Novel month 2019 – Day 1

Here we go again. Winds of Change is our title this time around. Strictly speaking, I did some worldbuilding and planning early, but that’s okay.

Today’s word count: 2,105
Projected word count: 63,150

Nothing too strenuous this year. In fact, that projected word count is a lie. This book won’t be that long. Not if I have anything to say about it, at least. But who knows where the story will take us?

Release: Seasons Change (Othersides 01)

It’s been about a year since the last time I put out a free story. This one works because it just doesn’t work anywhere else. Seasons Change, the first of my “Othersides” series, is now available on my Patreon.

The rest of this post will contain Otherworld spoilers, so be warned.

Continue reading Release: Seasons Change (Othersides 01)

Release: Change of Heart (Endless Forms 3)

Another October has rolled around, so let’s release another monster novel, why don’t we?

What is real, and what is within our minds?

Cam Weir has seen things no human being should ever look upon. Once, he was a skeptic, believing that monsters were nothing more than figments of the imagination. Hallucinations, certainly not reality. But now he knows the truth.

And the truth is only getting stranger, for this case doesn’t match those he has investigated. Details are different. Motives are unclear. Worst of all, the gruesome murder of an accountant will lead Cam to a frightening conclusion. Because this monster will strike too close to his heart.

Change of Heart is the third installment of Endless Forms, a paranormal thriller series I started writing in 2017. You can pick this book up over at my Patreon with a Serious Reader pledge of only $3 a month, and you’ll also find the two preceding novels, The Shape of Things and The Beast Within. If you prefer physical copies, those two are on Amazon already, and Change of Heart will join them in a few short months. Whatever your choice, thank you, and this is not the end of the series by any means. So keep reading!

Release: Point of Origin (Return to the Otherworld 7)

Part 7 of Return of the Otherworld, Point of Origin, is different in a very important way: it’s all set on Earth. Yes, this entry in the Otherworld series never features the Otherworld. It’s got characters from there, sure, but it’s a bit like the bridge stories “The Control Variable” and “The Candle’s Flame”. Indeed, it connects with the latter of those quite often.

Earth, the cradle of humanity. For the returning members of the second expedition, seeing their home planet once more has left them overjoyed, refreshed, renewed. Now, the vigor of youth reasserts itself. Scarcely any time at all has passed, yet some already plan the next voyage to the other world, while those who never left prepare for new discoveries that will rewrite history.

One among them, however, suspected the truth all along. Now that he has proof, undeniable evidence of his theory, he will bring new players to the table. They have a single goal in mind, and many ways to achieve it. For the expedition, tensions are rising. For the siblings who see Earth as heaven rather than home, their innocence may become their undoing.

This was a tough story to write, I’ll admit. Most of my favorite characters are missing. There’s no Alex, no Amy, no Jeff or Lee or their loved ones. Instead, you get the set-up for one of the major conflicts of Season 3, and a very vague, very oblique tie-in to two of my other series. (I’m not joking there. They really are connected.)

Be sure to head over to my Patreon to check this one out, and get ready for the finale, Future in Sight, coming in November. Until then, keep reading, and get ready for Nanowrimo! Oh, and wish me a happy birthday, because it’s tomorrow. Bye!

Release: Whence We Came (Return to the Otherworld 6)

In my works, I sometimes use “archaic” language. It often feels more appropriate, especially when you’re writing fantasy or something otherwise set in the distant past. Well, the Otherworld isn’t the past, but it’s a little like it, so I went for it. And now you get to see the result: Whence We Came. (For reference, “whence” roughly means “from where”.)

Revelry marks the changing of the season, and many of those visiting the other world fondly recall the celebrations of a year ago. Some seek to rekindle the flames doused when they departed, while others look for a spark to set them alight.

Most of all, they want to go home. Whether that home is on the planet of their birth, or the new one in which they have found themselves, everyone looks forward to the first day of summer. But when the away team returns, they will find that changes await them. Discoveries have been made, alliances forged, and three months in the other world have left the second expedition behind.

In a way, this one’s a lot like Long Road’s End from Chronicles of the Otherworld. I used the same “whip-around” narration for the first few chapters, giving each of them a single day rather than a single character. But the other four aren’t epilogue material. Instead, they set things up for the next two stories.

As always, remember that you can get my Otherworld works over at my Patreon, and they only cost you a pledge of $3 per month. Not to mention all the other great stuff you get.

I hope you’ll stick around for at least a couple more months, too, because it’s time to start wrapping up the Otherworld expedition for this year. The final stories are a bit different, as you’ll see soon enough. Until then, keep reading!

