After On: My Thoughts

Whew boy, this book was an ordeal.  People who follow me on my Twitter (@ThomasJBlack1) watched me struggle with this one in realtime, but for those who don’t give a fuck about Twitter and prefer blog posts featuring paragraphs of text all in one place…  Yeah, this book was a chore.

I’ve mentioned before that nonsequential story telling is a pet pieve of mine.  Admittedly, this one does it better than most…  Sometimes.  As far as Mitchel’s high school romance storyline goes, at least I had warning that we were going to be spending several chapters jumping to the past.  More than I can say for the unfolding epic of Epetstore.com’s demise, anyway.

This is one of those stories where they just dump a bunch of random shit in your lap in the early going, and expect you to figure out how to put it together as the story unfolds.  I seriously thought the epic saga of Brock Hogan was happening in reality alongside Mitchel’s company getting eaten by Phluttr Inc.  Only to figure out later (several chapters before the book just outright tells you, mind you) that Brock Hogan is actually just the CEO’s terrible scifi creative writing.  The Amazon.com reviews included in the book, while amusing enough, take a while before you figure out what purpose they serve to the plot.  Before then, they just feel intrusive, and maybe even counterintuitive to the story.

Another pet pieve of mine that I might or might not have gotten in to in this blog as a whole is present tense narration.  Plenty of GOOD stories suffer from this pet pieve of mine, and a lot of them are very noir esque.  This seems to be a trope of the young adult genre, and it just reaks of laziness.

In the case of After On, the present tense narration is compounded by the fact the narrator is FUCKING ANNOYING!.  Eventually, you figure out the artificial intelligence that eventually becomes known as Phluttr is the one narrating.  That doesn’t improve anything, but…  Well…  No, that doesn’t improve anything.  Seriously, the narrator for The Powerpuff Girls wasn’t this fourth wall breaking and excessively biased.

I’m aware that unreliable narration is a concept, but much like nonsequential storytelling, it’s one of those things that needs to be done right in order to work.  William fucking Faulkner couldn’t even make it work, and I love Faulkner.  After On is no Faulkner, though, and I’m made aware of it with every paragraph.

This book was featured in my scifi-fantasy book club.  Other criticisms, such as the author’s unhealthy obsession with “info dumping” were brought up.  I personally could look past the fictional disease of the protagonist (Folkenberg’s Syndrome, I think it was called), if only because of all the things that annoy me about this book, that one annoyed me the least.  It’s not a real condition, but whatever.  Don’t care

One person in the group even went on an EXTREMELY long tangent about how Phluttr could communicate with every country in the world, and understand every culture’s language querks and cultural taboos was flat out absurd.  Seriously, the last time I heard someone go on a tangent this long and ridiculously over thought out, one of my best friends was trying to explain how Ron and Hermione should’ve never ended up together on the grounds “opposites attract” is pure and absolute bunk.  In his defense, though, he has aspergers syndrome, and really wanted Harrymione to be a ship (I guess).  And in defense of the person arguing the Phluttr case, foreign language is apparently the thing she nerds out over the hardest.  She herself even admitted it on at least three occasions since I’ve met her.

Still, that may be something to keep in mind.

The audiobook is read by a ridiculous amount of people.  I’m going to guess January LaVoy is the one who reads about eighty-five percent of the book.  It also features Felicia Day: famous for…  Uh…  Some reason.  And I’m sure this was the case BEFORE she appeared on the reboot of MST3K, or her appearances in Ninja Sex Party videos.  I guess she hosted a podcast or something?  In any case, Day reads all the Netgrrrl posts, and she reads them all through a voice filter.

My favorite of all the narrators of this book, though, has got to be Jesse Cox as the guy who reads all the Whistleblower posts.  This guy right here steals the show.  You can just hear the capslock key being glued permenantly to the ON position once he starts up.  Whistleblower ITSELF is like listening to Alex Jones, if the roided up gorilla knew the first thing about computers.  Considering he doesn’t know the first thing about FROGS, I imagine he doesn’t stand a chance, but I’ve been proven wrong before, so…

So yeah, they really went all out with this audiobook.  It’s just too bad this thing ended up being such a fucking headache to get through.  I’m genuinely impressed with myself that I made it through this book.  If it weren’t on my cell phone, I’d have probably chucked this fucking thing against the wall at least twice in the process of reading it, it was so tedious.

I can’t recommend this book.  At all.  Don’t get suckered into the dare.

Oh yeah, this book actually dares you to read it at the beginning.  Did I forget to mention that?  You know you’re going to be in for a bad time when the author of the book has to DARE you to read his own book.  You DARE people to read Battlefield Earth.  You DARE people to read The Naked Lunch (spoiler: it’s not as sexy as you think it’s going to be).  You DARE people to read Confessions of an Economic Hitman.  You DARE people to read The Satanic Bible.  You DARE people to read Atlas Shrugged.  If you have to DARE people to read YOUR BOOK, that doesn’t reflect all that good on you as an author.

So yeah, don’t accept the dare.  Just walk away, and find something else to read.  It’s not worth it!

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The Golem and the Jinni: My Thoughts

I pose this question to you, dear reader: Have you ever read a book that had a good idea, an interesting story, and had everything going for it…  But you just can’t get in to it despite all that?  You know in your heart of hearts this story is good, but you just can’t get anything out of it?  This is basically my relationship with The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.

