Dec 31, 2014

2014 Did Not Beat Me

Let's be blunt. 2014 was a horrible year, overall. After the high point, Olivia's birth, things went downhill in ways I could not have thought possible. Losing a friend to cancer, falling out with particular family members, childcare costs forcing us onto a single income, experiencing disappointing sales of my latest books, making mistakes with my first foray into self-publishing. 2014 has been a day to day slugfest, and it has tried every trick in the book to break me down.

The worst part? I'm not the only one. Most people I know have had a really hard year, from bereavement to health issues and problems at work. Globally, we've seen terror groups rise up again. I've watched the tide of harassment against women in the full range of geek fandoms grow stronger with every attempt to speak out against misogyny. I've read, helpless, about men and women being brutally assaulted and killed, with no apparent recourse. I've seen victims become the targets of hate.

Looking at the year, and how the causes I believe in are suffering, and how my book sales are nowhere close to what I had hoped they'd become, I honestly feel like I'm back at square one.

But I'm not done. I am not beaten. There are still good things that happened.

Friends have found work after long periods of unemployment. Friends have become engaged and gotten married. They've had children and announced new additions to their families. Society has made leaps, both scientifically and culturally. There is hope.

I held my third daughter at the start of this year. She turns one next week. I saw my first trilogy come to an end, and everyone who's read the final chapter of the Memory Wars has told me they loved it. I became a hybrid author, with the release of Lady Raven. I got to see an anthology I'd contributed to hit #1 on the Amazon best-seller list. And you know what else? I get to keep writing. I get to tell more stories, and look forward to the coming year.

So nice try, 2014. You gave it your best shot, and I am still here.

Maybe I am back at square one, but you know what? I'm still on the board. And I will finish the game.

Dec 22, 2014

The Santa Trilogy - Part 3

This will be my final blog post before Christmas. After this I'm taking a break for a week and I'll be back in action in time for New Year's. Of course, I'll still be pottering around on social media, so you're not completely rid of me.

A trilogy is really only as good as its final chapter, and our hidden Santa Trilogy brings with it a bit of a genre shift, as Santa's world is expanded.

Last time, Santa restored people's belief and faith in him as a symbol of hope and joy. Now he must take a stand once more, and rally allies to his side as an old foe returns...

If you have a problem, and no-one else can help...

Based on William Joyce's Guardians of Childhood books, Rise of the Guardians reveals that Santa Claus isn't the only mythical figure watching over children. In Part 2, Santa mentioned sometimes playing golf with the Easter Bunny, and that suggestion is proven true. Also, it's fun to note that Santa said that Bunny spends winter in New Zealand, and here he is voiced in full-on Aussie mode by Hugh Jackman.

*SNIKT* "Hey, bub."
Now, really Rise of the Guardians is about Jack Frost, the plucky young newcomer, but Santa plays an important role as the leader of the Guardians, and he's the driving heroic force behind much of the film.

A bit of backstory from Joyce's books, here. 

Earth was once a pretty nasty place, especially for children. Things lurked in the dark and preyed upon them, making their lives a misery. But in the Dark Ages, the Man in the Moon, whose moonbeams chase away the dark, chose four individuals who would stand for, and protect, those things that were most important in children.

E. Aster Bunnymund, the Easter Bunny up there, was chosen to protect hope, for Easter is the herald of spring and rebirth.

Toothiana, the queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies, collects children's teeth in order to safeguard the most important memories of childhood, which are stored within the teeth.

Sanderson Mansnoozie, the Sandman, ensures that children can dream of wonderful things, free of fear.

And Nicholas St North, Santa Claus, protects children's sense of wonder.

Remember back in Part 1, when Claus and his wife Anya died in the blizzard, and were brought to the North Pole? There you have it. Claus/North was chosen to become Santa Claus at that moment. He had literally sacrificed his life in trying to give wonder and joy to children, and so he was proven worthy of becoming a Guardian.

The movie opens with Jack Frost's introduction. We see him rising from an icy lake and discovering he has the power of flight and the ability to create and control ice. Unfortunately, he is invisible and immaterial to mortals. He has no idea why he is here. All the Moon told him was his name. And so he waits, dwelling among humans, but separate from them.

We cut to 300 years later, to the present, where Santa is working away in his workshop. There's a cute concept represented here, that Santa designs new toys out of ice, and sends these as prototypes for his workers. Also, these are the elves...

Freaking adorable
Yep. Remember how I said in Part 1 that the toys Santa delivers aren't made by the elves? That comes up again, as we learn that it's actually yetis who do the manual labour at the Pole, while the elves are simply allowed to think that they really help out. Santa's learned his lesson from Patch's horrible mistakes.

You are so fired, you daft bastard
Santa, whose workshop now includes a funky steampunk globe for monitoring the status of children who still believe, sees a vision of a dark shadow moving across said globe. The Enemy has returned.

"I'm in this movie?"
No, Pitch Black. The Boogeyman. And what's his schtick? Fear. He wants nothing more than to spread fear among all the people in the world. The other Guardians aren't entirely convinced, as they already defeated him back in the Dark Ages, and when Santa summons them (the Northern Lights are his Bat Signal!), Bunny is particularly annoyed as it's three days before Easter and he has eggs to paint. 

The Man in the Moon interrupts their arguing and confirms that Pitch is back, and reveals that he's chosen a new Guardian. Jack Frost.

Reactions are mixed, with Tooth's fairies swooning and Bunny being disgusted, as Jack apparently enjoys dicking around with Eager egg hunts. Still, destiny is destiny, and the Guardians deploy to bring Jack in.

Jack, voiced by Chris Pine, has grown into a mischevious rogue who causes trouble, ducks responsibility, and whose antics result in minor injuries.

"I majored in Antics and Hijinks"
He's also a lot of fun, and despite never receiving any recognition and not being believed in all these years, he still works to bring fun to kids.

Jack is... forcefully invited to the North Pole, by means of a sack and a magic portal. Though entertained at the idea of finally getting in (he's been trying to sneak in for years), he angrily rejects the idea that he can be a Guardian, leading to a tense stand-off between himself and Bunny, who takes offence at his attitude. Tooth is quite smitten, however.

But who can blame her, right?
Santa tries to talk to Jack about how important it is to be a Guardian, explaining that his own centre, wonder, is what makes him a Guardian. And once Jack figures out what his centre is, what it is he protects in children, he will be ready to help them fight Pitch.

Unfortunately, there's no time for a training montage, as Pitch attacks the Tooth Palace. The Guardians race into battle in Santa's sleigh.

Pimp My Ride - Christmas edition
It's a much more decked-put sleigh than we've seen before. Perhaps Santa took some ideas from Patch's flying car?

Something to note here is that, despite Santa traditionally having eight reindeer, there are only six shown in this movie. What happened to the other two? If you remember Santa Claus The Movie, Comet and Cupid were sick with the flu and had to sit out the movie's climax. So...?