Summer Reading List 2019: A delayed finale

(Note: I posted this late because I wrote it late. But I’m slipping it in like it was here all along. Rest assured that I did finish the reading on time, as you can see on my fediverse postings: @mikey@letsalllovela.in.)

Summer is over, at least in the unofficial sense. We’ve still got a few days left in the actual season, but the vacation part is done, so let’s take a look at what I read.

This year was a little different, owing to my…current relationship status. I only had about a week and a half of that during last summer’s challenge, but this one has seen me interested in someone (and seen her interested in me, which is far more surprising!) for a full two months of summer. And it thus became a lot harder to complete the challenge, because I barely have any reading time as it is, and that just caused a bigger crunch. So I actually didn’t finish the third book until the last few days of August.

But that’s okay. I accomplished my goal. On time is on time, even if it’s the 11th hour. You saw the first book I read back in my midpoint update. Here are the other two.

History (non-fiction)

Title: The War that Made America
Author: Fred Anderson
Genre: History
Year: 2006

This was the last book I finished, but the first I started. Throughout the summer, I used it as kind of a “background” book, one I read when I had a few minutes and didn’t want to get into anything. As a general-audience history text, it’s perfect for that, divided into small chapters and littered with numerous illustrations that I mostly ignored.

The topic is the French and Indian War, and that hooked me for one reason: I like more obscure events in history. Considering how pivotal this war was for creating the United States as we know it, you wouldn’t expect it to be that obscure, but it’s a bit of a forgotten war, in much the same way as, say, the Spanish-American War. (I suspect that Korea will follow that, once it passes beyond living memory in a couple of decades.)

Mostly, the book describes how the British nearly bungled their attempt at conquering French holdings in North America. By a series of fortunate events, they got a few important victories. That, coupled with the way they were able to play the various Indian nations off one another (and the French), enabled them to take vital forts and trading posts in the modern Midwest and Pennsylvania, but at a high cost of men and honor. At the same time, they and their allies in Germany were fighting a much more “traditional” sort of conflict in Europe—the Seven Years War, of which the French and Indian was merely a theater of operations—so this could be considered, in effect, the real first world war.

Anderson does a good job of telling the tale, though he focuses more on the events leading up to the important battles than the fighting itself. Yes, there is some description of 18th-century siege warfare, as well as the way the rules of engagement differed between the Old World and the New, but this is definitely not an action-packed account of a war. Instead, it’s a higher-level view that shows why that war came about, how it almost fell apart, and what happened next.

That’s both the best and worst part of the book. George Washington had a command in the French and Indian War, and he pretty much blew it. For that effort, he becomes the “wrapper” for the text, which is an odd choice, in my opinion, as he then all but disappears from the tale until the end. Still, it’s nice to see what is, in effect, the prequel of the American Revolution.

All in all, I liked The War that Made America, but I won’t say it’s great. It’s a solid, well-researched account of an undervalued part of history, but it’s not the kind of book you want to scour for trivia. Really, it’s more a teaser than anything, because now I do want to delve more into the world circa 1760.

Science Fiction

Title: Red Mars
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Genre: Science fiction
Year: 1993

I don’t read a lot of science fiction. This may seem odd, considering I’m writing a novel of that genre at this very moment, but I just don’t. That, I’ve learned, is related to my depression: the future described in so many of the stories that interest me is so far away that I’ll never live to see it, and that makes me very sad for myself and for the world that, to my eyes, has all but given up on advancement and is looking instead to return to the barbaric times before the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment, two of mankind’s three greatest eras.

The greatest of all, of course, is the Space Age, and that is where we have squandered our future the most. Reading Red Mars, I can’t help but think this. Written over a quarter-century ago, it shows its age mostly by referring to a present that never was.

Anyway, I’ve made it pretty clear on here that I love space exploration, and I love Mars. So this novel should be right up my alley, but I just didn’t like it that much. Maybe I’m too critical, but the whole thing felt like a scientist writing fiction, not a fiction author writing science. The prose style is grating in a way I find hard to describe. The pacing makes the novel feel more like an anthology of short stories. On the other hand, the scientific aspects are mostly impeccable. Mostly. I’m an amateur, but even I noticed a couple of errors that can’t entirely be attributed to optimistic projections. (The most egregious example is setting up solar panels at ~80°N latitude on Mars. That’s…not exactly a power move.)

