Saturday, June 24, 2017

146 More Words about Frank.

Hi everybody!  Please excuse the sporadic nature of these blog updates.  It's been a pretty difficult month for me personally but I'm ending June with a flurry of writing for Fogworld vol. 2.  The first chapter of the book is completed (errrr, it may not end up being the first chapter at the front, but it's definitely the first chapter I've written) and I'm closing in on the second (ditto).  Please check my previous blog entry to give you a bit of a primer on the subject of one of the four or five stories I'm telling in Fogworld 2 - Frank Wurzel of Neso.  That's a good chunk of his first chapter.

Today I'm really excited about this paragraph I wrote a bit earlier.  Excuse the arrogance, but I think it's some of the best work I've conjured for this sequel.  Enjoy!

His face was known to every tavern owner and barmaid on Neso, though their familiarity with Frank far outweighed their respect or fondness for him.  He was seen most often at The Beast and Hustle, though he had also run up tabs at Rosie’s, 441 North and The Twin Fins.  He would often stop on his way home from work and imbibe anywhere from three to six rounds of corn liquor, fermented apple cider and wine, sitting with whoever would have him.  Most of his drinking companions thought of Frank as good for a laugh, though sometimes at his own expense; as a political curmudgeon, forever berating liberalism and progressivism in tirades that increased in both volume and exaggeration as the evening and the alcohol flowed; and finally as a well-meaning but ultimately unimpressive acquaintance who bought more rounds for others than were bought for him.

If you want to get the whole book from me as it's being written, please check out my Patreon page.  Three bucks a month gets you early access to the book on a monthly/progress basis (plus a final manuscript when it's done).  If that's too rich for your blood, a dollar per month will enable you to engage with the Fogworld community on Patreon and secure your name on the Official Fogworld Survivors List - you'll live through the fogpocalypse, certified by an upcoming (and ever-growing) list on our website.

Have a good weekend!  Talk soon.

Friday, May 19, 2017

First Clip from Fogworld Vol. 2!!!

Aloha, Fogworlders!  I'm very happy to announce that production on the second volume in the Fogworld series is underway - and I can prove it!  Here, for your enjoyment, is the first 1,300 or so words I've written for the next book.  These may not end up being the first 1,300 words of the book itself, but they will be the beginning of this character's story.

Setup:  Frank Wurzel lives on Neso, a colossus mentioned near the end of Wandering City Blues.  You'll read his story, which takes place after WCB, as a biography written by another kaiju resident, with occasional clips from other in-universe documents.  So here's the first bit of Frank's story.  What do you think?  Share with your friends, comment here or on whatever link brought you here, and don't forget to sign up for my Patreon page!  $1 per month officiates your survival of the Fogpocalypse; $3 a month gets you the entire book delivered on a month-to-month basis while I'm writing it.  Enjoy!


Excerpt from Biohazard: An Unauthorized Biography of Francis Wurzel

By the year 98 P.A., Wurzel had settled into what he imagined his life would be like for his remaining 20 to 30 years.  Although he and Jessica never officially wed, her children had accepted him as a funny kind of paternal role model – just shy of being a stepfather.  As the sun dipped beneath ground level, he would sit with them on the floor of their small house, any time he felt well enough, and play with them and their toys.  Zoe and Jacob would invent new games for the three of them to play, or he’d teach them old ones from his ancestors’ childhoods.  Often, the tremors in his hands prevented him from playing jacks or showing them card tricks, which caused him to suddenly alter their plans to telling stories or playing hide-and-go-seek.  This he hid, blaming his choice of activity on Neso’s uneasy gait; fortunately, the children were not yet old enough to devise the truth behind his words.
Jessica earned her share of the income for the family by fashioning and selling cloth diapers and onesies from discarded clothes and linens she acquired around Neso.  Her steadfast focus and taut needlework were unmatched anywhere on the colossus and earned her a reputation as a formidable seamstress – even a fashionable one, since the slow pace of theriopolitan life bred an appreciation for the minutest detail.  Often during the day, Jessica took Zoe and Jacob for leisurely strolls around the titan, seeking fabrics to knit into practical and eye-pleasing textiles for the infants of the city.  The children had made a sport of who could retrieve for their mother the highest quality of materials in a day, and in the largest amount, for which she rewarded them with glacé fruit from a nearby table at market.

