Iron Heart, Autumn and Artwork

I was going to wait until I had a preorder page to point to, but I might as well go ahead and announce this now. It’s been a bit of an open secret for a few weeks now, since I’ve been blabbering about it on Twitter and the Chainsaw Buffet podcast, but I suppose this counts as the “official” announcement: I wrote a novel. As in, a really-real honest-to-God book, and it’s being published by an actual publishing company (as opposed to put up on Kindle like I did for Loose Canons). The book is (at least tentatively, and no one’s mentioned it needing to be changed) titled Iron Heart, and it’s going to be put out by Solstice Publishing sometime in the next few months. Right now, it’s still in the editing pipeline, but I can go ahead and give you a teaser or three. Continue reading

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Good news, everybody.

So I’ve got some sorta-big news that I’m not sure how much I can talk about. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not even very big news, but it’s big to me because it lets me check something off of the list of things I’ve been wanting to accomplish with my life. Can’t tell anybody much more than that, because I don’t know exactly how much I’m allowed to say at this point, and I don’t want to screw this up.

One thing I can tell you is that there are going to be some changes in the site and my Twitter feed. Nothing major, mind you, but a few things will be shuffled around, a few things will be added, and some stuff may be removed. Engaging in some good old-fashioned Soviet-style revisionism, you might say.  This isn’t so much because I’m ashamed to have anything on here associated with me (believe me, I have no shame, no dignity, no remorse, and no pants on as I type this), but because this site’s role is going to be shifting just a mite, and some things might not fit in any more.

While I’m hanging this tantalizing nugget of bullshit out there, I may as well tell you, dear reader, why I haven’t been posting much here or on Chainsaw Buffet the last few months. One reason is the aforementioned not-very-secret and not-really-that-big project I mentioned above.  The rest of the reasons…well, read on.

First, I’ve started back to school to get an associate’s degree in networking and information technology. This is a step away from my former life as a teacher and a step back toward a previous life wasted fixing computers for a local repair shop. A good deal of this process is learning how much I don’t know. So for the next several months, I’ll be going to class and doing on homework and all those other things that go with going back to school, instead of things like writing, going to conventions, and posting inane shit here to annoy people.

Secondly, back in November, my father was run over by a tractor (no, really). He got lucky and came out of the ordeal with nothing more than a few broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder (compared to my father, Chuck Norris is a fucking pansy). Since then, I’ve been doing some work around the farm, since he was laid up for a while. Let me tell you, this section of my resume keeps getting more and more interesting.

Speaking of November, you might have seen me mention that I was doing NaNoWriMo. That was, of course, a bust. My first year attempting NaNo, and I failed (not entirely due to reasons outside of my control). For the moment, I’ve shelved that project (The Red Witch, a novel about airship pirates set in the world of Autumn) to give myself time to figure out what to do with it. Reading back over what I wrote, it’s a lot better than I remembered, so I’ll probably get around to finishing it sooner or later.

Still on the subject of Autumn, I’m also pulling together ideas for a direct sequel to Iron Heart, sussing out exactly what’s happened in the five years between that book and the next. Many things have changed for the characters as the war winds down. Things aren’t going well in Poziel, and there is a growing discontent with the ruling class. If, when, and how that powder keg blows is going to shape the future, not just of that little nation but of the rest of the world.

Finally, I’m not sure whether I’m going to be posting the rest of Revolution here or not. I’ve come to the decision that it’s probably going to remain unfinished. Speaking frankly, it’s too unwieldy for its own good. The plot has gotten more and more complicated and taken itself away from the street-level goings-on that made the first few chapters so good. Add to that the fact that I really have no clue what the main characters’ stake is going to be in the big showdown (as time went on, Meathook took more and more of the stage and had less and less reason to be involved – those chapters haven’t been posted yet). If you want to try to talk me into posting the rest, go right ahead.

So that’s the state of my world as of late January 2012. Now where’s my flying car?

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Miniatures Gallery, Take Two

I decided I’d move my gallery of gaming miniatures to Flickr, as that seems to be a little easier to work with than the cruddy WordPress plugin I was using previously. This also lets me do fancy things like insert it into its own page. The link can be found to the right.

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Krating Daeng: This Shit Will Ruin Your Life, And You Will Thank It

Nectar of the Gods

Fuel for the creative fire.

Among other things, I’m a hedonist, glutton, and above all else, a caffeine fiend. That last part (and possibly the next-to-last) comes into play because this is November, and being that I’m utterly batshit insane, I chose to attempt NaNoWriMo this year and try to spooge as many words onto the virtual page in an attempt to hit 50,000 before December. Averaging 1,667 words a day without chemical assistance is impossible, and Mountain Dew just isn’t going to cut it. I’ve been hitting up the Asian grocery and bringing an old favorite of mine out of retirement.

