Intro to the Caulborn

UPDATE: IMPERIUM is available from Amazon and Smashwords now!

 

If all goes well, IMPERIUM will be released later this week and I wanted to give some insight into the world that my main character, Vincent Corinthos, lives in.

Among other things, Vincent is a Caulborn operative. The Caulborn are a sort of supernatural CIA who keep the peace between paranormals and regular people. The primary requirement to becoming a Caulborn agent is that you need to have been born with a caul. From a biological perspective, this means that a child was born with the amniotic sac wrapped around its head like a veil. Many cultures around the world have legends about these children. Some say that the child will be beautiful, successful, wealthy and lucky. Others say the child can’t drown, or possesses psychic powers. Still others say that the child will rise as a sort of vampire after they die.
Caulborn Insignia
The requirement for a caul comes from this – many paranormal creatures have mental domination capabilities – for example, vampires can  hypnotize people, psychically inclined fae can compel humans into doing their bidding, etc. In Vincent’s world, a caul grants protection against that mental domination, thus enabling a Caulborn to think and act freely even when surrounded by hostile supernatural creatures.

Only 1 in 1,000 children is born with a caul, so agency staffing shortages are a common occurrence. To help with that, the agency also employs normal humans and friendly paranormals in administrative and support roles. In the Boston office where Vincent works, the medical staff are regular people, and the resident computer hacker is a gremlin.

The insignia on the cover of IMPERIUM symbolizes the protection granted by a caul. The Greek character psi represents the mind, and it’s emblazoned on a shield, thus giving you a mind shield. This insignia serves as the Caulborn’s official seal, and can be found on certain documents and artifacts.

If you’d like to learn more about what the Caulborn do in my version of Boston, check out IMPERIUM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Jon Mac

Jon Mac writes SF/Fantasy with a pulp spirit, something he calls “Mythik” fiction. He’s had jobs picking raspberries, babysitting Coyote pups, working in a recycling plant, directing live TV newscasts, and encoding HD video for Blu-Ray discs. He likes dancing and shopping. No, that’s not really true. He’s still waiting for flying cars and videophones to become popular. He lives in Los Angeles with his lovely wife and their wonder dog, Baxter.

So, you ask, what is all this “Mythik” stuff about, anyway? Well, “Mythik” tales are sci-fi and fantasy stories in the spirit of the old pulp magazines of the 30s and 40s, but with a modern twist. Kind of like Astounding Stories meets The Twilight Zone meets Pulp Fiction.

Jon was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

On your site you mention that Mythik Imagination was inspired by Amazing Stories and The Twilight Zone. Were there any stories/episodes that made a significant impact on you?

Jon Mac:
First I’d like to say thanks for this opportunity, Nick. I really appreciate it. I loved that post about Bounty and Twitter.

Now to answer your question: One of my favorites is a Twilight Zone episode called “Time Enough At Last.” Burgess Meredith plays a character who just wants to have time to read his beloved books. After a nuclear war, he gets his wish. But of course, it doesn’t quite turn out the way he expected. I love those ironic twists. I think that episode and “To Serve Man” really had a huge impact on me because it showed how things often aren’t what they seem. “It’s a cookbook!” Um. Sorry, I probably just ruined that episode for millions of people who haven’t seen it. Oh, and the one with William Shatner on the plane was fantastic. I’ll stop now.

 

You’ve hinted that many of the stories in the Mythik series will take place in a shared world. Any teasers you can share about that world?

Jon Mac:
I want to have a lot of wacky characters and strange situations, but at the same time also have a consistent internal logic and a common framework for the settings. So most of the stories will be part of this Mythik Universe, which is really a meta-universe. The idea is that multiple universes are all contained under one big umbrella, and they are sometimes able to interact with each other. Concepts behind this interaction are the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and quantum entanglement. Another key concept is the Novikov self-consistency principle. This essentially means that it is impossible to create a paradox in time travel. If you try to do something that would “change” the past, you will always fail. When you combine many-worlds with Novikov, if you do change the past, then it is no longer your past, but somebody else’s. To you, it’s a new universe. But of course, the people in the new universe know they’ve always been there and consider you to be from some kind of alternate universe. Now I have a headache.

