished Fade, I was ready and rearing to go on book two. Granted, Butcher's magnum opus is better, if only in metric tonnage, but give Daniel equal time in terms of decades, and we'll see how they go toe to toe.

If I had read this book when it came out, this would have been my nominee for best fantasy at the Dragon Awards. And he would have earned every last vote. I'm only pissed off that I can't nominate book two for next year, since it came out on the wrong side of the deadline.

If you don't believe me about how awesome this is, read Fade and prove me wrong.

And, while you're at Amazon anyway getting Fade, my upcoming novel Hell Spawn, is up for preorder.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Review: The Brave and the Bold, Book 3 of The Hidden Truth

As you can see,
his covers have improved.
Finally, we get The Brave and the Bold: Book 3 of The Hidden Truth.

You may remember that the previous two books in the series explored an alternate history where 9-11 killed President Al Gore, destroyed the White House, spared the twin towers, and revealed a shadowy conspiracy that had been twisting fate, warping history, and bending culture and all of society to their will.

And most of that was in the opening chapters of book one.

Book two was a chess game, as the enemy came closer and closer to encroaching on our heroes' turf, raiding academia, targeting professors for personal destruction, and a game of wills that only the wary would pass.

Then there came the Order of Preacher spies, the tong assassins, and the forces of counter revolution, for lack of a better term.

And now, book three. 

As the write up says,
Where we go one, we go all!
When the Civic Circle tries to embroil the U.S. in a senseless war, Pete must leverage his summer intern position to infiltrate their Social Justice Leadership Forum on Jekyll Island, and disrupt their plans.The danger - and the opportunity - are far greater than he imagines. The sinister power behind the Cabal - a power that aims to reshape society, destroy our civilization, and cast humanity into bondage - tolerates no rivals. Deep within the conspiracy's stronghold Pete discovers not only the secrets by which they retain their power, but also a crucial vulnerability that could cripple the Cabal with one decisive blow.

With his plans in jeopardy and his life at risk, Pete must forge an unlikely alliance of rivals, turn The Civic Circle against itself, expose their secrets, and end their threat once and for all.The ultimate struggle for the ultimate stakes hinges on one simple question:

Will fortune favor the brave and the bold?
While much of the series has been espionage with a hint of satire, with a heavy slathering of science, this one was extra heavy on all three. The spy stuff with countermeasures and counter surveillance, the pages of manipulation through mind-bending "feelz logic" of special snowflakes, and very heavy on the science.

Right off of the bat, I can say that they had some very nice twists in this one, just in the opening pages. Let me just say that that's one way to do a recap. And while the front half is a solid recap with laying some solid foundations, the back half is the really fun part. I won't say any of it is a slog, but the pacing was a little uneven, especially in the first hundred pages or so.

However, the one thing I should point out here is that this is possibly the best conspiracy theory I've seen since Foucault's Pendulum. What Umberto Eco did with conspiracy theories, Hans has surpassed, weaving together a collection of real life events that create a dark pattern when you look at the convenient timing.

Also of interest is that, while this is an alternate history, unlike many of the ones I've read, with some exceptions -- there is a concrete reason discussed in the novel for why the timeline has diverged.

All in all, a fun read. Thoroughly enjoyed.

Click here to buy it today.

And, while you're buying that anyway...



Monday, October 29, 2018

TV Review: God Friended Me

Let's keep this simple and start with the official description of the show.
Miles Finer is an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he receives a friend request on social media from God and unwittingly becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him. After repeated pokes by God, Miles' curiosity takes over, and he accepts the ultimate friend request and follows the signs to Cara Bloom, an online journalist. Brought together by the mysterious account, the two find themselves investigating God's friend suggestions and inadvertently helping others in need. Miles is set on getting to the bottom of what he believes is an elaborate hoax, but in the meantime, he'll play along and -- in the process -- change his life forever.
Image result for God Friended MeIf I were to sum up this show into one tagline, it would be "One part Person of Interest, one part Joan of Arcadia."  And you can tell that they want to reference PoI because they reference "predicting algorithms in Artificial Intelligence" in the show. 

So, someone has figured out what their audience watches.

This one is very WYSIWYG. Atheist podcaster is harassed by "the God account," and curious enough to follow where these "annoying hints" are.

Though from a Catholic POV ... someone was taking their cues from the poem The Hound of Heaven, because boy, is this fellow God-haunted. And stalked.

Right now, the best I can say is that it's a charming little show. I like the primary actor and his character, because he feels fairly true to life. He's not going to change immediately just because he's had a brief experience, and he falls into familiar patterns easily.

