I thought that being free of the demands of a 9-5 schedule would open my life to its fullest potential. Instead I did even less.

I have not been very busy these last few months. In fact there are people who, in death, have posthumously managed to get more done than I have. I have been in a perpetual state of limbo and procrastination about many things in my life, craft, career, and relationships. On the plus side, I have watched every show and managed to somehow grow fat on my abdomen.

Waaaay back in April I had a plan for how my life would go in the wacky wild realm of independent publishing. I was going to be a boss on the daily. I was going to wake up, exercise, cook breakfast, do social media, write, connect with friends etc. etc. And of course there would be a little time devoted to housework.

It's not like I didn't have the best intentions...

To aid in my efficiency I purchased several months' supply of a product called (somewhat ominously) Soylent, a full day's nutrition in a gallon of mildly unflavored whey protein and essential vitamins. The idea is that you would whip up a batch of this stuff every day and get all your food needs without the fuss of cooking or the decision fatigue that comes with planning meals.

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It's not made of people and, when freshly made, is quite drinkable. It's slightly sweet and vaguely reminiscent of sawdust but overall it's flavor neutral and goes down like a shake or smoothie. The problems came with overnight refrigeration.

It thickened into a texture that is not something that my primitive instincts told me was not something I should drink. it was an effort of will to swallow it without gagging. I could sip it but that took FOREVER. I researched online. Other customers made similar complaints and the company has updated the product. I made a halfhearted attempt to add flavored oils but I just lost interest.

I still liked the idea in theory, but I was cutting costs. I still have crates of the stuff around the house and I comfort myself that if a zombie apocalypse or global pandemic hit, I'd be set for a solid month.

I must have made my final batch one morning, probably around May, and forgot to finish it. I also put off dumping it out because... laziness. I knew I should probably do something about it but it was in a sealed container. I also began to worry that it would smell. I am very sensitive to rotting smells to the point that I will throw food out before sniffing it. (See: Rancid Chicken)

In August I was attacked by some asphalt and injured my knee, giving me a free pass on any and all domestic chores.

Sometime before August the beige liquid began to separate into thicker beige at the bottom and milky water on top reaching the level of "science experiment". Over the following weeks more of the beige sludge gathered at the bottom and more cloudy water appeared at top.

Normally I would just throw out the entire pitcher. My refridgerator is littered with questionable containers that could probably be washed and re-used but I have no problem throwing them out rather than deal with the ick factor.

(Sidebar: I developed this wasteful habit when I was living with a meth addict who left dishes in the sink. She was not one of those meth heads who cleans so, after I returned from a three week trip to Scandinavia, they were still there. I couldn't take it anymore and I cleaned. At the bottom of the stagnant sink, I found a spoon of peanut butter with a maggot on it and said, "NOPE. Straight to garbage." )

Every time I looked into the barren abyss of my refrigerator I would notice something else that needed to be thrown out: old cheese, Chinese leftovers, a half drank bottle of Ensure from my weight gaining phase. I could have thrown them out but then I'd have to deal with the Soylent.

Today, since I may not have endless weekdays, I finally had the perfect day I imagined when I quit my 9-5. I woke up early, made scrambled eggs, did errands, wrote 2,000 words, took a walk, did my laundry, made the bed. I threw out all of my inedibles. The Soylent pitcher was eerily not as rancid as I expected. There was no smell and the pitcher cleaned up in 30 seconds.

And it left me wondering... why had I put it off so long? What was the big deal? Why had this one part of this one task become so insurmountable that I neglected it for eight months?

When you are self-employed and living alone, without accountability to anyone, it is easy to make excuses, and even the flimsiest one seems valid. The stuff was too gross to touch, it might smell, the garbage bins were too far away, it was too hot, then it was too cold, and it always seemed raining whenever I was in the mood to do it.

I'd like to say a great weight had been lifted at that moment but it was really kinda a meh moment. In fact, the weight had been lifted before that when I started to take steps to take control of my life. It meant cutting back on alcohol and enforcing a bed time so that I had the energy to see a simple task for what it was.

With a good night sleep, I'm unstoppable. Without it, the world is overwhelming and everything is a chore.

Moral to the Story

First, The free pitcher I got with my Soylent is awesome. It remained air tight for nearly eight fucking months and there was no sign of mold or decay. I'm glad I kept it.

Second, if you're feeling that things are spiraling out of control, make sure you're taking care of yourself. It may be as simple as getting adequate rest or exercise.

Finally... like the character in the Shel Silverstein poem, Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout, who simply would not take the garbage out, remember-- It's best to get that shit out of the way before it becomes unpleasant.