So anyway, as for the stories themselves, each setting is the “real world” as far as the characters in it are concerned. Certain entities are able to seemingly create and/or discover the different universes and time periods. They can also travel between them. All the stories will stand on their own, but they will have this “Mythik” framework, so are loosely connected. Some characters and even story lines may appear or be referenced in multiple stories. Even if a certain story doesn’t directly concern the overall arc of the mythology, it still exists in the framework. That’s the plan, anyway 😉

 

My favorite story in Mythik Imagination #1 was Ghosts of the Future. Can you talk a bit about what inspired that story?

Jon Mac:
It just came to me one day out of the blue. I jotted down an idea which was a short summary of the opening scene. I had no idea where the story would go. As I went along, I added a few other other ideas that had been rolling around in my head, and after a while, I had Ghosts of the Future. I used some ideas about time travel that I’ve had for a long time, and there are some things in this story that give hints about the overall Mythik world. Some of the characters and organizations will definitely play key roles in other stories.

 

What can readers expect from future installments of Mythik Imagination?

Jon Mac:
Mythik Imagination #2 will be a Weird West edition. I love the idea of taking certain Wild West myths and turning them around. The real old west wasn’t really anything like what we’ve usually seen from Hollywood, so I think it’ll be a lot of fun to create a new mythology. By coincidence, I recently went to a double feature of High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider. Clint Eastwood’s character is some sort of ghost in each of those movies. As crazy as it may seem, that provides a logical explanation for those otherwise somewhat tired gunslinger tropes. I like that kind of stuff.

Mythik Imagination #3 will be Strange Sea Stories. So I’ll get to have some fun with pirates and the age of fighting sail, which I’ve always been interested in. I’d also like to get feedback from readers and have a Mythik Readers’ Corner section at the end of each issue, just like the old pulp magazines did.

Hopefully by the end of the year, there will be a half dozen or so Mythik Imagination issues and then a Mythik Weird West novel. I’d like to also finish the first in a series of Sword & Sorcery novels I’ve been working on for a long time, but that might be pushing it.

 

Briefly describe your writing process, and any writing rituals that you have.

Jon Mac:
Well, I think of a lot of stories while I’m commuting on the freeway. I write a lot in my head. I work really long hours at my day job, so I have to find writing time whenever I can. That usually means in the car, or standing in line at the store, or waiting for an elevator, etc. When I was a kid, I made up this thing I called Dream-a-vision, where I’d imagine a movie before I fell asleep. So I sort of do that at random points in my day. Then I write down all my ideas. Sometimes they are pretty detailed, and sometimes they are just a few words or a title. Like, here’s a title: “The Elevator Thief.” I have no idea what that means, but at some point I’m going to turn it into a story.

Usually I’ll be working on several stories at once, in various stages of development. But at some magical moment, one or several will suddenly become more urgent, and then I concentrate on finishing those. Unfortunately, my schedule is a bit too chaotic for any real rituals. So my method is just “squeeze in the writing whenever possible.”

 

How do you cope with writer’s block?

Jon Mac:
If I’m stuck, I just write anyway. A lot of times it will end up being gibberish. But sometimes it turns out to be something I can actually use. Or it might give me a new idea and send the story in a different direction. If I’m still stuck, then I’ll work on a different story or do some research. And yes, playing with my dog or going to the pool is “research.”

 

A time-traveling DeLorean is parked outside your house. It has enough fuel to take you to one destination in time and back again. To what point in time do you travel and why?

Jon Mac:
Ha ha, this is a hard one. I had to think about it for a while. But I finally decided I would go about 200 years into the future. I would record everything I see and do there. After I came back from the future, I would eventually be known as the best and most accurate science fiction writer of all time 🙂

 

Thanks for stopping by, Jon!

You can learn more about Jon on his site, and you can follow him on Twitter. Mythik Imagination #1 is on sale at Amazon and Smashwords. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

On Following Paper Towels

Twitter’s been a great way for me to learn about new writers and their work. However, when I logged in the other night, I saw this in my “Who to Follow” section.

That’s right, Twitter wants me to follow Bounty paper towels.

