Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Boldly Going...

I look back over my life as a writer sometimes and am often struck by how eclectic my journey has been. From "Christian Horror" novels to Syfy sharksploitation movies to a non-fiction guide to the convoluted chronology of Back to the Future--it's really all over the map! Well, last month, I added a new destination on this wild ride--Star Trek fan films.

As has been discussed before on this very blog, I've been making "home movies" since 1998 with friends and family. But, unlike filming your kids at their soccer games kind of "home movies", mine involve an ever-evolving mythology with complicated characters battling all manner of monsters and devils. They've really become an extension of my professional writing, often serving as a test bed of ideas that will eventually find their way into a novel. In fact, I took the four original home movies that created the foundation for that complex mythology and adapted and expanded them into my novel HITMEN: Four Tales of Magick, Monsters, and Murder. Not only that, but I've taken four more movies and am currently writing another adaptation--a sequel to the HITMEN collection! But more on that in a later post.

The rule of these home movies, however, has always been in place: they are just for us. I'll never post them to YouTube. I show them to new friends and am willing to show them to just about anyone who drops by the house and is ready to sit through 30+ movies, haha, but they're not intended for public consumption (or critique). It's a simple matter of creative expression and having fun with my friends.

In 2014, one such friend was Grace Bridges. Grace, and her outfit Splashdown Books, was the publisher of my first Rift Jump novel. Hailing from New Zealand, Grace frequently makes "tours" of America, visiting her authors. I was the next stop on her list and, while at the house, I was showing her a selection of my home movies. She instantly fell in love with them and, before she left (two days later), she expressed the desire to do a home movie with me! I rarely say "no" when I meet someone who shares my passion in this sort of thing, so I said "Let's do it!".

Her suggestion: Make a Star Trek movie.

Though I'd seen all the Trek movies a few times and I'd caught a number of episodes of the various series over the years, I was not a Star Trek expert by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, I agreed and, with Grace leading the writing and serving as my resident Star Trek guru, we quickly (two days, remember?) crafted Star Trek: Splashdown. It was a crazy rush, but we did it, Grace had a movie she was proud of, and she continued on her travels, showing our little movie to the friends she encountered along the way. And that was that. It was over.

Until it wasn't.

Fast forward to June of 2019. I've done MANY more home movies, but I've got this itch to do another. Most of my movies involve a core group of characters. I just ping pong back and forth between a few different storylines every couple years, and see "what happens next". But I felt as though I'd tapped out all the potential for the foreseeable future. All my various storylines were just stalled out and I couldn't think of any fresh take. So I turned my sights on movies in my saga that I rarely looked at. And I remembered Splashdown. I played "Commander Mitchell" in that movie, and I thought "I wonder whatever happened to that guy?" At the same time, I had, by accident (and a slow day at work) discovered the brilliant fan film series Star Trek Continues.

I fell in absolute love with that series and it opened up to me not only the world of fan films, but the world of Star Trek. I started watching Star Trek with a new appreciation for the first time. And the fan films--I was stunned to see that, all these years, people like me had been making their own "home movies" with complex mythologies and returning characters. They were even crossing over with each other's creations, making an elaborate expanded universe of storylines! I was excited, and it slowly dawned on me, then, "Hey... I made a Star Trek fan film too!"

That was when I wanted "Commander Mitchell" to return. Only, I had no Star Trek costumes, no props, no fancy CGI, no sets, no ideas, nothing. Just me and a camera and a desire to do something. How could I ever compete with something like Star Trek Continues? That's where Vance Major came into my life.

I ran across his name numerous times while researching fan films. This guy is a legend. His character of Erick Minard has existed across multiple eras of Trek and he's crossed over in so many other series. And characters from over a dozen fan film series have crossed over with his series! It's insane. Vance, however, is a man after my own heart. He has no real "crew", he shoots all his movies on his cell phone, and he just recruits friends, family (and any co-workers who stand still long enough) into his 70 some-odd short films. He has this intricate mythology with a core group of characters, all centered around his ship, the USS Constar--a ship that, by fate or bad luck, ends up at every major battle in the Star Trek canon, even though no one seems to notice or acknowledge their contributions. They are heartwarming films, honest films. Vance bears his heart and soul in these movies, speaking to things that are personal and meaningful to him. Seeing his movies--that they were more in line with the kinds of home movies I had been making all these years--was inspiring. "I can do that!"