The reporter side kick is fairly charming, and this is a step up from her character of Jessie Quick on Flash.

And thank you God, Joe Morton might actually have a long running TV show. If they can keep it up.

Overall, probably the best new show of the season thus far.



Friday, October 26, 2018

Review: FBI

Let's see if I can do a really short version of the a review of the new tv show FBI.

FBI, in this case, stands for "Fascists, but Integrated."

Yes, Dick Wolf, not content with merely screwing up the Second City even more than it is in real life, returns to fuck up New York once more.

Actually, that's insulting to Law and Order, since they occasionally had some good lines, and they had Sam Waterson and Jerry Orbach putting genuine effort into delivering their lines.

All you need to know about FBI is from the original trailer. They are unprofessional characters who don't believe in innocent until proven guilty, played by actors who can't be bothered to emote as they deliver their lines.

The pilot episode forces you to believe that 1) Alt-right = Nazis and 2) said "Nazis" are going to team up with MS-13 to start a race war .... yes, really, that was the plot. No, I'm not making this up, do you know how many brain cells I had to sacrifice to even type that moronic BULLSHIT.

Yes, I'm cussing on my blog. That's just how full of shit this show is.

Okay, let's back up a few steps.

The Writing.

The writing, it is bad. It is so bad, they  have to force emotional moments out of a child being trapped in a bombed building. The mother of the dead child wishes she had been allowed to go into the building and die alongside him.... it should have been a powerful moment, except SHE HAS ANOTHER SON. She literally declared that she wanted to leave her remaining son without any parents whatsoever. The actress playing our female lead cannot really even be bothered to pretend sadness, but she does seem to be very close to saying "YOU HAVE ANOTHER KID, YOU SELF CENTERED BITCH. YOU MAY WANT TO TAKE CARE OF HIM."  Or maybe I was projecting.

Missy Peregrym and Zeeko Zaki in FBI (2018)
Nice 9-11 homage.
Pity you couldn't make me FEEL ANYTHING.
You know how bad this writing is? They blow up a building in New York City, generating clouds of gray ash and dust, and it is dead. There is no emotion. It is flat. It is dead. They can't even make ME think of 9-11, and I'm the guy who has fucking flashbacks to news footage every time someone starts playing "Pompeii" by Bastille.

And good God, they have all the nuance of a Mack truck running you over and backing up a few times.

"Oh, he's an Alt-right guy."
"You mean he's a Nazi in a suit."

.... Yeah.

Oh, and you know exactly how deviant this "Nazi" is? He made an argument against a synagogue saying "I wanted a hospice on the site. New York City already has more Synagogues than Israel, we need more hospices."

Yeah, that was his evil moment.

The FBI agents leave that very interview and go "Yeah, he's our bad guy."

Wait, what? I'm sorry, I just got whiplash. While the actor did his best to make his dialogue sound as creepy as possible, he came off as ... creepy. Not guilty. And while I have no problem with cops playing hunches or gut feelings, that requires that the actors convince me that the characters even have internal organs. It's hard to have gut feelings when your insides are made of sawdust.

The acting.

To be fair, in episode two, they bring in Sela Ward, who is so charming and charismatic, you can't help but like her. And Jeremy Sisto is an old hand at acting, and a Law and Order veteran who is used to making Dick Wolf dialogue sound like it could be spoken by an actual human being.

But both of these great actors may have a combined five minutes of screen time per episode. They can only do so much with utter shit.

Meanwhile, the two diversity hires who are our main leads can't act their way out of a paper bag. In fact, I'm certain that they were only hired because one is a woman (I suppose she's a woman, there are days I wonder) and the other is .... lightly tanned?

Missy Peregrym (her actual name, apparently) is the Chloe Bennet of the show -- you know, even though she's so poorly written and acted, someone decided that she is the star of the show, despite their being more qualified actors and better written characters.

Then again, I didn't understand her appeal in Rookie Blue, which was another supposed cop show that has less to do with police work than episodes of The Office. She is dull and lifeless in both shows

Hell, look at the photo of her holding a shotgun before a raid. Stern resolve? Or grim realization that she will never be allowed to act ever again? (To be fair, I don't think she's allowed to smile in anything she's in. The only photos of her smiling on screen at IMDB were from episodes of Hawaii 5-0, and that's called "I get paid to film in Hawaii! Fuck ya!")

Jeremy Sisto, Missy Peregrym, and Zeeko Zaki in FBI (2018)
Help. We're in a Dick Wolf production.
We have forgotten out to emote.
The less said about Missy's partner, a cardboard character who's only characteristic is that he MAY be Muslim (hinted at in episode two) the better. He is an even WORSE actor than Missy.

