Friday, August 28, 2015

Cosplay, Cupcakes and Kids

Not cupcakes—frosting delivery systems!
Recently, I was asked if I wore a costume or did any cosplay.  I said I didn’t, and offered that I have kids as the (biggest) reason.  Immediately, my logic was challenged:

Having kids precluded you from wearing a costume or cosplay?

With a heavy sigh, I offered the following and though you might enjoy it:

Yes, I have kids, which means that the majority of my free money goes to them (after all the necessities are met).  You see, I’ve never been one to half-ass, or even three-quarter-ass a project.  If I was to dress up as anything, it would need to be in my size, and reasonably comfortable.  In my old(er) age, I no longer punish myself to be beautiful.  If it doesn’t fit like an old t-shirt and basketball shorts, you can count me out.  So we’re talking a quality costume that also fits well.  Cosplayers can probably tell you those requirements cost money, of which, as previously mentioned, I have very little after my kids.  Since I don’t plan to sell any of them any time soon (though I do threaten it once or twice a day), I’m afraid my days of dressing up are both behind me and ahead of me—just not currently with me.

If you'd like a longer, deeper justification for my lack of dressing up, above and beyond the previous, I can talk about my lack of time due to commitments of work, children (again), wife (so pretty), volunteer speech/debate coaching and general breathing.

Sometimes the last gets lost in the shuffle, but hey, that's what the Scotch is for!

I totally love my boys, no matter what they cost me in time, money, effort, less vibrant night life, etc.  Don’t get me wrong—anything I’ve given up for my boys, I certainly miss.  I miss a great deal.  But I would miss my boys more.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Meanwhile, on Malta

This week, in 1565 on the island of Malta, the massive Turkish army (about 48,000 strong) attempted to take Fort St. Michael.  The defenders, who had lost nearly half their original strength of 8,000 total soldiers, were divided as to strategy.  The Council of Elders had voted for retreat, but Jean Parisot de Valette, Grand Master of the Order of Saint John, the Knights of Malta, vetoed the vote.  The Turks made many minor assaults and sustained bombardment of Fort St. Michael (as well as other defenses).  They finally brought in several siege engines and a massive siege tower.

In all cases, it was not the brave soldiers and knights who defeated these attacks, but the
but the clever Maltese engineers who tunneled out through the rubble.  Using point-blank cannons filled with chain shot, the Maltese engineers destroyed the siege engines and defeated the Turkish hopes of seizing Fort St. Michael.

The massive Turkish army, demoralized by the brutal beatings they’d taken over the previous two months from defenders they’d been told would be swept away within days, were now faced with increasingly bad weather, and the threat of reinforcements.

The moral of the story?  Engineering—it’s like math, but louder!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Swimming in Southern California

Why yes, I was a lifeguard.  Why do you ask?
It may not shock you, knowing that I hale from not one but two desert states, that I’m not much of a swimmer.  I can swim, my mother insisted on that (thanks mom!), but I’ve never really liked swimming.

Partially, this is due to the fact that 99.44% of the pools I swam in (and still do) are wholly heated by passive solar energy—if it’s sunny, the water gets slightly warmer than a deep freezer.  Partially, getting all wet never really appealed to me.  And partially, since about sixth grade, when I got my first contact lenses, I began the habit of closing my eyes most of the time I spent in the pool.

So, even though I was a lifeguard in high school, my general apathy toward swimming does make sense.

Until last Thursday.

When we bought our current house, we weren’t looking for a pool.  In fact, with small boys who had only splashed around in our (mostly empty) tub, we were generally against.  Visions of small bodies floating . . . well, yeah.  Let’s not go there.  But the house, the yard and the neighborhood were as perfect (in our price range) as possible, so the pool became part of the deal.

At the time, I even looked up how to fill in a pool.

C'mon in.  Water's a perfect -273 Kelvin!
It’s a tedious process, but not impossible.

But that didn’t happen.  We hired a pool guy, waited for summer to come, and started checking the temperature after knocking holes in the ice.  By late August, when most of the frost had melted, we actually swam a bit.

This past spring, we picked up a solar cover for the pool.  Essentially, a big tarp.  It helps maintain the water level, keep bugs and debris out, lets the sun through and keeps the heat in.The penguins and polar bears gave their notice, and suddenly we had a warm(ish) and friendly pool.  At this point, of my three boys, I had 1.5 swimmers, and one exclusively in water-wings.  I still wasn’t overly keen on swimming, but I was more inclined.

