Wednesday, December 16, 2020

And then, Hussar arrived

Lt. Tommy Nolan has enjoyed a relatively quiet life for the past three years. His promotion has taken him away from the streets and away from the line of fire.

But when a training camp for terrorists threatens his city, he’s dragged back into the sulfur. Creatures of the damned are rising, and he’s the only man who can stop them.

Because the heir of Tommy’s ultimate enemy has returned, and he’s bringing with him all the forces of Hell
If you've read Coven, you know part of what's coming. If you haven't ... you may want to get on that. Because that one was fun.
As for the book ... heh heh heh. It answers several questions from the end of Coven. Including Tommy's "new partner," the fate of his last partner, and what comes next. This one includes a lot of new developments, and mixing up the formula. 

Reading reviews of Coven showed me that people really like Tommy to stay close to home. But the plot required him abroad. So I split the difference, and then I set up a way to keep Tommy at home from now on. Confused? You'll figure it out when you read it.

One of the things about expanding the series beyond book #6 (which is where I originally planned to end it) is that it allowed me to show where everyone else was going to end up. 

Tommy's cast is a little expansive -- though still nowhere near as broad as my other novels-- and I wanted to find out where some of them ended up. It also gave me a chance to redeem some characters, and get some answers on whether or not others were redeemed in the end.

Also, it let me trash more property... especially Italy. Book #9 will be the last time I let Tommy leave New York City. Because I had revenge to attend to.

Anyway, it's live and for sale. Just click here.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Review: Unmasked, by Kai Wai Cheah

In the Heroes United world of Silver Empire Press, Kai Wai Cheah’s Adam Song has been described as the Punisher.


In Unmasked, that comparison becomes closer.

I described the first book in Kai Wai Cheah’s Song of Karma, Hollow City, as Larry Correia and Michael Connelly writing a superhero police procedural. Complete with gun porn and noir stylistic writing. This time, our hero, Adam Song is back. By the time we’re done with the first chapter, it feels very much like Richard Chandler, with knife porn instead of gun porn, and superhero action on par with a Hong Kong Wu Xia film.

It is not a spoiler that Unmasked begins with Adam Song outed as the SWAT superhero Amp. Due to Hollow City being a cross of the worst of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, he’s being prosecuted for murder of a gang-banger and his girlfriend, largely because of political hacks who are all too eager to throw him and the police under the bus. With the pressure building from anti-superhero group “Cape Watch,” and anti-law enforcement hate groups, their first instinct is to throw the book at Adam Song. It’s so bad, the restaurant owned by Adam’s family is under siege by Cape Watch and the gang bangers friends. 

Lest you think that this is being inspired by recent events, I read an ARC of this novel in January. Any and all inspirations from real life were at least five years old before everything old became new again this summer. If Kai Wai Cheah becomes any more predictive, he’s going to give me a run for my money.

The trial segment is as well written as any trial written by Michael Connelly, and he’s done more than a few. For anyone who has followed the series, the court sequences feels like Connelly’s Harry Bosch is on trial … again. And the trial sequences are all very well put together, and used to great effect. One of the opening trial bits was a great bit of recap. And the trial itself is fast paced and entertaining. Despite how much of the plot it is, the trial itself is only four chapters.

But while Adam is being prosecuted for murder, he has other old friends pulling at him. “Don Peterson” (assuming that’s his real name) is a part of Adam’s old life in wet work and black bag operations, offering Adam a Faustian bargain to make everything go away if Adam just came back to government service, taking down the supervillains who are too powerful to merely throw in jail. It’s a nice bit of spy thriller that reminds me as the classic Adam Hall Quiller novels, with the sort of deal that will remind the casual reader of Suicide Squad.

Meanwhile, Adam is keeping busy with a paying job. An old friend, a Bhuddist monk, is being pressured by the People’s Republic of China to come to China … and if he won’t accept the invitation gracefully, they intend to force the issue by any means necessary. It seems like an easy job for a SWAT superhero—until the Chinese reveal a superpowered minion of their own. (I await some people to cry racism against China… until someone realizes that Cheah is a Singapore native.) In short, the People’s Republic of China has not changed in the slightest. China is still China. 

Cheah does a great job of balancing the three plots—fighting China, the trial, and the espionage aspects brought in with the character of Don Peterson. And when they collide in the finale, it will blow you away. 

Or, as the book itself says, “Riots, gangesters, spies and supervillains. It’s going to be a perfect f***ing storm.”

And it is.

Over the course of the book, we see Adam balance being a law enforcement officer, versus facing overwhelming threats. Despite edging closer to becoming the Punisher, Adam is still a cop by training, and works hard to stay on the side of the law, even when the lines become just a wee bit blurry. And while the plot may feel like a closer start than the first book, that’s only because the last half as twice the action as the entire first novel.

And the writing is wonderful to read. The character development is great. All the little touches paint quick, complex characters with ease. I even think the primary Chinese villain here comes from Fist of the North Star, but my anime is rusty. Cheah brings in a large cast of characters, and more of them are original to this novel. It’s a superhero team up story without a large body of characters spread throughout the universe. The descriptions are… well, one villain is referred to as “The Shadowless Ghost,” with “low friends in high places.” Two cops are “a teddy bear paired with a wolf.”

One paragraph I feel compelled to quote is the opening of chapter one.

“Everybody wants to be a superhero. 

They want the fast life, filled with adrenaline and excitement and superpower showdowns. They want to haul in the bad guys, show off their scares, earn the adoration of the faceless masses on the Internet. They want the sponsorship deals, corporate paychecks, Gucchi gear, crowdfunded patronage. After that, it’s easy street all the way.

Funny thing is, it never works out that way.”

Tell me that isn’t a great opening. 

Cheah also has more humor in this one. The chapter headings are entertaining.

This corner of Silver Empire’s series has great world building from the aspect of law enforcement and espionage in a world of superpowers. It’s nice to see that the FBI… is still absolutely useless (while they have a Hostage Rescue Team for superpowers, it’s a superpower conflict. By the time they get to the scene of the incident, it’s all over but the screaming. And a lot of the screaming is over too). Cheah goes into the licensing and training for superheroes, and it is … very California. Even the elements with Don Peterson has a very rigorous logic of assassination. Worst of all, Cheah delves into how many superheroes, or “primes” go into public service, and it is so very human.

