Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Live Cast on Villains

Yes, I know I did a blog on this yesterday, but it was on my mind.



You can find the link for City of Shadows here.

And if you haven't chimed into the discussion, my latest discussion on the Dragon Awards is here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Making a Villain (update)

Bad guys don't need to wear black.
But then again, black can be awesome.
So, what do Moriarty, Modred, and Sauron have in common?

Easy, they're all bad guys.

What else to they have in common? While all villains in their respective stories, very little connects the three.  Moriarty is a math professor gone bad, seemingly to start a criminal empire for the sake of it; an intellectual exercise for fun and profit. Sauron, of Lord of the Rings, is a being of pure evil who wants to conquer the word., with him as the only free person in it.  Modred ... well, depending on what edition you're looking at, he's either a a pure tool of his mother, a weapon of evil, a manipulative little wretch, or, just guy who's gotten caught up in events that lead to a train wreck (honestly, just read Mary Stewart's novels...)

Creating a villain can be no different from creating every other character in a universe. A character is a character, and if you're trying to create a fully 3-Dimensional person on the page, it shouldn't matter if it's a protagonist or an antagonist. With Sauron, there is literally an entire backstory on him stretching back thousands of years (Tolkien, The Silmarillion); Modred was given a great deal of emotional and personal depth by Mary Stewart in her novels of King Arthur; and Moriarty ... well, he was a tool by Arthur Conan Doyle because he was tired of writing Sherlock Holmes, other people have stepped up to give Moriarty more of a back story, including Isaac Asimov.

But note, Moriarty actually has no lines in the single short story he appears in. The only dialogue he has is whatever Holmes relates to Watson. He technically doesn't even need a backstory, but he's inspired countless variations for villain. As far as iconic personal adversaries, he might be the beginning of the archetype for the mirror opposite for the hero.

In the case of my bad guys, I've done both extremes. For my Pius novels, I have the personal history going back to the antagonist's grandparents. They have hobbies and motivations and a history. They have back stories, and I could probably make books out of the bad guys I make ... but then again, the last bad guy as protagonist was probably The Talented Mr. Ripley. Unless that's your read on the entirety of Game of Thrones.

However, there are schools of thought behind making villains.  One is that "the villains really see themselves as the good guys; the heroes of their own stories."

That's crap. Total and complete crap.

Why is that crap? Because it makes a lot of presumptions. Starting with the presumption that the villain even believes about "right" and "wrong."  Good, bad, they're the ones with the weapon. Going back to Greek mythology, the only constant "moral" was that right and wrong were whatever the fickle gods decided it was. Hubris was the only constant sin they appeared to acknowledge. If we want real life villains, does anyone think a Saddam Hussein believed in anything but power? How about the abortion lobby? Does anyone think they care about "women's health"? They only murder a few million children a year in the name of "mercy."

And you can't merely dismiss villains as sociopaths. Why not? There are plenty of amoral little bastards out there whose only goal is whatever their whim is at the moment. They don't think over morals, ethics, Nietzsche, the will to power ... though you'd be surprised how many think they are beyond good and evil, because what's good and evil.

And you don't need to be a sociopath to have a mindset geared towards "this is what I want," and "this is what's good for me," and screw the rest of the universe. We call it social media. What are the thugs of Anti-Fa but weaponized social media mobs? If you have that type of a person, add together a total disregard for the consequences, and for anyone who gets in your way, you have a good, solid villain.

This is my school of villainy.  My bad guys don't care about what's right and wrong.  They don't care about anything but what they want. They don't even see themselves as the hero of their story ... because that presumes they believe in heroes and villains. If there's no right and wrong, then what's a villain? What's a hero?

Can characters have a code of honor and be a villain? Sure, why not?  Honor is generally considered a system based solely on pride. There's a reason pride is a deadly sin. And pride is all about "me."

And, no, a villain doesn't have to be pure evil -- torturing, sadistic rapist qualities are not a prerequisite. For some, not everything is about sex. And, hell, I live in New York, BDSM is considered a "subculture."

Hey, just because the character slashes someone's throat and watches their lifeblood coming out of them in spurts, chuckling manically, doesn't necessarily make them a bad guy. Though it could make them a fairly scary good guy? (If you ever get the chance, look up the first Mr. Moto film with Peter Lorrie. He plays a Japanese man in the 1930s, just as everything goes to Hell in the Pacific.  You seem him kill people in what looks like cold blood.  He always wears black gloves, black coats, and he always looks sinister. You have no idea what side he's on until the very end.)

On the other end of the equation, there are people who try to tell me that MacBeth was a tragic hero ... Really? That's like saying that all of the murderers caught by Columbo were heroes, as opposed to a murder mystery told from the killer's point of view. Here's a lesson to being a writer: if you're trying to make your hero tragic, don't give him a body count in the triple-digits that includes innocent women and children.

My point: you don't need a bad guy to be crazy for him to be evil. Nor do you need a sadist, a rapist, a pervert, sex-fiend, or Jack the Ripper.

Hell, I don't think any of my villains are that sort of psycho.

The enemy in A Pius Man, for example, is none of these. Will he kill everyone in his way? Sure. Will he go out of his way to utterly and completely destroy thousands if he can? Absolutely. Will he rape, torture, and maim for fun and profit? No.  Why? Because it's not efficient, a waste of time, and won't help him achieve his goals in the slightest.

The Love at First Bite series have demons and vampires as the bad guys, and they want to take over the world in the service of Hell. These bastards all know whose side they're on. They know they're working for the forces of Hell. You can't tell me they think they're the hero. (And no, you can't tell me that Lucifer is the hero of Paradise Lost -- he's the protagonist, but he's still the villain.)

Heck, the Saint Tommy NYPD series is ... oy. Again, possessed serial killer. A death cult and a warlock motivated by political power. I've got Jihadists who want to destroy Christendom so their culture can take over the world. There are anti-theists who have... a similar motivation. We won't even get into the eldritch horrors from beyond.

For the record, to write an antagonist, you just need one person to have competing goals with your main character. If you have a person with goals that run counter to the protagonist, then you have a good antagonist.

What that antagonist does makes them a villain. For a villain, you need someone who must be stopped, one way or another. And reasoning with them isn't even an option.

For a ton of good villains, and antagonists, I suggest you take a look at my Dragon Awards discussion post for some great novels that do this.

Monday, May 20, 2019

2019 Book of the Year Announced: the winners will shock you

Click bait title aside, the conclusion is somewhat surprising.

Because book #1, the Book of the Year for the Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance is ....

Hell Spawn.

Yes, by me.

Click here if you don't believe me.

Meanwhile, in other news, Catholic Reads has reviewed Hell Spawn.

I think they liked it.

And while we're at it, It's still up for the Dragon Award in best horror.

So if you haven't read Hell Spawn, now's the time to take a look at it.

If you haven't cast a vote for the Dragon Awards, now's the time to consider your options.