You know why? HE'S FORGETTABLE.

Hell, he is so forgettable that I had to look up his character name -- Omar Adom 'OA' Zidan. So, again, I guess he's supposed to be a Muslim lead character.

I say "guess" because during episode two, with Jihadi terrorists, he seemed to have no emotional involvement. I'm sorry, if Irish Catholics from the IRA blew up anything in New York, I would be pissed off and ready to string them up by their ankles so casual passerbys could use them for pinatas.

This guy? If there was a change in his inflection over the course of the episode, I either didn't notice, or forgot exactly minutes after I saw it.

At least this actor, Zeeko Zaki, has a really good reason for a lousy perfomance-- his acting credits (on IMDB) are sparse. He's been on film for a whole six years. What's Peregrym's excuse?

And the thing that pisses me off about this? This show is jammed between two NCIS series, so the bleed over is probably going to guarantee that this show keeps going.

Rating? 1/10. It only gets a 1 for Sisto and Ward.

If you want a story where cops act like, oh, COPS, instead of fascist meat machines, here, Hell Spawn. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

TV Review: Murphy Brown (the reboot)

Candice Bergen in Murphy Brown (1988)
Objects in TV shows are
uglier than they appear in PR ads
Since we are now in the era of everything being rebooted -- Hawaii 5-0, Magnum PI, Roseanne, MacGyver, S.W.A.T. -- someone thought it would be a good idea to bring back Murphy Brown.

Seriously, who thought this would be a good idea?

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, Murphy Brown centered around a TV broadcast reporter and her band of misfits.

Only now .... I don't know, I may not remember the original TV show that well. Was Murphy Brown originally a sadistic, narcissistic, mean-spirited little sociopath?

Because if so, this show is right on target.

Watching this show is ... odd.

The scripts are very "WE'RE ANTI-TRUMP!!!! RAH RAH RAH."

No, literally, even in character, on the show, they deliberately state that they're "bringing the band back together" because Trump is eeeevvviiillll, and resist, et al.

The execution, however, is very much the audience laughing at the characters, rather than with them.

Anyway, let's address some specific points to prove that I've actually seen this train wreck.

Premise, Murphy Brown is an old, aging, decrepit reporter from the days where people believed TV reporters on Network news. When Trump is elected, she decides to bring back all of her old henchmen to FIGHT THE POWER, only via their own TV program on CNN.

Meanwhile, Brown's son is also a TV reporter, on the competing "Wolf"   network. I wonder what they're ripping off.  His show is basically interviewing people in diners across the country asking people if they regret voting for Trump  yet.

The "plots," as much as they are, have involved a live, on-air war with Trump via tweets, and "taking Sarah Huckabee Sanders to task." The latter one is even dumber than they sound, because during the episode, we are asked to believe that the White House isn't guarded, and there's no security monitoring the side gate.

Yes, really.

The third episode is a #MeToo episode, about how Brown was hit on by her professor about 50 some odd years ago. Which, I'm sorry, is problematic with the characters, the timeline, and all human rationality. Why? You'd have to make me believe that this self-centered little twit wouldn't have gone back and beaten this fellow with a baseball bat decades ago, especially after discovering that he had gotten old and frail.  Because she's the sort of person who would beat an old man with a baseball bat.

Anyway, the only interesting part of this show is about Brown's relationship with her son. Sadly, that takes up about 5 minutes of every episode, because everyone else is so wrapped up in themselves.

For example, the White House Press pool episode started off with her son announcing that he's going to be in the press pool. He's going to get a question asked on his first day! .... So Brown then decides to infiltrate the White House (because she's been banned since dinosaurs walked the Earth) and makes a fuss, demands everyone walks out with her, and essentially ruins her son's first day on the job because it was all about her.

Charming, isn't it?

Anyway, Murphy Brown is unsurprising. It's cruel. It's mean spirited. It sneers at anyone who disagrees with the characters or the writers. It's filled with right wing caricatures and straw men, and the scripts are literally political talking points.

Worst of all, it's not funny. Unless your idea of a good time is watching a cranky, spiteful old hag claim she's perfect and awesome, and falling down on her face over and over again.

The difference between me and Murphy Brown ... I'm not a sadistic sociopath. So no, it's not funny.

Here, have some non-political fun. A saintly cop versus a demonic serial killer -- and it's nowhere near as preachy as this.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

TV Review: New Amsterdam

This is an odd one.

