Thursday, October 7, 2021

Lou Antonelli is dead

Louis Antonelli was a relative latecomer to being an author. He didn't publish until he was 46 years old, in 2003. But in less than 20 years, he wrote over a hundred stories to publications around the world.

His dayjob was a professional journalist, For the past six years, he was the managing editor of The Clarksville Times

His first novel was alternate history novel Another Girl, Another Planet, which was reviewed here at Upstream Reviews. When it first came out, I insisted that it be nominated for a Dragon award. He said that if he was nominated, he owed me a beer. Lucky for him, I don't drink. When a rain storm and massive traffic problems prevented him from attending DragonCon that year, he sent me his speech, just in case I had to give it for him. Sadly, it was a year Harry Turtledove was nominated.

When I came down to Dallas in 2019, Lou and his wife drove out to meet me and my wife Vanessa, and we hung out with Moira Greyland. Lou joked that it was "PuppyCon 1," and all we needed was Larry Correia.

When the Upstream Review went live last week, he texted me to thank me to the review. I was happy to hear from him, since I wanted to see him while I was visiting Texas this week. But he told me he was texting from his hospital bed. He was in for heart troubles. When I asked him how serious it was, he did not reply.

Lou Antonelli died on yesterday, October 6th, he was 64 years old.

I am in Texas for a wedding. I may have to stay for a funeral.

~Declan Finn

Texas, 2021.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Double Dragon (Award)

 If you’ve tracked … any of my movements on social media lately, you’ll know that I’ve talked often about the Dragon Awards.

What I have spelled out lately is… well… why I care. And why you should care.

Many on the right will cite the old adage “Politics is downstream from culture.”

If that’s the case, our culture is heading for a sewer.

Frankly, we should fight back. And I mean on every conceivable level.

Before you think I’m saying “Fight them except for…X.”

I’m not. But that’s another post, probably hidden behind a paywall so people who want to cancel me will have to pay for the privilege.

Why are the Dragon Awards a front in the culture war? Nerd culture is important. If you don’t believe me, look up “GamerGate“ sometime. While GG has been out of action for years (at least five years, IIRC) you’d think that it was a massive conspiracy theory on par with the Illuminati. It left a mark. You’d think the line was that “the Geek shall inherit the Earth.”

In 2020, no one cared. That front was ignored entirely. The Leftist dirtbags who are interested in taking over every aspect of American life moved in. And while DragonCon is not a bastion of the Right (just look at the parade of Handmaiden cosplayers a few years ago) it has always been a place where everyone can show up, do their own thing, and be left alone.

From my varied and sundry sources, people are trying to make it not that.

So yes, we need to push back.

Voting in the Dragons is a way of making sure that we can all push back without any investment … aside from a little bit of time.

Nominate here

Yes, the nominations are already open! I'm not even joking.

Yes, I have a list of who I’m voting for. Here, for you folks, I’m also going to give you my reason for why I’m voting for each, and why I think it’s important.

But first…

My thought process

I'm not nominating anyone who already has an award. Most of those who have won already have the attitude of “Oh, I don’t need more dust collectors.”

I’m leaving out Big Name Authors. Frankly, if you're Jim Butcher or a Baen author, you don't need my help.

If I leave the categories blank, it means I STILL got nothing.

You may wonder why I’m not having a full, massive, months-long discussion, gathering up every eligible author and product.

Been there, done that. It turned into an unmanageable mess. Authors came in a hit and run to my posts, screamed "ME ME ME" in the comments, then dropped links to their book and ran. There was no discussion. That’s it.

Best Science Fiction Novel


Karl Gallagher: Storm Between the Stars.

I read it. I reviewed it. It's really quite awesome. It's like if 1984 were written by David Weber.

(My problem is that book 2 is even better... but it's probably best to nominate book ones whenever possible.)

Why is it important to nominate this?

Because 1984 should be a warning, not an instruction manual. And I think shoving it in the face of the Left would be absolutely perfect.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that my friend Richard Paolinelli also has a book up for nomination, Galen’s Way. I’ve reviewed it over here. It was a hard-run thing, but Karl won out.

Buy it here

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

Overlooked Again, by Jon Mollison 

Buy from the publisher

My review

Buy at Amazon

Why is it important? Because of the enemy. If you’ve read the first one, you know that they make the Illuminati look like a childish fantasy…

In part because this one looks like a very realistic nightmare. Jon even has a rigged election. And this book came out before November 2020.