One could infer from this that they actually died from the flu. That's certainly dark enough to fit with Santa Claus The Movie, but don't forget that scene from Miracle on 34th Street, with Santa visiting the reindeer in Central Park. He specifically apologised for not being to see them more often. And at the start of that movie, he wasn't on his way to watch the parade. Dorey had to follow him into Central Park to catch him and ask him to be their Santa. He was actually on his way to see the reindeer! Comet and Cupid are in reindeer retirement, having gotten on a bit in years.

So using a magical snow globe, Santa transports them all to the Tooth Palace.

Where does he get those wonderful toys? Oh wait...
When they arrive, they find the palace swarming with black nightmares. Pitch has developed a way to turn normal dreams into terrible creatures under his control. And somehow gained the power to create an entire army of them. The Guardians fight back, but the nightmares escape with the teeth, taking with them the most precious memories of every child in the world. Worse, they have also captured all of Tooth's fairies except one, Baby Tooth, meaning there is no-one left to collect children's teeth.

Children wake up, realising that the Tooth Fairy never came. Tooth's feathers begin to fall and her palace walls crumble. But Santa has a plan. The Guardians will step in and collect the teeth, delaying Pitch's plans for a little while. In exchange for help getting his own memories back, Jack Frost agrees to join the Guardians on their mission.

Of course, like any good villain, Pitch has a back-up plan, and ambushes the Guardians. With the rest of the team accidentally knocked out by Sandman's dreamsand after they were discovered by Jamie, a boy Jack has been trying to befriend, it's up to Jack and Sandman to face off against the nightmares.

The pair fight bravely, but Pitch takes a sneak shot. Just as the other Guardians join the fight and the tide is turning, Pitch shoots Sandman with an arrow, killing him.

The Guardians are left to mourn their friend, and for children the world over, there are no more good dreams, only nightmares.

"This Pitch guy ain't that bad!"
Lights start to go out. There is only one chance left. Easter. Bunny rallies the team and brings them to his Warren at the centre of the world, where the Guardians help him prepare the eggs (after almost murdering Jamie's little sister, Sophie), and learn an important lesson from Jack about how to deal with kids and have some fun with them.

Jack and Baby Tooth return Sophie to her home, and Jack is drawn away by the sound of his name being called. He is led underground to Pitch's lair. Which, incidentally, is located under an old bedframe in the middle of a forest. Yeah, not creepy at all...

He finds the tooth fairies, but they can't fly because not enough children believe in them anymore. Pitch tries to bribe Jack into leaving everything alone, by offering back his teeth. Jack takes them, but finds himself in one of Bunny's tunnels after refusing to leave. To his horror, he discovers that it was all a ruse. Pitch just wanted Jack out of the way to leave the Guardians vulnerable. All of the Easter eggs have been smashed, and now no-one is left to believe in the Easter Bunny.

Jack leaves, and encounters Pitch in a frozen wasteland. Pitch tries to convince Jack to join him, but he refuses, and so Pitch threatens to kill Baby Tooth if he doesn't surrender and hand over his staff. Jack complies, and Pitch snaps the staff in two, shattering Jack's power. He leaves them both in the cold and goes to watch his plans come to fruition, as children stop believing all over the world.

Jack opens his tooth box and regains his memories. We learn that Jack was human, and had a little sister. He saved her from falling through ice on a frozen lake. Although he was afraid, he makes a game out of getting her to inch closer to him until he can use a tree branch to sweep her to shore. Jack, however, falls through the ice, where he dies.

As with Santa before him, Jack was chosen because he sacrificed himself for a child.

Jack uses his powers to repair his staff and flies off to find the one light still remaining, Jamie. He manages to convince Jamie that the Easter Bunny is real, and in doing so, makes it snow in his bedroom. His reminds Jamie of his mother referring to "Jack Frost" and causes Jamie to believe in him. For the first time, a child can see Jack.

Santa, Tooth, and Bunny crash down in the sleigh, which is falling apart as belief fades from the world. Santa himself, an old man, can hardly stand without leaning on his sword. As for Bunny...

Pitch descends with his army of nightmares, and the Guardians are in no shape to fight. Even Jack isn't able to stand against Pitch, so great has the Boogeyman's power grown now that children can only have nightmares when they sleep. But Jack figures out the way to stop Pitch. Have a little fun.

Interrupting the villain's monologue with a snowball to the face, Jack drags Jamie and the Guardians on a sled ride through town, recruiting Jamie's friends to help. The children all start to see Jack, and their fun drives Pitch into a fury. He summons all of his nightmares to strike at the children.

Even weakened, the Guardians make a stand, and insist they will always protect the children. But who, Pitch asks, will protect them.

"I will."
Jamie and the other children have an "I am Spartacus" moment, declaring that they're not afraid of Pitch or his nightmares. A nightmare dives down and bursts against Jamie's outstretched hand, turning back into glowing golden dreamsand.

The children's faith restores the Guardian's powers and they fight back. Santa uses his snowglobes to summon elves and yetis from the North Pole to help, while Bunny calls on his stone eggmen from the Warren. It's a great sequence, as each Guardian in turn gets to take a shot at Pitch, until the Boogeyman sneaks up behind Jack and is about to deliver the killing blow...

When a dreamsand whip snaps down and pulls Pitch over a truck and up a hill to a glowing, swirling mass of light.

You're fucked now, mate.
Not only have the children given the Guardians back their powers, but their belief has brought Sandman back from the dead! He pummels Pitch and turns all of the nightmares back into regular dreams. All over the world, children's dreams are restored and they start to believe once again.

Pitch is beaten, reduced to an invisible, immaterial thing like he used to be, and a pack of nightmares, this time created by Pitch's fears, drag him back down beneath the Earth.

The children of the world are saved. Jack is now the Guardian of fun, and he joins his new friends as they say goodbye to the children who have, in turn, saved them. 

Of course, the question remains, how did Pitch get so powerful? He says it took him a long time to learn how to turn dreams into nightmares, but would knowledge alone be enough? Pitch is a creature of fear and darkness. If he was defeated once, left powerless, how could he come to affect dreams at all? Something must have happened. Something... someone, with a heart so dark, must have felt fear so great that it awoke the power in Pitch...

You psychotic bastard!
So there you have it. The hidden Santa Trilogy. I've enjoyed looking into these movies and picking at the story threads to see what we can weave. I might do more posts like this in the new year.

But for now, Merry Christmas everyone. I'll see you on the other side of the 25th, and hope you all have a happy, peaceful time with the ones you love.

Dec 17, 2014

The Santa Trilogy - Part 2

Today we continue our exploration of the hidden Santa Trilogy. We started with Santa Claus The Movie, and now move on to the mid-point.

When we last left Santa, things were pretty bad. Though BZ had been defeated, there was still the fallout to deal with. Christmas was becoming more commercialised and false. Santa himself was losing faith in what Christmas stood for. And even those who believed in Santa Claus were becoming sure that he was a phony.

What can Santa do to in this situation? You can't force people to trust you, even less so when you've just come out of your own crisis of faith. As I said in the last post, it will take a miracle...

The man with the hat is back...

Miracle on 34th Street is a 1994 remake of the 1947 original, with the wonderful Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle/Santa Claus. I've chosen this one, rather than the original, as it fits chronologically, coming after 1984's Santa Claus The Movie, and featuring some particularly heartwarming and relevant scenes and dialogue.

