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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New Release--Infernal City!

Out today, in both print and Kindle editions, is my new supernatural suspense novel, Infernal City!

Here's what's on the back:

There are those who come to the City, looking to cut a deal for the cost of their souls, and the City always collects what it’s owed in the end. Quinn Holbrook is a Retriever for the City, tasked with tracking down those who, out of fear or desperation, would renege on their Faustian deals. When Quinn is given a job to hunt one of these “Runners” in the small rural town of Watcher’s Grove, he suspects it’s just another job. Yet, as he’s welcomed into this warm and loving community, he begins to doubt his convictions. But the Grove is not all it seems, harboring a secret that could spell the end of the City’s demonic reign. A battle is drawing near, and Quinn will have to choose, once and for all, where his allegiance lies.

Fans of my The Coming Evil Trilogy will recognize the City, as it's been mentioned in that series (as well as my other works, but more on that in a later post). Infernal City is a sort of "sidequel", taking place just down the road from Greensboro and the events in The Coming Evil.

This book also marks a return to the type of "small town horror" that I explored in my earlier books. My faith-based readers should find much to cheer for in this new tale. Infernal City is a romance, a mystery, and it's got a ton of strange new creatures. I hope everyone checks it out!

Here's what Mike Dellosso--author of Centralia and Kill Devil had to say about the new book:

"Infernal City is a mesmerizing story. Captivating. And Quinn Holbrook is a dude you just have to root for. Mitchell's way with words puts you right in the middle of the action. This is a story that will linger long after completion."