The Process

"So."

"Mmm."

"Sooo."

"Mmmmmm."

"Soooooooooo--"

"Shut up."

"This thing you're writing. Been writing. For some time now."

"Yes."

"It's... I don't want to put words in your mouth."

"Sure."

"That's not me, that's not what I'm about."

"I know."

"It's just that this thing..."

"I hate it."

"...that seems harsh."

"I just, I hate it so much."

"Right, but--"

"I can't look at it anymore."

"Are you crying?"

"No, I've just got my face in my hands because I am trying to hide from the fact that I am no longer any good at writing, and if we're honest, I probably never was in the first place."

"You're overreacting."

"Your face is overreacting."

"What does that even--"

"I DON'T KNOW."

"...so what are your plans?"

"I dunno, write a couple of blog posts, maybe sit down with a notebook and see what I can rattle loose. I just know I've had Scrivener open for like two hours now and I keep looking at what's there and what do I even do with it?"

"This is surprisingly personal for a blog where you generally talk about things you have to sell."

"Yes, I'm very brave."

"You recognize that you're hyperbolizing how bad this thing is, right? Like, this is what all writers go through."

"Oh, yeah, of course, it's just that right now all I feel capable of is complaining about it. Which is useful. In its own way."

...

"So."

"Hmmm."

Commerce In The Hour Of Chaos

It's been difficult for me to try and sell folks on my humble wares ever since The Late Unpleasantness began. It feels a little mercenary to say "Hey, I know we're in the middle of a Constitutional crisis and the President just said anyone who disagreed with him was lying, but do you wanna buy an audiobook?" 

On the other hand, as a wise man once said, "Money talks, bullshit runs a marathon."

...it was actually Nino Brown from New Jack City, but you see his point. 

So! Let me fill you in on the latest additions to my ouevre. First up is The New Adventures of Richard Knight, Vol. 1, written by half a dozen New Pulp luminaries.  Richard Knight is a high-flying pilot, spy, and general international man of mystery, and he faces a collection of sinister and dangerous foes. Fun stuff to record.

The next is Sentinels: A Distant Star by Van Allen Plexico, the second in a saga of nine novels starring the titular superhero team. In this adventure, armored smartass Esro Brachis accidentally takes a trip to deep space while Ultraa and Pulsar face a gathering force courtesy of The Field Marshall. Book one, Sentinels: When Strikes The Warlord, is also available, although Van and I are attempting to rerelease it.

Finally, I'm currently working on (among other things) the audiobook for Matthew Rossi's Nameless. Matt has written two very good, well received and well reviewed novels, Nameless  and Heartless.  He's started a Patreon to create the third book in the series, Faceless. One of the perks is free audios of the first two books; Chapters 1 & 2 of Nameless are available now.

So give yourself a break from the madness of the outside world and buy our stuff whydoncha. Cheers.

 

Procrastinator 2: Judgment Day

On January 1, I went out and bought a Moleskine journal. I did this because I had been reading about bullet journaling, and I wanted to get myself good and organized as the new year began. 

Today is January 6 and I have not yet opened the notebook. 

I feel like that says something fundamental about who I am. 

Stuff I Like: Tekdiff

I never did finish my month of positivity, so as I use this blog more, I'll keep talking about Stuff I Like. Today, the subject is Tekdiff

Short for "Teknikal Diffikulties,"  Tekdiff is a podcast written, produced and performed by Cayenne Chris Conroy. (You may recognize his name from his sound effects work on The Thrilling Adventure Hour.) For eleven years now, he's been creating audio comedy that moves at lightning speed, like a one-man Firesign Theatre.

This would be impressive enough, but a few years into the show's run, Conroy began a show within Tekdiff called The Account: A Tale of the Waking World.  This ambitious story, which has stretched across several arcs now, follows a human, Hanover Phillips, an accountant in a world that's a mix of high fantasy and hard sci-fi. After discovering a mystical error in the figures, he's drafted to become a corporate knight and sent to solve the problem. With him is his goblin "squire," Nyro Guillaume, who's taking a sabbatical from her career as an assassin for hire. The Account is by turns hilarious, exciting, and terrifying, but what really makes it work is the chemistry between Nyro and Hanover. It's very easy to forget that they're being voiced by the same person.

