Category Archives: Writing

And here’s the cover of MJ-12: Shadows

Readers of the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog got first dibs, but they’ve now had their moment, so I’m gonna share with you, Valued Personal Blog Readers.

Behold, the cover of MJ-12: Shadows!

Oh, yeah.

Sorry, I got tickets to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 next Thursday night in IMAX 3D and I’ve got Rocket on the brain. Anyway.

Yes! New cover! Obviously, it bears more than a passing resemblance to MJ-12: Inception, because they’re the same series and such. Different color palette, of course, and the city in the background is Damascus this time, for reasons that should be evident if you head on over to the B&N SF&F Blog and read up on it.

Once again, the artist and designer over at Night Shade Books have done a fantastic job, and if you’ll recall, there’s some excellent interior design in MJ-12: Shadows as well. Good stuff. They’ve really made these books look awesome.

And as a reminder, MJ-12: Shadows is available for preorder. Those really do help, so if you’re excited about this one, go ahead and pull the trigger. Like Rocket.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | Mysterious Galaxy

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Some news on the MAJESTIC-12 books: Launch dates, formats and more!

The pre-order pages are up and running, so it’s high time I updated folks on the next iterations of the MAJESTIC-12 books. And I’m really pleased with the direction we’re going.

First off, the mass-market paperback of MJ-12: Inception is scheduled to drop on June 6! And it’ll include a nice little excerpt from the second book in the series, MJ-12: Shadows. And of course, it’ll be far cheaper than the hardcover — like two-thirds or more cheaper — and I expect the e-book price to likewise fall. So that’s cool.

And then MJ-12: Shadows is out September 5! And that, too, is coming out in mass-market paperback, which I think is pretty awesome since it’ll be much more affordable.

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My favorite snippets from MJ-12: Shadows

I just wrapped up the copyedits on MJ-12: Shadows this weekend, and it’s looking more and more like a book. And I think it’s pretty fun, too — distance has made my heart grow much fonder of this one. I think it’s a worthy successor to MJ-12: Inception and I’m excited to see what you think of it.

So by way of giving you a little tease, I thought I’d give you some snippets of dialogue and action that stood out to me as I worked my way through the editing process. These were just the most fun bits I had, the parts that made me smile. There’s other stuff that I like, but honestly, you don’t get to see those until you buy the book. Spoilers, sweetie.

The first one here is in early 1949 in Damascus, at the home of Miles Copeland, just before things go sideways. Maggie, who can sense and manipulate emotions, is having a conversation with Cal, an African-American man with the power to harm or heal with a touch.  Continue reading

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Villainous motivations

Yeah, I’ve still got villains on the mind, probably because I’m preparing to write the third MAJESTIC-12 book and the bad guy is about to make his play. (And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.) Between that and yesterday’s post, I’ve got villainous motivation on the mind.

To reiterate: Villains are not evil for evil’s sake. Heck, they may not even be evil per se — just in opposition to the protagonists. With very few exceptions, villains don’t see themselves as evil, but rather they’re the heroes of their own stories. They have a goal, they believe it’s just and good to go get that goal, and they will do anything to attain that goal. They are, by and large, convinced of the rightness of their views and goals.

The difference, then, between the protagonists’ goals and the villains’ goals is primarily that they’re in opposition. Running a close second is methodology: Heroes tend to care about things like other people’s lives, collateral damage, hewing to generally accepted standards of morality, while villains tend not to be so diligent about these things.

So here’s a list, pretty much off the top of my head, of different villainous motivations. They’re drawn largely from my own experience in writing, as well as other books, movies, shows, etc. If you have others, throw them in the comments. Ready? Let’s go.  Continue reading

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Believable, credible villainy

I’ve been meaning to write this up ever since I recorded the Skiffy & Fanty podcast on Fantastic Four, because I think the biggest problem with that film wasn’t the casting or the special effects — it was in the way the villain was written. In fact, I think the movie is an object lesson in how not to write a villain.

Julian McMahon is a decent actor, but as Victor Von Doom, he’s given pathetically little to do, and the stuff he actually does carries so little motivation and weight, it’s comical — and not in a good way. In short, Doom funds Reed Richards’ space experiments, which go wrong and gives everyone — the Four, plus Doom himself — strange superpowers. The Fantastic Four, of course, ultimately decide to use their powers for good. No problem there, because that’s who they are.

What does Doom do? Well, given that Richards’ experiments were deemed a failure and waste of millions of dollars, the board of Doom’s company ousts him. So Doom exacts revenge on one of the board members by killing him. And…well, that’s that. And as Doom becomes more metallic and his lightning powers increase, he decides that Richards and his friends are to blame, so he decides to kill them too. And the Fantastic Four stops him.

End of story…such as it is.

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You can now pre-order MJ-12: Shadows!

