Tag Archives: Daedalus Trilogy

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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That pesky, uncontrollable muse

Note: The muse almost never shows up this way.

Note: The muse almost never shows up this way.

With MJ-12: Shadows in the hands of my capable editor, I thought I would start the new year by tinkering with a new project — one that wasn’t under deadline. I’m truly fortunate to have deadlines for books, and I still have the third MAJESTIC-12 book on the horizon. But at least for a while, I wanted to go back to some pressure-free creativity because, as I’ve mentioned before, MJ-12: Shadows kicked my ass.

I actually have several ideas in various stages of development — some straight-up science fiction, a clockwork fantasy, all kinds of stuff. But the one I chose to work on was new to the idea files, something overtly political in nature with a near-future setting and all kinds of social commentary. Gee, wonder how that popped up on my radar since November. Hmm.

I told my agent about it — I actually tell her most of the stuff I’m noodling on — and I got excited about it. I did my usual worldbuilding notes, my character snippets, my Excel plotting. I started in and focused on the voice, which would be very different from my previous work.

And then I hit a wall.

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2016 in review: Stuff I wrote

MJ-12-newcover2016 may not have been the best of years — thanks, Donald — but I’m pleased to say that I wrote some pretty good stuff this year, and I wanted to take a moment to talk about it, being in a somewhat reflective mood as the year spirals toward its fiery doom…er…wraps up and folks get blitzed on cheap champagne.

The biggie, obviously, was the hardcover release of my latest novel, MJ-12: Inception, first of the MAJESTIC-12 series of Cold War paranormal spy-fi thrillers. I was super-pleased with the reception, and chuffed to see folks embrace it. To all those readers out there, I thank you muchly for your enthusiasm and kind words.

Night Shade Books also released the Daedalus trilogy in mass-market paperback this year. It was fun to see those books get new life and new readers.

I also contributed a novelette, “Mind Flight,” to the Geeky Giving anthology effort, which benefits the Barrow Neurological Institute in Arizona. Barrow works to combat neurological disorders, and the theme of the anthology was to embrace that cutting-edge research. “Mind Flight” is the story of a pilot who links her brain to her fighter jet in order to help fend off an alien invasion — and what happens when the aliens figure out a terrible way to fight back. It’s my first hard SF work, and I’m proud to have it in there with so many other talented writers. All proceeds go to Barrow, so pick up a copy!

endlessagesFinally, I got another chance to embrace my geeky, misspent youth by contributing a short story to the Endless Ages anthology, which featured stories set in the Vampire: The Masquerade game setting. “Tiger” is the story of a young vampire caught up in the power games of her elders, with near-disastrous results. It was a total blast to revisit the setting and embrace my Gothic Punk side.

I also had an article published in the October issue of Writer’s Digest, talking about how I use Excel to outline my novels, which was pretty cool. Sadly, you’d need to get the magazine to read the actual piece, but I can point you to the online exclusive bit, wherein you can download part of my outline and see how the alleged magic happens.

As for 2017? MJ-12: Shadows, the follow-up to Inception, should be coming out some time in the late summer/early fall, and I believe plans are in the works for a paperback release of MJ-12: Inception before that. I also have a bit of a passion project I’m working up on the side, and I’m hopeful it finds a home. I also have a short story or two I’m noodling on, but the plate gets full fast, so we’ll see how it goes.

As of right now, I’m not sure what my con schedule will look like for 2017 quite yet. I like Phoenix Comicon and DragonCon a lot, but I’m wondering if it’d be worthwhile to mix it up this year. I don’t think I have the capacity to add to my schedule — I have a full-time job on top of all this fictioning, after all — and I’d be torn about missing out on two fantastic cons. But there are others that seem interesting, and have the benefit of not falling on two super-popular holiday weekends, so we’ll see.

Again, much thanks and gratitude to all the readers who picked up my work this year. You give me the fuel to keep at it, and I deeply appreciate it.

May you all enjoy a peaceful holiday season, and may we all have a better year ahead.

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Come and Speculate! with us on a mighty podcast

Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to have a most excellent chat with the hosts of Speculate! The Podcast for Readers, Writers and Fans. And now you can listen to said conversation online or via your favorite podcast download app…thing. Whatever. You should listen.

