Monday, July 30, 2012

"Rift Jump" Commentary (Part Three)

Read Part One
Read Part Two

Welcome to the third installment of my commentary for Rift Jump. Yada yada, beware of spoilers, yada yada.


This section of the book is really where the new material starts to drastically diverge from the original material I wrote in high school. Originally, this episode took place in a near-identical world to Michael's own, leading him to think that he's actually home. His brothers are the same. All the locations are the same. Even the circumstances surrounding his own "death" are the same. The only difference is that--duh, duh, duuuuhh!!!--this NOT his world and the Michael of this world is bad.  

I changed it for two reasons. One reason is that, for a book that deals with "a multiverse of infinite possibility", all the worlds in the original stories looked pretty much identical to our own except they'd have a super hero in them or an alien in them or whatever. It was like the last few seasons of Sliders (great show in the first season--terrible show from there on out), where every world they went to was just the same street (soundstage) with the same hotel, same bar, even some of the same people--just their alternate selves. I needed to shake it up. I'd been dabbling in the idea of doing more Weird Western stuff like my buddy Ed Erdelac (who is AMAZING and you should check out his Merkabah Rider series), so I decided to relocate this story to a Civil War-type world, with a sci-fi twist. But then that also changes things. Michael can no longer think that these are his brothers. I liked that, however, because it puts him in a position where he's lying to them, pretending to be their dead brother, in order so that HE can feel some semblance of family. It's sad, and totally the right character move for Michael.

A special note: To all the steampunk fans who were really hoping I'd go all geek on the hows and whys of these Civil War spacecraft, I'm sorry. It would have been fun--and were this episode an entire novel length, I would have--but, like I said in the last commentary installment, my focus is always on Michael and Sara's emotional journey.

Sara begins to take a bit of a turn in this story. Again, when I originally wrote these stories in high school, I had a very skewed idea of what a woman "should" be. I sort of knew (or thought) that they wanted to be "wooed" and "won"...but I didn't have a whole lot of idea of what to do with them AFTER I "won" them. Movies and books focus so much on getting a woman, and they don't do a lot of showing how to keep a woman. As I grew up, I realized that--shock, gasp--women are a lot like men. They want to feel needed. Special. Important. They want to be a part of the journey of life. They're not trophies to be gained and sat on a shelf in your den. I mean, there are some girls, yeah, who just want to be mooned over and pursued and treated like sacred cows all the time, but that's unhealthy. Treasure your women, menfolk, but include them in your struggles. Bring them into your heart. Trust them with your lives. They're fighters, too.

So that's what Michael is seeing in this section. Sara loved being pursued by him, but she doesn't want to be stuck in the tower for the rest of her life. She wants to feel needed.

With that out of the way, I direct your attention to a pretty controversial move for me:

I have swearing in my book. Gasp!

I know that 99% of the world's population won't even bat an eye at that, but for some of my readers it's going to be a major stumbling block. I want to be accountable for what I write, so I'm gonna take a second to explain my position on this. You may not agree, and that's okay, but I want to be honest and real with you so at least can understand my thinking.

Cursing is one of the last great taboos of the Christian Fiction market. It always amazes me that, no matter how much violence and evisceration I get away with, I throw one "damn" in there and I've suddenly committed an atrocity on the page. This is a pretty complicated topic and many better-articulated writers (such as Mike Duran) have gone on and on about this. People have endlessly debated it and everyone's pretty firm on their stance. I know that some of Rift Jump's readers will--hopefully--be picking this up because they enjoyed my Coming Evil series. The Strange Man and Enemies of the Cross were both published within the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) that has REALLY strict rules on what you can and cannot put in their books. For instance, I had to cut one instance of the word "criminy" in The Strange Man because it was a 16th century curse word! 16th Century, folks!! Some CBA publishers won't even let you say "darn" or "shoot" or "frickin'". "Crap" is considered a bad word with some people, as is "butt".

The short answer is this: Rift Jump is not intended to be a "Christian" work--meaning I didn't write it with the Christian Fiction audience in mind. It obviously reflects my own Christian beliefs, but I didn't set out to make this a "Christian" book. What's more, my publisher Splashdown--while a publisher of Christian authors--is NOT in the CBA. The restrictions are much looser because we're not selling to the same types of people who are looking for books at Lifeway. Many people go to buy a CBA book because they know there WON'T be cursing or overt sex or graphic violence. They want their fiction of a cleaner sort, and I have absolutely nothing against that. When it came to taking my 6-year-old daughter to see Brave, you better believe I was scouring the internet, wanting to know what kind of objectionable material she may or may not be exposed to. We need to show discernment. We need to guard ourselves against things that cause us to stumble. I don't believe all fiction needs to have cursing. I don't even believe that all good or "real" or "gritty" fiction needs it. Plenty of wonderful stories don't use it at all. On the other hand, I believe there are plenty of wonderful stories that do use it.

Rift Jump marks my first novel where I've had some cursing. Now, for those of you who haven't read it yet, it's not a whole lot. Certainly not enough to warrant this long explanation. There are no "s" words or "f" words. There were PG rated kids movies in the '80s that had rougher language than this. Nevertheless, I didn't make the decision to have a dash of swear words lightly. Ask Grace, my publisher. I agonized over this, as I knew that it would offend some people or give others the wrong impression about me. I don't condone cursing in real life. Especially, as Christians, I think we ought to be very careful about the words that come out of our mouth, as we're representing Christ. And the Bible says we are called into account for every careless word we say. That's terrifying to me.

But my characters are not representing Christ. The characters in Rift Jump don't start out as Christians. In fact, if we're getting right down to it, they're not even real. They're imaginary figures. But, for the sake of argument, even if they were real, they are lost sinners who have grown up on the streets, or in abusive relationships, or are just plain ignorant of manners. A key moment in "Second Chances" has Michael at the end of his rope. In a moment of complete frustration he complains that he's been "busting his ass" while he doesn't see God doing anything. He's complaining to God. He is completely fed up. Now, I could just have easily have had him say "busting his butt"--though some would think even that was too far. I could have had him say he was "busting his rear" or "hind end". But that shows a level of restraint, doesn't it? This is a teenage boy who has been a child soldier since he was 12. He's coming to God, in all truth, and getting his angry feelings off his chest. For Michael to censor himself would show a deference to God--which is antithesis of this scene. He demands to know why God hasn't answered his prayers. Why God hasn't shown up to make this journey easier. He's not interested in being humble or respectful. He's coming from a place of total anger and selfishness and immaturity. Therefore "ass".

