Just a quick holiday hello. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Luckily trick or treat was on Saturday where my mom lives, so my son and I could hit the neighborhood while it was really nice outside. Because today, the weather is going to be horrible! Cold and windy and raining. I don’t think we’re going to make it around tonight.
In other news, while finding time to write has been here and there between work and family duties, I finally did finish painting this cool sphynx model.
I’ve had a life-long, off-and-on obsession with the Warhammer 40K miniatures game and have a horde of models sitting in boxes in the basement as I type this. A month or two ago, I bought this sphynx model just because it was cool and started painting it. And just this week—while sick at home with pneumonia—I finally forced myself to break out my old, drying-up paints and finish this project. I managed to get it done in just two sit-down sessions, which is amazing for me in and of itself.
And I’m super happy with how it turned out. I’m learning new techniques and painting philosophy, trying to keep it simple and not get too caught up over minor details. Just let the washes and drybrushing handle those. Didn’t know I still had it in me! I’m at least 20 years past my artistic prime!
If you want to share either costume or model pics, I’d love to see them!
Happy Halloween everyone!
I thought I'd tell you about some reading I’ve done over the last few months.
Let me start by saying that I haven’t followed any comic books in about 20 years. Maybe more. Except for maybe an occasional short-term story arc that sounded especially good. Unfortunately, most of those usually ended up being a disappointment. (Which is why I write my own stories now—just can’t trust others to write the things that I want to read.)
Anyway, there was a lot of nerdly talk online about a new rebirth of the X-Men books. When I was in middle school and high school, the X-men were my comic book heroes. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and The Incredible Hulk got me into superheroes on Saturday mornings, but the The Uncanny X-Men got me reading about them.
So when the Internet was all abuzz about the new redo of the X-Men, I decided to get interested. I figured it’d be fun.
Plus, there was just this little bit of Ebay-style excitement about tracking down the issues I’d already missed by that time. Driving around town to various shops, hunting down the books and scoring them before someone else snatched the last ones away. Kind of like when you’re bidding on items on Ebay—it’s not even that you need that damn little piece of junk on there, in the end it’s more about beating everyone else bidding at the last second!
I won’t tell the whole story, but I will say that there really wasn’t much conflict involved. It was mostly setting up a new situation for the forth-coming, regular X-books to run on.
The story was written by Johnathan Hickman, who’s has been hit and miss for me. His Avengers Infinity series several years back hopped around so much and seemed to skip scenes so that, as far as I could tell, there was no coherent story. The Secret Wars reboot a few years ago was pretty cool, mostly because it had amazing art and was an alternate reality for familiar characters (I love those things). His East of West sci-fi series seemed really cool when it first started several years ago, but again... It starred the Four Horseman in a sci-fi Western setting, and claimed to be inching toward the end of the world. Therefore, I assumed the story would move along toward that obvious end at a quick pace. I was wrong. Much like this X-men run, it quickly got watered down and stretched out like cheap saltwater taffy on a spindle and after several issues where nothing really happened... I gave up on it.
I remember, back in college, likening comic books to soap operas and it’s still damn true today: They give you just enough per episode to make you come back for maybe just one more to see if it’ll be good. Just a hint of the good stuff yet to come. But that good stuff keeps getting delayed, and delayed... Just to keep you coming back for mostly empty promises.
(Note that I didn’t watch soap operas! But all my roommates did, including the other male. That’s how I know that... Honest!)
Anyway, that’s pretty much what happened on this X-men run, too, but stubbornly stuck it out. The story arc had three main plot points:
So, as ever, in the end, the whole thing turned out to be rather disappointing. The best thing about it was all the alternate cover art on every issue. The story started out kind of cool, it was nice to see my old friends again, but the damn thing could easily have been told in 6 or 8 issues instead of 12. Each also featured wasted pages that were just blatant stalling for time so they could stretch this whole thing out. Would it have been so hard to come up with 2 or 3 pages of colorful, action-packed frames, instead of just text filler and info-graphics?
The whole arc was 12 issues long and they charged $4.99 an issue. (The first and last, I think, were even a dollar more.) I prefer not to add that up for my own sake, but you can do the math pretty easily yourself. Imagine paying 5 bucks per chapter for a book and finding that, in half of them, nothing worthwhile even happened. (And some people complain about paying that much for a whole damn novel!)
So why did I go on? I guess I hoped it would turn around and been worth it by the end.
