Sunday, December 31, 2017

Rock n Roll is Dead! Long Live the Dead!

Take a few breaths and calm yourself to this

I tend to avoid talking about music on this blog for two reasons. The first is that it is easily the least popular topic and garners the least amount of attention, and the second is that it's just very subjective. I don't know anyone with similar musical tastes to each other let alone mine. Discussing sound is difficult outside of prose, especially when you're talking about a song you like and someone else just might not care for.

This is different. I want to talk about the dumbest music related quote I've seen in years. And if you've ever seen some of the stupid things record executives had said since they destroyed their industry back in 1998 then you know how idiotic it must be.  And in an industry that houses Ariana Grande and Katy Perry, and their millions of clones, that says a lot .No one takes these people seriously anymore, and for good reason. Whether you like Pop, Jazz, Metal, Rock, Rap, Classical, or Funk, I think we can all agree things in the industry are not looking up.

Ready for this quote? Your brain will not be able to handle this level in inane blather.

Though I suppose if you still listen to Pop music in 2017 you're probably already brain damaged to begin with. How many times can you listen to the same stale beats and hack lyrics, anyway?

Here it is.

Someone actually thought this was an important thing to say in Current Year. Someone thought this was worth saying. This is absolutely real.

Now I'm no genius but I think anyone who has turned on a radio or MTV in the last 50 and 30 years respectively (whoever there is still doing so) would be hard-pressed to tell you a single female pop star who doesn't write about the topic of sex. Because they all do. All the time. Incessantly. Without pause.

And yet this sort of thing is still said all the time. Is there an industry more out of touch with reality than this one?

But, you see, this industry is full of Important People who have Important Things To Say and we will cheer them on and swallow whatever they tell us no matter how objectively retarded it is, and how often it has been repeated, because they give us peasant ear candy that make us smile. They are above you and me. At least, that's what the record labels tell me. I haven't bought an album from them in well over a decade so you can forgive me if I'm a bit out of touch with their stagnant and unchanging practices. So little ever changes even after so many decades.

Because nothing in this festering boil of an industry has changed one bit in at least two decades. And I'm being very generous with that number.

Let's disregard the fact that all modern female pop stars are interchangeable. Let''s ignore the reality that mainstream music hasn't changed one iota since 1998 and is still praised as revolutionary by the hacks in the music press. Let's forget that Gangsta rap has left the world worse off both culturally and sonically and yet is still praised for recycling the same three topics ad nauseum after a quarter of a decade into its existence. Let's just bypass the uncomfortable truth that Kurt Cobain and Thom Yorke destroyed rock music with their terrible influence and obnoxious, holier-than-thou fans. Forget all that for a moment. All of that has contributed to the death of the music industry, but there's more to it than just that.

How out of touch with your own industry do you have to be to believe this? How dumb do you have to be to not know that hack musicians (and some good ones) have been writing solely about sex since the industry began? Name me a single female Pop singer with a hit from the last decade that that isn't about sex in some fashion. You can't unless you want to be pedantic. Because that's all they write about!

What else do modern female Pop singers sing about? What 95 Theses are they nailing to the door of their precious industry? What revolutionary message do they have to share with their fellow hacks? What are they doing that is different or worthy of praise?


They are doing nothing new or interesting. They have nothing at all to say, but they'll say it anyway.

And that is why this industry is a laughingstock and has been for so long. Mediocre thinkers that peddle tepid musical swill with 3rd grade lyrics and tired loping beats to kids and addle-brained pop culture whores are completely unaware of the very swamp they created. The very same creatively dead environment they still champion as if anyone outside their circle cares. Let's also not forget certain artists protest along political lines by withholding concerts to deliberately drive a wedge in their fanbase to get what they want. These musicians are a bunch of children.

And the record execs and "journalists" just nod along to it all like a '60s folk song that sounds deep but is actually about nothing.

Lester Bangs might have been a blowhard, but at least he was self-aware enough to know stupid when he saw it. Unfortunately, you won't find any music critic worth their salt these days calling out the stagnant and sour taste the industry has been reveling in or their undeserved diva behavior. When was the last time you heard of a popular music critic? there's a good reason you haven't. The record companies can't have anyone making them look bad, after all.

Heck, how Rolling Stone is even still in business despite being wrong about literally everything for the last half century is a mystery to rival the Transfiguration. Remember when they called Justin Timberlake's first solo album a masterpiece? Of course you don't, because you, like anyone with two brain cells to rub together, don't read the rag! And yet they're still running. Funny, that.

If you want to know why the music industry is a pile of burning oil rags you have your answer in that one tweet. Every aspect of the industry is that brain dead.

A simulation of the Modern Pop Artist's life

You might notice my tone is particularly rough on this subject. That is because the music industry is a whole other different kettle of fish from other entertainment sectors when it comes to stupidity. I've also been dealing with them longer than any of the others. There is no industry full of such complete ignorance about the future and such hatred of its own roots and none filled with anywhere near as many undeserved egos. Which says a lot when you remember that I'm including Hollywood in there.

