Yep. I’m one of the converted. Sometime in the 70s, on a lonely afternoon, I stumbled across the strange warbling theme song of Doctor Who on PBS. I was instantly entranced, and the rubber monsters the bug-eyed fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, encountered, were right up my alley. I didn’t always know when the show was on, but if I happened to be flipping channels and it was on, I’d watch.
Years later in the 80s, my stepfather watched the adventures of the fifth and sixth doctors religiously, and I would tune out thinking how bad the sets and effects were by 80s standards, and thinking those guys weren’t the real Doctor. My stepfather had explained the regeneration thing to me, but I really was only interested if a Tom Baker re-run was showing.
Many years later, in the mid 90s, I befriended illustrator and author Scott P. ‘Doc’ Vaughn. Everyone calls him Doc. But for the sake of this post, I’ll refer to him as Scott to avoid confusion. Scott was a huge Doctor Who fan. He had stuck with the show through the McCoy years, and even had a TARDIS console in his place. He had signed memorabilia, the books, the CDs, everything. I remember he tried to get me into it, but by that point I was soured on the weak effects and shaky scenery of the 80s. But I dutifully went to Scott’s place for the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie with the eighth Doctor. If I recall, we first watched the last seventh Doctor episodes. Then the main event. I remember both liking the film, and liking McGann as the Doctor, but also still being biased and thinking it wasn’t going to fly as an ongoing series. It didn’t. (An aside here though—I recently re-watched that film and it holds up amazingly well.)
More years flew by until in 2005, I was visiting Scott in Phoenix and he showed me the new series episodes “Rose” and “Dalek”. If I’m honest, I was hooked before the end of “Rose”. At last, Scott had converted me to a fan.
In the last eight years, I have dutifully watched each new episode of the revived show, and I’ve sought out all the older episodes and documentaries I could find. I’m a huge fan now. And if you haven’t guessed yet, I’m loving the deluge of Doctor Who related shows and documentaries in the last two weeks. But today is the day. The Day of the Doctor. 50 years, the show has been around, and somehow, miraculously, Doctor Who is now both the longest running science fiction TV show ever and the most popular. People like my pal Scott, who stuck with it through the grim years are feeling an amazing tidal wave of vindication. Fans who dabbled in the Tom Baker years are rediscovering their love for the series—even if they haven’t been following the show for the last eight years.
When DVDs became the thing, I really started getting into the meta aspects of films and TV shows. I sometimes enjoy the Behind the Scenes documentaries more than the actual programs. So the flood of Who documentaries lately is making me a happy camper. Later today, when my nearly two-year old daughter takes a nap, my nine-year old son, my wife, and I will sit down and watch the 50th anniversary episode of the show. I’ll be loving every monster-filled second of it, just like that little boy who stumbled on the creepy theme music in the 1970s.
Happy 50th Anniversary, Doctor! Here’s hoping we are both around for the 100th!
I add depth and shading to give the image more definition. Only then does the drawing truly take shape.
If you’re not familiar with the quote in the title, it’s from the Kevin Smith film, “Chasing Amy”, in which a comic book inker, tired of his fellow comic-book penciller getting all the love, finally snaps when an obnoxious fan tells him he’s only “a tracer.”
As a co-author with Jeremy Robinson on his excellent Jack Sigler/Chess Team series, I might feel the same way, *except* that the fans have been overwhelmingly fantastic. Out of the very few negative comments and feedback we received for our collaboration on 2012’s RAGNAROK, only one person pointed an accusing finger at me. And on the other side of that coin, the book became a bestseller on Amazon. Apparently loads of people loved the book. So ultimately, even though the co-author gets less of the accolades, I certainly don’t feel like Banky in “Chasing Amy”. I might be a tracer, but I take my work seriously.
Today, the sequel to RAGNAROK, the 5th book in the series, OMEGA, is out everywhere. I wanted to take a moment to talk about what it’s like to be a co-author with Jeremy Robinson, why I was happy to do so, and how proud I am of our achievements.
The first thing to know is that I am very protective of Jeremy and his work. As his editor on some 20 book projects at this point, I’m very familiar with his style, and I’ve certainly influenced it in grammatical ways. I count Jeremy as a friend as well as a colleague, and I’m honored that he often asks for and trusts my judgment on things ranging from story ideas to cover art and formatting. My ultimate goal, whether just offering feedback, performing edits, or co-writing with him, is always to make him look as good as possible. (He rarely needs that help from me, but the thought is ever-present in my mind.)
When Jeremy first asked me to co-author one of the Chesspocalypse novellas (CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE), I was honored and thrilled. At the time, I was editing the rest of the series, and I was possibly more familiar with Chess Team continuity than he was, as it had been a while since he had written THRESHOLD but I had read all the books recently. My goal for Deep Blue was for us to come up with a killer action piece that was as nutso as it could get. I think we came pretty close. Fans enjoyed the novella, and when Jeremy asked me to work with him on RAGNAROK, a full-length Chess Team adventure, I was stunned and a lot nervous. I wanted to make sure I brought my ideas to the table, but most of all, I wanted for the story to *feel* like a Jeremy Robinson story—both in the things I wrote, and later in the process of editing, as well. And I was ruthless with that. If something didn’t sound like a Jeremy thing (regardless of which of us had written it, I was in favor of changing it).
Our process for that book, and also for OMEGA, went like this. I went to his place in New Hampshire for a day and we talked about plot, and I made copious notes. I then went back home to Vermont and worked on a first draft, realizing as I did, that even though we both thought we had the full story in our brainstorming session, we had between 1/3rd and 2/3rds of the book instead. So I came up with other things and asked him in e-mails about things until we had the rest. That first draft was like the metal skeleton of an artificial Christmas tree. I passed the book to Jeremy and he would then go through it, adding pine needles, trimming off unnecessary branches, and shaping the thing into the finished product. He also ask me for new chapters, or ask me to cut things. We would both add a few ornaments along the way, and in editing, the book would ultimately get its string of lights and an angel on top. By the end, we could each probably remember most of what one of us wrote or the other wrote—for a few weeks. Then it would all blur, as to who wrote what.
