Category Archives: Publishing

What’s Next for The Dream Box Series?

I’m excited that The Wolf of Descarta, the first novel in my new series, has earned some accolades from reviewers:

“A remarkably descriptive dystopian sci-fi adventure.”

“A backdrop of psychic/machine-world-melded/phantasmagoria impels the coolest of stories with ease.”

“Pike shows an ability to blend good solid science fiction with today’s RPG craze.”

“A rollercoaster ride, filled with hard turns and twists, unpredictable and thrilling.”

“Wonderful and terrifying.”

“It wasn’t what I expected and I found it uniquely interesting.”

“The pace is moderate with good grounding and the world building is amazing.”

“Each chapter, like a game level, reveals surprising new information about the world and character abilities, creating greater engagement for the reader.”

“So if you are a sci-fi aficionado, and love original concepts mixed with ax-wielding badassery and sexy vixens, this book is for you!”

I’ve also learned some things about my readers’ expectations that I’m incorporating into the sequel to TWoD, which is scheduled for release during the fourth quarter of 2014.

Take, for instance, which characters are currently considered popular and which ones readers are curious to learn more about. My universe is much larger than I could hope to introduce in a single book, and receiving feedback about which aspects of it should be brought into the foreground is helping to guide my hand as well.

So, what can readers expect from a sequel to TWoD?

Jaren Reese (and Balmus) will obviously return, as will the love triangle between Kara Faldern (Petra) and Brea Morgen. Readers can expect to see a lot more of Renton Hayes and Isaac Zephyr, as both of these characters have their own arcs in the expanding universe that will become just as important as Reese’s story. Victoria will struggle with becoming “human” in a universe where biological beings are breaking down yet machines have no personal rights. Miyoko Hirigashi will struggle with a decision she and her comrades could regret for the foreseeable future. Janus Almani’s backstory and the Asenti Convention will be further explained through neurological meddling (that I don’t intend to spoil at this juncture). How the Ravers, as an organization, fit into the Shadow Government’s post-postmodern model of society will become clearer, and, of course, a new enemy will emerge that will make the showdown at the end of TWoD look like the video game equivalent of a turn-based battle with a mid-boss.

As for fully explaining what the aliens are up to and why the Dream Box exists? Leave me something for the third installment. I can promise to tease you a little, at least.

Betrayal at Phobos will probably fit more easily into the genre of Science Fiction than the first book, which has caused some reviewers to refer to me as a “Fantasy author”. Because much of the action of the book takes place in our solar system, I’ve had to do some research into things like the moons of Mars and speculate quite a bit about how the human race would logically expand throughout space. (As a small spoiler, the blue collars and red collars that signify castes within The Dream Box series originally designated residents of Earth and Mars respectfully.) There will be space combat this time around, more political intrigue, more plot twists, more mind hacking, more simulation, more wild Fantasy battles in Cyberspace, and, as the title implies, no small amount of betrayal.

Yes, chivalry will still be a theme despite the futuristic setting. Balmus’s characterization demands it, and I wouldn’t dream of writing a story without some representation of knighthood. I’m pretty sure it would unmake me to do so.

If you haven’t gotten your hands on The Wolf of Descarta and are interested, click on “Order My Books” for more information. Please feel free to leave me a review on Amazon. I believe that storytelling should be a dialogue between the writer and his or her readers, not a lecture.

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My Interview with The Florence Reminder & Blade Tribune

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Click here to read the interview. Then hit up the comments section and let me know if I put my foot in my mouth.

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On Superhero Movies, Ben Affleck as Batman, and Book Editing!

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Hey, that’s my sword! Okay, Wolvie. You can borrow it.

Yes, I own the actual antique version of the historical reproduction sword used in The Wolverine. (In the script, Yukio claims the blade itself is hundreds of years old like the clan Yashida sword in the comics, but the repo is of a Japanese officer’s sword from World War 2.)

This probably surprises just about nobody who follows this blog, right?

I was planning on reviewing The Wolverine and Man of Steel separately and including a melange of spoilers and opinionated statements (kind of my thing), but my second job has kind of gotten the better of me lately. I have just under 100 pages of The Dream Box left to edit for TZPP, and my deadline is swiftly approaching. I also had to grade hundreds of papers over the last week for my gig as an English teacher. I’ve kind of had my head under a rock.

