Thursday, April 28, 2022

Spring Update

It's been a strange year so far. I'm sure you are very aware of it yourselves. It hasn't been much so far, but weird things are afoot and events have been particularly strange. 2022 has shown itself to be a very off-kilter so far, and we're about a third of the way through it. Who knows what is going to happen next with it?

Earlier in another post, I mentioned this year was going to be lighter on the blog, and I've more or less kept that promise. Real life is a bit of a pain these days, but gears are still grinding, ever so slowly. In many ways this has the feel of a transitional year. I don't know what's coming down the road, but it's going to be something unexpected.

Let us start with the big news that you might have already heard about. This is not particularly good. I need to properly address it here before we can discus anything else. After a rough time through the pandemic, like most other things have had, my publisher Silver Empire has closed. As a result, all rights to the books published my them since they started have returned to the original authors, including mine. They are now no longer with Silver Empire.

For those unaware, because it has been some time since it first started, I was writing a series for Silver Empire called Gemini Man. It was my attempt to write in their superhero universe, Heroes Unleashed, which was quite a bit different from everything else I'd done before. Even still, for those who read it, you know it wasn't quite a superhero book. The first entry released almost three years ago now, and much has changed for me since then. I wrote three books in the series, with the possibility of more, but now that will have to wait.

The three books were written at different stages of my writing career, with the first being the third book I ever completed. It was written before most of Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures was put down, for an idea of how old it is. The second entry was written during a flurry of activity, including when my stories for the Planetary Anthologies were written, as well as my first story for StoryHack. The third one was done around the time of Brutal Dreams and my most recent flurry of short story writing, which makes it the strongest of the three. It was quite a journey, and I do have a lot attached to their development. The series gets wilder as it goes, with the third book being a personal favorite for me in having everything really click into place. It is a shame that it was never properly released for you all despite how much was put into them.

As you might have already realized, only the first book in the Gemini Man series ever came out via Silver Empire, but the first two of them were completely done. The third book, Gemini Outsider, is currently being edited, and will be returned to me when it is finished. After that, I will have three books without a home to deal with. As you can imagine, I'm not going to just sit on completed books when my readers could be enjoying them.

So here is my plan for the three.

Whenever I managed to get that third book back and edited, I will be putting up my first crowdfunding campaign for Gemini Man. Yes, all of it. It will be an omnibus release for those three books, including Gemini Warrior, Gemini Drifter, and Gemini Outsider, all in one release. I'm also going to commission a new cover specifically for this release and put it all out in a bundle for you, the readers. There will probably be paperback and hardcover options, as long as I figure out how exactly shipping works through these things by then. Of course there will be a normal ebook version for digital readers, too. Since the books are already written and edited, all this will need will be some formatting and it will be done in no time at all.

As for an estimate on when the campaign will be, I do not know. Until I receive book three back, it's all up in the air. Hopefully that will happen sooner than later.

The only entry ever officially released.

For those who wish to know more generally about the state of Heroes Unleashed you can ask any of the authors yourselves as to what they plan on doing with their works, but most are planning to re-release their books themselves. How that will be done is still being decided among each of them. This post is mainly about my plans.

Now for the elephant in the room: the future of Heroes Unleashed itself. This is something a few of us have already thought about and discussed behind the scenes. Will it be continuing without Silver Empire, or is it over?

The long and short of it is that authors can still write in the universe as they wish, and if new writers want to write in it they simply need to let the writers, including creator Morgon Newquist, know about it without stepping on anyone's toes. It is, after all, her pet project. Beyond that, it works just the same as any other series one might write in. You write the story you want to tell. Heroes Unleashed will still go on, publisher or not.

When we speak of Gemini Man's future specifically, well, that is a whole other kettle of fish. Mostly because I only had one book come out without any sequels I have no idea what the demand for the series is. The fact that I no longer have a publishing house behind me to edit, construct and design covers and interiors, and promote the books, mainly mean it's 100% up to me at this point to decide whether to continue down this road, or instead work on my own stuff that isn't tied up in the wires. To borrow a tired phrase: it's complicated.