It was a fun process, and the finished product was pretty great. But the key time to the process, really, was in editing, when I would change lines of mine that didn’t sound enough like Jeremy, and he would alter things that sounded out of character for a given character. In the end, I felt confident with RAGNAROK, as I feel with OMEGA, that we had the best possible Chess Team book we could make. I’m sure with Jeremy’s other co-authors, that the feeling is similar. Those excellent guys (Sean Ellis, David Wood, Edward G. Talbot, David McAfee, and Ethan Cross) all had their visions for what they wanted to do with their collaborations, but they all also wanted to keep Jeremy’s world his. And with all of those projects, right down to the recent prequel novel PRIME (by Jeremy and Sean), Jeremy would have such a significant input into the book that it became impossible to say at the end who did what. He quality-controlled for adherence to his style and his vision for the series. And then…I came in at the end with edits, making sure the style was as similar to Jeremy’s solo books as possible and making sure that Chess Team continuity was intact. As always, I was protective of Jeremy and the Team. And I hope that love shows through.
OMEGA, out today, is a hell of a ride. I’ve included a little graph I did, which shows the reading order for the series. If you’re thinking of giving the series a shot and want to know where to start to read them all in order, this graph is for you. You could just start with OMEGA, too. But if you do, I guarantee you’ll want to go back and read the rest of the series.
Will OMEGA be the end of the series? Officially the answer is ‘you’ll have to read it to find out.’ Does King really die? Again, read it and see. I promise you won’t regret it.
OMEGA by Jeremy Robinson and Kane Gilmour
Jack Sigler, Callsign: King, field leader for a black ops organization known as Endgame, is accustomed to feeling capable of handling most any situation. It is a confidence forged in the fires of battle against both monsters and madmen. But the introduction of Asya, a sister he never knew existed, and the kidnapping of his parents has him reeling. Using Endgame’s resources, King and his “Chess Team” (Queen, Rook, Bishop and Knight) scour the planet for his parents, tracking a man known to the world as Alexander Diotrephes, but known to King by another name. The legendary Hercules is alive, well and plotting something beyond imagining—something that will affect two thousand years of history.
While the team is spread thin, an intruder walks past their secret headquarters’ defenses, sits himself down in the director’s chair and waits. When he’s discovered by Endgame’s coordinator, Tom Duncan, Callsign: Deep Blue, he’s easy to identify—Richard Ridley, the team’s oldest and most dangerous enemy, who is supposed to be dead.
But he isn’t Ridley. He is a clone in search of his master, the real Ridley, who yet lives and is being held captive by the same man holding King’s parents. Believing Ridley is the only one capable of stopping Alexander’s plans, a temporary and tenuous alliance is formed, and Alexander’s location is soon uncovered. The team, along with three clones, heads for a citadel buried beneath the ruins of ancient Carthage. Already in the area, King and Asya arrive first to find their parents and a staggering family secret that leads to the end of King’s life as he knows it. The rest of the team arrives to find Richard Ridley free to act, an army of high-tech mercenaries bearing down on their location and evidence of their leader’s demise.
King is dead. Long live King.
What’s that you say? You want another contest? You want Chess Team books?
Announcing the “2013 Prime to Omega Contest”!!!
Here’s what I need you to do. First, buy and read three books if you haven’t already:
RESURRECT is my first thriller. Got some great praise, but needs some more sales and reviews. Link here: Resurrect
My second solo novel is called THE CRYPT OF DRACULA. It’s an old-school take on Dracula. A little bit of horror and a whole lot of adventure. It needs sales and reviews as well. Link: The Crypt of Dracula
Then I co-edited an excellent sci-fi / alternate world anthology called WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT, that captures all the fun and adventure of the pulp era with horror, sci-fi, war, and action stories by some amazing talents. That book is desperately in need of reviews. Link: Warbirds of Mars: Stories of the Fight!
Here’s what you do. Buy all three, and leave reviews on Amazon for all three (even if you buy elsewhere, because reviews on Amazon sell books better than reviews anywhere else). Simple.
Here’s how the judging works: Right now there are 53 reviews on Res, 29 on Dracula, and 2 on Warbirds. When I get 75 reviews on Res, 50 reviews on Dracula, and 15 reviews on Warbirds, I will look at the people who reviewed all three books and enter you for the random drawing of the prize. What if you previously reviewed one or two of the three, but you review the third title any time after now and when I hit those stated thresholds above? You’ll still be entered in the drawing.
What’s the prize? Glad you asked. A complete set of print Jeremy Robinson Chess Team books, starting with the excellent bestseller, PRIME, by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis, and ending with OMEGA by myself and Jeremy (it comes out in September or October). That’s right, that’s 14 books, including all the novellas. I’ve listed them all out for you:
PRIME by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis
PULSE by Jeremy Robinson
INSTINCT by Jeremy Robinson
THRESHOLD by Jeremy Robinson
CALLSIGN: KING by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis
CALLSIGN: QUEEN by Jeremy Robinson and David Wood
CALLSIGN: ROOK by Jeremy Robinson and Edward G. Talbot
CALLSIGN: KING 2—UNDERWORLD by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis
CALLSIGN: BISHOP by Jeremy Robinson and David McAfee
CALLSIGN: KNIGHT by Jeremy Robinson and Ethan Cross
CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE by Jeremy Robinson and Kane Gilmour
CALLSIGN: KING 3—BLACKOUT by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis
RAGNAROK by Jeremy Robinson and Kane Gilmour
OMEGA by Jeremy Robinson and Kane Gilmour
Every book a killer adventure. What’s that you say? You’re already a Jeremy fan (who isn’t) and you have all the books in Kindle or print format (well, all except OMEGA, because it isn’t out yet). Have no fear. I wouldn’t make the prize so mundane. I’ll sign the books I co-authored, and I will personally drive my lazy butt to New Hampshire and get Jeremy Robinson to sign all 14 books for you. How ‘bout them apples? A complete set, signed by the creator and author, and a few signed by a co-author as well.
So pass on the news to your friends and family. Go grab my books and start reading. Get those reviews up. Soon, you might be the lucky winner of the complete Chess Team adventures—and signed!
Still not enough incentive you say? You need more, like a free set of Ginsu knives, a set of Stan Tremblay Desert Eagles, or the blood from my stubbed toe? Well, I don’t have those things, but in addition to the grand prize winner, who will receive the set of books, I also have 5 runner-up prizes of a copy of OMEGA, signed by me and Jeremy. That’s right. Six chances to win and still get cool shwag. All you gotta do is read and review some great books (which you’ll probably enjoy anyway, but be honest in your reviews), and if you already reviewed some of my books, you’re already part of the way to being eligible.