I contacted Vance and plainly said, "I've got this character I would love to bring into one of your movies, but I have no costume, no sets, no props." Vance's reply was an instant "No problem! We'll figure it out!" And that's just what we did. Not only did I appear in that movie, I edited it too. Then we did another. And another. And another. Since June, I have now starred, written, directed, edited (and, yes, also bought a cheap Starfleet-esque uniform) in six or seven of his Constar Chronicles. Last December, he dropped all those movies onto YouTube ready to be binged.

Among them? The original Splashdown movie Grace and I made back in 2014, now including a brand-new bonus scene featuring Captain Erick Minard :) It's all come full circle, haha, and I've broken my Number One rule for the first and only time, putting one of my home movies on YouTube for public consumption and critique. But it was Vance who gave me the courage to do so, leading by example. You can now watch that movie right here.

We're not done yet, though! Vance and I have more ideas for future collaborations, expanding these characters and their relationships. Best of all--this October? I'm slated to step foot on a real Enterprise replica set to film a movie for the first time. Wow...

I am grateful for all the opportunities that Vance has given me, and for his friendship. I've found a kindred spirit in him as we have the same heart when it comes to telling stories in our respective mythologies. It's been another unexpected stop on my writer's journey--a detour, some might say--but, much like Star Trek, you never know what adventures await you down winding back roads in life. I'm happy to have taken the time explore this new avenue, boldly going...

(If you're interested in skipping straight ahead to my contributions, check out: Splashdown, Smoke and Mirrors, All Roads Lead to Home [which I wrote and directed], Wonderwall Part 2, The Scribbler)



Sunday, September 29, 2019

Is This Thing On?

tap tap Testing, One, Two, Three

Wow, it's been nearly a year since I've been on this blog. I'm fairly positive no one reads it anymore (not that many did when I originally began it), but I thought I'd drop by for a little update.

First off, I'm still here. Still writing, still creating. I have finished a working draft of the first TWO prequel novels for my The Coming Evil series. I've started work on Book Three and whenever that's finished, I plan to start releasing them in quick succession. I'm also working with Bob Freeman on another novella that I think will be a lot of fun. A follow-up to our Halloween House (that is still available and you should still read). So there are things in the pipeline to be released one day. I've also found myself falling down the rabbit hole, helping Vance Major make a series of Star Trek fan films. That's a very long story of how I got involved in that, haha, but maybe better saved for a later date. Those movies will hit YouTube in December, so maybe we'll reconvene then and do a little write up on it.

But more than that, I'm creating a lot of things that you won't see. If you've read my HITMEN novel (and, if not, why haven't you?) you know that, in my "free time", I make elaborate amateur movies. In fact, the home movies have turned into this intricate mythology where I actually work through a lot of the ideas that I eventually publish. They're sort of a test bed for concepts and dreams, where I can fully play with a story without the fear of "What will the public think?" It's just freeing and often experimental. Some of those concepts and characters make it into the books--and vice versa. It's an elaborate mythology that I enjoy creating. For myself.

Which brings me to the reason for my absence. Time for some real talk: I burnt up a lot of my youth on getting my name out there. On building a platform, a fanbase, and all the fancy "writer stuff" that you're told you HAVE to do if you want to succeed. And maybe you do, if you want to "succeed", but what's "success"? Again, I pushed aside friendships to pursue my dream. I put my life on hold, focused only on this goal of being "somebody". Somewhere along the way, however, I discovered that I was making my actual life miserable by chasing what I thought would make me happy. After MUCH soul searching, I came upon a conclusion:

Write less. Live more.

So that's what I've been trying to do over the last four years. With my kids now older and able to make more of their own choices (and mistakes), parenting is harder than ever. They need my attention, more than the cast of The Coming Evil. My wife and I are fighting to be purposeful in our parenting, but also to learn how to maintain our own identities apart from our kids who are going to be leaving the nest sooner than I really understood. Life is changing. Fast, and all the time. I've made new friends and I'm pouring myself into being a good friend--a better friend than I used to be. I seek to be used by the Lord in whatever situation I find myself in, and that requires effort. It requires diligence. Besides all of that, creatively speaking, I missed just writing and creating for myself. I didn't end up becoming the "big name" I had dreamed of when I was fresh out of high school. I am thankful to the people who have read my work and enjoyed it. That's incredibly cool to me. But the disappointment has been there, as well. I didn't get as far as I had hoped I would. Yet, then again, when I think of the novels I've seen published, when I think of the Syfy movies that I helped craft, that have been seen by audiences all over the world--maybe I got farther than I really thought I would.