I won't lie, praise is great, and especially welcome to be included in a GLBT review site. Most of the books reviewed are romance. I think it's great that there are so many readers out there interested in M/M romance. I think it's equally encouraging that people of all orientations are open to more mainstream Sci Fi/Fantasy that includes diverse characters.

I think that's a good sign for a healthy expansion of the readership out there.

Rainbow Gold Reviews

The review is up on Rainbow Gold Reviews along with a short piece about the importance of inclusivity in fantasy fiction. It's actually been up for a while but... I've been getting my shit together on a lot of various levels lately and blogging has fallen by the wayside.

 

Perhaps, like me, you will find yourself drawn into an exciting new fantasy world that feels like a mix of G.R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and Terry Prachett’s ‘Discworld’ novels, while retaining a fresh and unique quality that will make you unwilling to put down the book for even a second.

Queercentric Books

I was also treated to another 4.5 star review on Queercentric Books. In addition to reviews, they also feature a weekly mailing list highlighting free and bargain books for authors and readers.

The whole concept of The Queen of Lies was brilliant! A very original and unique story line. I really liked that the story was told from everyone’s POVs. If you’re a fantasy lover, this story will not be a let down. There’s straight lovin’, M/M lovin’, drugs, drinking, and plenty of magic to go around.

 

 

 

 

I've been a fan of the Fallout franchise since the first one where I was able to get gay married to the farmer's idiot son Davin. Davin was useless and you couldn't get rid of him unless you shot him (or sold him into slavery for 300 caps) but I spent endless hours exploring the wasteland.

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And so it was with the enthusiasm of a post college graduate without a regular job that I downloaded Fallout 4.

I pulled an all nighter... that went into the next day. Nearly 36 hours later I finally convinced myself to go to sleep. Over the course of November when all my writer friends were writing their November novels, I was glued to my screen. I took only the occasional break to attend to functions essential for existence: urinating, buying more beer, and watching The Good Wife.

If you've ever said to yourself, "Self, I want to do nothing but play video games," my  only word of caution is be careful what you wish for...

I have done zero publicity for my second book. My third book, meanwhile has been sorely neglected; as has my blog, personal hygiene, and living conditions. I went days without talking to another living soul as I searched for my imaginary son in an virtual wasteland and looting garbage like someone on Hoarders.

I've gotten the faint hint of a pot belly from my lack of physical activity. To be fair, my busted knee kicked off the whole sitting around all day habit but my metabolism is showing the first signs of finally slowing down after nearly forty years of flawless performance.

But, after 62 levels, eighty hours of game play, and two of four possible endings... I'm ready to return to society. I got a haircut, put in more hours at work, and started writing my next chapter.

Book 3 (no working title yet) is a major departure from the first two, focusing on the Travelers and their secrets. I'm very excited to see how everything from the first two is finally fitting together. Stay tuned.

 

At some point every writer must confront this question: If my fictional characters had access to Disney animated films, which ones would they enjoy? (Believe it or not, these kinds of silly exercises do help writers with characterization-- imagining people in improbable situations and developing a response that feels true to the character)

Sword - Aladdin.

In addition to a wisecracking genie this film features a sentient carpet, who Sword would argue is the true protagonist. Aladdin and Jasmine also get pretty hot and heavy on the rug, which has a personality. Sword would point out that constitutes a three way.

Second choice: Alice in Wonderland. Sword's preferred method of killing enemies is decapitation. "Off with her head" is more than a catchphrase for Sword. Also the concept of vorpal swords was created by Lewis Carol.

Sword's playful and a sucker for romance stories.

Jessa - Frozen.

As a Stormlord, Jessa understands Elsa's burdens of being royalty with power over the elements. It also features a killer power ballad that deals with a young woman becoming her own person. "Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway"

Second choice would be Snow White for its accurate portrayal of queens and their inherent evil.

Of all the characters, Jessa is probably the best with kids and would enjoy spending time watching almost anything with children. Except Spongebob... the bottom of the sea is a dangerous vault of murder and no place for little ones.

Maddox - Fantasia.

It should also be noted that Maddox would have little patience for family entertainment, or would at least would never admit it openly. That doesn't mean he can't enjoy being critical and sarcastic. Maddox likes the sorcerer's apprentice but would loudly complain that telekinesis is much safer than the film indicates.

Second choice: Dumbo. The racist stereotypes would be lost on people from Maddox's world (where dark skin is sometimes a sign of status) but the elephant gets drunk.

Of all my characters, he has the best singing voice so he might belt out some anthems in the privacy of his chambers. He also loves to draw... so any of the Pixar movies would be basically garbage to him.