The publishing industry is out of touch, but it has an independent and mid-tier world that are not. The television landscape is on life support, but it has growing competition in the online space. The video game industry has a thriving fanbase who aren't afraid to call a spade a spade. Even the movie industry is beginning to get push-back from online services and independents. There are wheels turning.

The music industry has none of that. There are independent artists, but they get far less exposure than they did even ten years ago despite the explosion of online streaming. Because it's all backwards. No one in the industry is going to give them a look. Not when they pay to manufacture their own artists and hits.

But what do you expect? The music industry is a rubber room of post-modern morons staring in mirrors, seeing their drooling faces, and thinking women should continue doing what they're already doing as if it is some radical statement. It's easier than ever to put out music with creative and bold sounds but no record company has taken advantage of it. and if they did they'd bury it like their late '90s culling of everything not bubblegum, gangsta rap, and rap rock from their artist roster. Twenty years later and how much of that has changed? One less genre.

They'd rather still push their swill peddlers who go on about the same stupid topics from the 1960s as if anyone still cares. You will never see another Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley again because of this. If they're this dumb is it any wonder that they've lost so much relevance?

Pop music is dead, Pop fans. We killed it. We let the record companies dump and screw bands and artists because they wanted to push their corporate mandated and manufactured stars on us. One day we were seeing the Smashing Pumpkins in arenas and the next they were replaced with a New Kids on the Block clone, and we shrugged and did nothing about it. We allowed payola to take Swing, Blues, Alternative, New Wave, Metal, Ska, Punk, and Rockabilly off the radio and didn't bat an eye. For all crap about how shady (oh, and they were shady) record execs were to people like Bob Dylan or Berry Gordy, the same exact thing still goes on today and is completely ignored. We razed this whole industry to the ground, but it still refuses to roll over and die.

But younger fans are smart enough to simply go indie to get what they want and make a career out of that. There is nothing to gain by feeding that fattened beast. Better to walk away and let the whole house of cards crumble at this point.

I'm also at fault. I walked away from the whole mess years and years ago. Stopped going to shows. Stopped hanging out with music snobs. Stopped hoarding CDs. Stopped dealing with musical elitists who couldn't stop huffing on their copy of OK Computer for the 500th time while ignoring the crumbling scene around them. I ceded the industry and walked away.

So let this be a warning to you, fans of various forms of media. Cede ground and you are giving it to the sort who will destroy what you love. You will be left with an industry of vapid fools who think stating something that has been happening for over 50 years is revolutionary. Fight for your hobby and your interests, because they will be taken away from you and ground into the dirt by clueless fools who are as brain dead as the product they put out.

The music industry is the lesson we need to learn, and oh boy is it a lesson to learn.

Happy New Years, everyone!

Reclaim what we've lost

*Note: Hey look, three songs in this post and not one about sex. Amazing what you can you do when you don't live in a box.*

My novel actually does have a lot of musical inspiration, but from far older than the current crap era of pop music. If you're a big fan you might even recognize a bit! Give it a look.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Quick Update: Out in Paperback!

I had a bit of a tussle with Amazon over this, going back and forth over an issue that should have resolved ages ago, but finally the problems were settled. You can now get Grey Cat Blues in paperback.

Of course I well know there are those of you who prefer your physical copies, just as I do. There's nothing quite like flipping through the pages yourself and filling out that PulpRev collection. If you also want to get that sweet Kukuruyo cover art in print then this is your chance.

I'm also letting you know that there will be a post tomorrow night, and it will be a crazy one. Here's a hint: it's about the music industry.

But the important part is that physical copies are here.

Come and get it!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Year End Anime Report

Best Ending Theme of the Year

After reassessing my enjoyment of anime this year, I'm left with one overwhelming feeling. It can be summed up in one sentence.

Well, that was a letdown.

The anime industry can do better. After 2015 and 2016 were such steps up from the previous few years of mediocrity, 2017 sort of settled back into bad old habits. Where action and adventure returned from being shelved for fan pandering and the otaku crowd, this year didn't seem to know what to do with their recent turn.

Don't get me wrong, there were good series in 2017, but as a whole it just didn't stack up to previous years.

However, I'm going to start from the beginning of the year and catch you up on the highlights from every season. This will include some material I'm not into, so don't claim any series as an endorsement unless otherwise stated.


January was surprisingly strong for the first season of the year (most places it's the dumping ground for entertainment) including popular series like Konosuba (season 2), Little Witch Academia, Saga of Tanya the Evil, a new season of Blue Exorcist, and the phenom known as Kemono Friends. There is a little bit of everything like with Interviews with Monster Girls that tried something a bit different with the stale moe formula. Not the most original as a whole, but it was decent.

There were also leftovers from the previous year including March Comes in like a Lion, Iron Blood Orphans, Tiger Mask W, and Time Bokan 24. But those don't really count when discussing new shows. Still, they were something to watch.

The biggest problem is that most of those were sequels, and what I didn't list (such as Hand Shakers) is fairly lousy overall.

But let us move on.


This was the season that took Crunchyroll offline and destroyed many subscriptions as people were attempting to sign up. Why were they signing up? For Attack on Titan (season 2) and My Hero Academia (season 2) which were undoubtedly the biggest anime of the year. The later is, of course, one of my favorite series, and the former is huge worldwide. These were the biggest of 2017, without question.

