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.

Short Holiday Story: The Collector of Old Toys

I'll be posting three (at least I think it'll be three) short holiday stories over at Mainlining Christmas this year. The first is a piece of magical realism called The Collector of Old Toys. Head over and check it out if you're interested.

Christmas is Coming

The way I see it, there are two responses to Christmas. The first is to run from it, try to escape its reach. You won't succeed, of course - it's too large, too encompassing. Entire religions have vanished into its maw: what hope do you have getting away?

There's an alternative, but few are willing to seriously consider it. You can turn around and face it. Stare it in the eye and gaze upon its awful majesty. Some say this path leads to madness.

But I am not one to flee, and I understand well enough that, while you can run from Christmas, you can't hide.

This cheerful yuletide revelation lies at the core of an annual project my wife and I work on during the holiday season, a little something we call Mainlining Christmas. It's a blog we started in 2010. Every year, we gorge ourselves on as many Christmas specials, movies, and books as we can stomach. I listen to nothing by Christmas songs from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day, and - for fun - we chart our descent.

I've published thirty pieces of holiday fiction on the blog over the years, and I'm planning to add at least a few more stories this year.

I'd like to invite any of you to join us. At a distance, of course.

Either that, or you can run with the others, try to convince yourselves there's a place where the holidays can't reach you.

Now who's crazy?

A Tide of Ice is Available!

My new novel, A Tide of Ice, is now available in print and for Kindle.

A Tide of Ice is the second novel in The Citadel of The Last Gathering, continuing Alaji's story from A Count of Five as she travels into an era of sword and sorcery. Here's the sales pitch:

A New Land. A New Gate. An Age of Steel and Blood.

Alaji has seen impossible wonders and faced incredible dangers in places beyond imagination. She has already traveled in time over a thousand years, but she is about to learn that is less than a heartbeat in the life of the world. To reach the Citadel of the Last Gathering, her journey will need to take on a far grander scale, one where geology changes like the seasons, where nothing is constant.

Now she finds herself in an era where imperious wizards create powerful monsters and unleash them upon the lands of their enemies. But these threats may be nothing compared to the men and women who are able to thrive in such harsh times.

If you haven't gotten a hold of the first book, you'll want to give that a read before picking up the sequel. To make it easy, I'm making Kindle copies of A Count of Five free this coming Saturday and Sunday. Grab a copy, give a read, then buy the sequel if you like it.

I think you will.

Updates and News - October 2015

It's been too long since I've posted here, so I wanted to provide at least a little news. Lindsay and I are in the process of revising A Tide of Ice, the sequel to A Count of Five, and still plan to get that out in November. Expect an exact date and cover reveal soon.

I've also been working on a few short stories, some of which I'll be posting over at Mainlining Christmas later this year.

What? You think it's too early to think about Christmas? You're more interested in Halloween? Humbug!

Tell you what: I'll meet you halfway. Here are five Christmas horror pieces I've written to help ease the pain of Christmas gradually overtaking the world one department store aisle at a time:

The Christmas Thief: A horror story about a robber who discovers he isn't the only thief out on Christmas.

The Perfect Gift: Is it easier or harder to go shopping after a zombie apocalypse? Find out here!

A Man of Snow: Is consciousness a gift or a curse? This dark fantasy story offers a different account of life as a magical snow elemental than you're probably used to.

Heirlooms: A simple, classic ghost story.

Double Feature: A killer Santa Claus is on the loose. Again.

Get A Count of Five FREE Until 8/31

I've got some good news for those of you who have been wanting to check out my new fantasy novel, A Count of Five, but also wanted to save $3 for a rainy day. From now until Monday, August 31, you can pick up the Kindle version absolutely free.

That's right! COMPLETELY FREE!

But only until Monday. After that, the price returns to $2.99. So don't wait, or you won't have enough money left over to buy... I don't know. Can you still buy a Starbucks coffee for three bucks?

Whatever. The point is you should go grab a digital copy. And probably tell your friends and loved ones to do the same.