Heath -Brave.

Heath does not suffer fools and Merida is a capable protagonist. In any other setting would be a skilled assassin. Although Heath has impressive powers, he prefers to rely on skill and intelligence. He's always calm under pressure.

Second choice: Pinnochio. In a world where magic can detect lies, Heath has disciplined himself to be immune to detection by adopting a solipsistic definition of truth he can bend to his own purposes. He would take Pinnochio's curse as a personal challenge in proving the subjectivity of truth.

As an antihero, Heath would probably reject the narrative of most films. He prefers practicality to morality and would view modern entertainment as overly simplistic. He doesn't read fiction.

But third choice? Princess and the Frog. Tiana reminds Heath of his mother.

Satryn - The Little Mermaid.

But only the parts with Ursala.

Otherwise Satryn would find most Disney films too saccharine to stomach. They're simple entertainment for people who believe that being noble is better than being powerful.

It's propaganda that convinces the less ambitious to find comfort in their mediocrity.

Soren - Winnie the Pooh.

A sweet non-violent movie about a cute little bear and his friends, what could be better? Soren likes entertainment that doesn't reflect the harsh realities of life.

Second Choice: The Incredibles. Although the modern setting is a bit confusing, the cool superhuman abilities win him over.

Like Pooh, Soren borders on being both incredibly naive and remarkably well adjusted.

Lyta -Sleeping Beauty.

Lyta has always dreamed of being the one to save the beautiful princess. Plus Aurora bears a striking resemblance to her ex girlfriend. Lyta is very protective of those she cares about and and relates to the struggle to keep loved ones safe.

Second Choice: Monsters Inc. Lyta is a beautiful woman who has a hidden monstrous side. At her core she struggles with both sides of her identity. She might like Monsters Inc for its sympathetic portrayal of people who are different.

Lyta has spent most of her life pretending to be someone and something else.

Libertine - Wall-E.

Libby is from our world. She appreciates, more than anyone, the social commentary about the environment and excesses of modern society. She escaped an apocalyptic world so it's not just an allegory.

Second Choice: Spirited Away. Because it's a masterpiece, obvi.

Libby doesn't go for the cannon of Disney Princess flicks because of their problematic portrayals of women.

I'm pleased to announce the release of The Mirrored City, the second installment on the Architects of the Grand Design series. It's out today on Amazon Kindle Unlimited and available in paperback.

smallbookMCThe book takes place a year after the events in the first. It incorporates elements of horror, mystery, and action in a fresh setting. The old characters are back along with some new faces.

As an added bonus you can pick up the first book, The Queen of Lies for free on Amazon today!

The Mirrored City

Maddox is a broken man, held together by the will of his sentient sword. Heath is a prophet of a forgotten god— and an assassin. Jessa is an inexperienced ruler, struggling to broker a truce between her warring nation and her enemies.

That plan for peace is threatened by the local politics of the Mirrored City, a place ruled by dual theocratic governments. Beneath the tenuous accord between the two halves of the city lies centuries of hostility that threaten to break out into open war. Treacherous conspiracies, deadly diplomacy, a string of grisly murders, and the return of the Old Magic could spell the end for all Creation.

No one is who or what they seem. A quest for answers leads the champions to a deadly battle with their greatest foe yet: themselves.

 

Okay, I'm going to be real with y'all for just a second. When I'm not working on my next book I'm a TV junkie. I have literally watched every episode of every show, to the point that I have run out of things to watch.

I'm hardly alone. At an average of 90 minutes a day Americans spend more time on Netflix than they do eating or having sex. Netflix alone accounts for a third of all internet traffic. Of course I don't get all this stuff from Netflix... I also have Prime and the "other" streaming service.

It's ironic because I used to pride myself on not owning a television. To be fair, television in the days of the major networks was generally terrible. It probably still is... I still don't own a TV but it has through various ways and means found me and it's Good. There are so many awesome shows on nowadays people complain that you can't see them all.

Those are obviously people with day jobs and families. By the time most people are hitting their 2PM slump, I've caught up on everything that aired the previous day. If Netflix or Amazon dump a series in it's entirety I clear my schedule. (There are some shows I didn't get into-- Amazon's original programming is a little bit hit or miss for me.)

I tell myself that it's good practice for understanding character, plot and dialogue. And in a way I think it is. The Queen of Lies was an ambitious undertaking for a first novel-- most authors stick to a central character and a subplot or two. My brain doesn't work that way and I think I owe that in part to binge watching and seeing plots that don't have neat summaries unfold in the course of ten uninterpreted hours.