I think Twitter’s a great way for companies to connect with their customers, but I’m having a hard time with this one. Twitter makes sense for a software company, because people can use Twitter as impromptu tech support. Twitter makes sense for products like Pepsi or Coke, because they use it to promote the concerts and other events they sponsor. Twitter even makes sense for things like WD-40, because they can use it to post tips on what you can do with the product.

But paper towels?

I can’t see a customer support situation there.

Customer: OH SWEET EVER LOVING GOD I SPILLED SOMETHING AND I CAN’T WORK THE BOUNTY!!

Bounty: Stay calm, sir. Now, grip the roll firmly and pull one paper towel off the roll.

Customer: CRAP, I RIPPED IT IN HALF! WHAT DO I DO???

 

I don’t see Bounty sponsoring anything, and if they’re planning a Bounty-palooza concert series, they’re being awfully quiet about it. (And if such a concert series does occur, I fully expect them to commission John Anealio to write them a theme song.)

 

As for tips? They’re. Freaking. Paper. Towels. You wipe stuff up with them, end of story.

So here are some things that I think Bounty could tweet about that would be fun:

  1. A video showing a person throwing rolls of Bounty into a swimming pool. The viewer who correctly guesses how many rolls will be needed to absorb the entire pool wins a year’s supply of Bounty products.
  2. A factoid telling us how long a roll of paper towels stretches if you unrolled it.
  3. In that same vein, how many rolls would you need to encircle the earth, or reach the moon?
  4. If lit on fire, how long would a roll of regular Bounty burn? What about the Extra Soft kind?
  5. How many rolls of Bounty would be needed to cushion the impact of a car hitting a brick wall, while traveling at 30 mph?
  6. How many rolls are needed to mop up all the blood in the human body? (Not asking for any particular reason, mind you.)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Bounty.  I buy the stuff in bulk. But c’mon Twitter, unless they’re suddenly interested in printing my book on a roll of paper towels, I’m really not sure why you want me to follow them.

 

 

 

Combined Text View in Scrivener

When I write in Scrivener, I typically break chapters out into smaller scenes. When I want to see how these scenes flow together, I can roll them up into a single view via a feature called Combined Text. This lets you select a series of scenes and view them as if they were one continuous document. This short video shows that feature in action.
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An Interview with Rob Cornell

Rob Cornell is the author of DARKER THINGS, an urban fantasy thriller. An accidental nomad, Rob grew up in suburban Detroit, then spent five years living in Los Angeles before moving to Chicago to receive a BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College. He has traveled full circle, now living in rural southeast Michigan with his wife, two kids, and dog, Kinsey—named after Sue Grafton’s famous detective. In between moving and writing, he’s worked all manner of odd jobs, including a three-day stint as assistant to a movie producer before he quit because the producer was a nut job.

Here’s a teaser for DARKER THINGS –

Craig Lockman—no one had called him that in fifteen years.

Not since his days at the Agency. Not since he was trained to kill creatures that were supposed to exist only in nightmares.

Yet the teenage girl on his doorstep not only knows his real name, she claims she’s his daughter.

Before Lockman can learn how the girl found him, he’s attacked by a black-ops team of assassins. But these aren’t ordinary killers—they’re heavily armed vampires sent by his most hated enemy.

Forced on the run, Lockman protects his daughter from an onslaught of horrors while searching for who betrayed him and why. The investigation leads him to Detroit, where he unwittingly sets a plan into motion that could trigger a paranormal apocalypse and cost him his soul.

 

Rob was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Previously, you’ve written traditional crime stories. What made you want to change to urban fantasy?

I’ll call it my chocolate and peanut butter moment. If you remember (and I might be dating myself here) the old commercials for peanut butter cups, you had two people—one eating chocolate, the other peanut butter—and by some crazy accident their snacks would meet. “You put your chocolate in my peanut butter,” one would say. The other says, “You got peanut butter on my chocolate.” Something like that. Oh, here’s an idea. With the power of Google I take you back in time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJLDF6qZUX0

And, yeah, looks like I dated myself. Anyway, I’m a huge fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher thrillers. Hard-core action. Strong, sometimes remorseless hero. Plot twists galore. I’m also full out in man-love with Jim Butcher and his Harry Dresden series. This is urban fantasy done right. Emotionally engaging main character. Quirky supporting characters. Cool magic. Scary creatures. Lots of spectacle in the most Aristotelian sense of the word. (Ha, I just threw some Aristotle at ya.)