You’re probably wondering: why is this in fantasy? What’s the first one a spy novel?

Our villains include a wizard and someone wielding an Atlantean artifact. Trust me, there’s plenty of fantasy in here.

Another option is from an acquaintance of mine, NR LaPoint. Since he did the graphics, I figure I should at least mention him. :)


Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel


Paula Richey, Penance

My Review

Buy Penance

Buy from Amazon

How do I put this … do you miss the days when science fiction didn’t automatically turn into “atheist fantasy“? I’ve seen very few who have Christian SF, and I see even fewer who do it this well. And those I know who do it this good … haven’t come out with anything eligible.

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel


Kai Wai Cheah, Unmasked. Half of this is a military engagement of one sort or another. And he gives Larry a run for his money in the gun porn.

My review

Buy at Amazon

By from Publisher

Why nominate it? Because the last thing we want is for John Scalzi to get it. Ugh. He already won last year, which was bad enough.

Maybe the 2020 Dragons can have an asterisk next to it. It would only be fair. Heh heh heh.

Best Alternate History Novel

Educated Luck, Mel Todd. Heavily magic, heavy on alternate history and the development on the world. It would probably be best in fantasy, but I like it here.

My review


Best Media Tie-In Novel

Everyone, feel free to suggest something.

Someone has suggested a Warhammer 40K novel: Penitent

Best Horror Novel


Hussar, Declan Finn 

Amazon link

Publisher link

Best Comic Book


Soulbound, #2, Paula Richey


Yes, this is the same author as Penance. But just take a look at this comic, seriously.

Best Graphic Novel

Best Graphic Novel Demon Slayer, Koyoharu Gotouge Suggested to me by @ArchivistPulp on Twitter

It's Japanese, but I also get the impression it's also very Christian. Also…

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

Demon Slayer is also a TV show. Heh Heh heh

But wait, it gets better.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Demon Slayer.

Yes, Demon Slayer is also a movie. And it’s doing pretty damn good, really.

Next year, it’ll also be a video game.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game


Steam Link

This one was suggested to me. But from what I’ve seen, it looks kinda awesome.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

I have nothing. For any of the above elements. So if you have anything, you let me know, would you?

However, I must stress a few things

1) The eligibility window for the 2021 Dragon Awards is from 7/1/2020 to 6/30/2021

2) The Nomination Deadline is July 19, 2021. It’s two months away. If you you have a suggestion, or want in on this conversation, now would be a good time.

But if you’re ready to go right now, click here

Vote here

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Two announcements

To begin with, you may already know that I've moved on to Substack. Largely, I'm using that in place of my mailing list. But I've discovered it doubled as a blog. And with Blogger no longer mailing out to my readers, I may move there lock stock and barrel.

While that's happening, I have an announcment.

I'm in a new anthology.

Has anyone ever heard of Starflight?


In 1986, Starflight, a video game so profound and cutting edge for its time was released, and the world of gaming was forever changed. Starflight was the first open sandbox game, where you could wander the entirety of the game, and never finish it. You could explore to your heart’s content without ever touching on the game’s primary storyline.

For me as a fan, it inspired my sense of adventure and exploration. I would imagine myself exploring the unknown like Captain Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Not only that, the game inspired me to learn more, about things like the elements of the periodic table and chemical compounds encountered on these planets. It inspired my imagination with images of these alien worlds, their landscapes, and the life forms inhabiting them.

One day a few months ago, I had this thought pop into my head. Why hadn’t anyone written stories in this amazing game universe? After some searching on the internet, I hadn’t found anything, even fanfiction, so I went on the hunt to ask that exact question to the creators of the game.

Soon after I had managed to track down Rod McConnel and Greg Johnson, part of the original game development team from Binary systems. And before I knew it, I had struck a deal that allowed Three Ravens Publishing to write stories and create official content for the Starflight Universe. Thus was born the first anthology of short stories, Starflight: Tales From The Starport Lounge, to kick off a series of novels that I’m sure any fan of the original games, or good old-fashioned science fiction will enjoy.

We have gathered a team of talented authors from a wide range of experiences and genres to flesh out the universe in its entirety. From pirates to smugglers, to colony ships and the seedy underside of Arth society, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

So join us and the Starflight Series team in bringing this beloved classic to life for us, the fans of the original games, and the generations of science fiction gamers to come.

Like, follow, and subscribe to any of our social media pages or sign up for our newsletter at to keep up to date on the Starflight series of stories.

