Monday, December 18, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It's good to be bad!
So, Star Wars: The Last Jedi released, and Luke Skywalker was right: “This is not going to go the way you think.”

Ok, that’s a big, fat lie.  It goes exactly the way you think, except for the parts where it doesn’t.  The Last Jedi does . . . or did?  Whatever Yoda would say, and how!

This will be a spoiler-free report, so read on without fear or remorse.

Anyone who pans these films just doesn’t know how to embrace the cheese.  The movies are fun, but they’ve always been light-fare of a local boy who goes big.  They’re space opera, with emphasis on the opera part—big heroes, big fights, big explosions wrapped in a “battle for freedom”.

Lucas forgot this during his “prequel” phase, and we’re well rid of him for these installments.  That may be blasphemy to some, and you’re welcome to it.  Lucas was always, always, always the “big idea” guy.  His ideas have now spanned 45 years, and a franchise that can imagine quite a bit more.  He simply could not execute, and as Harrison Ford once told him (paraphrasing), “You can write this stuff, but you can’t say it.”

Thanks for showing us the Force, George.  We’ve got it from here.

The Kessel Run?  That old thing?
Rian Johnson has impressed the hell out of me since Brick (with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which everyone should now watch, and then own on Blu-Ray).  Taking the reins of the greatest space opera ever has really allowed him to shine.  He treats the characters as one should for the second movie in a planned trilogy—he beats the hell out of them.  That’s not to say he’s disrespectful.  Anything but.  Johnson, who is only a few months younger than me, grew up with Star Wars.  It’s been a part of our cultural tapestry from the start, a thing that, even if we wanted to, we can’t get away from.

It’s a damn shame that Johnson will not be returning for Episode IX.

That said, The Last Jedi does everything the trailers promised and more.  It is visually beautiful and wonderfully exciting.  There are enough lightsabers and space battles to fill an Imperial starships—not the local bulk cruisers, mind you, I'm talking about the big Corellian ships.  Luke Skywalker is all kinds of in this thing, and Carrie Fisher is just so much awesome it will fill your heart to bursting.

Yeah, the view is great, but look at the location!
Another shame that we won’t get to see her in the next movie.

There was at least one scene that put me right into tears, and another that made my jaw drop at the implication.  Johnson did what every Star Wars film should—provided a good story, well told, that left me wanting more.  What The Force Awakens began, and Rogue One promised, The Last Jedi has now delivered.  See it.  See it again.  Buy it on disc and add to your collection with pride.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Marketing Covers for Flames of Perdition Part 3

As promised, here is the theoretical cover art for Company of the Damned.  This might be my favorite out of all three, as it’s the only book that hasn’t released yet, and thus had no first or second cover to salt the well.

Shaken, but not stirred

Also, as I said, I have some news about an upcoming release.  In addition to being picked up by Ellysian Press for the Aubrey Hartmann steampunk books, a side project for Del’s world has been nagging at me.  I’ve decided to give in and write a Jane book.  Jane was supposed to be a one-note side character, a tough-as-nails member of the shadowy Jaccob/Joshua Smalls group operating out of Salt Lake City that Marrin became enamored of.  She ended up growing and her story-arc became more and more prominent—but she’s always been secondary to Del.

Until now!

I’m still working on titles, but the first chapter of the book is written.  This will be a stand-alone, outside of the Flames of Perdition series, but still within that world.  I’ll keep you posted as the work moves forward.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Show & Tell

Tell me again how to make your drink!
Back in the day, I loved, loved, loved Show & Tell time.  Mostly, I loved to show and tell.  Probably we all did, but I don’t recall a thing anyone showed and told about during Show & Tell.  Probably it was a lot of stuffed animals and real animals and whatnot.  I do, however, remember some of my showing and telling.

Writers are often told “show, don’t tell.”  It’s one of the first things posted on a request for critique.

Telling actually has a place in writing.

It may seem like blasphemy to the masses of new authors eagerly attending their first conference, but it isn't always practical to show.  Some scenes, technical, mechanicals, etc. can't be shown, they have to be told—especially if the character is trying to understand why a thing isn't working in the first place, and they need that thing to work.

But Rob!  Why would a character think through all the aspects of a piece of technology?

Well, Slotted Pig, in real life, we do this in our heads all the time without really thinking. When an app fails to load or function correctly, we start to run through all the steps: turn the device off and back on, reinstall the app, check for updates and patches, etc. Some of that is pretty common, so it’s not very interesting to a reader.  When dealing with a process, tech, magic, etc. that is not common, or is wholly made-up, then some telling is not only needed, it’s downright necessary.