I got to thinking. What if someone like Jack Reacher landed in a world like Harry Dresden’s. That spawned the idea for DARKER THINGS. Basically, it’s action-thriller meets urban fantasy. And dang, was it fun to write.

 

Tell us a little bit about Craig Lockman, the protagonist of DARKER THINGS.

Lockman is a pretty messed up individual. So messed up, he doesn’t even know how messed up he is, and that’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers. But he’s a strong-willed man who starts the story a lonely and living under a fake name because fifteen years before, while working as a government agent, his ID was compromised and his worst enemy nearly killed him. He became a security risk, so he had to go into hiding. But worst of all, he had to leave behind his fiancée without a word.

When Jessie shows up at his door, claiming she’s his daughter, Lockman has to reconcile two big parts of his personality—his sense of duty and cool professionalism with the passionate, caring man that had to abandon the woman he loved. He spends a good portion of the novel struggling to balance those sides and, therefore, create a new sense of self-identity.

He’s also a badass who isn’t afraid to face down a team of black-ops vampires sporting fangs and fully-automatic weapons.

 

What was the hardest part of writing DARKER THINGS?

The hardest part, for me, about writing any novel is keeping my self-doubts at bay. I have plenty of them. With DARKER THINGS I had the added worry about writing a novel length contemporary fantasy—something far different from my usual novel-writing exploits. I often questioned if I wasn’t wasting my time. But what got me through answers your next question.

 

What was your favorite part of writing DARKER THINGS?

The whole book was just plain fun. The action, the magic, my take on the standard paranormal tropes. I had more fun writing this book than anything before. Which actually added to some of the self-doubt. I thought, “This can’t possibly be any good if I’m having so much fun. This doesn’t feel like work at all.” I decided those were pretty stupid self-doubts to have. Besides, if I was having fun, who cared what happened to the book afterwards?

As it turns out, I’m happy with the result. And thus far, so are my readers.

 

Briefly describe your writing process. Are there any “writing rituals” that you stick to?

I’m pretty strict with my writing time. I have set hours during the day, depending on my schedule, and I only write during that time, and I write only during that time. I find it important to separate this time out of my day, otherwise I spend too much time obsessing about the book, or too little time writing. I also make sure to have a sketchy outline before I start. This used to go on index cards, but I’m now saving the environment by using a program called SuperNotecard. Just a couple lines per scene. Sometimes those scenes expand into several during the writing. Sometimes they get tossed out. But I always have that roadmap to keep me on track, which allows me to focus on telling the story.

 

How do you cope with writer’s block?

Doesn’t exist. That’s the short answer. The slightly longer answer is I have a secret weapon who goes by the name Jerrold Mundis. He wrote a book entitled Break Writer’s Block Now. Sadly, the book is out of print. His system is simply the best way to create a comfortable and productive working schedule, free of block. Luckily, he has an audio version of his seminar on his website. So I don’t sound like a complete commercial, Google him and you’ll find his site. Whenever someone asks me about writer’s block, I tell them about Jerrold Mundis. It sounds like I get a cut of his sales, but I don’t. I just really believe in his system.

 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read. Watch movies. Play video games. Play with my kids. Eat. Drink beer. Might explain the gut.

 

You’ve found a magic lamp. The genie inside agrees to grant you one wish (and ixnay on wishing for more wishes). What do you ask for and why?

Easy! More readers. The number one thing that makes my day outside of hearing my kids tell me they love me is hearing from a reader who liked one of my stories. The main reason I write is to entertain people with my stories. I want to give readers the same kind of experience I get from reading my favorite writers. I get no better satisfaction than taking people out of this world for a little while and sending them on an emotional and thrilling adventure.

Thanks for stopping by, Rob.

Thanks a lot for the interview, Nick. I had a lot of fun. I’m all about the fun.

 

You can learn more about Rob from his site or his blog, and you can follow him on Twitter. You can purchase DARKER THINGS from Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.