Stories by:

Robert Silverberg
D.J. Butler
Michael J. Allen
Christopher Woods
Bart Kemper
Benjamin Tyler Smith
Brisco Woods
David A. Tatum
Declan Finn
J.F. Posthumus
Marisa Wolf
Michael Gants
M.J. Ciaravella
Nick Steverson
Philip K. Booker
R.J. Ladon
William Joseph Roberts

Monday, April 5, 2021

Enter: the Dragons

Last year for the Dragon awards, many people in my circles hated the finalists.

And trust me, I mean it when I say that they hated the finalists. There was one caveat to that, but that's all I recall.

My response was simple

"DUH! Why do you think I try to have this discussion EVERY MONTH FOR HALF THE YEAR? YOU THINK I LIKE THIS? IF I WANTED IT FOR MYSELF, I'D ONLY TALK ABOUT MYSELF." [Insert sound of hair pulling and rage]


So, anyway, let's talk.

Why talk?

Because the nominations are already open! I'm not even joking. Click here, you'll see! And they're only open for less than three more months 

So, I have put together things **I'm** considering voting for. (Because we all know it's going to change in the next few months).

To share some of my thought process on the matter: I'm not nominating anyone who already has an award. And frankly, if you're Jim Butcher or a Baen author, you don't need my help.

If I leave the categories blank, it means I STILL got nothing.

Fair warning: if you come to my blog and screaming "ME ME ME" in the comments before you drop links to your book and run, to Hell with you. I am NOT having another Dragon Awards discussion that rolls like that. It's happened every damn year, and I'm DONE playing those games. I tried to be nice about listing EVERY LAST THING that's eligible, because I though that would mean we'd all have a discussion about it. It never happened and I'm sick of it. 

Best Science Fiction Novel

Karl Gallagher: Storm Between the Stars.

I read it. I reviewed it. It's really quite awesome. It's like if 1984 were written by David Weber.

(My problem is that book 2 is even better.... but it's probably best to nominate book ones whenever possible.)

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

Overlooked Again, by Jon Mollison 

Amazon link 


Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

Paula Richey, Penance

Amazon Link

My review

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

At the moment, my best guess is Kai Wai Cheah, Unmasked. Half of which was a military engagement of one sort or another. And he gives Larry a run for his money in the gun porn.

Best Alternate History Novel

Educated Luck, Mel Todd. Heavily magic, heavy on alternate history and the development on the world. It would probably be best in fantasy, but I like it here.

Best Media Tie-In Novel

Everyone, feel free to suggest something. I'm going to just assume hat Timothy Zahn is going to get it. After all, he wrote a Thrawn novel in the past year.

Best Horror Novel

Hussar, Declan Finn 

Amazon link

Publisher link

Best Comic Book

Soulbound, #2, Paula Richey

Best Graphic Novel

Demon Slayer, Koyoharu Gotouge

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

Demon Slayer

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Fatman? Maybe?

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

Thursday, April 1, 2021

You don't want to be a writer.

Inspired a bit by a recent post by fellow author Ben Cheah. Check his stuff out, btw.

 People tell me they **want** to be a writer.

No, you don't.

Seriously, you don't.

Look, you can hotwire your brain to write. It's relatively easy. I did it to myself when I was 16. I wasn't even trying. I just wanted this idea out of my head. Half a million words later, I had novels on my hands.

To be a writer, your brain is basically ON all the time.

You're (re)writing TV shows and books. You're calling plot twists.

When the story goes a different way, you want to rewrite it because your idea really was better.

That news story is now part of your thriller.

Your demonic plot to destroy a city becomes current events within a year or two.

You're basing people on friends. 

If you're male, you ask the women you use as models what their bust size is, because bra holsters are dictated by boob size.

Then your friends are asking how you came up with this great character... that they don't recognize as themselves.

You didn't pay attention to that conversation with friends / family about something really important to them, because something they said ten minutes ago started a plot outline in your brain.

Your brain occasionally overclocks from writing from 8-6, occasionally remembering to eat.

You take a break so  your brain can cool down, but then the compulsion to keep writing presses on your brain like a heavy blanket.

You need a notebook next to your bed so you can make notes--because the ideas don't let you sleep until you write them down.

It's why I tell people that there's a difference between "I want to be a writer" and "I have to be a writer." Because there is.