All that is to say that I'm happy with where I'm at. I'm happy living my life and creating on my own time. I'm happy now that I don't find my worth in "units sold per quarter". It really IS just about the writing for me. I do so enjoy this mad mythology I've created and it's a welcome retreat from the rigors of reality sometimes. I'm happy that some of you got to explore my world--as much as I've shared with you--and I look forward to giving you more opportunities to visit in the future.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Road to Revan

Super exciting news today, guys. The cat is out of the bag, I'm going to be a contributing writer on Star Wars: Revan: Rogue Jedi!



You may ask "What is that, and why should I be excited?"

Allow me to explain:

Back in 2003, Bioware developed a Star Wars video game called Knights of the Old Republic. It's set some four thousand years before a simple farm boy from Tatooine blew up the Death Star. The game was a role-playing action adventure designed to put you in the center of the story. You're able to customize your character's appearance, give them a name of your choosing, and it also allowed you to dictate how you responded to any number of situations. YOU are the star of the game and your fate is in your own hands. It was a massive hit spawning sequels, comics, novels, and introduced the much-beloved character of Revan to the Star Wars canon (well, before Disney obliterated all that...but that's a topic best saved for another time...).

Over the years, intrepid fans of the original Knights of the Old Republic game (abbreviated to KOTOR) figured out how to crack into the game's programming and further customize it, crafting new characters and new landscapes--all still using the game's engine.

That's where Kevin Smets comes in. Kevin's a professional video editor and filmmaker--and also a huge fan of KOTOR. A number of years ago, he began "filming" a series of movies based on the game. Meaning, he recorded his playthrough, dubbed in his own voice as the main character's--that he named Logan Starr--added new music, and customized it to the point that it tells the story Kevin was interested in telling, sometimes veering away from the game's storyline. I saw his movies and I was totally smitten by the creativity and ingenuity that he utilized in putting together this "fan film".

But then! Then I heard that he had partnered with some phenomenally talented computer whiz kids to create BRAND NEW movies based on Logan Starr's backstory. Things never seen in the original game--or any game. This is all new content, built from scratch, using the original game's engine. It looks like KOTOR, it "feels" like KOTOR, but this is no game. It's pretty incredible that they were able to do this. And this movie? It is called Star Wars: Revan: Rogue Jedi.



This is the first part of a trilogy of new films, chronicling the backstory of Kevin's character Logan Starr. It will have all-new storylines, characters, locations, voice actors, new sound design, effects, etc. I  have no doubt it will be a sight to see when it is finished. I have been in talks with Kevin for a while now, and he knows of my love for Star Wars and his particular take on KOTOR (as well as my writing background), and he has graciously invited me to come on board his team and help bring the Revan Trilogy to your computer screen. Kevin is handling the lion's share of the writing chores, as this is his baby, but he's also a busy guy and has recognized he can't do it all on his own. I'm more than happy to help shoulder the burden, because I believe in the project that much.

While this is totally unofficial, it's still an opportunity to write Star Wars, a dream of mine for so long now. I am grateful for the chance and can't wait for you guys to see the final product. In the meantime, you've got plenty of time to get caught up on the other Logan Starr movies. There are a total of seven so far. The first trilogy centers on Logan Starr, while the second quartet focuses on Logan's friend and apprentice, Meetra Surik. Her journey is chronicled in the movies of YouTube user Darth Ycey.

Hit this link to check out the first Logan Starr adventure, and tune in here for future updates as they come in!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Worlds Collide!

First, allow me the annual dusting-off of cobwebs on this here blog...

Now with the housework out of the way--Welcome! The leaves are changing, the wind is turning crisper, and my favorite season is upon us. Halloween is here, and I have returned to the interwebs with a treat to offer you.

Over the course of the last year and a half--among the other projects I've been tinkering on--my friend and fellow author Bob Freeman and I have been putting together our first storytelling collaboration. As you may or may not recall, Bob has already lent his incredible artistic talents to my HITMEN novel, providing the cover. But, this time, we agreed to tackle a novella together, trading off writing chores on rotating chapters, and making it a point to surprise the other. It was a lot of fun and, today, we present to you the fruits of our labors...Hallowe'en House!


This tale was especially thrilling for me as it involves the character Bob named after me, and it also marks the first time I've ever written in Bob's sprawling occult detective mythology. I've been a huge fan of his mega-myth for a number of years now, but actually contributing to it filled me with equal parts eagerness and caution. I think we've crafted a wile ride through the darkest corners of the cosmos and we hope you agree.

