Caulborn Book 2 Revealed

Caulborn 2, PROMISE, is at the editor now and is on track for publication in June. I’m proud to share the cover and blurb.

 

Promise Cover

When gods fail to keep their promises there’s hell to pay. Literally. After a slip of the tongue, godling Vincent Corinthos is obligated to keep his partner, Megan, “fine” forever. Enter the Keepers, who fulfill promises for a fee. Vincent agrees to their bargain, but will Megan be the one who pays the price?

 

Thoughts on “The Time of the Doctor”

I really wanted to enjoy The Time of the Doctor, I did. Unfortunately, like many others, I didn’t. To be completely blunt, I found the story laborious and unsatisfying.

Now, if you haven’t seen the episode yet, I’m going to quote River Song – “Spoilers”

Here we are at Trenzalore at last, and we’ve got every single adversary the Doctor has faced. Daleks, Cybermen, Soltarans, you name it. This has the makings of an epic battle, which we’ve seen the aftermath of in an earlier episode. In that episode, the entire planet of Trenzalore was one gigantic graveyard and stood completely in ruin. In this, the episode where we’ll see how that horrific battle got underway, all the baddies are scared to make the first move.

For several hundred years.

Yes, that’s right, there’s a several hundred year standoff where the Doctor ages while his enemies orbit the planet biting their nails. We do have a handful of scenes where there are covert attacks, but the grand, Peter Jackson-scale battle never comes. At the end, Matt Smith is essentially an old man shaking his fist at the sky yelling at the Daleks to get off his lawn.

Meantime, there’s a signal that’s been broadcast from the planet which no one can translate. This signal, which all species are innately afraid of, is finally translated as “Doctor Who?” This is the question that must be answered on the fields of Trenzalore. The Doctor investigates and finds a crack in the universe, like what he encountered when traveling with Amy Pond. We’re told that the Time Lords are broadcasting the signal from the other side of that crack, and if the Doctor says his name into it, then they’ll know it’s safe for them to come through back into our universe.

So, if I’m understanding this correctly, the only way for the Time Lords, the people who invented gravity, to know that it’s safe to come back to the universe is to rely on some guy standing at the door and whispering his name. That’s weak. Essentially, we can assume that the Doctor’s name, which has been one of the great mysteries of the show since its inception, is Swordfish.

What’s even more asinine is that we’re expected to believe that the Time Lords are just sitting on the other side of that crack for hundreds of years doing nothing but asking “Doctor Who?” over and over again. I’d hate to be the Time Lord intern who got tasked with that job.

And then there’s the thirteenth regeneration issue. We know that Matt Smith is the last of the “official” regenerations. We know that it’s possible for Time Lords to be given additional lives, but it feels cheap how Smith is just given regeneration energy because his companion whispers into the crack. A companion who’s had no contact with the Time Lords, a companion who doesn’t make a particularly rousing speech, a companion with no street cred on Gallifrey basically says “Please?” and the Time Lords say “Oh, okay” and send regeneration energy into the rift, which somehow also manages to seal the rift itself and, I’m assuming, stops the signal.

This makes no sense. The Time Lords didn’t get the positive identification they were looking for (Doctor Who? was never answered), but they’ll blindly send regeneration energy into another universe? C’mon, they’re smarter than that.

So, as you can tell I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and I’ve been trying to set things right, to justify this episode. What I finally came up with is this – this episode should’ve taken place on the other side of the rift.

Bear with me – During the final episode of David Tennantt’s arc, we see the Lord President of the Time Lords locked in combat with the Master. And from what we saw in the Day of the Doctor, those events are happening concurrently with the 13 Doctors turning Gallifrey into a planetary Polaroid shot. So let’s suppose that the Master has somehow assumed control of the Council of Time Lords and needed to ensure that the Doctor wouldn’t interfere. So he sent out that signal, knowing it would cause the Doctor to show up, but that he’d wind up in the mother of all stalemates with everyone he’d ever cheesed off. That gives the Master time to take full control of Gallifrey. And as for the regeneration energy? The Master wouldn’t want the Doctor to come to Gallifrey and mess up his fun, so let’s say he used regeneration energy to seal the rift, and if the excess wound up giving the Doctor life #13, well, that’s a small price to pay.