And of course, there is the end, which brings together two threads of this universe together with a bang. 

In short (I know, too late), five stars out of five. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Fed up and Ante Up

You may have noticed that my sentiments are one part "fed up with stupidity" and a BS tolerance level that is only a few steps short of honey badger. After Italy, I was already on "Why, yes, I do want people to die, thank you," and in May, I was #NoLivesMatter.

Which explains my Saint Tommy NYPD series.

Those who've read it don't really need an explanation. I've taken my unfair share of sacred cows and threw them on the grill, still mooing.

And no, not the "sacred cows" that writers think are "edgy" as they pat themselves on the back for "bravely writing about." (Even though they're "bravely writing about" the same cardboard stereotypes for decades, no matter how false they've been proven.)

It helps that the sacred cows of New York City are the people with power. Since I like having my villains with all the advantages, I made them politically connected. considering where I live, that made the power politics leftist politics.

The funny thing is that, while every psycho negative review has labeled me right-wing propaganda, I probably would have done the same thing had I used a right-wing town/ city / state. I would have found ... something. Totally different things, but something. 

So the first monster was part of a protected political class, and had political support behind it. So was the Death Cult of #2 and the ultimate creature of Infernal Affairs.

Come to think of it, no matter what country or state I put Tommy in, I make sure that evil is tied closely with secular and political power...

Yes. This might -- just MIGHT, grant you-- have something to do with the fact that I think politics is borderline demonic. 

As Frank Herbert said, "Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.”

I'm on board that train, and it will have to derail to get me off of it

It is in part BECAUSE these people are pathological that it makes it easy for me (and most of my readers) to believe that they will do anything to keep that power. Blackmail? Bribe? Steal? Sacrifice a marriage? Sacrifice a person? 

Sacrifice your soul? 

That's the easy part. Politicians don't have one.

And of course, it's not just politicians who are in politics. Politics is a path to power. Whether it's interpersonal, education, international, it's one sort of power or another.

And the end of the day, it all comes back to making the villains as powerful as I can make them. 

Here's a villain, he's got all of his personal and physical strengths, and ON TOP OF THAT, he's untouchable.

Stacked decks have got nothing on me.

It's why I'm amused when reviewers and fellow authors think that I can't top X scene for my Saint Tommy novels. 

How can the next villain be a threat?

The answer's easy, because it's always the same. Just keep changing the game. 

Here's a serial killer. 

Now here's an anonymous attempt at revenge. 

Now here's a bounty on our hero. 

Here are Jihadis. Now find the sex traffickers. Fight this dragon. 

Go to war with a Lovecraftian Bond villain. 

Here's a conspiracy from within. Here's a cult, but now everyone has a gun.

Eventually, as a last resort, there's the video game trope of "Yes, here are all of the major villains you've defeated ... but now they're just as difficult to defeat, they've had a learning curve, and they're just acting as minions to the main villain."

So yeah, I still have some tricks up my sleeve.

Sometimes, all you need is a hero who will be beaten half to Hell, look at what's coming at him next, and still says "Bring it."

Anyway, if this sounds like fun, check out St. Tommy NYPD, right here.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: Overlooked Again, by Jon Mollison

 The old poem goes

There was a man upon the stair

A little man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

Oh how I wish that he would go away.

He's back and he's armed in Overlooked Again

Yes, this is the return of superhero Joe Smith, Jon Mollison's contribution to Silver Empire's Heroes Unleashed series. And dang is it fun. His Phoenix Ring series may be the best part of the universe in a neck and neck race with Kai Wai Cheah's Hollow City thread... though that may be unfair, since Mollison and Cheah are the ones who I have read two books of (No, Cheah's next book isn't released yet. But I had early access. Heh heh heh). And at this time, there are two other authors who I haven't read yet.

In Overlook, Joe Smith, a prime with the power to be ignored, encountered the Phoenix Ring, a grand conspiracy that looks like if Dean Koontz designed the Illuminati,** and bringing in an element of The Man who was Thursday. But Joe also found a counter conspiracy. After crushing the ring in Serenity City, now, Joe has been quietly keeping the ring in its place -- in the graveyard. 

But like any good villain, the Phoenix Ring has its own counter move. Because they found not only one, but two people who can pierce Joe's powers, and hunt him down. So it's a good idea for Joe to leave town for a little bit.

Joe's new mission: go to Halo City (last seen in Cheah's Hollow City) and make certain that the Phoenix Ring can't rig an election for alderman.

But the Phoenix Ring hasn't gotten to where they are by lying down. They have all the forces of governments behind them. And Joe Smith is their primary target.

Overlooked Again is fun as much for what it does as what happens in the plot. The book is well written, obviously. As I said, I think there are a few references to The Man who was Thursday, some bad puns (The Phoenix Ring runs Firebird Industries? Ugh. How did I forget that from the first book?). 

And the villains. How could anyone forgot how absolutely evil these bastards are? They lack the mustache twirling of the most recent Dean Koontz novels, but they are no less pure evil. Imagine if the Chicago Machine was the tool of Satan... No jokes, please. I'm saving that for another novel I'm writing.

But what happens when a former sniper becomes the man who wasn't there? He becomes a ninja. No, I'm not really joking. You'll see him in action in the first chapter. Which starts out as very by the book, and ends in a tense, and interesting chase.

In the middle of all of that, Jon Mollison pulls off an excellent data dump that both recaps the last book, tells the reader what's been happening since then, and does it all without reducing a bit of tension. It's information discussion on par with David Weber (Or, see: David Weber orders a pizza)

Along the way, Jon has two interesting people after our hero. The first is a French hunter, the Owl, a prime who can hunt Joe, and fight him to a standstill. The other is ... well, you'll have to read it to get it, but it's a lead in to what Jon does with this book.

While I am not able to track what phases the Heroes Unleashed universe is in with this book (probably phase two), we have now entered the phase where there is overlap between the main heroes we're working with. It really begins to show off the shared universe all these players live in. No, I don't mean simply that Joe goes to the city created and written by Kai Wai Cheah, but this is also a world where the Atlantean (and Lovecraftian) magic of Richard Watts is an active threat.

