I binged through the cartoon on Amazon Prime, then I binged through the comic series on Comixology. Both had Robert Kirkman’s involvement. He created the Walking Dead comic and show. At a very high level, the blurb for the series is what if a Superboy-type character had to take over for a Superman-type character. Both versions are very graphic, showing the gory consequences of what a super-powered fights would do to bodies and infrastructure. The ensemble cast is great. The character of Amber in particular is vastly better in the show with far more depth than her comic counterpart. I’ll be interested to see where they take that character in future seasons. Walton Goggins as Cecil is also a standout performance. Watch the show first, then read the first 12 trades of the comic for free on Comixology Unlimited.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
I loved the Martian and liked Artemis. This novel surpasses both of them. The story centers on an amnesiac astronaut named Grace who has figure out why a single celled organism is feeding on the sun and how to stop it. He’s both an anti Walter White from Breaking Bad and an anti Mark Watney from the Martian. If you’re able, grab the audiobook version. Ray Porter gives an excellent performance and a particular character definitely benefits from the audio aspect. Very good stuff.
Things might be looking up. Or maybe we’re actually upside down and we’re looking down. I have no idea.
Will things get to a point where we can… gasp… safely visit friends in family in small to medium groups? Will the quaran-times endure? Let’s find out with the magic 8 ball.
Me: “Magic 8 ball, when shall the plague at last break?”
Magic 8 ball: “Outlook hazy. Ask again later.”
Me: “Some help you are…”
In all seriousness, find fun and happiness where you can. Sooner or later, this season shall end.
How To by Randall Munroe
XKCD is one of my favorite web comics. Munroe’s prior book, What If, asked absurd questions such as what would happen if the oceans of Earth were transferred to Mars. This book takes the opposite track by asking sensible questions and providing absurd answers. One of my favorites is how to throw things. It eventually devolves into an exercise where quarterbacks are throwing blenders, and singers throwing microwave ovens. Silly stuff that’s absolutely worth a read.
Powers: The Best Ever by Brian Bendis and Michael Oeming
This graphic novel is most likely the conclusion of the Powers saga. I’ve been a fan of this comic book since the late 90’s. It’s a street level homicide detective story that takes place in an exceptionally violent and unsafe world of superheroes. One of the detectives, Christian Walker, used to have powers that granted him flight and strength. But those are gone now, and he is aging. An old enemy with an old grudge doesn’t care. He will make Walker pay. It’s a great send off for the characters of the series. Really well done. Check it out.
Things just might be turning a few corners. The weather’s getting warmer. I got my second jab. And I got a new book coming out next month.
It’s called “The New Players”. They live in a brighter world. But their future is dark.
Here’s a preview of its cover with Ed Burnhelt and his ally Tamona facing off against the cyborg goddess, Hekati. It’s part of the promo below and you can also purchase it on Amazon in June.
The Unmade Podcast
I got into this podcast a few months ago and it is fantastic. Brady Haran, an educational Youtuber, and Tim Hein, his old buddy from grade school, each talk about ideas for new podcasts. But that’s just the frame work. It’s mostly about two old friends joking around with made up sports, spoons of the week, and a glorious number of renditions of the Sofa Shop jingle. Their jolly banter is very much something the world needs right now. Give it a listen.
Later by Stephen King
Say what you will, but King is a first-rate storyteller. The story involves a boy who can see dead people. King steers into the skid by getting the Sixth Sense comparison out of the way early. Jamie is a great character, and his interactions with both living and dead characters are believable and gripping, especially with a particular mad bomber. The audio book narrator, Seth Numrich, gives a great performance as well, both nuanced and punchy. Check it out.
Howdy, all. LitCon is this weekend. If you’re interested in taking a look at the works of other indie authors, feel free to take a look at their site and the Youtube channel. I’ll also be participating in a panel or two. Also, check out the books on the LitCon 2021 Giveaway. Cool stories await!
Much of my neck of the woods got the deep freeze treatment for the past few weeks. If you were affected by the polar vortex in the US, I hope things have gotten better for you as time has gone on. Things seem to be getting better as somewhat warmer temperatures creep back in.