Spring is usually the strongest season next to Fall, and this year was no different. AoT and MHA would be enough to carry any season, and they do so here.

But there were other shows that did well. Re:Creators, (most of) Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, and Sakura Quest.

On the other hand, there's trash like Eromanga Sensei and the continuation of the Berserk anime reboot. But hey, you can't win them all.

Unfortunately, this was as good as the year got.


This one is going to be controversial. Summer was an absolute black-hole of quality. Unless you were still watching series from Spring, you weren't missing much. There were only two series that stood out, and neither one were very good.

And this is where I get hate mail.

Made in Abyss is a very divisive series, and I have to admit I don't fall on the fan side of this one, but the squik factor kept me away. Needless to say, it tarnishes a lot about this one. Look it up yourself if you want to know the controversy, but even that aside I'm just not interested. The Reflection was an interesting series that didn't quite stick the landing, but at least it's something different.

And that's it.

Unless you like moe, there's nothing else here. Nothing here is worth your time. It's an absolute tire fire.


Then we come to Fall, which is usually the strongest season this year. There were some sequels, and not every series was great, but there was enough to stand above the crowd.

Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond was the highlight. A sequel season of standalone action stories centering on each member of the cast was a great way to go and made the series feel even more out of time than what is put out now. Here's hoping for a season 3! Another surprising highlight was Garo: Vanishing Line, a hero vs villain show that feels like it fell out of 1998. These two shows were easily the best of the season.

Inuyashiki is from the creator of Gantz, but does not look to be anywhere near the dumpster fire that series became. Black Clover and Food Wars! (season 3) are Shonen Jump series which had fairly typical anime adaptions. March Comes in Like a Lion returned for the new season as did a bunch of other older series. This season had a lot of sequels, as did the year.

But it would be an average season in 2015 or 2016.

Best Opening Theme of the Year


As I said, not the strongest year. Summer especially felt like a backslide into the moe and generic mud pit that anime had been stuck in for years as if the last two years didn't happen. But the rest of the year felt like the studios were unsure of themselves, uncertain if they should commit to the bit. As it stands 2017 feels halfhearted more than bad.

That said, there are some show to recommend out of the muck. And if you actually like that stuff I hate, then this was probably a good anime year for you. So there's that.

As for me, these are the shows I recommend as a top 3: My Hero Academia, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond, and Garo: Vanishing Line. Yes, they're all sequels, but there wasn't all that much great that was original.

2017 didn't deliver on original series, and what originality there was just wasn't that great.

But 2018 does show signs of improvement. With confirmed sequels like My Hero Academia coming, as well as sequels to Overlord, Seven Deadly Sins, Saiki K., Tokyo Ghoul, Fairy Tail, Steins;Gate, Full Metal Panic, Attack on Titan, and movie sequels to Peace Maker Kurogane showing that the demand for quality is definitely being met.

New anime include Golden Kamuy (which I expect pulp fans to be all over), Grancrest War (from the creator of Record of Lodoss War), Megalo Box, A.I.C.O. -Incarnation-, Gurazeni, Juushinki Pandora (by the creator of Macross and Escaflowne), a new Ultraman anime series, and the Junji Ito Horror Collection. All of which are more interesting than any other new series this year.

2018 is the 50th anniversary of Shonen Jump Magazine which is also going to be a big deal. Expect much in the way of new announcements as the year goes on.

So it actually does look like the studios were holding back this year. 2018 looks to be loaded.

There are also new anime of old manga like Devilman: Crybaby, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Hoshin Engi (Soul Hunter), Fist of the Blue Sky, Captain Tsubasa, and Banana Fish. Studios are realizing that there are plenty of classics ond overlooked gems that never got the adaption they deserved.

Oh, and there's two genuine anime movies I'm looking forward to in Mazinger Z: Infinity and the upcoming My Hero Academia summer film. It's been a long time since there's been one, let alone two, anime movies I care about seeing. Oh, and a new Space Battleship Yamato film is on the way. Almost forgot about that.

And this is only what we know about now in December.

Even from this distance, 2018 is going to absolutely bury 2017.

So the post isn't that much of a downer. 2018 looks like a return to form. I'm not sure what happened this year other than the fact that the studios and the industry were taken aback from the reaction to the last two years and had an off year. Because business is about to get back to normal again.

And that's a great thing.

Here's to a better 2018!

Eat your heart out, Shinji.

I also put out my own novel this year. If you like action stories that take place in abandoned alleys on distant planets then this is for you!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Buried Treasure of Common Sense

I don't have a lot of rules when it comes to fiction. I've actually been mistaken a lot of the time for hating everything because of the way I choose to express myself when the latest Hollywood failure is released. I can't help it. Even in some of our Cannon Cruisers episodes, I tend to come off as more of a downer than I actually am. To better explain myself, and why I am so hard on certain types of fiction, let me give you a short bullet point list as to what ticks me off.