And of course, they're all out to get Joe. They lead to moments where my only note was just "Aw f***"

The writing is also enjoyable. Little comments and phrases, like how "he could have completed the ensemble, but he would have stuck out like a disco ball in Church." Though I hear some megachurches already have those...

I also liked the very casual "You can't just murder your way out of this problem."

And everyone here is well written. The villains are colorful and three dimensional. The supporting cast beautifully compliments our hero. And the upper villains are pure bastards.

Anyway, it's all very well executed, and I look forward to reading the next one.

5/5. Buy it here from the Publisher (Amazon link forthcoming)

**Yes, I have read the Jane Hawk series, where he had something like the Illuminati. But this goes back much farther.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Setting up Urban Fantasy

When writing, one of the reasons I've stayed with the "Secret History" versions of Urban Fantasy is because New York City is alien enough to most people that I don't have to make up stuff to be particularly strange.

Also, I'm a historian. I like inserting monsters into historical events. Vampires and the French revolution in particular became a matter of fun.

And being Catholic, I come with my own "magic system." Strictly speaking, according to doctrine, I'm writing thrillers. Not horror. Not fantasy. I haven't yet come up against anything so egregious that would make it out of the realm of possibility.

So I guess you can say I cheat. I stole someone else's magic system. But you call it metaphysics, and you can be surprised what can escape copyright.

The nice thing about the location is that it's distinctive. Everything has its own history. In Hell Spawn, I used Creedmore and Riker's Island, each with decades of history. I used local neighborhoods that have never been seen on TV, and unless you were native TO THAT AREA, you'd never have heard of it. Trust me, I know. I tell people where I live and no one can find it on a map. Even areas that are fictionalized in literature, no one can figure out -- because how many people looked up Big Egg and Little Egg from the Great Gatsby and discovered they were real places?

Welcome to New York City, where everything is alien to anyone who doesn't live there.

One of the reasons I don't use Manhattan is that most of Manhattan is for tourists. Those who work there don't want to stay there any longer than they have to. Those who live there are alien to me and my area.

Trust me, if you think you hate New York City, or Manhattan, ask the people out in the Hamptons what they think of "city people." They hate them more because they've MET them. Not even Revenge or Royal Pains (set in the Hamptons) really covered much of City versus Locals.

It's one of the reasons I try to keep Tommy out of the area as much as possible. Not to mention that, in real life, if anyone burned down Eastern Queens, or parts of Long Island, no one within the five boroughs would even notice. There would be no media coverage, except for Long Island News stations.

In short, I don't need to recreate the world. The world is strange enough as it is.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Coven: Upping the Ante

One of the fun things about writing Coven was an idea that Hans Schantz suggested. He probably doesn't even recognize his original idea, given what I'd done to it. 

The idea? Take away Tommy's charisms.

Granted, by this point in the series, I'd given him two other major weapons that increased his chances of survival. Some people think that there's no way I can threaten Tommy anymore.

Challenge accepted. Time to bring out a bigger hammer.

Yeah, I know. How can I bring out a bigger hammer after the end of #6, Deus Vult?

What? You didn't think Tommy would be allowed to KEEP that particular weapon, did you?

Not to mention, by the end of DV, Tommy is well and truly battered, beaten, and knocked around. Every tool in his arsenal had been pushed to the limit, drained, damaged, and broken.

For Coven, I was going to bring him back home. Then I was going to hurt him.

For those who haven't read my previous novels, I get interesting results when I hurt my characters. Usually, more stuff blows up.

Let's knock around his partner. Yeah. Alex has been a little TOO lucky. In every novel, Tommy has thrown himself on every threat that could have killed Alex -- and not because Tommy thinks he's going to survive, but he thinks he has a better chance of surviving than his older partner.

And, as you can see in the description of the book, we're going to target Tommy's children. Because that will not create ANY problems for the poor dumb SOB who thinks that's a good idea.

See, there are always multiple ways to juggle threats. Previous novels have mostly used one massive threats, compiled of multiple layers and parts.

Another option is simply taking "smaller" threats and throwing them at our hero, and where he's weakest. I get to explore more sides to our hero, and develop the people around him better.

Granted, given everything that his family has been through, calling them "the weak spot" might be misleading.

And of course, the ultimate threat is ... well, it's a little bit of Jim Butcher, and a little bit of J. Michael Straczynski.

[Yes, I know that JMS has gone a little bit off the rails, letting politics into his brain like a poison. Apparently, he broke up with his wife ("By any means necessary" script writer Kathryn Drennen) and shacked up with Patricia Tallman. Tallman is an ultra-lefty. Apparently, banging a redhead with that level of dementia turns politics into an STD. This doesn't mean his previous writing advice sucks]

From Butcher, I stole the idea that, well, when in doubt, just increase the threat level.

From JMS, I took his Amazing Spider Man concept that supervillains are mirrors of our hero. Black mirrors, false mirrors. Want to be mirrors. That sort of thing. (Red Skull is a false patriot, caring nothing for country, but only himself. Spider-Man's enemies were largely other animal themes)

So, what do I do to Tommy? Who's his Moriarty? Well, that was book 6's villain. So we need a Sebastian Moran-- someone who can match Tommy in the street.

We needed another true believer.

Heh heh heh

Buy it on Amazon.

Or buy from the Publisher

Monday, August 31, 2020


Forgiveness is interesting.

Because I forgive you doesn't mean that I need to trust you.

One lying SOB in particular, who I've blocked and muted, apologized for the one behavior I didn't care about, but didn't seem to think his slander and libel of honest, genuine people was worth apologizing for. And this prick has lied about me. He's lied about friends of mine. He's lied about people who actually helped prop him up and aided him along the way.

In fact, said lying sack of crap didn't acknowledge that he is a liar. So, technically, his apology itself is untrustworthy.

Despite having my email and my phone number, he has harassed my wife, my fans, my friends, and my followers, whining to anyone who will listen that I'm being mean to him by blocking him.

Some people don't seem to understand that they are blocked for their protection. If I have blocked you, I avoid temptation to hurl rocks. If I work hard to forget you, I can't wish you harm, or spend time disemboweling you.

Besides, I've learned my lesson once already.

