Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Heroes Unleashed!

Find it Here!

After a busy 2018 of planning, writing, editing, and effort, on the part of many different parties, I can now reveal what I've been dying to tell you about Heroes Unleashed.

It's finally here!

The first book in a new series (and overall universe!) is now out in kindle and physical forms. Inspired by a love of superheroes and a craving for more books in the genre, publisher Silver Empire got a few writers together to help cobble a whole universe worth of stories for you to dig in and heroes and villains to follow. And it starts here. Heroes Fall is the premiere book in both the greater Heroes Unleashed universe as well as the first in the Serenity City sub-series. A story about a battle between heroes and villains, and good and evil, is about to begin.

Morgon Newquist wrote this one so you know it's gonna be good. I hope you like your heroes, because you're about to get a heaping hot plate of 'em!

Here's what Heroes Fall is about:

He wanted to be a good man. Instead he became a hero. 
Twenty years ago, Serenity City's great Triumvirate of heroes - Achilles, the Banshee, and Pendragon - maintained a golden age of peace and prosperity. Then, in an instant, it all went wrong. The city's mightiest champion, Achilles, lost his mind during a showdown with the enigmatic supervillain Thanatos and went on a rampage across the city, leaving the Banshee dead and a swath of destruction in his wake before Pendragon could stop him. 
Today, as Achilles rots in solitary confinement, Victoria Westerdale investigates a new mystery. Why are young and forgotten heroes disappearing off the streets? Why doesn't anybody else care? And how is it tied in to those infamous events that brought the city's greatest heroes to ruin? 
And what's going to happen to them all after Achilles escapes?

I was fortunate enough to read Heroes Fall before its release and I can tell you that is exactly the type of hero story that's been missing from pop culture for awhile (aside from certain Marvel movies) and is exactly what you've been waiting for. It has everything you expect from a good hero story. Interesting characters, crackling action, and intriguing worldbuilding, are all here.

There are a few twists in this one, and some fantastic heroics an diabolical villainy. If you've been craving a good hero story then this is the one for you.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't point out my involvement in the project, but I wanted to post about this project beyond my obvious bias. This is a project that excites me regardless.

My involvement can be seen at the tail-end of the description:

The first of a new wave of superhero novels! Coming soon: 
Hollow City from Dragon Award nominee Kai Wai Cheah
The Phoenix Ring from Jon Mollison
Gemini Man from J.D. Cowan
Atlantean Archons from Richard W Watts

That's quite the lineup of authors (and there's more to come!), but I am humbled to be included among them.

Gemini Man is the series I'm working on, and the first book is called Gemini Warrior. It's a story about two reluctant heroes who get thrown into another world and have to fight their way back home. I don't want to take up space talking about my work, though, so I will just leave it at that for now. Suffice to say, you are going to be seeing even more fun from Heroes Unleashed after this initial offering, as good as it is on its own.

My involvement aside, this is a project that would excite me either way. With the comic industry imploding, and the dearth of original IPs coming out of Hollywood and the big companies, we've been needing more projects such as this. For those of us that crave hero stories, Heroes Unleashed is what you've been needing and Heroes Fall is the perfect place to begin.

We're just getting started! 2019 is gonna be great.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

The Belated Cirsova Issue #8 Review

Find it Here!

I am so far behind on reviews of 2018 material that it is incredible. It is why I can't rightfully nominate for the Planetary Awards this year. I have too many works I have not dived into or finished yet. So to make it up here is a review for an issue I started but lost then found again later. This is for Cirsova issue #8. I still have #9 and #10 as well as other books in my backlog to start and finish, so this might be the last one for a little while. This is what happens when you lose track of your reading pile.

Nonetheless, let us talk genre fiction. Does issue #8 continue Cirsova's streak of top notch heroic genre stories or is it a dud? Read on and see.

We start off with Slavers of Venus by Nathan Dabney, someone I am acquainted with online and have read other works of. He specializes in the sort of storytelling I like: fast, fun, and traditional, adventure tales. This one is reminiscent of Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure in which a spacefarer is stranded on a distant planet and must use his wits to survive. Against lizard men. This is the sort of thing that got me into reading the pulps in the first place, and I can easily see why it was placed at the front of the magazine. The first of two novelettes, this one is so fast paced you hardly notice its length, and it sticks with you until the end.