Eleven years is a long time to do anything, and Tekdiff is even more impressive because it's a solo act.  It's really good stuff. CCC just posted his 11th Anniversary Special, and you should click those words and check it out.

 

Please Give

My friend Matt needs your help. He is going through a rough patch, one that involves having needles inserted into his eyeballs. Not a word of that is hyperbole. Let him tell you.

Matt is my co-writer on our current project, and more important than that, my friend of more than 20 years. He has been there for me during some of the roughest times of my life. It would mean a lot to me if you would visit his GoFundMe page and help him out as much as you can.

 

Progress report: rewrote a synopsis for the first book. Recorded 7 chapters today. If I record at least 6 chapters a day, I'll be done recording on February 29. 

 

 

 

 

 

Sick of Myself

I'm kinda in the weeds right now. 

The problem is not a lack of work. Oh, no, not at all. The problem is getting out of my own way and actually doing the work. 

Very little has gotten done so far in this calendar year of 2016. There are external forces at work, of course. Family stuff, personal stuff, things you don't want to hear about and I don't particularly want to discuss.

I'm not interested in assigning blame. It would be easy to do so, to make my first blog post in 2 and 1/2 months be a mea culpa on my part. Who needs it?

The question, the only question, is how to get out of this rut. The answer is, of course, to shut up, buckle down, and do the work. You know this, I know this.

The problem is: Inspiration doesn't last. 

At nine o'clock in the morning, I'm at my most awake and alert, running on all cylinders, full of energy and ideas. I'm also at my day job, where I can't work on any of those ideas beyond taking notes. 

By five o'clock at night, however, I'm a frog in a freezer. I'm just not as fast as I was earlier in the day. I need to find a way to move that inspiration to a point where I can use it. 

In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about Resistance.  

As powerful as is our soul's call to realization, so potent are the forces of Resistance arrayed against it. Resistance is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, harder to kick than crack cocaine. We're not alone if we've been mown down by Resistance; millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here's the biggest bitch: we don't even know what hit us. I never did. From age twenty-four to thirty-two, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again thirteen times and I never even knew it existed. I looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face.

I've read that book several times in my life, and every time I do, it gives me a shock of energy, a desire to defeat Resistance.

But here we are.  And maybe here's a good place to be, really. Maybe I should start posting word counts and chapters recorded. Maybe I should do what the title of this page says and talk and write, defrag my headbone some. I know I feel better for having written this.

I'm not going to make any promises; they're too easy to break. I'm just going to say that I'm trying, and hopefully you'll see more from me in this space soon, more of my writing, more of my voice.

It's time to do the work. 

Your Basic Sitrep

Well, as you can see by the date of this update, the Month O' Positivity didn't quite pan out. Things are much improved now, and I will tell you of them.

My colleague Matthew Rossi and I finished a book. Finally. At this point, we have thrown out several drafts of several hundred thousand words, but we have at least one book with which we are happy, and we are now shopping around.

 

I have a new audiobook for you to buy! It's called Reich, it's by Donald Allen Kirch, and it's about Vampire Hitler. I do not feel I need to explain further. This is a special release for me, as it's the first pro audiobook I've done solely on my own. Click on the picture to hear a sample. Or just buy it. You know what, just buy it.

And I am working on another audiobook for the good people at Radio Archives; don't look for it anytime soon, as it is astonishingly long. I'll let you know when it's ready for your ears.

In the meantime, if you don't hear from me, enjoy the holidays to the best of your abilities. Hug some people. Well, I mean, ask them first, don't be that guy. Cheers.

Stuff I Like - Redshirts

For reasons too stupid to go into here, a lot of people are either boycotting or buying Tor books today. I come down on the "buying" side of this debate, and since I've already told you about The Incrementalists, published by Tor, I shall tee off on another of their fine books.