Obviously there's a diminishing return. I have a stack of books that lie neglected, which is shameful because I am after all writing books. I've read maybe ten since april.

Below, in purely alphabetical order, is every show I could come up with in under ten minutes that I have seen in it's entirety within the last year-ish. How does your viewing stack up to this list?  ...continue reading "I Have a TV Addiction (70 Shows in the last year)"

I read ebooks almost exclusively but there are some cases when hard copy is absolutely required. From the moment I laid eyes on Wonderbook I knew I must have a physical copy.

So great was my desire to own this tome that I invoked the same day delivery gambit through Amazon. For those of you who don't know... a same day order placed around 4-5 PM in a city with heavy traffic has a ~60% fail rate. If it fails they refund shipping and you get it the next day. I was in luck and I had free next day delivery.

The book did not disappoint and continues to delight me. I was impressed by the whimsical cabinet of curiosities it presented. Filled with lavish and surreal illustrations, Jeff VanderMeer's Wonderbook is like discovering a hidden treasure or mysterious codex. And it's chock full of writing wisdom. Seriously, buy it.

But I had a hard time making it through it at first. I found my eyes scanning topic sentences and skipping entire paragraphs without realizing what was making me so impatient. Then as I was reading in bed, a chilling notion crept into the recesses of my mind:

I think this might be easier with reading glasses.

As it happens I own a pair of 1990's-esque Lisa Loeb looking glasses I found on the street many years ago. (Incidentally do you know she has her own line of glasses now? Holy brand synergy batman!) For some unfathomable reason I've kept them in the drawer of junk along with condoms, batteries, a unicorn cutout and some old AA chips.

So with great trepidation, I donned the glassy eye shackles I had long ago severed with LASIK and returned to my task.

sunset-hand-garden-book-large"Holy fucking shit. I can read again! This is awesome!"

"Dude, you're wearing some knockoff Lisa Loeb reading glasses you found on the fucking street because your eyes suck now."

"Shit."

I have been luckier than most to escape the ravages of time although it seems to be catching up with a vengeance. Perhaps a part of me, like Icarus soaring on his golden wings, thought I was truly going to be immortal. But alas, no. My body is on track to make sure I have the full experience of turning forty.

With digital media it's easy to fool yourself. I can just increase the font size on my Kindle apps. Book #3 is zoomed at 130% and MS Word has faithfully maintained that size ever since. But you cannot change the size of the printed word.

As you look at the writing on a page, know that your days are numbered. The mass market paperback copy of Game of Thrones you buy at the grocery store is like so many other things, a folly of youth. When you can no longer read the words, they are saying, "You will die one day... but first you must now and forever own a special piece of eye wear they sell at drugstores."

In the words of George R.R. Martin and his 600 page small print paperback, Valar morghulis. (All men must die)

When I heard Heroes Reborn was returning to TV, my reaction was, "Oh maybe I'll watch it." It was a show with an interesting idea and wildly inconsistent characterizations and stories that, often as not, read like fanfic written by the creators to appeal to their online communities.

TV.com summarizes all of my opinions on the show brilliantly so I won't go over them here. But here's a choice summary of quotes:

...because that's hella-boring and creator Tim Kring would like to stay in that dramatic kiddie pool of super-powered people against the rest of the world, their abilities misunderstood by Joe Regular and therefore a source of bigotry and hatred...

The bad news is that Heroes Reborn is still Heroes. And not really Heroes 2015 all shiny and new, but Heroes from 2006, dusty and a little mildewy.

This has long been my problem with appropriating the central conceit of the X-Men (that superpowered people are hunted for being different or that beings with magical powers have to hide). Part of it comes from the fact that I wouldn't see the world that way, nor would the huge audiences who turn out to support these superpowered franchises. But it got me thinking why this trope is so common and why I despise it so much.

It's Lazy Worldbuilding

Introducing magic or special abilities en masse into the modern world is a fundamental shift in economics, social class and scientific advancement. It's hard to imagine what a world would look like with superpowered people interacting with each other and the world around them in a variety of capacities.

That's why many writers want to keep special abilities a secret in modern paranormal fiction (or any fiction). It can really mess with the familiar elements of the world so  I get it. But I really appreciate it when people try to do something original. Sanderson did it on an apocalyptic scale with Steelheart; and True Blood did it with vampires coming out of the coffin.

People with special abilities would be the biggest news in the 24 hour news cycle since whatever Trump said last week.

Heroes left off in a more interesting direction with Claire finally revealing her abilities to the world, but it immediately destroyed that idea in the first five minutes of the premier.