This isn't a long list. It's not a complex one. All it contains is the bare minimum any piece of fiction needs to contain to satisfy the smallest portion of an audience. It's all I need to at least enjoy the piece on a base level. There are no hidden secrets or impossible standards to meet.

When I was a teenager I went to the movies almost once a week. Considering the quality of movies at the time, it isn't a ringing endorsement for that era. It doesn't take much to please me. This year I willingly went and paid for exactly one movie. I even reviewed it on this blog, and bought the DVD because it was that good. But it was an exception, and it was the only movie in 2017 that I willingly indulged in.

So what happened? Well, let's get into that.

These four points are literally (in the actual sense of the word) all you need to do to get me to nod along and consume your story without it giving me a stomach ache. It's not hard or baffling to comprehend. I'm actually a very easy person to please and my standards are not all that high. I am a proud fan of Samurai Pizza Cats after all.

All I ask, aside from general technical competence, are four very simple things.

1. Do not spit in my face

General rule. Whatever you're writing, you're writing for a general audience. You are not writing for a niche audience, even if it is a niche genre.

Now before my fellow authors come in here screaming that I'm wrong and that you can't sell to "everyone"--you are misunderstanding my point. I'm saying you're writing for the general fan of whatever your story's genre is. The general audience. You are writing for all erotic romance fans and not just furries. You are writing for all Star Trek fans and not just Voyager fans. You are writing for all free verse poetry fans and not those who dislike poetry. You are not writing for a subset of that particular audience but for all of them.

This means I don't expect characters to stop the story in mid-tale to tell me my religion is for idiots or that folks with certain political opinions should be euthanized. The immersion is broken. Even if I agree with whatever opinion it is, it doesn't matter. You are stopping the story in order to talk down to me. You are calling me stupid.

You are writing for a general audience. Your audience does not have the same beliefs you do on every issue, and they have no obligation to share them. This means you are risking chasing away potential fans and customers every time you engage in an enlightened sermon. And no, it doesn't matter how clever or "obvious" or right your point is. The story comes first and if your story "needs" a lecture to throw me out of it then it is a garbage story.

If you do not understand this point, do not write fiction. You are an ideologue and part of the reason no one goes to Hollywood movies anymore.

2. Do not burn down your own universe

Your story has metaphysics and a way the world works. It is given to the audience from the word go. This means you are giving them expectations that you are obligated to fulfill. You owe them a complete story.

This means you can not introduce a new origin for a previously nonexistent race in your fantasy series that overwrites an important anecdote your side character gave in a previous story. The former is obviously of more import than the latter on a narrative level, but in terms of audience investment it is the latter that trumps it. The audience comes first. You are clearly shoehorning in new material at the expense of a character and story they were already invested in. You are insulting me by thinking I will not notice your idiotic sleight of hand.

This is why retconning (retroactively changing continuity) is objectively terrible storytelling.

You lay ground rules from line one and you follow them to the bitter end. Break them because you want a new race of aliens that explain a psychic power away that was previously revealed to be magic and I'm done. You cheated. I know you cheated. And I can't trust you not to cheat again.

This also applies to characters. Execution is everything, and I can get behind tragedy and irony when that is the point of the story, but a character should never willingly undo the reason he started his "quest" at the story's start later on in the tale.

This means when a character goes on a quest to find the magic chalice because it contains the mead of immunity to save his dying friend, said character should not then decide to murder his friend because he is "suffering" and "would be better off dead" or some such. You are negating the entire point of the journey in multiple ways.

All sequels fall under this rule, as well. Films are usually the worst offender. If you make a movie thirty years after the original that tells me everything the protagonist accomplished meant nothing, then I am finished. You have lost me. I do not owe you kudos for spitting on a story I am invested in.

Note that this is why I loathe most time travel in stories (outside of comedies) because there is never a time where the logic doesn't fall apart after three seconds of thinking. It is also why I hate alternative universes in comics as excuses to bring "new" versions of characters in to replace old ones. It is a lazy way of expanding the universe without doing any heavy lifting.

3. Do not make the main hero weak

Modern heroes are weak. It's not entirely by design despite what you might think.

The obsession with shades of grey in morality has diluted both the power of heroes and villains, but especially heroism. I'm not against morally grey characters, but your protagonist has to be someone I can root for. He cannot be "just as bad, if you think about it" as the villain just because you want to feel clever as a writer.

You can have a lousy main character who is indistinguishable from a villain--at the beginning of the story. He has to grow and learn what true objective good is and strive to achieve it. He has to at least try to become a white hat.

By making your character a pussy who mews and whines as things happen to him, you are creating a character that does not deserve to win. He does not deserve to win the audience's respect (and he won't) or the confrontation in the plot.

Your hero, despite anything else in the story, has to be a good person at a fundamental level, or he has to strive for it. If he is not, no one will care.

And he can't have everything handed to him. He has to work for it, he has to suffer, and he has to bleed. He has to make amends and make sure things are put in order. We have to want the character to win, which means they have to want it as badly as we want to see it.

They can't be handed everything simply because they are the main character. You have to show us why they deserve to be the main character.

But Hollywood doesn't do that anymore and that is why there are no new memorable main characters coming out of them.

They have forgotten these simple points.