As spring peeks around the corner, I have a positive outlook for the future right now. After months of being cooped up indoors with the cold, and many months more of doing the social distance thing, I am hopeful that things might get back to some form of normalcy toward late summer and fall. More vaccines appear to be ramping up in the US, which is a welcome development.
I will be attending another virtual round of LitCon in early March (5th through 7th). Check out their site. It’s free to attend. I have a virtual booth in the fantasy section. In April, I’ll be attending the Nebraska Writers Guild virtual conference as well.
On top of that, I’ll be releasing The New Players in March or April. It will focus on new characters who must contend with Corsis and his ally, Hekati the Unmaker.
Players of the Game Character Spotlight: Hekati
Hekati has many guises. The cyborg goddess is but one. She cultivates flowers that twist bodies and minds to her will.
She is featured prominently on the upcoming New Players cover. More on that next month, or you can get an advanced peak of it on my LitCon virtual booth with the link above.
This Pixar movie came out last March just as the pandemic was really hitting the US. It’s a shame that it didn’t get more recognition. My wife and I recently watched it on Disney+. It takes place in a world populated by mythological people like elves, satyrs, and centaurs where magic was shunted aside by technology because tech is easier. The plot focuses on two elf brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt who go on a quest involving their deceased father. If you want to see a buddy/brother movie with Spider-Man and Starlord (or at least their voices), check it out.
Autonomous by Amalee Newitz
This novel takes place a few hundred years from now where nations appear to have reorganized in alignment with giant pharma companies. Human life has been extended, but inequality still reigns with designer medicines largely unavailable to the larger populace. One main character, a female rogue scientist named Jack, tries to help the downtrodden with free medicine that she pirates from pharma companies. She finances it with her side business of selling recreational drugs, but that goes wrong when people start working themselves to death as a result of a side effect of a drug she pirated. Eliasz, a stoic government agent, hunts for her while having an increasingly confused working relationship with his robot partner, Paladin. It’s a believable future that could totally come to pass. Good stuff.
Winter is here. Lots of snow. Lots of fear and anger. Show someone that you care about them however you can. Perform a little act to kindness. If Gandalf says it keeps the darkness at bay, then I think it’s worth a try.
I’ve been trying out other new inputs as well. I go through phases where I listen to music while I’m writing. Other times I need it quiet. Right now is definitely a music kinda mood for me.
The big trends for me right now are epic sounding instrumental stuff like the Mad Max Fury Road soundtrack, Archangel by Two Steps from Hell, the Darkest Dungeon soundtrack, and many others. I will also admit that I’m fond of some non-screamy metal these days. I’ve been digging some classic Iron Maiden and another band I’ll specifically call out in recommendation corner below.
If you have any epic instrumental music that you like and want to recommend, feel free to let me know.
New Players of the Game Release
The Brigands: The Favor is now available on Kindle for just 99 cents. The novella focuses on ViRauni. You can’t go home again, especially when it’s infested by a brain-hacked horde. Get it now.
Theater of Dimensions by Xandria
I’ll preface this with the admission that metal is not for everyone. This German group transcends the genre in my reckoning. The leader singer channels powerful operatic melodies akin to Tarja, with a lot of cool riffs and drums from the rest of the band. Wikipedia says that the band is inactive after the lead singer left the group. If the band is done, then they left on literal and figurative a high note.
Thin Air by Richard K Morgan
I do enjoy dystopian cyber punk when it’s done right. This novel definitely falls in that category. Hakan Veil is an enhanced human enforcer called an Over Rider who is stuck in the urban sprawl of the Mars colony. He gets drafted by a local cop to babysit a colonial auditor, and conflicting agendas from multiple sources quickly raise the stakes. Colin Mace reads the audio book version with world-weary grit. Very compelling stuff.
As we stare back at the sucknado that was March through December of 2020, I think it’s a good idea to keep a few things in mind. Just as 2020 did not immediately start as a rancid dumpster fire (at least in the US), it will not stop burning just because paper calendars have been replaced and electronic ones tick forward to 2021.