Even if persecution existed, hiding is not a good answer. Gays hid for decades. It wasn't until we became visible that we began to gain traction and social acceptance. Even in the most repressive societies, brave people are willing to risk their lives to be heard.

Counterpoint... Sense 8 couldn't have worked without the secrecy, in part because it was handled plausibly, there was an element of mystery, and it gave the characters a reason to work together. Moreover, the show had so much going for it that it just worked.

It's a Lazy Metaphor for Civil Liberty

The always helpful TVtropes has terms for this: Fantastic Racism and Super Human Trafficking.

The X-Men's struggle was partially inspired by the Civil Rights movement. Throughout the comics they could draw parallels to everything from segregation, marriage equality to the holocaust. That was a big deal under the American Comics Code. Now? Not so much.

Television and media are at a point of maturity where we can talk about these things openly and intelligently without having a collective shit fit and censoring everything vaguely controversial.

The showrunners have proven in the past they're willing to pivot on a dime when fans complain so maybe it will get better?  The show was quick to write off boring characters, or shuffle them to the sidelines, but it led to a lot of wasted stories that went absolutely nowhere.

There is so much good TV out there that it's rare for me to stumble across something I don't like. Like erectile dysfunction, I can't remember the last time this has happened. Seriously, my least favorite shows right now (Z Nation,  the Strain, Dominion, and Lost Girl in no particular order) are not bad shows at all and all have their moments... I'd just rather have four more episodes of Continuum a week or eight of Rick and Morty.

But... I have a ton of free time and I consume pretty much anything in the SFF genres so I'll keep watching. If it gets good, or traumatically worse, I'll keep you updated.

Side Note

Also the whole story about the girl in the video game.... was absolutely terrible. If you're going to digitize one of your characters as an MMO avatar, spend the money to do your graphics... the game looked like absolute shit.  Compared to games that people actually play it was like watching the CGI in Lawnmower Man.

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Got back from the knee doctor and it's continuing to get better. There's a little bit that's left to heal. Stairs are a bit of an issue but I'm out of the brace and taking steps two at a time now.

I had my first full day at the new job. It's an amazing facility with a top notch cafeteria. Seriously they have locally sourced organic food for six bucks. The work itself is pretty straightforward.

Remember the PBS pledge drive? When they would hold your program (Dr. Who in my case) hostage until they got their money? Well for the next month this is how my blog is going to be in lead up to the launch of the Mirrored City. The big areas where I need support are pre orders and social media.

Book launch is almost a month away. I have ten pre-orders right now. If I can get five more I'll make the Amazon top 10,000... If I get just fifteen more I'll crack 3,000. Those are critical sales milestones because Amazon's algorithms start to take notice. It doesn't take much to get noticed so your pre-orders are super helpful.

On the social media I've got some thunderclap support in the form of someone with 30k followers. If I get 100 supporters (people who go to the page and pledge support) I will boost the signal on my social media launch. Contrary to popular assumption, social media is not a huge impact on sales... but it's free and every little bit helps. So please... your support is appreciated.

 It is a great pleasure for me to offer a recommendation for a book by one of my esteemed peers.

Homecoming, just to start, has some of the most perfect cover illustration I've ever laid eyes on.

The book is a story told from two perspectives-- from Hari, a human wolf shifter, and Aldiss, an astronaut fleeing the catastrophic destruction of his homeworld. I felt Hari was really the main protagonist, but Aldiss was a good supporting character who is more accessible/familiar to the reader at first.

What I particularly like is the blend of science fiction and fantasy elements. The characters come from two completely different worlds. One from a high tech futuristic planet and the other from a mystical tribal society in the wilderness of Earth.

The worldbuilding is solid for both cultures, although we get more detail about Earth, but the tone and dialogue of the characters gives a clear sense of separate places. The mechanics (both technological and mystical) are consistent across both stories and explored in depth as the plotlines converge. The story illustrates that mankind's self destruction can come from both our higher reasoning and our primal nature.

Homecoming has romantic elements-- the two man characters have a strong chemistry, yet it's not so focused on the relationship that I'd call it a romance. It's a story of survival along with a bit of coming of age for one of the protagonists.

Each one deals with familiar baggage from their respective pasts: the shame of unrequited attraction to the abusive asshole, and the pain of a relationship that ended badly with no hope for closure. Each character compliments the other's insecurities and develops past it.

It's a short book, and the pacing is brisk. Coatsworth never lingers too long on any one scene or topic and has an admirable talent for description. It's a good read for a long afternoon with an engaging bread crumb trail of clues to lead you to a satisfying explanation for the story.