Then I heard the news. Ben Affleck is Batman.

This is exactly what I saw in my mind:

Batman and Robin

Holy MATT DAMON, Batman!!!

I even tweeted that Matt Damon was playing Robin, and everyone is so enraged about this casting decision that some people believed me. This was my first experience being a troll. I rather enjoyed it. Given the memes that are circulating around Google right now, I’m not the only one who thinks this is ridiculous.

Why do I think Affleck as Batman playing against Cavill as Superman is the worst casting decision in years? Let’s look at the two (good) superhero movies that came out this summer. And let’s begin with the physiques being presented to us, the audience, as superhuman:

The Wolverine

When Hugh Jackman first landed the part of Wolverine in the X-Men franchise, I was, frankly, pretty disappointed. Comic book nerds are some of the hardest people on the planet to please, and Wolverine is, by far, my favorite comic book hero. Jackman, first of all, wasn’t big enough for the role, which is why you almost always see him wearing three shirts in the X-flicks. (He obviously fixed this issue by taking on the Rock’s training regimen and diet for the new movie.) He also didn’t manage to get the whole berserker rage thing down until X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which I actually enjoyed because I don’t really care for either Gambit or Deadpool as characters, and I thought Liev Schreiber, despite lacking Tyler Mane’s physique, played a mean Sabretooth.

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But even here, the shot works because Jackman, who at this point is already huge, is wearing that coat… expect a lot of tricks like with with Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck.

Still, X-Men Origins: Wolverine suffered from being subject to the continuity of the other X-flicks, which were pretty far off from the comic books. The Wolverine, on the other hand, is relatively self-contained. True, Jean is dead, and Logan has to deal with that vis a vis his psychological issues that are reminiscent of Rick and Lori in Season Three of The Walking Dead, but other than that it’s a side story pulled from two of the best arcs in the Wolverine comic books: 1) Wolverine in Japan, which was written in the 80’s, and 2) Wolverine sans his healing factor after losing his adamantium in a death match with Magneto, which happened in the 90’s. While the second story arc is less prominent than the first and the first has been updated to exclude some Japanese stereotypes present in the source material (re: “The Hand”), many scenes and allusions throughout the film were straight out of the frames of those comic books.

I should know–I own them.

The scene that stood out the most to me is when Logan is shaving and cuts himself–and he’s surprised he doesn’t heal right away. I remember him explaining in the comics that this was when reality set in for him. His healing factor was “tuckered out, darlin'”. He was mortal, and everyone who ever wanted a piece of him was going to be gunning for him now. I also appreciated that in The Wolverine, Yukio had Lady Deathstrike-esque hair, which I took as an allusion to that other Japanese character of great importance who should have showed up in this movie but couldn’t because she died without back story or explanation in X-2. Viper, another of Wolverine’s ex-wives, was probably worked into the script as a substitute for Lady Deathstrike, and what they did with her character held water. Small additions like these reward loyal fans because we know the writers are taking the source material into consideration as opposed to arrogantly believing that–because they work in Hollywood–their ideas must therefore be superior to those of the folks at Marvel.

The Wolverine is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the finest entry in the X-Men movie franchise for this very reason. The Wolverine I know from the comics would return to the wilderness like an animal after suffering a great loss, befriend a bear, and avenge that animal just as he would a human being–whether the statement made by these actions is mainstream or popular or not. He would also throw Mariko’s cheating bastard of a fiance out the window of a skyscraper because he doesn’t like what the man has to say. And he would absolutely need to rip his own heart out (we’re in the meta-narrative now) before being able to get over Jean Grey, a metaphor that was not wasted on true fans and hopeless romantics like me.

I’d personally like to thank everyone involved with this movie because at 31, Wolvie is my hero again.

We could also discuss all the cool samurai action in this flick, including the flaming two-handed swords that looked like something out of Machine Knight, but I’m obviously biased. I’m the intended audience. I can’t say the same, however, for Man of Steel.

Now picture Affleck, at 41, standing next to Cavill, who's younger than me! And keep in mind it isn't the suit that makes Cavill look like that...