Still, there is something to be said for the symbolic turning turning of the calendar page. And that is better than nothing. Let us hope the vaccines help get us out of the “gap” and into the new and improved normal.
As part of this, I personally am going to try striving for a season of better inputs.
For me, here’s what that means: Keeping most news at arms length and averting my attention from the anger and fear like they’re part of a horrible traffic accident. The truly important stuff will find its way to me in one way or another. Wasting less time on social media and more time reading the books and comics in my backlog. Consuming only compelling video content, not filler. While I do a halfway decent job of eating healthy, I could be better, and I’ll aim to do just that.
Will I stumble? Definitely. Will I keep on trying? That’s the theme for the year. Get better inputs in my life. An off day does not mean the season is ruined. It’s just an off day.
As a side note, I totally stole this idea from a CGP Grey Youtube video I saw earlier this year. Type in “CGP Grey Themes” and you’ll find it.
Perhaps you can think of a personal theme of the season as well.
Players of the Game Updates
I plan to release The Brigands: The Favor novella sometime soon. It will be for a buck on Amazon in Kindle form only. It focuses on ViRauni as she returns someplace she long ago abandoned.
I’m finished up with the latest draft of the Breakers. I have it sent out to beta readers and will soon send it off to my editor. I’m still pretty happy with how it turned out. And the preliminary cover is quite neat too. I’ll share that down the road.
Currently, I’m working on the next “.5” novella, “The Breakers: Jagged Pieces”. It’s an extended epilogue and bridge between Book 4 and Book 5. I’m enjoying it so far.
Here’s an image of Nirva Iniv, one of the main villains from the series. She is Avril’s sadistic mother. She wanted to save the world once upon a time. Now, she wants it under her heel.
Pearl Harbor Minute By Minute by Time Ghost
Time Ghost’s World War II channel put together one of their best real time documentaries yet with this five-hour recounting of the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a History major, it’s right in my wheel house, or at least my home office. It was really well done and did an excellent job of remaining objective, while showing the darkness of modern war. It also presented FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech in its entirety. Say what you will about the man, he could orate with the best of them. A very well done series. As the hosts like to say: “Never Forget!”
Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino
This comic series is almost over with an issue to go, so it might be worth waiting for various collected editions. I’ll avoid spoiling too much. It starts with a focus on two main characters. A seemingly-unstable person named Norton wears a surgical mask (this comic was made pre-Covid) and searches through garbage heaps for splinters of a dire black barn in the city of Gideon Falls. An alcoholic priest named Wilfred is assigned to a small town, also named Gideon Falls, and has to team up with a local sheriff when bad stuff involving a black barn also starts creeping into town. If you like mind-bendy sci-fi horror, this series is for you.
This past weekend I virtually attended LitCon. It was a gathering of indie authors that had several interesting panels, and break out discussions. I attended a world building panel moderated by AF Stewart where we talked about social structures, classes, and other fun stuff. CL Gaber was also part of the discussion, which was a treat.
I also chatted with several other very engaging authors like Richard White, Joe Compton, and Karina Kantas. It was an invigorating experience.
Lots of the panel content and discussions are posted on the LitCon Facebook Page. Feel free to give them a watch.
Mandalorian Season 2.
I’m current up through episode 4. This is the best Star Wars iteration of the Disney Era. Hands down. They do a fantastic job with the western in space vibe. I loved seeing Timothy Oliphant in it. And Baby Yoda (aka The Child) remains very cute and continues to eat all kinds of… well, basically anything that moves that is smaller than him. I gotta wonder if the Yoda race is some kind of group of apex predators. The effects are also very close to movie quality. I enjoy it.
This is a game on Steam. It’s a visual novel that takes place in a city that’s under threat from a domestic terrorist organization. You play a cop who’s the head of the task force that’s trying to stop them from blowing up buildings. The writing is very tight, and you get in some very morally grey situations in your drive to try to zero in on the terrorists. A compelling game for those who liked Choose Your Own Adventure novels back in the late 20th century.
