Sunday, June 25, 2017

Luka's Dawn by A.M. Manay!

I've thoroughly enjoyed the November Snow series by my fellow Self-Published Indie Network author, A.M. Manay. It's a vampire-faerie-werewolf-psychic adventure extravaganza with a huge cast of intriguing characters and an appealing mix of fun, thrills, thought, and heart.

If this sounds like a good combo to you, I'll call your attention to the newest addition, a short story called "Luka's Dawn" -- although spoiler-phobes will want to start at the beginning, since this one is pretty much chock-full of important details about the rest of the series. Manay has a clever way of playing with spoilers, though: the first November Snow book is truthfully called She Dies at the End, and even when the foreshadowing makes you certain what's coming, things still surprise you when you get there.

Anyway, I had the privilege of beta-reading "Luka's Dawn," and it's a splendid addition to the series. You can pre-order it here if interested!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

One of my compatriots at the Alliance of Self Published Authors, W.O. Cassity, is releasing a Lovecraftian horror story next month.

Here's a short excerpt for all who might be interested:
     Skulking over the ledger’s musty-scented pages, Dr. Livingston dipped the oversized quill into the emerald-green inkwell before penning the latest entry:

11 November 1877
Bethlem Royal Hospital Bedlam
London, England
Subject 41 expired at approximately 10:22 p.m., possibly due to cardiac arrest once again. I wait for my assistant Hensley to deliver and release the corpse to the hospital morgue. My only concern is that there may perhaps be further inquiry into the claw-like contusions upon the deceased's forearms and along his facial cheeks. I still cannot fathom how the subject, who was restrained, managed to damage himself in such a way. Both Hensley and I agree that the peculiar wounds appeared to spontaneously appear across the patient’s flesh of their own accord.
Having witnessed this entire incident, I must admit that further precautions are still a necessity as I continue to push on toward a resolution to this condition. The screams of the patient still reverberate within my ears at those haunting terrors, which only existed in his tormented mind. My first assertion is that the patient’s experience became so vivid, he was somehow able to enact the subjective manifestations of his consciousness into literal lacerations upon his extremities. Perhaps Hensley and I are the first to witness the true potential of the human mind to inflict its falsely perceived stimuli upon the body during a controlled experiment. Mind over the material world indeed! This may warrant further exploration in the future after I have completed my current work toward a cure for dementia praecox.
When Hensley returns, he will prepare Subject 42 for her time in the chair. I will administer the new cocktail of ingredients according to the schedule after readjusting the chloroform and nitrous oxide levels for proper sedation during the procedure. Even though she’s much smaller than Subject 41, we still need to gauge the appropriate levels of anesthesia so Subject 42 will remain conscious yet controllable and programmable during the procedure.
As I understand it, Subject 42 has a peculiarly heightened state of hysteria, so perhaps this will allow us to mark any substantial improvements in her mental realignment using the electric resonating device with profound measure. It was difficult to identify the response from Subject 41 due to his condition’s tepid state and mannerisms.
Regardless of tonight’s setbacks, I have the utmost certainty that I can mitigate the issues Subject 41 experienced tonight. It is too soon for me to surrender now and too dangerous for me to stop. Questions are being asked already and if I do not have an answer to Annabelle’s condition soon, I may not be able to cure her ailment before they forcibly return me to New York if they discover what I have been doing. Certainly, they would shower me with accolades upon my substantial progress, but the board will need to see results and I need to save Annabelle if I am to marry her. She would definitively accept my proposal of marriage with a clear mind, for who else could liberate her from Dr. Kraepelin’s diagnosis other than the youngest fellow to be accepted by Bethlem Royal Hospital? At the age of thirty-seven, I will become renowned for such an achievement and therefore, Annabelle would accept me unconditionally.

E. L., PhD

Edgar rested his quill in the inkwell and remained still as he pondered what outcomes awaited him in the final experiment of the evening. A rapping at the heavy oak study door rescued him from his reverie.

“Yes, what is it?” he asked.

“Dr. Livingston, Subject 42 is now prepped for the resonance procedure,” Hensley responded. “Should I start charging the apparatus?”

“Indeed, Hensley. I shall be there momentarily.”

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Something Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Got Really, Really Right

One of my friends linked to this on Facebook today:

I got choked up about this too -- not just when I first got the book, but to be honest, every time I've looked at it since. The art directors for the 5E books did a terrific job being inclusive ... and in a way that's genuine and story-oriented, not forced. If you have any sense of adventure and a yearning for heroism, the picture of that woman on the "Human" entry makes you want to *be* her. It's the truest kind of representation, because it makes you feel human even if you look nothing like her.

Half-orcs and tieflings, on the other hand, kinda got the shaft. Apologies to the artists who did those sections, but ... yechh. Who wants to play a character that looks like that?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Beyond Expectations

When I heard Simon Pegg would be writing the third of the reboot Star Trek films, I was cautiously optimistic. Optimistic because, well, Simon Pegg. Cautiously because ... um ... Paramount. I got a really strong impression that Into Darkness was initially written with the villain not being Khan, and that the studio had him shoe-horned in for completely cynical reasons. So even considering Simon Pegg to be a genius, I wasn't sure he'd be allowed by the suits to work real magic.