This is the real Red Bull. Not the stuff sold in cans here, but the original, an energy drink from Thailand called Krating Daeng (which prosaically translates to “Red Bull”). This stuff was sold in Asia for years, thus explaining why they were gaining on the Western nations as their people no longer required insignificant things like sleep, until one day an enterprising Austrian toothpaste salesman (no, really) found that it cured his hangover. Or jet lag, I forget. But being from Austria, I suspect hangover. Then he had the bright idea of reformulating it so that the inferior people of the West could drink it without their stomachs exploding from its sheer awesomeness. Among other changes, they made it less sweet and carbonated it.

If you drink this all at once, you will die.

If you drink this all at once, you will die.

The original Red Bull is still sold in Asia and occasionally imported here to the blighted land of the United States of America. It usually comes in tiny brown bottles such as these that make it look like old-timey medicine. And medicine it is – for everything that ails you. Krating Daeng packs more caffeine than Red Bull, too. It is a sweet, sort-of-berry-flavored nectar of the gods gushing from the teat of Ambrosia herself (and don’t tell me that Ambrosia wasn’t a goddess, heathen). More importantly, Krating Daeng is also sold in ten-packs for about ten bucks, which means your descent into the bowels of caffeine addiction will be affordable.

The only problem is that this shit will absolutely ruin your life, and you will enjoy it all the way. Drinking this stuff regularly is the number-one way to turn into a complete caffeine fiend who, if he can’t get his fix, licks the sludge off of the bottom of the coffee maker to get a high (not that I have ever done that…while sober). Like anything else high in caffeine, the initial rush is nothing short of awesome (at least, as long as you have something to focus that energy on – anything that requires sitting still will make you into a jittery mess)…and then you crash. You will spend the next four or five hours a shambling, burned-out wreck. Unless, that is, you have another Krating Daeng. Then you start the cycle all over again.

By the time this month is over, I’ll have either written that novel, or I’ll be dead. Even money as to which.

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Being a Villain in an Age of Genre-Savviness

As those who know me will confirm, I aspire to be a real-life supervillain (in the same way that Phoenix Jones makes himself out to be a real-life superhero – I’ll get you next time, Jones. NEXT TIIIIMMMMME!). It’s my fondest wish to someday say “I am not a monster.” just before ordering the extermination of all humanity by my robot minions. But, as they say, that’s neither here nor there.

Between the deaths of Muammar Gaddafi and Steve Jobs, it’s been a rough month for villainy. When you factor in the increasing number of genre-savvy heroes raised on fare like Buffy or SG-1 in which the protagonists are well aware of the tropes being played out all around them, it’s getting tougher and tougher to be a credible bad guy. The minute you start spouting classic lines like “You have failed me for the last time, Woz.” or “Kneel before your living god!”, all you get is a knowing eyeroll and a reference to a good psychiatrist.

All of the traditions of good villainy (and yes, I’m aware that’s an oxymoron, but let’s run with it) are there for a reason. The booming voice, the dramatic if impractical uniforms (look at how Steve Jobs dressed – who actually wears black turtlenecks for a purpose other than making a statement?), the cliched and overblown speeches, the randomly torturing or executing minions for failure – all of those are just part of the image. They may not be kosher with the Evil Overlord List, but all of those things exist for a reason. It’s all part of the show, and by “show” I don’t mean that we’re all living inside a little box on someone’s desk (although given the holographic nature of our reality, it’s entirely possible). All of those things are meant to intimidate the common folks and maybe even the heroes (or at least the plucky comic-relief sidekicks, without whom the heroes are going to be useless).

In today’s world, as our media saturation gets closer to overload and people are increasingly filled in on the secret tactics of villains by reality shows (some of the people on those Real Sociopaths of <Insert City Here> shows are more evil than I am, if more petty and stupid), the traditional villain tactics don’t work. It’s not just the heroes who are getting desensitized to intimidation – the general run of the populace has begun to realize that just when someone starts making their big speech about how victory is imminent, a massive energy field is going to make their head explode (or something equivalent). The disease of genre-savviness has infected everyone, turning the public into jaded hipsters who can’t take a real villain seriously.

So, what’s an aspiring villain to do in this new age? My plan is to run with it, and succeed. If I put on the airs of traditional villainy, nobody’s going to believe I’m a real threat until it’s too late. If you run around dressing funny and making grand speeches about world domination, everyone will think you’re just a harmless nutter (that, or they’ll hail you as a technological messiah, as with Uncle Steve). This will in turn make my plans of world conquest easier to accomplish, because everyone will underestimate me. By the time they wise up, I’ll be far enough along that nobody can stop me. It’s a brilliant plan! That’s how a villain’s got to make a living these days – hipster irony, but so be it.