If you want to be a writer ... no, you don't. If I had my druthers, I'd have been an electrician or a plumber. I'd probably be using electricity to kill people in murder mysteries, but I'd have a 9-5 I didn't have to take home with me.

If you HAVE to be a writer, you don't have a choice. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

But it's binary. You are a writer, and you write, because you have to. 

Or you WANT to be a writer, and you don't write.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

How writing doesn't go to plan

I have been writing for 32 years.

Some of my earliest stuff holds up surprisingly well. 

See my Williams and Miller series. I wrote it in 2000. I did a mild rewrite. The biggest flaw was gun stuff I thought I had fixed (apparently, I didn't catch everything. And the website I was using at the time lied to me. Damn Russians.) The biggest issue is that it was three times my usual novel length. That solution was easy-- break them up into parts.

And now, there's "HT." 

Those who know the parlance knows it means Hostage Taker. If you didn't, you do now. It was a hostage novel I had written after reading Deaver's "A Maiden's Grave." It is the only case I can point to where I read a book and said "I have my own spin."

Funny thing is that HT was basically the first book in my thriller universe. 

Yeah. You know how I published the MurderCon book, then Pius, then Miller and Williams? Thing is that this is the nearly the exact OPPOSITE order of publication.

Originally I had written my thrillers as...

It Was Only on Stun!


Williams and Miller 1, 2 & 3 (the latter of which isn't published yet).

A Pius Man 1, 2, 3

Yeah. The Pius Trilogy was supposed to be the crowning moment of a massive cast spread out over four other books.

Remember the Kraft Brothers? Merle and Dalf? From my Vampire novels? They debuted in Dances With Werewolves, the second Williams and Miller book. There was also the third brother, Tal. 

Scott Murphy? Showed up in the third Williams and Miller.

For those of you who remember Father Frank Williams in Pius? Brother to the Williams in the thrillers.

Everyone was in this damn series.

Merle was also supposed to make an appearance in The Pius Trilogy, and had appeared in all but the last few drafts. If you wondered why Sean AP Ryan ended up hearing everything by coincidence, that would be because SOMEONE had to know what Merle knew. 

Why did I cut Merle? You mean aside from there being too many people in Pius in the first place? Because when I wrote him in Pius, he had been following up on a lead ... from Dances with Werewolves.

 Which I hadn't released yet.

And then there's HT....

I have a serious problem. Most books of mine that I reread, I hate. I want to spike the whole thing, and kill it with fire. 

I'm reading HT and wondering if I should just forget this one exists.

I think this is why most indie authors have street teams. In part to provide a slightly more objective look.

But yeah, I'm going to have to work on this for a while and see if I shouldn't just throw this down a memory hole

[For the record, all covers are done by my beautiful wife, Vanessa Landry]

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Catholic Geek, Reloaded, Penance with Paula Richey

Join host Declan Finn as he interview's author Paula Richey as we discuss Indie publishing, Soulbound, her latest release, the superhero novel Penance, from Silver Empire Press. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Review: Penance, by Paula Richey

What can I say about Penance that I haven't already said about the rest of Silver Empire's Heroes Unleashed universe?

Quite a bit, actually. Much to my surprise.

The Story.

The "Prime" (The HUU's version of someone with powers) in this case is Penance Copper. At 17, she's been on the streets for most of her life. She's been raised by a street thug named Acid her entire life. Then the day comes that Acid asks her to take out a local hero named Justice. 

That's the last straw.

Unfortunately, this last mission from Acid leads Penance in the middle of an interstellar invasion by Kail-- a supply sergeant from another planet. His men need food and they need water. And the nearest planet to raid? Earth. And they have a place full of food and water. It's called a football stadium, and there's a game on, so there are plenty of hostages. 

And Penance is the only one who can get inside.

Hilarity ensues.

This story was just so well told, I breeze through more than half of it in a single night. Good plotting, action, and character. It's all well put together. 

The Characters

Penance is interesting. Because she's the Artful Dodger with superpowers, working for Fagan-as-super-villain. She's a character that has to think about using her superpowers--like used her electromagnetic powers and abilities to copy anything with an RFID chip (electronic keys, alarm system codes), or her plasma abilities to cook microwave popcorn in her hand. Also, the ability to shock someone back to life, something I want more electricity-based heroes to do (I think Endgame may have been one of the few times someone tried it). Paula even highlights how Penance can have these powers without cooking herself.