Be well all.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

City of Shadows Playlist, Chapter 2

Only two different ones this time as I went through Chapter 2. I don't know if it was a matter of I played these on a loop, or if these were the only two songs that I remembered.

Both of these are covers by Minniva. I don't know her last name offhand. In a lot of cases, I like her versions better than the original ... if only because they move, and because I can understand them.

Anyway, this is one.




And then Hammerfall's Last Man Standing


In either case, if you haven't gotten a copy of City of Shadows yet, here's the link.



Oh, and if you haven't seen, I have May's Dragon Award discussion up already.

Enjoy one or the other. :)

Monday, May 6, 2019

Dragon Awards, May 2019

The Dragons are open for voting ... and we're getting close to the cut off date for the nominees.

Yeah, it's been a fast month. Hell, I feel like I just did this blog.

Though trust me, you have no idea how much I wanted to title this post "Sad Puppies 6, Zombie Puppies Bite Back," but my click bait instinct has a filter.

Anyway, let the discussion begin. And yes, I've got additional suggestions kicking around from you folks who came to play

And yes, I said discussion. I'd like people to come on, and tell me what you want to see nominated. Hell, I've already made adjustments to the list below. I haven't changed who I'm voting for yet, since something would need to blow my socks off to change my mind. But I want to make certain that this become a DISCUSSION.

Now, again, please remember the eligibility is from the start of July 2018 to the end of June 2019.

So, let's continue.
* * * * * *  * *

Best Science Fiction Novel

I have already reviewed Heroes Fall by Morgon Newquist. You might think .... whatever you like. But this was one Hell of a solid novel, and some of the best SF I've read in years.

What is it? Superheroes. If you liked Astro City, or JMS's Rising Stars, or, hell, the MCU, you're going to want to read this one, and I think you're going to agree with me that it's pretty kickass.

Now, as was suggested last time, Richard Paolinelli has a new book out, called When the Gods Fell.

A friend of mine, MA Rothman, has an SF book out that might be of interest.


Also, Christopher Ruocchio would like people to recall that his novel, Empire of Silence has also come out.

Nathan, from the Pulp Archivist has Pop Kult Warlord, by Cole.

A Mr John Boyd suggested in my comments on the April post for Causes of Separation by Travis Corcoran. It was seconded by Karl Gallagher. So there may be some competition this year.



Best Fantasy Novel 
(Including Paranormal)

I have not yet reviewed Bokerah Brumley's "Keepers of New Haven: Woe for a Faerie" on my blog. However, I can tell you that it has some interesting ideas and concepts

I had considered putting one of Daniel Humphreys Paxton Locke novels up for this one (again, I got the ARC. Heh heh heh), but he was more interested in emphasizing another topic.

Also, to be honest, while I know the book is done, I don't know when it's going to be released, so there's that too.

Nathan has thrown in a suggestions for this one:  Sword of Kaigen, by M. L. Wang. I honestly cannot speak to this one, since I haven't read it yet. Though the price is $.99 today apparently, so that might be cool.

Karl Gallagher has sent me a copy of his book The Lost War, so I have to make time for that.

Best YA / Middle Grade Novel

Mutter mutter mutter. The Kings Regret by Ligon is not yet out, so you'll have to take my word on it for this moment. I can't say too much. It's Steampunk YA.

Lucky for him, Jagi hasn't come out with another Rachel Griffin novel.

Nathan, however, does have another option: Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, vol. 12, by Omori... da heck? I have looked it up and concluded that yes, this is a novel, despite the cover. Honest. I was confused there for a moment.

Best Military SFF Novel

Daniel Humphrey's A Place For War... Yes, this is what Daniel wanted to be nominated in instead of his Night's Black Agents, so I concurred.

For the record, no, I have not yet read David Weber's Uncompromising Honor. I suspect he will not need additional support.

Nathan (and apparently Anspach and Cole) has another thought: Galaxy's Edge: Order of the Centurion.


Best Alternate History Novel

This was a tough one.

Because in addition to Hans Schantz's Brave and the Bold (reviewed here), you also have yet again another Robert Kroese Iron Dragon novel .... which I will admit, I have not read, but let's face it, Robert isn't going to start to suck at this late date, now is he?  The Iron Dragon has been seconded by a John Boyd in my comments from April's post.

So this should end well.

Best Media Tie-In Novel

Thrawn: Alliance
Timothy Zahn is doing a Thrawn novel. Your argument is so invalid, it's not even funny.

Nathan at Pul Archivist wants to throw Realmslayer, by Guymer. It is apparently a Warhammer novel.

Best Horror Novel

This is funny, since by the time the Dragons comes out, I will have SIX horror novels eligible.

Hell Spawn
Death Cult
Infernal Affairs
City of Shadows
Crusader (Coming soon)
Deus Vult (Coming soon....ish)

..... But as I argued, it's best to nominate Hell Spawn and move on. And if you disagree and would like to nominate one of the other books in another category ... okay, but I'd like you not to split the vote too too much.

Please refer here for my thoughts on the matter.


Best Comic Book

Dark Maiden #2, by Jonathan Baird.

Joan of Arc fantasy comic book.

I dare you to find me something better.


Best Graphic Novel

Good question. Any ideas?

Nathan had one: Conan le Cimmérien - Le Colosse noir  .... I don't know why Nathan wanted it in French, but okay.

Though I'm tempted to say the comic adaptations of PD Wodehouse by Chuck Dixon, just because Jeeves and Wooser are just so much fun.



Best SFF TV Series

I actually have a tossup on this one.

Okay, I had one. While I greatly enjoyed Reverie, which had some great ideas, solid executions, and generally well-done ... the series is cancelled. I shouldn't be surprised. It was a series over the summer.

So, I'm going to have to say God Friended Me ... It might actually be one of the better shows out there, with a solid character arc for everyone, even the bit players. And everything fit together brilliantly in the end.

I await the next season to screw it up, because television.

Best SFF Movie

The Meg...

No. No question. Just The Meg.

Yes, I'm biased. Damn straight. I've only waited 20 flipping years for this movie.

Though wouldn't it be funny if it's The Meg vs Aquaman?

Water on water violence.

Though I await people to just tell me "Endgame."

Best SFF PC / Console Game

Spiderman, PS4, Insomniac games.

Yup. No hesitation. This was .... amazing.


As for ... Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game ....
AND
Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game....

No idea.

However, 

Best SFF Miniatures / Collectible Card 
/ Role-Playing Game....

Nathan to the rescue on this one: Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team


Other nominees.

You might remember that last year, I had at least half a dozen nominees for each category....

Nope. Not anymore.

Again, the upcoming Daniel Humphreys' Come Seeling Night is something I'd suggest in paranormal, but he wanted military.

And unknown person commented that he wanted "Supersync by Kevin Inkenberry for Best Science Fiction novel"... but I can't find any such person.  Unknown aslo seconded "A Pale Dawn for best Military Science Fiction novel."