Many, many moons ago, I had a lady friend who needed me to pick her from from a police precinct. She'd been arrested for shop lifting. Even though she'd told me she'd shoplifted before, this time she was supposedly set up by an acquaintance.

It was a lie, of course. I was stupid enough to believe that I was special. That she wouldn't lie to me. Or if she did, she'd retract it soon enough. It took her three days, and by then, I figured she'd been honest with me about having been set up.

I cut her off. Angrily. Loudly. Over the phone.

Four months later, I forgave her.

The mistake I made was associating with her again afterwards. Just to hang out and talk, just like before.

Why a mistake? Six months later, she drugged me. With something to make me loosen up so I would finally sleep with her-- a goal she'd been trying to attain for years.

We won't go into the lies she told after that in an attempt to tie me to her further.

So now, when a lying prick complains to anyone who will listen about how mean I'm being to him, because I "won't forgive him," he misunderstands.

Forgiveness doesn't mean I get to be used as a prop in someone else's sideshow. Forgiveness doesn't mean I get to put up with your BS on a daily basis so I can be aggravated for your entertainment.

Forgiveness does not mean that I trust you. I especially cannot trust a proven liar. When I see what they will lie about -- WHO they will lie about -- trust is gone. Poof. It's never coming back.

Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, the amount of lies he told just within those instances, I'm not even certain he EVER told me the true. He lied ABOUT me and my friends, what's to stop him from lying to my face directly? About everything? Why should I believe anything ever said to me before, or ever again?

In this particular instance, it's hard to figure out what I hate about this jerk more: that he lied about me and insulted me to my face, or that he lied about and insulted my friends. 

It's a cliche, but broken trust doesn't get fixed. Especially when one thinks its funny to burn bridges with your friends and allies are still on it.

At the end of the day, I've learned my lesson. I forgive, but never forget.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Review: Hired Luck, by Mel Todd

I've reviewed the main story arc of the Kaylid Chronicles.  And I reviewed book one of this series, My Luck.

My Luck was about Cori Catastrophe as she received her triple Associates degree.

Hired Luck.

New city, new job, new threat?

With my best friend going to college to learn how to use her magic, I'm job hunting in Atlanta. We're sharing an apartment and I've never been happier. The last thing I needed was to be involved in a murder investigation. Now the police are sure I had something to do with it. News alert: I don't. I've got a job, Jo's going school. I finally am on the track to have my own life.

Working as an EMT is great, but something weird happened at work. Something I can't explain. What if I'm wrong and I am a mage? The last thing I want is to be a mage, it would mean I'd lose everything I've been working for. Even if I am a mage, I'd be a low ranking one, a hedgemage, something that means I can keep my current life.

But I can't get the dead girl out of my mind. Who was she and why did she die? What good are my skills if all I do is keep finding dead people? With a serial killer out there, the police and FBI stepping in, I might lose more than the life I had planned. I might lose my life. Once again my luck holds true and I'm in the middle of something I don't know how to deal with.

This one opens with a nice omage to the opening of book one, and this time, it's the inciting incident of the plot ... however, Mel takes her time before springing that on you. From there, we get a less-than-stellar view of Atlanta. If this is what it's like to live there, cross Georgia of my list of states to move to. And, this being SFF in Atlanta, we have DragonWorldCon ... I wonder how many puppy kickers will object.

Mel has finally gotten around to the serial killer plot she hinted about back at least one series ago. And of course, Cori is going to be sucked into it.

The damn thing of it is that I can't tell you most of the plot because at the one third mark, we can throw out this entire above description of the plot right out the window, and the plot takes a breakneck one-eighty. 

Many of the revelations will be nothing surprising to the careful reader of book one.

However, once we explain all of those conclusions to Cori, that's where things go off the rails for her, and the real plot begins.

This one will be a 4/5. I had hoped this would be my Dragon Award nomination for fantasy for next year. But something about this held it back for me. I can't put my finger on why. Perhaps Mel tried to do too much with this novel? Perhaps she should have pushed this plot to book three after doing a book on the job Cori has been trained for? Again, I'm not entirely certain. Book 1 was carried entirely on character and world building. This has more of an emphasis on plot-- but like every murder mystery, it helps build the world on the order of How Things Work.

Not to mention that we spent a good chunk of the middle novel introducing us to new characters ... after spending the first third of the novel introducing us to new characters. We don't get many calls for Cori as an EMT, which made me a little sad. And I think that might be what held this one back--the tonal whiplash at the 30% mark. As I read through my notes, there are tonal shifts all over the place.

There are, as usual, a bunch of nice little touches. The magical crime family Rasputin, for example. Or the Merlin Arthur Conan-Doyle. Or that the FBI never changes... nor does public school. Or academic politics.

And unlike a certain magical universe, Cori contributes to the plot BECAUSE she has no assumptions, and all of her basic knowledge is fresh in her mind. There's a nice bit about biases, against her and for her, and how certain changes in her life change her--in ways she doesn't like. Then we take basic knowledge of the world, and throw it right out the window, heh heh heh.

Also, frigging magical tree cats. Also, unicorns can be scary.

A major plot issue to be addressed (not a problem to be fixed) is the conclusion. It's very much like Black Sunday meets an Indiana Jones movie, but not quite as satisfying. Yes, that is particularly vague. But I suspect you'll figure it out when you finish it. But it left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied. It was also heavy into sequel baiting, where the resolution to this was the creation of a whole new set of problems.

My biggest quibble? The casual, arbitrary and capricious dismissal of all religion... well, all Christians. And Jews. Apparently, no priest who has magic abilities wanted to be a healer? No Rabbinic scholars went into the field of doing a deep dive into magic? Somehow, all of the meditations, focusing exercises and mental disciplines of Christianity are instantly useless in this world of magic. Why? Because magic... That's it... Seriously? It's not even magic, it's matter to energy conversion, like the transporter or replicator on Star Trek

But Druid and Wicca are on the rise! Yeah. Sure. How many other human-sacrifice cults would you like to bring back? Because human-sacrifice is literally a massive plot point of this novel. So that strikes me as six kinds of Really Bad Idea. 

And it's infuriating because it's two throwaway lines in chapter openings that usually contribute to world building. And it was mentioned twice, without having a single ramification in this storyline.

