Wings of the Storm

There’s a storm approaching… and it’s gonna take you for a wild ride.

In early 2021, Aaron Bunce and I had the idea of co-writing a fantasy series together. For those of you that don’t know, Aaron helped bring Naevia-18 to life, and I’ve helped him on a couple of his projects as well.

So we began crafting our world, and the back and forth we had coming up with every idea worked so well. We each have our strengths and weaknesses as writers. Where one of us is weak in an area, the other has a strength! It makes for a good writing process. The world-building alone was so much fun, coming up with every intricate detail this world has.

And that all led… to this.

It’s out to beta readers right now, so expect more details on publishing date soon!

A Year of Sanderson

Brandon. Fucking. Sanderson. I give credit where credit is due, and Mr. Sanderson will get a lot of that from me. See, I didn’t care too much for sci-fi or fantasy novels early on in my pre-and-during-college reading era. I got back into reading and didn’t find interest in what I thought was sci-fi and fantasy at the time, which amounted to not much. Therefore, I spent my reads on action fiction and historical mysteries like Raymond Khoury and similar authors. That is, until my wife and I stopped in Barnes and Noble to peruse. Lo and behold, I found Steelheart.

Loved it!

Then I looked more into this Sanderson guy. That’s when I found… Mistborn. While reading the Mistborn books, I found out during a drunken conversation at my bachelor party that my best friend also read Brandon Sanderson. Say what!?

The titles kept hitting from there, and they. Won’t. Stop!

Seriously! How does this guy have that much time to write!? It’s insane, but we all love him for it. He’s influenced my writing a ton. See the big twists in Naevia-18? Thank Sanderson for it. Now if I can channel my inner Sanderson to get that kind of pace that he has! I’ll be set.

But alas! Until then, I’ll regale in a Year of Sanderson. For those not in the know, Mr. Sanderson spent his spare time during the pandemic writing, and completing, five secret novels! Four of which he’s releasing quarterly next year via a Kickstarter. Not only that, but you can turn it into a pseudo-subscription box and make it a “Year of Sanderson” by opting to get not only the four books in whatever format you prefer, but also eight boxes of cool Sanderson swag. Umm… yes, please?

So ranging from $40-$500 depending on whether you just want the four books in ebook format going all the way to the top and getting all four books in every format along with the eight Sanderson swag boxes, you’ve just filled your 2023 with Brandon Sanderson. There’s not really any way to lose out here.

If you’d like to check out Brandon’s Kickstarter, head here. I know I’ll be checking it out over the next couple weeks, mulling over my decision of which reward tier I shall land.

https://youtu.be/6a-k6eaT-jQ

2020

What a year, eh? It went by fast for me, thinking back on it. Now that it’s over, I must reflect. Then I can propel forward to 2021 and DO WORK!

2020 started off with me getting busy and starting my own publishing company, Paper Star Publishing! I did this as my own imprint to release my books on, making it easier to distribute my books. Absolute Essence was nearing completion, and set for release on February 29th (Leap Day). I was then slated to appear at the Des Moines Book Festival at the end of March, but… then Covid-19 happened.

Before that, however, and actually two days before releasing Absolute Essence, my wife and I found out some big news. We were pregnant! Woah!! We didn’t expect to get pregnant so fast after only trying for such a tiny window, but the news was exhilarating, amazing, scary, and as welcome as could be.

Throughout lockdown, while everyone else was binge watching everything available on every streaming service (we did too in between everything), we prepared. See, we were in a condo, and did not want to raise our kid there. So the house hunt began! We also had to prepare to sell the condo, so my focuses were on getting family stuff ready. That meant my authoring activities didn’t get much attention. That’s not something I’m upset about (priorities, duh!), but I do wish Absolute Essence performed better. I blamed the lack of book festivals and the like, but the attention just wasn’t there for me. No regrets.

We did find a new construction home in a nice suburb, a great spot for baby. Close to schools in a blossoming area, oh and did I mention we were having a BOY!? I would’ve been happy with either, boy or girl, but I’d have been in trouble if we had a girl. She’d have me wrapped around her finger. Aw, who am I kidding, this boy has me wrapped around his finger!!