I liken it to cooking. You might have a really bitter spice that is sometimes needed, but too much and it ruins the whole meal. Swearing, I think, CAN be appropriate. Sometimes I think it might even be necessary, to add that little punch of spice. With Rift Jump, I have been very careful to gauge every instance of a swear word I've used. I didn't want to be exploitative about it or flippant about it. It was never my intention to shock you or to "prove myself to the world" that I was a "real" author who liked to cuss. This isn't a declaration that, from now on, you can expect everyone to have a potty mouth in my fiction. You can't (though you can still expect tons of monster mayhem :p). I just felt that, in this particular book, a couple curse words was necessary for the story.

So, for those Readers who might be offended, I'm asking you to show a little grace to my characters. They're a rough group but they are growing. They are maturing. Give them a little patience. They might surprise you in the end. :)

Behind-the-scenes nuggets:

1--There's a typo in this section. It mentions that Civil War Edward and Seth haven't seen their brother for five years in one instance--but it's really only been a year since their Michael left them. Grrr, I hate typos. Five people read these things in the editing process and no one catches it. My wife glances at it after it's published and points it out. Grrr.

2--I believe this might be the book's first mention of Sara's love for Alan Worth: Space Explorer. To read up on the fascinating true story behind Alan Worth, check out my post here.

Click here to the next installment of our commentary for Rift Jump where we talk about superheroes. Buy the book already, will ya?

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Importance of Sara

My new novel Rift Jump has been available for a few weeks now, from Splashdown Darkwater!

Back in December '11 when I first announced the book, I said that there was a more personal story behind Rift Jump's creation.

Well, now that story is about to be told. It's my real life love story.

A lot of the story has already been told in the Appendix of Rift Jump, but there's even more to it. Something very personal to me, that I don't share with just anyone--and yet I'm about to blog about it for the whole world to see, because I think it's a story that needs to be told, especially in light of Rift Jump's publication.

What you'll discover in the Appendix is that Rift Jump began with a dream.

From Appendix A: "In tenth grade I had the most vivid dream where I was transported to an elaborate 'mall world' and met a girl named Sara. She was small and timid and had long straight orange-colored hair that was parted down the middle with the bangs tucked behind her cute little ears. And she had the most endearing eyes. They were full of magic and love and in her arms I felt like I finally belonged.

To an awkward teenager who felt ugly and out of place in the world, that meant everything.

In this dream, I saved this beautiful mall princess from an ugly, mean brute. I fought valiantly and was nearly invincible in my love for this girl and when I rescued her from her tower and finally held her in my arms, I’ll never forget what she said to me:

I love you.

At that time in my life, I had never heard that from a girl before. Maybe that’s why that girl in the dream was always so special to me.The dream stayed with me, and it so moved me that I wrote it down the next day, scene for scene from beginning to end, just as it came to me in my sleep. I turned it in for a grade in my Creative Writing class, thus the first 'Rift Jump' story was told."

Now, what the Appendix glosses over is that I fell absolutely in love with "Sara" from that moment on. She became my codeword for my ideal woman. I was convinced that God had shown her to me in my dream as a way of saying "This is who you will marry". And I held on to that for many years.

When I thought of what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was usually "married". That's what I wanted, more than anything. True love. A constant companion. A wonderful friend. My parents married when they were in high school, and when I was little, I was convinced I would do the same. Well, that didn't happen. High school came and went and I was distraught, thinking (naively) that I would never find "my Sara". I agonized over her, I cried over her, I missed her--even though I'd never known her. I begged God that I would find her soon, I prayed for her that, wherever she was and whatever she was doing, she would be safe and know that I was out there in the world and I loved her. In any relationship I entered (and it was only a couple), in the back of my mind, I was always mentally asking "Is this her? Is this Sara?"

Looking back, I'm ashamed to say that I was obsessed with finding her. Every waking moment became about finding Sara, about becoming whole. Every story I wrote was about Sara, about being with her, finding her--saving her. As I got a little ways into my twenties, I had a wake-up call. I realized I was wasting my life waiting for it to begin. I was in a deep pit and realized that I had to move on from this fantasy of Sara. It finally occured to me that Sara had become an idol to me. I wasn't ready for her, because I wasn't right with myself.

So, I abandoned the quest. I gave up on Sara. I focused on my own life, on my friends, my writing (The Coming Evil, yo!)--and most importantly, God. My faith grew by leaps and bounds during that time and I had finally become secure with myself. I didn't need a wife to "complete" me; I was already complete.

Then, lo... As an obligation, I begrudgingly took a good friend to a play audition, and I met Meghan. She was really cute and smart and "together". Also, I had it on good authority that she already thought I was a major hottie, so--with my lowish self-esteem and all--I thought "I can't lose!" Throwing caution to the wind, I asked her out. We had zero in common. And I mean ZERO. We barely related to each other at all that first date, but I still felt comfortable around her. We went out on a couple more dates, and before I knew it, we were madly in love. I'm still not sure how that happened :p

Today is our ten year wedding anniversary :) We have two beautiful daughters, a great life, and she still thinks I'm a major hottie.

What's funny is that, it doesn't come as a surprise to me to tell you that Meghan is my wife's middle name.

Her first name is Sarah.

Dreams do come true, but usually when you least expect it. And I fully believe that it was a "God thing". That He gave me the desire of my heart, but in His timing, not my own. And the fact that Meghan's name was actually "Sarah" (albeit with an "h" I'd not accounted for), made me feel as though God was giving me a wink. If I ever had any doubt that God was real before, that was obliterated now. I can't even fully describe it, but it was at that moment that I knew--not just believed--that God was absolutely real, and I could trust Him with my life, my soul, my hopes, and my dreams.