A simple example that nearly everyone can relate to is “trigger discipline.”

Most people don't know what trigger discipline is, even if they've handled a gun a few times.  Books and TV and Hollywood often get it wrong.  Tarantino even exploited this hand-waved trope in Pulp Fiction when Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) accidentally shoots Marvin in the back of the car due to his complete lack of trigger discipline.

In the case of trigger discipline you’re actually accomplishing both telling and showing at the same time.  You tell the reader what the term means, and in so doing, that your character knows how to properly handle a gun, that she’s a trained and even competent professional.

Certainly, there should be more showing and less telling going on in a story.  It's easier to be immersed in the visceral experience of a world that feels real.  But to say you should never tell is just not what storytellers should be hearing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Aubrey Hartmann Rides Again!

Got steam?
It is with extreme pleasure that I announce my steampunk series, Constable of Aqualinne has been signed to contract with Ellysian Press.  The process was long and fraught (on my end) but I’m honored and humbled that Maer Wilson liked my work enough to take a chance on me.

Similar in scope and scale to Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series and Maureen Jenning’s Detective Murdoch series, The Constable Comes to Town is a page-turning steampunk adventure of duty, danger, honor, bravery, treachery, and mystery as seen through the eyes of a young woman who has been through the hell of war.

Aubrey Hartmann has already appeared in two short stories which are currently available.  Aubrey made her debut in the horror anthology In Shambles, already well into her career as the constable of the small-but-growing town of Aqualinne, investigating a series of gruesome murders in “And Into A Watery Grave.”  A glimpse into Aubrey’s Imperial Army career was provided in the Gears, Gadgets & Steam anthology story, when her division is pinned down under heavy fire on Bourgogne Hill in “Grenadiers and Dragon’s Fire.”

The draft of the first book, The Constable Comes to Town is complete, although a release date will still be some time in the future.  In the mean time, you can read about Aubrey and her world through the following short stories:

And yes, there will be airships.  Airships for everyone!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Marketing Covers for Flames of Perdition Part 2

Hey, thanks for staying with me through the Thanksgiving holiday.  Had a great time with the family—turns out they’re really nice people.  Also, as mentioned a few weeks ago, I went ahead with the next marketing cover for Hell Becomes Her.  I’m still not sure how these will play out, but they are quite lovely, on theme, and on point.

See?  Lovely!  Totally a “Del” cover.  I’m going ahead and having one made for Company of the Damned and will release that to y’all shortly.

I will also have some good/great news in the next week about an upcoming release.  If that wasn’t enough, I will also have some news about a new project that fans of Del should be excited to hear.

Finally, stay tuned for my travelogue to the North Pole aboard the Polar Express!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Contracts and Copyrights and Covers—OH MY!

Don't worry about the details . . . 
Really great article by a buddy of mine who is doing a twelve-part series that everyone should read.  Today’s article is on contracts.  Here's a brief introduction:

This article is the third (of twelve) in my publishing series. This article is going to be long, but worth the read. It’ll cover everything (or almost everything) that you wanted to know about contracts.

Whether you’ve landed an agent who has just received an offer from a large publisher, or whether you’ve dealt directly with a small or medium publisher, the contract is the single most important document you will ever sign. It’s even more important than Copyright. There are a lot of different things that can go wrong with contracts, so I’m going to try to highlight the most important aspects of specific types of clauses, things to question, things to avoid, and a basic explanation of the parts of the contract so that you have a better idea of what you are dealing with.

Friday, November 17, 2017

When Cleaning Goes Wrong

And this . . . is where I dropped my soup!
He came at me before I was even aware he was in the room.  Fists clenched and down to his sides, as if he was a gunslinger about to go to work.  His brows were furrowed down over his narrowed eyes.  He breathed, like a bull, through clenched teeth.

His first words streamed out in a vicious path so fast that I couldn’t make sense of them.

“What’s that, buddy?”

“YOU THINK MY ART IS TRASH!?”  My five-year-old made it an accusation, not a question.


Looks like daddy’s cleaning of the house had some unwanted repercussions.

I have an artist in my house.  He’s always making “art”.  Mostly, it looks like a mess to me.  Bits of paper cut up and held together using too much Scotch tape.  This isn’t the first time I’ve stumbled onto the “artistic” world.

“Hey man, what’s all this construction paper doing under your bed?”

“Dad!” the frustrated five-year-old cried out, as if raging against the angst of an unfair social machine.  “I’m an ARTIST.”

The kicker was his next line.

“Mom understands!”

There we have it.  Another artist in the house.  Competition is just what I need.