....So, yeah, right now, I'm out of alternate suggestions at the moment. Maybe I'm just out of authors. Heck, I would love to nominated Simon R Green for Night Fall... but it is one of his lesser works, and really dropped the ball for the finale of his magnum opus, largely by having it as a crossover with a series I truly and deeply hate.

However, author and publisher Christ Kennedy has a set of choices. I put them all in one place since he's the one who gave me the most suggestions.


  • Best Science Fiction Novel – Salvage Title, Kevin Steverson
  • Best Fantasy Novel – A Tangled Fate, Jon R. Osborne
  • Best Young Adult/Middle Grade Novel – Black and White, Mark Wandrey (Which I cannot find to link to, so, sorry)
  • Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel – A Pale Dawn, Kennedy and Wandrey
  • Best Alternate History Novel – The World Asunder, Kacey Ezell (Again, not out, so I can't link to it)
  • Best Media Tie-In Novel – The Replicant War, Chris Kennedy
  • Best Horror Novel – Darker Nights, Eric S. Brown
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game – Turbolance, Ryan Kennedy and Noah Bowden
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game – The Four Horsemen: Omega War, Clarion Games


If you want to give me alternate suggestions, please be sure to leave one in the comment -- author, title, and genre category.

As of now, let the discussions begin.

And if you want to vote RIGHT THIS MINUTE, that would be here.



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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Deus Vult O'Clock

You know things are bad when I don't even want to write a shootout.

So I'm taking this little lull from writing at the moment to talk with you people about, well, what the Hell I've been doing.

Much of what I've been researching during the Saint Tommy series had been a refresher course on my faith. Some of it is tripping over stuff I haven't seen before. Few people discuss what happens with the Catholic church lately in terms of what the church teaches. Most of the time, they discuss whatever dumbass statement our current moron in white at the Vatican is talking about this week. (Yes, moron. Because if he were evil, I'd think he'd be smarter than this.)

And it drives me crazy.

If you look at doctrine, Catholics aren't half as wishy washy as Pope Francis would have you believe.

Pope Jon Paul II took out the Soviet Union.

Benedict was, of all things, an intellectual badass academic who STILL had people who liked him.

Then we have Pope flipping Frankie, who is such a spineless worm I'm waiting for him to just die already.

I mean, look at this.
"Christians in America and Europe are persecuted. This is not the wild claim of right-wing alarmists but the sober contention of the Bishop of Rome. Standing where St Peter was crucified, preaching on the feast of St Stephen in 2016, Pope Francis described how Christians in the West have come to face a form of “polite persecution” that “takes away from man and woman their freedom, as well as their right to conscientious objection”. “Jesus has named the head of this ‘polite’ persecution: the prince of this world,” Francis said. “And when the powerful want to impose behaviours, laws against the dignity of the son of God, they persecute them and go against God the Creator. It is the great apostasy.”
This is, of course, before Francis literally kowtowed to Imams in Jordan. This is before Francis handed over the underground Church in China to the Christian-beating government, who has proceeded to kick the stuffing out of every since Christian they could get their hands on, and has declared that they are going to destroy Christianity, full stop.

Maybe the "polite persecution" would stop if people thought we had a spine. Francis shows them on every occasion that we will bend over for any thug.

And it drives me crazy.

It's starting to feel like the Pope doesn't understand Christianity. Do you know why we have a crucifix as our symbol? It was a symbol of "Our God overcame this. We aren't afraid of the most horrific, painful torture and execution device you have in your entire arsenal. What else ya got? Bring it, bitch."

The instruction "When struck on the right cheek, offer them your left" wasn't an invitation to masochism because we delight in being pummeled. It was an alternative to swinging back (which would probably get you arrested and killed) or running away in terror. A strike on the right cheek was a backhand. It was what a citizen would do to a servant or a slave. Not only did offering your left cheek meant they'd have to upgrade their assessment of you, it, too, was an early form of "Bring it, bitch."

Please remember, this is a church that has had parish priests stand up to royalty. Not Popes versus Emperors. Everyone likes to harp on that. But Saint Ambrose was a thing, who was a parish priest versus royalty. No one feared death or discomfort. Our God knew His way out of the grave. We stood for Him and fuck you if you want to test our mettle.

But a lot of people seem to have lost sight of that.

In my conversation with the Catholic Reads editor last week, he noted how my hero, Tommy Nolan, was both a good Catholic and manly. Because he was going to go six rounds with a demon, he was going to get his head handed to him, risk his family, his job, and maybe even his soul. Because after all the tolerance and forgiveness he metes out, after all of the BS he puts up with, Detective Nolan will draw the line, hold the line, and wrap the line around your neck if he needs to in order to stop evil in its tracks.

Where the Hell is that church?

The answer is, as always, lies with The Church. The mystical body of Christ. To be specific, the laity who are out here damanding tradition wherever we can, and hunting it down wherever we can find it. That's the nice thing about the Catholic church. Like the military, like with any rigid hierarchical structure, there's always another way to get things done.

Because it's become quite clear that we can't rely on Rome to do the right thing. Just looked at Francis' recent death penalty issuance. That it's wrong at all time? Oh really? Funny, John Paul II said that he couldn't backtrack on married or male-only priests because he felt he couldn't go against tradition -- and there was a married priesthood only a thousand years ago. The death penalty in Christendom goes back 2,000 years, but the dictator in the Vatican is going to be a dick about it because he thinks he can get away with it.

Thankfully, it's not considered infallible. That's a playing card not even Frankie is willing to play just yet. So I'm going to ignore the jerk until he dies, and we get a Cardinal Sarah type to throw him and all of his idiocies under a bus.

And yes, I do expect a Cardinal Sarah type. If you don't know who Cardinal Sarah is, he's basically the only person who's calling the Pope out every time he does something stupid. But Sarah is African. He comes from the part of the world where the church really is under attack on a daily basis, and that's always a recipe for Orthodoxy. If you don't believe me, just ask how life for JPII and Benedict were under the Communists and the Nazis, respectively. (I'm not sure how one joins the seminary at age 14, but apparently that's where he was when the Hitler Youth hijacked him at that age ... honestly, what 14 year old wants to be a priest? A really serious one. Anyway...)

But on Pope Francis, this too shall pass. As I've said before, we've had incompetent men on the throne of Peter. We've had some evil pricks as well. We've had Medicis and Borgias. We've had Warlords. We've had Popes with girlfriends. We've had Popes with children by their girlfriends. We've had Popes run by their girlfriends.

But until then, Catholics are going to have to stand up on our own two feet and fight back. Sri Lanka happened because thugs think they can walk all over us. It's an impression that Pope Francis has made all too common.

Spread the word. It's Deus Vult o'clock.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Jimbo Reviews Infernal Affairs

Over at Jim McCoy's blog, there's a new review of Infernal Affairs.