Redshirts, by John Scalzi, has a premise so good it's surprising it hasn't been done before.  On the starship Intrepid, nothing permanent ever happens to the bridge crew. No matter how many times they travel to a hostile planet or take on a warlike alien race, they come out fine. But at least one member of the ground crew, one of the seemingly endless ensigns, always dies. Andrew Dahl is a new arrival on Intrepid and learns this fact of life, then organizes the others to find out why.

Scalzi takes a jokey premise ("Hey, what's with all those guys getting killed whenever Kirk goes to a planet? And what's the deal with airline food?") and spins it into something truly wonderful. Redshirts would be excellent if it were simply a meta action-comedy, and this section of the book reminds me of Terry Pratchett in its escalating stakes and logical leaps. But it's the codas where I feel Redshirts truly shines.

The original full title was Redshirts: A Novel With Three Codas, and the final third is made up of three short stories about minor characters from the main narrative. By the time the codas are done, what was an amusing sci-fi story has become something much different, something deeper and more meaningful. I can't really describe why without spoiling the story's surprises; all I can say is it hit me pretty hard, much harder than I was expecting. There's a reason it won all those awards is what I'm saying.

I also recommend getting this in audio; it's read by Wil Wheaton, who, in addition to just being really good at audiobooks in general, lends the story an extra level of metatext just by showing up. 

Stuff I Like - The Newsflesh Series

I've been running behind on this, obviously. Suffice to say, I have not been in the mood to be positive about much of anything. But we push on, yes we do. 

I thought I hated zombie stories. Zombies are the big thing nowadays, and I am not a fan, because they all seem to be the same... A small group of survivors has survived the zombie apocalypse and must defend themselves against an ever increasing horde of the ravenous undead. Oh, and most of the survivors will be just raaaaging assholes because apparently that's who we believe will survive the zombs. It's just not my jam. 

The Newsflesh trilogy--Feed, Deadline and Blackout by Mira Grant--are another animal entirely. It's set twenty years after The Rising, the point at which two airborne viruses combined into one zombie-creating pathogen. And the world has kept turning; civilization hasn't collapsed, but adjusted to this new reality, in which a failed blood test can mean instant death and journalists are the new rock stars. Georgia and Shaun Mason are two such; she's the Newsie, an investigative reporter, and he's the Irwin, a sort of extreme nature documentarian who picks fights with zombs. When they're chosen to accompany Senator Peter Ryman on his Presidential campaign, it quickly becomes apparent that someone doesn't want them there, and is willing to shed blood to be rid of them.

Feed and the rest of the trilogy are much more about journalism and the human need to know than they are about zombies. The living dead are simply a fact of life, but they aren't the driving force, people are. There are no straight out villains, no screaming sociopaths, just people who believe themselves to be right, and often those we look at as our heroes are the ones in the wrong. The author excels at both characterization and worldbuilding, and she is so, so good at both ratcheting up the suspense and breaking the reader's heart. You want these books. Go get 'em.

(When you're done, AND ONLY WHEN YOU'RE DONE, check out Mark Oshiro's chapter by chapter reviews and watch a man nearly lose his sanity. Heavy, HEAVY spoilers, read the books first.)

Stuff I Like - Saints Row

Here's the thing about the Saints Row games; they're insane. At least parts 3 and 4, which are not so much parodies of sandbox games as they are far superior versions of those games, the way Hot Fuzz is now only an amazing comedy but a better cop movie than most of Michael Bay's output. I could blather for a few paragraphs about the characterization and how much fun it is to run around at super speed and all that, but really, all I need to show you is this.

That is the player character on an alien ship, finding power armor, and smashing his way through the warlord's forces while The Touch by Stan Bush plays.

My work here is done.