Sara--both the fictional one, and the real one--have had a huge impact on my life that can't be overstated. When it came time to write Rift Jump "for real", I had already been happily married for many years, and was able to let my character Sara exist on her own terms without having to be my ideal woman. For the first time since she'd appeared to me in my dreams, the character of Sara Theresea was able to be her own person, to have her own thoughts, her own voice. In a way, I liken it to breaking up a long time romance, and both parties growing from the experience. Seeing Sara now in the pages of Rift Jump is like passing an old girlfriend on the street, seeing her with her husband or playing with her kids. She's got a whole other life without me--as I have a whole other life without her--but I can always look back on our long and storied history together with fondness.

To the real Sarah--my Meghan--you are the love of my life. The answer to my prayers. The girl of my dreams. Happy anniversary :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Rift Jump" Commentary (Part Two)

Read Part One of our exclusive commentary right shere!

Continuing my commentary on Rift Jump, I--once again--warn you of spoilers below. Read at thine own risk!


"Second Chances" was the first Rift Jump story I wrote back when I was 15 or so. It is based on the fabled dream that started this entire series and is, really, beat-for-beat exactly like that dream. The original version of "Second Chances" featured in Appendix B is literally what I dreamed that night so long ago, with very little tampering by my young, teenaged self.

But, in this updated and "official" version of "Second Chances", I made a few changes. To see all the major differences, you can read the Appendix B and compare it to the final product, but here are some key differences:

1. Michael slipping into the "In-Between". The concept of the In-Between didn't occur in the original homespun Rift Jump tales until much, much later. When I decided to adapt this "for realsies", I knew that the In-Between would have to be a major mythology foundation. Johnny Frawl's whole explanation about the brick wall and how that represents the multiverse was one of the first additions I made to this section, and it totally jazzed me up. I thought it was a super-neat idea and I had so much fun writing it.

Obviously the Beast in the Void is very Lovecraftian. It's a monster outside of our perception of reality. But, what it is NOT, is Satan.

A little known fact about my books--though they're ultimately about good versus evil, they are NOT about God versus the devil. Even in The Coming Evil, with the Strange Man being a demon--he's a demon with his own agenda. He doesn't represent Satan. He's on his own. I think in most of my works, Satan isn't really a factor at all. Sure he exists, but I've always believed that we give way too much credit to the devil. If our car breaks down, we blame the devil. If an impure thought enters our mind, we blame the devil. I'm sure he's behind many evil things, but he's still just one fallen angel. He can't be everywhere at once. He's not all powerful.

He is not God's equal.

The greater struggle in my work is actually God versus Sin. Sin is what caused the devil to fall in the first place, right? Sin corrupted angelic beings. Sin ruined the world. Sin is what drives Man to commit atrocities. Sin is the real enemy. The devil is only a product of sin. Plus, from a literary standpoint, the war against Sin is something that humans can engage in.

Nothing kills a story like trying to have a bunch of humans tackle the devil in the flesh. I mean, angels are more powerful than people. It's a stacked fight--even if you had the trappings of Christian iconography that's in most horror fiction. But Sin is something we all struggle with. We all battle our own evil impulses. And that's a battle we can WIN--if we choose to turn to God's Light for salvation. It's a battle that every one of us participates in. It's something we all relate to. We can't all relate to characters fighting demonic beings.

Even in The Coming Evil Trilogy, the real battle that my heroes are waging is against sin, not the demons in their town.

2. Michael and the steak knife. This was added VERY late in the game. And it's really a credit to my editor Keven Newsome (who posted a killer YouTube playlist of my soundtrack for Rift Jump). I glossed over a lot of important scenes in the book, trying to plow on through to the next mythological beat. But it was Keven that made me pause and rethink that. I needed to slow things down and show Michael telling Sara what he was. I needed that to be a big moment. But, how do you convince someone that you're an invincible warrior for God from another dimension?

Why, you stab yourself with a steak knife, of course.

3. Mall world explanation. I'm telling you, in my original dream, Michael just shows up in a "mall world". It's absolutely ridiculous, but in my dream it made perfect sense. So, for the book, I really wanted to legitimize it. Why is this world only a mall? I started getting the idea of this being a world with toxic air so everyone is enclosed in cities. Then, each city has its own insular culture. I really didn't go into it a lot--I just wanted some sort of explanation. Which brings me to a fear I have:

I fear that some people will come into Rift Jump expecting some real academic expose on these parallel worlds. They're gonna want to know every detail about culture, about politics, about how these different worlds function. Unfortunately, Michael and Sara don't stick around that long to discover those things. We cover nearly ten worlds in this one book, I think, so we're moving fast. And, to me, the point has never been about the worlds themselves, but about Michael and Sara's personal journey. That through-line is always my focus. The alternate realities are just window dressing.

However, if someone were to come along and write a Rift Jump story that really explores some alien culture, that'd be great. But I liken this book to a DVD "mythology" collection of a TV series. There are many standalone Rift Jump stories between each of these parts, but I'm trying to hit the important "game-changing" episodes.

Behind-the-scenes nuggets:

--My original dream featured parallel dimensions. As soon as I started writing "Second Chances", I wanted to know how other authors had handled the subject. My first (and last) stop was Michael Moorcock's Elric books. I read a couple of those--didn't understand a word of them (:p), but got a taste for the whole "dark fantasy multiverse" thing. Also, Quantum Leap was a huge inspiration to me. I still think that Sam Beckett (as magnificently portrayed by Scott Bakula) is a shining example of what a real man is all about.

--I saw Sara in my dream as well. Ginger hair, parted down the middle, tucked behind her ears. But, when I woke, her face began to fade from my mind's eye. About that time the amazing My So-Called Life was on the air and I latched on to Claire Danes' look (and angst), and used her for an early model of Sara when I needed a quick visual. I mean, look at her! '90s teen misery at its finest!

Ironically enough, later Claire Danes would star in Romeo & Juliet, which I openly admit I cried while watching in the theater. I liken Michael and Sara to Romeo & Juliet. They even have a balcony scene!