A few highlights.

..... I'm never moving to New York. Seriously, if this is the type of thing that goes down there I'm staying in Detroit because it's safer here.
Heh heh heh
....once again, Finn has given us a winner. This is one of those times where I really wish I had more hours in a day because I couldn't get enough of this book... And I couldn't get enough sleep either. I drive for a living, so I had to put the thing down, but UGGGHHHH. That doesn't mean I wanted to. I just had to do what was necessary to stay alive?

Oh, did I say "what was necessary to stay alive?"

I think I did!
:)

Though this one ... if you've read the book, in involves The Highway Chase. If you haven't read it yet, then no spoilers for you. (and if you haven't read it yet, what the heck?)
There is one particular sequence in the book. It's one of those awesome things where it simultaneously feels like it was over way too soon and like you've been stuck in the action all day trying to figure out what happens next. Like, you want to know what happens but you don't want it to end. I don't know if that makes sense but it's true. 
To answer the question ... no, not a dream. Just having some fun.
Oh, and the other disclaimer: Infernal Affairs is the third in the series, coming after Hell Spawn and Death Cult. You could legitimately read Infernal Affairs as a standalone and enjoy it, but why would you? The first two books are awesome as well and, if you didn't read them already, you get the chance that I never had: To binge-read the entire first trilogy straight through. Although, I mean, I do own all three books and there's no law that says I can't RE-read them.
It's a good feeling when people want to reread the books.

I love villains that I hate. If you've read this blog you know precisely what I mean. Finn's villain this time around is a complete POS. It's good to root for the saint, but it's fun to root against Satan and all of his works as well.
A perfect line for Easter

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Flaming Drones
Read the rest of the review here






Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Catholic reads: Declan Finn Returns

Catholics reads wanted me back.

I went.

Fun was had by all.







As you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..

Monday, April 15, 2019

Notra Dame, Paris, is Burning



The French revolution murdered tens of thousands of people. Many of them were priests -- even priests who had supported the revolution fell to The Terror. But they knew enough to not destroy Notre Dame.

In 1944, Adolf Hilter wanted Paris burned as his forces were driven out.

The military, however, knew better, and did nothing. If they had burned Paris to the ground, they feared that their lives would be forfeit. Considering the conclusion of the war, it was a smart play on their part. The Nazis knew not to destroy Notre Dame.

Modern day is not so smart.

2019 has seen a rash of destruction of Catholic churches throughout France. It's countrywide. 

There are only two real culprits.

The first is the same people from 1792. I don't care if you call them Robespierre or "Occupy" or whatever form the commie bastards are choosing this week, they're all the same pricks. They're anti-theist, they're nasty, and they have no qualms about destroying the past to further their agenda. In fact, the destruction of the past and the Church itself is part of their plan for success.

The second group of the usual suspects .... is exactly who you're thinking they are. If you're one of the few people who can't guess, some hints.

  • They like destroying other people's iconography (like big Buddhist statues)
  • They're responsible for trashing parts of Germany (like Hamburg on New Year's)
  • They've gotten a free pass in Europe for years because to arrest them for their crimes would be "racist against migrants."

That's right! The Amish!

No, of course not. I kid. I mean the Jews.

Oh, did I say that out loud? Sorry. I've been listening to Congresswoman Omar lately.

I meant Muslims.

There is a potential third group. There are more than a few dickheads lately who call themselves "Nordic" are anti-Christian dickheads who are your standard Incel, but feel the need to destroy things and pick on Christians so they can feel like a man. Look at Varg Vikernes. Of course, these dicks will usually pick on women. Charming, right?

I wouldn't define them as "Norse" though, since I have friends who worship Loki and Thor et al who are three times the human beings these cocksuckers are.

Either way, there are suspects. Fairly obvious and loud suspects.

Coincidentally, Notre Dame of Paris is on fire.




Now, it must, of course be too soon to declare arson, right? The fire only just happened within hours of my writing this. (Okay, the place is still on fire as I write this.) Anything could cause fire in a building that old. It's even under construction.

Look at that blaze and you tell me that went from zero to sixty before the fire department could reach them, and you tell me with a straight face that it's not arson.  Given how many churches have been trashed this year alone in France, to ask me to consider that it's NOT arson is an insult to my intelligence.

To the people who did this, I ask that you read these books and learn what your fate will be. You want to play by these rules? I war gamed the outcome.

Whoever did this will burn. We know the French are too cowardly to arrest the real perps (with luck, they'll have a quiet accident).

But that's what Hell is for.

On Gore and Horror

For those of you who read Hell Spawn, you might have noticed that it was the least glory bloody novel you may have read in a while.

Everyone knows the writing axiom of "show, don't tell." But with horror, how much do I need to show you? In fact, do I need to tell you?

Here, we have three levels of description.

If I tell you "Daniel tortures animals," that's .... very abstract. That's telling you what he does, not showing you.

If I write, "The kitten was pinned to the metal table with nails through the pads of his paws. Daniel took the scalpel to just below the cat's sternum and began the vivisection, the kitten yowling in pain and terror," do I need to show you that much more?

The third level of description involves going into specific cuts and blood and organs taken out of poor Heathcliff here, as he squirms and cries out as his life is cut away, piece by piece. But I don't think anyone needs to read that on the blog.

And this is how I got away with so much in Hell Spawn without the audience noticing. Later on in the book, I did go on into detail about what happened to our victims, but I made certain to discuss them in such basic, clinical terms, that no one made a single mention of excessive, gratuitous violence and gore. Everyone notes my fight scenes, but no one even points out ... things that I wouldn't even mention on the blog. Yes, that's how bad they are.

But no one objected, which tells me that I covered some really sensitive topics without triggering any but the most sensitive -- and the reviews tell me that they were largely the politically sensitive.

Even Christopher Lee, in his commentary on Lord of the Rings, pointed out how the unseen horror is scarier and more frightening to the viewer, because the vague, ephemeral horrors we can generate are probably more terrifying than what can be put on screen.

In this sense, I have an advantage over any filmmaker. Because I have you.