For the purposes of this analysis, even though the character goes by the name Kris Kringle for the duration of the movie, I'll refer to him as Santa Claus.

We open with Santa dressed as a normal everyday New Yorker (he obviously has a fondness for the city, having spent much of the previous movie there), going to attend the Cole's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"Who's this 'Macy' person you keep talking about?"
Interesting fact, although the actual Macy's name was allowed to be used in the 1947 original, and the store itself was featured, they refused to allow the use of the name for the remake. I guess they felt they had enough money. I believe the exterior of the store was at least used for many shots, though.

It's as if Santa is visiting the human world to see how things are now, maybe to recharge his enthusiasm and passion. It soon becomes clear that he hasn't completely lost his sense of what Christmas means when he sees the parade's Santa drunkenly stumbling into place as the parade starts.

After revealing the man's drunkenness to the special events coordinator of Cole's, Dorey Walker, the old Santa is fired and Dorey winds up desperately asking the real Santa to take his place. There's a subtle reluctance as he reaches for the offered red hat, but when Dorey reminds him of the children who will be let down if there is no Santa, he rises to the call.

Santa does such a great job being, well, Santa, that he's offered a job in the Cole's 34th street store. He even gets his own suiting-up scene, just like all heroes should have.

It isn't long before Santa comes to the attention of Victor Landberg, owner of Shopper's Express, a rival store to Cole's.

Two evil toy bosses in a row?
Now tell me this guy doesn't look like an older, more embittered version of John Lithgow's character from the previous movie. He even warns his lackey that "anachronisms" like Santa have a way of causing problems, almost as if he's had dealings with such things before.

It's possible that BZ survived, returned to Earth, and changed his name, to build up a new evil empire. But I'm not completely confident making that assertion based on only a couple of lines of dialogue and an absent hairline. Still, it's something to consider.

Santa also encounters Dorey's daughter, Susan, played by one of the most well-adjusted child stars in history, Mara Wilson.

Seriously, check her out now. She's super-smart and awesome.
Dorey has been quite firm with Susan that there is no such thing as fairytales and Santa Claus. So Susan is quite a stern, serious child, who desperately wants a traditional family, since her dad ran out on her mom years ago. She is quite taken with Santa, and his charming demeanor and genuine kindness begin to break down her cynicism.

Santa makes it his mission to prove to Susan, and her mother, that he is real, and should be believed in. As he says to Dorey:

"I'm a symbol of the human ability to be able to suppress the selfish and hateful tendencies that rule the major part of our lives. If you can't believe, if you can't accept anything on faith, then you're doomed for a life dominated by doubt."

By this stage, Santa wants to be believed in again. He only hopes it's not too late, and if he can start with these two people, there's a chance for Santa Claus to endure.

One of the key moments in Susan's growing faith in Santa, and my personal favourite scene in the movie, is when a woman brings her daughter to see Santa at Cole's, and explains to him that her daughter is deaf, and she just wanted to see him.

Santa looks down at the child, and for a moment, his smile falters. His eyes wilt. See, Santa Claus has incredible powers, but those powers have rules. They have a specific purpose. He can't make a deaf girl hear, or a blind boy see. That's not what Santa Claus is for. And it pains him that this is so.

So he does what he can to bring joy and wonder to the girl. He sits her on his knee and speaks to her using sign language. Her face lights up and they sing Jingle Bells together, and he tells her she'll get what she wants for Christmas.

Yes, it's the most heartwarming, tear-jerking thing ever, and I'm not sorry for crying.

Susan is so wracked with doubt as to her mother's insistence that Santa Claus isn't real, that she agrees to test Santa, and asks him to give her a specific house, a father, and a baby brother. Now, as I mentioned, this sort of thing is outside Santa's power to simply give, so he has to do some legwork...

Of course, Landberg wants to discredit Santa and divert customers from Cole's to his own store, so that his financial interests can take over the floundering company and add it to his retail empire. He has his lackeys follow Santa, to determine if he's potentially crazy. Santa has let his guard down amidst this newfound resurgence of popularity, and does himself no favours. He is seen talking to reindeer and mentions how he can slow down time, and enjoys playing golf with the Easter Bunny.

The fact the Easter Bunny exists, and usually spends winter in New Zealand, is something to note for Part 3.

The lackeys set Santa up, having the man he replaced at the parade provoke him in the street.

You skeevy bastard
Santa strikes him with his cane, and the man fakes a serious injury. Landberg's lackeys show up and make a show of announcing his name to the gathered crowd, and Santa is arrested.

Just when things were starting to come around for Santa, now the whole world watches as he's branded a violent, mentally-unstable old man. Worse, we learn that Landberg plans to bribe the judge in the case, to make sure Santa gets locked away.

"It's no 'teddy bear stuffed with nails', but that's still harsh, bro."
But all is not lost! Bryan, Dorey's sort-of-but-not-quite-boyfriend, is a lawyer, and decides to take the case and defend Santa. Not only will he prove that his client is not dangerous, but that he is in fact the one true Santa.

Someone's going on the Nice List, huh?

Of course, the challenge isn't in proving that Santa isn't dangerous, it's proving he's not insane for believing that he's Santa Claus. Bryan tries a range of tactics, but for every win he makes against the prosecution, they win one back when Santa continues to act, well, crazy. Even the judge, who wishes he could let Santa go free, says there is no way he can rule in favour; the law ties his hands.

During the trial, however, both Susan and Dorey come to support Santa completely. Dorey goes to her superiors and urges them to support Santa, giving them the rallying cry, "Do you believe in Santa Claus?"

Cue montage of New Yorkers posting signs and notices announcing their belief in Santa, to Aretha Franklin's rendition of "Joy To The World" (remember how that was used to fanfare Santa's first flight in the previous movie?). And yes, also cue more tears from me, because damn if I don't love seeing New Yorkers stand up for people.

"You mess with Santa, you mess with New York!"
So the entire population of New York flocks to the streets of Manhattan and cheers at the stroke of noon on Christmas Eve, to announce their solidarity and believe in Santa Claus. Then it starts to snow (all Christmas miracles cause spontaneous snowfall), and the judge realises (with a little extra help from Susan and the one dollar bill) that it was the will of the people of America that allows the nation's currency to say "In God we trust" and so he can, through a similar act of will from the people, carry forth their decision to believe in Santa Claus, and set Santa free.

Okay, that ruling could probably be all kinds of contested, but by the end of the movie, even the prosecutor doesn't want to put Santa away, and asks him to not forget to stop by his house that night.

The faith of the people restored, Santa gets ready to set off on his night's work. As it happens, he did manage to put a few things in motion, and arranges for Bryan and Dorey to get married, and ensures that Dorey's Christmas bonus is put towards buying the very house that Susan wanted.

As for the baby brother... Well, let's just say there are some things you don't have to ask Santa for...

"My mom's done the sex."
So everything's okay, now, right? Santa's back and the world believes in him, and the spirit of Christmas, once again.

Not so fast. There are other threats out there, and old fears have a way of creeping back...