4. Do not make the main villain weak

Modern villains are also weak. This is actually entirely by design.

Look at stories like Wicked or Maleficent. What did these tales do? They destroyed the source material in an attempt to reform the villain and make them seem like a victim and the hero like the bad guy.

Now this might seem very clever and creative, but it's shallow. Simply swapping white hats and black hats is hackery. It's weak. There's nothing at all to it, and there's nothing actually being created. This is subversive storytelling at its most vile.

Your villain is the mirror of your hero. He is what stands in your main character's way of achieving their goal. You do them a disservice by clipping their wings and filing their fangs in order to spit in the hero's face.

By taking the wind out of your villain's sails, you also destroy any satisfaction the audience gets when they are finally toppled. There is no payoff or relief. The plot just sputters out.

Why do you think Hollywood hasn't created a memorable villain since Hugo Weaving in The Matrix?

But this is what happens when you live in a world that tries to change what the definition of words mean all the time. You start to believe that there is no such thing as evil, and that clearly there has to be a reason people become bad. Surely they are just misunderstood.

Well, no. Bad people exist because they choose it. No one forced Ted Bundy to hunt and murder his victims. No one told Stalin to starve his own people. Those are conclusions they came to on their own.

And your villains are the same. They have reasons, but they aren't controlled by outside forces. They chose to become what they are. So let them be it, and show us why they should be stopped.

No one had to make excuses for Darth Vader, after all. At least, in the old films.

And that's it. That's all I'm asking for. It's basic Storytelling 101 stuff here. It's simple garden variety competence.

Now look at that list and pair it with what Hollywood and traditional publishing is pushing out and tell me who are accomplishing these simple points that have been the bread and butter of stories since cave paintings were thought up. You won't find much.

I'm not asking for every story to blow me away. I'm asking them to deliver a pleasant experience. As you can tell by sales from major publishers and Hollywood, they no longer offer either.

And that is why I hate most modern stories.

If you are interested in a good modern tale, I have engaged in creating my own.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Black Holes, Broken Bones, and Stolen Souls ~ A Review of "The Secret Kings" by Brian Niemeier

Check it out Here!

This review has been a long time coming, but Brian Niemeier's books are not easy to review. I mean that in a good way. This is because they are not only so different from what the mainstream publishers put out but also because they are different from each other. Nethereal was structured like an old anime series from the late '70s or '80s, and Souldancer was like a Dreamcast-era RPG in how things shook out. The Secret Kings is different from even those.

That's not to say there is no consistency between them. All three books are space opera with heavy fantasy, science fiction, and horror elements, in different proportions. They all follow a coherent story that build off the previous one in the series. They also could be read standalone--at least the first two could. The Secret Kings could be called the third book in the series, but also could be read as either the sequel to Nethereal or Souldancer if you had only read one of them. The third book drops you almost in the middle of the characters' journeys and expects you to keep up. This is not a bad thing, as both the first two books were perfect jumping on points for this series and at some point the author has to address those who want to see more of the world and characters. It's a long way of recommending either of the first two books (or both!) to read before this, but that isn't a slight against it. They are all rather absorbing.

Now let's get into the actual tale.

The Secret Kings is the best book in the series so far. The fantastic characters from the first two books (well, the ones who aren't dead) are all here and even more engaging than they were before.The story of demons attempting to rule the "universe" which had been set up throughout the first two books is finally put into motion and a certain villain returns with greater plans. But because of the ending of Souldancer, this plot strikes on a different level than you would think. It isn't just about saving the universe. While this is a fight to survive and save the Middle Stratum from the Void, it is also a fight to save souls from the darkness the surrounds them all.

Characters from both Nethereal and Souldancer appear in prominent roles, embroiled in a plot that stretches much further than they originally thought it would. My personal favorite character from Nethereal appears in a main role, so this reader found himself pulled in extra fast. Because of the already engaging characters and the quick plot turns, The Secret Kings grabs the reader and holds them much quicker than the first two books did, and that is to its advantage. It also helps set it apart from the rest of the series.

While this is a Space Opera, featuring plenty of action and adventure, it is also a story of good against evil. It might not be obvious to those who might have only read Nethereal, but the war goes a bit beyond the events of the main plot at times and adds extra scope to the tale. This adds a layer to the story that I certainly appreciated.

And to get this out of the way, because it is sure to ruffle feathers, the book is Pulp. There is no respect for genre boundaries, there is clear romance of the old kind, there is defined good and evil, there is wonder, action is constant and focused on, and the pacing, despite the book's length, never stumbles. It clearly falls into a pulp revolution mold, and is all the better for it.

It's also Superversive. While the Soul Cycle series is dark and contains characters who do not always do the right thing, the objective morality of this world begins to clear as the overarching story progresses. It lifts the reader up with its imaginative ideas and active characters, gripping them all the way to the last word. And it never steps on their hopes or pulls the rug out on the audience.

If you've read the first two books (or only one), then this one is a must read. The Soul Cycle contain the freshest and most inventive speculative fiction books in years. The major publishers would never put out something as risky and unabashedly fun as these are which only serves as a reminder as to why they are dying and independent and small publisher authors are growing. These books offer a clear case as to how the majors are missing out.