The only issue with the house was it wouldn’t be complete until a month or two before baby arrived. Whew, we sure cut it close! We closed on the house in mid-September, then baby showed up at the end of October! Not too long to really get unpacked and enjoy the house, especially with my wife hobbling around at the end of her pregnancy just ready for baby to check out of his cozy suite.

Throughout all of this, my day job experienced a surge in business, keeping me busy throughout the weeks amidst the virus and everything else. Multiple weekends were spent at the office (and still are). I did take a nice little break from social media to help focus on the important things, and took what time off I could to spend with family and keep my sanity. I think it’s working, but that’s debatable!

In between everything, I have spent a little time revising DESCENT, the novella focusing on Zoë’s events during NAEVIA-18. It’s closer to being done, but I’m not rushing it. I also started working as a writer for an independent video game company, helping to co-write the script for a fantasy RPG, as well as writing side quests. It’s been really challenging to say the least, navigating a new world like this. I’m still learning throughout the frustration, and I’ve got a good friend working alongside me. I’m confident we’ll get through it, but as we slowly get that figured out I’ve shifted some focus back to my authoring activities. As noted, DESCENT is coming soon once I finish revising. Then I have a few ideas I’m outlining. One of them I’m really excited about and want to write as soon as I can. While all that is preparing, I’m doing my research on how to be more successful with this writing gig, listening to podcasts during middle of the night feedings and reading whatever helpful articles and information I can find. I’m just trying to improve my craft and improve on how my finished work can reach as many readers as possible.

As all that pans out, I’m just going to enjoy life as much as I can. This year was a roller coaster of emotions, which for me is something, as I stay pretty even-keeled on just about everything. I’ll focus on myself and my family first, then prioritize everything else from there! Even if it means shutting myself down from certain aspects, activities, or people. I’ve learned a ton since this little guy was born, and the biggest thing is what and who matters most. Don’t let outside influences that really don’t matter at all affect how you live your life! Do good. Be good. Everything will fall into place, and if it doesn’t, keep plugging away. You’ll get there.

New Art

What’s good!? I haven’t been doing too much lately writing-wise, just revising Descent slowly but surely. I have messed around with Clip Studio Paint some more, but not toooooo much. I’ve been busy getting ready for this baby and the house move coming up SOON! So I don’t get too much done, but every little bit is something more than the day before. Anyway, check these out!

I drew this little Spider-Man for my future son. It was inspired by Skottie Young and Charles Schulz. I’m trying to embrace my influences. Finding my style has always been a trouble spot for me with art, so I’m starting from scratch!

Here’s my Gengar x Venom pic. I got a little lazy with the background and the shadow ball, but I thought it was fun nonetheless! Instead of a spider on the chest, I used the logo from Ash’s hat on either side. I thought it was a nice little touch!

This one is pretty different. I played around with the airbrush tool and tried to channel my inner Monet with making it kinda blurry. I just found a random cool pic on Instagram to use as reference and went for it. I dig it and might play around with the style more in the future.

I think that’s all I have to share for now. I mentioned getting more into art previously when I wrote about having an idea for my own manga style comic. I’m just gonna keep plugging away at all these different creative outlets!

New Projects and Recharging Batteries!

I watch all these other authors take advantage of their stay at home time during the Covid-19 crisis and all I can do is applaud their work. Because I haven’t done much! I’ve spent time recharging my creative batteries. Before Covid-19, I spent a lot of creative energy releasing Absolute Essence. Since then, I’ve been reading The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan (Book four in the Wheel of Time series). I’ve also read a screenplay a friend of mine wrote, hung out at home, and played some video games (Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Cuphead, Pokemon Go, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider). It’s been fun! And relaxing. Especially since I’ll be a first time father by the end of fall and moving into a new house by the end of summer. It’s been and will be quite a year!

But it hasn’t been very productive author-wise. But that’s okay. I’ve lightly been coming up with new projects. Some that are more of what I’ve been doing, some I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and some that are brand new to me!