Things became more interesting when 1.5 swimmers turned into 2.75 swimmers.  It’s been high 90s and low 100s this summer in the SoCal area, so the pool is a saving grace and we’re out in it nearly every day.  My apathy toward swimming still didn’t change until—goggles.

My wife started swimming laps, and wanted a cap and goggles.  I figured I’d get in on the
Otherwise known as cut-crystal anti-hydro optics!
action (because I like stuff), and picked up some for myself.  I wore them the first day they arrived, and WOW, the pool became a magical place.  I could dive down and SEE things.  I could do laps without pausing because the chlorinated water stung my eyes.  I could SEE things.

I even attempted a passable butterfly stroke, something I’d never dreamed of doing in the past.

I’m not saying I love swimming, but appeal is much more understandable.  The downside is all these “swimming muscles” that haven’t ever had a full workout.  Soreness on an epic scale!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Blade of the Destroyer - Guest Blog by Author Andy Peloquin

A faceless, nameless assassin. A forgotten past.  The Hunter of Voramis--a killer devoid of morals, or something else altogether?

Blade of the Destroyer by Andy Peloquin, is dark fantasy with a look at the underside of
Not just dark, but grimdark!
human nature.  We all have that voice in our heads, the one that fills our mind with dark thoughts and tries to drive us to do dark things.  What if the only way to silence that voice was to kill? If that was the only way to find peace, what would you do?

That drive--along with the fact that he is near-immortal--has made the Hunter the perfect assassin, immortal, inexorable, ruthless. Feared by all in his city, he is the best at what he does.  But he is also an outcast, looking for his place in a world he fears will never accept him. He seeks the company of others, and finds a place as a protector of sorts.
When all that is taken away, there will be hell to pay!

Early reviews are excellent

Blade of the Destroyer is a fresh and original offering in a genre I have heard described as 'grimdark', or more traditionally, dystopian fantasy. It follows the adventures of The Hunter, a mysterious figure who, we gradually discover, is the last of the Bucellarii, human/demon hybrids.

Unlike so many works in this genre, the development of the nameless Hunter's character is three-dimensional and believable. This above all is what makes the book work as well as it does. The story is exciting without being overdone, the writing smooth and the dystopic world is detailed and grainy. Peloquin has avoided the trap that so many fantasy writers fall into, of saving all the sympathetic characters; there is plenty of grief and loss for our hero to deal with, and this is used to good effect in the exposition of his character. A very nice piece of work.

About the Author

Portrait of Andy as a young man.
Andy Peloquin--a third culture kid to the core--has loved to read since before he could remember. Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom of the Opera, and Father Brown are just a few of the books that ensnared his imagination as a child.

When he discovered science fiction and fantasy through the pages of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R Tolkien, and Orson Scott Card, he was immediately hooked and hasn't looked back since.

Andy's first attempt at writing produced In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent. He has learned from the mistakes he made and used the experience to produce Blade of the Destroyer, a book of which he is very proud.

Reading—and now writing—is his favorite escape, and it provides him an outlet for his innate creativity. He is an artist; words are his palette.

His website is a second home for him, a place where he can post his thoughts and feelings--along with reviews of books he finds laying around the internet.

Buy Links for Blade of the Destroyer

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cover Release - Postponed

It happens to everyone, right!?
Bumps in the road.  Fallen trees.  A mudslide.

Life throws you little obstacles from time to time, and they’re (mostly) no one’s fault (thanks Obama!).

So here’s mine (and possibly yours)—I’d thought that the cover for Hell Becomes Her would be releasing in less than 24 hours.  I was wrong.

It’s not a big delay, but my publisher and my cover artist and I were all working frantically to make certain everything came out correct.  Covers are important things, after all.  At a minimum, they should not make you want to pass a book by.

I received and approved the final draft version of the cover yesterday, but neither my publisher nor my cover artist work in a bubble.  They have a hundred-thousand (give or take) projects and errands and life hacks that have to be accomplished, and Hell Becomes Her is just one of the many squeaky wheels in that list.

So the short answer is: no cover release tomorrow.

The longer answer is: soon.  Very, very soon.

The management would like to apologize for any inconvenience, but they don’t know how to apologize, so just stay tuned.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sorcerer to the Crown - Review

Book and dragon!
If Jane Austen were alive and writing Napoleonic urban fantasy, it would be “Sorcerer to the Crown” by Zen Cho.  Well-crafted characters move throughout a landscape that is at once magical and very English.