Now picture Affleck, at 41, standing next to Cavill, who’s younger than me! And keep in mind it isn’t the suit that makes Cavill look like that…

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Superman. I went to go see this movie because I saw an interview with Russell Crowe, who is one of favorite actors. Crowe explained how his part of Jor-El in the film somewhat parallels his relationship with Cavill, whom he mentored. Still, I was expecting the film to be a lot of flying around, theme music, and men in tights like the other disasters that weren’t much like the comics and–much like some of the earlier Batman flicks–didn’t seem intended to be taken seriously.

Then, I heard that Christopher Nolan had written the story for Man of Steel along with David Goyer, who is getting a bum rap from a couple of my nerd friends on Facebook (as we speak!). I went into Man of Steel with high expectations because I’m a huge fan of how Nolan brought depth, sympathy, and realism to the character of Batman. If anyone could make Superman less of a two-dimensional character, it was certainly Nolan.

I wasn’t disappointed. I hadn’t enjoyed anything having to do with Superman as much as Man of Steel since the Doomsday arc from the 90’s and the New Supermen arc that followed it. The movie focused more on the Superman’s origin story than Hollywood’s typical Clark Kent at the Daily Planet trying to drop game on Lois Lane, and I think for some people who didn’t grow up reading comics and apparently were never bullied as children, this formula failed to satisfy. I, on the other hand, cried when Clark saved the bully on the bus because doing it was right. I cried when Kevin Costner got sucked up by a tornado to keep Superman’s identity a secret. I cried when Superman was finally able to cut loose on another person for the first time after a lifetime of bottling abuse and injustice, of being the cursed and undervalued freak, because Zod, who killed his real father and now threatened the only family he had left, was finally a worthy opponent.

This is the movie you take your son and your father to go see. I went with my daughters and my mother, and the experience was still exceptionally rewarding, but I would argue that Man of Steel is the father-son film of the year.

Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe probably agree with me.

Now, when I think of Ben Affleck and superheroes, my brain doesn’t immediately go to Daredevil, although let’s take a look at Affleck in his prime, 10 years ago when that piece of crap came out:

Is it just me, or is that stick just about the size of his arm?

Is it just me, or is that stick just about the size of his arm even after they stuck him in a textured suit?

Okay, so he’s not quite as wimpy as Orlando Bloom (getting some hate mail from his fans lately, so I must be doing something right), but the difference between Affleck at his best and Jackman/Cavill should be obvious at a glance. Is Affleck going to go through the same kind of training Jackman (also in his 40’s) did to be The Wolverine? I’m not holding my breath on that one. Maybe he’ll bring excellent character acting to the role like Liev Schreiber did with Sabretooth, but I’m not holding my breath on that one either. When I think of Ben Affleck in a superhero context, I think of the Kevin Smith films, and quite specifically, Chasing Amy.

This is Ben Affleck--the co-creator of Bluntman and Chronic, a comic book running gag.

THIS is Ben Affleck–the co-creator of Bluntman and Chronic, a comic book running gag.

As a fan of everything involving Jay and Silent Bob with the exception of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (not Smith’s finest work), I can’t help but appreciate Ben Affleck in a comedic role that, for the most part, involves the comic book industry and fandom. It’s not that Ben Affleck is the worst actor out there, but he isn’t a character actor/method actor. Better thespians than he have tried to take up the cape and cowl, including Val Kilmer and George Clooney, who both failed miserably as Batman.

The one potential positive I do see is that Affleck might take the role more seriously than some of his predecessors due to his previous work with Kevin Smith and the “furor”, as Crow put it, following this casting announcement. But one thing is certain: following Christian Bale and starring opposite Henry Cavill, who seems to play Superman effortlessly, is going to be the biggest challenge of Affleck’s career. I personally like the guy, so I hope he rises to meet it like a proper Dark Knight.

Okay, it’s back to editing The Dream Box for me. For those of you who are new to the blog, The Dream Box is the first novel in a three book Cyberpunk series I’ve sold to the Zharmae Publishing Press that will be available in both print and electronic formats. The book is currently scheduled for release on Black Friday, and my editor (@daniellecromero), has been teasing me with the opportunity to peek at the first cover this week. I won’t be allowed to release the image, unfortunately, but stay tuned for more information as the marketing crew at TZPP makes it available to me.

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