Second up is Littermates (Part 1 of 2) by J.D. Brink. I know Cirsova has stated that they aren't interested in serializations, but this is not one despite the title. Part 1 tells the complete story of a group of "littermates" (gene-spliced clones) that wreak havoc on a port station and space pirates that have to deal with the threat. Loony chaos ensues. I have not yet read Part 2, but I can tell you it is not due to any sort of cliffhanger on this one, but because as of writing this I haven't gotten to issue #9 yet. However, this one part is sure to leave you with a smile on your face.

After that we reach the next story titled Breaking the Accords by Amy Powers Jansen. A war on a mystical distant jungle world reaches its climax as gods get involved. This one features intense action and such a great setting that I wanted to see more of. The only weakness of this story was the title. It's just a flat name to stick such a lively story with. Nonetheless, I dug this one.

Continuing the streak of engaging stories is The Dream Lords by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt. I had a hard time trying to describe this. This is a story of a wanderer and his quest for revenge, a town ruled by dream gods that overlook two houses, and nightmares that creep into reality. The world and conflict is constructed so well that I wanted to see what adventures would unfurl from the ending. Perhaps Mr. Uitvlugt will grace us with a follow up. We can only hope!

Then we come to Only a Coward by Jennifer Povey. This is a story about betrayal, death, and revenge, which has a bit of a twist in the ending that you may or may not see coming depending on how many revenge stories you have come across. Either way the language is evocative and helps maintain the protagonist's feelings on their plight and adds to the heavy mood. It's my least favorite story in the issue, but that isn't saying much as I still do like and recommend it.

The cover story, Party Smashers by Ken McGrath, is essentially a grittier cyberpunk version of Dirty Pair, featuring two female main character mercenaries hired to take out a terrorist before he sets off a scheme. Of course, in buddy action comedy fashion, things quickly spin out of control from the premise. It's a violent story, and the scene depicted on the cover of the magazine actually leads to one of the most gruesome I've seen in the pages of Cirsova. However, it is still Heroic Fiction at the end of the day and the main characters do their best to get their man by the end. You just don't see it happen in such a wild way too often.

Promontory by Jon Zaremba is the second novelette in the issue and is like if George Romero and HP Lovecraft got together to make a short together. It's an end of the world/horror/action/lost world combination the likes of which is not seen very often. I want to write more about it but I don't think I can accurately describe what occurs without rubbing off some of the power of the tale's mystique and strange structure. However, the ending is not much like either of the two creators mentioned above which gives it a different take on the concept. Definitely a worthy inclusion. I quite enjoyed the ride.

The final story in the magazine is Going Native by J. Manfred Weichsel, and is easily the funniest story I have ever read in Cirsova. There were several moments where I burst out laughing despite my best efforts. This is a cautionary tale about promiscuous sex with aliens that has some funny lines, moments, and scenes, ending in a perfect wrap-up about the dangers of fornication and stupid youth that nearly had me on the floor. It comes across as an old PSA or very special movie, but is played straight without having to wink at the audience. At the same time it does manage its theme and weird aspect convincingly well. I'm not sure if it's my favorite in issue #8 but it's up there. It's difficult to write funny weird fiction without it coming across as throwing spaghetti at the wall or trying too hard, but it is pulled off so well here that it almost looks easy. Perfect ending choice for the issue.

All in all this was a great step-up from issue #7 and one of the better issues of Cirsova that doesn't really have any weak point to speak of. I enjoyed all the stories a good deal and recommend you read them all. Cirsova's reputation is only growing and is greatly deserved with material like this.

Once again, highly recommended.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Welcome to 2019!

The future I'm still waiting for.

It's the end of the decade! I'm sure out flying cars, wicked cool motorcycles, and trench coats will be arriving any day now.

It's a bit hard to believe that this year I will have been writing at this blog for five years now. Half a decade! This whole thing mostly started as an outlet to get thoughts and ideas written somewhere as I wrote novels and dealt with real life problems in the background. I wasn't sure it would last as long as it did, never mind for 300 posts. Little did I know how much things would change in such a short time.

But all that aside I suppose it is time for a general update post on where I am at. It's been a while since I made one of these.