Story-wise, Red Mars is all over the place. At the start, you’re unceremoniously dumped into a tense situation, with little idea of who’s who or what they’re even fighting about. But that’s a flash-forward. After this extended prologue, the story jumps back to the trip from Earth to Mars, the founding of the first human colony on another planet. Honestly, the voyage itself is underwhelming (I blame the POV character for this part). The founding of Underhill and the events of Part 3, on the other hand, contain some of the most evocative passages I’ve ever read. Then, after a large time-skip, the second half of the book seems to be a rushed mess that still somehow lasts for about 300 pages.

To sum up, I’ll say that I see Red Mars as a flawed masterpiece. In setting, it’s great. The Mars painted by Robinson is, as Buzz Aldrin said of the Moon, magnificent desolation. And a lot of the colony-building aspects are surprisingly deep. Alas, there’s just not enough time to explore, whether that’s the beautiful wasteland of the Red Planet or the inner space of the few characters who aren’t total sociopaths or misanthropes. I’ve been told that the other two entries in the trilogy make the story more complete, so I’ll give them a shot, because the setting itself is worth it.

Conclusion

So that’s another summer in the books. (Heh. Look at my puns.) If you played along, I hope you had fun, you achieved your goals, and you broadened your horizons. Two of my three choices—the two above, in fact—were never on my radar until the end of May, and that’s really the point of this challenge. Try something new. You won’t know what you like until you do.

Even though the Summer Reading List Challenge is over for 2019, that’s no reason to stop, so…keep reading!

Release: Fortress of Steel, part 2 (Modern Minds 5)

Four more months means a new Modern Minds story. This time around, it’s the conclusion to “Fortress of Steel”, which you first saw back in April. If you read that one, you don’t really need a blurb, but you get one anyway:

Amid the tumult of storms and the times, Dirk finds himself drawn into an adventure he never truly wanted. For all its impenetrable defenses, his mind continues to follow his heart. No power on earth can affect his thoughts, his emotions, but love and fear will find a way.

As usual, you can find it over on my Patreon for only $3 a month. And December will bring yet another little story in this series, “Memory Remains”. Keep watching for that one, and I’ll see you soon.

Summer Reading List 2019: Midpoint madness

We’re around the halfway point of summer, and considerably farther through the unofficial season of the Summer Reading List Challenge. This year, thanks to what we’ll call “fortunate events”,1 I haven’t finished all three of the books, but I do have one, so here we go.

Fiction

Title: Sins of Empire
Author: Brian McClellan
Genre: Fantasy
Year: 2017

I’ll go ahead and say this up front: Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage series quickly became one of my all-time favorite fantasy trilogies. It occupies a small but growing niche variously referred to as flintlock fantasy or riflepunk, which counters the oft-held belief that fantasy ends with the invention of gunpowder. I love that sort of genre-bending, and those three novels hit a sweet spot for me.

Well, Sins of Empire continues the story. It’s the first of a new series, Gods of Blood and Powder, but it carries over many of the characters. Set about ten years in the future, on a new continent, it has a kind of “summer blockbuster” feel: full of action, with a few nonsensical twists and an epic finale. The prose is, at times, not the greatest, something I’ve begun to notice with increasing regularity. But this book makes up for it in worldbuilding, in pacing, and in the sheer fun of the ride.

I’ve had this one sitting in my to-do pile since last Christmas, and I’m glad I chose it for this year’s challenge. It’s not a filling meal. No, it’s more of a dessert, something for a reader’s sweet tooth. Which isn’t all that bad, as long as you don’t over do it.

Coming up

I still have two more books to finish in the next month or so. I’m more than halfway through one, but I haven’t started the other. It looks like this might be a summer of procrastination, but that’s okay. It’s what I did in school, right?


  1. One of those fortunate events doesn’t like my completely logical punctuation style, but she’s not reading this. 

Release: Falling Into Place (Return to the Otherworld 5)

Now it’s time for the fallout. Here begins the second half of Return to the Otherworld, and we start with Part 5, Falling Into Place.

Disaster averted.

The other world, or this part of it, has seen much better days, but all agree that the worst has passed. Now, the members of the second expedition, along with those who have made their homes here, can return to the bigger business of science, learning, exploring.

But all is not well. The stress of the past weeks has taken its toll. The uncertainty of the future leaves some shaken. And further danger lurks beyond the borders of this fair land. As time runs out on their stay, the students, the teacher, and all those closest to them search for the perfect ending to the tale of spring.

Just because the flood’s over, that doesn’t mean our team is out of the woods. Oh, no. That would be too easy. Now, the scope of their effects on the Otherworld are growing. People are noticing. And decisions must soon be made.

You can get Falling Into Place, along with all my other Otherworld works (now that’s a tongue-twister!) over at my Patreon. It only costs $3/month, and there’s so much more left in store. Like Whence We Came, which is only six weeks away. I’ll see you then.