Also of note, readers of my own mythology (particularly my Rift Jump duology) might find some interesting connections inside the Hallowe'en House...

The book is available now in print and Kindle. Get your copy today--just in time for Halloween! A perfect little story to read by the soft flicker of Jack O'Lantern light.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Demonologist Greg Mitchell has discovered a secret from his father's past, a secret that not only sheds light on their strained relationship but on the path he has found himself upon, caught between Heaven, Hell, and all points between.

Turning to his former mentor, Dr. Landon Connors, Mitchell and the infamous occult detective seek out Hallowe'en House, a legendary transdimensional nexus that bristles with unfathomable eldritch energies.

But they're not the only ones who have come seeking out Hallowe'en House.



Monday, March 12, 2018

Hangin' Out with Bob Freeman, Author of "First Born"!




Well, hello there! It's been quite awhile since I've been 'round these parts, but today I've returned to the Internet for a special occasion. My buddy Bob Freeman has got a new book out--First Born: Tales of the Liber Monstrorum--and you should know about it! To celebrate, I've invited Bob back to the blog for another palaver about his latest publication, inspirations, future projects, and anything else we have a mind to discuss. So, on with it!

Greg Mitchell: It's Bob! He's back! What have you been up to recently?

Bob Freeman: Thanks for having me, Greg. It's good to be back. I'm still hard at work being the best husband and father I can be, all the while indulging in my various and sundry eccentricities.

GM: You've got your priorities in the right place, there. Let's talk about the new Landon Connors book, First Born. This is the first book in your massive Liber Monstrorum opus, yes? What's the skinny?

BF: First Born was a chance to put most all the Landon Connors/Wolfe & Crowe stories that I've written so far under one roof. I say most because I only included those stories that take place before Descendant, which will be the second volume in Liber Monstrorum.

GM:  I have to say that, though I know you've published most of these stories in other sources, reading them all in a single volume--with the stories arranged in chronological order--really brings it to new life. You can see the sprawling occult epic like never before, and I made so many more connections between the various stories than I did when I was reading them scatter shot across various sources. 

I know you're never supposed to ask a writer this, but is there any particular story that sticks out in this collection as your favorite? Or, when putting them together, did something previously unknown to you about your story world jump out?

BF: Wyrdtails, in a lot of ways, because I think it has an interesting twist and there's a lot of truth I put down on paper. My best friend passed away less than a month after writing that story, and in some ways, I think it was prophetic. In fact, it's only now that you ask that question that I'm somewhat staggered by that revelation.

GM: I recall Wyrdtails as having a heavy feel to it. What's next for Landon Connors?

BF: Well, there's his role in the collaboration you and I are putting together, but I suppose that's as much of a tease as we should give your readers.

GM: Too true! Yeah, Bob and I are at work on something that's proving to be an exciting exercise. But that will remain secret...for now.

BF: He has a minor role in Descendant, though his influence is ever-present. He's there between the lines, in the spaces between words. His role is far more prominent in Liber Monstrorum's third volume, Born Again, and then, I will look to wrap up the series in the fourth and final book, Afterbirth.

GM: I'm so ready for those. I've read an earlier incarnation of Descendant, but I believe Born Again and Afterbirth will be fresh territory for me to explore as a reader--and I'm happy to do so!

Of course, Landon isn't the only focal point in your mythos. How are the Wolves of Cairnwood these days? You've got one final book to complete that trilogy, right? Any update on that?


BF: I have been dropping hints, here and there. A lot of questions regarding the Cairnwood Legacy will be answered in Born Again, strangely enough. If sales warrant it, Shadow of the Wolf will come along after. If not, I think Born Again could satisfy that itch.

GM: Yeah, it's only been recently after some of the stories you've published online on your site (occultdetective.com, shameless plug) and conversations we've had that I've started to figure out how the two mythologies connect--and once I hit on it, it was incredibly exciting, but also very mysterious. I'm anxious to see how it all comes together.

Okay, books on hold for a second, though: Recently you (finally) watched Stranger Things. To say I love that show is a sad, sad understatement. This is the point in the interview where I give you the mic and let you expound your love for the wonder of Stranger Things.