Dec 16, 2014

The Santa Trilogy - Part 1

No, this isn't the reveal for a series of Christmas novels (though I do have an idea there...).

I've known for a while that there is a secret story hidden within three otherwise unconnected movies. You see, I love Christmas movies, and it so happens that three of my favourites feature Santa Claus. Not just any set of three Santas, either. No, these three movies are all about the same Santa Claus, in the same universe.

You might think the holiday cheer has gone to my head, but sit back and get ready to see the true story behind three movies I'll be examining in this series of posts. In each one, I'll reveal the movie and explain how they are not only set in more or less the same universe (with a few differences in aesthetics), but they form a single continuous character arc for Santa Claus.

For today's post, we will look at Santa Claus The Movie.

Santa Begins

After his parents were murdered by the Grinch in an alleyway, little Nicholas was inspired to fight naughtiness... Wait, wrong origin story.

I love an origin story, and Santa Claus The Movie is one of the very few movies that actually looks at where the jolly man came from, and who he was before donning the red and white suit.

Lovers of British tv will recognise Daisy from Keeping Up Appearances
Claus and his wife, Anya, bring toys to children every Christmas. It's mentioned later in the movie that they were never able to have children of their own, and so Claus loves all children, everywhere. However this year, there is a particularly bad snow storm. They become lost, and they and their two reindeer, Donner and Blitzen, freeze to death.

Yeah, didn't see that coming, did you? We are not playing around here, kids.

They awake, however, finding themselves transported somewhere else, a place filled with mountains of snow and ice. The elves arrive and take them to their new home, explaining that Claus has been chosen to bring toys and wonder to children all over the world.

Claus prepares for his task, and next Christmas Eve, is introduced to the "Ancient Elf".

Ladies and gentlemen, Burgess Meredith!
You know this means that both Santa Claus and Rocky Balboa were mentored by the same guy, right?

Anyway, the Ancient Elf speaks of a prophecy that has come to pass, and reveals that in addition to immortality, Claus will be given all of the things he needs to complete his mission. Time will travel with him, creating an endless night, just for him. He will be able to fly. And all those in the world will now know of him, and that he will forever more be known as Santa Claus.

Santa takes to his sleigh, and his reindeer carry him into the night sky to the rousing chorus of "Joy to the world."

The music is instrumental only, but is it sacrilegious to have the line "Joy to the world, the Lord has come" in subtle reference to Santa Claus taking his first flight? If it is, it's worth it. The scene is wonderful and always gets me choked up.

Centuries pass, and Santa Claus carries out his task, learning to award toys to the nice children, but not to naughty ones. Now, one thing to note is that for all we see of the elves making toys, throughout the Obligatory Montage we never see a child playing with a toy the elves are shown to make. This will be worth keeping in mind, and I'll explain why in Part 3, but for now let me make a declarative statement: The elves do not make the toys that Santa delivers.

When we do see an elf's creations sent to be played with, disaster strikes. And it's all the fault of Patch.

You bastard.
I gotta be honest, the scene where the kids' toys fall apart is fucking heartbreaking. Little kids falling off faulty bikes and watching helplessly while a broken toy cart is run over by a bus is some cruel shit. I told you this movie wasn't playing around.

As a result of this, people stop believing in Santa Claus. Kids who do still believe, like Joe and Corny, two minor characters who have befriended Santa, get beaten up for defending him, and Santa has to exile Patch. And it is only now, halfway through the movie, that we meet our villain, the evil toy company boss, BZ, who is also Corny's uncle.

See how evil he is? He's SMOKING in a kids' movie!
Let me take a moment here to clarify just how evil BZ is, okay? He's not Donald Trump evil. He's not Rupert Murdoch evil. He's not even Lex Luthor evil.

BZ's company is under investigation for making toys that are dangerous for children. How dangerous? Well, one doll is made of material so flammable that a cigarette being held near it causes it to burst into flames. A toy panda? Is stuffed with nails and broken glass.

"Dude, that's fucked up."
I told you. This movie? Not playing around.

BZ teams up with none other than Patch, who thinks he can show Santa how valuable he is by creating the best Christmas present ever. Patch develops a lollipop with makes children float. And it's being given away for free. But of course, BZ has other plans, and wants to take over Christmas for himself!

Santa, meanwhile, laments that people don't seem to care about giving a gift just so a friend can be happy. He thinks BZ may be smarter than him, and wonders if there's any point in continuing. He wants to give up on Christmas. The stakes simply cannot get any higher, folks!

I have to say, all joking aside, this is a really lovely scene between Santa and Anya. Santa Claus in movies is so often a flat, two-dimensional guy, with no flaws or doubts. Here, we get a glimpse at his human side. He's hurt and vulnerable, and it's such an understated scene, done in dark, intimate lighting in total contrast to the rest of the movie.

Back to the action, and BZ is planning "Christmas 2", for which he demands a better, improved gift. Patch increases the magic formula and produces candy canes which will make children fly. Money starts pouring in. BZ is planning to take over Christmas, leaving Santa in the dirt.

Joe, who has been hiding out in BZ's house while Corny helps him recover from being sick, is discovered listening in, and is kidnapped.

Unfortunately for children everywhere, it is revealed that the candy canes react to heat and explode. Anything as warm as being next to a radiator will trigger them. BZ doesn't care, however, and plans to take the money and flee to a non-extradition country.

Sorry, let me interject again. The villain here is going to take his money and flee, while the Christmas gifts his unwitting elf partner will be sending out are going to cause every single child on the planet to be blown up.

"Seriously, BZ, you need help."
Corny writes to Santa to get him to help. Only two of the reindeer are sick, and the rest are still tired from Christmas Eve. It's all on the line.

They race to save Joe, and Corny explains about the candy canes and says she called the cops on her uncle. The cops show up to BZ's office and he tries to escape by eating handfuls of candy canes. Unfortunately for him, he is unable to control his flight and shoots up into the sky.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Patch found Joe, and realised that Santa does care about him, so he packs Joe and all the candy canes into his flying car to let Santa have them instead of BZ. But the candy canes are right next to the engine, and they're heating up.

Santa pulls off the Super-Duper-Looper, a move he named before ever being able to complete it, and loops around the car to rescue Patch and Joe as the car explodes.

Santa and friends celebrate, and we end on a scene of BZ flying through space along with bits of the destroyed flying car. Somehow, he is able to breathe and speak, crying out as he tumbles off away from Earth.

To be continued...

Okay, so the ending is a little weak, narratively-speaking. The hero never really defeats the villain, and we're still left with the hanging issue of people the world over having lost faith in Santa Claus. What can be done? How will Santa regain the trust of the children?

Well, you might say it'll take a miracle.

Tune in next time and see.

Dec 10, 2014

Update on my New Projects

I've found myself struggling to refrain from diving into new projects. I have a lot of ideas brewing that, really, I should leave until the new year so I can simply relax and enjoy the upcoming holidays. After a hard couple of years, I'm eager to get back on my feet and really make something of myself.