At night, after the children had been put to bed, Frank and Jessica sat quietly on the living room couch.  He rested his weary head on her breast, the weight of his head pressing his ear to her heart.  Its rhythmic pumping provided him comfort from his day at work, and he would find himself entranced by its cadence, his eyes growing heavy and closing at an impossibly slow rate.  She ran her fingers through the thin hair behind his temple, trying to feel each strand uniquely despite her calloused fingertips.  He prided himself on having taken on the responsibilities of a husband and father without many of the rewards, courting the widowed Jessica with a sense of benevolence accompanying his affections.  In turn, she had but little affection for him beyond friendship, but something about them seemed to work, and he was good with her children.  They made love in their bedroom, performing silently and in darkness, owing as much to the expiration of their romance’s confident passion as to their fear of waking the children.   Over the last several years, both their bodies had begun to sag and there were no mysteries to discover in performing the sex act together.  Even still, when Frank and Jessica were physically intimate, they copulated desperately, their eyes closed and breaths shallow in saudade, holding each other tightly, searching blindly for something that they would never find.

The second century of life atop the great beasts began with as much uncertainty as did the first.  Mankind reveled in its celebration of 100 years above the poisonous fog that blanketed the Earth’s surface, but even as the final bell rang over City Hall on Neso, its chime echoing off the high walls of the city triumphantly, it blew an ill wind through some of the town’s more politically-minded residents. 

[A very spoiler-filled paragraph summarizing Wandering City Blues would be right here but I removed it from this blog for the sake of those of you who haven't read it. -JL.]

Two more years passed.  International relations deteriorated at a slow but unwavering pace.  Neso’s government hedged its bets, making excuses about fiscal calendars and complicated import/export agreements with Sao to avoid cutting off relations with the rogue titan without vocally denouncing it.  In the spring of 102 P.A., in response to Neso’s refusal to distance itself from Sao, the Alliance decreed that a battalion of soldiers from multiple colossi, newly trained by an experienced cadre of law enforcement, would be deployed to occupy Neso’s streets.  On the surface, their reasoning was to protect Neso from the danger and corruption of Sao’s influence, but it was said in many a tavern around the world that the decision was made to punish Neso for its disobedience.

Frank had never fully accepted the rationing of his family’s crops by the Nesoan government some 25 years prior.  The memories of his mother thinning their dinners and his father’s futile attempts to store away some of his vegetables remained a vivid and impressing influence on his societal and political views.  He needed but close his eyes to recall the detestable thrips tabaci eating so many of the Wurzels’ neighbors’ onions and tomatoes and the subsequent food shortage of 77.  Several adults had said that the McCullough family likely brought the bugs back from their visit to Nereid since their vegetables seemed to be hit the earliest and hardest.  In young Frank’s mind, that was enough to warrant an investigation that he was sure would lead to legal punishment, but this lead turned up nothing in the eyes of Neso’s elected officials and the agricultural rations had followed instead.  It birthed a paradigm in Frank about government overreach – a paradigm that was nourished frequently since he regularly served as audience to the tirades and inebriated ramblings of his father until death took him in 86.  Following the infestation, the justice denied the victims of the Moscow Tower Incident in 82 and Frank’s father’s influence on him, it was with a sense of foreboding and disapproval that he received the news of the occupying force that would soon fill their city.