It’s not going to get me a job at the BBC anytime soon, but it helps me remedy what I watched the other night.

I guess the reason I’m so frustrated with this whole episode is that Matt Smith’s Doctor deserved a better send off than this. The 8th Doctor regenerated in a dramatic moment, making a decision to become a warrior. The War Doctor regenerated when his time was finally done and the need for a warrior had passed. The 9th Doctor regenerated protecting Rose, and the 10th Doctor regenerated saving Donna’s grandfather. It feels like Smith’s Doctor got cheated out of something; he deserved to go out with a bang.

Meantime, I am excited to see what Peter Capaldi brings to the role. I’m not thrilled with his first line being that he didn’t like the color of his kidneys, but I’m going to do my best to keep an open mind.

Vampires in Early New England

I recently finished reading a book called The Vampire Hunter’s Guide to New England. Now with a name like that, you’d expect sort of a Fodor’s Guide, something that would tell you which churches in Massachusetts stock the strongest holy water, what New Hampshire farms grow the best garlic and which forests in Maine you should carve your wooden stakes from. However, the title’s a bit of a misnomer. Instead, the book is actually a collection of real-world Yankee undead encounters from the 17 & 1800′s.

Title aside (and I’m not one to talk, after all, I titled one of my stories Krampusnacht – just rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?) the book is quite good. It recounts eight cases of “vampirism” in early New England. The interesting theme is that all these “vampires” were actually cases of tuberculosis. In almost all cases, a member of the family died of TB, and then when another member of the family took ill, the father figure of the family assumed the first family member had come back and was feeding off the living.

There were a couple of things about this that struck me as strange. For starters, there was never any mention of the trademark puncture wounds on a victim’s neck. I’m not sure when that made it into mainstream vampiric lore, but apparently in the 1700′s vampires drained your energy without leaving marks. No holes in your neck, no sensitivity to sunlight; you just wasted away. The way to tell if someone had become a vampire was to dig them up and check if there was still blood in the suspect’s heart. If there was, you were supposed to burn the heart, which would kill the vampire. If there wasn’t, well, I guess you’d have a bunch of relieved townspeople.

Unless you lived in Connecticut.

There was one account from 1850 in Connecticut where a man referred to as “J.B.” died of TB and then his brothers took sick 8 years later. Apparently there’s no statute of limitations on when a family member can come back as a vamp because folks starting saying J.B. had returned and was feeding on his family. They dug him up, and discovered (to everyone’s surprise but mine) he had decomposed completely into a skeleton. This didn’t convince the townsfolk. Not having a heart to burn, the townsfolk dealt with this “vampire” by rearranging his bones so they formed a skull and crossbones pattern, which was supposed to stop J.B. from rising again.

Maybe I missed it, but I’ve never seen or heard of a vampire story where the vamp starts out as a skeleton, spontaneously regenerates his flesh, leaves the grave, feeds off his family, and then returns to his coffin and promptly withers back to skeletal form. Never let it be said that people from Connecticut are weak in their convictions, but apparently this skele-vampire can only be stopped by jumbling his bones about because obviously he’s not smart enough to rearrange them.

At any rate, I’d suggest picking up this book if you’re interested in early New England vampire stories. You can find it on Amazon really cheap here.

 

Thoughts on Irredeemable

Boom! Studios has become one of my favorite comic publishers. The Traveler, Extermination, and the Hypernaturals are all excellent titles. But the one that I want to talk about today is the one that Boom! launched with – Irredeemable.

Irredeemable asks the question “What would happen if the world’s greatest hero became the world’s greatest villain?” The initial reviews of this that I saw likened it to what would happen if Superman went bad.