But "Oh yeah, that guy in Rome is just a figurehead of an empty church." Right. It knocked me right out of the narrative and just plain irked me.

As I said, 4/5. 3/5 if I'm feeling pissy.

Anyway, buy a copy here.

Monday, August 24, 2020

On editing

One of the things about editing your own work is distance.

When I was working strictly on my own, without editors, without publishers, without anyone, I needed to finish a project, then put it aside for weeks if not MONTHS, just so I could come back to it.

Granted, at the time I wrote it, I just wanted to get it all out of my head. So when I came back to it later, my first thought was "Who wrote this s***?"

Nowadays, I need a lot less of it. Because I have a better handle of what I people to feel and how to get that result.

Of course, some days are better than others.

Right now, I'm working on my third Williams and Miller book. If you don't know that series, it's more self-pubbed thrillers. The books were so large, I've broken up books one and two into three and two parts, respectively.

Why were they so big? Well, I had a general notion that books had to be 300-400 pages. So, I did that....

With 8.5 x 11 inch pages....

Single spaced....

Which is how I ended up with my current editing project, a monster of 156,000 words.

After two days of editing, it's not 146,000 words. Oy. Trust me, if you thought I like long sentences now, you should have seen the Ciceronian chunks of text I churned out back then.

Keep in mind, "Back then" was 20 years ago. When people are commenting on how much my writing has matured and use the previous two novels as proof... well, that's less the writing, and more the editing. The previous two novels were edited to within an inch of their life, until the point where I couldn't even read them anymore.

My current one... eh. Not so much. There will be a lot of "kill it with fire" going on. Keep in mind, in 2000, I thought one of the bigger stories twenty years from t hen would be sending UN peacekeepers to Belfast.

Current story in Belfast... all medical related.

[Head desk]

So I'll hit this one with a machete until the edits on Lightbringer come back, then I'll switch off again and see what happens when I come back to it again.

Fun fun fun.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

NEW RELEASE (Sort of) Coven is now on Amazon

 Yes, you read that right. Saint Tommy book #8, Coven, has released on Amazon. 

After months of being Silver Empire exclusive, it's live and in the wild. 

So, for those of you who couldn't, for whatever reason, buy it from Silver Empire, you can now get it on Amazon. 

For those of you who have already reviewed it on Silver Empire, now would be a good time to review it on Amazon. 

Hint hint. Wink wink. Know what I mean?

I'd make a comment about the book, but I've been working on book #10, and I'm about to start on book #11 soon. So I'm playing bingo with about five dozen cards and trying to track them, only the cards are the events and activities of my own life.

Fun fun fun.

Coven is a return to New York. After an arrest goes sideways, Tommy is given yet another murder case. And no one wants to cooperate with him. the bodies start piling up. Tommy's charisms have stopped working, and worse of all, people are after his children.

So grab Coven here if you haven't already.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Jennie Posthumous on Supernatural Streets (Now, only $0.99)

Jennie Posthumous on Supernatural Streets (Now, only $0.99), and the origin story for her tale in the anthology.  

A Hunting We will Go

Staunton, Virginia is known as a historic city. From the architecture to being the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson. There are also cemeteries dating back to the 1700s. One of those is Thornrose Cemetery, dating back to around 1750. 

Thonrose was used in my first Lady of Death novel, The Fae's Amulet. It's a gorgeous place where people still go to walk around. There are even benches, flowers, and wildlife. (Disclaimer: I also have family buried there, though not in any of the mausoleums.)

There's also Pokemon Go stops.

The husband and I enjoy playing Pokemon Go. It's a fun game. While driving through the cemetery to get stops, we stumbled across some local police officers near a large pile of red clay mud. (It's Virginia, red clay is the thing here.) I guess it's where they dump the extra dirt and mud. Anyway, these poor officers are standing around the edge looking at something. One is talking on his handset and the other's body language said he was uneasy about something. Since that pile of dirt is a good ways from the single-car road, we found another route and left them to their business.

That did not stop the husband and myself from joking about what they were looking at. The conversation went something along the lines of:

Husband: They found a bone.

Me: Well, duh. It is a cemetery. Maybe they found a femur! (Anyone who has kids will recognize the Disney COCO reference.)

Husband: But there's no graves over there. 

Me: It's a really big femur. Dragon, maybe?

Husband: That’s too obvious. It would have to be something more unusual.

And that got us to talking, and joking, about what type of bone it would be. Some other references to movies and such were also thrown in, because we have kids and are nerds/geeks.

And then came the call for short stories for the Supernatural Streets anthology. It seemed all the pieces were falling into place for a story about a griffin femur found at Thornrose. Of course it had to be set in the Lady of Death universe!

A Hunting We Will Go features Chris and Curtis, a pair of best friends who work at Fellhaven Restaurant and Tavern (a fictional restaurant in the nearby city of Waynesboro). Close enough to be brothers, the pair go hunting for a creature from another realm and find something more than they bargained for.

A fun story to right, it gives a little more insight into some fun side characters.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Julie Frost on The Genesis of “Brave Day Sunk in Hideous Night” for Supernatural Streets

Another guest post on Supernatural Streets. This time, from Julie Frost 

The Genesis of “Brave Day Sunk in Hideous Night”

Julie Frost 

The origin of the whole “Pack Dynamics” universe is a bit weird and a lot convoluted.

When the first “Iron Man” movie came out, I got a little obsessed. Scratch that. Wholly obsessed. Tony was so messed up, and Pepper so long-suffering, that they were just... irresistible. Yeah, I shipped that, and shipped it hard. So I sat down and bashed out a novelette starring two characters that totally were not them in any way, shape, manner, or form. Ha. It was the first story I’d ever written without any speculative elements whatsoever. It was basically a romance (I don’t write romance, by the way) with a lot of torture, as Not-Tony and Not-Pepper get in a plane crash in Bosnia and are captured by terrorists. I loved it to itty-bitty pieces.

And it was completely unsalable. Short romance was not a Thing in 2007.

I lamented to my Writing Buddy about how I needed to add a spec element so I could actually make some beer money with the thing. He mused for a minute and said, “Make her a werewolf. She’s hiding her condition from him. Wackiness, as we say, ensues.”

