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.
Another quick bite in the feeding frenzy here. These FF posts/emails are my attempt to catchup with all the little things I’ve been meaning to write about, but which have taken a backseat to getting “actual writing” done.
Plus, I just don’t want to overwhelm all of you.
So below are a few books I started reading but didn’t finish. You may have your own opinions on them.
Now, I’m known to give up on books. More often than not, probably.
Maybe I’m impatient? Okay, I’m definitely impatient, but it’s not just that. My time, just like everyone else, is valuable and finite. If I’m reading something that isn’t doing it for me, why spend my precious time on it?
I’m also pretty picky. I enjoy a wide variety of genres and styles, and I love finding something new, something experimental. Books that stand out. I’m obviously a sci-fi/fantasy fan, but an awfully big chunk of it just doesn’t interest me. So much of it seems the same to me. If this book is just like that book, I really don’t need to read them both.
I don’t just stick to SF/F, though. I like a wide variety of genres, including classics and “literature” from time to time (whatever that means).
I also find that I have to be the target audience. I generally can’t read kids’ or YA books. They’re pretty specifically written for readers of a certain age and mindset, and don’t fit that demographic. So it’s harder for me to get into those books.
Which brings me to this: THE FOLLOWING IS JUST MY OPINION.
Obviously, everyone’s tastes are different. I don’t make a habit of literary criticism because my opinion is no more important than anyone else’s. If you’ve read these books are liked them, that’s great! Please tell me so! Maybe I should have given them more of a chance.
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
I generally tell myself I need to get to page 50 or 100 before I cast judgement on a book, but I’m not sure if I quite got that far.
I picked this one up at the library on the “for sale” shelves. It cost me like $2.50 and I had been eyeballing it for a while. I wanted to read a good pirate story, mostly to get a feel before writing my own. So I grabbed it.
I couldn’t help but have visions of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies in my head as I read this. And soon determined that I might be better off just watching those movies.
It just didn’t grab me. The first character is the lazy, arrogant governor, whom I assume is not the hero of the story but we spend like the first 3 chapters with him, which isn’t very engaging. Then we spend a little time with the young hottie girl we knew was coming, before finally meeting the hero of the story, Captain Hunter. And the name says it all: he struck me as very stereotypical, very summer movie like—the handsome, tough rogue, in no way particularly interesting or creative.
Like I said: meh.
This manuscript was found in Mr. Crichton’s desk after his death and published posthumously. And I can’t help but think that I know why he left it there...
Crichton is one of the world’s most popular and successful authors. So again, that should speak for itself. Obviously my tastes don’t align with millions of other readers, so take mine with a grain of salt. I’ve read, I think, three other of his books in my lifetime: Sphere, Timeline, and Prey. I liked Sphere (except the ending), but the other two... Weren’t great, in my opinion. So it doesn’t surprise me too much that I didn’t really get into this one.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
I have a handful of Stephenson books on my shelf, all of which sound really interesting but are as thick as the Bible, and therefore intimidating. Since I don’t get a lot of reading time (but I’m trying more and more to carve it out—in the hammock and at bed before I turn out the light), I tend to dodge the really high page counts and go for short things, like graphic novels and short stories more often than novels. I know, I’m ashamed just typing that...
But anyway, this book is one of his shorter ones and is classified as cyberpunk, so I wanted to check it out.
And... I think know why his books are so thick. It seems to me his writing is 75% style and 25% story.
He has a very interesting voice and there’s a huge amount of detail and world-building to this book. Like ridiculously so. Like, too much so.
It took about 25 pages to deliver a pizza! That, to me, is too long spent on getting nowhere.
Now, that event helps set up the two main characters and, as I said, there’s a lot of world-building detail in there. However... I’m impatient, as I said. And if I have to wade through 75 pages of extraneous detail and style and get 25 pages of story out of it, it’s just moving too slow to keep my interest.
I came and went from this book several times, wanting to like it and get into it, but I just never did. Even now, as I type this, I think I should maybe give it another chance. But I know three pages in and I’m to feel immediately bogged down in the heavy narration that spends three pages describing something not that interesting about to the future, so... no thanks.
That doesn’t bode well for the three other giant tomes of his on my shelf. Not sure I’ll ever quite get to those now.
Gotrek & Felix: The First Omnibus by William King
This is a book with three novels from the Warhammer Fantasy universe in it. Good clean fantasy adventure fun. Bubblegum for the brain kind of reading. You don’t read it because you want to explore new, interesting ideas in the genre. Quite the opposite, which I knew going in.
I picked this book up while I was in nursing school. I needed something light and fun and quick and not taxing on the brain. And that’s what I got.