Most people will either love or hate this film, all because of one crucial scene near the end of it. I’ll get to that issue in a minute, but let’s look at the rest first. Let me say that I enjoyed this film. I loved the acting. No performance was lackluster. Henry Cavill and the two other actors that play Clark Kent at ages 9 and 13 are all perfect. I’ve heard there was some CGI enhancement of Cavill’s musculature, so he looked beefy enough for the role. I don’t know if that’s the case, or if it’s all natural muscle, but I can say that this is the first actor to play Superman in live action film or TV that looks beefy enough to me. Christopher Reeve was skinny as a pole. Brandon Routh was even skinnier. This guy looks like my vision of Superman. As for the rest of the cast? Amy Adams’s Lois could have used more to do on screen, but she gets her moments. This isn’t a Lois film though, it’s about someone else. I expect she’ll have a meatier role in the next one. As for Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, and Diane Lane? Fine performances all around, and they add to the film. And that’s coming from someone who loves Lane, couldn’t care one way or the other about Crowe, and actively dislikes Costner.
I loved the visual look of this film too. In all the reviews you’ll see out there, people are talking about that polarizing issue I’ll come to, and they’re talking about the action and the spectacle (both things you expect from director Zack Snyder, and let’s face it: that’s what you want in a Superman film). Very few people are talking about the things this film brings to the table that we haven’t seen before. I’m impressed that Metropolis doesn’t look like Gotham City in the recent Christopher Nolan films or any other Metropolis or Gotham we’ve seen. I’m impressed that the otherworldliness of Krypton as portrayed in the beginning of the film looks different. It’s not the Krypton we’ve seen dozens of times before. The technology is different. The spaceships are different. We’ve seen dozens of retellings of the origin story of Superman in film, animation, and print at this point in the character’s 75 year history. I haven’t seen it look like this before. When you get to that pivotal moment in the film, and afterward when it’s the main thing you remember, try to recall that the style of the film was consistent throughout and was clearly a labor of love for those who worked on the film. And it’s not what you’ve seen before. There are no ice crystal palaces here.
So the acting is great, the spectacle is great, the style is great. The score by Hans Zimmer is, naturally, great. Some people are growing tired of Zimmer’s bombastic approach to film score and complain about it, but here it’s right at home. Most of the time, you don’t notice it. When you do, it’s fitting. That’s how a score should be.
So what about the story? Well, we know the origin story, roughly. It’s been altered as it’s been retold over the years in comics and film. It’s basically the same here, but, and this ties into that moment in the end, it’s perhaps portrayed more realistically than ever before. The basic story of Superman, the last living being from a world far away, sent to our world as a baby, and raised by good people on a farm in Kansas, normally results in a man willing to fight for what is right. The problem with that tale is that it has primarily been portrayed in fiction starting in the thirties in a really goody-two-shoes kind of way. Superman became a parody of himself and a paragon of rah-rah-shish-boom-bah, we love America and all things democratic. He became the poster child for doing the right things, to the point that he’s not able to do one single thing wrong…or people scream foul. In this film, in a minor scene, the character is forced into a situation where he must steal something. It’s early on in the film, and it was shown in one of the trailers, so I’m not letting the cat out of the bag. In the comics, and more importantly, in the minds of those screaming foul about the turn of events in this film, this character would later go back and repay the people from whom he stole. He’s just that kind of good guy. But not in this film. He’s busy saving the world. The petty larceny just has to be a means to an end. It also sets the tones for things later.
I’m talking around the issue, because I’m trying to be as spoiler-free as possible. The whole film is actually building to the pivotal moment when the character is forced into a less than savory decision. Audiences either accept the scene or cry foul—in one former Superman scribe’s case, he literally stood up in the theater and screamed at the screen. But I think the point here is simple. The film portrays a realistic situation, where there is no easy choice. Comic books and fiction often provide a deus-ex-machina solution in such situations, and the filmmakers avoid doing that here, for a sense of realism. Make no mistake, this film and the character are watched over by guardians at DC Comics and its parent company Warner Brothers. People debated this stuff for months—possibly years—before making this film. It wasn’t the decision of the director to do this. Lots of people had to be consulted. They all came to the consensus opinion that within the confines of the world created in this film, the character’s decision works. I agree wholeheartedly.
My answer to those who would prefer this character stay rooted in the 1930s and an inviolable sense of morality is to look at Superman Returns, the flop of excrement released in 2006. That film failed horribly because it tried to retell the same story of Superman we saw in the Donner-helmed 1980 film, to the point of showing some very similar scenes. It tried to recapture the look of that film and the look of the popular Batman films before it. But most unforgivably, it portrayed Superman with a moralistic virtue that was so fundamental to the character, that it forced him into inaction for much of the film. The problem with Superman Returns was that Superman rarely did anything super in it. It was boring.
Man of Steel is not boring. It’s action-packed, filled with explosions and spectacle. But while I agree with a large number of reviewers that the final battle goes on for a bit too long (I’ve heard people say for maybe 10 minutes too long, but I’d say maybe only 2 or 3), I want to point out that not all spectacle in the film is big, bold, and brassy. For me, one of the greatest moments of the film’s spectacle comes in a tiny piece of ‘super’ that no one but the viewer sees, after a younger Clark must face a tough moment of reigning in his powers.
Was the story good? It works. Does it have holes in it? Of course. It has a few. These are mostly the kinds of things you find yourself noticing after you leave the theater and you start to see issues with the way characters did things. But if you don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain, and watch the film at face value? You’ll have fun. Is it disturbing? Yes, at times. Is it hyper-violent? Yes, at times. But I’ll tell you something. I’m a weepy guy at films. I get into the story. If there’s a really well-acted sad part in the film? I’ll cry. I cried four times in this film. Beyond the spectacle, there’s some powerful acting and some poignant emotional scenes. Is it going to win Academy awards? No, but the story is well rounded. It’s not just all action.
So how about the CGI? A film of this magnitude must have loads of CGI in it. It’s either believable or not. I say it is. If you are looking for bad CGI (and I was, because someone told me they had heard it had some) you can find bits of it. Places where the anatomy of a character is off, just slightly. But, the great thing is this: those scenes flash past so quickly, that your brain almost has no time to register them. Unlike in films such as Blade II, where an entire fight scene occurred with characters whose CGI was so bad they looked like skinny marionettes in silhouette, CGI has come a long way. Here, we are talking about things slightly off and off for less than a fraction of a second. Film was traditionally at 24 frames per second. In this film, we’re talking about bad CGI for maybe 2 of those frames, in each instance. Not really long enough to be a problem—unless you are a critic and looking for flaws.
Perhaps the biggest flaw is not the controversial outcome of the film, or its CGI, but an issue which has pervaded Superman history forever: How the hell can people not see through the Clark Kent disguise? That issue crops up in this film too, and it’s never been satisfactorily explained in any medium. I believe that’s on purpose. There is no explanation for it. It just is. It just works. And you are meant to take it on faith, that it does. I’m sure you can read into that last sentence and realize why no one has dealt with this issue. Just trust that it works. My own feeling with this issue in the film is it works less well than in other film interpretations, but a minor quibble.