Now there remains but one book in the series, and I am eager to see how it all ends. This Dragon winning series has definitely been quite the ride so far.

Highly recommended.

You thought that was the end of this post? Well, it is the end of the review, but there's still more to it than that. I have another surprise for you.

The final book in the Soul Cycle is out now!

Here's the description:

The Zadokim healed the cosmos from the ravages of the Cataclysm, and the survivors made them kings. Now the Ophians, a ruthless insurgent movement, wage a vicious uprising against their immortal rulers’ two hundred year reign.
Xander and Astlin have transformed the desert world of Tharis into the hub of a flourishing trade empire. Their Nesshin subjects spread a new faith promising true freedom in another universe. But when Astlin seeks forbidden knowledge to resurrect her long-dead family, sinister forces exact a terrible price from those she loves. 
With the Ophian threat engulfing the spheres and a primeval terror rising from its prison, Astlin must turn to a shiftless gambler, the outlaw squire of a fallen knight, and a mismatched pair of smugglers to escape the ghosts of her past and save all souls from eternal death. But can mortals succeed where even gods have failed?

You can find it here!

I hope you're as excited as this reader is to see the epic conclusion. Mr. Niemeier has not disappointed yet, and this is guaranteed to be quite the ride to the finish.

If you want more great fiction, I'm currently writing action stories of my own. You can read one of them right now!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"Well . . . Shall We Begin?" ~ My Hero Academia Volume 10 Review


The world of My Hero Academia is a normal place. Yes, the majority of the population has one trait, a quirk, that sets them apart and reflects their innermost person, but they are all normal people with hopes, dreams, and ambitions. It's not all that different from our world.

When powers first appeared the world could have easily fallen into chaos, and almost did. However, those that fought for a stable society managed to preserve their humanity instead of devolving to barbarity and savagery. We're always one bad decision away from destroying ourselves. Human beings are capable of both good and evil, but it is our choices that prove what we really are.

As the cover of this volume of the series shows, Katsuki Bakugo, our main character's childhood friend, is now at the time where he must make a similar choice. Captured by the League of Villains because of his savage performance at the Sports Festival, they are looking to recruit him to their cause. After all, he is an arrogant and pompous jerk who only thinks of himself, and he is far more interested in beating people down than saving them.

He is villain material.

Now, Bakugo is a very divisive character. He's incredibly aggressive. He's conceited. He's arrogant. He's not a good person. He's a shallow human being. All these are by his own choices. Every piece has fallen into place for him to join their group. It's no wonder that even fans of the series can't stand him.

He shouldn't have been let into UA. He shouldn't even want to be a hero.

But this volume also tells you why he can't ever be a villain.

While main character Midoriya's struggle in life has always been that he had no quirk, he had the soul of a hero. He had to work and scrape away with nothing behind him to become that hero he is. Even with power from All Might he can't help but shatter his body, and in this volume it is revealed that he can no longer continue on this road or his arms will never work again. Midoriya's battle has always been against himself first and foremost. It's his body that isn't aligned with his soul.

Bakugo is the opposite. Bakugo has an amazing quirk that he has trained his body to withstand since childhood. He has sharp reflexes, an inability to stay down, and tenacity most could only dream of. But because of how he let his quirk and abilities go to his head, he never learned to be a human being.  He has the skills, but his soul is stained. Most of the jokes centering on Bakugo are about his terrible sociability and one track mind, which are often hinted that those are the very things holding him back from being a hero.

No matter how much Bakugo wins, he is never satisfied. A simple loss in a fight would not be enough for him. His problems are of a different sort than others.

Midoriya has the heart and soul, but his body is a mess. Bakugo has the body, but his heart and soul are warped. That was the lesson they learned back during their first training session where Midoriya won despite destroying himself and Bakugo lost despite overpowering him and not even being hurt. It was a one-sided defeat despite this. For someone who has victory come to Bakugo so easily, it was a hard lesson to learn.

And despite all that, despite his hatred of Midoriya for succeeding where he has failed, despite his villainous temper and attitude, and despite showing no love for anything at all, Bakugo refuses the offer to become a villain.

Normally this wouldn't make any sense. But it is perfectly sensible when you look back at the clues Horikoshi had been giving since chapter 1.

The reason Bakugo refuses is because of All Might. Just like Midoriya, Bakugo is a huge All Might fan. The reason Bakugo smiles that creepy grin whenever he fights is not because he's arrogant and loves fighting. It's because he's trying to be All Might and throw fear into the hearts of villains just like his hero does. While Bakugo might not understand the point of saving people when he can't understand other people as a concept, he does have a sense of morality and wants to do good. Even if he doesn't know what it is. He knows what villains are, he knows what evil is, and he knows both must be crushed.

This volume starts Bakugo's long journey to be a good person and a true hero, and one that had been hinted to be coming for some time now. If this were all the volume had going for it, it would still be a recommend. However, there's more.

This volume is also about All Might's fight against an evil that won't die.