So I did. The length doubled. I never did place it (werewolf romance novellas are a hard sell, who knew?), but I eventually self-pubbed it because I could and because by then I had a novel series to hang it on. One publisher rejected it but said that it was the best title they’d seen all year. I’m rather fond of “Piles of Cash and Killer Benefits” myself. I am pretty sure my Writing Buddy came up with that too.

A year later, give or take, the Iron Man Train was still chugging merrily along, and I was basically devouring every movie Robert Downey, Jr., has ever been in. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” crossed my radar, and I thought it was the best movie I’ve ever seen that only twelve people have even heard of, let alone watched. And I got to thinking, double the Downey, double the fun, what if I mash KKBB and Iron Man together, Tony hires Harry and Perry to look into some industrial espionage for him, whee.

My issue with that was that I didn’t want to write fanfiction anymore. But I was three thousand words into it, madly scribbling when I got a spare minute at Denvention 3 (the 2008 Denver WorldCon), and also lamenting to high Heaven and anyone who would listen about ARGH FANFIC MAKE IT STOP BUT ALSO I LOVE THIS.

A kind soul tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Don’t you have a universe you can drop characters like this into?”

I blinked. Why, yes. Yes, I did.

Long story short, “Pack Dynamics” turned into a prequel of “Piles of Cash,” and I sold it seven years later to WordFire Press.

Ben is nothing like Harry. Harry is a clueless, incompetent doofus. We love him because he’s got a good heart and he tries hard. While Ben is Damaged with a capital D, he is actually skilled at his job. I imported Harry’s White Knight Syndrome, and--like Harry--he gets kidnapped and beaten up a lot, but that’s where the resemblance ends. We love him (hopefully) because he fights for the things he believes in, doesn’t see himself as a victim, and is almost painfully self-aware.

Now, I’m a short story writer at heart. Novels are hard. In the six years between the time I wrote “Pack Dynamics” and its sale, I managed to scribble several short stories and novelettes set in the universe, including this one. Ben is a favorite creation of mine, and I love tossing him face-first into a situation and seeing how he’ll react to it.

When I sat down and started outlining projects for a short-story NaNo endeavor in 2013, I knew I had to write a Ben story. So I started poking through private eye websites to see what sort of job I could hang some fiction on, and decided to combine a repo with a skip trace. But a normal repo would be boring, so I decided to mix it up a little and have my brand of fun with it while also traumatizing Ben. Again.

It’s what I do. 

Buy Supernatural Streets here

Home Chemistry and Supernatural Streets.

So, what bat guano insane environment did I have to grow up in to be a writer?

Well, in the age old argument of nature versus nurture, I must say that I was always like this.

In 8th grade, my science project was "Bombs from Bisquick." Fans of the 1994 film Blown away should recognize the quote. That film was my introduction to Forest Whittaker, U2, and creative chemistry.

Experiments I did for this science project involved amonium iodide (pressure sensitive little green crystals), as well as a "magic trick" watching colored water shift, etc.

This of course, doesn't even include the things that I didn't do because it was ... inadvisable. 

Though I now regret not having mixed ammonia and bleach... outside... in a sealed jar. I figure they might be good for crowd control these days.

In short, if someone had handed me the anarchist cookbook in grammar school, that would have been an interesting month.

Nowadays, I have like-minded individuals on social media who have helped with research for books, such as chlorine fluoride (used to great effect on Infernal Affairs). And my own, lesser research for homemade thermite, which appears in Supernatural Streets...

Because when you're writing fantasy, and you need to hit a Terminator-level threat with something heavy, and you don't have superpowers, chemistry is a great second option.

... Assuming you don't think that's a superpower to start with.

Anyway, you can get your copy of Supernatural Streets here -- now out in Kindle Unlimited and hard copy. Just to see how to weaponize chemistry 101.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Allan Kemp's "Bitter Pill" in Supernatural Streets

Today, I'm giving my blog over to Allan Kemp, so he can discuss his short story, Bitter Pill, in the new anthology, Supernatural Streets.

So, over to Allan.

Bitter Pill

In my urban fantasy novels, The Black Phoenix and Hagar’s Tears, I created a world in which the supernaturals had conquered and enslaved humans. At the end of Hagar’s Tears, the main character, Mutt Davidson, opens a nightclub called The Black Phoenix. Though Mutt is both a wizard and a werewolf, he didn’t take part in the supernatural invasion because he felt it was a cruel solution to their problems. His nightclub is neutral ground where supernaturals and humans are treated equally.

I’m a fan of Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s series and thought it would be fun to write a series of short stories that feature characters who visit The Black Phoenix. The Bitter Pill was the first of three Tales of the Black Phoenix. The other two are Panty Man and Loopy in Love.

Once I was in a kosher grocery when a girl around eight-years-old said, “You’re such a pill!” She was talking to her brother who was around five-years-old. I’ve never used the slang term myself, even when it was appropriate, but by having Mutt say it gave me an opening into where the story would go.

The slang phrase preacher creature was the inspiration for Bishop Willie Walker Jr. the vampire preacher. Researching sermons to come up with Walker’s sermons was some of the most enjoyable research I’ve ever done.

Chad Blyth was a satire of all the rich loafer boys who think they rule the world. I worked with a guy like Chad. He wore pressed khakis that he was constantly hitching up so that’s why Chad does the same thing. Having Chad get what was coming to him was my way of getting revenge on that guy I worked with. He was such a pill.

I wanted the story to have an ending that was truly horrifying, something I hadn’t done before. Though my Black Phoenix novels are urban fantasy, they contain more mystery and adventure than horror. Here was an opportunity to explore elements that were dark and disturbing.

And that is basically where The Bitter Pill came from.

Buy Supernatural Streets here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Rob Reed's Night Hawks for Supernatural Streets

The anthology Supernatural Streets is out and ready for debut.

And I'm not the only one in this anthology. Meet Rob Reed, as he talks about his short story, Night Hawks.

The origins of my story “Night Hawks” in the “Supernatural Streets” anthology
Rob Reed

As co-editor of the urban fantasy anthology “Supernatural Streets” I went back and forth on whether I’d include one of my own stories. I had several ideas I really wanted to write, but we had more good stories then spots available, and I didn’t want to bump someone just to run my own story.

