Cover Reveal: A Unique Sickness of Spirit

We're still working on getting the third novel in The Citadel of the Last Gathering ready, but I just finished an early version of the cover image and wanted to share. This isn't finalized - I've got a few more adjustments to make - but I'm extremely happy with how it's coming together.

Incorporating elements of Victorian horror and steampunk, A Unique Sickness of Spirit begins just moments after the conclusion of A Tide of Ice.

Alaji, Yemerik, and Phaesha arrive in a time very different from the one they left. Here, ships sail through the air, the lines between the living and the dead have blurred, the poor sell their very blood and spirit to survive, and a nation at war is splintering into factions. Alaji finds herself becoming a symbol for revolution, whether she wishes it or not.

A Unique Sickness of Spirit will be available in fall 2016.

News, Updates, and Stuff

I know, I know - I don't post often enough here. But I've got a great excuse: I've been writing.

The first draft of book five is now done. You read that right - book five. That's two complete novels written this year, and we're not even halfway through 2016. In case anyone's curious, this is definitely the most productive I've ever been in my life.

Of course, I've still got a ton of work to do on book three, A Unique Sickness of Spirit, between now and the fall. So I'll be taking some time off of writing to revise that and work on the cover before I dive into book six, which is an installment I've been dying to tell since I started this series.

Lindsay and I went hiking a few times already. We didn't go anywhere we've never been before, but we did get to one of our all time favorite trails: Lake Serene (hence the pictures).

What else? Well, I've been to the movies a few times recently. In April, I saw Jungle Book, which was a major achievement in both technology and storytelling. If you want more details, check out my full review over here.

If you thought I'd wait longer than opening day to see Captain America: Civil War, you don't know me all that well. It was my second favorite movie in the MCU, behind only The Avengers (and even then, it was close). After the poorly constructed Batman v Superman, it was a joy to see a superhero movie on this scale made by people who understand what they're doing. You can find more of me using Civil War as an excuse to bash Zack Snyder in my review.

Just this past weekend, my wife and I went to see Shane Black's 70's comedy/noir, The Nice Guys. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, though I was a little disappointed to find it staying a little too close to Black's earlier work.

We're also experimenting with a new review format over on Mainlining Christmas. Our test subject is Home, a CG comedy/SF kids movie that came out last year. It had just enough holiday elements to earn a spot on the site but not enough to take up our time in December. If you have a few minutes, head on over and let us know if you like the "discussion" format.

That's it for now.

True Story About Movies

This happened five, maybe six years ago, back when I was still in New York. If you've ever visited the city, you probably know the subway system can be daunting, even for those of us who lived there. I won't take you though the details, but I wound up missing a stop, grabbing the wrong train, and - long story short - I found myself in a space beyond space, sort of a nexus between parallel worlds.

Right. If you're not up on your quantum mechanics, the reality we know is but one of many sharing a multiverse of... you get the point. This isn't a physics lesson - this is about movies.

There's a bunch of us there waiting for different trains; mostly people in the same situation I was in, but we were all from different worlds. So while I'm waiting for an N train, I run into this guy, a little older, but kind of nerdy like me, and we get to talking, like you do. We realize pretty quickly we're from similar worlds, but not exactly the same; like, his New York has four boroughs instead of five, and conspiracy nuts say there's a monster in Lake Michigan but he's never heard of Loch Ness. That kind of thing.

Then, out of the blue, he says to me, "I've always wondered if it was just my world, or if others had this happen. Back in the late seventies, there was this movie that came out, called, 'Star Wars'. The trailers looked amazing. Well, they did to me, at least. I guess not everyone thought so, but there were space wizards and lasers and robots. It just looked incredible.

"Anyway, I made sure to go see it the day it came out, even though I read a review that said it was a waste of time. And I loved it. It was just... it was something to behold; a sort of jumble of different story types and ideas. It was part space opera, part adventure, part fantasy, a lot like those old serials from the 30's. I'd never seen anything like it.

"I remember thinking this was going to change everything. That a generation of filmmakers was going to be inspired by it, that there'd be sequels, and this was going to be all anyone talked about.