Ultimately, the experience reinforced two things that I’d already known:
Also, not to continue being a downer, but in case you were wondering, the X-Men: Dark Phoenix movie was as bad as you expected too. (Which is why I only paid for a Red Box visit on that one.)
Okay, that was pretty cynical. So what’s not disappointing?
Trying out a Halloween wig. Can you say, Dark-Haired Fabio??? ;)
Finally (everything in 3’s, right?), a quick plug for my new Grit & Shadows Boxed Set. I recovered and republished three books earlier this year and, with Halloween coming up, I figured it was time to issue a complete boxed set of the trilogy.
For the time being, the “boxed set” is only available in ebook and only at Amazon right now. (I’m experimenting with Kindle Unlimited, which is an exclusive deal there.) And for an even more limited time, the whole thing is available for just $2.99.
That’s the price of just one of the single ebooks, and here you get all three!
Here’s the shortened version of the blurb:
Welcome to the dark side of urban fantasy...
All three volumes of J. D. Brink’s Grit & Shadows Collection gathered in one gloomy corner for your appraisal.
Paranormal mystery, crime noir, vampire horror, cyberpunk detectives, and much, much more. Nine stories and a full novel featuring wise guys and private eyes, black magic and bleak futures, your deepest desires and the road to damnation.
Click on any of the above hyperlinks or these buttons to check it out.
After the pre-order period, the price will more than double, so grab it now while it’s cheap!
Have a good weekend!
Three (3) is a magic number and so I feel compelled to send a third of these before taking a break again for a while. (And so you don’t feel bombarded with them!)
I’ve also, btw, been living by the “rule of three” since new years: if I can accomplish just 3 things per day, no matter how small or quick the task, I require myself to be satisfied with the day’s progress. Do I often get more than 3 done? Sure, and those are productive days! But I tend to be hard myself (as all writers and artists do, especially when you have so much you want to have done by yesterday). So it’s important to remind myself that I got something done today. And that I got enough done today.
“Ya done good. Ya done enuff. Now goes ta bed do more tomarra.”
And writing this newsletter/blog post counts as one checked box on my list for the day. :)
Books I Kept Reading
Here’s a trilogy I mostly enjoyed...
I had heard about these books for years: Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn Trilogy. They take pace in the Warhammer 40K universe, a table-top gaming universe that has grown very rich and detailed over the last 30+ years. It’s way more than a war game now. It truly is a universe. I feel like many of the books are probably not up my alley...
“Me am Space Marine. Me biggest and toughest there is. Me shoot everyone. Me never lose.”
Okay, that’s an unfair, perhaps impolite assessment, but that’s how I generally feel.
These books were supposedly different though. The characters were human. It wasn’t warriors on the continuous battlefield of space and ravaged planet, but more of a detective noir story. And one where the hero makes dramatic change over time. It sounded pretty good but they were hard to find. Then the publisher put out a new edition and kept them available for people to buy and read. (Novel idea, right?) So I finally got to read these books!
The first one fit the bill as advertised. It felt very much like a sci-fi, deep-space detective noir story on distant worlds, complete with dark cult psychic-magic. (The 40K universe is a cool mix of grim-dark magic and demons meet gothic space cathedrals meet military SF.) I liked the first one quite a bit. There were times that it felt a little watered-down, like the writer was forced to add stuff in order to meet the publisher’s demands for a certain page count, but overall I moved through it quickly and stayed interested.
The second and third books... not as much.
They had way more of the watered-down to fill pages feel. I quit both books multiple times and had to come back to them later. There was also a 100 year gap between book 1 and book 2, which for me proved too big a gap. Characters I liked were gone, lost over time. (As you might imagine.) Other characters came and went and were little more than cardboard cut-outs. That’s probably my biggest complaint about the books: there were so many characters thrown in that the vast majority were people we just didn’t know and couldn’t care about. That was disappointing.
So yes, I kept reading, but it was a struggle. A nice aspect was that, even over the more than hundred years covered by the three books, they were all linked. They all involved basically the same bad guy and central characters. But we really only felt like we knew a few of them, and the author didn’t seem to care enough about the to make us care about them.
Another one I liked
I have only read a select few of these and since I’ve now started on a different novel that I do expect to finish, I’ll probably not read any more from this one, but what’s here is good! Some really cool Sword & Sorcery in the Conan tradition, but also more contemporary fantasy that surprised me with its empathy and depth. Short stories that get the job done in short order. Highly recommended for fun fantasy reading.