That changed when we had a couple authors drop out close to the last minute for different personal reasons. There was no heartburn on my end. They are both pros and were upfront about their reasons and I’d work with either person again. But, that left us two stories down and we needed to fill at least one of those holes with a new story.

Enter Frank and Tiny. I had created these characters in my mind as sort of a look at the “dark underbelly” of what monster hunting might be like as a lifestyle. I wanted to explore the toll it would take on the characters and how they’d cope.

I also wanted to create a story that was fun to read. It had to have relatable characters, some well-staged action, and more than a touch of humor.

I had their world. I had their voice. All I needed now was a story. The germ of the idea started with something I’d observed in my own life. I stretched it out into a running gag that also gave me a pivotal bit of action near the climax. That first piece helped structure the rest of the plot complications.

One thing I like about this story is that I wound up using every idea I thought up along the way. Every character trait, every joke, every little bit of business I envisioned, they all made it into the final product. Some of them were changed along the way, smoothed out a bit or restructured slightly to fit the other pieces better, but they all made it in. Like a well-built bicycle on Christmas morning, there were no extra pieces left over when I was done.

The title is deliberately evocative of the masterful Edward Hopper painting, “Nighthawks.” I had that image in mind when mulling over the characters. It’s no coincidence the story opens with the two main characters at an all-night truck stop reminiscent (in my mind at least) of the diner in the painting.

What’s amazing to me is how close the final story on the page is to how I originally envisioned the story in my head. Even before I had all the details worked out I had a vision for what I wanted the story to be and the result is as true to that vision as anything I’ve ever written.

I hope you all enjoy the result.

Monday, August 17, 2020

New Release, Supernatural Streets anthology

Last year, Amie Gibbons of the Psychic series put out a call for urban fantasy detective fiction for a new anthology series: Supernatural Streets.

My first thought was "Oh, why not?"

After all, at the time, I had been writing my Saint Tommy, NYPD series for 40 hours a week for months. It was a world filled with detective stories and fantasy in the big city. What else would I write for this? I knew the world inside and out. At the time, book three, Infernal Affairs had come out, and #4, City of Shadows was about to come out, and I may not have even started on Crusader.

So I had a day or two to kill to work on this one

Before you ask, yes, that is how long it takes for me to pound out a short story.

But I knew I wanted to do something with witches. After all, Alyssa Milano wouldn't shut up at the time, and you had covens putting curses on President Trump (Yes, really), John C Wright had noted they were on the rise, my research told me they were getting big in Europe. It was clearly in the Zeitgeist, even before people on Twitter decided that witch hunts were cool.

Besides, I hadn't used witches yet. I had meant to in book 3... then book 4... then later, book 7 (hint, it's called Coven). But I never quite got there.

So, I knew the short story would have witches.

I also knew it would have one other element. And it wouldn't be Saint Tommy, NYPD.

See, there was a problem. Given what I was writing at the time, I didn't have a lot of places to put Tommy. Yes, there is Lupus Dei, but I hadn't considered that idea then (and it was less detective fiction and more The Most Dangerous Game with magic). There was very little room in the timeline to use my main character for a short story between books 3 and 4. In my novels, I had explicitly mentioned that nothing supernatural had hit Tommy Nolan between books one and three.

However, while Tommy Nolan is a wonder worker, and fights the forces of darkness in every book, he's also a cop. And cops all have one standard issue piece of equipment. 

He has a partner. 

Enter Alexander Packard, the new POV character. Unlike his partner, Packard has no charisms, no superpowers except sarcasm, but I was still going to send up up against the forces of darkness.

The story was originally entitled Dark Web, and it would open with "My name is Alex Packard, and I am nowhere near a saint--unless my partner is in the car."

It was all downhill from there. 

Set between Infernal Affairs and City of Shadows, the premise is simple--Tommy has a price on his head on the dark web. When the person who put out the bounty is killed, there's no way to tell everyone that the price is off. Time for him and his family to be ... away. Far away.

This leaves Tommy's house empty, except for his partner. After a few months of this, finding a body on the front lawn is no longer a big deal. But this one is special -- it's in pieces, and it looks like it has nothing to do with Tommy Nolan.

Then we're off to the races. From there it was easy. The fun part was giving Packard a small team to work with, and fighting the forces of darkness with only his wits, and his new fondness for chemistry. And one or two magic tricks up his sleeve.

One or two rewrites later, the narration changed a little changed, and became "They burn witches, don't they?"

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Review: Storm Between the Stars, by Karl Gallagher

Anyone who follows my reviews knows that I've been a fan of Karl Gallagher's books. He delivers character and plot, even at times when you don't know which he's delivering on. Torchship was a better Firefly than the actual product. His Lost War series is criminally underrated, even though I think it's even better than Torchship.

And now he's back to a slightly harder SciFi, with a bit of a twist to it.

Storm Between the Stars: Book 1 in the Fall of the Censor is his latest release. I was worried about spoiling the key threat in this book... but the series title has already given that away.

To begin with, Niko Landry is Captain of a family-owned and operated freighter. Like all shipping companies, he makes a lot of deals based off of what will sell better in X system over Y, and never leaving his cargo hold empty. 

When Niko and his crew find himself lost in space, he finds himself in the midst of a great business opportunity. After three thousand years of a human diaspora caused humans to flee Earth and being subsequently cut off from the home system, they find themselves to be the first ones to have found a way back.

Since the Landry family business is private, they don't have to report anything to any one. They're the first ones back to the home system, and therefore, the first ones to find what new resources and technology may have been developed in the last three thousand years.

But Earth and the associated systems are now ruled by something called "the Censor." And what seems to begin as a system of bureaucrats is slowly revealed to be a creepy, terrifying system of oppression. Each new revelation makes the reader feel new levels of dread every time. It goes from "aw Hell" to "aw f***" to "why aren't they running?"

Karl essentially unveils a system, piece by piece, that builds into 1984 / Farenheight 451 IN SPACE, and ends with an interstellar space chase that David Weber would have been happy to have written. It feels a little like the end of On Basilik Station, only our heroes are being chased, and they don't have real weapons. Their only weapons? Physics.