This is why I chose to make a crowdfunding campaign around the books. If the demand is high enough, I will continue to write in the series and give it a definitive ending (though book 3 does feature a satisfying enough one should it come down to it) to please the readers. If not, well, it will go on indefinite hiatus and I will work on things my readers will hopefully have more interest in and that I can more reasonably afford to produce myself as an independent NewPub writer. Basically, the future of it will be up to the readers, as it should be.

Regardless of any of that, you will get the three written books out when I finally receive the edits back for book 3. That is coming no matter what.

Because of the above, the next series I was planning on beginning (book 1 written and in the last pass of self-editing before being handed off to the editor) will have to be pushed back in line. Starting a new series while another hangs in the air would be uncomfortable to deal with as it is, and doing it this way allows me more time to edit and get started on book 2 behind the scenes. Should this book come out this year, it won't be until near the end of 2022.

It wasn't expected to be that way, but that's life.

The next work I'm planning on putting out is the complete version of Y Signal, the first part of which you can read above on the blog for free. Believe me, if you have read it you haven't even experienced a third of the whole story. It's going to be the most bizarre thing I've ever put out, and that's saying something. It's not quite the action-fest most of my stories are, but it is off-kilter enough to make up for that with weird horror. This is a story about a '90s kid having his whole world turned upside down and learning the truth of the reality of his surroundings. As I said, the first section is up on the blog if you want to know what to expect, but it gets even stranger than that. The complete story is quite an experience.

Y Signal will also probably be my last traditionally published (as far as the NewPub definition of the term goes) book, in that it is the last one I will simply just put up on amazon when it is done and ready to go. The foreseeable future beyond that will most likely consist of crowdfunding campaigns to get it out to readers easier and help more on the back end. NewPub is always changing, and so will I have to do the same.

Beyond that my book releases will mostly consist of the new series I'm working on, plus collections of shorter stories I'm also cobbling together. It will be a good while before another standalone novel is written.

That is basically the long and short of everything!

The first part is free!

As for short stories, novellas, etc. those are still in the works. Those are the pieces I have the most fun writing. I have at least 3-4 short stories waiting for a publication to open up submissions, and a couple others in production I'm probably going to rewrite to make even better before releasing them. Aside from those, I have many others on the way. I'm making my way down the list, writing them as inspiration strikes me to write them out.

For those who know, most of my short stories, novellas, and novelettes, are usually connected to each other, sometimes in loose ways. Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures was the first time I did this, and it remains one of my favorite releases I've done to this day. There is something about standalone stories that can be connected to a bigger whole to get more out of them that I quite enjoy doing. Two different levels of enjoyment. That book was the first time I ever attempted doing it, and it won't be the last.

Other ones done in this mold might be fairly obvious by now. I have written three stories starring the band Three Wolves as they travel across the land stumbling into pockets of weirdness wherever they go. Each were published in StoryHack, Pulp Rock, and Sidearm & Sorcery. The official name for this series is Night Rhythms. Weirdness and music combined together with hotblooded action. There are definitely others on the way, and my goal is to make them all as off-kilter as those ones were. They've got more stories to tell.

My two stories put out in the planetary anthology series (which is going out of print, so grab them as soon as you can!) about the unnamed traveling swordsman drifting from planet to planet in an attempt to save them from death is another one I'm still working on. There are four planned, one centered on each season as a theme, climaxing in the last one being most likely around novella length. We'll see when we get there. For now, I have an unpublished one I am going to rewrite after a strike of inspiration hit me.

The top series of these and the one getting the most focus from me, is one you might have realized by now. This one involves Galactic Enforcer Ronan Renfield, an intergalactic space cop who finds himself in situations where mad science combines with the Weird as humanity rebels against reality. Renfield navigates the vast chasm of space, drifting from planet to planet and civilization to civilization where man attempts to throw away its humanity for a shot at becoming their own God and remake existence in their image. He's a no nonsense Enforcer, an anachronism in a time when progress is made through corpses and baser urges, someone who frequently finds himself over his head with nothing to aid him accept his ancient revolver, his faith, and his instincts for Justice. 