If Gadhafi had known about this, he might still be alive. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a fitting scheduled for my gold armor and black cape. I was also thinking about growing a toothbrush mustache – I’m a traditionalist.

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Tomorrow’s Reading List: Nonfiction and the Red Witch

Right now I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo, getting ideas squared away for a novel set in the world of Autumn (not a direct sequel to Iron Heart). This particular story is the tale of a pack of air pirates operating from an airship called Red Witch. Since I can’t technically do any writing without cheating (and I’m trying to stick to the rules of NaNoWriMo as much as I can), I’m spending the time leading up to it doing research. Since I’ve already started posting my progress here, I might as well keep it up by laying out my reading list for this week.

  • Ted Ownby’s Subduing Satan: Being that the air pirates in question are from the constructed world’s equivalent of Appalachia, this book about religion, sin and being a man fits right in. Sure, it only covers the time period up until about 1920, but Autumn is something of a mishmash of eras anyway, with a Victorian social structure overlaid with 1930s technology (with some Gernsbackian improvements, naturally). In particular, the nation these fine dishonest fellows hail from is, socially speaking, similar to our own in the 1890s, with robber barons and corrupt politicians running a freewheeling confederacy of semi-independent states. Subduing Satan‘s themes about men (and only men, not women) being expected to be sinful creatures and evangelical religion in turn trying drive the Devil out of them fits right in with who these people are supposed to be. The way I envision these air pirates (or at least most of the crew), there’s a certain air of Tom Sawyer morality – good clean mischief (so that mischief involves shooting up everyone else’s airships and stealing their cargos – that’s good and clean, right?).
  • Alex Kershaw’s The Few: In working up some notes on the various characters crewing Red Witch, I envisioned the captain (I won’t call him a hero, because in my notes he’s developing a distinctly antiheroic turn) having a wingman who is a grizzled veteran. He fought as a mercenary in one of the previous wars, in the equivalent of the Lafayette Escadrille. He infamously got shot down, put in a prison camp, and escaped.  He didn’t sign up because he thought the side was right – just for the money and the adventure, and because (as he says) he was young and stupid. That’s not really anything like the eight Americans who went to fight in the Battle of Britain (which is what The Few is about), but it’s probably what inspired the background, and maybe rereading the book will help flesh out some of the character’s exploits.

There they are – two completely different books which may or may not inspire the world of Autumn. I’ve always said that the last project was a collection of all the weird esoterica I’ve collected in prowling the internet. This second one is clearly turning out to be the same – taking all the strange and unusual things I’ve read, picking them apart, and putting the pieces together in a new way. That’s what writing is, after all.

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A Treasure Trove of Obscure Media

A small fortune in 1984. A small, obsolete fortune.

A small fortune in 1984. A small, obsolete fortune.

So, a funny thing happened during a visit to the Goodwill store today. Amongst the old housewares, I came upon not one but two tubs full of CEDs. No, I didn’t mistakenly put the “E” in there. It’s a form of home video you’ve probably never heard of, because it lasted all of four years. If it wasn’t for old media and general weirdness being a hobby of mine, and Total Rewind’s excellent overview of the format, I probably wouldn’t have any idea what these giant floppy disk-looking things are. And no, despite appearances, they’re actually nothing like floppies. They’re not even digital.

Technologically, these things are unlike anything else ever used for storing video (or audio, unless I miss my guess). They’re all-analogue (otherwise the chap over at Total Rewind wouldn’t be covering them – his bailiwick is strictly pre-digital), and akin to a record (the vinyl kind hipsters give up their testicles for), except using a stylus reading the capacitance of the sections of the disc instead of a wavy little groove. Part of me wants to buy these up, them being semi-rare and all, but I’d never be able to find a working machine to play them on. The waifu doesn’t really like me bringing home excess junk at any rate.

A ton of money can't buy good taste.

A ton of money can't buy good taste.

More curious to me is the story behind these bins full of CEDs. Back in 1984, each of these discs retailed for about $19.98 to $34.98, with the release of Conan the Barbarian (not the Destroyer, seen on top of the stack – but close enough) going for a whopping $44.98. Keep in mind that’s 1984 money, not 2011 money when $19.98 buys you a trip to Quizno’s. In here-and-now money, that’s about forty bucks minimum for just one of these suckers. Somebody spent a metric crapton of money on these discs (not counting the players, which were around $400 – or today $800, by comparison), only to have them become completely unheard-of by about 1986 or so.