BF: Look, I was born and raised in rural Indiana. I was 17 years old in November of 1983. I was an avid player of Dungeons & Dragons with a insane curiosity about all things "paranormal" and considered myself a student of the occult. Stranger Things was like holding up a mirror to my childhood in a lot of ways. It really hit home. Couple that with the obvious homages to Carpenter, Spielberg, and other milestones from the era, and well, it was tailor-made for someone like me. It was me...

GM: No doubt. It tugs at me. I switch it on, and I'm transported back in time. It takes me back to when I first saw the Monster Squad and subsequently rode my bike up and down the street, hoping to find a monster to hunt. I mean, it hits on all the right notes for me, and I can't gush enough about it.

But beyond that, what other movies/comics/books/TV has got you buzzing these days? What's inspiring you lately? How are you feeling about the X-Files revival take two?

BF: The latest X-Files has seemed a little stiff, but I'm still a fan. That being said, I have always liked the idea behind the X-Files far better than the execution. 

GM: I can see that, though I have enjoyed this season considerably more than the last one.

BF: Millennium was a better show, as far as I'm concerned, and Fringe out X-Filed the X-Files by being more consistent and Twin Peaks sort of outshined it a far as revivals go by being far more edgy and, well, weird.

GM: I will admit, I ONLY RECENTLY watched the first season of Twin Peaks. Haven't made it to the second season yet. Hm... 

BF: As for being buzzed, I'm a bit of a YouTube junkie and a real gaming nerd, so I spend a fair amount of time watching "actual plays" and tutorials. I think, if backed into a corner my three favorite "shows" right now are Critical Role (professional voice actors playing Dungeons & Dragons), Schola Gladiatoria (Historical European Martial Arts enthusiast Matt Easton's Sword channel), and Curse of Oak Island on History Channel.

GM: Having said that, I feel I should point folks to your own YouTube channel where you talk about tabletop gaming and RPGs!

BF: At home we've been binge watching a lot. It's been a great chance to share things I loved with the two most important people in my life. We plowed through Star Trek (all flavors), Babylon 5, Highlander, Twin Peaks, and Stranger Things, to name just a few. We're currently waist deep into Fringe (which I mentioned earlier) and it's been a real bonding experience for us as a family. I just wish I could get them to watch Veronica Mars :)

GM: With all these muses in your head, do you ever have trouble keeping them straight? I know that, in my own mythology, it sometimes gets so big and detail-orientated that I find myself having to re-read the various books to remind myself of how it all fits together.

BF: I think I have some sort of weird mutant ability to keep all that stuff straight in my head. Sometimes, if I've been away from it for a handful of months, I'll need a refresher, but mostly it all comes rather naturally. It seems like the stories have all already happened and I'm just the guy who drew the short straw and get to write them down.

GM: I can understand that. In my own experience, there is an almost instinctive quality to it, like you're just uncovering what's already there. What's your son, Connor, up to these days? I enjoyed his first book, Jonny Spencer and the Black Lich of Ashrock Earth (what a sweet name!) and understand he's working on other projects?

BF: Thanks for asking. I am more than passingly proud of that kid. I've just finished editing his first urban fantasy novel, Word Hollow, and I'll tackle editing its follow-up in a couple of weeks. That will make three books in four years for him. Not bad for a fourteen year old.

GM: No doubt! Thank you, as always, for stopping by to hang.

BF: Thanks for having me, my friend. It's always a pleasure. I have, for as long as I can remember, been obsessed with telling stories. The medium didn't and doesn't matter, whether it was playing with action figures, writing short stories, novels, or comic books, slinging dice from behind a DM Screen, or even sitting around a campfire spinning yarns. It is what I was born to do and I feel infinitely blessed to be able to do so.

GM: Well I, for one, have enjoyed your stories and love exploring the worlds you've created. Alright, everybody, that's your cue to go buy Bob's latest book: First Born

ABOUT THE BOOK: From the arcane sorceries of the "Wickedest Man in the World" to the supernatural exploits of Occult Detective Landon Connors and the harrowing investigations of Agents Wolfe and Crowe, this collection of macabre tales of the black arts treads the dangerous landscape between this world and that populated by angels and demons, gods and devils, ghosts and spirits, and the legendary creatures of our darkest imaginings.

First Born is the beginning of the journey into the Liber Monstrorum, the Chronicles of those Occult Detectives who are the last line of defense against those preternatural forces that threaten to destroy a world that refuses to believe that such things exist...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Dusty Duck Sighting!