You'll be learning more about him as the stories go on as he travels the dead worlds--and what lies between them. Believe me, I've got more than a few lined up for the poor sap. He is a fun character to write and his stories are some of the weirdest I've written. So I won't be stopping them anytime soon! They're too much fun to write.

The next entry of these Galactic Enforcer stories, Dead Planet Drifter, will be in the next issue of Cirsova, coming out this summer! You can read the first entry, Golden Echoes, in StoryHack #7. More are definitely on the way. Please read and enjoy!

Out this June! Preorder now!

In other words, gears are definitely turning, just more slowly than I'd prefer. 2022 has been offbeat, to say the least. Nonetheless, there is a lot still on the way.

I had seen some comments wondering if I was going to publish my Fandom series in book form, and I'm considering it. Considering how much is pulled from other sources and is basically commentary on said sources I'm not sure how it would work out in that medium. Regardless, I will consider it. Until then, you can always get this free book I edited on Gen Y. Co-written with authors Brian Niemeier and David V Stewart, it is quite the journey into the heart of a nearly lost group of people. At the other side there is always my most popular work, The Pulp Mindset.

I've also been looking into other ways to branch out into writing more things, but that probably won't be bearing fruit for quite a while. Either way, I'm not going to be stopping writing anytime soon, God willing, so look forward to the future.

Anyway, that was the update I've been meaning to get to for awhile. Hopefully I'll have more tangible things to show you, my dear readers, in the near future. Until then, I should be getting back to work. Stories can't write themselves, after all.

Have a good week and I'll see you next time!

Friday, April 22, 2022

A Quick One ~ Five Book Giveaway!

Find it Here!

Short post today, but I wanted to guide you to this deal six authors are having for five books. Check the link here to get yourself a free book for a limited time.

The description:

SIX WRITERS are banding together to bring you a giveaway of FIVE SIGNED BOOKS. This drawing will have five winners, and each winner will receive:
  • A copy of SCATTERED, SMOTHERED, & CHUNKED, signed by John G. Hartness,
  • A copy of CODENAME: WINTERBORN, signed by Declan Finn & Allan Yoskowitz,
  • A copy of RIMWORLD: DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY, signed by J.L. Curtis,
  • A copy of IN THE PALACE OF SHADOW AND JOY, signed by D.J. Butler, and
  • A copy of NECROLOPOLIS: COLLECTION, signed by Benjamin Tyler Smith.

Holy cow, am I right?

Books will be shipped to winners from the individual authors, which means that if you win, it rain books on you in April and May, as five separate packages full of signed goodness come your way. Note that if you live outside the U.S. and shipping to where you live is prohibitive, some authors may send you ebook copies rather than physical books.

Enter here for a chance to win! Enter your email address, and you have one entry in the drawing.

Once again, you can find the giveaway here.

Hope you all are having a good April and I'll see you soon enough!

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Counting Backwards

A long time ago, hobbies were hobbies and people treated them as such. Today, they are entire "lifestyle brands" and "communities" where people go to get their entire personalities from. What that sort of view has led to is tribalism and lunch table theatrics on par with the worst of secondary education. It hasn't led to better scenes, higher quality products or ideas, or more scrupulous "fans" and customers. All that has happened is that is has given corporations more eager drones to hand them many for the brand title on their product--brand titles they swiped and subverted from the people who created them and are long gone.

We are living on the scraps of a long dead era while simultaneously spitting on those very people who created what we love so we can keep our scavenger culture alive. It's disgusting, but it does help us avoid actually moving towards a future worth living in. We instead get stuck in a cult of our own personality where everything we like reflects back on us like Narcissus finding that perfect pool for himself. At the end of the day, it always about us and what we can benefit from: not what we can learn from others or how we can grow from where we are. You can see this most clearly on social media, though I would thoroughly recommend staying well clear of that disaster if given the chance too. It really does show the worst of us.