Volume 10 finally reveals the mastermind behind the villain Tomura Shigaraki, the attack on UA, the man behind hiring Stain, and the attack on the camp. This is the big man himself. The villain named All For One finally reveals himself and unleashes his wrath on the city. Before Bakugo can be turned to the villain's side, All Might and his crew arrive to save the day. But this battle might be more than even the greatest hero can handle.

Meanwhile, the students suffer from the guilt of having failed saving Bakugo during the camp raid. Midoriya, Kirishima, and Todoroki in particular have taken it the hardest. There's a big blowup argument between all the students over everything that has happened since the Stain arc leading to a near fracturing of relationships. Five decide to find and help Bakugo, breaking the rules in the process, and risking their lives, while the others choose to trust the professionals to rescue him instead. This leads to more unexpected development from some of the characters.

One thing MHA always succeeds on is characters, and you will see every one of those characters grow. You will see the students continue their journey from fledglings into real heroes. A particular favorite of mine being Kirishima's development. You wouldn't think a character with hardening powers and nothing else could be anything great, but you would be wrong. However, that's for a bit later.

All in all, this is the best volume of My Hero Academia to date. You would do well to continue your collection with this one. This is also a great spot to jump on board. The story has hit a new high.

This volume and the next are the most important in the series so far. You won't want to miss these. This is where My Hero Academia begins to head down a path it can never come back from and reaches new heights. What happens in this arc is a world-changer.

Is the world able to be saved, or is it destined to fall to chaos and disarray? Can the heroes stand tall under the growing villainous assault? It looks like we're about to find out.

If you're looking for a fun action book in the meantime, I've got you covered.

Friday, December 8, 2017

It's Here!

After such a long time putting this book together, Grey Cat Blues is finally available in Kindle! Paperback should hopefully be out shortly.

For those new to this whole thing, I wrote a few posts on this novel including an excerpt, background, and a general introduction post including a cover reveal.

Siege on the Shadow Planet! 
Ex-punk Two Tone is left for dead and his friend is taken. His assailants: men of mud from some place darker than Hell! 
The inscrutable Sarpedon has slithered from the depths to rule a planet that has long abandoned hope for a better tomorrow. With no one to stop his spree of violence, it is only a matter of time before Two Tone’s world is overrun. 
Old friends and a mysterious beauty gather by his side, but are they enough? Is it too late for this dying world? If all cats are grey in the dark, will anyone see the panther stalking its prey? Two Tone will find the answers the best way he knows how—through his fists! 
Grey Cat Blues tells the tale of a distant planet at humanity’s end. In this place, a man must choose between love and hate. And where his choice leads him might not be where he expects . . .

After all is said and done, the book is finally out for you to enjoy. Please read and leave comments and reviews so I can learn exactly what you think. It's very important for writers to know what their audience thinks so they can only improve and do better next time.

That said, this book was a lot of fun to write. If you enjoy books with action, mystique, danger, and a quick ride you won't soon forget, then this one is for you. Check it out today!

Grey Cat Blues is available for Kindle here. Once again, thank you for reading!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

One Day Until Launch!

As launch day approaches, I think it's important to at least note where the idea for Grey Cat Blues came from.

The first was that the seed of this idea came from an older, out of print and scrapped story, called While You Were Dancing. I scrapped this one when I realized I didn't know where it was going and that I wasn't mature enough to make it work. That story was about a world falling apart and no one really noticing or caring as a being from the shadows stealthily destroyed it from the inside.

Grey Cat Blues came about when I began to read Appendix N and independent Pulp Revolution stories. There was also the Superversive movement which also brightened the corners of this story. These authors gave me a direction to aim my tales and allowed me more freedom and clarity than I had ever had before. The characters came into focus, the setting became sharper, and I understood what the muse was trying to tell me when I first stumbled upon this idea.

There are a few works with similarities that I did not partake in until after the work is done. I followed in the tradition of Brian Niemeier who stated that he had never seen the anime Outlaw Star until after he wrote Nethereal and Souldancer. Likewise, I did not see Streets of Fire or Dark City until after writing Grey Cat Blues.

As much as I enjoyed watching them, they did not have any influence on the story. My novel has better action than the former and is much less abstract than the latter, anyway.

No, if we're talking influences, there isn't any one place this came from.

I've made no secret of how S.E. Hinton was an influence on me as a boy. She had a way of writing tough male characters that were rounded without having to deconstruct them or tear them down. The specific instance for this story in regards to her was Rumble Fish. For those who don't know, Rumble Fish is a coming of age story about a tough kid who has his world fall down around him due to his blind pursuit of being his idol at the expense of the wonder his childhood afforded him. By the end he loses everything, the color of the world and those around him, in his goal of being his brother and being one with the world. It's a tragedy.

Grey Cat Blues is the opposite. My story starts with a character in the opposite place who pursues a world much bigger than the one he started in. It's very much a superversive tale with a lot of weirdness going on. There's also a lot more action than you might expect..

This has been a real joy to write and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I had putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and eagerly await any comments you might have. Please check out the preorder here and an official excerpt here.