She's also stronger than the average bear (a literal bear). And she's Southern...By the time we get a quarter of the way through the book, Penance sounds and looks like Rogue, with additional powers that feel like "What if Jubilee was useful."

And yet, Penance isn't so overpowered that she overcomes anything that gets in her away. At least four times in the book she gets her ass kicked fairly thoroughly--once by simple science.

With Kail, our alien, it's interesting that his story could be easily summed up as "the quartermaster needed some lousy supplies," but boy, does that spiral. Seeing things through his eyes tells the reader more about his planet, his culture, and him, more easily than a chapter-long data-dump on societies. And the culture clash is as effective as Crocodile Dundee, if sometimes less funny.

Not to mention that limiting the POV to these two main characters highlights just how much one knows about the other, that even the other isn't aware of about themselves....

Yes, I think that sentence made sense. Honest.

And I like that Kail, as supply sergeant, makes his own clothing. And bookshelves. 

And the nicest thing? Kail even thinks like an alien. 

The World Building

Separating out the world building from the characters and the story required a crowbar in this instance. There are no data dumps here. There are no exposition paragraphs. There isn't even a chapter where Kail regales Penance with the exact nature of their cultural and societal differences. 

And it's unnecessary. Paula Richey spent the entire book worldbuilding. It's shown in almost ever interaction between the two, and their actions.

If David Weber could do this in his novels, they'd be at least 20% shorter.

The impressive thing is that Penance created and explained an entire alien civilization with stopping to spell out how it worked. And it works like Ming the Merciless learned to make an entire generation put themselves in debt, and be in chains forever. I didn't know he was a Democrat. Paula does a great job of making and unrepentant SOB you just want to see have a stake rammed through his heart.

And, at the same time, Penance spells out a lot of life on the streets for Heroes Unleashed. Every time I expect them to go bigger, they manage to do a lot with very little. Paula manages to take one element and write a good chunk of the book around it.

There are also at least two threads that tie Penance back to the original Heroes Fall book. 

Not to mention that I enjoyed having the alien invasion spun by the Men in Black as "he's a new supervillain. Nothing to see here." Seriously, if John Ringo did the politics of superpowers, this would be the series he lifted it from.

Not to mention that Paula has a grasp of technology no one points out. For example "your invisibility suit is nice, but what happens if it's really dusty?"

What's the politics?

There is only one way there is a political angle to this novel. Penance is reading a Bible throughout, because she's trying to learn about this Jesus person. I think that along will turn off certain readers. And we all know some of them, don't we?

Imagine if "Christian Fiction" only started having conversations about Jesus at natural points in the story.... like if an alien asked questions.


Penance was just plain fun. I can usually tell what writing tricks are executed when "This is the data dump. This is act one finale. This is how the slip in backstory." Not here. It's all smooth and effortless and makes writing look easy. Why couldn't I have written like this when I started.

And yes, this is labeled "YA." How? Why? Aside from the age of the characters, I can't really tell you. It's not like anything in the rest of the HUU has had egregious violence, or sex, or foul language. (And nothing has been as bad as the icicle in Die Hard 2, not even John Wick's pencil.) And, as one reviewer said of Narnia, "This is too good for children."

Anyway this book is fun, it's awesome, and you should buy it. Links are below.

Publisher link:
Amazon link

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Review: Galen's Way, by Richard Paolinelli

 From the Dragon Award nominated author of Escaping Infinity, as well as the author of When the gods Fell, we have Galen's Way




The Princess Rhiannon of Salacia has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom on the fortress planet Nammu. Galen Dwyn, the most feared mercenary in the Andromeda Galaxy has been hired to rescue her and bring her home.

But even as his rescue mission succeeds, Galen will soon find himself on the run with the Princess. Caught in the middle of a web of political intrigue, even as he begins to fall for the Princess, he will have to use every ounce of his skill and cunning to keep them both alive as forces from several planets seek them out.

For her love, he will stand alone against the forces looking to establish a new, and very evil, empire.

Galen will look to keep her safe and bring the budding empire to a halt before it can gain a foothold in the galaxy. He will choose to do so the only way he knows how.

Galen’s Way.

Dragon Award finalist Richard Paolinelli takes us on a grand adventure in this Space Opera offering set in the first book of the Starquest Saga. Set in the 4th age of Dragon Award winner John C. Wright’s Starquest universe that will feature several books by Paolinelli, Wright, and other authors in the months and years to come.