So is this a good reboot of the Superman franchise? Yes. Is it a fun film? Yes. Will it spark debate between Superman purists and fans that want a 21st century take on the character? You bet. Should you rush out and see it? Faster than a speeding bullet.
Coming soon from Quickdraw Books, my little imprint.
WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! is an anthology featuring some amazing talents. The book will debut at the Phoenix Comicon on May 23rd. Book is edited by myself and Scott P. Vaughn.
Here’s the description:
It’s 1948 and WWII never ended!
Instead, Earth was invaded by creatures from the stars! One small group of resistance fighters has banded together to hold the line…at all costs!
WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT!
Bomber pilot Jack Paris. Lounge singer Josie Taylor. Bandaged avenger Hunter Noir. Mysterious hybrid Mr. Mask. Together they will stop at nothing to undermine the Martian occupation of Earth. From daring action in the South China Sea to explosive chaos on the frozen glaciers of Greenland. Watch a man transformed into a vigilante hero, as the world he knows crumbles around him. See an alien-human abomination discover self-worth in the death of a man who extends him kindness. What are the resistance plans for combating the Martian threat? Discover an awakening as two young boys journey from distant farms to the big city, to get in on the life of battle. Just what are the creeping monsters threatening the small southwestern town of Adobe Wells?
Scott P. Vaughn’s vision of a world ruled by three-eyed invaders from the popular webcomic comes to life in this anthology, with fourteen tales of intrigue, horror, and desperate action. The stories run the gamut from the air war, to the horseback of the wild west and the nocturnal alleys of battle-torn 1940s urban America. Brought to you by some of the best names in the horror, action & adventure, supernatural thriller, and comics genres. Relive the glory of the Pulp era with these stories of the fight.
At a whopping 470 pages, this bad boy will run 18.99, and should be available for your favorite online book dealers, as well as from brick & mortar shops (although they’ll probably have to order it for you, but just ask.)
E-book versions will be available in the next two weeks for 5.99.
The book features the writing talents of the following:
Stephen M. Irwin
J. H. Ivanov
Jeffrey J. Mariotte
Megan E. Vaughn
Scott P. Vaughn
Each story in the anthology is accompanied by a full page illustration from the following:
I was going to start the series talking about inspiration versus distraction. Procrastination and how to avoid it. That sort of thing. Instead, I thought I should focus on how to begin. I get a lot of questions from people telling me they’ve started writing a book (fantastic! First hurdle accomplished—you started!), but they really don’t feel like they know what they are doing and they don’t even know what kind of font to use of how to format the manuscript. It’s this last bit that I’ve noticed creeping in again and again.
We get hung up on the details. “I can’t write book! I don’t even know what font to use.” Never mind that it’s your subconscious telling you “Damn, this book-writing thing is going to take a looooooooong time. Maybe I should find some reason not to do it.” Getting hung up on the details is easy to do.
Writing a novel takes time. And it’s not easy. If it was, then all the thousands (or maybe millions) of people who always say “Oh, I’ve got a terrific idea for a book,” would actually write it. But they don’t. Having an idea is pretty easy for some people. Typing for several hours a day for weeks and weeks? Not so easy. Even typing for a half hour a day every day in a year isn’t easy. You can type a book either way, but few people will ever do it.
For the time being in this series, I’m going to assume you have inspiration. You have ideas. You’ve already decided you want to write a book (or better yet, several books). But you are confused about how, or what comes next.
So let’s dispel some myths and get down to actual things you can do. First off, there are great books about how to format manuscripts. But every single one of them will tell you to do it differently. So how does that help? If you know you plan to submit your book to agents, and eventually to big publishers, it’s probably best to follow their rules. Start with buying Chuck Sambuchino’s book Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript. Actual samples, and he explains what most agents and publishers will be looking for. Even still, once you find an agent, they might tell you to change things. Once you find a publisher, they’ll tell you to change things. Are you getting the idea how mostly unimportant formatting is until the book is about to go into production?
But that’s all if you want to go the old traditional route. The bulk of my advice in this column will be geared toward those looking to self-publish or “indie publish”. If you are confused about the difference, my definitions are simple: self publishers are authors that write a book, slap a cover on it, and release it as an e-book, probably just through Amazon. If they get out a print edition, chances are good it’s through Createspace, and it lists Createspace as the publisher. An indie-published book can still be from a single author, but they took the time to form their own publishing imprint, they paid for proper editing and have a professional looking cover and flawless formatting. In other words, a typical self-published book might look just like what it is. An indie book will be indistinguishable from a book published by a Traditional publisher in New York—unless you know what to look for.
So if you plan to put the book out yourself, here’s a helpful thing to know: you’ll need to format the novel at least four different ways when you are done. That’s right. Four. One for Kindle, one for Nook, one for Smashwords (which will spit the book out in an additional 8 or 9 ways), and one for print. You might even need an additional way for Kobo now. Not sure yet. So what to do? Where to start?
Ask a dozen self-published or indie-published authors and you might get that many answers. (Noticing a trend when it comes to formatting yet?) My preference is for the Kindle format. Keep it simple. In my opinion, the Kindle format is pretty simple, and I make more money off Amazon than I do from Nook or print or anything else, so for me, I want that format to go live first. Makes sense to write the book in that format.
But make no mistake: you can write the manuscript in any format and just get it ready for Kindle (and all the other delivery styles) later on. But for me, I try to keep the book in the right format as I go. Saves me a step later on. Here’s what I do.
1: Use Microsoft Word. The rest of this info is geared toward its use. If you want to use something else, you can, but Word is the standard.
2: Use the default page margins.
3. Familiarize yourself with the Show/Hide Formatting button, and learn what the formatting symbols look like. There are really only a few you’ll need to use, but you should know what the others look like for when you encounter them.
You’ll get a black dot for each time you hit the spacebar.
If you hit Ctrl and Shift and keep them depressed, while you hit the spacebar, you’ll get a non-breaking space, which looks like a little raised circle (like the symbol for degrees in temperature).
There’s a pilcrow for every time you hit enter—looks like two very tall, skinny capital letters T, joined at the top and with a big black ball lobbed onto the left side.
If you hit Shift while you hit enter, you get a Soft Return. Looks like a little black hooked arrow pointing left.
Finally, the tab key will give you a straight arrow pointing right. There are more, but these are the main ones with which you’ll need to deal.