"The theater was maybe half full, and most of the audience really seemed to like it. Then, I don't know. Nothing happened. There were more negative reviews, not a lot of people went to see it, and it just kind of quietly left the theaters. Years later, it came out on VHS, and a few more people saw it. It sort of picked up a cult following, but mostly it was just forgotten.

"Every now and then, I wonder what could have happened. I'd have loved to see a sequel or two or something. I don't know... you have anything like that where you're from?"

I glance up at the sign and see I have three minutes before my train's going to pull in. Not a lot of time, but just enough to answer his question. So I smile, nod, and say, "Let me tell you about a movie called Speed Racer...."

Two Day Book Sale and One of the Worst Superhero Movies Ever Made

If you want to save a few bucks on my novels, the Kindle versions will be $0.99 each this Friday and Saturday (April 1st and 2nd). Just go to Amazon after 8AM PST on the first, and enjoy the discount:

A Count of Five
A Tide of Ice
For Love of Children

My collection of short fiction, Tending the Fire, is normally $0.99, so I've marked that down to $0.00 - completely free - for those two days.

Other news - I'm hard at work on more novels in the Citadel of the Last Gathering series. I've got drafts of books three AND four now, and I'm getting ready to start on book five. So don't think I'm slacking!

I haven't done a lot of online writing other than that (isn't that enough?), but I did find a few minutes to jot down my thoughts on Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Fair warning, though - I included some light spoilers in my review, so if you'd like to be surprised at the elements that leave you utterly disappointed, disillusioned, and pissed off, you should probably hold off on reading it until after you've sat through the excruciatingly bad movie.

Toys, Movies, and a Very Wet Winter

Sorry I haven't chimed in lately. I've been extremely busy working on the next few novels. The Citadel of the Last Gathering is by far the most complicated project I've ever attempted. I'm not setting an arbitrary number of volumes that I plan on sticking to, but I'm estimating this will be somewhere between nine and twelve books when complete. The current plan is to put these out at a rate of at least one a year. The third novel, A Unique Sickness of Spirit, should be available sometime this fall.

I haven't been doing much adventuring this year, largely due to the weather, which is still less extreme than the stories I heard prior to moving to Seattle. In the meantime, I've been checking out movies and indulging my fondness for action figures, toy cars, and dolls.

Yes, I said dolls. And, yes, some of them are Barbies. And, yes, I am absolutely comfortable with that, because there are some phenomenal dolls on the market these days.

For example, I've already picked up most of Hasbro's DC Superhero Girls 12 inch "Action Doll" line (the last one I'm missing should be arriving later this week). I reviewed the first two I bought, Supergirl and Wonder Woman over here, if you want my thoughts (spoiler alert - they are awesome).

And speaking of Wonder Woman, I also wrote up the new Barbie from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It's a good doll overall, but a little more mixed than the cheaper and brighter Superhero Girls line.

Moving on to movies, I recently put together my annual list of summer movies, complete with a set of guesses as to how good they'll be.

I've also seen a few movies recently. I don't think anyone will be surprised to hear I enjoyed Deadpool - more or less everyone else did, too. Mainly, I was impressed what how seriously they took the superhero aspect of the X-Men, something Fox has been slow to embrace until now.

I had a very mixed reaction to Kung Fu Panda 3, a movie I wholly acknowledge I was unable to offer a fair review. In many ways, I thought it was an excellent action/comedy, but I just couldn't get over where I felt like it betrayed the series. Kung Fu Panda 2 is a favorite of mine, and this definitely felt like a step backward. You can read my complete thoughts here.

By far the best new movie I've seen this year was Zootopia, which offered a fantastic look at some very complex issues. I was astonished by how seriously this movie addressed its themes, providing an honest look at bias, stereotyping, and racial scapegoating. The fact it does this without ever feeling preachy or moralizing makes it even more impressive. If you haven't seen this yet, do so before reading my review.

I also recently saw a few older movies that really caught me off-guard. I didn't review them (as a rule of thumb, I don't write up movies long after they've been released, with the exception of Christmas stuff). However, if you haven't seen any of these movies, I highly recommend remedying that as soon as possible.