Karl does a good job of developing a world. Many of the ideas are sane Libertarian. I have to make that distinction because there are the libertarians I know, versus the ones I've seen in public. He has a smart and sane approach to extended families, marrying into a family business, barter to get around taxes, how to work around oppression, and a lot of cultural elements that would make some libertarians I know scream like a sunburnt vampire.

There is also a great bit of work on language. I haven't seen this much effort put in since John C Wright's Somewhither. It's not as extensive, but it works well for the story. 

And there are nice little touches here and there. Character names that are very ... Welsh. Details on spaceship cargo loading. Human zebras (long story). Bringing back the zealots.

The only problem with this entire novel? We could have spent five pages on the crew being a bit more impressed with "This is something no one on our side has seen for thousands of years." In the book, they were all business, no wonder. Five pages would've been enough. It's a minor quibble, but I have to find a flaw somewhere.

In short, it's great world building. And I definitely enjoyed it. At least a 4/5. Maybe 5/5. I definitely recommend it. There's sequel bait, but there's there isn't a cliffhanger. So this won't cause you to throw your book against a wall.

Buy it here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Dragon Ballot 2020

 You know, I am fairly hooked into the book community. If I don't read every book, I at least hear about a lot of them. Even if I take one look and decide I don't want to read it, I at least check it out.

Then I saw the 2020 Dragon Award ballot and wondered who the fuck any of these people were. Seriously, what sort of shit show is this?

Sure, I've heard of a few. Margaret Atwood at least has a TV show. She's an opportunistic parasite, but people have at least heard of her (though I haven't heard of that book. I guess she came out with another). I've heard of Scalzi--don't like him, but I can at least pick his name out of a phone book. Chuck Wendigo? The same.

But so many of these names are just ... Who? What? Huh?

I've been assured by some people (randoms online, mostly) that these are Hugo authors. I guess I'll take their word on it... but usually, I've at least HEARD about those authors. These folks? Nah.

I would like to congratulate both Nick Cole and Chris Ruocchio for being nominated in best military SF.  And DJ Butler for best alternate history. I don't feel like all of the nominees were out of left field, Twilight Zone. 

But Timothy Zahn doesn't get a nomination for a Thrawn novel? Did he turn it down?

And nominations for Picard and Discovery? I can't even find people who watch those shows, but the media tie-ins are supposed to be readable? Unlikely.

Best horror is a pass. I feel like I should have met Cherie Priest at a con, but don't hold me to that.

Best coming book .... well, I did have a fondness for a few issues of Immortal Hulk, so, I called that? I guess.

Oh look, Mandalorian and Witcher ended up on the best TV list. I'm shocked. 

But for the love of all that's holy, Terminator: Dark Fate? Are we serious now? There are people I know who didn't even hear about the stupid thing. I didn't see a single positive review about it. But it got on this list? And Joker was SFF? How?

The funny part ... the hilarious part ... is that people were lamenting that the ballot this year is filled with such... crap.

If only someone could have warned about this.

If only someone could have tried to lead discussions, hold conversations on what books came out. That way, we could have narrowed it down to a few.

If only...


In the immortal words of Razorfist: Fuck you, I was right.

It was especially fun this year when I had an author see that "I was talking about the Dragon again," therefore, she asked if "I could put her book on the list." IE: She didn't even read the blog post to see what I was talking about. It was assumed I enjoyed killing myself so I could market their book for free.

No one wanted to play. That's fine. I'm used to it. 

But everyone can all stop bitching about it. They either didn't vote, or didn't want to talk about it. They didn't want to invest even thirty minutes into presenting a selection of choices, or having a conversation.

Now this years ballot sucks.

Maybe next year, when I propose that we all just MIGHT want to talk about it for a week or so? We actually freaking TALK ABOUT IT.

Otherwise, don't come bitching to me when the Dragon ballot is filled with suck again.

Because I told them so. And no one wanted to hear it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Damned Politics

Ya know, when I started writing my St. Tommy NYPD novels, I didn't exactly think that I would be writing future events.

Take book one, Hell Spawn.

It had an offhand, casual mention of Black Lives Matter after our hero arrests a serial killer. The Serial killer is in the "right" profession and thus call out BLM,... because reasons.

There were, of course, reviewers who cringed that I even mentioned BLM.

I wonder if their thoughts on the matter would change any now?

We won't even go into what I did to the mayor, or the death cult. I just figured I would have the mayor as an idiot that concealed a truly darker side to the office. (no spoilers). But Death Cult came out only three months before NY states' Moloch bill. (I forget, does that include killing children ten days after birth?)

And, of course, I do expect social media to "fact check" my sarcasm, telling me that it wasn't called the Moloch Bill, blah blah blah.

Then de Blasio goes and shows exactly how much of a pure f***ing psychopath **he** really is. Here I thought he was just a moron and a thief. Now he wants to destroy the entire city. 

The endgame of the first trilogy is being enacted on the streets of New York city this very minute with this stupid catch and release "bail reform: nonsense

And since I wanted to get away from politics for later books, I didn't even want to touch the governor's office.

Then Cuomo goes and shows that, yes, he's a straight up f***ing mass murderer.

I mean, really guys? I mean, in 2019 I thought that my darkest dreams could not conceive of something so twisted and evil that the Democrats would not put it on their platform.

But killing off the elderly? Not even assisted suicide, or euthanasia, or any of the nice terms they like to throw around. But straight up bio-warfare the old fashioned way.

I mean, good God, last year I came out with Crusader: sex trafficking run by a succubus in conjunction with Jihadis.

This year: is there any Leftist who isn't a supporter of Epstein's client list?

The slippery slope used to be "gay marriage to pedophilia" (which took five years).

Now it's "close the churches" to "burn the churches" in five MONTHS.

I think I preferred it when I could at least imagine that they were misguided idiots instead of straight up fiends from the pit.

It used to take full on wartime propaganda to dehumanize the enemy to such a state that we perceived them as something so monstrous and alien that we didn't even blink at killing them.

Now all I have to do is listen to what comes out of their mouths.

.... This is the point where I should mention that you should vote in the Dragon Awards before this Sunday, here's My Dragon Award ballot is here and here is where you should vote. But I don't feel like doing PR today.