I was skeptical at first. Back in the 90′s there were several storylines where Supes went bad. They all revolved around one central story element. LOIS DIES. No matter what else Superman endures, what horrors he stops, what terrible things he encounters, the one thing that snaps his psyche like a twig is the death of Lois Lane. These books all followed a pattern: Lois dies. Supes snaps and decides that he’s going to run everything on planet Earth from thereon in, and woe to anyone who stands in his way. He usually kills off most of the other superheroes (off camera), except for Batman, who despite having no superpowers of his own, somehow manages to stay off Supes’ radar. Batman ultimately leads a team of non-powered heroes against the Man of Steel, several of them die, but Bats whips out a chunk of kryptonite at the last possible second and kills Superman, who repents with his dying breath.

That’s kinda what I figured I’d find in Irredeemable.

Was I wrong.

Warning – Spoilers Ahead

Irredeemable tells the story of the Plutonian, Earth’s most powerful hero, and his tragic and terrible fall from grace. The series opens just moments after the Plutonian’s gone bad, and he begins his reign of terror by killing Hornet, this world’s equivalent to Batman. Hornet never stands a chance. In fact, he makes it two steps into his Hornet-Cave (Hornet Nest? They never did name Hornet’s hideout) before the Plutonian breaks his legs and then vaporizes him with his heat vision. We’re led to believe that Hornet had stuff in his cave that could have stopped the Plutonian, but after killing Hornet (and his family) Plutonian destroys the cave, too.

We move back and forth between the present and the past, seeing the events that led up to the Plutonian’s fall. We see how as a child, the Plutonian bounced from foster home to foster home, because the families didn’t know how to deal with a toddler who could lift a couch or shoot lasers from his eyes. We see how he led a Clark Kent-ish double life, crushing on a co-worker as Dan Hartigan, while wooing her as the Plutonian. When he finally reveals his identity to her, she freaks out on him, claiming that he’s made a fool of her. We see how his super-hearing let him hear all the nice things people said about him, while also enabling him to hear every crack and jibe about how he wore tights.

It goes on and on. And eventually, all these things erode the Plutonian down and he breaks. A handful of the remaining heroes eventually do manage to subdue him, but not until millions of people and most of the heroes on the planet are dead.

The thing that really disturbed me about this series was how identifiable the Plutonian was as a character. This guy who turns bad and lays waste to the planet and his former friends shouldn’t be someone a reader can sympathize with. I’ve heard people say that Superman is hard to identify with, because the guy’s damn near perfect. He’s strong, fast, smart and stable. He has a big heart and he’s generous and forgiving. The Plutonian was like that, but after working hard to be good and always doing the right thing, he starts to feel taken advantage of. Eventually, he resents the people he’s worked so hard to protect. “You bring wonder to their lives,” he says in one issue, “and it’s never enough.”

Who hasn’t felt unappreciated at one point or another? Who hasn’t felt taken advantage of at one time in their life? Who hasn’t thought about just saying “fuck it all” when the bullshit gets too high? Those feelings are what make the Plutonian a relatable character, and Mark Waid is an absolute genius for pulling it off so beautifully. There are moments in the series where you think maybe, just maybe he’s not irredeemable after all, that he might turn it around, and then something happens to push him back. By the end, he’s turned completely evil and it’s obvious there’s no going back.

Long story short, if you like comics and you like a good story, you owe it to yourself to pick up Irredeemable.

 

Announcing SYNC

I’m proud to announce the latest installment in the Caulborn arc, SYNC:

When an omniscient demon corrupts the Chroniclers and taints time itself, it falls to Vincent Corinthos to set things right. Along the way, he’ll face deadly enemies who have plotted his death for years. Problem is, he hasn’t met any of them yet. Time travel is such a bitch…

SYNC is a 15,000 word short story and is available from Amazon and B&N.SyncCover

 

 

5 Magazines for Writerly Inspiration

In his recent post on creativity, Chuck Wendig states that writers should read more non-fiction than fiction. He says that you’ll find truly weird things in nonfiction that you can jam together to make new & unique fiction. I agree completely with this, and wanted to offer out 5 places you can find fodder for your fiction in the “real world.”