Tomorrow is the official release, and I am really excited for it. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Grey Cat Blues Excerpt

From Chapter 1
Grey Cat Blues by JD Cowan

Two Tone ran a scarred hand across his soaked head, plastering down his naturally white hair which matched his skin. He had dyed it black when he was a kid to look tougher, but not these days. His flush cheeks and strong chin matched his dark brown— almost black— eyes, and his far too white skin gave him the appearance of a comic book zombie. That effect only doubled when he wore black clothes. He had his name for a reason.

“I’m not that guy anymore,” Two Tone finally answered. He shook the water from his brown bomber jacket and wiped his casual blue jeans. “But I’m also not scared of the streets. Especially not with this.” Two Tone ran his fingers along his chain. Good weight. His fingertips instantly recalled memories of brawls long since won.

“You don’t even need it.” A-Rail rhythmically tapped the neighboring dumpster with his pipe as the pair passed. “Most of the hounds around here are either getting into cults or leaving this city for a better one with juicier targets. Even they know there’s nothing left.”

“You’re also leaving.”


“This have anything to do with why you called me out here? It wasn’t to reminisce about old times. You never get nostalgic. Tell me what’s up.”

“My dad used his connections to get me a job in Central 2106. Morningstar City. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m getting out.”

Two Tone slung the chain over his shoulders and shrugged. “This place is drying up. Makes sense.”

A-Rail mindlessly nodded in agreement.

An arc of lightning split the cloud cover overhead. For an instant, Two Tone thought he saw the cascading shadows in the alley moving around him.

A pair of lean black cats bolted between trash cans into the dark. A-Rail laughed, but Two Tone sneered. His sixth sense was screaming like the thunder drumming above. A fight was coming.

“What was that thing that old man used to say?” A-Rail asked. “All cats are grey in the dark? No fooling. All those damn cats all look alike out here.”

Two Tone wrapped a fistful of his chain in his right hand, stretched it out to its full length, and held the opposite end in his left with enough of a slack in the center.

A-Rail cocked a brow. “What are you doing?”

“We’re being followed. I know it. Spend enough time in the quiet, and you learn to hear things.”

“You learned to be paranoid. Get a woman, dreg.”

The rain turned black as it slapped against their shoulders. Two Tone looked up. Three shadows brandishing dark blades descended from the rooftops. He jumped back, and the alley pavement under him shattered into chunks, revealing tiny purple weeds clumping together. Three figures emerged from the rubble.

The first thing that Two Tone noticed was that he was wrong. They weren’t shadows. They were deformed men with dark mud pouring out of every orifice. Their vacant soulless eyes let waterfalls of muck gush from the tear ducts of their sunken skulls. The musty air filled with the stink of corpses. These things were actual living monsters.

“The hell?!” A-Rail yelled.

The monsters fell upon the pair. A-Rail shouted as Two Tone moved in.

Two Tone flung the chain to the one in the center. The weapon struck down on its outstretched wrist, and the monster winced. The left one circled around to his back and sliced for his neck. He rolled forward, and rainwater ripped apart instead of his spine. Two Tone spun, and whipped the chain down. The weight struck the neck of the monster with a crack, sending it stumbling. Mud spilled onto the concrete at its crooked feet. Two Tone landed in a crouch between his two attackers.

The first mud man approached the tar puddle where the goo landed. The mud slid along the sidewalk into its foot, rejoining the body. Two Tone grimaced, and kept the ends of the chain held tight. The two enemies were on either side.

Then he noticed A-Rail was missing, as was the third aggressor.

“A-Rail?” he inquired. No answer. He swore to himself then to the two attackers. “I don’t know what you dregs are supposed to be, but if you hurt A-Rail, I’m going to have to smash your bones to dust.”

The pair sprang forward on each side of him. There was no room to dodge in the narrow alley.

If you wish to read the rest, you can preorder Grey Cat Blues on Kindle today! Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Grey Cat Blues Preorder!

Hey everyone, I'm here to let you know that my next book, Grey Cat Blues, is up for preorder and will be out on Friday, December 8th, for Kindle. I hope to have the paperback version ready by then, but that remains to be seen.

For those unaware, this action story takes place many years in the future on a distant planet where humanity has become as cold and distant as the harsh conditions surrounding them. After hundreds of years, a dark being emerges from the shadows to strangle what remains of us.

This is the description:

Siege on the Shadow Planet! 
Ex-punk Two Tone is left for dead and his friend is taken. His assailants: men of mud from some place darker than Hell! 
The inscrutable Sarpedon has slithered from the depths to rule a planet that has long abandoned hope for a better tomorrow. With no one to stop his spree of violence, it is only a matter of time before Two Tone’s world is overrun. 
Old friends and a mysterious beauty gather by his side, but are they enough? Is it too late for this dying world? If all cats are grey in the dark, will anyone see the panther stalking its prey? Two Tone will find the answers the best way he knows how—through his fists! 
Grey Cat Blues tells the tale of a distant planet at humanity’s end. In this place, a man must choose between love and hate. And where his choice leads him might not be where he expects . . .

I had a blast writing this, and my editor, L. Jagi Lamplighter helped me find ways to make it even better. I'm really excited to share this story with all of you. Please check out the link below.

You can preorder here.