Friday, May 25, 2012

First Look--RIFT JUMP!

Hey, folks. Been a bit since we had some exciting book news to report on this front, but that changes today with the big unveiling of the amazing cover art for my upcoming release--Rift Jump!


This incredible piece was digitally painted by Marvel Comics colorist Thomas Mason. Thomas never ceases to amaze me with his ability and eye for detail. Visit him on his Facebook page. Befriend him--he does commissions!

Michael and Sara--the heroes of Rift Jump--have been with me since I was a meek and gangly high schooler, doodling comic book superheroes in the margins of my homework. To see them come to life like this is a dream come true. It's one of those moments when I wish I had a time machine to take this back to my younger self and give him something to look forward to.

The novel comes out in July from Splashdown Darkwater. It's a bit of a departure from The Coming Evil Trilogy, but I hope everyone gives it a look. Expect a rip-roaring ride of angsty teen romance, bizarre creatures, and comic book-style action! In the meantime, I direct you to my initial announcement of the book where you can get further details on this crazy new adventure through the multiverse!

UPDATE: The book is out and available from these fine sellers!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Endnotes: Dusty Duck

Concluding the two-part series of endnotes for my contributions to the Star Wars mythology, today we talk about the Dusty Duck. The following originally appeared on my blog at, but now that the feature has been discontinued, I've edited my endnotes and moved them here. To read Part One of my endnotes about Silya Shessaun, clicky here


Following many setbacks and a seemingly exceptionally long waiting period, the What's the Story feature returned to with the winners of Round 6. Having been very frustrated with the waiting process (and griping quite a bit about it, I'm a bit embarrassed to say :p) I was just happy and relieved to see that an update had been posted at all. When I saw that the first entry was dubbed "Dusty Duck", I looked to my wife and said, "Oh, they used my name for the ship". Imagine my shock when I realized that the judges had, in fact, used my entire entry!

I was really excited to see that 99% of my entry was used, word for word. There was only one "story change", but we'll get to that later.

Here's the breakdown--excerpts are taken from the original Dusty Duck databank entry:

Aneesa Dym was a Pa'lowick born and raised by her smuggler father on Nar Shaddaa.

Although I wasn't the most well-versed guy when it came to the Expanded Universe that encompassed all the games, novels, movies, cartoons, trading cards, comics, etc--I hadn't really heard of a lot of Pa'lowick characters. Pa'lowicks, as you may or may not recall, first appeared in Return of the Jedi in the form of Sy Snootles, a space-y lounge singer for Jabba the Hutt. I can count the number of Pa'lowick characters that exist in Star Wars on one hand--and most of those followed in Sy's footsteps of being singers. I hadn't discovered any Pa'lowicks who were smugglers, so I thought it would be a nice change and break the species stereotype.

Nar Shaddaa originated in the pages of the Dark Empire comics and is a rough place for a kid to grow up--a far cry from the small agricultural community of Lowick (where most of the other Pa'lowicks in the galaxy are born and raised).

She helped him pilot a ship of his own design that he had dubbed the Dusty Duck, named partly for the waterfowl of Naboo and for the ship's penchant for coughing to a halt in space and coming in for a rough landing on many barren worlds. "Duck's not meant for flying," he'd often say. "At least, not for too long."

The idea of naming a ship "Dusty Duck" was hilarious to me. I guess that's just a throwback to pirates having ridiculous names for their ships in movies or something. I wanted a name that was personal and warm and not a typical ship name like "the 85LZ-Whatever". Also, I noticed a trend. There was the Millenium Falcon. The Moldy Crow. The Ebon Hawk. So, I wanted something that had the same structure as these names, just...well, silly. And, since ducks are kind of a running gag throughout anything George Lucas touches, I thought "Eh, why not?" The only problem was coming up with a reason to name a ship after a duck. I came up with this little quote to, not only (hopefully) deliver a laugh, but show that the father loved this ship, despite its flaws, which is a recurring theme in this story...

When Aneesa's father was stabbed in the back by an angry customer, Aneesa became the sole crewer for her late father's gigantic jalopy and scoured the galaxy for the scum that left her an orphan. Her search led her to many backwater planets but time and again her hunt would come up empty.

So the father dies and Aneesa is left with the family business. It's a scary position to be in, but she tries her best. Though...she could use a little help.