Paddington, a film centered around a CG bear, was almost unbelievably good. Sweet, funny, poignant, and touching, it demonstrates that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with this genre. In the right hands, a movie featuring an anthropomorphic talking bear can be one of the year's best movies.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World caught me off guard for entirely different reasons. Arguably the darkest romantic comedy ever filmed follows a couple as they go on a road trip in the last days of civilization. The movie plays with tone and point-of-view, showing the humor of a situation before turning around and revealing tragedy. And, in its most touching moment, joy. It's a film about love and mortality, hope and despair. It's fearless in its approach, and shockingly honest.

Lastly, the Feig-directed Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy, might not have moved me emotionally, but I absolutely loved it. Funny, exciting, and suspenseful, it accomplishes precisely what it sets out to do: delivering an authentic spy movie that's simultaneously a hilarious comedy. If there was any doubt that Ghostbusters is in the right hands, it's gone now.

That's it for now. I'll try not to let so much go by between updates, but no promises: I'm busy these days, and I rather miss a few blog posts than fall behind on the novels. Until next time!

Stories, Lists, and Other End of Year Nonsense

Well, the end of the year is upon us, but there's no need to panic: since 2015 was neither a prime number nor a year ending in zero, I don't think anyone's prophesying the end of the world. And yet... and yet... wouldn't that be the ideal time to strike? When we're all complacent in our assumption that this December 31st WON'T portend the end of civilization as we know it?

Ah, well. If it happens, it happens. It's not like we haven't all lived through worse.

Lindsay and I wrapped up another year of holiday gluttony over at Mainlining Christmas. I already mentioned one story I posted, The Collector of Old Toys, so I won't do that again. I had two more, as well: The Society of the Worldly Mind is sort of a spin on a murder mystery, while Old Gods of the North is best described as post-apocalyptic Christmas sword & sorcery. So go click on that if you want to find out what the hell I'm talking about.

Also, I'd be remiss in omitting Lindsay's first piece of holiday fiction, Juliette and the Christmas Invitation. It's a short fantasy piece you should definitely check out.

Of course, that's just the tip of the Christmas iceberg. We reviewed dozens of movies, TV specials, and holiday episodes this year, including (surprisingly) quite a few that didn't suck. Also, I posted a list of ten deadly Christmas elves. Go read that, if nothing else.

But, as much as I might wish otherwise, not everything can be Christmas. I wrote up a retrospective of all the 2015 movies I've seen, organized by preference. It was a good year for movies, overall, even with Age of Ultron being kind of a letdown. I'm particularly happy to see Hollywood investing in (and being rewarded for) genre movies with female leads. I've been doing these lists for quite a while, and this is first time I was able to give the #1 spot to a film where the main character was a woman. More than that, the top three fell in that category. There's a lot more that needs to be done in terms of representation, but it's a fantastic sign.

Setting aside pop-culture for a moment, 2015 was an extremely productive year for me. Without getting into detailed page counts, I more or less wrote and revised two novels this year, which is more than I've ever managed in the past.

I'm hoping to keep that momentum going into 2016. I've already written a draft of the third novel in the Citadel of the Last Gathering, and I've started the fourth book. For those of you who haven't reached the last page of A Tide of Ice, the title of book three is "A Unique Sickness of Spirit."

It's due out next fall, hopefully in time for Halloween. If you enjoyed the first two, I think you'll like this one, as well. It's still early in the revision process, but I really like how it's coming along.

One more thing: my New Year's Resolution. Actually, it's the same I've had every year since I was seventeen - to give up New Year's Resolutions once and for all. For some reason, I've never managed to pull it off.

Thanks to everyone who's been following along. I hope 2016 treats all of you well!

What's this Under the Tree?

This is unexpected. There's an extra gift here, and it's addressed to you.

I know we usually wait until Christmas, but it says to open now. We probably shouldn't argue. But what in the world could it be?

It looks like a book. Only... I think there's more here.

I was right! It's a whole bunch of books. In fact, it's ALL MY BOOKS! And you're getting them absolutely free.

Well, the Kindle copies, anyway. Hey, what do you expect - paperbacks don't grow on trees. But, from now through December 26th, you can download free copies of For Love of Children, Facsimile, A Count of Five, Tide of Ice, and Tending the Fire. Get them now; read them later.

And the best part of digital copies is you can keep them and still re-gift them. Just send your friends the links in lieu of a real gift and remind them it's the thought that counts.