Anyone who talks to me for any length of time will discover quite quickly that, not only do I love monsters, but I am a huge Star Wars fan. Like any kid growing up in the '80s, there was never a time where Star Wars wasn't a part of my life. Even before I'd ever seen the movies, I knew all about Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, Vader, and the droids. I appreciated Star Wars from afar until, around high school, I learned that everything related to Star Wars--comics, cartoons, movies, games, books--were all connected into a large, decade-spanning tapestry of mythology. It was called the Expanded Universe, and when I learned of its existence, I truly fell in love with Star Wars, as I believed that the whole was greater than its parts. To know that all these stories mattered--that they all existed in some way and reflected each other, that authors who had never met built upon the creative labors of those who came before to create this living, breathing epic canon.

I still get chills, just thinking about it.

Once I learned that, I devoted my efforts to "get in". To tell my own little story within this megamyth, to carve my own niche that other authors could play with and elaborate on and explore. Thanks to God (and the fine folks at Lucasfilm), I got that chance with an online writing contest called "What's the Story", where fans were given the incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a backstory for some minor element glimpsed in the background of one of the (then) six Star Wars movies. After years of effort, I won two rounds. I was a co-contributor for Senator Silya Shessaun, and I was the sole developer of the backstory for a ship seen in a deleted scene for The Phantom Menace that I dubbed the Dusty Duck.



I was in. I had touched that monument and left my mark. I was totally fulfilled, knowing my contribution would stand.

Then Disney came along and acquired the Star Wars brand and their first order of business was to dump the entire Expanded Universe--decades of myth-making--in favor of their own in-house stories.

In a single boardroom decision, everything was gone, including my own humble contributions.

I was devastated. As a fan, and as a writer. I know I'm supposed to be cool and say "Hey, babe, it's all part of the gig". But it wasn't to me.

Well, I have long lamented this Disney buyout (though I enjoyed The Force Awakens), but then something special started to happen. I began to see some of the old Expanded Universe elements creeping back into the official--"no we mean it this time"--Disney canon. Thrawn shows up in the animated series Rebels, and the visual guide to Rogue One was a veritable smorgasbord of references to the old West End Games roleplaying modules. Maybe my Expanded Universe wasn't entirely gone after all. Oh, yes, now it's been re-branded as "Legends"--but the new material has shown time and again that some legends are "real".

Slowly, I began to hope that maybe my own mark on Star Wars might exist in some form. Maybe not as a I originally envisioned them, but maybe they would live on after all. Earlier this year, with the release of Star Wars The Visual Encyclopedia, I learned that Silya Shessaun is still "alive" in this new canon. True, nothing else has been revealed of her origins, and I don't know how much of what we built in What's the Story is "factual" any more, but she's still in there.

The biggest surprise, however, came just a couple weeks ago with the release of the (delightful) children's book, BB-8 On the Run, by Drew Daywalt and Matt Myers. Set in between the early events of The Force Awakens, it chronicles the adventures of BB-8 immediately after he's separated from Poe Dameron and leads up to his rescue by Rey. Over the course of his travels, he helps a stranded droid return to his ship--a scavenger ship piloted by droids, it would seem--and lo, when you turn the page...



It's the Dusty Duck.

She's alive. The old bird's alive. Now: a disclaimer! The ship is not actually named in this book. It is entirely possible that, though I wrote that the Dusty Duck was a one-of-a-kind custom-job, someone could come along and say this was just another ship "like" the Duck. Or maybe it's not "the Duck" at all. Maybe they took the same ship from the deleted scene of Phantom Menace that the Duck was originally intended to be and have given it an entirely new backstory. Which would be, frankly, heartbreaking--a second time.

But maybe--just maybe--it's still her. Maybe it's still the Duck. After all, the story still tracks. In my original entry, the ship's pilot, Aneesa Dym, purchased a handful of droids to repair the ship right before her shocking murder at the hands of Darth Maul. And the story I wrote does say that the droids repaired the bird to perfection. Could it be that, after years of being stranded on Tatooine, the droids finally took the Duck to flight and started their own crew, salvaging parts to keep the ship running and collecting other master-less droids?

I think so. But, that's out of my hands now. But it's a start. And it's enough to hang a hope on.

At any rate, thank you to Drew, Matt, and the Lucasfilm Story Group for dusting off the ole girl and giving her another day in the sun. It's pretty neat to see her in action again (and, hey, she actually flew in this story!) and I can't wait to see what new adventures she'll go on :) Best of all, the day we bought the book, my wife read it to our seven-year-old daughter for her bedtime story, and she could know that our family had a small part in that ship's legacy. That's what it's all about, folks.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About The "In-Between Trilogy"

During the years of 2011-2013, I released what would become the foundation of my magnum opus, The Coming Evil Trilogy.