Just to make that clear, yes, Richard is writing in a John C. Wright universe.
Galen's Way is very much what Star Wars used to be, only with more of the interstellar scheming of Dune

Here and there, you can see how there are early Star Wars influences sprinkled throughout the book. There's a Totally Not a Death Star ... that makes more sense than the actual Death Star. There's a backwater planet that everyone wants to get away from, and uses it to bolster the local economy by acting as an interstellar dead drop for criminals -- which explains the economy of Tatooine, and Mos Eisley.

However, this is a long time from now, in a galaxy very far away. Because we don't have an Earth anymore. It's quite gone.

Overall, this was a fun book. Despite being set in a John C Wright universe, and being written by Richard, it was not as deep or as involved as Infinity or When the Gods Fell. It's odd. When compared to Richard's other books, it almost feels like a comic book-- but better than anything by Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman.

And going through the book, there are great bits of world building and technology. And you know what? It was just plain fun.

Let's make this ... 4/5? Maybe a low 5/5. It it helps, it's better than any other attempt I've read lately to join the ranks of space opera.

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Catholic Geek Reloaded, God, Guns and Texas, with Denton Salle

Host Declan Finn returns to discuss Texas Urban Fantasy with author Denton Salle. ... during the great Texas freeze, and right before the rolling blackouts started in earnest. Salle's Amazon page:

Monday, February 8, 2021

Dragon (Awards) Rising

Here we are again.

As I said last time, I've had people asking me about what I want to nominate for the Dragon Awards since November.

Yes, really.

And the people asking me aren't writers. They're people who just care a lot about the Dragons.

So, I have a little list.

At the moment, these are what I, personally, am voting for in the Dragons. Full stop. I've read them. I've enjoyed them. If you don't like it, then fine. I'm going to plug in suggestions I have gotten for categories I have no nominees for, but that is IT.

But I am no longer going to solicit suggestions. I'm not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I've done this, almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears. When I last tried this, I had people who came by, asking me to to add them to the list ... and they didn't realize they were already on it, because they didn't read it.

So, who's the best of the best this year?

Best Science Fiction

Karl Gallagher, Storm Between the Stars: Book 1 in the Fall of the Censor 

If you haven't read my review of this book, you really should. This book was quite amazing, and blew me away. Right now, the only contender at the moment is the sequel, which I have an advanced copy of. But let's stick with book one for the moment. Since Karl really is a rocket scientist, his physics are awesome. And his worldbuilding is, as always, amazing.

You might want to at least try out book one here.

I am sorely tempted to just nominate Karl Gallagher's second book, but it's probably easier to get book 1 nominated ... besides, the world building along is perfect. 

(At the moment, there is a potential future contender: Richard Paolinelli is working on a MilSF -- and since Escaping Infinity and When the gods Fell were amazing, I'm not betting against him.)

Best Fantasy

I'm going to hold off on this one right now. Why? Because I don't think Jim Butcher wants a third Dragon Award, and I haven't read anything recent in fantasy.

I've also been told to look up Chris Nuttal, and his fantasy ... or military fantasy? Either way, I'll look at it and see if I can fit it in here.

Best Alternate History

Educated Luck, by Mel Todd

I literally reviewed this one yesterday. While it takes place in a fantasy world, there's so much history there that I feel it could hold its own against most of the Alt-History crowd.

Damn sure better than yet another Turtledove. Yes, I am sick of his stuff. So shoot me.

Best Mil SFF

Kai Wai Cheah, Unmasked.  

"But Declan," I hear you say. "That's superhero. Not military!"

Well, if you've read the review, you'd note that there is so much strategy and tactics, the last half of the book, at least, is military. And the front half is building to urban warfare.

Best Horror

I'm going to shoot for it: Hussar, by Declan Finn. (Amazon link here)

.... why? Well, several reasons.

1) I've never fit well into other categories. And after the first hundred zombies, I think I fit.

2) I don't read horror. I don't read horror so much, I had to write my own. So there.

Now, you'll notice, I left out more than a few things.

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel (L. Jagi Lamplighter hasn't written anything in the eligibility window): Chalk by NR La Point has been recommended to me, but I haven't read it yet. 

Also recommended to me is The Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking. 

Best Media Tie-In Novel (I naturally assume Timothy Zahn is going to win this, since he's come out with a Thrawn novel. But I've been wrong before.)

Best Comic Book (Has anyone read a comic book lately?)