The slog through the 2020 year of clarity continues. In addition to work and novel writing, I’ve started dabbling in Sous Vide cooking. It’s pretty idiot proof. You buy a device that looks like an oversized curling iron, put in in a big pot, have it heat up the water via a smart phone interface, let the water to warm up to sub boiling temperatures, then put in whatever you’re wanting to cook in a freezer bag, and let the heat do the rest.
I’ve made some fantastic chicken and some decent New York Strip steaks. Pair it with some baked sweet potato wedges, and you got yourself a tasty meal. I’m going to try making hamburgers with it at some point, though I remain skeptical on how those will turn out.
Players of the Game Updates
Repenter: The Hidden Chapters is also re-released on Kindle. And it is permanently zero dollars. Get it now.
I’ve just received the edits back for bonus content books: The Brigands: The Favor and The New Players: Origins. I’ll be releasing them both in the coming months on Kindle.
I’m also about two thirds of the way through the revision of Players of the Game Book 4: The Breakers. I’m adding details and fixing logic problems. Here’s a fun little dialogue excerpt:
Xax released his friend’s shoulder. “Vance, meet Smiley and Tammy.”
“Tamona,” the Chan’la said.
“Ashe,” the masked man said.
Vance gave them a weary nod. “Vanzvulkous.”
Tamona let out a chuckle that sounded more like weak coughs. “Good to know that you’re consistent, Xax.”
Tamona, Xax, and Vance are newer characters that are introduced in New Players and Breakers.
The Prairies Book Review also gave Brigands a good review. You can read it here.
The Man Who Effed Up Time:
This is a fun mini series from Aftershock Comics by John Layman and Karl Mostert. The premise is that a lowly technician uses a time machine to try and make his lot in life better, and well, effs up time. The first page had me with a crossbow-wielding samurai constable riding a dinosaur chasing the main character. That’s a pretty quick indicator on whether you will like this series or not. I fall under the “likey” column.
Network Effect by Martha Wells:
Murderbot is back! This introverted anti-Terminator is the hero we both deserve and need. This time around, it has to help its friend, an intelligent ship it calls ART (Asshole Research Transport). ART has run afoul of contaminated alien tech and cult-like followers that Murderbot only refers to as “Targets”. The introverted android may want to just watch entertainment media, but on more than one occasion it demands, “Don’t hurt my humans.” Its inner conflict as it gets embroiled in the fight against the Targets is both fun and compelling.
Repenter received a good review from The Prairies Book Review. Check it out.
I have also been commissioning more portraits of characters from the Players of the Game Series. I’ll be sharing them in the months to come. Here’s a preview of one for ViRauni, the haunted woman in red armor.
This fantastic image from Mikhail Palamarchuk will be getting adapted to a bonus content book called The Brigands: The Favor in the near future.
I am currently working on an updated draft for the 4th book in the series, The Breakers. I think it’s shaping up well. Its epic with bunches of characters, conflicts, and interactions. I’m having fun writing it.
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey.
I’m not usually one for zombie books, but this one grabbed me. These are the sprinting variety with minds taken over by a fungus. A little girl named Melanie is one of them, but she doesn’t know it, and she still has her mind. In fact, she’s a genius. And kindhearted. She goes to school in shackles. With unethical and conflicted people studying her. Fantastic writing. And the Audible reader, Finty Williams, gives a performance that’s both fragile and harsh.
If you have any other good zombie reads, please feel free to let me know.
Parks and Recreation
My wife and I are making our way through the series before it leaves Netflix at the end of September. Every character on the show is great. We’re about halfway through the second-to-last season. I haven’t read spoilers, but I have to wonder if Gary (aka Jerry and Larry) will have some kind of vindication. I kinda doubt it.
My favorite line so far is of course one from Ron Swanson: “Not only should this not exist, but you have denied us all cake.”
Followed closely by one from Ben Wyatt: “Does she think he’s some kind of friendly hat?”
What are some of your favorite Parks lines?
That’s all for this month.
Stay smart. Stay safe.
Buy the Players of the Game Series on eBook and Print!