Over the last year I wrote two novels, one is with my editor right now and the other is being heavily dissected and rewritten by me in the background while I am also in the middle of writing a new one. Pulp speed is still something I engage in, but it is not a method I can use to publish the content, merely produce it from my brain. Editors, artists, formatters, and readers, all have their own schedules and I can't do anything about it. As it is, I didn't get to publish a novel last year, but that will change for 2019.

I wrote seven short stories (and am currently near the end of an eighth) but I also wonder if I should keep my focus on them, much as I enjoy writing these pieces. They don't garner a lot of attention and there are so few markets who actually buy Action and Adventure stories that it's the equivalent of playing Russian Roulette in getting the work out there to an audience. I have a few more I absolutely want to write and put out (mostly to get a functional themed collection) but I don't think I will put as much of my attention into them going forward.

Because of all these choices I didn't get as much published this year as I would like compared to 2017. I only had three short stories released, one of which I put out myself via newsletter and amazon, and no novels. Compared to what I wrote that result isn't much. It's a bit of a disappointment, but at least I should have a novel out within the next few months via my publisher and a story or two in a collection or anthology on top of it. So my efforts for the year were not a total loss.

On the personal side, 2018 was not a great year. The first few months went well until I lost someone important to me at the end of March. That cloud hung over me for the rest of the year, spoiling much of the mood and stifling productivity that should not have been. Several others were lost along the way and I learned some things that were not pleasant, but were certainly necessary to learn. On the other hand, because of all this my motivation to move to a better location has been renewed. I don't think this will cut down on writing, whether blog or otherwise, but it should help me regain focus on what truly matters. 2019 will be an improvement.

Myself aside, the indie writing world sure was full of surprises this year. There is a new movement for mecha series starting up (Beginning as #AGundam4Us) it looks as if genre magazines are beginning to find an audience to be sustainable, at least in the short term, and several upcoming projects like Heroes Unleashed are beginning to spring up. Imagining this back when I started this blog back in 2014 was impossible. Things have changed quite a lot.

Though to be fair, this decade has to be the most dull one in my lifetime, especially if we're talking entertainment.

The top ten grossing movies of 2011 and the top ten grossing movies of 2018 are fairly interchangeable with each other. Even comparing it to a list from 1991 and 1998 would yield it shows a culture in complete stagnation. Case in point, the two movies this year that will probably be worth seeing from the big studios had their first entry release in 2012 and 2014.

That might be the biggest takeaway from all this. Compare entertainment and the culture of any decade from the first year to the last one.

Television... is dead. I don't have any way to spin that one. The networks are still offering the same swill from 2012 and 2013, just occasionally changing the title and actors involved. Reality television's stranglehold killed audience investment and single cam post-modern sitcoms successfully murdered traditional sitcoms and general audience interest with it.

The music industry is a dead man walking. It has no influence left, just as it had near the start of the decade. It has no superstars, no crossover appeal, and no performer than isn't completely interchangeable with any other one. Tik Tok by Ke$ha (a song I've never heart because this stuff is easy to escape now) was the highest selling single of 2010. 2018? God's Plan by Drake (another song I have never heard) and the same list of performers you've heard hundreds of times. Now, compare 1980 to 1988. Call Me by Blondie compared with Faith by George Michael. They aren't even the same genre.

But because of the rise of services like bandcamp that successful movements like Retrowave came about, and where many indie bands now put their work. You probably won't ever hear a new band come out of the labels before the collapse, but it won't be because they don't exist. It will be because the labels are clueless.

In fact, it is the mediums where the independent and middle market have a chance to succeed that are doing the best creatively.

Video games have had a creatively bankrupt decade, still milking games and formulas from 2008 (Batman: Arkham Asylum and Uncharted 2) as well as the ever-tired Grand Theft Auto template. About the only interesting console release was the Nintendo Switch which easily overtook the sales of every other console in the decade by simply offering something other than the same thing as previous systems with pwettier gwaphics that Sony and Microsoft did. However, within the last few years middle market studios, once nearly hobbled by the first HD generation, have made a return and are finally back on track. Games such as Cuphead, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and Dusk, all released to rave reviews and offered something the AAA companies couldn't. Going into this year we should hopefully see more from the middle market as they overthrow the safe and tired mainstream from their undeserved pedestal.

As we enter into this last year of the 2010s I suppose that is the best takeaway from it. The dinosaurs are dying, and the new age is beginning. Let us just make sure we are not caught in the extinction event with them.

Happy 2019!