Cho’s story is the adventure/drama/mystery of Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers who is struggling with both his social and magical positions.  While a member of the Empire and its foremost magician, he still finds that he as often judged by the color of his skin as his innate abilities.  Meanwhile, magical Britain is on the edge of panic as their magic is dwindling, and Zacharias struggles to find a cure, while shouldering the blame.  When he meets Prunella Gentleman, a magical woman in a world that looks down on her, it might be more than just chance.

Cho does an excellent job fleshing out a magical Napoleonic-era England, complete with concerns that are both near and abroad.  While the pacing flows at a good pace, readers might find themselves frustrated with both the language and dialogue.  Readers may want to have their dictionary up-to-date before embarking on this journey.  Cho also has a habit of changing point of view in mid-stream to provide additional insight, but this just as often creatures as readers struggle to make sense of the shift.

In “Sorcerer to the Crown”, Cho is able to craft a believable period-world and realistic characters.  Although the language and dialogue will cause some readers to struggle, the relationships between Zacharias, Prunella and their world is worth fighting to the end.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review - Blade of the Destroyer by Andy Peloquin

Is this a dagger I see before me?
My friend and fellow author Seth Chamberlin wrote the following book review.

The Last Bucelarii Book I: Blade of the Destroyer, by Andy Peloquin from J. Ellington Ashton Press, is like no fantasy book I’ve ever read. Being a huge fan of antihero characters, the story of the Hunter appealed to me right away. It also deals with demons and tons of realistic fighting with a dash—or bloody splash—or two of magic tossed in, which is also totally my grizzly cup of tea.

Blade of the Destroyer follows the Hunter, an immortal killer for hire. We are immediately introduced to a character that seems cold, unfeeling, even cruel, and at first it is difficult to like him. What I did like though, and I’m always drawn to in any character, is his amazing abilities. Any character that is really good at some becomes instantly interesting; this one just happens to be really good at cold blooded murder. The Hunter tracks and dispatches his targets with a dagger called Soulhunger. This seemingly living weapon not only helps the Hunter find his victims but whispers to him, asking for its own blood lust to be sated, driving the hunter to need to kill as much as the blade desires it.

In this way, I quickly realized that one of the things I liked about the Hunter, was that he is, in a way, a fantasy version of a serial killer. Yes, he does what he does by contract, and is paid handsomely, but in the end, he kills because he there is something in his wiring, as well as the relationship with the dagger, that requires him to do so. This harkens to serial killer stories like Jeff Lindsey’s Dexter (though the Showtime series does it best), or Dan Wells’ John Cleaver series, which starts with I Am Not a Serial Killer. Neither of these series are fantasy, though they play with the supernatural (see the later versions of the Dexter books). So, seeing this spun into a fantasy universe was a special treat.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Tale of Two Writers—Or How I Came to Write in the Horror Genre

Who let you out and where is that next book!?
This is a story about inspiration and perspiration.  It’s a well-known maxim that no author writes in a bubble.  Our entire history, up to and including when we are actually writing effects our writing.  Everything, including our mood, the weather, the way the leaves rustle lightly in the soft breezes outside our window as we stare into the aether and hope, pray and beg for inspiration can become part of our writing.

Two years ago (or thereabouts) a publisher reached out to me and offered me some opportunities.  I was a young, idealistic, but fresh-faced author—a straight-shooter who had potential written all over.  A couple of the offers were pretty straight-forward for a fantasy/scifi kind of guy like me, but one of them was horror.

Horror is not a genre I’m into.  I don’t read horror books, I don’t watch horror movies, when I was younger I wouldn’t go to haunted-horror mansions or mazes or whatnot.  Having the crap scared out of me—heart racing, adrenaline pumping, muscles tensed waiting for the decision to fight or flee—yeah, that’s not appealing to me.  A reasonably sized spider will do much the same, let alone a mask-wearing, chainsaw-wielding mad man.

But the kicker to this is that Kevin J. Anderson had been snagged to headline the anthology.  You might know Anderson from his work in Frank Herbert’s world of Dune, or you might know him from his Star Wars novels, or his StarCraft, or The X-Files, or . . . well, you get the picture.  He’s a known name, and a big on at that.  I fairly frothed at the mouth with the idea of being in a work with him.