Popular Science – a great place to learn about new technological innovations, like a process that turn a human’s skin into plastic or how to build your own wrist-mounted crossbow.

Popular Mechanics – a sister magazine to Popular Science, Popular Mechanics’ll tell you the ins and outs of hybrid technology, offer out new insights into what’s going on at Area 51 and give you the low-down on Navy SEAL gear.

WIRED – Ever wonder how a self-driving car would work? Or how your memory can be voluntarily erased with a pill? How about reverse-evolution, where chickens are given dinosaur powers? No, I’m dead serious. Read WIRED for stories like that.

National Geographic – This one needs no introduction. Lost cities, recently-discovered species, and gorgeous photos of ancient art and artifacts for your viewing pleasure.

BusinessWeek – BusinessWeek is a great place to find stories on political scandals, industrial espionage and big business gone horrifically wrong. It’s a great resource worth checking out.

So there you go, 5 magazines that you can pull from. All of the above-listed magazines are available for the iPad as well as in print, so you can get them whether you prefer digital or print mags. Any others you’d recommend? Sound off in the comments.

 

Green Lantern: Power and Detachment

Some superheroes loan themselves to what I’ll call “armchair hero-ing.” You know the feeling. You sit there and go, “Oh come on, why doesn’t Superman just fly around the world again, rewind time and stop all the crimes before they happen?” You’ll notice no one does this with Batman. No one second guesses Batman.

However, I find myself doing this a lot with Green Lantern. GL is one of my favorite heroes, and the amount of power his ring gives him loans itself to these kind of thoughts. And then I read Green Lantern #2 (part of the New 52 line) and had an epiphany. A really super-powered character is most effective when they’re detached from the situation they’re in.

Let me give some context around this issue to illustrate. The upshot is Hal Jordan (GL) is now under the tutelage of his former enemy, Sinestro. The pair come upon a collapsing bridge, complete with a car about to go over the edge and a hot girl already falling. Hal has an emotional reaction. These people are in trouble and he needs to save them. That’s Hal’s motivation – save the people. Hal jumps into action, flies down, grabs the hot girl and wills a giant magnet into being to pull the car to safety.

Sinestro intervenes then, undoing what Hal’s done. Suddenly, the car and the girl are falling again and Sinestro tells Hal to watch and learn. Sinestro exerts his will and the bridge repairs itself,  and the car and the hot girl are teleported back onto the bridge. Injuries, property damage and everything else has been undone. Simultaneously.

So what’s the difference? Simple. Sinestro doesn’t care about the people on the bridge. All he wants to do is restore order to a chaotic situation. There’s no compassion for life in his actions, just cold calculation.

Compare these actions to a fight scene later on in the same issue, where a Yellow Lantern attacks Sinestro. Given Sinestro’s sprezzatura earlier, you think he’ll use his ring to explode the Yellow Lantern’s heart in his chest, or teleport him into the center of the sun, or a million other nasty finishing moves worth of Mortal Kombat. But that doesn’t happen. Why?

Cuz in this scene, Sinestro’s pissed off.

Gone is the cold, calculating tactician. Instead, Sinestro conjures a giant green broadsword and drives it through his enemy’s chest. This fight was personal, and Sinestro handled it in the same way Hal was going to handle the situation on the bridge – emotionally.

I think that’s part of what makes it possible to relate to GL. Without that visceral approach to hero-ing, there’d never be any tension to his stories, no nail-biting moments, nothing. In short, he’d be boring.  No one would want to read about a character like that. And while it may make us sit back and say, “well why doesn’t he just…” we love him just the same.

 

Stealing Time to Brainstorm

So in the last post I mentioned that I could bang out 1,000 words in 30 mins, but I needed to know exactly what I was going to write about. That brings me to today’s topic, Stealing Time to Brainstorm.