New Amsterdam the show is about a hospital of the same name. It's a rebranded Bellevue, the state run hospital in New York, made famous mostly by locking in felonious nutcases.

In the case of this series, it is based on Dr. Eric Manheimer's memoir Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital. Since he's been the Medical Director of Bellevue Hospital for over 13 years, I can only wonder how much of what is on screen is what happened in real life, what Manheimer WANTED to happen in real life, and how much is just television.

The premise, so far, is, from IMDB,
Dr. Max Goodwin is brilliant, charming -- and the new medical director at America's oldest public hospital. While he's set on tearing down the bureaucracy to provide exceptional care, the doctors and staff are not so sure. They've heard this before, and no one else has delivered on those promises. Not taking no for an answer, Max disrupts the status quo and proves he will stop at nothing to breathe new life into this understaffed, underfunded and underappreciated hospital -- the only one in the world capable of treating Ebola patients, prisoners from Rikers Island and the president of the United States all under one roof -- and return it to the glory that put it on the map. Inspired by Bellevue in New York City.
Step one is to remove all of the buzzwords from that BS write up. What's actually happening is "hospital brings in new guy, new guy takes a sword to the Gordian knot of red tape."

To be honest, this show is a lot better than the marketing and ads make it out to be. I figured it would be all about evils of medicare, "the gubment," et al. Nope. It's actually all about fighting the bureaucracy of what happens when you get the government involved in medical care. I don't know if the writers realize this, but that's what every episode seems to be about.

Hell, half of the episodes thus far focus on personal attention to detail by doctors to patients.  You know, treating a patient like a person. Which is more than Doctor House ever did. They have managed to largely avoid the effect of making it Wagon Train to the ER, which seemed to be what most medical shows are centered around. This isn't a heavy focus on patients from our point of view, but it balances doctors with personal lives and problems, patients with medical issues, and doctors interacting with their patients as though both the doctors and the patients are people. Right now, this show has done a more realistic job of making Doctors humans with foibles, as opposed to House, where the point seemed to be all about making foibles with medical degrees instead of human beings. (Seriously, did every character deliberately slip into degeneracy, or was it just my imagination?)

Mercifully, this show also avoids turning into a medical soap opera. 

This is a cute trick, considering that "the new guy" has cancer in episode one, with a pregnant wife, and they're going through a seperation.... 

And again, still not a soap opera.

Right now, the show is leaning fairly heavily on three characters 
  • "Max Goodwin," aka new guy, played by Blacklist favorite Ryan Eggold (so popular, they gave him his own series for when Blacklist was off the air, a bribe, I suspect, to keep him on the show a little longer).  Eggold is a talented and solid actor, and I would like him to have even more of a career than he has already. He carries off the role of "eager new guy" in a way that isn't obnoxious or cliche. It's strangely refreshing. Heck, the character of Goodwin is so well written, even in the first episode they hit him with a moment where, nope, Goodwin isn't perfect either, and the character bounces right back with "I'm wrong, so what can I do for you and the patient?"
  • "Dr. Helen Sharpe"  is played by Freema Agyeman, of Doctor Who fame. Yes, she's playing yet another doctor. The fun thing with this character is that Sharpe is the chief oncologist who has spent the better part of the last few years trying to be Doctor Phil. Basically, she's a media doctor who has spent so long away from actual patients, she has to be retrained to interact with real people. 
  • Kapoor / Fromme -- These are two doctors, but they've been so intertwined, they're fairly inseparable. Thus far, they each have a fairly solid subplot in neuro / psychology. The most interesting thing here is that every issue brought up are real issues, and solved in a realistic manner. I know this because I know a lot of people with problems both neural and psychological. Issues span from over-prescription of psychoactive medications to simple and straightforward "Yeah, foster care is messed up."
Overall, it's entertaining. Though not exactly groundbreaking. It's a much better version of previously executed concepts.

Let's call it a 7/10.

Though for entertainment value, I will tell you right now that the sequel to Hell Spawn, Death Cult, actually takes place in Bellevue. So order a copy of Hell Spawn and be up and ready to read Death Cult when it comes out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

LOVE AT FIRST BITE SALE, FOUR BOOKS, $10

So, just to make things clear, starting from 12AM (PDT) Wed Oct 24, through 11PM (PDT) Sun Oct 28th, the complete Love at First Bite series will be on sale.

The entire series will be only $10.

If you'd like, the breakdown is as follows...



So, the whole thing adds up to $10

So if you're new here, and would like to check out my work before Hell Spawn arrives ....