4. Now that you know what a Tab looks like in the formatting view of Word? Don’t use it. Ever. When you want to indent a paragraph at the start, you go to Format Paragraph (different ways to get there depending on which version of Word you are using) and under Special, select First Line and a measurement of .3 inch. Ignore what you’ve heard about needing a full half inch indent on paragraphs. That was for print books—not e-books. If you’ve seen any e-books with a half inch indent, you’ll know how ludicrous it looks. For the first paragraph of a chapter (or of a new scene in a chapter where you have a break just before it) don’t indent the paragraph. You can, and I’ve seen it, and it looks fine, but you can not indent the first paragraph too. It looks fine, professional, and it’s one less step. Plus it visually sets that section aside for readers and subtly indicates to them: “Hey! New section here.” The nice thing about the setting is Word remembers it and applies it to every new paragraph for you, so you don’t have to set the first line indent all the time. Only on new chapters or new scenes within a chapter.
5. Speaking of new scenes within a chapter…how about those? I leave two pilcrows, each with a non-breaking space, between sections within a chapter. If you don’t include the non-breaking spaces, you can’t guarantee what Kindle will do with it. If you include the nonbreaking spaces, you’ll get the spacing you want. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here? I mean sections you’ve seen like this in books in the middle of a chapter:
Traditionally, publishers left a little break like that with some kind of symbols like the asterisks above, to indicate to the reader that the chapter is starting a new scene. Why would you do this? Mostly to introduce a new POV from a different character, or to show the passage of time. Why not use the asterisks or some other symbol? Not needed. What you see up there is three lines: two blank and one with the asterisks. Instead, just go with two lines (so hit enter for each) and put a non-breaking space on each (Ctrl and Shift while hitting spacebar). Another example in the next point.
5: For new scenes after the break? Bold the first few words of the new scene. You can, so why not? Looks nice:
You can be anal about it and make it always three words (which I do), but sometimes it’ll look nicer to bold more words than just the first three. Up to you how you do it, but be consistent throughout the whole book.
6: What about chapter heads? Be consistent and simple for the Kindle. Here’s an example of one of mine:
What is that actually? Two lines with a non-breaking space each, followed by the line with CHAPTER 1. Note that I made those letters caps the old fashioned way: by holding the shift key. For one thing, I disabled the bastard Caps Lock button on my keyboard (Google it). I now never accidentally hit it, which is nice. But the important thing to note is that if you use Word’s fancy Format Font technique to make the letters capitals, it will play hell with Kindle’s formatting engine. Don’t do it. Just learn to use the shift key.
Next, you’ll note another blank line. That’s again a non-breaking space and an Enter. Then the location line, because it’s a thriller and I use a lot of locations, so I throw in a location line. I make these bold. Again, not with the Format Font technique, but by using the keyboard command for it: select the line by clicking in the left margin next to the word Dorna, and hit Ctrl and the B key. Boom. Done. Then another non-breaking space on the next line, then I start the chapter.
Here’s what the same thing looks like with formatting marks:
See the pretty format marks? Learn to love them, and keep them visible as you type. Helps to prevent making mistakes that you’ll just have to correct later.
7: Then how do you end a chapter? Two ways. Either add a set number of lines with non-breaking spaces (like four) and then start the next chapter, or do like I do. Insert a page break at the end of the chapter. That way the next one starts at the top of the following page. Two schools of thought on which is better, but I like the breaks because I’m going to be using breaks in formatting the print edition anyway, and I can use a search and replace function to change all the Page Breaks into Next Section breaks for the print edition. Plus I like the look of the blank space you’ll get at the end of the section, and that the new chapter always starts at the top of a page. In Word, you select Insert > Break > Page Break.
8: Keep all your chapters in one Word file. Don’t mess around with a different file for each chapter. It’s a pain to slap it all together at the end, and invariably you’ll have different formatting at the end. One file, but make sure to back it up in a few places. I keep my files on my hard drive, on Dropbox, and on an external hard drive. I only ever work on the one on my computer, and then over-write the versions on Dropbox and the external. Come up with a system you like but back up to at least 3 places—and one of them should be remote. If my house ever catches on fire, my files are offsite on Dropbox at least.
9: Use Times New Roman 12. You can use other things, but older Kindles only handle a few fonts, so don’t get wacky. You’ll want single line spacing for your finished Kindle file, but while you are writing, you’ll find that a 1.5 line spacing will be more comfortable to read through. You’ll change the line spacing back to single when you format for release. Also, if you can afford one, a mouse with a fast scroll wheel, is really useful when working on long documents like a novel.
And that’s it for basic formatting. We’ll revisit formatting later in the series, when we talk about actually doing it for all the delivery systems, but for now, you have all you need to get started. And that’s the main thing. Get in the chair and bang out the first draft. It all gets easier from there.
This is going to be a series of posts. I see a lot of fellow new authors struggling with certain things, and I see myself struggle with them as well. I hear from unpublished authors frequently, asking questions about one thing or the other. There used to be books you could point an up-and-coming author to, and then there were blogs that were vital. Even taken holistically as a historical exercise, much of that information wasn’t filled with the specific: “Here’s how to do X” kind of information writers always want.
I know it used to irk the hell out of me when I would read about some author’s reply to simple “well, how do you do it” sort of questions, and their answers would always be along the lines of “It’s takes a lot of luck”, and “my path was unique to me”, and blah blah blah, but they never answered the question.
In this series of posts, I hope to answer some questions. As a whole, it’ll be a living and changing document, because by the time I post some of these ideas, I might have better ones, or the industry might change again. But still, my mission here is clear: to set out specific tasks that you can do, and show you how to do them. These things will make you a better author, make you a better marketer, and show you a step by step process for how you write your books, and independently publish (read: self-publish) them, while not sucking. Hopefully along the way, you’ll make some money doing it too.
What qualifies me to do it? Not much. I have a few books out with my name on them. They make some money (but not nearly enough). I don’t spend nearly enough time marketing or nearly enough time writing as I should. But I will have put out (or had published) four books in fourteen months. And I’m finding more and more authors with as many books out as I have or fewer turning to me for advice. I clearly don’t know everything, or I’d be retired and living like a king in Patagonia. But I must know a few things, because people keep asking me. I won’t tell you it takes luck (although that plays a part). I will tell you that you probably won’t follow my path exactly. (Who the hell wants an M.A. in linguistics just to write a YA fantasy novel?) But I will tell you exactly what I have done, what I do, and what I hope to do. I’ll tell you about some things you should be doing that I haven’t even done yet. I’ll try to keep it light, and funny, but unlike all those vague authors who say “my path isn’t for everyone”, I’ll give you concrete things you can do, and the sequence in which you should do them.