Stuff I Like - The Meg Langslow Mysteries

When it comes to mystery novels, I am much more likely to drift towards the hard-boiled section of the bookstore. Give me a good private investigator, Spenser, Kinsey Milhone, Atticus Kodiak before he got all weird. Or a talented amateur in formal wear, Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, et cetera. The only subgenre of mystery that never really did anything for me is the cozy. A cozy is one of a series of mysteries that are usually pretty light in nature; the victim is dispatched quickly, without much fuss, and generally had it coming in one way or another. The protagonists are women more often than not, and the book is pretty evenly divided between the actual mystery to be solved and the lead character's interactions with the colorful supporting characters.

...you know, going by that description, the Spenser novels kind of ended up as cozies.

Anyway. Not really my scene is what I'm saying. But a few years ago, I was desperate for something to listen to on a road trip and stumbled into the Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews.

Meg is a blacksmith in the college town of Caerphilly, Virginia, where she serves as the only source of common sense to her large, daffy extended family. The first novel, Murder with Peacocks, sets the tone of screwball mystery; Meg has been suckered into planning three consecutive weddings, including one for her own mother. Someone turns up dead, and someone else did it, but the reason to read these books is for Andrews' excellent characterization. You'd happily read a novel of Meg dealing with the residents of Caerphilly without any bodies turning up.

A new Meg Langslow book has become a summer ritual for me, something to read in the sun.  The next in the series, Lord of the Wings, comes out August 4. ...yeah, I should have mentioned, after a while, the series took on bird-related puns as its titling theme. The birds generally have very little to do with what's going on inside. Check out Meg, I think you'll like her.

Stuff I Like - The Smithereens

Yes, I didn't get a post up yesterday. Yes, I am going to put up two video heavy posts in a row. No, I do not care. This is music and you should have it in your ear holes.

The Smithereens! They are a band! They are an excellent band! You will click on these videos! You may dance! I'm not gonna tell you how to live your life!

You... will also probably make fun of the 80s/90s fashion. Look away from the 80s/90s fashion. Just enjoy the music.

..or the 90s video effects. Ignore those too.

...or the time they made a video with Jean-Claude Van Damme. A shirtless, open-vest wearing Jean-Claude Van Damme.

...man, the 90s. Man.

Stuff I Like - The Avengers

It is Friday, which means I am doing a Friday Flop. Tonight, let us discuss The Avengers. No, not those Avengers. These ones.

Why? That's... that's a good question. The Avengers is not a good film. The thing of it is, you can sort of see where it could have been good. If you squint. According to the IMDB trivia, after a test screening went badly, the studio executives decided to chop almost half an hour out of the film and release it in August. The reasoning there is... flawed. "The audience didn't like the movie! Quick! Shorten it so we can squeeze in more screenings!"

As it is, the film is frustrating but fascinating. For instance, here is the theme to the original TV series.

Sprightly, isn't it? Puts some pep in your step! Gets you energized for whatever's about to happen! Now, here's how the film starts...

...huh? Sorry, I nodded off, what was I talking ab--oh, The Avengers, right.

The finished product is just so odd. You can see the places where an amusing comedy tries to shine through. And there is unparalleled weirdness in the sight of Ralph Fiennes as a smiling, forthright action hero.

I think mostly I'm writing about this film because I have so many questions. Why would you cast Eddie Izzard as a character who doesn't talk, when that guy is so very good at talking? Was it embarassing when Diana Rigg said "Yeahhh, I've got other things to do that day: when they asked her to film a cameo? You guys had a chance to cast Emma Thompson and didn't take it? And what the hell is this?!

Poor Sean Connery. Turned down Gandalf in The Lord of the RIngs, turned down Morpheus in The Matrix... said yes to this. But hey, at least one of those teddy bear suits found a good home on another Jeremiah Chechik project... The Middleman!

Like a circle in a circle, like a wheel within a wheel.

My point, insofar as I do have one, is that while The Avengers isn't a good movie, it is an eminently watchable one. Check it out the next time it rolls around on cable, it'll scratch that Flash Gordon/Street Fighter itch. And hey, Warner Brothers, you've got the Warner Archive for a reason. Let Chechik put his cut back together and throw it up for download. I'll buy it.