The series that started it all...

Set in the small town of Greensboro, the Trilogy deals with an already beleaguered community that comes under siege by a demonic presence known only as "The Strange Man". To combat him, a group of heroes from various walks of life have to overcome their own personal demons to discover a faith strong enough to push back the Strange Man and his legion of devils. The Coming Evil was conceived back in 1999, and it was my way of combining 1980s Saturday matinee creature features with a story about faith, doubt, and ultimately, redemption.

But there is a heated speech that the Strange Man utters in Chapter 9 of Dark Hour, the third and final installment of that trilogy:

"Oh, you never mean to. You just pose your questions and make your debates and you think you have such a grasp of the world around you, but you have no idea. You can’t even begin to understand the places in between, the unknowable depths of eternity, the mind-shattering realizations that wait just beyond your rather limited peripheral understanding of space and time. What are you, huh? You people! You’re just dust! Dirt thrown together and given breath and yet you think you are owed explanations? You think you deserve to be in charge?" 

Since the final book in  The Coming Evil Trilogy was published in 2013, I have been writing the story of that space "in between" the worlds, and with the recent release of my new supernatural thriller Infernal City, a new thematic trilogy is finished.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

The unofficially labeled "In-Between Trilogy" derives its name from the fact that all books involved deal with that dark space "in between" the worlds of the multiverse, as first mentioned in Dark Hour. It is also labeled thus as it fits nicely "in between" The Coming Evil...and my NEXT Trilogy, which I am currently writing.

The installments of this thematic trilogy--that is, Rift Jump (Volumes 1 & 2), Infernal City, and HITMEN: Four Tales of Magick, Monsters, and Murder--represent my creative journey to writing The Coming Evil. Rift Jump (or a version thereof) was begun when I was in high school and was the first story that I claimed. Later, in 1996-1998, when I realized I wanted to be a horror screenwriter, Infernal City (or "Soul Decision", as it was known before some boy band came out and stole my blasted title--I mean, seriously, what were the odds of that?) was the first script I wrote--with hopes of producing it myself at the age of 19 or 20 (I was pretty naive). I hung my hat on that script for a long time before I realized I did not have the proper connections, the money, or the equipment to produce a professional film on my own. So I found another outlet for moviemaking--home movies. As has been stated elsewhere, I set out to create a no-budget horror epic, just for me and my friends. From that simple mission statement, HITMEN was born. The novel bearing the same name is, really, just an elaborated adaptation of those original home movies.

These were three important phases of my creative development, all leading me to 1999/2000, when I began writing the first draft of The Coming Evil. I am not a guy to let things go, so I knew that, once The Coming Evil was finished, I would return to those old ideas that I cut my teeth on, dust them off, give them a polish, and release them--but now as part of the mythology begun in The Coming Evil.

This "In-Between Trilogy" interconnects, asking questions in one episode, answering them in another. They intersect at multiple points, weaving an intricate story web, though they are standalone stories with their own unique casts of characters, as well as plots and resolutions. This trilogy-of-sorts can be read in any order--all leading to that strange storm that kicks off The Coming Evil. Having said that, here's my personally preferred order of reading, the one that I think offers the most bang for your buck in picking up the various threads, themes, characters, and locations. There are far too many Easter Eggs and connections for me to list here (and part of the fun is discovering it for yourself), but here's a handy guide to get you started.

ROMANCE AT THE EDGE OF FOREVER

Greensboro and its battle against the Strange Man is only a small conflict in a much larger war. In the Rift Jump duology (Volumes 1 & 2, respectively), we pull way back to reveal just how big a war that truly is. These stories take you to the very edge of the cosmos, where we learn that Greensboro belongs to a reality that is only one of many in an infinite multiverse of parallel realities. We are introduced to star-crossed lovers Michael and Sara, two teenage runaways who travel the multiverse together, trying to stay two steps ahead of some unfathomable evil that lurks in the dark spaces in between the worlds. This Evil is looking for something--namely the means of his escape, as the multiverse is his prison--and believes that Michael and Sara are the key.

Teen love and angst in the multiverse!