Does it burn your brain?
Alas, I don’t write horror.  I don’t know the first thing about writing horror.  I talked to my genius editor, Shawn, and she tried to give me some tips, but I kept stumbling over the problem of horror as a genre that I don’t get and don’t want to write.

Kevin J. Anderson, whispered the wind. 
Kevin J. Anderson, spoke the water.

He tasked me.  He tasked me and I had no idea where to run.  I tore round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition's Flames, but still Anderson’s name and awesomeness pursued me.  From a writer's heart, he stabbed at me.

Then . . . oh my, then—a friend of mine, Christopher, was working on some illustrations for his bestiary, and he shared one of his drawings with a Facebook group we belonged to.  I can’t find that image, but I remember it very clearly—an angry tree-spirit, on the move, ready to rip and rend anything that got in its way.  He may have even called it a “dryad,” which from Greek mythology are generally portrayed as playful, beautiful women—nymphs of the oak.

But here was something.  Here was a story.  Why was the dryad so angry?  Why was she
You won't like her when she's angry!
transformed?  Who was she after and what would she do if she caught him or her?

My writer’s spirit was ignited into a sudden and terrible blaze that could only be contained through the furious writing of a story.  Not just any story, but one where bad things were happening to people.  A character was born—Constable Aubrey Hartmann.  A mystery was created.  A world was built.  A short story was written—“Into a Watery Grave” (available in In Shambles).

From that world came two more short stories—"Grenadiers and Dragon’s Fire" (available in Gears, Gadgets and Steam) and "Holes Full of Dark" (available Fall 2015).  From that also came the book I’m currently working on—Constable of Aqualinne (in progress).

Wow.  Just wow.  Three short stories and a novel.

Look, Ma, I'm somebody!
I reached out to Christopher and let him know how he’d inspired me.  It seemed only fair.  I felt that I owed him something for setting me on the path to writing that story not because of the story itself, but how it had allowed me to create something I found so fantastic.  His image had kindled an inferno of creativity that broke through the obstacles of the horror genre and let me write the story, gain entrance into the anthology with Kevin J. Anderson and be one of the named authors on the cover of the book.


I bought Christopher a copy of the anthology.  He paid me the incredible compliment of asking me to sign the book.  I did.  I shipped it to him and he read the story.  He even gave it a review.  A positive review!

The take-away from this is—A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.  That’s a really cheesy but appropriate way of saying that your creativity shouldn’t be hidden.  It can only do good things.  There are a few, rare and evil folk out there who might try to steal from you.  But in the main, 99.44% of the people you encounter when you share ideas aren’t interested in stealing.  They're interested in being inspired.  They're interested in seeing something fantastic, and building on it.  As Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

They may, in fact, be inspired to do something that even amazes them.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Help Micheal and the Lazarex Foundation!

Running can teach you about yourself.
Turns out Micheal is really Batman!
Please meet Micheal Huston, a friend who has been battling cancer over the last decade.  Like so many, he’s a helluva person and he's trying to make a difference.  Here's his story and please:

Nine years ago I was diagnosed with Astrocytomas Grade III Brain Cancer. I was written off by my doctors and set out to find my own treatment, or cure if you will. I spent over a month researching different therapies and clinical trials and I even went so far as to look into gene therapy studies which were fairly new at the time. It was a painstaking process and it took a lot of time and energy that I really should have been putting towards actually being in some sort of treatment.

That’s when I found the Lazarex Cancer Foundation.

This charity has one simple goal: they want to put themselves out of business by getting everyone involved in the medical treatment of cancer patients.  Until that time comes, they are 100% focused on helping cancer patient get what they need—treatment. Whether it's a ride to and from a doctor or researching a clinical trial for someone who, like me, was written off and needs calls made to try and get them an introductory doctor’s appointment for a clinical trial, Lazarex Cancer Foundation helps.

On Sept 4th and 5th I am running the Disneyland 10k and Half Marathon (also known as the Dumbo Double Dare) on behalf of the Lazarex Cancer Foundation.  My Goal is to raise 500.00 for this organization before Sept 3rd. I would make it A LOT higher (they ARE worth it) but I came into this fundraiser way too late. This is my little way of paying them back for the help they have recently given to me.

Even if it's just $10 dollars, please click this link and help this very worthy organization!

So there you have it.  A worthwhile charity, a touching story, and a great guy to help focus and make a difference for others.  Please take a minute, click this link, and for the price of your coffee and a baked good, give a little today.