What’s more interesting is what these movies say about the person’s taste – and not anything good. In between more mainstream fare like Ghostbusters and The Black Stallion are a ton of the horrible barbarian fantasy movies and Road Warrior and Star Wars clones like Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone that everyone was churning out in the early 80s (and yeah, Spacehunter is a clone of both of those – at least if I remember right, since it’s been twenty-five years or so since I’ve seen it). Whoever owned this impressive collection had questionable taste, but at least it was the kind of questionable taste I can get behind. I loves me 80s post-apocalyptic movies.

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Rules For Naming an Airship in the World of Autumn

Lately I’ve been working on wrapping up and editing Iron Heart, a dieselpunk novel set in a constructed world I’m tentatively calling Autumn. No idea where the name of the world came from, but it seemed to fit. You may, of course, feel free to disagree, being that until my mad scientists who are working around the clock finish building my mind-control beam, this is a free country with other opinions allowed. After that, you will agree whether you like it or not.

So here I am, gearing up for NaNoWriMo and putting together ideas for a second novel (but not actually doing writing on the story itself), a sort of side-story set on the other front of the war, featuring a pack of Yankee trader air pirates out to make a buck off of the war by raiding while the major powers are distracted. The first thing was to come up with a name for the airship the protagonists live on, since that sets the tone for the story (and it’s a fun mental exercise, too). Unsurprisingly, some of the conventional ideas for naming ships didn’t work. So to help myself work it out, I put together some rules for what’s in and what’s out. Enjoy reading me talking to myself.

Continue reading

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Somebody Else’s Puppy

For the last five weeks, we have been lucky enough to foster a very special little puppy. When my wife suggested it, I resisted because I knew we would get attached and have a hard time letting go. Today, as we put him into the crate to be taken away, that’s exactly what happened. I looked into his sad eyes and knew he didn’t understand why he was being taken away from us. In a few short weeks, this little white puppy had become part of our lives and part of our pack.

It wasn’t surprising that Posh (we didn’t name him) would make himself a part of the family. He’s outgoing and playful, and loves everybody.  He latched onto Zoe, one of our dogs, and made himself a new best friend. Posh even slept snuggled up against her. Our other dog, Lucas, took a while longer to come around, but he eventually did. I’m not sure if Posh’s absence has hit them yet.

We knew from the beginning that he was going to be somebody else’s puppy. But for a few weeks, he was our puppy. We knew he had to go on, but we let him into our lives anyway. All of the usual puppy problems – the chewing, the housetraining, the waking up in the middle of the night – were worth it.

Right now, Posh is on his way to New York on the Rolling Rescue. From there, he’ll be adopted. I know it, because he’s everything a puppy should be and he’ll charm his way into someone’s heart in no time. He did with us. And then, he’ll be somebody’s puppy again. He’ll have a forever home.

We were just a way station, a stopover for a few weeks. I hope we did Posh some good. He still hasn’t mastered housetraining yet, but hopefully we gave him something. I hope that Posh’s new family will realize how special he is and give him the home he deserves.

I don’t think we can foster another puppy. Right now, I can’t go through this again. A little part of me has left along with Posh. Even our dogs, as special as they are, can’t fill the hole in out lives shaped like a little white puppy named Posh.

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I just had a “Wonko the Sane” moment.

In Douglas Adams’s overrated sci-fi epic (of sorts), the five-book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “trilogy” (That’s the term the publisher uses, so don’t blame me if it doesn’t make any sense. It’s British, so in most people’s minds, it’s excused from niceties like making sense), there’s a character who calls himself Wonko the Sane. At some point prior to the other characters meeting him, Wonko picks up a package of toothpicks and finds that there’s a warning label on it. Wonko’s conclusion is naturally that any society so far gone as to have to put warnings on toothpicks lest some idiot impale himself on one has gone irretrievably insane. After this revelation, Wonko builds an asylum to keep the world in. Really, he just fences off the area around his house as the part “outside” the asylum, but let’s not quibble too much with him, since he’s possibly the last sane man on Earth.

Today, I had my very own “Wonko the Sane” moment. I’ve discovered one of the most damning pieces of evidence that the human race is too far gone to survive that I have yet to come across. I picked up a package of fruit snacks (you know, the squishy little things that may or may not have been fruit at one point), and this was on the back:

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

That’s right, there’s an honest-to-god warning label on the package of fruit snacks. Are we really so far gone that we not only have to put warnings on these things so that someone doesn’t let their child have them until said child has mastered the difficult art of chewing? Or, more likely, are we such a litigious society that the manufacturer needed this kind of legal hinder-covering to prevent getting sued into oblivion by some distraught parent whose child choked on these things?

Okay, humanity, you got me. We’re done here. Time to let the next dominant species have the planet.

Next warning label on a product: "Fire is hot."

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