I only ever read the first “novel” of the three, and that’s where I picked up again this time. The first book is more like several short stories or novellas combined into one long adventure for our traveling dwarf berserker and his human poet companion. Which is exactly why I decided to read it again recently: so that when I got tired of it, I could just stop reading it without needing to know how it ended. Each section of the book is basically a story unto itself. I did stop reading this, most of the way through one of the longest stories, and I have no regrets about it.
You know, I keep saying these are going to be “quick bites” in this feeding frenzy, but they sure run long, don’t they...?
Have you read any of these and want to comment? Have any other reading suggestions for me? Let me know!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Does anyone actually believe it’s fall yet??? Sometimes it feels that way, but around here the temp is due to hit 90 again next week, so... Just as it feels like autumn (probably my favorite season), the confused cyclopean titans that run the Earth and its seasons get another cloud-full of soot in their single eye and turn the wheel the wrong way again.
I still try to get outside in my hammock to relax and do some reading as I can. I’m also on vacation this week, between quarters at the college where I teach, though my “vacations” are generally not much of an escape. My wife has started night school and my son is in third grade, so it’s not like I’m going anywhere.
I also try to get things done that have been in sore need for a long time while I’m off.
Monday I finally got our taxes done! I had them done by a professional this time, given the perilous circumstances of my situation. Why am I five and a half months late? Because Uncle Sam jacked up my W2 on my way out of the Navy. And, after a dozen phone calls and emails over the last six months, they are no closer to getting it fixed. But I’ve moved on. Taxes are finally done, using lots of other paperwork to support my true Navy pay and taxes paid, so... [SIGH.]
I also just came from my dad’s place, where I packed a whole year’s worth of recycling materials out of his kitchen into his truck and hauled it to a recycling center. That was a job! But he can see his floor again, so it was worth it. (Why does he keep all that shit for so long in the first place? That’s a long discussion you don’t want to have...)
Yesterday I tried to find and rent a power washer to hit the outside of the house with. I went to two different Home Depots and neither one had rentals! Even though the website told me they did. Frustrating...
So, yeah, that’s what I spend my “vacations” doing. How about you?
I also wanted to get more writing done on Secret Origins Book 3, but haven’t gotten very far on that front yet. But I’m getting there. More on that front in another episode.
So if this sounds like several mundane Facebook posts complaining about life, I apologize! Just seems like that’s what people talk about on blogs and in newsletters, right? What they’ve been working on?
Well, I do have more to talk about. Lots more. But I have a hard time taking time out from all that busy stuff above to sit down and write blogs/newsletters about the more interesting things I’ve been doing. Because doing that takes a timeslot or two in and of themselves. And who’s got time for that?
Well I’m going to make time! Thus the feeding frenzy: I’ve got several small things to write about and I’m going to break them up over time. Small hits here and there, like a school of worked-up blue sharks taking little bites out of you as they slowly but surely devour you.
Okay, bad analogy. It won’t be as painful as all that, I swear!
Here’s the first quick topic I want to share:
THE SECRET SANCTUM
A few weeks back, I went out and bought a simple desk and chair. The desk was $99, “rustic look” at Big Lots. The chair was an armless office chair, $40 at Walmart. It took me another week or two to get around to assembling them (!) but that task is finally done and now I have a secret little writing dungeon in the basement. Yeah!
I have an office upstairs, but as you can see from these pictures, it’s so busy and crammed with crap, that I can’t actually focus on writing when I’m up there. There are too many other things around to distract me. Plus, it gets hot up there for some reason. (Small room, single vent.)
(Btw, getting that office squared away has been on my to-do list since we moved in 16 months ago! Haven’t had enough vacations yet to get that task done, I guess... It’s on the list for this week, too, but today’s Wednesday already , so... Doesn’t look too likely.)
But the Secret Sanctum is down in the basement, in the only finished room down there, which is serving as a storage room full of boxes and junk. Therefore, when I go down there, there are no distractions! Just me, a simple “rustic” desk, and the blank wall in front of me. (It’s nice and cool down there too, just the way I like it. Plus, now I don’t have to go “rent” space at Starbucks for 5 bucks a coffee when I want to get away to write something.)
I haven’t actually made much use of it yet, but I’m about to. I’m going to try to get up early and go down there every day. Even if I only do 300 or 500 words a day, being persistent and consistent will get that next book done! Hopefully before Christmas so I can have it edited, covered, and out to all of you by the turn of the year! That’s the goal. More on that in a later FRENZY installment.
Okay, I think that’s good for now. I want to keep these short.
Next up: BOOKS I STOPPED READING. Maybe you’ve read them and can tell me whether they were worth it or not? Maybe you were thinking of reading them and will change your mind after you read this. We’ll see...