In perfect world, we writers would have unlimited time to invent new characters and worlds. We’d just sit back with our feet on our desks, hands laced behind our heads and invent and destroy worlds, all while wearing a Joker-esque grin. However, if you’ve got a day job and familial responsibilities, just getting that solid 30 mins to write can be a colossal effort. So how do you find time to brainstorm?

Well, you’re probably going to have to steal that time. Here are some places I’ve been able to take from:

The Commute – the drive to and from work is a great time to brainstorm. You can’t actually write, but if you’ve got a smart phone, chances are there’s a voice recorder app you can download for a couple of bucks. Myself, I use a little Sony voice recorder. Just chatter away and replay later. If you ride on a train, you can work on a notepad if you’re worried about having tech out in the open. I heard that Peter V Brett wrote the Painted Man on his smart phone while riding the train to work.

The Lunch Break – the 30 mins you get at the middle of your day is a good spot to brainstorm or jot down some ideas. Two things to remember when doing this. One, you need to work uninterrupted, so you might need to take lunch in your car or someplace your coworkers won’t find you. Two, make sure you’re back to your desk on time. You don’t want to find yourself with tons of time to write because you’re suddenly unemployed.

The Workout – exercising is another ideal time to brainstorm. Again, actually writing can be tricky, but your trusty voice recorder will do in a pinch. Keep in mind that you may sound a bit like an obscene phone call during replay, depending on the intensity of your workout.

Monotonous Tasks – dull repetitive tasks, like folding laundry, yard work, or doing dishes are ideal to mull things over. Plus, it makes for a great interview answer when you can say, “Yes, I came up with that scene while I was folding my Spider-Man boxer shorts.” Not that I have Spider-Man boxers. I don’t. Mine are Superman. Shut up.

So there you go, 4 places to steal time from so you can brainstorm ideas for your writing. Any other times you’d suggest? Sound off in the comments.

3 Tips to Maximize Writing Time

I’ve said before that I can write about 1,000 words in 30 mins. Thing is, in order to do that I have to know exactly what I want to write, and I need to be able to block out any potential distractions. Here are some tricks I’ve found help me keep on task -

 1 – Unplug from the Internet. As simple as this one sounds, it can be damned hard to do. “Hmm. I’m stuck on this scene, let me check my email real quick while I ponder…” TWO HOURS LATER… or “Gee, I need to look something up. Let me pop on Wiki…” SEVEN HOURS LATER or the deadly “You know, I think I’ll just fire up Warcraft and check on some stuff in the auction house…” THREE DAYS LATER….

If you’re working on a computer that’s connected to the Internet via an actual cable, unplug it. If you’re on wireless, disable your card (most systems have a hot key combination that lets you do that.) If you find you’re still giving into the temptation that is the Web, there are apps that will block you from getting online.

When I got serious about writing, I dual-booted my netbook to Windows and Linux. The Linux distro I used didn’t include drivers for my network card or wireless adapter, so it was impossible for  it to get online. Also, since I don’t know a damned thing about Linux, I couldn’t screw around with anything other than the word processing program that was on the desktop.

 2 – Block out the noise. Screaming kids, traffic, people with leaf blowers, all these sounds can knock you right out of your writing groove. Some folks listen to music while they write. If that works for you, rock on. But if you’re like me, music can be as jarring as the sounds you’re trying to shut out. Fear not, there is a solution. Get a recording of white noise (no, not the band). I have a recording of an air purifier that I listen to when I write. It’s a constant low hum that’s easy for me to mentally block out, and it covers any distracting background noise.

 3 – Write someplace you won’t be bothered. If you work in a cube farm and have ever tried to write on your lunch break, you know how well that goes. The lunch break should be sacred, where you can do whatever you want while enjoying your peanut butter and nutella sandwich. However, that one guy will always come over and interrupt you, despite the fact that your sandwich is clearly visible and broadcasting the “Fuck Off I’m Eating” sign. To combat this, I’ve found that camping out in an unused conference room or even going out to my car for the duration lets me get the words out.

So there you go, 3 tips to maximize your writing time. What other tricks do you have? Sound off in the comments.