Here's a run-down of what's in the works right now, and still to come in 2015:

  • Red Skies - Part 2 of Lady Raven is coming along nicely. I'm closing in on 30,000 words and I can see where the rest of the plot is going now. I doubt I'll get the first draft completed before the end of the year, but I'd say it'll be finished by the end of January, and if I can get another editing job done soon, or a successful Kickstarter, I would hope to have it in edits by March.
  • Lady Raven, print edition - I do still plan to re-release Lady Raven in print. I've put off any work on this until the new year, however, because there's just too much else going on and I'd rather take my time on it. 
  • The Long Road - In the wild places along the open road, myth still lives. My all-new series about a mother and daughter fighting monsters while on the run from enemies both mundane and supernatural. I plan to query this to publishers and agents, so it'll be a while before it's available.
  • Origin - "Who can you turn to, when the heroes become the villains?" Realising that I have close to 200 followers on Wattpad, and wanting to release an e-serial in 2015, I've decided to return to an older idea, set in a world where superheroes began killing supervillains, and took things to the logical extreme. The world is under their control, and punishments for breaches of their many laws range from removal of rights to preemptive execution. This will be released initially in draft form, through Wattpad, before eventual full release on Amazon.

Dec 8, 2014

Sojourn 2

I've been a gamer most of my life, and my favourite podcast is Fear The Boot. Earlier this year they release an anthology of short stories called Sojourn. And now, just in time for Christmas, they've released a second volume, with even more fantastic stories.

Sojourn Volume 2 is available now, for Kindle and in print, and contains a wide selection of stories written by Fear The Boot's hosts and listeners. Included in this anthology is an all-new short story by myself, titled The Last Light. I find short fiction a challenge, as I tend to prefer longer story arcs, but I'm particularly proud of The Last Light, and thrilled to have it take its place among the work of so many other awesome gamers.

And for those of you hailing from my side of the Atlantic, the book is also available on

Dec 4, 2014

Sign Up For News and Updates

I'm finally getting on the mailing list bandwagon.

2015 is looking set to be an exciting year. The print version of Lady Raven is being re-released, and the series is set to continue with Red Skies and Blackened Wings. I'll also be working on my plans to return to traditional publishing, and maybe experimenting with a few fringe ideas I have.

So if you want to stay up to date on all of these as they happen, and get exclusive sneak previews of my latest titles, sign up to my mailing list here:

Subscribe to my mailing list

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Dec 2, 2014

Let me tell you a story...

It's December, and today I finished up the last of my big tasks for the year, which were both depressingly dull tax-related things. But now I'm free (there are no strings on me...), and I have a few more weeks to get through before I can officially say I've survived 2014.

I've been thinking a lot about what I want, having just come through being thankful for what I already have. I want to take some time to recover, honestly. I want to figure out when all the shit that's hit me started to fly, and make peace with it. I'm beginning to feel better, but recovery is a bitch, because you start to feel like you can dive back into your old routine. But any injury - physical, mental, or emotional - doesn't just take time to heal, but also leaves you permanently changed. Scarred. You can't go back to the way things were, not really.

I feel I've neglected this blog too much lately. I'd like to get more discussion going in the future, and talk about topics that you guys want to see. I miss connecting with my readers. You guys are amazing, and without you, I wouldn't be doing what I am.

I want to establish myself as a freelance editor. I love editing, and helping people with their own stories. It's something I could happily see myself doing as a career. More of this in 2015, please. Besides, I need some way to fund the rest of the Lady Raven series, right?

I want to share more about my family. I've got a regular spot on TV3's new Parent Trap site, writing articles about modern parenthood, so stop by and check those out.

I want to talk gaming and entertainment more. Critical analysis is a passion of mine, and some of my most popular posts have been me rambling on about a particular movie or game. Sure, I'll attract some trolls when I say something shocking like "I think women should be treated better", but I'm a gamer; I can handle trolls and goblins.

And I want to write. Wow, how much stuff I want to write. You guys have no idea. And not just Lady Raven, but my new ideas, new genres. While I want you all to get to know Cora and follow her adventures, I want to introduce you to Ashley and her monster-hunting mom. I want to bring back Bradley Rook, the boy cursed to become a monster. I want to push some limits, challenge some preconceptions. I want to write violent bloodshed, thrilling adventure, hot sex, deep and detailed worlds, with heroes and villains of every kind.

I have to grow as an author, as an entrepreneur, and as a person. I have a brand to build, as blunt and capitalist as that is of me to say. And I know now what that brand is. I know what makes me, and my style of storytelling, unique.

I write the stories we all wanted to believe in when we were children. Stories to show that monsters can be beaten.

I don't like spoiling an ending with cynicism or cheap tricks. I want to write heroes and adventures and tell people it's okay to love these, no matter how old you are.

Every adventure starts with a trail into darkness, which the hero endures to emerge in the light. If you want to feel that thrill, to lose yourself in tales like that, I invite you to come with me, and see where the trail leads. 

Let me tell you a story.

Dec 1, 2014

Lady Raven Re-Release

I wonder is there a prize for the quickest re-release announcement of a book?

At the end of October, I released Lady Raven, the first in the Lady Raven Series, and my first self-published novel. However, not long after that I decided to pull the print edition of the book from Amazon, as I made some mistakes on the cover design that need to be fixed.

Given that it's so close to Christmas, and I really don't want to spend the last weeks of the year worrying about whether or not I'll be able to get the new cover uploaded and proofed in time for people to order copies before the holidays, I figured I should just take the hit and delay the re-release. I'm disappointed in myself for not having the forethought and attention to realise the issues with the cover sooner, but I can't help that now. All I can do is take the time to make sure that the new cover is the best it can be.

So for now, Lady Raven remains available on Kindle, so if any of you, or those you know, get Kindles for Christmas, it's a bargain price and I hope you'll consider checking it out.

I'll re-release the print edition in the new year. Note that only the cover design and book dimensions are changing. Absolutely nothing about the content is being changed. Those of you who have the book for Kindle should be able to download the updated cover once it's up. And if anyone bought the print version and decides they prefer the new one, I am happy to send on a new copy, free of charge.

Nov 27, 2014

Am I Thankful?

Honestly, a year ago today I would have said I had no doubt that I'd be thankful right now. Setting aside for a moment its origins, and the awful mess of consumerism surrounding it, I love that there's an entire holiday dedicated to being thankful and surrounding yourself with loved ones. It's like an extra Christmas.

As I look around, it seems that almost everyone I know has had a rough year. Beyond that, I've witnessed hate grow and grow across the world. Whether it's Gamergate, ISIS, or Ferguson, you could be forgiven for thinking we're all sinking into the biggest dystopian fiction mashup ever.

But I have to remind myself what I can be thankful for. As bad as things look, the world will still be here when these events pass. People will still be here when these events pass. And those people, whether they are strangers to us, or our closest friends, need to keep on living. They can't do that if there aren't things to be thankful for, things to hope for.

So I'm thankful that my daughters are happy and healthy. I'm thankful my wife can look after them while I'm at work. I'm thankful I've completed my Occupational First Aid training. I'm thankful I have four novels out and am working on my fifth. I'm thankful for the family, both friends and relatives, who've stood by us and supported us this year.

I remind myself that light will always come after the dark, so long as people are willing to spread it, and I am thankful for that.