I joined fellow scribes Mike Underwood and Greg Wilson for a freewheeling 50-plus minutes of writerly goodness. We talked about MJ-12: Inception and the Daedalus trilogy, of course, then delved deep into research and worldbuilding in historical fantasy, and how I did what I did on those books. We also talked about my former life as a full-time journalist and how that enters into my fiction.

And we talked about the election, because it was the day before election day. Ah, we were so naive. Alas.

I’ve known Mike for years now, and consider him one of the good guys, and I very much enjoyed chatting with Greg as well. I would encourage you to check out Mike’s blog and Greg’s blog to learn more about their books, and definitely check out the rest of Speculate!’s excellent podcasts. They also have a Patreon, so if you wanna slip ’em a few bucks, I hereby grant you extra karma points for that.

My thanks to Mike and Greg for a great conversation. Hope you folks enjoy.

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It’s Worldbuilders auction time! Bid on a critique, make the world better.

Here’s some unabashedly good news: The Worldbuilders auctions are live! There’s so much good stuff up for bid this year — and for the fourth year running, I’m offering a critique of your SF/F manuscript, up to 25,000 words to the winning bidder.

For those of you who don’t know, Worldbuilders is a fantastic charity created by the incomparable Patrick Rothfuss to support the good work of Heifer International. Worldbuilders does a bunch of stuff all year, but the end-of-year auction is the big one.

Since I started offering up stuff in 2013, and with your generous support, together we’ve raised about $1,500 through signed books, critiques and Tuckerizations just with Worldbuilders alone. (And another $500+ to Con or Bust, charity:water and Kids Need to Read, so yay!) And all because I had the damn fool notion in my head that I should write some novels, and because there are some lovely generous people out there. How cool is that?

The critique auction page is live, so if you’re in the market for some writing advice from a real, live novelist (i.e. me), check it out. You have until just after 8 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 27, to get your bid in. And let me tell you — the bidding goes up quite a bit in those final hours, so if you want it, be prepared to hang out online Sunday.

The Worldbuilders crew also has signed copies of all my books — the three volumes of the Daedalus trilogy, and MJ-12: Inception in hardcover. They’re not up for bid yet, but stay tuned. I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re live.

And of course, there’s a veritable ton of other stuff up for bid too — jewelry, signed books, critiques from authors/editors/agents, gaming swag, and yes…even a freakin’ sword. (I totally want that sword.) The eBay page for Worldbuilders has all that and more, so check it out. There’s also a Worldbuilders lottery, where you pay $10 per entry for a shot at glorious prizes — here’s the page for that.

I’ve found the SF/F community of writers, publishers and fans to be incredibly giving and generous, and I know y’all will consider chipping in again to help Heifer in its important work around the world. Thank you in advance for your donations. And thanks to Pat, Maria and the whole Worldbuilders team for all the good work they do.

Go! Get bidding!

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Worldbuilding overload is a real thing

I had a colleague come into my office this morning with, as he put it, “a geek question.” Obviously, he’d come to the right place, but I couldn’t actually help. He was looking for a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, but mine went AWOL years ago. (Note to self: Get new copy of LOTR.)

We got to talking, as colleagues do when deadlines near and we don’t want to deal. He had just finished up The Hobbit and wanted to read the trilogy next, but was bracing himself for it somewhat. You see, J.R.R. Tolkien is absolutely the granddaddy godfather O.G. of epic fantasy writers. There is no doubt. But man, he loved his worldbuilding. A lot.

So much so, he kinda shoved as much of it into his books as possible.

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Writing books for fun and prophecy

prophetThe cool online magazine Inverse has this great column called “Ask a Prophet,” which is an interview with science fiction writers about the genre and their ideas for the future. And, well…heck, I guess I’m a prophet?

Sadly, all I got is Magic 8 Ball that I received almost two decades ago from a now-defunct e-commerce site…back when people called them “e-commerce sites.” And the 8 Ball, as you can see, is less than impressed with my prophetic skills.

Anyway, Lauren Sarner chatted with me for the column, and it turned out to be a pretty nifty interview. We talked about the Daedalus trilogy, comic book movies and diversity in the genre.  Go check it out!

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