Best Graphic Novel (Ibid)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series (I have not seen Mandalorian Season 2. And right now, I don't see a lot on TV right now in SFF. People have told me the Expanse is good, but I can't get into it)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie (There were movies this year? That were good? No, WW84 does not count)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game (I'm sure someone wants to give this to Cyberpunk 2077. Given what I've heard of the game's bugs, I'd bet against it. However, I don't know of any competitors. So it wins by default? Or is the Miles Morales game going to take it?)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game (haven't played a mobile game in years.)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game (Couldn't pick them out of a lineup.)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game (Someone else? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? )

And the 2021 awards are already open. You can nominate here. But I think it's too early. Too few categories are really worth while right now.

Monday, February 1, 2021

What makes Urban fantasy?

[EDIT: I've been corrected. Anita Blake took place in Saint Louis. Which tells you exactly how little of an impression it made]

What makes Urban fantasy?

If you said "It's Fantasy in a city, duh" you'd be right.

Then where's the city?

You see, one of the things I've always taken into account when writing my UF novels is that the city is a character. Like the Enterprise in Star Trek, the city itself plays a significant part in the story. It was one of my big problems with Anita Blake novels -- before they became porn-- I never got a sense that the city was a part of the story. The novels took place in Seattle Saint Louis, but they felt like they could have taken place anywhere. The same with Larry Correia's Monster Hunters or Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series.

They felt like modern fantasy, but not necessarily urban fantasy. 

For example, when I think of a sense of place, Correia's Monster Hunters live in a southern compound. There are forests. There are swamps. There aren't many cities, except in Monster Hunter: Legion, where he trashes Las Vegas, and sections of Siege that took place in Russia. With Carrie Vaughn, Kitty Norville's town could be any town with a radio station on one end, and wilderness on the other... even though it's supposed to be Denver, nothing felt that distinct. My memory may be failing me, but to be honest, if there were distinct elements of each city, they left no impression with me at all.

At the very start of Urban Fantasy, Fred Saberhagen set Dracula in Chicago. Saberhagen's Old Friend of the Family ended with a vampire throwdown, on top of the frozen river running through the city. For Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, Chicago is deeply relevant for the setting, especially in his most recent novel, Battle Ground.

On the other end of the scale, Urban Fantasy makes the setting seriously matter. 

Correia's Grimnoir series makes each city feel distinct, especially as he trashes it. 

Despite the fact that she's often listed under romance, Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunters world usually did a fairly good job capturing the setting of New Orleans and getting a feel for the city as a whole--from the atmosphere to the accents. 

John Ringo did much the same for Monster Hunter Memoirs, both in New Orleans and the other cities his hero Chad was stationed

Russell Newquist's War Demons gave me a good sense of Georgia--up to and including a final fight in a football stadium.

Even in fictional cities like Silver Empire's superhero novels, each city has a unique tone and feel to it. Morgan Newquist does a great job in building her Serenity city--which feels very corporate, with put-on sophistication that reminds me of Manhattan elitists. Kai Wai Cheah's Hollow City vividly reminds me of San Francisco culture with Chicago corruption. It was much the same in Kim Harrison's Hollows series -- she's altered the world so much that I have not idea how much of her Cincinnati is real and how much is fictional, but it is distinct.

This was very much my own thought process when I wrote Saint Tommy NYPD or Love at First Bite. And they're both less "New York City" novels as they are local neighborhood novels. New York City is made up of local areas that are as distinct from each other as cities are from one another. With Love at First Bite, Manhattan vampire bars feel different than fighting vampires in a Queens cemetery, which feels different than working around San Francisco (even before San Francisco streets turned to feces and needles). The vampire bar near Mount Sinai isn't the bar near Alphabet city. 

For Saint Tommy, he doesn't have to deal with mafiosi or a heavy street gang presence, because they're in different neighborhoods... except for MS-13, which is closing in on several fronts. Heck, even the tactics of fighting in each neighborhood is different. In Brooklyn, you can launch an armed ambush by hiding armies down side streets. In King's Point, individual homes have their own personal docks. When I wrote the books, I was certain that committing a crime in broad daylight would earn the perp a good stomping by a passerby, then move along. (... since then, my faith in the ornery average New Yorker has been massively shaken) In later books, I make use of local geography and sites that you don't have in any tour book. 

Of course, I have a car chase that requires not only knowing traffic patterns, but also ways around them. 