Then bounty hunter Rango Tel entered the picture. Tel heroically cornered the murderer of Aneesa's father in a cantina and bested the villain in combat, collecting the bounty. With this act of bravery, Tel stole the heart of Aneesa Dym. She offered him her piloting skills and the Dusty Duck and, together, the duo set off across the galaxy in search of Tel's next bounty, Kam Nale.

When I decided on the silly name for this ship, I knew I had to have something equally silly to go along with it. Enter: Rango Tel. Many Whatsthestoryists try to tie into each other's creations, building a mythos within a mythos, as it were, and I'm certainly no different. Rango Tel was actually one of the earliest entries picked for What's the Story and was instantly likeable. The tale of the bounty hunter wannabe was personable, funny, but ultimately tragic and I remember his creator Aaron Sinner upset that he had created this great character but killed him off his first time out, thereby ending any hope he had of any further EU adventures.

Well, this one was for you, Aaron.

I talked about the theme of this entry before and here's where it really kicks in:

Everybody needs somebody. No matter how much of a dork you really are, you need a friend who will love you in spite of that. Luckily, I have an amazing wife, two beautiful daughters, and great, loyal friends who all love and support me, despite my craziness. Rango Tel was a bumbling kid who got a lucky shot and had ill-fated delusions of grandeur because of it. However, to Aneesa, he was brave. To her, he was a hero. As you can guess, the "villain he bested in combat" in this entry is the same guy he "inadvertently score[d] a bounty on" in Aaron's original entry. I saw Aaron's entry as the true version of the facts, but wanted to write my entry through Aneesa's rose-colored view of this man who avenged her father (however accidentally), which accounts for Rango sounding a lot tougher in this entry than he really, probably, was.

Rango and Aneesa are kind of in the same boat. They're both young and lost, looking for something to do with their lives. Now, they've found each other and have decided to take that journey together. So, Rango's got a faithful friend who adores him and a rickety ship, ready to begin his life as a "daring" bounty hunter.

Their search led them to Tatooine. Aneesa drop-landed the Duck just outside Mos Espa and waited onboard for her valiant defender to collect the head of Nale, as her newly purchased DUM pit droids tended to much-needed repairs on the ship.

However, while Tel was away, an image of the Dusty Duck was captured in the dying camera eye of a Sith probe droid destroyed by a fleeing Qui-Gon Jinn and Anakin Skywalker. Darth Maul, the probe's owner, followed the trail to the Dusty Duck and boarded, demanding a very startled Aneesa to tell him where the Jedi was. A confused Aneesa had no answer for the fierce Sith Lord.

This is where we get to the Dusty Duck's appearance in The Phantom Menace deleted scene. Rango Tel heads out for his big job (from which he'll never return) and Aneesa stays behind to watch the ship.

I love Darth Maul. I think he's one of the most underused baddies in all of Star Wars, so racking up one more kill for him was a great thrill for me. In the deleted scene, Qui-Gon strikes down the probe droid following he and Anakin back to the Queen's ship. Darth Maul only sees them fleeing and thinks they are headed for the Dusty Duck, which accounts for why he's a bit behind the duo and almost misses his opportunity to make a good first impression when we see him in the movie.

This is also the only part of my story that was actually changed. Originally, Maul enters the ship and demands to know where "the boy" is, meaning Anakin. Aneesa thinks he's referring to her friend - the brave and dangerous bounty hunter - and refuses to give up that information in order to protect Rango. Maul cuts her down for her insolence. The changes were made and, yeah, Aneesa might not have gotten her heroic death but I can see that my claiming Maul was really on Tatooine looking for Anakin was overstepping my boundaries so I can live with the decision to change it to Maul just looking for "the Jedi" (though, now that I think of it, I think I nicked that idea from the New Essential Guide to Chronology written by Dan Wallace to begin with).

Darth Maul cut her down. The Duck remained abandoned and became the talk of local ghost stories. The pit droids remained, operating on their last command and rebuilding the ship to perfection. However, sadly, it never flew again.

It's a sad ending. But Rango got a sad ending, too, so it's sort of poetic, if not grim. I actually thought it might be harder for Aneesa to have lived without Rango, so, in the end, their friendship was not broken. They entered death together.

Having the Duck being a local ghost story is a real treat for me, as a horror writer and fan. I love a good urban legend and being able to add one to the Star Wars galaxy was pretty cool. I can almost hear all the little Tatooine kids daring each other to sneak up and touch the underside of the Dusty Duck.

