Where the Writing's at #1

Hi friends! A quick update on some books and such.


Ratman Deux: Another Fantasy Noir has a story that is in one way or another, almost entirely put to paper. Now that, at least for me, the dust of SPFBO has settled, I've had some time to digest many of points that the finalist round of reviews brought up regarding Chaos. Suffice it to say, I learned an incredible amount, and the Ratman Deux that appears on the horizon will be a leaner, smoother book than Chaos. All of your favorite Venrick and Edwayn moments are still there, but through some inward looking and ongoing editorial effort, we're going faster, hook-ier, and punch-iest? Anyway. I really want to get this into readers' hands, but I don't want to fall into the traps that partially ensnared Chaos. As proof that at least some part of it exists, heres the cover!

That's New Sketlin! I love all of the color, light, shadow.

That's New Sketlin! I love all of the color, light, shadow.

Other things in progress: Seven Deadly Friends (working title... maybe?)—a story about six of the seven deadly sins recruiting an everyman schlub to fulfill his destiny and help them pull off a daring heist against Pride—has a full outline, some character writing, and a number of scenes in early to mid stages complete. I'm very excited to sit down and grind out the rest of this thing and send it through the editorial gauntlet.  

Also on deck, a project that is putting some blood back into my very atrophied academic research muscles. Through mighty consumption of dozens of World War 1 memoirs and textbooks, I'm in the outlining and planning stages of a trilogy going by World War Dragon (working title definitely). The quick pitch for the trilogy is a book focusing each on the air, sea, and land aspects of World War I combat, and the grit and horror of that conflict. Also, all of the grit and horror is somewhat amplified by the sudden appearance and deployment (by one side) of militarized dragons. 

Also, Aerodance is getting new cover art. It looks amazing. I'm very excited to share it.


Aerodance: A Neon Space FAQ

My debut novel is CHAOS TRIMS MY BEARD, and due to it's selection by Fantasy-Faction as their finalist for the currently-running Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, it is the thing that like, 95% of all the people who would even visit this site know me for.

But at present, it represents only a quarter of the books I've published, and in two weeks, it will be down to a fifth. So today I want to talk about that other thing, in that other genre.

Aerodance Season 1 Cover.jpg

I guess I'll do one of those things where authors interview themselves. Most of my dialog is written through me having a literal, audible conversations with myself (improv! comedy! annoyance to family members!), so it feels natural.

What is Aerodance?

Aerodance is an "episodic" series of twelve novels. Each novel follows its own arc, and each set of four rolls together into a cohesive "season". The individual episodes come out as regularly as I can write and send them through the editing gauntlet, and a season bundle will accompany the 4th, 8th, and 12th.

But what IS Aerodance? I mean like, what's the story like, or what is it similar to?

The story follows the corvette Dragosa and the four or so people who come to crew her. There's some threads that follow the villains on their massive dreadnought and other vignettes besides, but the primary action is centered on the crew. In that way, the structure of the story is somewhere between Cowboy Bebop and Firefly, though with a bit more serialization than either of those narratives. And as one of the characters is a hotshot fighter pilot recruit with a priceless starfighter in tow, there's a bit of the old Star Wars: X-Wing novels in there as well.

Okay, but you literally shoved the word "Neon" in front of "Space Opera" and that doesn't mean anything.

The "neon" comes from the same place that the "episodes" and "seasons" come from. As much as is possible in the medium of novels, the tone that Aerodance aspires to lines up more with the color-soaked Saturday morning/late-night Toonami shows like RobotechVoltron, and Gundam. That is to say, flashy dogfights full of purple lasers and neon red space-contrails, and characters whose dials are turned just a bit further towards bombast, personal honor, and having short fuses in their interactions with their closest friends. That's a broad glossing-over of the unique styles and slants that those late 80's through early 2000's can bring to the narrative table, but as a rule, Aerodance is less the grimy-gray, confronting your personal demons of Battlestar Galactica and more wide-mouth screaming about avenging fallen friends as your neon blue starfighter pew-pews its way through a swarm of enemy ships that look like beetles for some reason.

That's... a lot.

I know, right? It's great and fun in entirely different ways than how Chaos is great and fun.

Anyway, where are you at with Aerodance now?

Episode 4 has one or two more threads and editing considerations to run down, and then both it and the Season One collection will be released on Kindle and Createspace on Friday, March 30th. All 12 episodes are titled and outlined. Major story beats are locked, and there is an ending.

How long are each of the episodes?

The shortest is 55K. The longest is 65K. A Season will fall somewhere around 250K.

Great, and where can I find them?

Episode 1 is 0.99 on Amazon. If you have Kindle Unlimited they are all part of the Lending Library.

Audio books?

I really want to do them, especially for this series and its somewhat rapid release schedule. I'm working on it.

So there was something else I wanted to ask you. You claimed in January that you were going to release a book a month this year. And it's March and you haven't published anything. What's up with that?

Baseline excuses: I got moderately sick for a week or two in January, ended up with more contract work than I expected, and got a new job that I've been training for.