In fact, that's part of what gives many of the above UF novels their feel--the city has an overall feel, and each neighborhood has their own feel. A major plot point of Battle Ground involved a fae army walking into the wrong part of Chicago, as well as local architecture being tactically useful... even Chicago pizza is a plot element. No two parts of Kim Harrison's Cincinnati are alike, but the overall feel of the city is consistent. Monster Hunter Legion could only have taken place in Las Vegas for multiple reasons. The same with Fred Saberhagen and Chicago.

So, TLDR: in Urban Fantasy, the city should be a part of the story, a player in its own right, with its own feel and own distinct areas. Otherwise, it's contemporary fantasy. Don't get me wrong, all but one of the authors mentioned here have written great books. But are they urban fantasy?

I'll make you a challenge. Read any of my UF to get a feel for what I mean, then read the others. Then tell me if I'm wrong.**

**Publisher links below.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Fisking 1 star reviews

It's time for me to have some fun with one star reviews. Mostly by making fun of them. I already started a week ago by pointing out the review that bitched about how a saint made fun of other Catholic orders. No, seriously, look up Saint Jerome sometime guys.

Apparently, the holier-than-thou holy rollers are also illiterate. Because they apparently can't read that the genre on the books is CATHOLIC **ACTION** HORROR.

I've had people bitch whine and moan that my novels portray a Saint as violent.

"Oh, he's so vengeful!"

Apparently, no one has an idea of what vengeance looks like.

No, seriously, people. "Vengeance" isn't "this a-hole is shooting at me, I'm going to put three in his head."

Heck, that's it's not even retribution--which is a form of justice, to repay, to pay to someone what they are owed.

Vengeance is more like getting alone time with someone you hate, wielding a blow torch and pliers.

"He's a Saint! He should be forgiving and trying to save souls!"

.... I'm sorry, dumbass, Tommy couldn't hear you over the sound of MS-13's ROCKET LAUNCHER.

No, seriously, MS-13's slogan is "Rape, Control, Kill." They do everything but rip hearts out while screaming KALI MA! Their livelihood is drugs and sex trafficking. Tommy can't even scream POLICE, FREEZE! without being shot at.

But somehow, he's supposed to have a good sit down with them? How stupid are you? It says ACTION on THE COVER.

So, if you want a badass taking down the forces of darkness and sending them back to Hell, you want to read my books. Pretty much any of my books.

You want a spineless simp, you go read someone else.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Writing Horror: Hell Spawn

When I was writing Hell Spawn for Silver Empire, I knew it would be something horror based by the time I was done with the first corpse.

I didn't know it was actually scary until I got into Tommy Nolan's home.

If you haven't read the book, at this point, our Detective has been working his butt off on the murder inquiry for over a day. He hadn't gotten sleep for about 48 hours by the time he went back home to collapse.

Then he came home and discovered that his son's best friend in school had been murdered.

Yes, that was Nolan's victim.

Then night fell, and everyone tried to go to bed.

Then it REALLY got dark.

I will not go into all of it here, but I can tell you that as part of the writing process, I did some research. Hell Spawn went as dark as it did because I had researched serial killers in high school, and demonic possession and infestation for this book. For the record, look up John Douglas for serial killers, and demonology included Father Amorth and Deliver Us from Evil (the book, not the lame Eric Bana film).

By the time I was done with the scene, I think my immediate email to my publisher was "I know you wanted UF (Urban Fantasy) but I think I'm writing a horror novel."

Thankfully, Russell liked it anyway.

But after that, the entire novel got dark. There were times I had to remind myself that "this scene was written in daylight." It felt like this freaking demon was everywhere.

And all it wanted to do was kill Nolan.

Confronting the demon in its lair became interesting on a pure human level. It knew things it shouldn't. It turned furniture into deadly weapons.

Then there's the Rikers Island riot. But that's another story.

From there, I felt like the series settled down, but with the occasional dark moment where you thought, "Well, that's not good." Granted, I may have a warped point of view. I know what's in the dark. Perhaps zombies with automatic weapons are scary to some people. Perhaps going one one one with a Terminator-like bokor might be creepier than I had in my head at the time.

... Maybe I shouldn't say the story settles down, but that the sense of omnipresent dread is gone for Death Cult and Infernal affairs (books 2 and 3).

I decided we needed it back for City of Shadows.

... Okay. By the end of Infernal Affairs, the showdown with the ultimate villain involved some cool ideas that hadn't occurred to me before. So I made it the element of an entire novel.

Because I can, so there. But a little ombramancy never hurt anyone.