Over time, you can become an author, and a paid one at that. You might even make enough to live. You’ll build up an audience and a fan-base. You’ll form alliances with other authors, and you’ll learn how to manage your business. You’ll learn to treat your work like a business, the same way a small business owner like a corner grocer treats their business. You’ll learn that it really isn’t all about getting that first book written and published—it’s about getting the next one written and published. And the one after that.
I’ll point you to blogs by other people that you should read, and I’ll point you to books. I’ll tell you how to write a story and how to revise it. We’ll talk about editing and formatting, how to get the perfect book cover, how to deal with Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and all the other vendors out there. Social media strategies, and all the rest.
But we’ll start with something simple for this prologue blog post: get your ass in the chair. That’s how it all begins. You have an idea for a novel. “I’m going to write a book,” you say. Great. Sit down, shut up about it, and write it. Don’t worry about anything to do with anything while you are working on it. No publishing stuff or editors or agents or any of that stuff. Sit in the chair, every day (or stand if that’s your preference, and we’ll even talk about desk arrangements at some point), and write the story. Don’t worry about whether the story sucks. Just write it. Don’t worry about how long it’s supposed to be. Just type (or hand-write, or dictate. Whatever.) Just get the story from your head onto paper or screen somehow. That’s the first rule of building your e-book empire. Your print book empire too. You want to write? Write. That’s it. There’s no more secret than that one. I’ve taken ten years to write a novel and two weeks. Guess which is better.
This series is called Ass in the Chair because that’s the most important part. I’ll talk about where ideas come from, what to read for inspiration, how to deconstruct what you read and learn how an author did X in their book, and so forth. Here’s the secret to all that: you can implement all that stuff on your book after you write it. You are going to have to rewrite some things anyway. You’ll have to make fixes and changes. You might need to cut stuff. You might have to add three chapters once you finish. So? Don’t worry about all that, and instead focus on getting the story out of your head and onto the screen.
Until you do, you’re just wishing. Might as well wish to be an astronaut. Get the story down. We can talk about all the rest over the coming weeks. But you have to do the work. It’s the single reason that most people who say they want to write a book never do. They don’t put their ass in the chair and type it. I’ll tell you another little secret. Most of them “want to write a book someday”. That’s not what you should want. You should want to be an author. They don’t write a book someday. They write on a book every day. And they end up with more than one book. There’s a reason. It’s hard to make a living on one book. Stephen King isn’t a gajillionaire because he wrote Carrie. He wrote over 60 more books after that one (and he had completed several by the time Carrie was published). If you want to live as a paid author and build your e-book empire, you need to plan to write more than just one book. When you start thinking that way, your first book becomes an obstacle to overcome, and less of a baby to perfect and polish. Yes, it needs to be good, but don’t twiddle with it forever, or you won’t get Book Two done. Same story for Book Two. Get it done and move on to number three.
We’ll talk about how to make them good, and how to tend them once you release them into the wild. But first things first—make them exist.
THE NEXT BIG THING is a chain of book and author recommendations. One author tags a few others, who then each tag others. The idea is that we all help people out there learn about all the good stuff that’s just out or coming soon. David Wood tagged me on his blog and now it’s my turn.
1. What is the working title of your next book?
Actually, the title of my next book is THE CRYPT OF DRACULA. It’s a little novella I’m putting out before my next full length book. The idea came from some discussions with friends about what was missing from the modern vampire story, and how we fondly remembered older film versions of the vampire story that included strict rules on how the creatures could act and how they could be killed. I love those old films from the 1930s and 1960s and 1970s, so I thought I’d create my own little nostalgia creature mini genre to pay homage to those great stories.
In THE CRYPT OF DRACULA, the fiend is awoken and a new hero takes up the epic struggle against the sinister Count.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I wanted to tell a simple nostalgic Dracula tale. I’m not reinventing the wheel with this one. Just including all the good stuff: creepy villagers, crumbling spooky castle, coffins, fangs, and blood, blood, blood.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
No idea. Horror? Adventure? Nostalgia? On Amazon it’ll go under Horror > Vampires and Action & Adventure.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Wow. Tough one. I can easily cast the characters for RESURRECT, my first thriller, but doing Crypt will be tough. For RES, I always pictured Jason Quinn as actor Jason London (as seen on the cover of 2000’s retched Jason and the Argonauts–title completely a coincidence, because I didn’t see the film until years after I had written most of RES), Curtis Johnson is a younger Val Kilmer, and Eva is Kate Bosworth with long curly hair.
For Crypt, I might cast Matt Damon as Andreas, Georgina Moffet (from Doctor Who’s The Doctor’s Daughter episode) as Anneli, and maybe someone young like Kevin Zegers as the Count.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A stonemason and mountaineer takes a job restoring a castle in transylvania, but ends up having to rescue his wife from the resurrected vampire, Count Dracula.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’ll be putting the book out from my Quickdraw Books imprint. It will be in e-book and print.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Still working on it, but not long. A few weeks.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
None, probably. It will be more akin to a Dracula film from the 60s or 70s than to any current horror books, and because I lean toward adventure, there will be plenty of hair-raising stunts and fights in the second half.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I miss the monster craze of my youth in the 1970s. I miss the creepy old castle and spooky fog-infested forests. Sparkly vampires are not my thing–probably because I’m not a teen or pre-teen girl. I like my vampires spooky and creepy. I started watching those old films and re-discovering what I had enjoyed about them in the first place (it mostly was not the acting). I got the idea to find some books that took a nostalgic approach to vampires and Frankenstein’s Creature and the rest of the great monsters and was surprised to not find many. I decided to get some novellas with these public domain characters out.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The book starts very slowly, establishing the locale and the players, and introducing heaping mounds of foreshadowing. When it gets going, I hope it will evoke a love of the Dracula of old, while at the same time injecting some of the modern approach to action that we have come to love in modern cinema and thriller novels. If nothing else, I suspect that the hero’s ultimate weapon against the Count might be something we’ve never seen before.
As the title of this review implies, there are zero spoilers lurking in this review. And when I say ‘zero spoilers’, man, do I mean it. I take my James Bond seriously, so much so, that when I went up to Essex Junction last night (a 40 minute drive) to catch the 0:07 hrs showing of Skyfall, as I stood in the lobby of the cinema and they were showing previews on a huge flat screen TV over the concession stand, when they played one for Skyfall, I refused to let my eyes even glance at the screen.
Before going to see the film, I had seen only the first international trailer. I had seen none of the TV spots and none of the additional trailers. That was by design. I wanted no spoilers. I take them more seriously with Bond than with anything else.