DESCENT, the Karxen Chronicles novella about Zoe, is done but needs revision. I’ve gotten some early developmental feedback, so I need to take that and make a few changes.

I had a dream about a month ago of a water world type setting and an island community that is constantly hit by torrential waves. This community hunts for massive water beasts during these storms. My idea will center around a young man coming of age in this community, and he realizes that he has a special connection to the water. A connection, that if strong enough, can save the island after the waves suddenly stop.

This next idea is really special. I’ve been doing my research, reading, and practicing, but I’ve still got a long way to go. I’ve been a manga fan for quite some time, and I’m thinking of diving into the medium. There’s an idea I have that is near and dear to me about a group of breakers (breakdancers) that travel to an alternate dimension with their mysterious new teacher, Mage. In this world everything is heightened, senses, colors, sounds, everything! And the world uses breaking as a source of euphoria and ecstasy. That’s all I’ll say about it, but here’s a little illustration I drew in Clip Studio Paint. This was mostly to practice and get used to digital art and figure out how to use the program. I’ll keep on practicing and work on some practice panels next as well as illustrations of the other characters. I’ve been breaking for about twenty years now, and to say it’s been a major part of my life during that time is an understatement.

This is Vivid, a b-girl with a chip on her shoulder

Let me know what you think of the idea! As big of a task as it is, I wouldn’t expect me to get it done any time soon, but as short as each comic would be I may release each chapter online before I release printed volumes. I’m still finding my style, but I have a loose outline for volume one (just want to have an idea of where I can go in the future with this story).

That’s about all I’ve got! I’m gonna go ahead and get back to reading Wheel of Time and playing Pokemon Go and generally just hanging out at home with my wife and pup as we await our little guy’s arrival. Stay safe out there, everyone!

The Letter for the King

I recently binged this series on Netflix. It took me one night and the next afternoon! Now, I’ve been craving a good fantasy movie or show for awhile now. I tried to watch The Witcher, but it left me bored after three episodes. I watched a few movies, and they were all subpar. I had to go back to The Lord of the Rings for a fix, but that’s just rewatching a nice little thing from the past. I wanted something new!

If this sounds like you, check out The Letter for the King on Netflix. It’s different enough from other fantasy stories to not feel like a knock-off, but there are still some similar elements that gave me almost a Wheel of Time vibe. So refreshing…

When is the Wheel of Time show coming?

Anyway, check out young Tiuri as he travels across the land trying to deliver a letter to the king that he received from a dying knight in hopes to save two kingdoms. It’s such a great story. Tiuri is thrust into this mission (as many fantasy protagonists are), and has to fight off and escape a number of foes, including the dreaded Red Riders, some creepy monks, and a mysterious traveling showman. All while the darkness awaits. But he gets some help from an incredibly intelligent horse, a pickpocket that might be more than she seems, and a few old friends that want to turn him in.

There’s just so much ongoing conflict that you’re invested the entire way through, and the many twists (some great, some okay) keep you on your toes. I enjoyed many of the characters. There were only a few that were drab, and most of them weren’t of great importance anyway. The main baddie was a little too Ronan (from GotG) for me, but he wasn’t terrible by any means. The other antagonists make up for it, especially Jaro, one of the Red Riders.

So, if you’re looking for a fantasy series that has intriguing magic, gripping action, believable relationships, and an ongoing threat, told in a wonderful way, please watch The Letter for the King. You won’t regret it. Here’s hoping we get another season! I have a few questions I’m hoping get answered! Or maybe I’ll check out the book… Anyone read it? How is it? I’m tempted to check it out!

Stay safe out there, everyone. Do your part and stay home if you can! Watch a show, read a book, do some jumping jacks!

ACE Comic Con Midwest

I hadn’t planned on going to a big comic con this year, but then ACE announced one of the first big celebrities that would attend their Chicago based convention, Kit Harington! Now, I’m a huge Thrones fan (books and the show), and Jon Snow (and Kit’s portrayal of him) is my favorite character by far. I had to go, so I persuaded my wife, who was vaguely intrigued, and we bought tickets to have our picture taken with him. Then Tom Holland was also announced.