When I'm going over the crime scene of the first victim,
“Carol Whelan. Thirteen. She never made it to school. The parents work in the city, so they had to be up and out before she was even awake. She generally made it to the bus on her own.”
I nodded. “The bus stop is only a block away. Where’s school for her?”
“Grammar school down near the Cross Island. Saint Gregory the Great.”
I sighed and shook my head. “God. My son goes to Greg’s. She must have only been a year or two ahead of him. What happened to her?”
Packard frowned, stuck his hands in his pockets, and looked away. He stared off for a moment, and I was actually worried about him for a moment. My partner was perhaps the most sarcastic and cynical cop I knew in a profession that bred sarcastic and cynical.
Packard looked back at me with his deep blue eyes. “The question is more like what didn’t happen to her.
“Obvious signs of cause of death include dismemberment and disarticulation.”
I raised a brow. “Both? That seems like … I can’t tell if that’s overkill or the most disorganized psycho ever.”
“Embrace the power of ‘and,’ Tommy. From what the Medical Examiner guys could tell before they ran out of the room, most of the bones are broken, and the body cut to pieces at most of the major joints. It means ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, though he was at least nice enough to leave her head attached to her upper trunk.”
I held out a hand. I didn’t want to hear any more, and that was more than enough between now and the autopsy. “We can assume that he knows how to carve a turkey and wield a hammer. Got it. Time of death? Or did the ME not bother with a liver temperature before they ran out?”
“That would be difficult,” Packard told me. “The liver isn’t there.”
I rolled my eyes. “Of course not. It wouldn’t be a complete slasher film if the perp had left it behind. At this point, I’m just going to assume that there was a sexual component to this.”
Packard shrugged. “That’s the good news. For the moment, we can’t tell. Our brave boys from the coroner couldn’t hold onto their dinners that long. They say they’re going to go in again in a few minutes. And that was a half-hour ago.”
I sighed and shook my head. At the very least, I wasn’t there for when they had discovered any of this nightmare. It was bad enough to hear about this without having to perform an in-depth examination to discover these horrors myself. “Now here’s a real question: How did everyone beat me here? I literally walked to the crime scene, Alex.”
He shrugged, and finally gave me a small, cynical smile that I knew him best for. “There was a debate about whether or not we should invite you in. We had to get hold of Statler and Waldorf to make certain that you were clear to work a crime scene already. Wouldn’t want this guy to get off on a stupid technicality—though they’re all stupid, really. This assumes he makes it to trial. Circulate the crime-scene photos around Rikers Island, I wouldn’t lay money on him lasting long, unless he’s in solitary the entire time.” Packard’s smile became evil. “But I’m told that’s cruel and unusual punishment.”
I gave him a flicker of a smile to show that I saw what he did there, but I wasn’t in a mood to be amused. While I fully believed what I had told Internal Affairs that afternoon, and I knew that most of our perps were good people who did bad things, there were two exceptions that I had experienced: rapists, and people who committed crimes against children. It wasn’t a coincidence that those two had the highest recidivism rate, and they seemed to be completely unrepentant. Funny enough, other criminals tend to enforce their own death penalty on them when they could.
“Anything else?”
Packard nodded. He pulled out his phone and flipped through a series of photographs. He picked one, played with the magnification, then showed it to me. “Then there was this.”
I leaned forward. It was a photograph of the crown of Carol Whelan’s head. She was apparently a brunette, but that was the only detail I could make out about her. The picture was focused on what looked like a large-bore needle mark in the girl’s head, and possibly her skull. “What the hell?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, Tommy.”
I frowned. This was the “cleanest” part of the murder, from what was described, and the most puzzling. Then again, it was like there were two killers: one was precise and methodical, who made incisions to disarticulate joints and used a needle; and a second killer who was violent, deranged, and broke bones apart.
“It’s too much to hope for fingerprints left in a pool of blood?” I asked.
Packard pulled back the phone. “Yup. Even though he did enough finger painting.”
I blinked. Did I miss a memo? “Explain, please?”
“Oh, right, the Jackson Pollock in her blood. One second.” He flipped through the photographs on the phone again, then handed it back to me. “Make like it’s Tinder and swipe right.”
I did. It was like Packard had made it just for me. There were no images of Carol Whelan, but there were plenty of the walls. I presumed that the red and black “paint” was her blood.
There was a circle with some spikes coming out of it, and what looked like a hand with an apple being thrust at the circle. There was no reason I could think of, but the image left me cold. The next one looked like squiggles, though it could have been a language that didn’t use the Latin script. The third image was a triangle with lines coming out of it, and an oval in the middle. It looked like a bizarre child’s drawing, with art materials prepared by Stephen King. The last and final one looked like nothing so much as a demonic cow, complete with horns. If the circle and apple left me cold, this dropped the temperature to “sub-zero.”
“He’s not getting into art school, that’s for certain,” I drawled. I made certain to text the relevant photos over to my phone and then handed Packard his. “Has anyone checked the organs? Or is that also something the ME didn’t get around to yet?”
“The latter. But I can’t blame them. This is one meat puzzle I wouldn’t want to assemble.”
“Any sign of forced entry?”
“None. Windows are shut tight. Doors were locked. The parents had to unlock the front door with a key.”
I winced. “Which one found her?”
“Both.”
I nodded, and turned towards the house. It was time to head inside. “Shall we?”
Packard put away the phone, and we went inside.
I did my best and did not gag with the scent of blood the moment I opened the door. In fact, there was no decay in the air, which I would have expected, given everything that Packard had told me.
I will spare you the gorier details on the corpse of young Carol Whelan. It was indeed a mess. The only relevant detail was the layout of her remains. Each part that had been disarticulated was itself split in half. Each piece was carefully laid on the floor like she had been laid out on a bed, or a slab in the morgue. But there was nearly an inch of space between each part, just to show that they had been separated.
This was perhaps the neatest, most organized crazy person ever.
The second relevant detail … the floor was wall-to-wall carpet, so we all needed to slip paper coverings over our shoes, just to make certain that we didn’t tread blood all over the place. It was probably too late, but minimizing contamination was a real hazard. I was trying to reconcile how much blood had soaked the carpet with how much was on the wall. Who knew she had so much blood in her?
It's amazing what you can get away with when you're being clinical, isn't it?

Another, larger part of horror?

Context.

In the middle of the day, a loud thud in your house is annoying. If you're alone in the house, and it's someplace upstairs, you're wondering what valuable thing fell over. Or what the cat jumped on now. Or what bit of breeze trashed part of a room. Worst case scenario, you pause and hold your breath, waiting for some second bit of noise to tell you if someone has broken into your house. If you're really concerned -- you live in a bad neighborhood or have a string of robberies lately -- then you grab a gun or call 911.

A loud thump outside a hotel room is similarly annoying, especially in the middle of the night. Even a loud series of thumps isn't going to scare you that much. Some idiot is screwing around in the hall, some family can't keep their kids under control.

However, when the floor above your head is going THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP   THUMP THUMP.... and there's no one else in the house, that's when you grab a gun and call 911... Or if you are a cop, you go and investigate yourself.

Then he turns the lights on and the thumps stop, and no one is in the attic.

This is when the problems start.

Heh.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts on horror.

When I start writing City of Shadows, I wanted that. Which is why Tommy should pay really close attentions to the shadows. Heh Heh heh

Anyway, please buy City of Shadows. As you wait for the book to download,  please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Lunch Stream: Catholicism WOW! With Declan Finn and Jon del Arroz

Obviously, this was done late last year .... and I only just got around to posting it. Because I'm six places at once these days.

Butthis was fun.

The audio on my end sucked, though.





As you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..