The first of the allied troops boarded Neso on August 18th, 102 P.A..  The storms of autumn came conspicuously early that year, the troops’ arrival marking the first of 10 straight days of rainfall.  It was murmured through Nesoan neighborhoods that it was a bad omen.  As the soldiers’ boots marched uneasily through the streets, fat drops of rain fell noisily on their covers, but it wasn’t enough to deter the locals from staring at the company from retailers’ awnings and residential overhangs.

Ran our first patrol today.  The CO told us at boot camp we wouldn’t be makin’ no friends here, but I don’t think nothing could’ve prepared me for the reception we got.  We only been on Neso two days but if the spittin’ and whisperin’ is anything to go by, these folks have had their fill of us.  They hate us worse than the fog.  I kept my eyes forward and hands to myself, but for the first time, I’m truly glad to have my issued sidearm.  Every sunrise brings me a day closer to returning to you and the baby.  You’re always with me.
- A letter from PFC James “Sandy” Sanders to his wife Susan, dated 8/19/02

A half a dozen fights broke out between Neso citizens and Allied soldiers in as many weeks upon their arrival.  The most uneasy of these conflicts involved the squaring off of a drunken group of local rain catchers against a small patrol unit in November of 102.  They met on the narrow staircase drilled into the leftmost of the twin spinosaurus-like fins that ran along Neso’s back.  The staircase was narrow enough that the rain catchers, heading down to deposit their weekly records at the water treatment center after several rounds at a tavern, effectively blocked the soldiers from beginning their patrol on the upper deck of the city.  Voices were raised, the men began pushing one another for the right of way and a local tumbled over the handrail on the staircase, following in a drop that would’ve ended his life had he not broken his fall on and demolished a uniquely high-built rooftop garden constructed along the outside of a lower flight of the same stairs. 

The unrest would likely have continued indefinitely, but the combination of the rain catcher’s near-death experience and the arrival of more Alliance troops soon thereafter sobered the residents of Neso and a shaky truce was formed.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Not Dead Yet.

It's high past time I got this started.  Weekly updates starting again very, very soon.

Welcome back to Fogworld.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Five Weeks Later...

Hi everybody!  I apologize that it's been so long since I did a blog update on here.  In addition to my daughter being on winter break from school for two weeks, my wife is now within two weeks of her due date for our baby boy, so we've been doing things like building a crib and installing an infant car seat, stocking up on diapers and wipes and things like that.  In addition to that, I didn't really have any news about Wandering City Blues or the Fogworld universe until now.

I'm happy to report that inspiration struck me like a bolt of lightning this past week.  Up until this point, I've had a vague idea about a sequel for WCB being a wartime book in the vein of The Thin Red Line mixed with the diplomacy of fantasy series like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.  I like those ideas, but that's really not something I can sit and do for 80,000 words without any further plan.  Luckily, the other day I was sitting on my ass listening to the Blade Runner score (as you do) and four stories came to me (one biblical, two historical and one fictional) that inspired a major amount of the book.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The two stories I'd originally thought of for this book were loosely as follows:  One would follow several soldiers on the battlefield as they struggle to balance "fighting for the greater good" against killing other people when there are so few humans left alive.  Some would be low-ranking soldiers and some would be leaders of platoons.  This idea seemed good but not great and I wanted it to have some more pizzazz, which I was waiting for before I risked putting out a mediocre story (which is one of my greatest fears).  Fortunately it got a kick in the pants when I realized I could tie it into another story, which I'll get back to.

The second story I'd already thought of for the book was to follow someone (I won't say who, for spoiler purposes) during his/her time as a new diplomat or ambassador from one of the main colossi featured in Wandering City Blues like Proteus or Triton.  This character travels from titan to titan making high-stakes trades, bartering support for the war effort against supplies.  I can't say a whole lot more because most of this person's story depends on how WCB ended, but if you imagine Gandalf working to ally with Theoden of Rohan in The Two Towers or Khaleesi has to rally the Dathraki and grow her slave army throughout the Game of Thrones series, you're not far off.  This will tie in with the first story as our protagonists deal with difficult (and sometimes seemingly heartless) calculated risks and war strategizing around the globe, involving several civilizations.