 

 

IMPERIUM Cover Art & Blurb

I just got the cover art back for my upcoming urban fantasy novel, IMPERIUM. The cover was done by the amazingly talented Ronnell Porter. He’s a great guy to work with, so if you’re looking for a cover artist, check him out.

 

Vincent Corinthos leads a triple life. As a secret agent, he handles paranormal threats; as a god, he protects his followers from evil forces; as a stock clerk, he keeps the back room of an antique store tidy. When one of his fellow agents goes missing, Vincent begins with the usual suspects. His investigation takes him to vampire lairs, golem laboratories, and the realm of the fae. Along the way he squares off against genetically modified gremlins, virus-spawned zombies and a horseman of the Apocalypse. But it’s only when he infiltrates a private medical lab that he realizes just how big of a threat he’s facing, and even being a god might not be enough of an edge…

 

Coming Summer 2011!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Renewed Love of Comics

I love comic books. I started reading them back when I was in my early teens and faithfully collected for several years until I went to college. I still liked comics, I just didn’t have the time or money for them anymore.

Fast forward some fifteen years or so and I’ve started reading them again, thanks to my iPad. The iPad has an app from each major comic publisher that allows you to download and read their titles. The first thing I did was grab as many issues of The Flash as I could, and have since moved on to Batman and Green Lantern, which were my favorites back when I was younger.

But there are a couple of publishers that are new to me as well. Dark Horse Comics and Boom Studios, in particular. (I should note here that I remember seeing Dark Horse back when I was collecting, but I didn’t read any of their titles.) When Free Comic Book day hit this year I pulled down an issue of Doctor Solar from Dark Horse. It was a great read. I typically have two requirements for my comic heroes – they need to either be smart, clever or both. Doctor Solar is smart. Like nuclear physicist smart. After being exposed to a nuclear accident, he can now control all forms of energy, as well as his own physical makeup. He can holographically project his memories to those around him, can travel via phone lines, and doesn’t need a cell phone to make a call. Solar explains the science around this just enough to give the reader an understanding of how and why he can do what he does, but it doesn’t bog the story down. You can check that issue out for free from here.

The Traveler from Boom Studios is another title I’ve started reading. It’s billed as “Stan Lee’s The Traveler,” but I’m not sure what Stan’s involvement really is with the book. He’s listed as Grand Poobah in the credits, and while that’s absolutely true, it doesn’t tell me if the Traveler was his idea or if he’s just the executive producer of the thing. Regardless, The Traveler is clever. He’s a mystery man who has the ability to control time. He can freeze time long enough to allow people to escape danger, he can briefly stop time so he can recover from serious injuries, and he can rewind time to send projectiles back at the people who launched them. This title is especially fun because the Traveler is snarky on top of being clever. Snark + Clever = winning combination. You can learn more about The Traveler here.

What comics have you recently discovered?  Sound off in the comments.

 

 

 

Writing Prompt – Cuddly & Deadly

When Fall hits New England, you can usually find a ton of caterpillars crawling around. Some of them are covered in soft, brown and black  fur, earning them the nickname ‘wooly bear caterpillars.’ However, I found this link, which shows that the affable caterpillar that I’ve grown up with has some downright evil cousins.

So here’s a writing prompt for you. Take something that you’d normally think of as happy, cute or cuddly, and make it as deadly and vicious as possible. For inspiration, think of Monty Python’s Killer Rabbit, or Mr. Spock’s pet Sehlat (a teddy bear with 6-inch fangs).

Have fun!

 

 

Where ya been, Nick?

So I’ve been dark for a couple of weeks. I’d love to say this was because I was locked up in my Writing Cave, pounding out thousands upon thousands of words in the WIP. Or I’d love to say that it was because the Justice League had recruited me for a secret mission in an alternate dimension and I’ve been out saving the world. The truth of it though, is that I was horrifically sick. I had to be hospitalized twice due to a very high fever and the fact that I couldn’t keep fluids down. So it was an unpleasant experience in every possible way. It’s mostly over now though, and I’m slowly getting things back to normal.

So let’s celebrate my return with a writing prompt. Invent a sickness that does terrible things, but also provides one positive effect to someone who survives it. Maybe it’s a flu that destroys 90% of your lung tissue but gives you psychic powers, or something like that.

Happy writing, and everyone stay healthy!