My wallet cried at the thought of paying to meet two big time celebrities, but when else would I ever get the chance? Spider-Man is my favorite super hero, and I cosplay as him for children’s events. He’s kind of a big deal to me. I bought the ticket. And new spidey suits for me and my wife. And a Jon Snow costume. The hotel. The 3-day general admission passes to the con itself. This was adding up! Still worth it.

This was my wife and mine’s first big convention. The only other cons we’ve been to were Wizard World in Des Moines. I was pretty hyped.

So we get to Chicago Friday night, hit up Portillo’s for dinner and do some shopping. Saturday we wake up and get ready! Saturday was our day to meet Tom Holland, so my wife and I donned our new Spider-Man: Far From Home suits.

Chicago was super cold that day, so we did our best to not go outside much! Anyway, we made it to the con, parked, walked the maze to the convention center, and…

Waited in line. To then wait in other lines, to get in other lines, and so on and so on. There were a lot of lines! It seems like there should’ve been a better way to get everyone in, especially since ACE has done this before. Oh well, we finally made it! I was a bit underwhelmed at the size, but from what I hear this year was bigger than last. Still, it didn’t seem too much bigger than Wizard World Des Moines, as far as artists and exhibitors go. Heck, I should’ve tried to get my own booth to sell my book! We showed up pretty early to make sure we were on time for our photo op, so we spent the early and middle parts of Saturday wandering. We did a bit of shopping, I found Mark Bagley, a Spider-Man legend, and picked up this sexy piece of work.

Candy found an artist we both liked, so we ended up getting a few things from her too. We met up with our other cosplay friends, and snapped a few pics:

Then it was time to meet Tom! Or so we thought. It was, but we had to wait. Again. Our photo op was for 2:00 p.m., but we didn’t actually get to see Tom until close to 3:00 p.m. I get it, there were a lot of people, but the schedules only appeared to get worse later on. Plus, we were allowed to get in line at 1:30, so we stood in the middle of multiple packed lines for over an hour. Buh. Not fun.

But then the lines started to move! And before we knew it, we were staring right at Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland. First off, I felt super bad. He looked tired, which, why not? He’s been doing photo ops and autographs all day long! I’d be super tired too. He handled it like a champ though, and smiled when he saw us both in costume. He said, in that superb accent of his, “Wow, you guys look great!” We then said our thanks, snapped a quick pic, and we were on our way! Check it out:

Totally worth it.

After I calmed down a bit, and my hands stopped shaking, we made another round through the exhibitors and artists, stopped by artist Boss Logic’s panel, then headed out to meet up with our cosplay friends for a bit of a photo shoot! I’ll post pics of the photoshoot at the end, so make sure to keep scrolling to check them out!

Boss Logic

Sunday arrived, and with it our next celebrity photo op, but not yet! More lines you ask? Well, nah, not really. This time we were able to get right into the convention to the show floor. ACE must’ve been on their game Sunday! Kinda. All we really wanted to do Sunday was go to Kit’s panel discussion and our photo op. We already saw everything else the con had to offer that we were interested in. And we had missed Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal’s panel discussion because it started super late. I live streamed it from the hotel, after we had our photoshoot, and after my wife and I had left the con, picked up food, drove to our hotel, changed, etc, you get it. So I didn’t want to miss Kit’s! Well, we started by walking right over to the main stage, where the panels were, and they let us walk right in! We didn’t have to line up, blocking everyone trying to walk the show floor. Easy peasy. Kit’s discussion was great too. You can check it out on ACE’s Facebook page I believe. Right after the panel we had to head over to get in line for our photo op, because we had to hurry up and wait, right? The wait wasn’t as bad as Saturday for Tom, but still could’ve been better. Anyway, same story, wait for awhile, then the line starts to move, and then BAM! There’s Jon frickin Snow! Oh, and remember that bit about me getting a Jon Snow costume? Enjoy…

He shook both of our hands and thanked us for coming. He told me that he liked my costume too! This was definitely the highlight of my trip.

Worth it? I may not know much, but I do know one thing.

Worth it.