So that brings us back to the new stuff that hit me last week.

For some reason, I thought of the biblical figure Judith of Bethulia and the historical figure Mata Hari.  They were two brilliant, fearless undercover women who used cunning and charm to change the course of history.  Judith posed as a harem girl for one of Nebuchadnezzar's officers and decapitated him, wheres Mata Hari posed as a dancer in order to steal classified information.  If you read Wandering City Blues, the female character I'd like to write would be an antagonist who is like a Joker to Iris's Batman.  I'd like her to slither and glide her way through allied theriopolises, wreaking havoc and causing unrest.

The fourth story would be inspired by the unfinished play Woyzeck and The Boston Massacre.  I imagine a husband of low social standing, nearing a nervous breakdown, pushed to his limits and leaving his house, erupting in violence literally in the middle of a theriopolis occupied by enemy forces.  The shit would hit the fan and it would tie into at least the first two stories I'd planned on telling (the soldiers and the diplomat).

I imagine I'll interweave the stories both in plot and sequencing, bouncing back and forth like Short Cuts or Magnolia.

Ok, so it's going to be a while before I get to properly writing, but now that I have a treatment of sorts, I can begin researching and working on outlines for each of the four stories I'm hoping to tell.  Welcome back, theriopolitans.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Diva.

Yesterday I sent a copy of Wandering City Blues to one of my uncles and his family outside Chicago.  Inscribing a book to family is always funny because I want to add more to it since these poor bastards have put up with me my whole life, including when I was a baby.  "Enjoy, Uncle Charlie and co.  Don't mind the sex scenes and graphic torture and stuff; your brother did a good job as my dad, I promise!  See you at the family reunion!"  That would make for an awful Christmas get-together though, right?  I walk in the room and someone's telling my 90-year-old grandmother "And then it's implied that this one guy gets fellated by some other guy's wife while he's investigating this ritual killing..."  Seriously if you're related to me please don't do that.

The big news of the week is that I was interviewed by the great Case Murphy for a new series of creator-based video interviews he's working on with a friend of his.  Yesterday, Case and I had a great 25-minute discussion about WCB and the future of Fogworld at Comic Logic in Ashburn, VA.  His video will be uploaded shortly (I imagine I'll get a link to you by next week), but in the meantime, check out these shots of Case and Connor setting up the equipment.

In the first picture, you'll probably notice that Nick Whitmire's original concept art for Proteus is on the TV, which was pretty badass.  In the second picture, you'll see Kevin Bednarz on the far left.  Kevin and Case co-own Comic Logic and The Ashburn Pub, where Wandering City Blues had its local launch the week before Halloween.  Kevin also invented the custom cocktails for the book, whose recipes are in the back after the end of the story.

I'm looking forward to seeing the final video and I hope you guys can stand listening to me talk for that long.  Have a good week; stay warm wherever you are!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

10 Points Will Be Deducted from Ravenclaw / The Customer Review Thing.

Damn, guys; I am so sorry I missed two weeks in a row on here.  I hate for you to check for an update and get ripped off when you see the same old stuff sitting up on the blog.  To rectify this, I'll be taking 10 points from Ravenclaw, the house that Pottermore's Sorting Hat put me into, in consideration for the House Cup at the end of this year.

Some of the challenge is that once a book is out, it's tricky to come up with new content about it.  By this point, I've spoken with several people who have offered me their feedback on Wandering City Blues, which has ranged from "generally positive despite some wrinkles" to "overwhelmingly glowing."  Several reviews for the book have popped up on its Amazon page; please feel free to add yours if you've read WCB and have any thoughts on it.  I trust and respect your honesty.