Saturday, April 13, 2019

City of Shadows, Chapter 1 Playlist

When writing City of Shadows, it was the first time I had ever noticed that the music was integral to the plot. Strangely enough. It's one of the few times I had marked the music as I wrote.

And this time, it's all Sabaton.

Chapter 1: Missionary Position

Do I have to mention that the first scene takes place in Rome?


This one, strangely enough, was almost more of a Ghost story. Don't even ask me why I thought it worked. It just did.


I was writing a short story for Daniel Humphreys for his Place called Hope series. Elements of that found me using this song a lot.

And so I ended up using it for this. Let's say there was spillage.


I, too, was a fan of the movie 300.

Obviously, so was Sabaton.


Considering the title, I'm surprised I didn't use this song more during my vampire series.

Anyway, you can get City of Shadows here.

While you're listening to the music,  please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Review: Murder in the Vatican, The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes

I recently discovered that this blog post disappeared from the blog.

It needs to come back.

When I was thirteen, I started reading through the collected stories of Sherlock Holmes. I made it about halfway through. I had been stopped dead by "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott"—one of two times that Holmes was the narrator.  I wasn't the only one who had a problem with that story. Another author of the day, G.K. Chesterton, said that the Gloria Scott showed why Watson was relevant: because Holmes was an awful storyteller.

Since then, I have been critical of anything about Sherlock Holmes written after the death of Arthur Conan Doyle. Some stories went wildly off track. Others were riddled with so many anachronisms it was painful. Of the vast quantity of Holmes-related material published, my family of readers owns only a fraction.

When Robert Downey Jr. starred in Sherlock Holmes, I crossed my fingers and hoped it didn't suck … instead, I got a checklist of what they did right.

When Doctor Who scribe and show runner Steven Moffat created a show called Sherlock, I also crossed my fingers. It was surprisingly awesome.

Then I heard about Murder in the Vatican. The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes on the newsletter for the Catholic Writers Organization. It had an interesting premise: author Ann Margaret Lewis takes Watson's offhand references of Holmes working on cases for the Pope, or involving religious figures, and turns them into entire stories.

I experienced the same feeling of dread. How off would the narration be? Would someone try converting Holmes? How lost would a detective from Victorian, Anglican England be in Catholic Rome? How many different ways were there to screw this up?


I stopped worrying when I read the first sentence.  And, oh my God, this book is awesome!  I loved this book....

Lewis caught the voice of Dr. John Watson as though she had taken it, trapped in a bottle, and used it to refill her pen into as she wrote. I liked the voice. I liked Watson, the doctor, trying to diagnose an ailing Leo XIII (85 at the time of the events of the first story). I like the brief sketch of the political situation between the Vatican and Italy. I even enjoy Watson's discomfort at the Pope slipping into “The Royal We” when he speaks of himself as The Pope.  Even the artwork was as though it had been lifted from issues of The Strand magazine.

Someone had fun here, and it shows.

Thankfully, there is no overt attempt to convert Holmes, evangelize or proselytize him. There is only enough theology in the entire novel that explains to the casual reader exactly what the heck the Pope is doing. The closest the book comes to exposing Holmes to theology is a page-long sequence that ends with Leo saying, “Perhaps you should spend some of your inactive time pondering that conundrum [of Jesus] instead of indulging in whatever narcotic it is with which you choose to entertain yourself.”  That is the best zinger I've ever seen a character use on Holmes regarding his drug use.  Even the most secular person I know can appreciate a page of theology for one of the better one-liners I've ever seen.

Also, the little things were entertaining for a nerd like me. For example, the casual mention of John Cardinal Newman, referred to as “a recent convert.” The political situation at the time is given just enough of a sketch to explain what's going on, but nothing obtrusive; history nerds like me can be satisfied, but you don't have to have a degree in it to comprehend what's going on.

There are truly parts where the novel seems to merge all the best qualities of Sherlock Holmes with those of G.K. Chesterton's Fr. Brown short stories ...

At this point, I must make a small confession. I write these reviews as I read the book. There is plenty of backtracking, to fill the blanks, and rewrite it as the book goes. I wrote the above line when I finished the first tale. In fact, the interview questions I sent to Ann Margaret Lewis were written before I even received a review copy of the book.  I then read “The Vatican Cameos,” and discover a Deacon, named Brown …

I swear I didn't see that coming.

The first story in this collection is "The Death of Cardinal Tosca."

In this memorable year '95 a curious and incongruous succession of cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous investigation of the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca -- an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of His Holiness the Pope  . . . .

—Dr. John H. Watson, “The Adventure of Black Peter
Imagine Sherlock Holmes on vacation … if you see that vacation turning out like an episode of Murder, She Wrote, with a body hitting the floor at some point, you pretty much have the setup. It has a poison pen letter, with real poison, some Masons, references to two different cases in the space of two paragraphs, and a Papal commando raid with a real pontiff. This story is so delightfully odd and over-the-top, but still preserves as much reality as any other Holmes tale. I enjoyed every moment of it. And I can't argue with any story where the pope gets most of the amusing one-liners.

Heck, even the murderer gets in a good line.  When confronted, our first killer sneers.  “Let me guess. You're going to explain, to the amazement of your friends, how I did the deed?”  Holmes replies, “I've already told them that. It would be old news. They already know you blundered badly.”

I think the story concludes on a nice, solid note.  As Holmes tells Watson, “[Leo XIII] is genuinely pious. He is also imperious, but in a most endearing way.”

Watson merely replies, “Yes, well. I'm used to that.”

The second tale, "The Vatican Cameos," is a bit of a flashback episode to when Holmes first met the Pope. Leo XIII has sent a collection of cameos to Queen Victoria. The cameos are secured tightly in the box they're delivered in, but upon their arrival in London, the box is empty. The Queen has a simple solution: send Sherlock Holmes. Watson is busy with a medical emergency, so he wasn't around.

When Watson asks Sherlock about the incident, Holmes says, quite clearly “Watson, I am incapable of spinning a tale in the way you do. The narrative would read like a scientific treatise.”

Madam Lewis certainly read "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott."

So, there is only one person left who can narrate this tale … the Pope himself. This was the story that truly showed that the author did her research, assembling little details of Leo XIII's interests and hobbies and putting them together into a rich, vibrant character. He is shown here as witty, humorous, and bright.

The byplay between Leo XIII and Holmes in this story was marvelously entertaining. The Pope is shown to be about as smart as Watson … maybe a little smarter. When Holmes first meets the Pontiff, and rattles off conclusions in his usual rapid-fire manner, the Pope takes a minute, and deduces how Holmes came to most of them. Not all, but most. This is a wonderful inversion of what is so typical of early Sherlock Holmes films—in the Basil Rathbone movies, whenever Holmes walked onto the screen, the IQ of everyone in the room dropped about ten points. Making Leo this smart only serves to make Holmes as impressive as he should be—yes, everyone else may be smart, but Holmes is smarter.