That was pretty much it for our ACE Comic Con trip! I’m glad they had these amazing celebrities and artists to come see. I’d like to see some more artists and exhibitors in the future though, and try to do something about staying on schedule. We didn’t have it too bad compared to some of our friends and others that really had to run back and forth between photo ops, autographs, panels, etc.

Still an amazing experience, and one I’ll treasure. Thank you!

As promised here are some pics from the con and our little photoshoot afterward.

THE STOLEN KINGDOM by Bethany Atazadeh, a Review

Happy release week to Bethany Atazadeh! The Stolen Kingdom came out a couple days ago, and earlier this month I was selected as an early reader for this lovely Aladdin retelling! If you don’t know Bethany, she’s an author that runs a very helpful YouTube channel for other writers. On her YouTube channel, I noticed that she had a new release and was looking for early readers. I signed up, got accepted, and here we are! 

Let’s enter The Stolen Kingdom.

1 - The Stolen Kingdom - BA - Final Fron

This is dubbed as an Aladdin retelling. Okay, Aladdin is one of my favorite Disney movies, so I went into this just a tad worried that I’d be let down. But as I started reading, that worry went away. I had to keep reminding myself about the Aladdin thing, because it’s a great read on its own. It’s similar enough to bring back some nostalgia and little nods to the original here and there (Do ya trust me?), but this is not Aladdin. This is The Stolen Kingdom. Here’s the description:

How can she protect her kingdom, if she can’t protect herself?

Arie eagerly anticipates becoming Queen of her humble kingdom. Even when a Jinni’s Gift manifests before her 18th birthday, she fights to hide the forbidden ability.

But when a neighboring king attempts to marry her and steal her kingdom, discovery feels imminent. Just one slip could cost her throne. And her life.

A Jinni hunter and his crew of thieves are her only hope for removing this Gift. And she must remove it before it’s exposed. Or die trying.

The Stolen Kingdom is a loose “Aladdin” retelling. Set in a world that humans share with Mermaids, Dragons, and the elusive Jinni, this isn’t the fairytale you remember…

The story flows well. It kept me interested and guessing at what was going to happen all the way through it. The mysterious Jinni, and everything about them, were fun to read about as Arie and the others uncovered whatever secrets they could. So we’ve got a little bit of mystery, a dash of romance, and the fate of the kingdom at stake. Sounds like all the things I loved about Aladdin!

Speaking of the dashing lad, here’s Kadin, this story’s “Aladdin” character. He’s right up there as one of my favorites in the book. As the leader of his thieving crew, he’s got to keep those rowdy fellas in check. He does so, but not without a bit of inner doubt that he has to keep hidden. His inner struggles in regards to this pretty new girl, Arie, and the rest of the squad were really refreshing to read. There are a lot of books out there where a leader character just leads and does so without having any feelings about what they’re doing. Bethany keeps it real with her characters, and I thought it was a great addition to the story and the characters. Bosh was a really fun character as well. He doesn’t get much of the spotlight as a minor character, but I enjoyed every scene he was in.

The story’s not much of a story unless there is a villain, and Amir is a very good (bad) one. He’s in the background for a bulk of the novel as more of a looming threat, which really worked out. I won’t say too much about him, but he sure likes to stack the deck in his favor any way he can.

The Gifts were an interesting read as well. They kind of reminded me of the super-powereds in Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners series. What power could this person have? And what weakness could then be exploited from it? Bethany came up with an interesting idea here, and she shelled it out really well.

Arie, the main character, has to make some tough decisions during this story. As princess, she has a kingdom to worry about, but then there is also her father, her friends, and herself weighing her down. I enjoyed reading her navigate all the troubles that came her way and how she handled them. Her growth is believable and relatable, which is no easy feat considering she’s a super-powered princess! I don’t want to spoil anything, but I thought she made some very reasonable decisions. It’s easy to want that happy ending everyone craves. Sometimes things happen that prevent that, but I believe this story still has a bit left to tell.