Speaking of which, you may notice on WCB's Amazon page that one of the reviews is rated one star out of five and I'd like to talk about it for a minute.  I don't mind getting a shit review from anyone who hated my work.  I get a little heartbroken inside, because I feel like I've let that reader down and have wasted their time and money.  And I get a little nervous, because every time I publish a book I feel like it's the best that it can be and that I'm proud of it, so a lowest-possible review makes me wonder if I'm so far off-base that I think something terrible is really great and I'm making a huge mistake.  As a self-conscious humanoid mammal, I have an easier time believing insults than compliments, which kinda fuels those fires.  But at the end of the day, one-stars are part of the business and I accept that they happen and I do my best to take criticism to heart when I feel the person has a genuine issue with something I've written.

But this particular one-star reminds me of one of the only one-stars I've gotten for Penny Cavalier, my investigative journalism piece about Real-Life Superheroes (actual costumed vigilantes and altruists).  In the Penny Cavalier review (please click the link so you can read and verify that I'm not making excuses), the one-star was given to me by someone who was an RLSH from way back when and he expresses his disdain for not being included in my book.  In fact if you look closely, he doesn't mention the manuscript at all except in regards to his lack of inclusion in it.  So I can't say it's incredibly helpful or comprehensive.  The review for Wandering City Blues is similar, but there's more of a story behind it.

When I was in post-production on WCB, a friend of mine who runs an entertainment website offered to have one of her writers review the book for her site.  I sent her a digital copy of the final manuscript and stressed to her that all's fair in love and book reviews, so not to let our acquaintanceship influence the review, and she agreed.  In fact she made good on it and had prepared to publish her writer's review on the website.  I've since seen the review, which had given WCB a 6.0/10 on the basis that the reviewer felt my characters could have built 1,000-foot-plus skyscrapers in the year or two that it took for the fog to spread over the surface, rendering the theriopolises obsolete.  Now, I'll admit that personally I disagree, because I feel like buildings of that magnitude take years and years to design, contract, construct and finish...but hey, maybe it's my job to explicitly explain that away in the book and I didn't to a satisfactory degree.  So I understand.  Of course I'd love to get a 10/10 or something - who wouldn't? - but I could live with six.  In the end, the review wasn't published, partially because it contained multiple story spoilers regarding character deaths and plot twists/points that occur in the first 100 pages of the book, and mostly because at the same time, this reviewer had had a falling out with the website regarding several separate issues excluding this review and she was terminated from her post.  Wandering City Blues just ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time for her.

Fast forward a month.  The book is released and available on Amazon and during the week of Thanksgiving I check out the page to see if it's gotten any reviews, and lo and behold, this same fired reviewer has now chosen to lower her score of the book from a 6.0/10 (or a 3 out of 5 on a five-point scale) to a 1 out of 5.  Oh boy.  There, she voices the same criticism she had in her first review but condenses it down to one sentence.  My first thought is to wonder what would cause her to feel as though her same criticism of the book would bring her score down from a 60% to a 20%, but out of concern, I tell my friend - who runs the website for which this review was intended - what's up, because my friend has also put out a couple books on Amazon and I want to give her a heads-up in case this woman is on some kind of review-bombing tear.  Review bombing is a subject I've covered in the past for IGN and is the main reason I've written out this whole story.  So my friend took a look at her books' pages on Amazon and this same woman has given her several one-star reviews as well.  And I hate to think the worst of someone, so I played devil's advocate until I read the review she'd left on one of my friend's books, in which she rated it one out of five for mixing up the spellings on "then" and "than."  As I said, oh boy.

So I'd like to take one more minute and entreat you, my friends and readers, to think hard about how you rate independent creators' works on any websites before you submit them.  If a book only has one review and it's a five-star review, and your personal dislike of the creator leads you to give them a one-star review, then in one fell swoop you reduce the public image of that book from five stars to three, from "awesome" to "mediocre."  And being on the comic convention circuit in the Virginia area, I've encountered several people whose businesses' success or failure can change with every review or every bad weekend at a con.  If you glued my experience with this WCB reviewer onto their state of business, you'd be looking at someone having to give up their dream and go back to an office or retail job because one person bore a grudge against them for something.

