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.