Read Part 3 of our commentary where we discuss the taboo--cursing in Christian Fiction!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Interview with Meghan Mitchell: Ninja Master

Today we’re here with a very important guest, my wife, the talented and charming Meghan Mitchell, to discuss her latest published short story “Ninjas”, as featured in Appendix C of my new novel Rift Jump.

 Greg Mitchell: Meghan, that’s an awfully obscure placement there. I mean, seriously, you’re all the way back in Appendix C? Do you feel like you’re playing second fiddle to your husband? Do you plot his death while he sleeps? 

Meghan Mitchell: You know, I really can’t blame him. I mean, it’s his book and I recognize that he deserves the spotlight. If the ninja story had been featured at the beginning of the book, for instance, people probably would have stopped reading Rift Jump as soon as they figured out the ninjas weren’t the featured characters, and there would have been rioting in the streets and all that. This way is probably safer for Greg.

GM: When I approached you about adding to the Rift Jump mythos, what was your initial reaction? An immense sense of pride? Perhaps a fear of destroying something so beautiful? 

MM: To be honest, all I remember about that moment is that I was dying to get some nachos. That sounds good…could we grab some nachos after this interview?

GM: No. We'll see. When I originally created the ninja characters, they were a couple nameless thugs used to demonstrate the power of my main character, but you managed to give them a whole backstory. What was your inspiration for these characters? 

MM: Deep down, I believe we are all ninjas. Nameless, faceless, wandering through life undetected, holding onto a desperate hope that we can strike down our foes before they realize we’re there. We want to imagine we’re battling for something grand, but at the end of the day, all we really want is a Honey Bun.

And I totally channeled my brother, Matthew, for basically every word that comes out of the ninjas’ mouths.

GM: What’s next for you? Any more stories on the horizon? Will the ninjas make a return in the Appendix for the Rift Jump sequel? 

MM: Ninjas don’t reveal their next moves.

GM: Well played. Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us today, Meghan. I know we’ve joked around a lot in this interview, but really I want to say that, in all seriousness, I am a great man. You were very wise to marry me.

MM: Yes, finding someone whose greatness could compliment, but not outshine, my own personal greatness was no easy task. And you were wise to ask.

GM: That does it for another interview! Go out and buy Rift Jump today to read Meghan's ninj-tastic debut...and the rest of the book is pretty good too.


Monday, July 16, 2012

"Rift Jump" Commentary (Part One)

I debated on whether or not I wanted to do a commentary for Rift Jump, but aw, what the heck. Here we are. As the novel Rift Jump is broken down into five parts, I'll do likewise for this commentary, giving each "episode" its due every Monday for the next five weeks. So let's start with the Prologue and Part One: Little Brother.

As usual, be aware that there are HEAVY SPOILERS below. Read at your own risk. Or, better yet, go buy the book, read it, then come back here. I'll be waiting :)


Let me say that, at the risk of sounding egotistical, I love this prologue. This section is one of my favorite things that I've written. It's got a very Starship Troopers feel and shows a good man making his brave and final stand. It's full of quiet heroism, bittersweet determination, and unbridled courage. And, while this section features an army of gnarly monsters--they are not my focal point. The point of the prologue is to introduce you to one of many Michael Morrisons that populate the multiverse. I wanted you to get a sense of the pure evil that this guy is capable of. He doesn't say a whole lot, but the way he tears through these guys Darth Maul-style speaks volumes of his skill and cunning. That way, when we switch to a new Michael Morrison in the next section, you have some idea of the terrible things he could accomplish, as well.

Two special behind-the-scenes notes on this section:

1. Yes, there is a big fat typo. "Slashed" is misspelled "sl6ashed" in once instance. Embarrassing, yes. But weird mistakes happen at the last minute in the editorial process. In fact, I think I know the source of this particular mistake. Let me introduce you to her:

This is my two-year-old daughter Dani. Cute, isn't she? Well, don't let that adorable face fool you. She likes to sneak into my Batcave when I'm on a bathroom or snack break, maximize whatever book I'm working on and add her own little edits to them :p I'm just thankful it was only a "6" she got away with and not a "djjfoieafjoeikjnvpoiau" as I've found in some works-in-progress. Now THAT would have been tough to explain.

2. This army of monsters was ORIGINALLY going to be black-goo monsters similar to Ray McCormick from Book Two in my The Coming Evil Trilogy--Enemies of the Cross. Yes, Rift Jump and The Coming Evil are related. It's a big multiverse. We'll get to that more another time. But I didn't want to make the connection so blatant, so I created these new creatures. I've got a whole backstory for them, which you will learn all about in the sequel to Rift Jump I've already started writing. As for that army of black goo monsters...well...keep your eyes peeled, heh heh heh ;)


So, as you're no doubt well aware of by now (as I seem to talk about it nearly every interview/write-up), I wrote the very first Rift Jump story--Second Chances--back in high school. To read it in all of its terrible glory, see Appendix B of Rift Jump. It was very much a product of my life at that point. I was 15 or so, so I made Michael 17. Oooh, an older man. How cool and mysterious, right? Also, I threw in this little info bit that Michael had been rift jumping for 5 years. I didn't want to make him a rookie, right? Not only that, but I gave him this tortured backstory about how he was a "hitman" before God recruited him for this hero thang. Not only THAT, but he also murdered the Sara Theresea of his world! Oooh, he's a bad man!

It only took me about ten or so years to realize that, if I did my math correctly, then he was all of 12 years old when he was this famed hitman and murdered this girl and recruited by God. Looking back, it was pretty stupid. But, a few years ago when I felt like knocking out a Rift Jump story for old times' sake (before I had any inkling to publish it), I thought, "You know what? Let's not ignore the stupidity of that backstory. Let's meet it head-on. In fact, let's make it make sense. Let's make it awesome." I sat down and wrote the first draft of "Little Brother" as a Book Zero to "Second Chances" one afternoon and really tried to get into the mindset of a twelve-year-old kid who had committed murder. I thought that, surely, Michael had to be some type of sociopath, so I didn't shy away from it. As my wife was reading Rift Jump for the first time last week, she said that Michael seemed like the kind of kid who would take a gun to school and start shooting. And that's right! He IS that kind of kid--if his double from the Prologue is any indication. Michael is capable of heinous evil, and his whole journey in this book is to battle that and become a good man.