Now, if their work has truly earned that single star on its own creative merits, then by all means, let it fly.  I'll eat crow if I get one of those.  A family member told me that the back cover of my first book, 100,000 Years in Detention, looks like amateur hour.  It sucked, but he wasn't wrong.  So I've taken it into consideration and done my best to ensure I end up with better-looking jackets since then.  I had a teacher from a college stand at my table at MadiCon and trash The Broken Paragon for 20 minutes (without having read it) and I just had to grin and bear it.  Sometimes we get hit where it hurts and we just have to grow thick skin and get through it.  But please, when reviewing either a seller or a product, keep your feelings on each separate and give feedback accordingly.  Words matter.  If they didn't, I wouldn't be here.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

21 Days Later...

Hey everybody!  Please excuse last week's absence of blog.  I'd stayed up until about 4 a.m. Wednesday morning watching the results of the 2016 presidential election then slept two hours and took my daughter in to school, so I was pretty wiped.  Since then, Wandering City Blues has gotten its first official review, I've been booked for two more appearances and I'm starting to come up with something new, all of which I wanted to point you to today.

First, the review.  The UK-based website The Pulse Entertainment, a small but quickly-growing pop culture site, gave WCB an 8 out of 10, calling it "a fantastic read" and a "success."  Their review is spoiler-free, so give it a read regardless of whether or not you've had the chance to parse through WCB's pages yet.

Second, gigs!  This Saturday from 11-4 I'll be appearing at Comic Logic in Ashburn, VA for Local Comic Shop Day.  As usual, I'll have a table with books to sell/sign and to chat it up with everyone who comes by.  If you're in the area, come by and say hello!  I've also booked my first 2017 comic con, the brand new NOVA Con at The Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner.  This three-day con is July 28-30 and I'll have one of two specially-placed artist's tables, details to follow.  Artists Alley spaces for this con are still available so if you're a creator, get in while the getting's good!

Third, I'm looking forward towards the next book I'd like to write and I currently have two options available to me.  One would be a sequel to WCB, a war- and diplomacy-focused second volume of Fogworld that picks up where WCB leaves off.  For spoiler purposes I won't say where that is.  However, I can tell you that following the events of the previous book, inter-titan relations are worsening and a full-scale conflict is nearing inevitability.  Returning characters from WCB and many new characters will make up a cast of ambassadors, soldiers and politicians readying themselves for what could be mankind's last massive fight - a Final World War.  This week I rewatched both Seven Samurai and The Thin Red Line (1998) and both inspired the level of intimacy and existentialist dread of bloodshed into which I'd like to tap.

The other idea is to step outside the Fogworld saga and try my hand at horror.  My friends and readers have asked me for 10 years why I've never written a zombie book and I've always cited the oversaturation of the horror-drama market - much less that I never had a truly original idea.  Earlier this year I came up with a pretty exciting idea that I'd like to write at some point.  I'd like to start with the classic zombie setup - strangers scrambling to a house in a neighborhood and being forced to cooperate despite their personalities clashing amid the zombocalypse.  So far so meh, until the survivors realize there are too many zeds surrounding the house to escape so they decide there's nowhere to go but down.  They end up digging a tunnel to another nearby house in the neighborhood (spied from a vantage point in the first house) for food and supplies, then another tunnel, and another, each time hoping there will be few enough shamblers that they can flee on foot to safety.  They develop a whole network of tunnels throughout this neighborhood, challenged by cave-ins, limited supplies etc.  Essentially it's the first half of Night of the Living Dead welded onto the middle of The Great Escape - both of which I've also watched recently for inspiration.

So I have to decide between these two books.  Which do I write next, readers?  Does one sound better than the other, or more intriguing?  Is there any specific research you'd recommend I do before tackling one or the other?  Is anyone reading this?