Thank you!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Lovely 5-Star Review for Tears of Heaven

Does size intimidate you?
While perusing a friend’s review on another book (The Black Count by Tom Reiss), I came across the beautiful review by Maria Kay of Tears of Heaven which really made my day:

"All potholes lead to Rome!"

This fantasy adventure is filled with colorful characters, comedy, and it references all my favorite movies and television shows. Ok, most of them. This author has a brilliant sense of humor and a talented grasp of dialogue.

“By Hera’s toenails…”

This novel chronicles a long lifetime, switching from the past, circa 221 BC to modern day. The story follows the life of Water Lily AKA Del, a seven-foot woman sold as a slave. Our unlikey heroine is not helpless. Her pirate shipmates are convinced she is Ares in female form. Her origin is a mystery; her power is awesome.

Eventually, the timeline from the past catches up with the plotline of the future. All is revealed in the last twenty-five percent of the book in a twisted mind bender. I love stories with a strong female character, and Del does not disappoint. I expected glorious fight scenes and battles on the high seas. I was surprised to find a beautiful love story. Well done. The book is rightfully named Tears of Heaven. It ends with an intriguing cliffhanger. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

It’s so great when your own particular humor and entertainment background mesh with a reader’s.  Thank you Maria!

I think I’ll go run five miles now!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review—The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Little, and broken, but still good.
Patrick Rothfuss was extremely worried that fans and readers wouldn’t like “The Slow Regard of Silent Things”, a novella about Auri, previously a minor character in The Kingkiller Chronicle.  He was so concerned about this, he provided a warning in the beginning of the book, and then goes into some detail about the writing of the story at the end.  He need not have fretted.  As Auri would have noted (after washing her face, hands and feet) everything is in its right place and it is a perfect thing.

Even readers unfamiliar with Rothfuss and Auri can come into Rothfuss’ world through this novella which spans seven days mostly spent in “the Underthing”—a collection of ill-used and mostly forgotten tunnels and access ways that Auri has made her home.  Auri is a former student of the University, whose mind was somehow broken during her studies, and now lives out of sight and out of mind, except as seen in the books by Kvothe as he goes about his adventures.  It should be noted that Kvothe, and really no one else, makes an appearance at all within “The Slow Regard of Silent Things”, but that’s hardly a detriment to story.  Rothfuss paints with such precision and such beautiful strokes that getting caught up and lost within his world is a wonderful experience.

“The Slow Regard of Silent Things” is as much another glimpse into The Kingkiller Chronicle, as it is a vast exploration of a beautiful, if broken, character.  Auri goes about her day-to-day business following rules only she knows, but that make complete sense when the story rounds out.  This may not seem like a fast-paced adventure, but rest assured that Rothfuss knows how to maintain pacing and interest, and this novella is an excellent and worthwhile addition.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Dates for Hell Becomes Her

Han Solo hasn't read it either!
It’s a special time in a writer’s life when, after all the ranting, raving, blood, sweat, and tears, after the beta team and the editor and the editor and the editor, you finally, finally get dates.

Dates are a very good thing.  They’re a thing of beauty in an otherwise cold, cruel and icy world.

So here’s the two dates that we’ve all been waiting for:

Cover Release—August 22nd
Book Release—September 22nd

I’ll be looking for reviewers, folk willing to read the book ahead of time and provide a review on one of the major ebook seller sites.  I’ll have a list going up shortly, so keep an eye out for that.  Of course, you can always reach out to me and I’ll put you on the list!

And just because these things almost never get read by anyone other than those mentioned in them, here is my acknowledgements for Hell Becomes Her, enjoy:

The writing vacuum continues to elude me and I’m thrilled to take this opportunity to express my humblest gratitude to those who have supported, aided and abetted in the successful completion of this book. In short, it’s mostly their fault. First, to the fine folk of Malta, who inspired me to write, especially Audrey Shandler and her friends and family who put up with me. Jan Christensen who kindly provided the Danish translations (any errors are my own). My brother, Jamie, who once again answered my questions on Latin and historical events. Michael Lazarus and Chuck Brewer, even after what happened in Detroit. The FAOBM Beta team, who provide the best on-color and off-color commentary—I owe you guys money, Scotch, and many laughs. Finally, to my editor and writing mentor, without whom I’d still be using sticks and dirt to tell stories.

If you’re feeling anxious and want to buy something now, don’t let me stop you!