Actual reason: A lot of the feedback that Chaos has received through its SPFBO reviews, and the reviews that rode the sudden influx of interest from the contest recognition, has been invaluable to shaping my writing going forward. Certain issues—pacing and line-editing chief among them—have popped up pretty consistently. I have an embarrassingly large stable of projects that are at the 80-95% mark, but I'm taking a hard look at each of them under the lens that these recent reviews have afforded me.

After Episode 4 and Season One are out, the sequel to Chaos is getting its shine. And then Hammer Squad. And then Tower For Fools. And then Aerodance 5. And then World War Dragon. Hooray! Thanks for reading, and happy Friday!

It's so easy to call something bad: An Arbitrary Review of The Orville S1:Ep1

Note: No writing updates today because it would basically just be "I am working on Hammer Squad. Editing is hard." Instead I'm going to ramble about the new Star Trek show, the one I'm actually excited for.

Just from flitting around Twitter last night, the general tv-watching crowd and the ivory tower critics who cover the medium seem to be leering at each other from across a vast expanse called The Orville. Under heavy, HEAVY promotion, Fox ran the pilot of Seth MacFarlane's new sci-fi vehicle—named after its most prominently featured vehicle—twice last night. There are echoes here of the premier of MacFarlane's original flagship Family Guy. The auspicious Sunday football lead-in, the relatively unique nature of the show for the current network-TV landscape, and the uneven nature of the pilot episode all harken back to our intro to MacFarlane's brand of creativity back in 1999.

But the pilot episode, "Old Wounds", was ravaged by critics before audiences had a chance at it. And taking a stroll over to the show's metacritic page shows a user review average score of more than double the one assigned by critics. And many of the negative reviews read like they can't wait to get in a pithy dig at MacFarlane himself, because he made Family Guy, and I don't know, it's not as good as it used to be. Cutaways are bad, or something. I AM A COMEDY CONSUMER AND I CLEARLY HAVE REFINED, BOUTIQUE TASTES.

But I'm not here to go to bat for Seth. MacFarlane the actor is actually the worst part of cast as it stands. He's just not very emotive, and in an episode that opens with him catching his wife in bed with some blue, forehead-gooping alien, there's room for a tour across a few different moods. Instead, we get schlubby, moderately affable, barely-fazed Captain Ed Mercer who responds to adultery, deadly laser fights, and orchestrating the death of entire starship's worth of enemy combatants with less emotion than the robot sitting to his right. This is MacFarlane's baby, yes, and I can see the through-line of thought where he'd want to have himself sitting in the captain's chair and engaging the quantum thrusters or whatever, but the show would be served with a better fictional captain.

Behind the producer's desk, though, MacFarlane's guidance of the show seems right on. Some of the jokes fell flat, but the upside is that this is very clearly not Family Guy in space. It's more like News Radio in The Next Generation. The pair of helmsmen/weapons officers that sit at the very Trekkie two-man console at the bridge's fore are more concerned about getting out of work on time and if they can have soda at their desk than they are about the alien ship trying to kill them. The second officer is a budget version of Drax the Destroyer and pretty much no one knows how to approach him with any humanity, but he's Assistant to the Regional Manager and is in charge when the Captain and Friends are away, so the rank and file accept his presence and idiosyncrasies. The science officer is a human-hating robot, but again, they're all stuck here working together. Where the show gets its legs and life though, is that beyond that clock-in clock-out texture, The Orvillie IS Star Trek: TGS. It's been beaten up for being a bad parody, but that tact misses the mark entirely. From the camera angles to the sound the doors make to the hard cut to the unexpectedly gruesome and sci-fi spectacle that is the episode's only on-screen death, The Orville goes way past homage and love letter and becomes a show that could have easily been happening in the same on-screen universe as the adventures of Picard and crew. The ships look a little different, and the Federation is the Union, but MacFarlane set out to make a 90's Star Trek show, and he did.

And that's the reason I'm excited for the rest of The Orville's first season. The tagline for the coming episodes preview was "Every week a new adventure!" and we don't really have that right now. Aside from murder-of-the-week police procedural shows, everything that exists with even a hint of drama is serialized and dark and gritty. Of course it's goofy that the senior officers stand at full extension in the middle of an open room with lasers whipping past as they calmly drop chitin-armored baddies with well-placed shots directly to the thickest parts of enemy armor. And it's silly that attractive-Klingon-esque girl Alara (with an "A" and not an "E" I'll point out, endlessly) is super strong and can leap WHOLE FOUNTAINS in a single bound. But I want a show where a too-smooth shuttle lands at an alien research station/Van Nuys office building parking lot and discovers a time-acceleration ray. Because it'll be forgotten about next week when they have to resolve a dispute for space oil fracking rights or something. The Orville is fun enough and light enough that it gets away with campy upbeat adventures. Maybe MacFarlane will put his considerable vocal and stage talent to work and become someone worth watching on camera, or maybe the show he's built around himself will be strong enough to sustain its episodic adventures in spite of it. And I'm glad next week's episode won't have had all of its jokes ruined by the endless previews.

It will be interesting to see how The Orville stands up in the face of an ACTUAL new Star Trek show in a few months, but at least I can watch this one without paying for yet another streaming service.