Before I get to talking about the film, without actually talking about it, I want to mention the cinema. I went to a midnight showing, yes. But I might not have done so if it wasn’t for this particular cinema. Essex Cinemas has what they are calling a T-REX cinema. 400 seats of extra-wide, leather-clad, memory-foam, rocking goodness with the required drink holder built into the arms. A 60-foot curved screen with digital projection. 18 amplifiers and 124 speakers (typical cinema has around 1/3rd of those). This place was serious about their movies. As a special midnight showing, the auditorium was thankfully not packed. But then again, this is Vermont, where sidewalks roll up promptly at 6pm. I was able to grab a seat just about in the center of the terraced auditorium. Perfect. If that all doesn’t sound amazing, just remember the running time of the film is 2 hours 40 minutes. Then I had the 40-minute drive home to look forward to. That’s right. No sleep til 4am. So those features were worth the loss of sleep for me.
The ads were minimal. For International readers, many US cinemas have a brief slideshow of static ads followed by a few irritatingly repeated video ads before the previews. The static ads are shown repeatedly until the video starts. Once video begins, the ads run usually no more than about 10 minutes or so. By contrast for US readers, when I watched The Two Towers in a cinema in Dublin, the video ads ran for nearly 40 minutes before the previews began! The previews of coming films last night were instantly forgettable, so they must not have been anything too special. I think there were only two of them. Then the main attraction began.
The opening 5 seconds of the film (after the gun barrel scene, which is a given) lets you know you are watching a Bond film. How about that? It was simple, but clever. It set the tone for the pre-credits sequence, which unsurprisingly had a long chase scene in it. I always enjoy the pre-credits scenes in Bond films, and this one was a great example. In fact, it was so entertaining, and managed to pack in character development in the middle of all the action for not just Bond, but for many of the supporting characters, that I honestly felt at the end of it that I had watched a mini-Bond film. It was great. It had action, humor, character focus, and twists—even in those few minutes, that seemed unlike anything I had seen in a Bond film yet. I knew I was in for a true treat with this movie. It also seemed far longer than a typical Bond pre-credits sequence. I have no idea if it really was, but it felt that way. I wasn’t uncomfortable with the length of it—just impressed. The end of the scene was fabulous and bled seamlessly into the credits sequence.
Because I was avoiding the actual pre-release hoopla, I did not even hear the opening song by Adele before last night. I hadn’t heard any of her other music either. But I have to say that she performed a great Bond song with “Skyfall” and the quality of her voice in it was very reminiscent of Shirley Bassey for me. The song fit Bond perfectly (unlike some other clunkers over the years). It also fit the credits sequence perfectly (and not all of the songs do that either).
The credits sequence itself was marvelous. Most of them are, but this one especially was very well executed, with a thrilling bleed from the pre-credits sequence. All the hallmarks of every Bond film pre-credits sequence are here: guns and knives, silhouettes, women, Bond shooting, and so forth. There are also plenty of things connected to the pre-credits scene you just saw and the upcoming film as well. The video style was obviously a modern CGI at times, but at other times the look was so smooth that it made me recall the sequences from the late seventies and early eighties. Which is to say, the mix of old and new looks was very good and made this perhaps one of my favorite credit sequences.
Now we come to the film. I already mentioned it was long. However, I never felt it was too long at any time. The story moves nicely from scene to scene and nothing feels like it’s dragging—which is really impressive considering the raw number of slow scenes where the camera is simply zooming or lolling about in an establishing shot. The trick, you see, is what the best Bonds have always had—spectacle. The amazing on-location establishing shots were impressive because they were either locales we don’t see much of in film, or they were showing us aspects of locales or angles of locales we don’t normally see in other films. Very nice. Even the slow shots of Bond simply moving (and not at a run) from point A to point B, tended to show lots of visually dynamic spectacle in every scene, whether it be color, lights, or just arrangement on the sets. So yes, the long running time was well used. Even the slower scenes each had something to show you. Bond films are usually eye-candy in the sense of the cast and the action, but with this film, I really noticed and felt appreciative of the eye-candy of things like sets and costume. Even make up. Very impressive.
Acting was incredibly good from nearly all concerned. I felt one supporting actress’s performance was a bit stiff. But even that seemingly insignificant detail I learned by the end, was part of a great design. The main cast were all very good. We see Craig give us more of Bond in this film than we saw in the last two. Far more range. All very well executed. The villain is engaging and really eats up the screen when he’s on it. On some level you feel he’s saying “I’m a Bond Villain! See me be over the top!” but on the other hand, he’s so blisteringly good at being over the top, that you are loving every second of it, and finding it quite believable that a man such as he would be that far gone. I was fascinated by the choices of actress for the different female parts in this film. Yes, sure, beautiful Bond girls. But also atypical types of beauty. For example, one woman has so much makeup on her face that the makeup is practically a character. It’s Kabuki-esque, and the effect, clearly intentional, is to make her less attractive. It works very well for the scene and the character. By contrast, another actress is very plain with regards to make-up. Again, intentional and works very well.
Next, we come to the plot. Does it work on a broad range? Yes. It’s complex within a framework of a simple story. It has enough elements and twists to last through the film’s running time. Motivations for each character are believable, even if the resources are not always—but that’s the essence of Bond: making the unfathomable seem possible. The story goes to many places you simply won’t be expecting. Once those things happen though, you realize how very right they were, and how utterly perfect they were for both the film and the franchise. I was just as pleased with the end scene as I was with the beginning.
The tone of the film is also dead on. I say that with considered care too. Many Bond films in the past devolved into ridiculous festivals of corny and cliché one-liners. Skyfall doesn’t fall victim to that approach. There are many humorous lines and scenes, but they all arise naturally from the story, and are funnier for that fact. There’s a particular line Bond gives that made me think of the one-liners of old, but it isn’t a groaner, and really, neither is it terrible funny. In keeping with Craig’s general performance of Bond, the line comes out more acerbically and impatiently than you might expect. That’s good writing. Besides the humor aspect, the range of emotions is all over the place, and we see a lot of range from most of the cast.
Overall, I would say this film has been instantly catapulted to a tie for me with Casino Royale as to which is my favorite Bond film. That’s saying something. I’ve seen all 23 (and 25 if you count the original Casino and the film that shall Never be named). I saw my first Bond picture in a cinema in Lahore, Pakistan in 1980. I was nine years old and Live and Let Die was nearly that old, but I got the sense it was being first-run in Pakistan. I loved it. As a pre-teen, my favorite Bond was Roger Moore. As a college kid, it was Sean Connery. When Timothy Dalton was Bond, I watched both films in the cinema and thought he was the best Bond ever. In retrospect, I changed my mind, but at the time, he was the best. When Pierce Brosnan finally got his turn, I thought he was fabulous in Goldeneye. He became a little clownish by the end of his run, but I enjoyed him. I’ll even throw George Lazenby a bone and say that there have been times when I have wondered what could have been, if he’d had more time (‘all the time in the world’ was clearly not enough).
When Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond, I had severe misgivings. I didn’t think he could act the part, and I was sure he didn’t look the part. When Casino Royale was released, I was stunned that the producers and director didn’t even have him dye his hair (Bond’s hair is black in the novels). But could he act the part? Oh yes. I think we all saw that with Casino. That film reassured us that Bond was still relevant in the 21st century and that an excellent Bond picture could still be made. It’s a shame that Quantum of Stinkitude was so terrible. But Skyfall redeems the actor, the creators, and the entire franchise in one go. Was it an all-around excellent cinematic experience? Yes, it was. Who is the best Bond? Everyone has their own answers for that. I like them all, but Craig is my current favorite. Which is the best Bond picture? For me, this one is right up there at the top. Is this film worth going to see at the cinema? Absolutely, and more so if you are a Bond fan. If you are a Bond fan, I make my way to the cinema, pronto.
No, not the actual Norse End Times, but the new novel from Jeremy Robinson and Kane Gilmour. The book is available in all formats, from all places, today. If you step into your local bookshop and don’t find one, get on their case and have them order it for you.
Here’s the description:
It starts with a thunderous crack and a flash of light. Screams come next. Then the hunters. With a staccato flicker, the light disappears and everything within a hundred yard radius goes with it. A massive crater is all that remains where a chunk of the world has gone missing.
As the deadly phenomenon repeats and expands amidst the world’s most densely populated cities–carving apartment buildings in half, scooping away entire city blocks, and claiming thousands of lives–Jack Sigler, Callsign: King, and his black ops team take action. But the team is broken, spread across the globe and vulnerable. Scrambling to make sense of the violent disappearances and fighting to reunite, the team comes face-to-face with an otherworldly enemy capable of making the fearless…terrified.
Taking the battle to the ends of the Earth–and beyond–the team combats a savage enemy whose centuries-old plan for mankind has nearly reached fruition. If they fail, the planet will become little more than a fully stocked food cache for a creature whose presence heralds the beginning of Ragnarök–and the extinction of the human race.
Pretty great, right?
So who the heck is Jack Sigler and what’s this team? Jack Sigler is a Black Ops specialist with a team known as Chess Team (each member has a callsign related to a chess theme: King, Queen, etc.). Their handler is named Deep Blue (also a chess reference). The team started out as a normal military fighting unit, but quickly found themselves engaged in bizarre threats such as battling a bio-tech company-resurrected Greek Hydra, finding a cure for a weaponized strain of a genetic disease linked to a previously unknown race of neanderthals, and stopping a madman with an ancient language that could animate inanimate objects into engines of destruction. From werewolves to elephant graveyards, and from ghost cities to genetically enhanced giant salamanders, Chess Team always finds these threats and eliminates them.
Here’s the trailer for the new book:
How about it, huh?
Is this book part of a series? Yes. Could you jump into the series right here and follow along? Probably. Is it worth going back and reading the earlier books in the series? Hell yes. These books are all a wild ride. For those looking for reading order, I present the following list:
Confused yet? What’s the deal with all those CALLSIGN books? After three novels (PULSE, INSTINCT, and THRESHOLD), Jeremy knew he had too much on his plate for 2011, and it would be a while before he got back to Chess Team. So he joined forces with several top-notch thriller authors and got each of them to put together a novella (a short novel ranging from 30,000 words to 60,000 words in length). Each novella would tell a story about one of the team members. King has three novellas though. His story lent itself to a small trilogy, which can also be purchased as an omnibus. CALLSIGN: KING THE BRAINSTORM TRILOGY, collects all three King stories. Also, he’s the team’s field leader, and the star of the show. Only right he should have more novellas than everyone else.
You’ll also notice a little novella in there called CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE. I co-wrote that one with Jeremy. It follows the team’s handler when he gets trapped in the team’s new underground headquarters in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, stuck between an armed enemy force and creatures that had been lying quietly in the bowels of the fortress, but who are now coming out of their dark holes. And they’re hungry.
So. How much of RAGNAROK is really tied to all the previous stuff? If you read PULSE, INSTINCT, and THRESHOLD, can you really just skip all the novellas and dive right into RAGNAROK? Well, you could…but I wouldn’t.
The KING novellas introduce a new villain to the franchise, and we see a bit more of a supporting cast character in the series who sometimes acts in his own interest. If you liked that character in the first three novels, you’ll want to see more of him in the novellas. He doesn’t make an appearance in RAGNAROK (although he does make his presence felt), but he will be showing up in a starring role in the next full-length novel in the series.
In the end of THRESHOLD, Rook is separated from the rest of the team. In the CALLSIGN: QUEEN novella, Queen goes looking for Rook. Along the way she finds danger and a new villain (who we’ll probably see more of in the future), in the unlikely locale of Pripyat–the radioactive ghost town on the edge of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. If you didn’t read this one, you wouldn’t understand how or why Queen shows up where she does in RAGNAROK.
In CALLSIGN: ROOK, Rook stumbles across a strange lab in a remote wilderness…and that lab becomes a major setting in RAGNAROK.
In CALLSIGN: BISHOP, Bishop goes back to his ancestral homeland to meet his birth parents, and you’ll see him deal with life after the loss of previous abilities. Bullets fly as a result.
In CALLSIGN: KNIGHT, Knight gets called in to deal with a genetic experiment gone wrong in one of China’s massive ghost cities–giant towns of glass and concrete built in anticipation of people eventually moving there. But no one has come. Well, someone has, and it might mean the death of everyone in China. Plus, the return of a minor (but very popular) character who hadn’t been seen since the end of PULSE.
In CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE, we expanded the support team for the field operatives with several new characters, we mapped out the headquarters (and yes, blew some of it up as well), and the aforementioned minor character from PULSE that made a reappearance in CALLSIGN: KNIGHT moves into a major role. Many of the supporting characters get significant air time in RAGNAROK, and you’ll want to know who they are. Plus, a chance to see Deep Blue in action on his own against armed intruders and giant mutated creatures? How can you go wrong?
RAGNAROK is certainly not the end of everything, but the book wraps up several loose ends in the series and brings the scattered team members back together again. But after facing what awaits them in this book, will they ever be the same?