Yep, the folks over at Amazon have the pre-order page up and running for MJ-12: Shadows, the sequel to MJ-12: Inception. Yes, it’s lacking a cover, but I’ve been working with my editor and artist on that, and while it’s not done, it’s looking boss. Also yes, that Kindle price there is insane and not going to be the actual Kindle price, because that would be, er, insane.

On that pre-order page, there’s a synopsis of the book (which I kind of spit-balled with my editor via email). The synopsis probably won’t be the final copy that makes it onto the book jacket, but I think it’s a nice little intro. In fact, I’m just gonna put it right here:

It’s 1949, and the Cold War is heating up across the world. Operating in the shadows, the Variants―once ordinary US citizens, but now imbued with strange paranormal abilities and corralled into covert service by the government’s top secret MAJESTIC-12 program―find themselves on the front lines of an international crisis.

In Syria, Variant agents have been sent to support a coup by a pro-American army officer. In Washington, a shocking suicide has them fighting for their very freedom. And at Area 51, the operation’s headquarters, the strange interspatial phenomenon which originally granted Variants their abilities has yielded disturbing discoveries.

All the while, dangerous figures flit among the shadows, and it’s unclear whether they are threatening to expose the Variants for what they are . . . or completely destroy them. Are they working for the Soviet Union, or something far worse?

*dun-dun-DUNNNN*

Yep, we’ll be in Syria this time. While there’s certainly a modern geopolitical resonance there, I would’ve chosen 1949 Syria for this series no matter what, because the CIA/OPC operation there was really crazy, in that sort of you-can’t-make-this-shit-up way. It wasn’t exactly America’s finest hour when it comes to the Middle East, and given our long and horrible history of intervention there, that’s saying something.

Oh, and in the fine tradition of spy thrillers, we’ll also see events taking place in Vienna, Washington, Area 51, Lebanon and Kazakhstan. You may draw from those locales what you will.

MJ-12: Shadows is tentatively scheduled to drop Sept. 5 — that’s a very preliminary date, of course, but as of right now, I see no impediment to that. If you’re intrigued, you can get a little taste of Shadows when the trade paperback edition of MJ-12: Inception is released (again, tentatively) on June 6, because we’re gonna throw an excerpt in there to keep your appetite whetted.

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My old English professor reviewed MJ-12: Inception and liked it

MJ-12-newcoverI’ve never been one to say, “Don’t read the reviews.” I totally get why some authors might avoid it, and hey, that works too. As for me, I’m a curious sort, and whether they’re good or bad, I tend to simply take whatever’s been said, maybe learn a thing or two about my writing from a different perspective, and go about my day.

Every now and then, though, I see one that floors me. Like yesterday, for example.

I’m a proud member of the class of 1993 at St. Lawrence University, a wonderful little liberal arts college tucked away in the North Country of upstate New York by — you guessed it — the St. Lawrence River. The alumni magazine, aptly titled St. Lawrence, will sometimes do reviews of Laurentian books, and so I reached out and sent a copy of MJ-12: Inception up north this past summer and hoped for the best.

Last night, the latest St. Lawrence was waiting for me at home. And if you click here, you can read what they said.

First of all, that’s a really nice bit of real estate — three-quarters of a page. The review was quite positive, and also serves as a very good recap of the book. But what really got me in the feels, as the kids say, was the byline: Sid Sondergard, Piskor Professor of English.

Yeah. My English lit professor reviewed my novel. Holy crap. 

sluYou know the super-cool English professor, the one who knows both popular culture and esoteric Chinese literature, has a wall of books and a wall of videos (dude, it was 1993) and wears Hawaiian shirts and has a ponytail? The one who’s just so damn excited to be teaching a sophomore lit survey despite it being a sophomore lit survey, and made it both fun and interesting? That’s Sid. And yes, we called him Sid. Go to campus — hell, go to any SLU alumnus — and ask who Sid is, and they’ll know.

I had two classes with Sid: the aforementioned survey (English literature from Beowulf to Boswell, roughly), and a senior-level course on John Milton. I still have the textbooks for both classes, and I think they’re the only two I’ve kept. I vividly remember writing my term paper for Sid’s Milton course at 2 a.m. the night before it was due because I had decided that afternoon to completely change up my thesis, because the old one sucked. I managed a B+, which at the time was a massive victory for me.

This is better, man. Light-years better. My daughter can attest — and would, gleefully, to any who asked — that I may have gotten a bit choked up as I read the review. Sid liked my book. Holy crap. This is right up there with any review, blurb or accolade I’ve received. I feel like I just aced a test I didn’t even know I was taking.

So yeah. Authorial achievement unlocked, and a pretty rare badge indeed. Thank you, St. Lawrence, for being so generous with your time and pages. I’ve already thanked Sid privately via email, but what the heck: Thank you for being a cool, awesome professor, Sid. I hope this serves as evidence that I did indeed pay attention in class.

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