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