A Few Days at a Volcano-Top Observatory

Lindsay and I took a couple days and went to Paradise (I'm not trying to be cute - that is literally the name of the location), which is located on Mount Rainier. We've been to Rainier a few times in the past, but this was the first time we ever stayed overnight there.

The trip, obviously, was breathtaking. I don't think we could have chosen a better time to visit, either. Because we're experiencing a warm summer in the Pacific Northwest, the roads and trails were clear earlier than usual, meaning the area wasn't quite as busy as it could have been. In addition, we got two beautiful, clear days.

We did two hikes, plus a short walk. The first hike, which I foolishly thought was going to be easy, was to Comet Falls. It wasn't that far, but the elevation gain was intense. But the falls were worth it:

We were able to walk right up to the falls into the spray, which was a nice break from the heat.

We stayed overnight at the Paradise Inn. The rooms were perhaps a tad reminiscent of a college dorm, but that's part of the charm. Also, it's part of the reason you can stay on Rainier without spending an exorbitant amount of money.

On Friday, we did the Skyline loop, which is best described as a trail traversing a ridge offering you views of Mount Rainier on one side and an overlook of southern Washington on the other. We could see Mount Adams, Mount St. Helen's, and even Mount Hood from the trail (Hood was too faint to appear in the photos I took, but trust me: it was between the other two).

We're exhausted from all the hiking, but it's an understatement to say it was worth it. This has been an absolutely wonderful couple of days. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go collapse into bed.

Movies and Herons

Other than the release of my new novel, I caught a few movies this past week. After it set an opening weekend box-office record, I almost felt obligated to check out Jurassic World. Overall, I thought it was a fun, if somewhat underwhelming, experience. It was funny and the action scenes delivered, but I didn't feel like it did anything new. A decent work of nostalgia, but I'm ready for this franchise to move on. I go into a little more depth on my other blog, if you'd like more details.

I was far more impressed with Pixar's new movie, Inside Out. This is easily the best movie we've seen from the studio since at least Toy Story 3, and it can hold its own alongside anything in their catalog. My full review is here.

In order to offset all that time spent in a dark theater, Lindsay and I drove down to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday. It's a good place for bird watching: we saw herons, bald eagles, and a number of other avians. The eagles were too far away for me to get a good picture, but here's a shot of a whole flock of herons.

Okay, okay: it doesn't quite do the experience justice. Take it from me - it was pretty incredible to watch.

Speaking of pictures not doing things justice, the Wildlife Refuge offers a great perspective on Mount Rainier. Staring at it across the marshes had a real Mount Doom effect. I took dozens of photos trying to capture the sense of scale, but my phone wasn't really up to the task. Here's about as close as I came:

If you squint, you should be able to tell there's a mountain there.

Today's the Day: A Count of Five is Available Now!

As promised, A Count of Five is available on Amazon now. The Kindle version can be purchased here for $2.99, and the paperback is for sale over here for $9.99. It's enrolled in Matchbook, so you can also get a digital copy for free after ordering the paperback.

A Count of Five is the first novel in the Citadel of The Last Gathering, an epic fantasy adventure blending in elements of science fiction and other genres. Its sequel will be available this November - more on that soon!

I Did Not Realize That Killer Whales Drown Great White Sharks

So here's why I haven't seen Jurassic World yet....

Lindsay and I took a four day weekend and camped on Orcas Island. We went on several short hikes, visited the town, and wrapped up our last night there with a whale watch in the sound.

We had a fantastic time. Orcas Island isn't the absolute most magnificent place we've been to in Washington State (the Mountain Loop Highway and Olympic Peninsula are tied for that honor), but it was still breathtaking. More than that, the attractions were surprisingly quiet, giving us far more solitude than we've gotten from other destinations in the area.

One warning: settlers killed off the island's native bear and wolf populations more than a century ago, which has left Orcas Island at the mercy of a single animal:

Deer. That picture was from our campsite. We saw deer everywhere while we were on the island. They do not fear humans.

My pictures really don't do justice to the Madrona trees we saw there. These things look like they're made out of bronze or something.