Eventually, we see Michael meet his end. He finds God in the desert, wearing a Stetson. At this point, you may wonder "Why put God in a Stetson?" And, at this point, I shrug and say "Why not?" I liked the Western vibe. It made it personable and, if I dare say, a bit iconic. For those keeping score at home, I always imagine God in this book sounding a lot like Liam Neeson :p Patient, but powerful.

Something that was tricky in this section is that it takes place in 1991. Since I wrote the original stories back in 1996, this fits into the "five years thing" and pays homage to those original stories. Only, I didn't want to come out and say in a date stamp "The Year Was 1991". Because, modern novels don't make the distinction that the year is 2012 or whatever the publish date might be. It's 1991 to Michael, so it should be 1991 to the Reader, without me having to break the illusion and tell you such. However, all my mentions of Walkmans REALLY confused my editors who just thought I was woefully behind in the times, so I dropped some  references to Terminator 2 and Guns N' Roses and Straight Outta Compton to help you figure out what year it was. I probably overdid it, but ah well. Michael doesn't stay in '91 for long.

Behind-the-scenes nuggets:

1. Coach Seevers was really one of my teachers in high school. And he looked just like I describe him in the book. He taught history, too, and every year we watched Glory in his class. I think I had him for two classes in one day--so we watched Glory twice. To this day, I still love Glory :) Coach was awesome. He told us that he worked for the government and that, when he was absent from class, it was because the President had called him in on a top-secret black op. He also boasted that he had a gun in his desk drawer and if any of us tried to come at him to mean him harm, he was specially trained to have that gun out, locked, and aimed at our punk heads in .23 seconds, ha ha. He was awesome. I always wondered if he REALLY had a gun in that drawer, but I wouldn't dare peek ;)

2. Other characters such as Johnny Frawl, Edward, and Seth were all based on my friends--though names have been changed to protect the guilty. Back in the day when I first wrote Rift Jump stories, I didn't look very far to find characters to populate my stories.

Click over here for Part 2 of our Rift Jump commentary! Teen lust abounds! In the meantime, in honor of Coach Seevers, my most favorite scene from Glory. Denzel's performance still gets me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Rift Jump": The Soundtrack

As is our custom 'round these parts, I've put together a completely unofficial soundtrack to my latest novel Rift Jump. But this time we're doing it a little different. As part of the Splashdown Blog Tour for the book, the soundtrack is being hosted by fellow Splashdown author (and my editor on Rift Jump) Keven Newsome's blog. What's more, Keven actually went to all the trouble of finding the songs and creating a playlist on YouTube! How cool is that? So click over there right now to check out the soundtrack!

Alright, then, so you guys know how this works. Go out, buy yourself a copy of the book, pop in the ole playlist, and follow along. It's gonna be a wild ride from the depths of hell to the heights of heaven--with lots of monsters, aliens, and teenage romance in between :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Read First Chapter of "Rift Jump"--FOR FREE!

It's here, it's here! In case you missed the big news, my latest novel Rift Jump is now available from Splashdown Darkwater! Have you bought it yet? Or maybe you need a little more convincing. Well, as a special treat, we've got the prologue of the book in its entirety. Read on for a look into this wild new "paranormal romance" adventure and be sure to order your copy today!!