Most recently, the Duck popped up in Ryder Windham's outstanding The Wrath of Darth Maul book. Will we see the old bird again one day? I hope so. For now, I did write up a completely UN-official short story for the Star Wars Outsider fanzine :)

UPDATE: The Dusty Duck and her crew are featured in "The Not-So Magnificent Seven"--my first published article for the Official Star Wars Blog!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Interview with Robert Liparulo--Author of "The 13th Tribe"!

Today, we have a very special guest: Robert Liparulo, suspense writer and author of the new book The 13th Tribe. I was able to meet Bob at Ted Dekker's Ragged Edge writers' conference last year and sat under his teaching for a session or two. He's a very down-to-earth guy with a lot of good practical advice on being a writer. I was especially honored when he endorsed my novel Enemies of the Cross for its release (you'll see a snippet of that quote in the "burning church" header at the top of this blog). At the Ragged Edge, Bob gave us a special treat in the form of an Advance Reader's Copy of The 13th Tribe. I'm a notoriously slow reader, but I've started it and can tell you that it's a fast, smooth style--and the characters are great. Bob was gracious, once again, to visit our little corner of the Internet for this in-depth interview on him, the new book, and this whacky "Christian Fiction" thing.

Greg Mitchell: So we’ll start off with an easy one. Who are you and what’s The 13th Tribe all about?

Robert Lipraulo: I’m a former journalist, who worked in the fields of celebrity profiles, business writing, and investigative reporting. I wrote my first novel, Comes a Horseman, eight years ago. The 13th Tribe is my eleventh novel. I’m also a screenwriter. I wrote the screenplay for Ted Dekker’s Blessed Child; I’m contracted to write the scripts for several of my own books; and I’m working with Andrew Davis (director of The Fugitive and The Guardian) on an original political thriller.

The 13th Tribe can be summed up in two words: Immortal vigilantes. A group of people who were “cursed” with immortality because of their transgression at the golden calf are trying to regain God’s favor by killing sinners. Now they’ve targeted a major city, and only one man can stop them—if he can overcome his own brokenness and anger at God.

But, really, it goes much deeper. It explores our struggle to grasp God’s holiness; our stubborn belief in “earning” God’s favor, though we know better; and how even our good intentions can be twisted when we insist on abiding by our own limited logic instead of God’s righteous wisdom. All of this in a story filled with the action, cutting-edge technology, and complex characters my readers have come to expect.

GM: Now this is the first of a series. How many do you have planned? Do you have a sort of overall story you’re trying to tell or this more in the vein of a “series of standalones”?

RL: Right now, I’m planning on three books in the series, with the possibility of more. I’m writing them as standalones, but the characters continue through all of them—the ones who survive, anyway. I recommend reading them in order to get the full picture.

GM: Where did you get the inspiration for The 13th Tribe?

RL: Some time ago, I started thinking about vigilantism, frontier justice. I think most of us would say we’d do something to stop, for example, a child abuser, even if we have to go outside the law to do it (assuming all other recourses have failed). But what are the ramifications of that . . . to society? To our souls? It’s a scary door to open. The best way to examine a topic is to exaggerate it, or look at how it functions under extreme circumstances. I wanted to look at vigilantism that way: an exaggerated reason to be a vigilante . . . how far could you take it . . . what do you become if you practice it over a long period of time?

You can’t think too deeply about taking the law into your own hands, about hurting people before they can hurt others, without eventually getting around to thinking about the nature of forgiveness and grace. So now there’s God, filing off the edges of my story, shaping it into something bigger than it was before.

GM: One of the things that really sticks out to me about the story is your, I guess, “embellishment” of a Biblical account—in this case you’ve given a twist to the story of Moses returning from Mount Sinai to find that Israel has turned into a bunch of cow-god worshipers. I think it’s really cool, but I could see where some might see this as crossing a line, theologically speaking. How do you address that? Do you feel that there is a line that can be crossed, or is it all up for grabs in fiction?

RL: Well it is fiction—speculative fiction, at that. I consulted a lot of theologians about the incident at the gold calf. Many of them have theories about the details of what happened at the golden calf, based on what we know about the Israelites and the culture back then. The line for me was that I didn’t want to contradict scripture in any way. For example, if scripture says a biblical figure died, I didn’t use that figure as an immortal. The embellishments at the gold calf are all supported by scholars’ theories; they could be real. We just don’t know, but they don’t contradict what we do know.

GM: You have an incredible resume with your previous novels and The Dreamhouse Kings series finally wrapped. Did you learn anything about series-writing, in particular, that you’re bringing from DK to The Immortal Files? How to keep the tension going from book to book, tying up loose ends, etc?