It was a much needed break from work and writing. I don't think I find anything as inspirational as a vacation to a new climate and setting. I'm eager to get back to work on the next novel.

Book Update (Anachronistic Version)

We received the first proof yesterday, and we're happy with how it came out. That said, we did make a few minor tweaks and fix a handful of typos. While it's probably safe to assume this won't have any impact on the book, we want to be sure, so we're ordering a second proof before approving it.

Amazon's estimating it'll show up on or around the 15th. If all goes as planned, that should give us just enough time to look it over, approve it, and get it listed by the 18th. That's assuming we didn't screw anything up, of course: if we have to make any additional changes, we'll need to delay the launch of the physical version.

If you're just planning on getting the e-book, rest assured that will be ready by the 18th regardless. You can make sure you get it the second it's available by pre-ordering it now (though, just a reminder, anyone who wants both versions should just get the physical: we'll be setting that up to come with a free Kindle version).

Also, this seems like a good time to roll out the imprint we threw together. While it's certainly not necessary to have an imprint when self-publishing, Amazon gives you the option. And, frankly, I just don't think a book spine looks right without one.

Lindsay came up with the name, Idyll Themes, and I re-purposed a drawing I did for a Christmas pirate story a few years back as a symbol.

Life, Legos, and Post-Apocalyptic Feminism

I've been getting the finishing touches ready for A Count of Five, revising its sequel, and starting work on its sequel's sequel.

So... a little busy, all things considered.

However, I did check out the absolutely phenomenal Max Max: Fury Road. If you haven't gone yet, you should do so as soon as possible. Between Prometheus and Aeon Flux, Charlize Theron's certainly not a novice when it comes to science fiction, but she finally - FINALLY - got to star in a genre film worthy of her talents. You can check out my full review over at The Middle Room, if you're interested, but if you love brilliantly made SF - or if you just want to contribute towards making a bunch of misogynists cry - you should rush out and buy a ticket now.

Speaking of post-apocalyptic films centered around female characters I recently watched, I also decided the time was right to give Tank Girl another chance. Well, maybe Netflix made that call, since it's about to vanish from instant-view. Regardless, SOMETHING in the Universe seems to have decided I should sit down and re-watch Tank Girl, and regardless who or what came to that conclusion, they were sorely mistaken.

I wrote up a review of that in my series on the worst comic book adaptations of all time. Here's the link to the Tank Girl review, and - if you're really curious - here's a link that can bring up all twenty-six reviews in that series.

In other news, I broke down and bought the Lego Ecto-1 set a few days ago. Despite having thousands of toys, I actually don't own many Legos (they're pricey, and I really don't need another thing to collect). But this set was just too cool to pass up.

I'm a little disappointed the doors don't open, and the figures couldn't all fit inside if they did, but the finished car and minifigs are still great.

Age of Ultron and a pile of Comics

The first weekend of May is something of a festival for those of us living the geek lifestyle. For more than a decade now, there's been a Marvel movie opening on Friday and Free Comic Book Day on Saturday every year.

This time, the movie was a mixed bag. Avengers: Age of Ultron was equal parts awesome and disappointing, depending on whether you're focusing on the crazy fights or the failed attempts at developing character arcs. I tried focusing on both and wound up dizzy. You can read my full review over at The Middle Room. I've also got a post up looking at some of the structural problems and opportunities connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Free Comic Book Day, on the other hand, was just awesome. We stopped by Dreamstrands and Comics Dungeon in Seattle, as well as Subspace Comics in Lynnwood. All three went all out with sales, a generous offering of free issues, and creator signings. This definitely felt like the largest FCBD since we moved to Seattle.

I picked up a bunch of T-shirts, a toy bat-copter, and some trades, along with the aforementioned free issues. Not a bad start to summer, all things considered.

Announcement: "A Count of Five" Available June 18th

Everyone paying attention? I've got news.

My new novel, A Count of Five, will be available on June 18th. The pre-order page for the Kindle version is already up on Amazon. The paperback edition should be available by that time as well (if you want both, wait for the paperback: I'll set it up so it comes with the e-book version, so you'll save a few bucks).