Nov 25, 2014

Let Books Be Books

Ladybird Books, one of the biggest publishers of children's books in the world, recently announced that they would be doing away with gendered labels on their titles. So no more will there be particular Ladybird books aimed at girls, and different ones aimed at boys. Instead, all of their books will be marketed as gender-neutral.

Some apparently consider this a bad thing, "pandering" to feminists.

I love the Let Books Be Books campaign, and the great things it's achieving. As an author, reader, and a parent, I want to see as many stories as possible available for all children, and all grown-ups, too. There's absolutely nothing wrong with writing a book with a particular target audience in mind. It's not possible to write a book that appeals to everyone, so you hedge your bets, so to speak, and focus on making the story the best you can. But I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have the right to make the decision for themselves whether or not they enjoy a particular book, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.

It's hard enough getting kids to keep reading, without outright telling them that there are certain books that aren't meant for them. Reading is universal. It's something anyone can do. It's a joy to get lost in a world and feel characters come alive in your imagination, so I say, let everyone read whatever they want, and not get caught up trying to enforce the same old "this is for girls, that is for boys" attitude.

Who cares what some curmudgeonly old sods think? The cycle has to be broken at some point, and if that starts with a publisher no longer telling boys and girls which stories they should be reading, then so much the better. It makes the job easier for everyone.

Nov 17, 2014

Supernatural - The Genius of Who God Is

This post contains spoilers for Supernatural, at least up to Season 9. You have been warned, and now I'm just going to fill up space so that there's no risk of social media link previews giving anything away. Note that I haven't seen any of Season 10 yet, so no spoilers in the comments!

Nov 6, 2014

Moving Forward

We're coming to the closing weeks of 2014, and I'm not exactly sorry to see the end in sight. It's been a rough year, but instead of looking back on the negatives just now, I'd rather look forward to the things I have planned for the future.

Lady Raven is here, at long last, along with the epic conclusion to the Memory Wars Trilogy. I'm thrilled to say I'm past the 10k mark on Red Skies, the second in the Lady Raven Series, and have plans to, surprise, return to traditional publishing as well.

A little while ago, I was dared to write a YA novel about a mother-daughter team of monster hunters.

As it happened, I was already working on notes for a series called The Long Road, which was to be about a trio of travelling monster-hunters. I've been able to adapt this idea, and I'm excited to get stuck into this book once Red Skies is done. I like the idea of playing with the traditional gender roles in this kind of story. I've got ideas for separated parents, the father being the one to stay home and reject the monster-hunting lifestyle, while the mother is the one who stuck to her duties to keep the people she loves safe. I'll keep everyone posted on that.

I'll be looking at new ways to boost sales on my books, too. So be on the lookout for events, promotions, and ways to lend a hand, if you feel so inclined.

I've got a new website in the works, and those of you who've read Lady Raven will have seen at the end. Currently the website redirects to this blog, but I'm looking forward to the launch of the new site.

Along with a new website and new writing projects, I've been looking at trying my hand at professional editing. I've got my first job and it's going well so far. I'm going to ease myself into this, but if anyone would like to ask about rates, get in touch.

Of course, even pushing sales on my existing books and trying to bring in some extra income with editing might not be enough to quite cover the costs of continuing to self-publish the Lady Raven Series. So, depending on how things go, I may have to look into crowdfunding in the new year.

Time to strap in for the last stretch of 2014.

Nov 4, 2014

Lady Raven Book Launch

Two book launches in the one year? Yes, I'm a glutton for punishment.

To be honest, I could probably have done with a break from organising this kind of event, but I put a lot of work into Lady Raven and I want to celebrate it.

The launch will be held on Sunday, November 23rd, in the amazing Liquor Rooms. Doors open from 5pm, and I'll be reading from the book and doing a Q&A session.

If anyone wants to attend, if you've already got a copy, bring it along and I'll be happy to sign it. Or, you can order directly from me, though the deadline for this would be November 10th, as I can't guarantee the books would arrive in time after that.

Oct 31, 2014

Happy Halloween, Lady Raven is here!

Today marks the official release date for my fourth novel, Lady Raven!

There's so much I want to say about this book, but I'm worried about how much I could give away if I did. A lot happens to Cora Ravenell in the course of her first adventure, and her journey will see her ripped from her sheltered life, changing her in ways she can't imagine. I wanted Cora to be a relateable hero, one whose vulnerabilities could be exposed and targeted by her enemies, but who could gain strength from her own determination and decision to fight back.

I haven't had time to organise a blog tour for Lady Raven, but I'll be having a book launch later in November, and of course I'll be keeping things updated as I work on the second book.

If you pick up a copy, please consider leaving a rating or review, either on Amazon or on Goodreads. It's only through the support of my readers that I'm in a position to do what I do, and I am so thankful that I can live the dream I first had when I was twelve years old.

You know what's crazy is I can get a single copy for myself faster and cheaper by ordering from, instead of ordering author copies through Createspace. Still, if that's my only gripe with the process, I think I've done well.

Oct 24, 2014

Books at Gaelcon

So folks, just to let you know that I'll be at Gaelcon Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, selling copies of my Memory Wars books. I've got a price list here:

Locked Within - €11
Silent Oath - €12
Memory War - €13

Buy all three as a set and get them for the special discount price of €30. That's a saving of €6!

I'm also happy to chat about the books and answer any questions anyone has, even about my newest series, Lady Raven. Unfortunately I won't have copies available as it's not out until October 31st, but I could be convinced to take a few pre-orders ;-)

Hope to see you all there!

Oct 22, 2014

Lady Raven Takes Flight!

After a lot of hard work, many restless nights, and more help from friends than I could have ever hoped for, I am thrilled to announce that Lady Raven will be released on October 31st!

Cora Ravenell has already lost her father. Now she stands to lose so much more. With no male heirs, her father's estate is stripped away, and Cora's only chance to remain in noble society is to marry a childhood friend.  

But when her mother is accused of treason, Cora's world is shattered, and she becomes the target of a ruthless hunt. Chased through the darkest corners of the city, Cora discovers that not everything about the Empire is as it seems. In the darkness, Cora will find the truth, and a power she has never known.  

The law calls her a criminal. The church calls her damned. 

Her enemies call her Lady Raven.

This is the first of a 4-part series, and the start of a whole new chapter in my career. My first self-published novel. First steampunk fantasy. First Young Adult. First female protagonist.

Join Cora, as she embarks on a dark and dangerous journey in search of revenge and redemption. She will face the wrath of a corrupt Empire, the hidden potential of a magic she does not yet understand, and the threat of losing the most precious things she still has left.

The adventure begins this Halloween, in Lady Raven.

Oct 20, 2014

Kathleen Hale Is No Hero

Not everyone is going to like your books. Not every fan is going to like every book you write. Tastes differ, and what one person loves, another will hate. I'm perfectly aware of this, and have seen reviews of my books range from 5 stars down to just 2. And always, I keep in mind the golden rule:

Never respond to bad reviews.

There is simply no way you can do it without looking bad. There are so many things that can go wrong responding to bad reviews, even to thank the reviewer, that I could run an entire month of constant blogging just on the different problems that can arise. So don't so it.