Sergeant Kleg Holstead peeked through the gaps between boards and barbed wire that surrounded their flanks. Nervous soldiers—perhaps the last left alive on this world—shifted their weight behind him, armor and guns clattering in the quiet morning. Beyond them, deeper inside their fort, Kleg heard the soft weeping of the civilians under their care. He and his men had sworn to protect them from the beasts that roamed the planet of Chelkan. But though he lied to them, he could not lie to himself. They were going to die. All of them. It was inevitable. Even if they held out in their stronghold for a year or ten, the grey devils that bayed at the moons at night and feasted on the flesh of human stragglers by day would never go away.
The monsters had consumed the world like wildfire. And humankind is facing extinction.
It had happened almost overnight, when the strange visitor arrived from beyond the stars. The “alien” was human like them, and a young man, but with pale marbleized skin and white-blond hair. Contrasting with his albino appearance, the boy wore all black—leather, with straps and buckles on his jacket. Kleg had been part of the envoy sent to meet this visitor.
Before the stranger’s arrival, wars on Chelkan had finally been all-but quenched. They were entering a time of unprecedented peace. Kleg had nearly forgotten the primal, maddening fear of combat, except in his nightmares, but seeing that boy in the leather jacket with the blackest eyes had changed all of that.
The boy came with a message that day. A “gift” from the darkness between worlds.
Then he lifted his hands and a rip in the very fabric of reality had split behind him, crackling with black energy. Out of it clambered them. The monsters. Kleg retreated with a few others, but the hordes massacred the rest of Chelkan’s welcoming committee.
The Grey Death had come, and now all of Chelkan was going to fall.
Kleg’s weathered eyes narrowed at the innumerable creatures beyond the fenced perimeter. They prowled about, their naked bodies ashen. Their rows of dulled, cracked teeth opened and closed in anticipation of their next meal against a face devoid of eyes and noses. The beasts walked on all fours, their toes curled under and their arms tapering into deadly blood-drenched insect-like spears.
“Sarge?” Private Telgan whispered from his left.
Kleg had witnessed his teenaged daughter impaled by one of those spears a week ago.
“What is it, Private?”
“Sir…request permission to speak freely.”
“Get on with it, Telgan.”
Telgan shuffled out of the corner of Kleg’s eye. “Sir, people are starting to talk. They think…they think you’ve led us here into a death trap.”
I have. “What do you think, Private?”
Kleg faced the young man. “Give me your assessment.”
Telgan paused, his face paling. He looked to his scuffed boots. Gripped his rifle tighter. “I think we can hold our position, but not forever. We’ll starve long before the monsters get inside. I…I think we should keep moving.”
“Where would we go? Would we just forage for food from town to town, losing more from our camp every night?”
Telgan kept quiet, the ground holding his interest.
Kleg leaned in, letting his rifle hang off his shoulder as he balled his gloved fists on his waist. “We’re talking about a new world order, here, Private. This planet belongs to them, now. Stay here or leave…we’re only delaying the eventual.”
The young man’s eyes cut sharply to Kleg, as if slapped. “You’re saying we should quit?”
Kleg grew sullen. He didn’t know what he was saying anymore. Just knew that his family was dead thanks to those creatures out there and the punk kid who brought them to his planet. If he didn’t have these civvies under his care, he had half a mind to take a couple rifles, as many clips as he could carry, and walk through the grey hordes, blasting until they took him down.
He was ready for payback. One last guns-ablazin’ stand.
Private Telgan trembled beside him, whether with fear that his commanding officer had lost the hope of survival or angry for the same reason, Kleg didn’t know. Didn’t care.
“How about this?” Kleg spat on the ground, hoisting up his rifle, the only thing he had left in this life. “Why don’t you lead them, Private? Go on. Run out the back and I’ll cover you.”
Kleg’s earpiece squawked, “Sergeant Holstead? You’d better come take a look at this.”
Kleg stepped away from the private, knowing the kid wouldn’t do anything. People talked, people complained. They wouldn’t be people if they didn’t. Kleg didn’t care about them or their worries or fears. If the civilians were merely worried about where they’d find their next meal, they didn’t understand the reality that was staring them in the face.
They were up against total annihilation. And if they didn’t get that, he had no time for them.
Taking hold of the steel rails, Kleg ascended the steps to the watchtower. Eagle-eyed guards leaned at their posts, casually keeping eye on the milling extra-dimensional invaders beyond the gates. Kleg stopped before Private Rickmond, a dirty-faced youth who didn’t bother saluting. Kleg wasn’t offended. “What?”
The young man pointed across the horizon. Kleg placed both hands on the edge of the wall and peered closer. Hundreds of charcoal bodies danced around each other, huddling closer and closer in some sort of celebration. They had their claws squirming under the cloudy sky, their teeth chattering in a way that set Kleg’s gut on edge.
“They’re moving into one group,” Rickmond said.
“For how long?”
“Just started a couple minutes ago. It looks like they’re gearing up for something.”
Kleg stiffened. Thought he saw…“Give me your binocs.”
Rickmond had barely offered them before Kleg yanked them from the boy’s hand. Pressed them to his eyes. “Skiv-steen,” he cursed. “It’s him.”
Rickmond motioned for the others on the wall and everyone fell into position. Eager, the private hovered nearer. “Are you sure?”
Kleg felt the sting in his heart. Saw the boy standing there, like some sort of deity, amidst the growling, worshipping, no-faced monsters. The boy, dressed all in black leather like some common rebellious teen. His eyes void of life and compassion, his skin and hair pale to the point of being white. He’d never forget the sight of that kid nor the fear he felt when he first saw him.
A fear which only magnified when the boy looked up, directly into the binocs, and saw Kleg Holstead.
Kleg lowered the binocs, his heart hammering, now. “Then we’re the last,” he whispered. “The last ones on Chelkan.”
Tears built in Kleg’s eyes, and he lost all the bluster he felt only moments ago. All thoughts of fighting some heroic, though foolhardy, last stand were gone. He didn’t want to die in a blaze of glory. He wanted to live. He wanted his wife back. His daughter. Wanted to hold them and kiss them and laugh and cling to all that had been stripped from him.
I don’t want to die. Not like this.
A tumultuous roar came from the devastated streets below. Kleg’s hands reached for the gun slung over his shoulder, felt its familiar grip, but his fingers were numb and heavy.
“Sir?” Rickmond hesitated, as the other snipers shuffled about, anxious and uncertain. “What do we…?”
A stampede of galloping grey figures surged ahead, trampling broken-down vehicles and upended sections of street alike. Running in their midst, sporting a wicked grin, was the kid—their master.
We’re going to die. This is it.
Wide-eyed Rickmond brought his rifle to bear. “Sir! What do we do?”
Kleg remembered the last time he held his daughter. She’d just graduated from school. Ready to be a woman, forge her own path.
Kleg looked to his rifle. Heard the thumping bass of the charging monsters at their gates, the screams of frightened women and children in the stronghold. He knew, then, that he couldn’t save them. Not all. Maybe none of them.
But that didn’t change anything. He was a man of war.
“FIRE!” he commanded, and the walls lit up with gunfire.
Rickmond moved his friends where they needed to be to best thin out the herds. Kleg left him to it and jogged down the stairs. He found Private Telgan among the terrified masses. “Get the families back! We’ll bottleneck the creatures through the front gate. Distract them and maybe buy you some time.”