But the issue is more than that. It is like we lost the page count on a book we're reading so we instead just randomly skip around and pretend we understand what's happening inside. No one is fooled except for ourselves, but still we do it.

One of the strangest aspects of living in Clown World is how backwards everything has gotten over the decades, to the point that many might not have even realized it. I'm certain you can find all sorts of examples just by paying attention to world events and how opinions flip and all converge in the same direction over night, but the most obvious place this exists in is in our every day lives. It's subtle, but obvious when you notice it.

Take the above image, taken from Twitter. It would have to be social media, of course. The image shows a library of books entirely assembled to teach you how to play a game. Included are no history books, no short story collections or anthologies, or anything that would have caused the game to exist in the first place, but only books centered on doing the heavy-lifting of your imagination for you so you can consume product easily and in peace.

Before I annoy a contingent of tabletop gamers over the above, I want to specify the point being made here. This isn't about buying modules or general handbooks to understand your game better. It is about what the game, and all games, have always been intended to be about from the very beginning. This also goes well with obsession of "story-based" gaming of the above users.

Games are created from distinct parts and histories that merge together to form a new set of rules for the gamers to conquer. A game is defined by its rules which the players work with in order to beat. In essence, you should only need one rulebook or instruction manual to understand how to play a game. Why would you ever need more than one unless the game is either broken, or the people who made it want to syphon more money off of you?

This dove-tails into a point I made a while back on the bird site myself:

We are reading games and playing books and no one has realized it has turned around backwards from where it started.

Without fail almost all the replies and quote-tweets of the above image were all about this being the Ideal Library and the way it should be, but few seemed to really point out how upside down a goal having such a thing should be. Libraries are for knowledge, not learning to play games. In fact, libraries as they are classically defined as such, should already be helping you learn to play these games better. Libraries are basically where games came from, after all.

What makes it bizarre is how much tabletop gaming is formed from wargaming and games like Dungeons & Dragons were explicitly made to imitate the sword and sorcery short stories back in the day. You need a library of old books to even understand the context of these games. Theoretically, all the modules and handbooks for D&D already exist: they are the very books that created said game to begin with. Everything you need came from them and it was up to you to utilize these works in your own game.

But one perusal of the above bookshelf gamers are raving over contains none of those books. It actually contains nothing in the way of anything aside from corporate product. The owner would rather read his games and keep his playstyle locked into the technical framework of whoever owns the brand now. The owner would prefer exercising the same nuts and bolts instead of exercising his imagination to learn new ways to approach the classic games he apparently loves so much and spends much of his life pouring money into.

This might not be such an issue if so many in that scene (I can't definitively say whether the OP is one of these people or not) were not so vitriolic to the idea of reading old books, including the ones their games came from. The books that inspired the very scene they model their lives around, written by old dead men, are very much worthless. Why read those when you have "experts" and "influencers" in corporate positions to sell prepackaged imagination and ideas to you instead? Why do the heavy lifting when you can pay people to do it for you?

Why would you want to read Lord Dunsany to see magical and unknown worlds full of danger and wonder when you can buy a corporate module that mechanically writes out specific scenarios out for you to follow? 

Why would you want to read Harold Lamb, the man who inspired Robert E. Howard to write Sword & Sorcery to begin with, as he imaginatively describes the heroism of crusaders, Cossacks, and strangers in the desert? How about his history books? Why bother when history has nothing to do with why your game exists in the first place? Right? 

Why would you want to read Andrew Lang's fairy books where the idea for such stories were inspired? Why bother when you can have people repackage and sell you warmed over ideas from the 1980s instead?

Isn't there more to life than that?

Why do you desire to read games instead of reading books? Why do you desire to play books instead of playing games? Why do we never question how tangled up this has become? These are questions that are never quite answered.