Okay, if you've read that, and are still determined to ignore my advice, then please, for the love of everything, do not do what Kathleen Hale did.

If you want a really good analysis of what happened, including a breakdown of what Blythe Harris actually did, and the steps Kathleen Hale felt were an appropriate response, read this article on Dear Author. To sum up, a Goodreads user who liked to post anonymously (as all internet users are perfectly entitled to do), ended up with an author cyberstalking her, running a background check, using false pretenses to obtain personal information, visiting her house, and calling her at work, again using false pretenses when speaking to her.

All because "she hurt my feelings."

Let me be utterly clear on this:

You are not entitled to harass people over hurt feelings. 

I'm not a legal expert, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Hale violated several laws in the course of her actions.

What does surprise me, what absolutely astounds me, is that the Guardian ran her piece and described it at "An author confronts her number one critic" (emphasis mine). These words paint a picture of a hounded writer, nobly standing up to a bully subjecting her to unfair torment. We like stories like this. We enjoy seeing bullies taken down. But Blythe Harris is not a bully. She's certainly not Hale's "number one critic," since her book has numerous 1-star reviews on Goodreads. She's just a reader who gave an honest opinion of a book she didn't like.

Hale, on the other hand, admits to stalking and brushes off "the biggest breach of decency [she'd] ever pulled" like it was an okay thing to do. There's a scary emotional disconnect in her writing, like she understands, objectively, that she's crossing lines, but it doesn't matter as much as her hurt feelings.

Please be advised that the following links include trigger warnings for sexual assault (not of or by Hale), assault of a teen (by Hale), and animal abuse. But, this is seemingly not the first time Hale has freely admitted to causing physical and emotional harm in such an irreverent, almost justified, manner.

I've seen people post in support of Hale, and it genuinely concerns me. I'm still a pretty new author. I depend on readers, whether they blog, post on Goodreads, review on Amazon, or tell their friends about my books. I depend on honest opinions. I most certainly do not want to see reviewers (or anyone, honestly), have to fear that they'll become the victims of stalking, harassment, or assault just because the author doesn't like what they thought of a book.

Oct 16, 2014

Have Games Lost Their Innocence?

When I was a kid, a game was running around with my friends playing Ghostbusters. Video games were something very different, something you tended to play alone, or maybe with one extra player. The pinnacle of "social" gaming was to have a tournament of something like Street Fighter, where you'd each pick a character and take turns playing.

Today it's become something of a beast, and every aspect of video games is scutinised on the internet. Budgets for AAA titles rival big-budget movies. Marketing is off the scale. There's an entire second industry in telling people how to play games right.

And there's the hate.

This stuff started off small, and people dismissed it. Trash talk during tournaments and online play. Arguments over which console was superior.

Today, a video game critic can receive what amount to threats of domestic terrorism so frequently that it's regarded as being ordinary for them, and no longer considered a viable threat.

Let that sink in.

Anita Sarkeesian receives so many threats of being assaulted, raped, murdered, and blown up that the FBI didn't think that someone threatening the worst school massacre in American history was to be taken seriously as a danger to Sarkeesian and to the public.

This is what hate brings us. A world where the more someone is threatened, the less their safety is taken seriously. Where the response of many who hear that such violence has been threatened is to accuse the threatened person of falsifying the threat (see the comments to the article here).

I don't know when things started to turn so dark in video-gaming*. What I do know is the video-game industry is changing. More diverse people than ever are playing games of all kinds. They are becoming an ever more mainstream form of entertainment, and as such will, and should, be subject to a broader range of criticism than graphics and gameplay. Whoever these people are, who think they're entitled to hurl accusations and mount hate campaigns and send terror threats, if they're serious, they need to be arrested. If they're "just kidding", they need to wake up and realise that the world doesn't revolve around them and their insecurities. They're not champions protecting anything precious and sacred. They're selfish children, desperately clinging to a pastime which is no longer exclusively theirs.

Games have already lost their innocence. Now it's time for them to grow up, too. No-one, anywhere, deserves to be threatened and have their lives disrupted just for expressing an opinion or critiquing a game.

*As a roleplayer, I tend to think of "gaming" as referring to more than just video games

Oct 14, 2014

10 Dos and Don't for Writing Great Cover Copy

"Never judge a book by its cover"

That is perhaps the most willfully ignored and oft-touted piece of advice I can think of. Here's a little harsh truth: Everyone judges books (and games, and movies, and toasters...) by their cover. How you present your product is essential when it comes to marketing. 

Did you know that there's a whole industry in making movie trailers, for example? Just the 1-3 minute ads for the latest releases. Companies exist whose sole employment comes from editing trailers, or composing music for them. Marketing is everything in entertainment. And make no mistake authors, your job is to entertain.

Everyone knows you need a great cover for your book, but you also need to consider what goes on the back of your book. Call it a summary, a blurb, or cover copy, it's the brief description that every single reader will go to, in order to see if they might enjoy your book. Your cover art gets their attention, so your cover copy has to get their interest.

I'll be putting myself under the microscope here, because I love writing cover copy, and I need an example of what to look for. Below is the cover copy from my latest novel, Memory War:

War is coming to New York. Nathan Shepherd's growing band of followers is dedicated to protecting the city, but they now face their greatest threat.

Athamar returns, plunging the city into chaos. Uniting the forces of darkness against Nathan and his allies, Athamar strives to discover a secret hidden for thousands of years. A secret lost to Nathan's memories. Something so dangerous, even the gods themselves fear it.

Nathan and Elena were once the greatest of heroes, champions against evil. Now, haunted by Nathan's past-life betrayal, they must work together and brave the pain of long-buried lifetimes. Somewhere, locked within their former incarnations, lies the key to stopping Athamar, an enemy who has hunted them from one incarnation to the next.

As the city burns and innocents suffer, as heroes fall and hope dies, Nathan and Elena face their final battle, a battle where legends will be reborn.

Okay, so there's a lot in here. I'll break it down so we can look at why this works as cover copy.

War is coming to New York. 

The first thing your cover copy needs to do, the most important thing, is hook the reader. Yes, "war is coming" is a highly common trope. But it's common because it works. It lets the reader know that things are going to get messy. Also, given that Memory War follows on from two previous novels in which the reader has come to know and (hopefully) care about the city and characters, this one sentence evokes the scale of the threat that's to come.

Nathan Shepherd's growing band of followers is dedicated to protecting the city, but they now face their greatest threat.

Cover copy can be broken down into four basic parts: Status Quo, Immediate Threat, Twist, and Stakes. Here we have the Status Quo. Following from his past victories, Nathan Shepherd has given New York a fighting chance against the supernatural, but they are constantly tested. The mention of their "greatest threat" suggests that they may not be as stable a force as they think.

Athamar returns, plunging the city into chaos. 

And we're straight into the Immediate Threat. This is the event which stands to break the status quo, the primary force acting upon the heroes' environment, which they must respond to. Typically this should refer to events within the first 1-3 chapters, specifically the book's inciting event, that propels the hero into action. Any longer and you're either spoiling the plot of your book, or your starting your book way too early and need to cut some chapters from the beginning.