Also, having Leo XIII using Thomas Aquinas to talk with Holmes of reason and science … it works for me.

And the scene with Holmes, the Pope, and the gunman was fun, too.
"You know that I am preoccupied with this case of the two Coptic Patriarchs, which should come to a head to-day."

Sherlock Holmes, “The Retired Colourman”
"The Second Coptic Patriarch": The third and final tale is from yet another throwaway line of Arthur Conan Doyle's.

In this case, a former criminal comes to Holmes to solicit his services; the priest who converted him away from his life of crime is in jail for murder. A bookstore owner has been murdered with a book (“The Rule of Oliver Cromwell--weighty subject, no doubt,” Holmes quips), and the priest will only say that the victim was dead when he arrived.  It's almost Sherlock Holmes meets Alfred Hitchcock ... I didn't know someone could do I Confess like this. It's a fun little read, and possibly the most traditional of the Holmes stories -- it's a good tale.  From the perspective of the overall book, it's a perfect cap to the character arc.

Now, after reading Murder in the Vatican, I think I'm going to go back and finish the Sherlock Holmes series -- and keep Murder in the Vatican handy, so I can read them all in chronological order.

Ann Lewis said that the book was "meant to be fun and lift your heart for a short time. I had a blast writing it, and I hope you have a blast reading it."

Mission accomplished.

At the time I read this book, I had been reading another recent work of Sherlock Holmes-related fiction called The Sherlockian.  It was written by a Graham Moore, and it was about a Sherlock Holmes nerd who was sucked into a murder mystery.

Between the two of them, read Murder in the Vatican.


And, now, a surprise .... a sneak peek of the novel.


Enjoy.



An Excerpt


From “The Case of Cardinal Tosca”

“Good Lord.” Harden’s face grew pale. “Rosalinda—!”

Pope Leo blanched as well. Tapping his right fist in his opposite hand, he turned to look out the window behind him. The rain clouds had now blotted the sun, making it seem as dusk in the early afternoon sky.


The pope turned back to us, his dark eyes flashing with decision. “Giocomo!” He commanded suddenly. “Come here.”

Father Dionisio came quickly to his master’s side.

“Remove your cassock.”

“Holiness?”

“Subito!” As Leo spoke, he lifted the pectoral cross over his head and set it on the table. He then unwrapped the sash from around his waist and tossed it on his chair. “Presto! Presto! We have no time to waste.”

Hurriedly, the young man unbuttoned his cassock even as Leo unbuttoned his own. Holmes came around the table and knelt to help Leo with the lower buttons.

“What on earth —?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” said Holmes.

Dionisio removed his cassock and stood in simple black shirt, clerical collar and black trousers. Holmes helped Leo slip out of his white cassock and into the black gown provided by Dionisio. The black was almost the right size, though fuller through the midsection due to Dionisio’s thicker frame.

“You’re not serious, Holiness,” said Harden. “You’re not actually leaving the Vatican. Someone may recognise you—”


“‘If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship,’” Leo replied, quoting what I later learned was Aquinas. “‘He would keep it in port forever.’” He buttoned the top of the cassock while Dionisio crouched to fasten the bottom. “We must go. An innocent child is in danger for my sake.”

“Signore Harden is right, Holiness,” said Dionisio from floor. “This is madness.”

Basta.” Leo pulled the young man from the ground by the elbow. He gestured emphatically with an open hand to the top of his head. “Portami un cappello. Presto!” Dionisio dashed into the next room. “And black stockings and shoes—ah, never mind I’ll find something.” The pontiff marched with remarkable energy into a side room that I guessed to be his sleeping area and returned promptly with black calf-length boots. His gentleman servant now trailed him protesting in rapid Italian as His Holiness moved. While the pontiff sat on a small bench to kick off his red slippers and pull on the boots, the agitated servant knelt beside him rambling so quickly that neither Harden nor I could decipher any meaning from him.

Apparently the meaning didn’t register to Leo either. “Basta, basta, BASTA!” He barked, stomping his boot-covered foot. He pointed a thumb to his chest. “Ego sum Petros!” He made sweeping gesture to drive the man from in front of him. “Vai!” Struck with terror, the butler dodged from the old man’s path as Leo charged to a baroque style cherry wood cabinet. From it he removed a worn, black leather case that he tucked under his arm. He finished buttoning his cuffs and Dionisio returned with a small, wide-brimmed black hat, which Leo snatched from him. He then plucked off his white zucchetto and slapped it into the bewildered priest’s hands.

“Allora, Signori,” Leo said to us, dropping the black hat on his head. “Andiamo.”

“You’ve forgotten one detail, Padre,” said Holmes, in reference to the pope’s new attire.

“Che?”

“L’anello.” Holmes held up his right hand and pointed to his fourth finger.

“Ah.” Leo pulled the fisherman’s ring from his finger and dropped it into the left pocket of the black cassock. The young priest then handed him a tall black umbrella, and Leo set its end to the floor with authoritative thud.

It is amazing how clothes can change the appearance of a man. Where once stood the proverbial Vicar of Christ on Earth, now stood a simple, venerable Italian priest. Strangely, he resembled the aged Italian cleric persona Holmes once adopted to avoid the notice of Professor Moriarty.

I glanced at Holmes and saw him giving me a knowing grin. “Very well then,” he said. “As the man says—let’s go.”

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Writing City of Shadows -- #PulpRev speed ahead

People have noted that I pump out a book in 4-6 weeks. That's usually when I'm dragging my feet or when someone is trying to get me to work on real world projects when I'd rather be working the day job -- which is pumping out books.

I am the KU book factory. Bwahahaha.

Anyway....

But for City of Shadow, I was going to go a little deeper into the pulp rabbit hole.

Enter "the Soul Stone."

Before anyone starts Googling, the closest I've ever seen is has been an accessory for weapons in Elder Scrolls ... and the stones are charged by sucking the souls out of the things you kill. If you get a black soul stone, you can suck the life out of a human being. You can then use the power of a soul to ... keep a magical weapon charged.

Oh please. Surely we can take a human soul, something with enough power to mold and shape the world, and use it for somewhat grander goals, right?

But where do you find something like that in human history?

I'm a historian. I know we don't have any....

I also know that human history doesn't anywhere near cover the existence of the human race. The entire Silmarillion could be a textbook, set before a natural catastrophe that hit the reset button on the planet, and we never would have known.

And in Genesis we are told of a time when giants walked the Earth, and Nephilim wreaking havoc.

I can play with this.