This isn't any different in other subcultures. There is no real reason to single out one them. This is pretty much status quo everywhere.

Comic books wish to be dragged out movie screenplays even as movie screenplays poorly imitate comic books. Meanwhile, the original audience for comics, kids, are completely ignored entirely for full grown adults still playing dolls with their youth. Who is Cyclops going to date this week?! Who cares.

Video games insult themselves as being too "video-gamey" for having elements (like HUDs, life bars, stage-based progression, lives, or even scores) because gamers think it "takes them out of it" for whatever reason. They applaud the removal of video game music for bad, indistinctive wannabe Hollywood "scores" that even Hollywood didn't use at their best. Video games should be rolling in pulp clich├ęs--not trying to aim for their own "Citizen Kane" in a medium that doesn't support it. Their roots have been jettisoned.

At some point they all decided being destroyed and subverted was a Good Thing. Even as their industries die.

Meanwhile, everyone wants to be Hollywood, an industry that has been on a downhill slide since the 1990s, and makes less and less every year while the majority of people walk away searching for something better. For some reason we wish to imitate this dying industry anyway. Why are we trying to lead them back where they already fled from?

Aside from being backwards, putting on new hats is not creativity. It's just a gimmick. Worse--it's a gimmick that is a failure. And still we cling to it.

Would one point this out to the consumer crowd, it would be met with volatile resistance. How dare you point out failing industries and ideas or failing? Just accept that Times Change and swallow whatever the corporations give you, or leave the "community" alone to slurp corporate teat unchallenged. That is what a good fanatic would do.

Is there not more to life than that? When did slavishly following along with the crowd like lemmings off a cliff be thought of as noble? Why is having a lack of imagination considered a badge of honor? How does this put you above the people who came before you? 

The weird arrogance that comes in defense of the above subversion of healthy traditions to objective degradations never ceases to amaze. Why brag about how much less you have than those who came before? How does this improve your station or scene in any positive way? How long are we going to keep this up for as everything implodes?

We form "communities" around these things, then, not preserve what we love, but to brag about warping it from its original intent to attract onlookers who don't care about said source to begin with. And then we wonder why nothing improves.

Perhaps it can be accepted now? This doesn't work.

We've gotten ourselves all mixed up and caught in our own spiderwebs, unsure of how we got there but adamants that being stuck and unable to move is the Way It Should Be. Perhaps complacency and comfort from better times allowed this to be, but that doesn't mean it should stay that way forever. Especially when those days are long gone.

I've been floating around in independent spaces for a while now and can definitely see a strong contingent of those righting the ship that was long ago steered into icebergs. They are counting backwards to the past to find their inspiration to start with in order to move forward. They then count forwards towards a better future.

As an example, you can check out the crowdfund for author Schuyler Hernstrom's Thune's Vision, organized by Pilum Press. This is a talented author, aided by a like-minded small pub, to revisit the roots that had been abandoned for so long and create something new from it.

Mr. Hermstrom writes adventure and weird of the old kind, the sort that would have run in Weird Tales were it still around: sword and sorcery as well as horror with a fairy tale edge. These are the sort of stories OldPub and the dying industry rejected long ago. You would do well backing the project if you have not yet. Mr. Hernstrom's material is worth it!

Thune's Vision already has over 100 backers and has blown past its initial goal for funding, proving there is a burgeoning audience for these sorts of stories. Check the campaign yourself and be amazed at the progress it has already made!

Why buy yet another module to file on your shelf when you could instead exercise your imagination by reading the sort of stories that helped invent your hobby to begin with? Inspire your games with actual stories.

Pilum Press has also started another campaign for a different writer by JB Jackson entitled Shagduk, which is the first book in a new series called De re dordica.

The description is as follows:

"The year is 1977. Professor Sherwood has gone missing. Between working at the library and playing gigs in Fort Worth holes in the wall after hours, Steven and his pal Randy set out to discover why, unwittingly summoning a demon and setting into motion a chain of astonishing events that could put the entire world at risk of total destruction."