Telgan nodded and rushed off.
Kleg raised a closed fist to the remaining soldiers. “On me! You got one order: Kill ’em all! Let’s show them what happens when you try to take over our planet!”
The soldiers cheered, “Oveka!” and formed up, locked-and-loaded.
He grinned at his men. His army. “Oveka,” he whispered and took the lead.
He was going to see his daughter again today.
Bring it on, you blargin’ ghiffas.
Rickmond shrieked from the watchtower and Kleg looked up just in time to see a beast ripping the private’s rifle arm off before plunging a long, crimson lance through his chest. Rickmond twisted, then fell off the wall, inches from Kleg’s feet.
“Hold the line!” Kleg roared as a flood of ashen monstrosities spilled over the edge of their barriers.
He and his men opened fire, their bullets chewing through the first wave of creatures. The monsters were strong. A gunshot or two couldn’t pierce their rubbery flesh.
But a hundred could.
The perversions fell like insects and Kleg shouted in vindication. It felt good to cut them down. To repay them for their horrors.
He looked to the walls where the men either retreated to the ground floor or were consumed by the flood of evil. Kleg kept firing, pushing back the droves, praying that Telgan and the others were able to get out. He knew there was nowhere else to go, but now he didn’t care. The will to live—to survive—shoved all logic aside, replacing it with irrational and powerful instinct.
Thunderous pounding shook the front gates. They wouldn’t be able to hold off a two-fold attack from above and ahead. There were simply too many of those things, not to mention their master, that damnable boy.
“Door!” He pointed at a battle group and gestured for their gates, assigning them to the area. Just as the men changed targets, the doors burst open.
Legions of extra-dimensional devils strode in, their barbed arms twirling, lashing, killing. Kleg lost several good men in the second and a half it took for the things to get inside. And, surrounded by their madness, the boy. Kleg ground his teeth in seething hatred.
“Kill him! Fire on the kid!”
His troops did, diverting attention from the alien armies, and focusing only on the pale youth in the black leather jacket. But the kid—
Bullets zipped all around him, perforating his animal minions, but the kid simply dodged out of the way with unnatural speed, and brought out two pistols of his own. He twirled, as if dancing around the soldiers’ shots, and opened fire. Bullets tore into soldiers until the kid’s guns ran dry. Deftly, he tossed them aside while simultaneously leaping through the air, kicking out. His boot caught the chin of a nearby soldier and Kleg heard the man’s neck snap.
“Don’t you quit!” Kleg said as soldiers hurried after the boy.
They fired, they punched, they leaped, but the kid seemed invincible, bobbing and weaving—that cocky grin still on his face. Without breaking a sweat he caught fists, popped wrists, broke arms, shattered shins, and dispatched every soldier who came at him. Kleg lost sight of the monsters tearing apart his men around him. He focused only on the insufferable teenager. The teenager who should not be here, in this world.
“Where did you come from?” he hollered in desperation, his voice growing hoarse.
The kid did not answer. Just kept killing, using the guns of his fallen foes on their brothers.
An army of the dead at his feet, the kid gave the sergeant his full attention and charged. Kleg fired his rifle, blinding light exploding from the barrel. The youth sprang into the air, pirouetting overhead, and came down with a fist that separated Kleg’s jaw. The military man could not close his mouth. Pain blossomed and he felt like passing out, but he wouldn’t give the kid the satisfaction. Dropping his gun, he brought out his blade. He thrust the tip forward, tears of agony streaming down his face. The kid whirled out of the way and deflected the Sarge’s arm, coming up with a kick to the gut.
Kleg’s breath left him and he doubled over, but kept a grip on his knife. He slashed up, cutting the boy in the stomach.
Time seemed to slow as the kid looked down, seeing a tiny trickle of blackish blood expanding on his shirt. Dripping onto the ground.
“So,” Kleg grunted through pained breaths, his words garbled because of his useless jaw. “You can be hurt.”
Enraged, the boy punched again, shattering Kleg’s nose. But the old war horse pushed past the pain, the humiliation, the misery of seeing his wife and daughter taken from him. None of that mattered now, for he had wounded the boy. He had cut a god.
Kleg slashed again, again, again.
The boy flailed wildly, dodging the attacks, but the smile was gone now. Off-guard. Kleg understood. This kid was used to inciting fear and always having the advantage against a foe clinging to life.
But I want to die. I’ve got nothing to lose.
His smile held back an outburst of laughter as Kleg charged, hacking with the blade. The boy backed away, dancing away from the knife’s edge, but not every time. Sometimes the metal drew yet more blood.
“Come on!” Kleg jeered. “Don’t stop now!”
The boy dodged another attack, but lost balance in his retreat. Stumbled to the ground. Carried by his own momentum, Kleg landed on top of the kid, blade out.
The youth gasped and sputtered, those dark soulless eyes widening in shock and pain.
Kleg buried the knife deeper, barking laughter in the kid’s face.
The sergeant rose off the bleeding boy, heaving giant-sized breaths, his insides on fire. The boy looked at the wound as though he’d never felt hurt before. As though he were above that kind of thing.
Welcome to the human race, ghiffa.
The punk laid his head back on the cracked concrete and a sublime euphoria washed over Kleg’s soul. With the boy dead, Kleg turned to the grey monsters once more. He spotted a handful of his men still alive—still fighting. The horde was thinner now, and weaker with their master lifeless. Kleg wanted to believe that Telgan and the others were far away from this place. That they found some hidden sanctuary, safe from this death and free to start a new world.
Yeah. Yeah, that’d be nice.
He felt white hot pain enter his back. Wheezing, he groped behind him. Felt the familiar hilt of his own knife.
Kleg slumped to his knees and faced the boy, still lying on the ground, the knife removed from his bleeding gut. And not dead. The kid did not grin. Instead, his face was set and somber. Resigned to his fate, perhaps, and Kleg felt the same. With war still raging around him, he crawled to the boy and sat beside him, sensing his own life ebbing away.
After a long moment of silence, the dying sergeant asked through excruciating huffs from his punctured lung, “What’s your name?”
The boy took a moment to answer. “Michael,” he said in a lazy drawl that made the word sound like Machel. “Michael Morrison.”
Kleg nodded in return. “Kleg Holstead. I used to be a sergeant.”
The kid—Michael—regarded Kleg with a furrowed brow. “You lost,” he said.
Kleg grinned, hearing laughter from somewhere. Sounded like his daughter. “Guess we both did.”
“No,” the other shook his head. Looked to the swarming monsters. “There’ll be more. I’m just one.”
“Where did you come from?”
“Everywhere…nowhere. There are more worlds than these.”
Kleg no longer felt angry. He saw the sadness in this kid’s eyes. The boy was lost without his war, his victory. Kleg pitied him. “Why? Why did you do this?”
Michael looked to the sunlit sky as he lay down, his hand resting over his open wound where a thick black substance oozed. “It’s what I was told to do…And I’ll do it again. Another me will do it all again…Other worlds…other me…I don’t matter,” he rasped, his eyes turning glassy. “I’m just one of them…”
Then the kid died with that mystery still on his lips.
Kleg reached over with bloodstained hands and closed the boy’s eyes. His daughter’s laughter filled his hearing and he smiled. There are more worlds than these.
He looked forward to seeing them.
Kleg Holstead closed his eyes too, and saw his daughter waiting to embrace him.