RL: The Dreamhouse series and this one are structured very differently. I saw the Dreamhouse story as one long story broken into six books. Going from one book to the next, is very much like flipping from one chapter to the next. The Immortal Files, on the other hand, are each complete stories. Each book, while retaining some of the same characters, locations, and the “world” created in the first one, has its own story, its own problem and resolution. What I learned from Dreamhouse was how to cover a bit of backstory without boring readers who already know it, and how to continue character growth by building on what came before.

GM: You’ve said before that your previous work, while in the CBA, hasn’t been what some would consider “blatantly Christian”. In fact, I’ve heard you talk about some people even asking you what’s “Christian” about your books. But, with The 13th Tribe, you’ve taken a different route—writing something more extroverted when it comes to its themes of faith. I find this really interesting as it seems to me that more authors want to go the opposite way. That is, they’re billed as “Christian Fiction” writers, but they start trying to pull away from that market to go mainstream and less obviously Christian. Was this a conscious decision on your part, or was it one of those things that just happened?

RL: I’ve always tried to follow God’s leading in how I tell my stories. When I started Comes a Horseman, I prayed and fasted about how much overt Christianity to put into it. One morning, I was looking at Pikes Peak and I heard God speaking to me. He said, “Do you see me in that mountain.” I said, “Of course, I see you in everything.” He said, “Do you see my name carved into it?” “No.” “That’s how I want you to write your story.” So, I believe God is in my earlier books in ways that I could not have possibly written Him into them. And readers have responded, telling me that scenes comforted them and got them thinking about God—and none of it was intentionally written into those scenes. In fact, if the Holy Spirit weren’t pointing it out to them, readers wouldn’t have seen it at all.

When I was preparing to write a book about vigilantes, I heard God telling me it was time to be more overt about the spirituality. Following His calling, the story exploded into an examination of faith and justice and grace, and the idea of the Tribe fell into place. But despite the faith elements becoming more prevalent, I’m still a thriller writer, so making The 13th Tribe a Christian thriller felt very natural.

I don’t think Christian authors should necessarily try to fit into a particular market, whether that’s Christian or mainstream. They need to follow their hearts, where they feel God leading them. If that means having strong spiritual content or addressing faith more subtly, then that’s what they should do.

GM: I very much agree. Do you feel that there’s a stricter standard with fiction that falls under the “Christian Fiction” category? Do you feel that it’s judged harsher by its readers and/or its detractors? Do you feel that there should be a higher standard?

RL: There are different categories with different standards. Until recently, the standard for the quality of writing in Christian fiction was lower. It used to be that pastors and theologians composed the bulk of “Christian” novels, and the emphasis was on the message, not the writing. But can you imagine the quality of work Jesus put into his carpentry? I wouldn’t doubt that the things he made are still around today. I’m glad to see that the overall quality of writing is getting better in Christian fiction.

As writers writing about Christian things, we better have our own theology down pat. In that sense, we are held to a higher standard when representing Christian belief, as we should be.

There will always be detractors of all things Christians. No author likes negative reviews, but I tend to chalk up the ones that blast the fact that there are spiritual aspects in my stories to people who don’t have the eyes to see. It’s a part of writing in this field, with the label “Christian,” that will never change. I try to take those kinds of hits in stride.

GM: What drives you from book to book (other than paying the bills, I’d imagine!)? Do you ever feel like leaving writing behind and striking out on your own in television repair or refrigerator installation? What keeps you coming back to this job?

RL: I’ve been writing and publishing since I was twelve. I know, without a doubt, that this is what God made me to do, how He wired me. I told my wife before we married, “Financially, we may always struggle, but I will always write. That’s what I do. I can’t do anything else.” Thankfully, she accepted that and has been my biggest supporter for twenty-five years. There was one time early on when I was tempted by an offer of big money to go into another field. I prayed about it and decided I would never stray from my calling. I think God has blessed that decision.

GM: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your crazy promotional tour to talk with us. What’s next up for Bob Liparulo?

RL: Thank you for doing this, Greg. Wonderful questions! The sequel to The 13th Tribe is in the can, and I’m onto the third book. I’m also working on the first book of my next YA series, called Hunter. When I have a spare moment (ha!), I’m pushing the scripts I’m committed to writing a little further down the pike. It’s all great fun, really.

GM: That's all we have time for now. Thanks to everyone for stopping by, and be sure to go check out The 13th Tribe--in stores now!