When I heard Justin Lin would be directing ST: Beyond, I remained cautiously optimistic despite the caterwauling of many Trek fans that the movie would be turned into The Fast and the Federation. I've never seen any of the F&F movies, but I'm of the impression they're good popcorn flicks, and the trailers for that franchise alone make it clear Lin can bring the spectacle. After the dreary cynicism of ST: ID, I would have been happy with a good popcorn flick version of Trek.

By the time I saw the final ST: B trailer, though, I'd become tepid in my hopes. Each of the trailers seemed determined to make the movie look more action-packed, and none gave an impression of strong story or dialogue.

My son kept asking me when we were going to go see it, though, so last weekend we packed the family in the van and went to the theater. Everyone enjoyed themselves, but as it happened, Joey, the one kid most interested in seeing it, was working that day and didn't get to go.

So last night, I took him and saw it a second time.

What a terrific film.

The first time round, my nitpick circuitry hadn't been turned off, and I found aspects of the movie silly, parts of the plot predictable, and some of the pacing haphazard. Somewhere around the 45-minute mark, I thought to myself, "This is a perfectly enjoyable Star Trek film, but I'm not going to want to see it over and over again."

The thing is, though, the movie kept getting better and better as it went on. The energy ramped progressively upward, but at no point did the characterization slack -- in fact, almost every aspect of the spectacle served as an opportunity to let the beloved Trek ensemble shine. And despite these characters now being 50 years old, the culmination of the story delivers real meaning for them -- and does so with a grace and elegance largely absent from the previous two films.

On a second viewing, all my nits had been picked, and the movie captivated me.

Do you want to see Captain Kirk outwit and outfight bad guys while delivering both gravitas and wry humor? Do you want to see classic McCoy/Spock duels of sarcasm done with genuine invention and an undercurrent of heart? Do you want to see Uhura do more than sit at her console or get choked by a Klingon? Scotty, Chekov and Sulu each getting their moments to shine? Then this ought to be the movie for you.

Star Trek: Beyond overflows with the sensibilities of the original series. Yes, the action gets hyperkinetic at times -- but even that is really in keeping with TOS, if you think back to those space battle scenes where a jerky rotation of the camera would fling the whole bridge crew about with choreographed inertia.

There's more great Trek dialogue in this film than in the previous two put together, more of a sense that these characters fit together as a unit, more pure adventure and entertainment, and a greater celebration of what the Federation is and what it represents.

So much for even-numbered Star Trek films being the good ones!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Us versus ...

It is far past time for people of conscience to stand up. Not against another people, not against a group or organization, not against any other human being -- but against an idea.

The idea of "us versus them."

It's an attractive idea with insidious allure and horrific staying power. But it's the wrong idea.

If we're going to fix these problems we face, if we're going to put an end to the violence and the hatred, we need to come to grips with the central issue, which is the deeply mistaken notion that there is a "them."

There is no "them." There is only an us.

And we need to convince ourselves and our fellows that every one of us is one of us. Even the deluded. Even the demented. Even the unsalvageable.

Because until we remove from our thinking this conviction that "they" are a "them," we will continue to treat "them" with a lesser standard of decency than we demand for ourselves. And so long as we treat some of us less decently, the response will be a return in kind.

Tribalism begets tribalism. It can never be defeated by more tribalism.

We live in a world of us versus us. It's time we wake up to that reality and bring an end to its misbegotten evil.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Free and Cheap Books!

The Ingressionist, book two of The Aveliad, is free now through March 3! And all the other books in the Delvonian Tales series are just 99 cents each!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

More Than You Could Imagine

I was driving home from Plano, mulling over these complaints that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just a retread of the original 1977 movie. So I decided to make a mental list of all the things in the movie that we've never seen before in any Star Wars film. Because I'm nerdy like that.

Anyway, here it is. Please correct me if you can think of a single example of any of these things in the first six films.

1) a rolling ball droid
2) a hot-shot pilot who's a major character and also with the resistance when we first meet him
3) stormtroopers making a landing for a ground assault
4) a Force user who can freeze blaster bolts and paralyze people
5) female stormtroopers
6) a stormtrooper taking off his helmet
7) a stormtrooper breaking conditioning
8) a full explanation of where stormtroopers come from
9) a woman as the central protagonist
10) a fully formulated economic ecosystem based on scavenging the wreckage of a galactic-scale war
11) humans who have learned to understand the language of astromechs
12) the inside of a wrecked Star Destroyer
13) people on a desert planet being thirsty (!)
14) self-rising sponge food
15) good guys flying a TIE fighter
16) TIE fighters strafing civilians
17) someone having to get the hang of piloting a spaceship
18) atmospheric spaceship combat
19) Han Solo actually smuggling something (!)
20) Han Solo listening to Chewbacca and treating him like a partner instead of a pet or underling
21) the interior of a large civilian spacecraft
22) fighting alien monsters aboard a spaceship
23) someone who is sexually attracted to wookiees
24) a female general
25) a planetary-scale weapon being fired with a view from the surface that shows its beam taking up the entire horizon
26) a Force user who can read minds
27) a Force duel that's entirely mental
28) a sun being sucked away into darkness as the visual and thematic backdrop to a high-stakes dogfight and an even higher-stakes personal confrontation
29) a human female wielding a lightsaber
30) a female with a speaking role who is a Force user

Did I miss any?