A Count of Five is the first novel in a series I’m working on called The Citadel of the Last Gathering. This is epic fantasy with elements of science fiction and other genres mixed in. It could be considered YA, though I’m steering clear of the usual tropes and cliches that permeate that genre. If you like fantasy but hate YA, you’ll still want to give this a chance.

The blurb from the back of the book appears below. I hope you'll consider checking it out!

One for the gods of our people
Two for the plants they seeded into the earth
Three for the animals they gave gifts of magic
Four for the men who serve the gods
Five for the spirit that sustains everything
Five numbers. Five gods. Five spells for men and five for women. Five ages before the end.

Since history began, this knowledge has defined the world for Alaji’s people, who live along the shores of five holy lakes. But now an army has ridden out of the north led by a powerful and cunning warlord. This, Alaji is told, could mark the end of the last age. The end of men and of time itself. 
Alaji has more to fear than invaders. She has learned the five spells of women. But she knows one more: a spell beyond those given to mortals. A spell that that gives her power over time. 
To learn a spell of the gods is to challenge them. If discovered, the penalty is death. But harnessing such power may allow Alaji to save her family, or may start her on a journey ranging farther than they could have ever imagined.

*     *     *

I'm excited about this one, folks. The novel is a lot of fun, and I think you'll like where the series is heading.

Fiction: Upgrade


The shop smelled like an old toaster that had been deep-fried in motor oil. Wes Rothold could hardly maneuver the tight packed isles of used circuit boards, gyros, mechanical arms, and fishbowls filled with artificial eyes. Wes wasn’t much, yet: scrawny, pale. Had a tattoo under his left eye, kind of a maroon star. His left hand was a gorgeous Meletech Robotic Mesh that he had owned since he was fourteen. He had put his hand into the kitchen disposal five years earlier: only way to get his parents to buy him a cybernetic one.

Wes was still ninety-percent meat, but it had come time to change that. He had a job now, his own place, his own money. It was time to upgrade.

Fiction: The Goblin Prince

The Goblin Prince
(From the short story collection Tending the Fire)

There came a day when there were no more rats in Lanheim's cobbled streets. Such a thing did not occur all at once, but slowly over months, as the pests dwindled and disappeared like snow beneath spring rain. It was the apothecary, naturally, who first noticed something amiss, as it was his business that faltered and his fortunes that shriveled. Before long, the missing rodents were the subject of a hundred conversations, whispering through windows and echoing through alleyways. There was much rejoicing in Lanheim, as few things were so despised as the rats. Since the founding of the city, they had been plagued by the rodents, which crept up from the sewers to steal scraps from above and spread disease and filth like weeds in a garden.

Fiction: The Worst Assassin in Kalbrin

The Worst Assassin in Kalbrin
(From the short story collection Tending the Fire)

In the city of Kalbrin, capital of Helkirith, if you wanted a man killed quickly, effectively, and without fail, you would go to the order of magi, whose arcane powers could handle any job with ruthless efficiency. If, on the other hand, you wanted a man killed after seeing his family slain, one by one, the dark cults of Locintri could accomplish the job – if you were willing to pay their price. If you hated a man so much you wanted his death to take days, even weeks of agonizing torment, the dwarven killer, Yermir, could make any nightmare pale in comparison. Placing enough coins in the palm of Serig Jaraldil, the captain of the guard, could purchase the death of almost anyone in town, as well as ensure that no legal recourse was brought against you.

There had never been a shortage of methods to kill a man in Kalbrin. Yet there was only one assassin you could hire if you wanted that man to survive.


This is a new site. Sort of.

The url isn't new: I've had a webpage up here for years. Most of the content currently featured came from there as well. But the design and layout outstayed their welcome. Rather than try to repair it, I tore it down and replaced it with this site.

So, how about an introduction? I'm Erin Snyder, and I write fantasy and science fiction stories and novels. Want a longer bio? Click on the About Me section.

Have a look around and feel free to ask questions.