In the book, I describe it like this.
It was beautiful, in a goth sort of way. It was like a black, Satanic Faberge egg. It was brilliant, translucent, and dark. The very sight of it filled me with dread. There were natural, almost fluid striations on either side, within the stone itself. They were clearly below the gleaming, faceted surface. One set of striations were blood red. The other set was a startling silver. If they weren’t embedded inside of a millennia-old diamond, I would have thought they were runes. They're a language that no one has ever seen before. It predates … everything. Yet there are no tool marks on the stone. There’s no way that this should exist. The soul stone is entirely impossible. 
The legend is simple: that it was given to the first pharaoh by Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead himself. And if it was ever misused, it would annihilate any who use it.... And it wiped out Thinis, the first capital of Egypt. So much so we barely know it even exists.

Now, since a weapon that levels the city (like, say, the entire Greater London area) is something you build up to, and not confront over the course of the entire novel.  Unless of course, you can use the main threat to create other threats, more manageable threats, that won't annihilate the entire city... but will kill the hero.

How about taking little flecks of the stone and giving it to casual thugs? They can use it for their own whims -- which will be, of course, to give them superpowers.

In short: I wanted to fight the X-Men as casual minions. Heh heh heh.

Then there was going to be a running shootout in a flaming temple, a chase scene in the middle of London in the middle of a riot, escaping an exploding skyscraper from the top floor, and then a knife fight with an SAS commando.

Then it gets crazier when Tommy has to confront the Soul Stone itself. Because an unknown artifact from the dawn of time may have an attitude problem.

So yeah, it's gonna be FUN.


As you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Writing City of Shadows -- a return to Horror

City of Shadows is going to be a little tonally different from Death Cult and Infernal Affairs. In fact, it's going to feel a little more like Hell Spawn. Not because I'm going over the same ground, but because I'm going back to a horror novel.

Yes, I know I stumbled into horror the more I wrote Hell Spawn, but hey, it worked. For  Death Cult and Infernal Affairs, I was focused on my original mission -- make an urban fantasy novel.

I didn't put any thought into the tone of the books. Death Cult had a similar tone, but that was largely because of the subject matter being handled. Infernal Affairs just threw it all out the window as the larger world of demons and monsters came at Nolan in a fast and furious flurry of fighting,

With City of Shadows, oh, we're going back to horror.
London is alive with the sound of shadows.

When Tommy Nolan was sent abroad to avoid being made a saint too soon, he thought he'd be a glorified tourist. But when an impossible prehistoric artifact the Vatican is looking at is stolen from the British Museum, they do the first thing that comes to mind -- they call the cops.

But Tommy is soon convinced that the artifact is more than it seems. The crime scene looks like a war zone. The owners of the stolen merchandise eye him with suspicion. His new partner has a shady, mysterious past. The police are ready to arrest him. The city itself seems primed to explode.

Worst of all, the darkness itself is closing in on Tommy, the city, and everyone who lives there.

But Tommy isn't one to curse the darkness. The darkness curses him.
Yeah, I had fun with this one.

You might be thinking "does this sound familiar?"  Only a little. When I wrote Infernal Affairs, I was disappointed in only one thing -- that one of the tricks in the last fight scene wasn't something that I had spread out throughout the novel. That element is where I realized that I had fallen a little too far off of the horror train.

All aboard.

Now, granted, most of this is atmospherics. But when the darkness seems to be closing in even at midday, it helps.

When the darkness itself reaches out and grabs you, that's when we start having fun.

City of Shadows should still be only $.99 this week. Enjoy.

As you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Saint Tommy Abroad -- Writing City of Shadows

To my knowledge, the NYPD is the only city police force that has its own international intelligence operators. It's getting to the point where the NYPD operates like the Texas Rangers -- their jurisdiction is wherever they are.

So, when Infernal Affairs ended the way it did, it was obvious that Tommy Nolan had to get the Hell out of town, it was easy enough to transfer .... elsewhere.

Anywhere else.

But why London? In large part because it's one of the places I know best. Sadly, I still needed to use a lot of Google maps, since I was last there 20 years ago. (Also, I've blown up a lot of Rome already in The Pius Trilogy.)

But one of the nice things with getting Tommy abroad is isolating him. He loses his friends, his family. I get to give him a new partner. He gets a total stranger. I get to grind him down and tear out his soul.

And if you're going to nail someone who gets power from God, you're going to have to grind him down and sever his connection.

Me? Sadistic? I'm a writer. That part is redundant. You can tell when even Jim Butcher enjoys talking about how much he tortures Harry Dresden.

But then again, a large part of the fun in fiction is watching our heroes get the ever loving stuffing beaten out of them and still come back for more, and stop them if you can.

And if you can't tell that I like the results I get from beating up Tommy, you should remember everything I did to him in Hell Spawn.... and remember that he still has scars from all of that.

If you think that's bad, you should see what I do to him in City of Shadows.

But isolating him works on multiple levels. You may remember in the first trilogy, Tommy called in backup. He could do that. He did do that on multiple occasions -- when he could.

But now, he's a New York Cop in the middle of Europe. The nice thing about Europe in particular is that it's slowly becoming the wild west again. Acid attacks. Rape gangs. London itself is so scared and so timid, they're banning kitchen knives and recording who buys a shovel or an ax. The next step is to ban spoons. Just wait until they learn what the average convict can weaponize....

Oh, I should note that it's still legal to carry acid around in the middle of London. Because I can't make this crap up. I really can't.

But yeah, it's a nice setup for a rough and tumble world in "civilization."

Oh, and of course, we can't forget -- our hero isn't allowed to carry his own damn gun. Because Europe.

So Tommy has no friends. He has one uncertain ally. The cops are antagonistic. The civilians aren't much better. The criminals wouldn't help him on a bet. He's got no one to back him up except for a total stranger and God Himself.

I won't say that "Then the Winged Hussars Arrived"... but close.

So there's a lot of fun elements to taking Nolan out of his element and dropping him straight into the fire.

It worked in Hell Spawn, Death Cult and Infernal Affairs.

Also, City of Shadows is $.99 this week. So this is the time to jump on board.

As you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..

Monday, April 8, 2019

NEW RELEASE: City of shadows.

City of Shadows is live and only $.99 on Amazon right now.

London is alive with the sound of shadows.
When Tommy Nolan was sent abroad to avoid being made a saint too soon, he thought he'd be a glorified tourist. But when an impossible prehistoric artifact the Vatican is looking at is stolen from the British Museum, they do the first thing that comes to mind -- they call the cops.

But Tommy is soon convinced that the artifact is more than it seems. The crime scene looks like a war zone. The owners of the stolen merchandise eye him with suspicion. His new partner has a shady, mysterious past. The police are ready to arrest him. The city itself seems primed to explode.

Worst of all, the darkness itself is closing in on Tommy, the city, and everyone who lives there.

But Tommy isn't one to curse the darkness. The darkness curses him.
But while I think about it, the entire series is $.99 this week. This means the other three books are on sale right now. Click here if you haven't gotten them already.


And, as you wait for the books to download to your Kindle, please join the discussion about the Dragon Awards. I've got the latest post updated and ready to go, and I seriously want to hear from you and your thoughts on what you enjoyed..