On the surface, this sci-fi series seems a far cry from the "small town horror" of The Coming Evil. Readers will be whisked away to many bizarre and alternate worlds in a constant barrage of adventure, meeting costumed superheroes, robots, aliens, and demons. I've often compared it to a dark Doctor Who meets Lovecraft kind of tale, with enough cosmic horrors to keep the reader's head spinning. While "weird", the themes and struggles of its love-drunk protagonists as they make war against an outside Evil--and the darkness in their own hearts--will be instantly recognizable to fans of The Coming Evil.

Over the course of these two volumes, we learn that one world, in particular, holds great meaning for this Cosmic Evil. A very familiar world to us, where there is a City where it never stops raining, and lost souls can see their dreams come true...for a terrible price.

FOOL FOR THE CITY

This narrative thread leads us to my brand new novel, Infernal City. The massive scope of Rift Jump comes into sharper focus here. Now, knowing what we do about that Thing in between the worlds, we find our way back to the Earth of The Coming Evil Trilogy. Lurking beneath the City is a sleeping beast that hungers for souls. We are introduced to Quinn Holbrook, a down-on-his-luck ex-boxer who is employed by the City's representative--known simply as "Mac"--to retrieve those who would sell their souls to the City for wealth and pleasure, and then try to run out once the bill comes due. When Quinn is tasked with hunting one of these "Runners" who's hiding in the idyllic community of Watcher's Grove (a close neighbor to Greensboro), he begins to learn the truth of that Thing Beneath the City.

The new release!

In Infernal City, we, too, begin to get a clearer picture of the greater threat that is posed to our heroes back in The Coming Evil. Aesthetically, Infernal City is the closest of my novels to The Coming Evil. We're in familiar territory, in a small town plagued by a demonic force--with quite a few twists and turns along the way. This is a noir detective story, a thriller, and a romance told in Quinn's own words. And as Quinn starts to question his place in the shadowy underbelly of our story world, we are going to plunge headlong into that darkness for the third and final installment of our thematic trilogy.

SHADES OF GREY

Moral ambiguity abounds as a complicated tale of forgiveness is told in HITMEN: Four Tales of Magick. Monsters, and Murder. This book, itself, is a collection of four novellas that build upon one another, telling the bloody saga of Eli Ross, a hitman who has a crisis of faith that is precipitated by the appearance of a mysterious, hulking figure that has begun a campaign of slaughter against the criminal underworld's biggest players. Along the way, we meet world-weary Vinnie Caponi: Urban Mythologist, his young idealistic apprentice, Flynn, and the untamed criminal heiress Marcie, who has her fair share of secrets--as well as a tight hold on Eli's heart. These four unlikely heroes find themselves in the malevolent path of the Blue Skull--a supernatural killing machine--and must uncover the shocking truth behind his rampage and put an end to his reign of terror before they fall victim to his brutality. Adding to their problems is a villain who escaped the final chapters of Infernal City to come make trouble for our heroes...
A world of shadows...

HITMEN could be considered "darker" than what most people are accustomed to reading from me. Heroes are sometimes harder to discern, and the lines between good and evil blur. It explores the occult connections of my mythology, and the violence is cranked up a few notches. It's an unabashedly gory novel, and to some of my faithful readers' chagrin, it also contains a rarity in my fiction: coarse language and sex. Even at that, the language and sensuality used is safely within a PG-13 rating, but I realize that for some, that's too much. Nevertheless, this is a story of killers and thieves in conflict with their baser natures. HITMEN is about breaking through the darkness of the world you know, escaping the traps of your past to find a new fate. The road to redemption is never easy, and rarely pretty. These are damaged people in dark places, and the language and subject matter of the book reflects that, but is meant to ultimately serve a redemptive purpose.

HITMEN leads us the nearest to The Coming Evil, taking place just a couple months before the start of that original trilogy, and sections of the action even take place in Greensboro, itself. Readers will recognize some familiar places and faces, setting the stage for The Coming Evil.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Ultimately, the "In-Between Trilogy" reveals a larger world and conflict than seen in the original trilogy, and points to the cosmic importance of the events of Greensboro. It also raises many questions--questions that I am in the process of addressing in my next sequence of novels. There are many exciting mysteries left to reveal in Greensboro's distant past and even, in my mind, a future, final climatic battle to bring this mythology to a close. But while we wait, this new thematic trilogy offers many new adventures, heroes to cheer, monsters to fear, and an enticing look at the larger mythology of The Coming Evil Trilogy.

All books are available in print and on Kindle.