Stuff I Like - Professor Elemental

I've liked steampunk since before I knew the word; I didn't know about guys like K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers or James Blaylock when I was a kid, but I knew H.G. Wells was chasing Jack the Ripper in a time machine, and that was rad as hell. It's something I've been interested in as long as I can remember, but I never thought that steampunk and music went together.

Then came The Professor.

Professor Elemental arrived on the scene with "Cup of Brown Joy," almost certainly the first hip-hop song about tea ever devised by humans. He's since released three albums, as well as a few others in his non-steampunk persona of just plain Elemental. They are all worth your time.

And since we are all about the positivity this month, the Prof's tunes are well suited to the topic at hand. (That does not sound like a sentence. I am very tired.) Anyway, a great deal of the Prof's songs-- the ones that aren't about zeppelins or octopi-- are about self-acceptance, celebrating our differences, and how to behave on the Internet.

Professor Elemental's music can be found here, as well as most places you buy music online. More information on the man himself is at his home base. But come on, the man was on Phineas and Ferb, you know he's all right.

Stuff I Like - The Ree Reyes Series

They say you should never judge a book by its cover. "They," whoever "they" are, might want to add that you should never judge a book by its description, because I didn't have a great first impression of Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood. At first blush, it sounds almost cynical; "a barista discovers a kind of magic that revolves around pop culture" could have been engineered by a focus group to appeal to hardcore nerds.

 

However, Geekomancy and its followups proved to be charming and engaging. Ree Reyes is a well-drawn main character, one who could easily come across as a cliché (the snarky, bespectacled cool nerd) but never does. She's drawn into the magical underground of her city when a geekomancer, Eastwood, defeats a monster in front of her with the aid of  a Doom Patrol trade paperback. Soon, Ree is learning the ropes, using a lightsaber to take down enemies and watching Sherlock to give her a shot of investigative skill.

The world Ree lives in is well drawn; the city of Pearson feels like a real place, right down to the pizza shops, and Ree's friends and acquaintances are never stock characters. In particular, Drake Winters, a time-lost Victorian gentleman scientist, makes a fine partner to Ree, and their interactions will scratch that Sleepy Hollow itch in readers. The various magic systems in play are never handwaved, either; they make sense. ...a kind of sense.

None of this would matter if we didn't like Ree herself, though, and she's an excellent lead. What I like about her particularly is that she takes to what she calls her "urban fantasy lifestyle" not out of a curse or being forced into it, as happens to so many heroines in this genre; she does it because it's what she wants to do, and there's no question of walking away to protect herself. Ree Reyes is just cool that way. It's also good to see an LGBTQ lead character who isn't fetishized for her sexuality, and her same-sex romance in Celebromancy and simmering crush on Drake both feel natural, and not for the readers' benefit. If that makes sense. 

Check out an excerpt from Geekomancy here. That, you can probably judge it by.

Stuff I Like - The Incrementalists

Today's Thing is a novel, The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skylar White.

The story begins with Phil; he's a professional cardplayer in Las Vegas. He's also a member of a secret society called The Incrementalists, a collection of immortals who survive by placing their memories and personalities into new bodies. Sometimes the old personality erases the new one, sometimes not so much. Their task is to make the world a better place, but incrementally, a little at a time. And Phil has found his latest recruit; Ren, a software designer, who agrees to have the "stub" of Phil's partner, Celeste, placed inside her.

It does not go according to plan. 

I fell for this book. Hard. It's a clever premise and an interesting plot, but what kept me reading was the story of Ren & Phil's relationship. Even without the plot, I would have read a whole book of these two having a conversation; their love story is funny, exciting, and ultimately, deeply moving. And the writing is philosophical and funny and just right. "The door opened, and Ren emerged, and my heart did a thing." Love that.

As good as Brust and White are, their words are only enhanced by Mary Robinette Kowal and Ray Porter, who narrate the audiobook, Kowal from Ren's perspective and Porter from Phil's. This was my first real exposure to Kowal's work, and I've gone on to enjoy both her own novels (The Glamourist Histories), and her work narrating Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. And Ray Porter is so damn good, y'all. I've since listened to him read all Jonathan Maberry's Joe Ledger novels (stay tuned), and am just finishing up his readings of Chandler's Philip Marlowe books. He's rather become what I aspire to as a narrator.