Review: Magnum PI reboot

No automatic alt text available.Standard "Social Justice Warrior" (where they're anti-social, don't believe in justice, and will sooner stab you in the back ASAP) tactics involve finding a beloved institution, gutting it of what made it great, and wearing its skin like a suit and demanding the same respect.


So, there was a Magnum PI reboot.

You can kinda of see where this is going to go. It's going to be... close. Not quite, but really damn close.

If you remember the original series (and it's out for relatively cheap on DVD, go out and just buy the damn thing, won't you?) it features Tom Selleck as Thomas Sullivan Magnum. Magnum is former Naval Intelligence and Vietnam vet, who became a Private Investigator -- and don't call him a PI. He's living in the guest house in the estate of "Robin Masters," a Mickey Spillane knockoff who owns a vast Hawaiian estate. Magnum's constant antagonist is the estate manager, Johnathan Higgins, who is a stuffy British WWII vet who endlesslessly prattles on about the good old days during the war... and his dobermans, Zeus and Apollo.

Don't expect any of that here.

Image result for tom selleck jay hernandez
Jay vs. Magnum
They have a very nice Hawaiian estate, they have two dobermans. And from there on, the similarities stop. Jay Hernandez is playing someone named Magnum, a former navy SEAL. The estate manager is a Juliette Higgins, former MI6 with a Swiss Army knife of skill sets for all of your plot hole filling needs.

This would be a far more interesting show if it wasn't called Magnum. This is obviously not even the show that the creators wanted to do. They are far more interested in the adventures of a former MI6 spy who'se become a property manager rather than the vagabond PI who drags her into miscellaneous threats.

Originally, I was interested in the concept for the SEQUEL SERIES, that was supposed to followed Magnum's daughter, spawned with his Vietnamese wife during the series. It would have at least, oh, I don't know, CONTINUED THE STORY.

Instead, we got THIS.

To be fair, I can't blame the actors for this. Mediocre writing is competing for what they want to do into the odd constraints being forced upon in. Again, this might not suck as bad if they didn't have the Magnum label on it.

Because while Jay is a perfectly nice guy, he's not Magnum. Jay is shooting more for Jim Rockford than Magnum. I find it hard to imagine that recently released members of the teams (SEALs) get casually beaten up on a regular basis, or get winded chasing after people.  Good God, Jay, Tom Selleck spent the opening of every Magnum PI episode doing some sort of exercise, and even put him in an Iron Man competition during the show. Up your game, Jay.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standingAnd while they obviously wanted Perdita Weeks to play the Strong Female Character #5, she's far too charming, charismatic and feminine to turn into ... whatever they did to Blindspot. There are moments where the fight coordination goes from realistic ("You mean she's kicking for leg joins? Even ankles? About flipping time") to "Weeks needs to be about thirty pounds heavier to do that move."

It's also problematic when Magnum and Higgins start off as antagonists to develop a grudging respect, and maybe even a friendship as former vets .... while Jay and Perdita are being played off as some sort of variation on Castle, where half the story is driven by a potential romance.

But yeah, whatever show they start they were doing would have probably worked a little better (IE: at all) if they didn't decide to do Castle with a light Magnum reskin.

At best, this is mediocre and largely inoffensive.

At worst, this is insulting.

.... And yet, it's still better than that terrible MacGyver attempt.

5/10 on its good days. 3/10 at worst.



Sunday, October 21, 2018

THE HELLSPAWN PREORDER IS LIVE

So, here's the good news.

Hell Spawn, the next Dragon Award winner for Horror (2019) is available for pre-order.

Here's the BETTER news.

It's available in HARDCOVER.

Yes, I know. Hardcovers are expensive. They're outdated.

But damn, do I love me a hard cover.

Yes, for the record, Silver Empire will be releasing them in other formats -- paperback and e-book will be out sooner rather than later, so if you want to hold out for another format, you won't have to wait all that long.

Order your copy today, beat the rush.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review: Making Peace

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Quick Updates

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

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

Something you may not know, however....

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

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

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

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

This is going to be so much fun.

Monday, October 8, 2018

DEATH CULT COVER REVEAL

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

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Vampires in Legend, Folklore, and Fiction, DragonCon 2018

So, this panel was described as follows

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

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

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

This is the complete panel   



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



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





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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

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

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

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

The video below is the official DragonCon video footage.

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

The description of the panel is as follows:

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

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

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





Monday, October 1, 2018

Hellspawn: A Change in perspective

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

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

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

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

But that's not the point in this instance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Meet the Authors, Dragon Award panel 2018

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

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

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

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

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


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THE OFFICIAL DRAGONCON VIDEO




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





OR