Copyright 2012 Greg Mitchell

Liking it so far? Now that you've seen what kind of damage one Michael Morrison can do, read on to discover if the next Michael Morrison that is chosen can escape the same dark fate.  Order the book today and uncover what mysteries and adventure await you within the multiverse!

UPDATE--This just in: The Splashdown Blog Tour for Rift Jump is in effect. Head over to my publisher's blog to read the first of many insightful interviews behind the new book and follow the links to other participating sites.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The True Story Behind "Alan Worth: Space Explorer"

So, Rift Jump is available to buy in print and electronic version. I've gone on at great lengths about its origins in my teenage fantasies, but there's another story, hidden within the pages of Rift Jump, that also holds a very special meaning for me and deserves just as much--if not more--attention.

As you will read in the story, the character of Sara loves books. And her favorite is a series called "Alan Worth: Space Explorer". Alan Worth is actually not my creation. He belongs to my great-uncle Robert O. Henry--"Bobby" to his family.

Bobby died many decades before I entered the world. In my childhood, my family would visit my grandparents in Olney, Illinois and, every once in awhile, they talked about Bobby. He had served our country in World War II and died protecting our freedoms. That's all I knew about him for the longest time, and then, when I was in high school and first writing on the original Rift Jump stories, my grandpa noticed me doodling my renditions of Michael and Sara (the heroes from Rift Jump). Taking interest, he mentioned that Bobby used to draw "cartoons" too. I said, "Oh really?" Then my grandpa, who never spoke a lot, started telling me that Bobby--when he was fifteen--began writing and drawing his own comic strip entitled Alan Worth A.D. 2041. It told the exploits of daring space explorer Alan Worth, his plucky sister Ellen, and his best friend Karl as they did battle with deadly cults, discovered alien civilizations, and had any number of high-flying pulpy adventures.

At that moment, I told him I had to see those comics. I had never met another member of my family who liked to draw or write stories. I felt as though I'd met my kindred spirit.

I'll tell you, it took a lot of doing to find Bobby's old comics. If I recall correctly, he drew them in this gigantic newspaper sized book with wood covers, leather stitched together. For decades the book rested, wrapped in plastic, in the closet of another of my grandpa's brothers. After a phone call was made, I was taken over there and ushered into storage, where Bobby's comics lay, undisturbed. It was a pretty powerful moment to me. I was watched like a hawk as I pored over the pages--you'd think I was reading the Dead Sea Scrolls, but they were important to my family, and I get that. Respectfully, I turned each page, blown away by the scope of the story and amount of detail that Bobby put into his comic strip. He detailed maps of the alien worlds in an Appendix in the back and I read every single thing. I came away from that afternoon feeling re-energized in my own creative pursuits.

But there is also a sadness to Bobby's tale. Alan Worth was never published. In fact, I don't think anyone outside of the family has ever seen all the hard work he put into his Alan Worth serial. Over the years, I've tried to get a look at the manuscript again, but haven't had the chance yet. A couple years ago, when my grandpa died, as we were sifting through his stuff I found a small collection of some of the Alan Worth strips, scanned from the originals, and bound. I snatched it and read it with glee all over again. I brought that comic home and it has a place on my shelf. I cherish that comic. Had Bobby lived through the war, I wonder if we'd be seeing Alan Worth comic revivals even today.

It was important to me to make an Alan Worth mention--no matter how small--in Rift Jump. I respect Bobby's work too much to try and retell Alan Worth in my own way. But, at a time when I was young and misunderstood, it was really special to meet one of my ancestors who shared my passion.

Below is an abbreviation of a piece written about Bobby that has been circulating in my family for some time. Meet the man who created Alan Worth--and below that, see one of the actual strips, dated 1938. It was nearly impossible to make a selection on what to show you guys. The comic is chock-full of cliffhangers, two-fisted action, dogfights, and near-misses. There's humor, warmth, and a lot of science talk that has got to be ahead of its time. Finally, I decided on the offering below--an especially exciting sequence where Alan Worth shows those enemy fighters how it's done. I can only hope that one day Alan Worth will be shared with the world in its entirety.

Robert Osborn Henry was born on March 19, 1923. When Robert was four years old, his family moved to Washington D.C. After graduation, Robert got a job at the Navy Yard in Washington as a machinist working on top secret projects. His hobby was as an artist, and he became very proficient. He wrote and drew a comic strip called "Alan Worth". He also wrote and illustrated a small story about a good gnome called Gruggle. A short time later, he enlisted in the Army and was stationed in England. He was a member of the 2nd Battallion, 310th Infantry, 78th Division. The division worked its way toward Germany and "The Battle of Bulge". On December 13th, 1944, in the vicinity of Rollersbroich, Germany, Robert and his squad were killed when one of the members stepped on a mine. He was interred in Henri Chapplle, a military cemetery in Belgium. Then, in 1948, was disinterred and reburied in Haven Hill Cemetery in Olney, Illinois. He was 21 years old.

Alan Worth Created, Written, and Illustrated by Robert O. Henry

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Rift Jump" Release Day!

I am proud to bring to you my latest novel: Rift Jump, a paranormal romance from the folks at Splashdown Darkwater!

This is a story that I first started writing way back in high school. It collected dust in my desk drawer for nearly twenty years and, in some sort of "Ah, what the heck" kind of inspiration, I unearthed it and set out to rewrite it and bring it to the world. What began as a lark has turned into an incredible journey. I've met a lot of new people behind the scenes, as well as learned a lot about myself and about my writing in the process. I'm very proud of this strange little book and hope you all check it out. Here's the back blurb:


A sinister threat is growing in the void between realities, and Michael has been recruited to stop it. Ripped from his own violent life, he is sent rift jumping to other worlds seeking out the agents of the Dark and putting them to an end by any means necessary. The love of his life, Sara, joins him as he battles Civil War spaceships, sea serpents, superpowered humans, and even his own duplicate from a parallel timeline.

But the darkness he fights is growing within him too, calling him to the same destiny as every Michael from every other world. If he is to change his fate, he must learn to love, to forgive, to trust, and to let the man in the Stetson guide him to become the warrior of the Light he was always meant to be.

Stay tuned in the days ahead for more Rift Jump-related goodies, including interviews, an excerpt, my customary unofficial soundtrack, and a very intimate behind-the-scenes look at the story behind the story.

Buy your copy today! The book is available at these fine outlets:

Barnes & Noble