I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed The Stolen Kingdom. It’s different enough from Aladdin that it stands on its own as a great book. Fans of all sorts of genres will enjoy reading it. It’s not super long either, so its a nice, easy late summer read. Take it to the pool, beach, lake, whatever and you’re good! But hey, if you want to curl up by a fire or something you can do that too. It’s a pretty versatile book! I look forward to the next in the series, but what I’m really looking forward to is when the series concludes. I’m holding out some hope for what might happen, so I’ll be sticking around to find out!

UNLEASHED Review!

I got to read an advanced copy of Aaron Bunce’s newest book, Unleashed! I’ve been looking forward to this since I first heard about it. You may know Aaron from his dark and grizzled fantasy series, Overthrown, but in Unleashed he changes it up to sci-fi! Check it out:

Welcome to Hyde Station, a mining platform floating in the backwaters of SOL’s trade route, where the industry of extracting precious metals from asteroids is big business.

Down on his luck and desperate to make quota, Jacoby happens upon a “cherry rock”. The kind that wouldn’t just meet his quota but put him into a sizable financial bonus. But there’s a problem. A scan shows a sizable hollow cavity inside, and company procedures are clear: voids must be drilled and tested for potentially explosive gases. That would mean handing it over to a specialty drilling team, and thus, kissing his payday goodbye. Refusing to hand his financial future away, Jacoby ignores his terminal’s warning and stakes his claim. Except, his saw cuts into more than just rock.

Something was inside…something alive. Jacoby quickly learns that some rocks are hiding more than just precious minerals and trace metals. And when some things are set loose, there is no putting them back.

Mankind will never be the same.

Keep this in mind, folks. This is for readers eighteen and up. There’s enough blood, boobs, bones (and boners) to last you until you get over the rushed final season of Game of Thrones! Let’s get down to business!

The story follows Jacoby, an asteroid driller person who takes a chance on a big pay day by drilling into a risky rock. What happens next tears his world apart. What starts as a simple voice in his head turns into something that changes the way Jacoby reacts to the people and settings around him, and it also changes how others react to him…

Without spoiling much, these changes Jacoby goes through enhance his testosterone to astronomical levels. Enough that certain women he encounters lose certain… inhibitions.

Now things get sexy.

Meet Anna, a super smart technician on the space station and Jacoby’s best friend since they were kids. She thinks quick and acts fast, and I don’t just mean when it comes to her work or fighting to save her friends.

Next up is Soraya, a former athlete with the rockin bod to show for it. I love the inner struggle she goes through during the series of events in this book. While I don’t like some of her decisions, that’s what makes for a good character! I have to say she was my favorite character, for a few reasons…

Then we have Lex! The no-nonsense soldier with a troubled past. She calls it how it is, and bases her decisions on her surroundings. She’s a tried and true leader. Plus, she has a kick ass haircut.

Of course, the sexual encounters were fun to read. This is an easy comment for me to make, but writing a sex scene isn’t easy work! A lot of times when I’ve read sex scenes in books, they’re either so cringe worthy it’s distracting, too cheesy to be serious, or they’re easy fade to black fill-in-your-own-sex here. Unleashed has the best sex I’ve read. Aaron tells it like it is, but doesn’t go overboard with the sticky details. This harem adventure was written in a way that I think readers of all sexes will enjoy.

So we follow these four characters, and the rest of the space station crew, as they battle a threat that can’t be readily identified. I loved this! Who’s the villain? Is this person good? Bad? Something worse? Wait, are they a person anymore? Let’s just go with something worse. Prepare to witness some gruesome concoctions I haven’t seen or read of before. It’s a really unique take on a horror monster that makes you look at yourself a bit differently.

Unleashed is a mix of Venom meets the Evil Dead, but more gruesome and whole lot sexier! It kept me entertained from beginning to end. I kept wondering and trying to figure out why these things were happening. When a book keeps me thinking and asking questions I really enjoy it. I still have questions now that the book has ended, but that’s why this is the first book in the series. I’ll have to wait for book two to have my questions answered, but I’m looking forward to the continuation of this series.

I finished Unleashed in maybe a week or two, which is fast for me! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ll probably go ahead and give it a reread once the sequel is ready to come out.

Check it out, it’s available for pre-order on Amazon now.