You can find the campaign for Shagduk here.

For more on Pilum Press, including their unique anthologies, you can find their site here. They are doing some good work!

There is plenty out there aiming to give you what has been missing for some time now. Counting backwards works out more often than not, especially in an age that has long forgotten what mathematics even is.

Then again, 2022 is just getting going. Who knows what else is coming down the pike? I can assure you, however, that the best stuff will be like this: from those going back to the past to bring us towards a better future. Counting backwards is the exact approach we need to be able to learn how to count forward again. Keep an eye out! Good times are on the way.

Just remember to keep counting.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Gen Y Tales of Terror!

Alex from Cirsova was recently on the Bunderdome YouTube show with comic book writer and author Mark Pellegrini discussing weird horror. One of the main subjects that came up was what it was like as the last generation growing up in an analog world. I highly suggest listening for those who did not get to experience it for themselves. It really is like night and day.

Mark had a story in the most recent issue of Cirsova and also wrote a horror novel centering on being a kid in the Gen Y generation, (For those unaware, this is the generation between Gen X and Millennials who more or less ceased existing, at least in Madison Avenue's eyes, by 1998 or so), and how different it really was. Much like my story Y Signal (more on the way!), Mark's horror stories center around Gen Y kids that very quickly find out that the world they live in isn't all they thought it was. Is that a genre now? I would definitely like to see more stories like this. It certainly brings a new wrinkle to horror by bringing it back to worse things than death.

I am very much serious in my inquiry. If you do have any more examples of this seemingly new and burgeoning subgenre, then please send them my way. I would definitely like to see more of it. This is one of those things that can only really be made from one generation in particular, and probably couldn't have been written outside of an age where technology has a stranglehold on us all. Here's hoping more of this is on the way.

Cultural Ground Zero was around a quarter of a century ago, and that world is long dead and forgotten. Keeping the flickers of that era alive and taking them forward with us is something only Gen Y is really up to the task of doing in a world that wants to subvert and destroy all that came before. A bit strange to think about, expecting Gen Y to be some sort of torch in the dark, but that appears to be the way it shook out. I believe it was author Brian Niemeier who said that Gen Y's search for their place in the modern mess of today would either be total irrelevance, an obvious cautionary tale, or they could be able to reach middle age and become the scribe generation desperately needed to preserve the past. Perhaps that is what is happening here? I certainly hope so.

Regardless, I would definitely love to see more of these sorts of stories. They are quite unique for their time and place, and who knows how long that window will be open for them.

That aside, the above show is an hour long and well worth listening to, especially if you're a member of Gen Y or enjoy horror and weird stories.

Also, Cirsova's Kickstarter for the over the top space opera Wild Stars is very close to ending! Help it reach the next stretch goal for more goodies and future surprises!

As for myself and my work, I am working on an update for you, but that might have to wait a little as things shake out. Long story short, Silver Empire, the publisher of Heroes Unleashed and Gemini Man is closing up shop. I am getting the books back to do what I want with, and I'm still mulling over my options. Stay tuned on that one. There is still much going on behind the scenes.

Anyway, thank you for reading and listening! I've got more on the way.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Internet's End

One of the recent realizations I've had is how fast things have changed in only a few years. The world we lived in even 5 years ago has been completely destroyed.

The above is an interview with internet personality Mister Metokur, a figure who got his start around 15 years ago as he goes through his entire career and how different things were back in the early days of YouTube and social media when it was still a wild west. Listen to this and be amazed at how fast things have changed in such a short time.

It's a very long interview, but very informative.  You might be surprised at how much things have seemingly disappeared overnight and has already been lost in the fog of the past. Also, if you have any prayers to spare then please send them in Jim's direction. He has been unwell for some time now and does not think he'll be around much longer.

Those days might be gone, but the memories remain, and there are still lessons to be learned from those weird days. Whatever lies ahead, no one knows, but even strange times like these can be used to build a better future.

That's all for today. Have a good weekend!