Uniting the forces of darkness against Nathan and his allies, Athamar strives to discover a secret hidden for thousands of years. A secret lost to Nathan's memories. Something so dangerous, even the gods themselves fear it.

Now we're expanding on the Immediate Threat. Why has the inciting event occurred? Don't give away too much here, just enough to set things up for the reader, to tease their appetite. In this case, the typical reader is coming into this having read the first two books, so they know who Athamar is and have some idea of his motivations. As such, there's no need to go into much detail about him as a character.

We can also start crossing over into the Twist, as you can see from the final line.

Nathan and Elena were once the greatest of heroes, champions against evil. Now, haunted by Nathan's past-life betrayal, they must work together and brave the pain of long-buried lifetimes. 

I kind of break the rules here, and refer to the Status Quo again, but this is necessary to bring the reader around to the Twist.

Somewhere, locked within their former incarnations, lies the key to stopping Athamar, an enemy who has hunted them from one incarnation to the next.

And the Twist here, is that while Athamar has his own plans, Nathan and Elena might be able to find a chance to put a stop to his evil once and for all. Again, this calls on the reader's recollection of the previous books, where they see that Athamar keeps on hounding Nathan and Elena, no matter how many times they are reincarnated. This is a good spot for unspoken statements, like "How do you stop an enemy you can never truly defeat?"

As the city burns and innocents suffer, as heroes fall and hope dies, Nathan and Elena face their final battle, a battle where legends will be reborn.

Finally, we arrive at the Stakes. As the final installment in a trilogy, Memory War has the luxury of going all-out. Anything goes, and the reader should be left with a sense of what to expect from that, yet still be wondering how the heroes will come through. And, in fact, if they will manage to come through at all. The Stakes are often best kept brief, small but packing a powerful punch.

Importantly, the Stakes must suggest to the reader that no matter what happens, the world and/or the characters will be changed as a result of the story. If the consequences for success and/or failure are "things stay the same as they've always been" then your story has no teeth, and if your cover copy makes it look like your book has no teeth, readers will be drawn away by the books that do have teeth.

Through these four stages, the most important thing is that the reader cares. It's a balancing act. If you try to be mysterious, and reveal too little about what's to come, the reader has nothing to connect to, emotionally. If you give too much, you risk the reader not bothering with the book, because they'll feel they know too much already to enjoy it.

Worse, you could come off as being too desperate to convince the reader that they will enjoy it. There's nothing that puts off a potential reader quite like cover copy saying "This book is awesome!" That's what reviews and author endorsements are for.

Here are my 10 Dos and Don'ts for writing great cover copy:

  1. Do provide a Status Quo, Immediate Threat, Twist, and Stakes
  2. Don't provide a flat summary of your whole book
  3. Do focus on a limited number of characters (2-3 at most)
  4. Don't start by talking about the world, and no characters for the reader to connect to, or list off dozens of names the reader will quickly forget
  5. Do give the reader a reason to care about what's happening, and what's going to happen, to your characters
  6. Don't tell the reader that they should care about what's happening, and what's going to happen, to your characters
  7. Do read the cover copy of successful books, and watch movie trailers to learn how to pack a lot of hook into a short phrase
  8. Don't just mimic the style of successful books' cover copy. It looks false
  9. Do put work into getting your cover copy right
  10. Don't assume that no-one will care about the cover copy

I hope this post has been helpful. Publishing is becoming more and more accessible, and so the competition to get sales will keep increasing. You need every edge you can get in order to keep going.

Oct 10, 2014

Ernie Hudson, I Can't Wait For The All-Female Ghostbusters Reboot

I don't usually post out of my Tuesday/Thursday schedule, but sometimes you need to get on a topic while it's hot.

This morning I read that Ghostbusters star Ernie Hudson is against the all-female reboot of the franchise. You can read his comments here.

Let me state what most of you probably already know: I am a HUGE Ghostbusters fan. I cried when I read the news of Harold Ramis' death. I met Dan Aykroyd on a film set and was the absolute worst grinning fanboy I could possibly have been. When I was a little kid, I made my own proton pack from a cereal box. In the Memory Wars Trilogy, Nathan Shepherd's father was a veteran of Hook & Ladder No. 8, the firefighter company whose firehouse served as the exterior of the Ghostbusters' HQ.

I am so utterly disappointed in Ernie Hudson's attitude. Not least of all for how dismissive it is to write off an all-female cast as a bad idea, or how horribly misogynist it is to say "I hope that if they go that way at least they'll be funny, and if they're not funny at least hopefully it'll be sexy."

So because they're casting women, there are doubts that a comedy is going to be funny? But it won't be too bad if we at least see some tits and ass? Is that the message Ernie Hudson wants to give?

Also, dude, don't call them "females." Female is a gender descriptor. Unless Paul Feig starts casting cats and dogs in this thing, the cast are going to be people. Human beings. Call them women, it's not that scary a word.

What's worse is now so many people are responding, feeling justified in their attitude that there shouldn't be an all-female cast. Now all the sexist trolls out there have one of the original Ghostbusters to validate their attacks against the movie. Well done, Zeddemore...

You know what really pisses me off about this? Every time I post an article criticising some sexist treatment of women in the media, there's guaranteed to be at least one guy who tells me to focus on the positive things instead of attacking the negative, to support the movies, books, and games that do represent women well. Here we have one of the most important chances ever for women to get a fair shot in action roles, and it's being torn down before it's even been cast.

What's it really about? Looking at Ernie Hudson's interview, it seems to me that he's just bitter because he thinks an all-female cast will mean he can't be in the movie. It's not an uncommon thing. People say "women aren't interested in this kind of movie, so why bother marketing to them?" Then when women show up and want to be a part of it, a bunch of guys push back and say it's a gimmick, or not fair to men. What it comes down to is they just don't want to share. They want their own box of toys and want women to have a different box.

Slam the movie for being a reboot if you want. Complain about the writer and the director if you didn't like their past work. But don't bitch about women being cast as the team and act like there's any kind of artistic critique behind it.

You want to know why Ghostbusters is important? And why this reboot is important?

Ghostbusters was the first thing I'd seen which showed me that yes, there are monsters and ghosts and scary things, but there are also people who can beat them head on. The Ghostbusters didn't run and hide, or use tricks to get away from the monsters. They faced them with courage, using their knowledge to defeat them and save the day. They were experts in their field, who took chances and came out as heroes.

Making a Ghostbusters movie with an all-female cast would be the biggest franchise gender-swap since Starbuck in the Battlestar Galactica reboot. We've never seen a major movie event centered around women who come together under their own initiative, using expert scientific knowledge to overcome a threat. This movie tells girls and women that they don't have to settle for being the receptionist while the guys save the world, that they don't even have to settle for being like the Ghostbusters. They can be the Ghostbusters.

So yes, I will cheer this movie. I will be there in the cinema to see it, and I will tell everyone to go see it. Because this is one of those positive things people keep saying I should talk about. And I will not stand for it being pissed on just because a bunch of men don't want to play nice and share their stuff.