So, whether you get it in print or audio, check out The Incrementalists. It is A Thing That Is Good.

Stuff I Like - The Middleman

The guy who runs DC Comics at the moment is named Dan Didio. This is what he thinks about heroes.

Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests.... It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand.

...this is why I haven't bought a DC comic in almost four years.

But! We are talking about positivity this month. Javier Grillo-Marxauch is the creator of The Middleman. And this is what he thinks about heroes, at least in relation to his own work.

...for me, thinking about heroism and doing the right thing in my own life – good deeds aren’t always punished, they just don’t go rewarded immediately. That was an interesting point to put across, because that genre of material can be extremely dark and extremely grim, and I thought there was room for a rival hypothesis here, one that was maybe equally valid. I don’t think being downbeat is a question of being realistic or unrealistic. I think it’s a question of world view. It just happens that this is my world view, and I wanted to express it through this medium.

The Middleman was a one-season wonder, running in the summer of 2008 (on ABC Family, of all places). And it took the radical view that maybe, just maybe, working towards a better world shouldn't completely destroy the lives of the people doing that work.

Also, catsuit.

One thing that makes me crazy about pop culture is the reliance of grinding misery in our escapism. Shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead seem designed to punish the viewer for daring to care about the characters. If a movie has a happy ending, you are sure to find a "thinkpiece" tearing it to shreds and explaining why it would have been so much better if the characters had died. It feels like I've heard the same jackass theory about six different movies and shows explaining that the protagonist actually croaked at the end of Act II, and everything that followed was just his wish fulfillment as the electricity in his brain slowly went out.

In The Middleman, the good guys win. They win because they work hard. There are no episodes where either of the main characters stare off into the distance, contemplating their sadness, while a Sara Barielles/Ryan Adams song plays on the soundtrack. They're too busy doing stuff like chasing down vampire puppets.

The Middleman is, despite the quippiness and nigh-endless pop culture references, old-fashioned. The heroes are heroic. The villains are villainous. The world's at stake. There are gangster gorillas, haunted musical instruments and flying zombie fish. But it's not a parody, it's a comedy. There's a difference, and it comes down to the fact that the characters are believable despite the occasional ridiculousness of the situations.

THE WU HAN THUMB OF DEATH!

It would be so easy for The Middleman to be a smug jerk, or Wendy to be a jaded nihilist, but they both run much deeper than that. They both have inner lives, wants and needs, and are both driven to do the right thing. They're pretty great. The show is great. Seek it out, it's available on DVD and iTunes, and hopefully will stream somewhere eventually.

In conclusion: I have laughed at this video every single time I've watched it. And I have watched it many times.

Stuff I Like - Mashup Youtube Videos

Remember that post of nothing but YouTube videos I threatened you with yesterday? Well, here it is, Chester. I like editing. I like mashups. I like these videos.

Doctor Who, edited in the style of the Iron Man 3 end credits.

A trailer for The Day of the Doctor a la Guardians of the Galaxy...

...and Harry Potter in Scott Pilgrim style. Which works surprisingly well.

Well, that's a week's worth of blogging, then. I'll try and have things more together next week,,,

Stuff I Like - 2,000 To 10,000

I have written about Rachel Aaron's invaluable 2,000 To 10,000 before. Many times before. Shut up. You don't know how close you came to a post of nothing but vaguely amusing YouTube videos.

I first read this book after utterly, utterly failing to complete a satisfactory draft of a novel. Oh, I completed a draft, all right, but it was a complete mess. A little searching for writing advice led me to Rachel Aaron's blog, where I found this post, the basis of the book. The expanded work is full of useful, common sense, applicable writing advice that anyone can follow, even a chump like myself. And it's only ninety-nine cents. It is, I assure you, worth a lot more. Go buy it. Obey.