The plot is pretty straight forward.  Some guy in…  I guess it’d technically be Palastine at the time the story takes place?  Either way, he makes a golem: a construct of clay and other assorted materials that is brought to life for the single purpose of serving its master.  Unfortunately, this golem’s master suffers a heart attack on his way to America, and now the golem is forced to wander around 1910s New York wondering what it ought to do with all this confounded freedom.

Elsewhere, a jinni from the Syrian desert is released from his prison, and finds himself just as puzzled about what to do with his newfound freedom.

Eventually, the two meet…  And that’s about as far in to the story as I got.  I don’t know why, but despite this interesting premise, I just couldn’t get in to this story.  I ended up setting the book down around chapter fourteen, and I haven’t picked it up since.

This isn’t really a review, so much as it is me wondering out loud if I’m weird.  I’m sure everybody’s encountered this at least once with a book, or a movie, or a TV show, or literally any other form of entertainment. This happened to be mine.

Furthermore, I’m apparently the weirdo because literally everybody else I’ve talked to loves this book.  Even if they didn’t finish it at the time I spoke to them, they just adore everything about this story.  And the strange thing is that I agree with them on just about every point.

The only real negative I can think of is that the story has a hard time staying on topic.  Yeah, ME, the guy who prides himself on his barely coherent stream of consciousness both in his blogging and his podcast, is criticizing someone for drifting off topic.  But I stay pretty coherent in my story telling, at least.

This book will focus on the golem, or the jinni, as it should.  It’ll also focus on the golem’s maker, and the man the jinni is working for in exchange for room and bord, which is understandable.  I’m going to guess people like the Syrian doctor turned ice cream maker has something to do with the plot, because diversions like his seem flat out unnecessary.  The author explains his story from his days as a doctor all the way to how he came to live in New York making ice cream, and all I can think is “Um, weren’t we talking about a fucking golem and/or a jinni three pages ago?”.

I am on record saying nonsequential story telling is a bit of a pet pieve of mine.  Flashbacks are fine (lord knows I’ve used flashbacks in my writing before), but for fuck sakes, tell the story in order!  You’re not deep, you’re not smart, you’re a pretentious douchebag!

Other than this major nitpick, though, this is a story I know I should like…  And yet, I don’t.

The audiobook is narrated by George Guidal.  I think he’s narrated a couple other books I’ve reviewed here, and liked, which is equally puzzling.

This might be one of those moments where I suggest just picking it up for yourself.  Clearly, I’m no help.

Realm of the War Pigs Sample Chapter!

When it comes to sample chapters, this one was a hard one to choose from.  Out of an entire manuscript, I usually have a good idea of what I want for a sample chapter.  Barring that, I have two candidates, and I usually keep the runner-up for something like a change in schedule, or if a cover artist can’t make the deadline for some reason.

This time around, though, I found FOUR POSSIBLE CANDIDATES!  I might even post the other three if I think they’re worth it.  Right now, though, I finally decided on a sample chapter, and I’m posting it here for all of your viewing pleasure.

DISCLAIMER: the following text comes from my second draft.  Upon publication, it is very likely that the version of this chapter that appears in the final product may not be exactly like, or ANYTHING like the chapter featured here.  Also note that, since this is the second draft, there are probably some typos I haven’t gotten around to cleaning up just yet.  It isn’t perfect, but for those wondering what’s in store, this should give you a good idea.

 

 

COPYRIGHT THOMAS J. BLACK, 2018, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

4

 

 

It came as no surprise to me that the lights had been cut off. Grandfather was deceased: deceased people have no use for lights. I had hoped that he’d gotten the bills paid for at least one more month, or even one more week, but it turned out that this was asking for too much.

Dan and Hamburger turned their cell phones’ flashlights on, and proceeded with caution from that point onward. They pointed them every which way as they investigated. I wasn’t entirely certain what the two were looking for, but it was clear to me right out the gate these guys knew what they were doing. They talked about that Satannic cult like it was all part of the job, whatever that might be.

We looked through the kitchen, but all we found was that the refrigerator and cubbards had been emptied. Hamburger made a remark about ordering pizza as they continued their search. The living room seemed okay. The bedrooms, both upstairs and on the ground floor, seemed fine. The study was okay, despite a few books being scattered about the place. It wasn’t until we checked the basement, though, when we found something.

My grandfather really only had two major rules in his house: no pets, and stay out of the basement. I wasn’t sure why, but assumed he had his reasons. Uncle Roy, tactless and vulgar as he could be after a couple beers, assumed Grandfather Klein kept his pornography in the basement. I didn’t believe him, but I didn’t exactly dispute this claim, either, figuring it wasn’t impossible.

Sadly, what we found was far worse than pornography. Really, putting aside my prudishness, pornography wouldn’t have been all that bad. Especially compared to what we ended up finding down there.

The basement seemed darker than normal. Even taking into account that it was pretty much evening, the basement had no windows, and the electricity had been cut, it seemed dark. Like somehow, the darkness was an entity unto itself that somehow made it even darker.

Also, there was a smell. An overpowering oder that threatened to make me wretch my guts out wofted through the basement. Suggesting that something died might not have been out of the realm of impossibility.

“Yip,” said Hamburger, shining the flashlight around. “This is definitely the source of it all. If we were using torches right now, the dark would’ve snuffed them out the moment we hit the bottom step, I reckon.”

“What have we got?” Dan asked.

Hamburger shined his light around. The walls were stone, gray, and dull compared to the more vibrant colors upstairs. Something caught my eye, though, and it caught Hamburger’s as well.

Throughout the basement, someone had apparently drawn on the walls with chalk. It didn’t take a detective’s sharp vision to figure out what had been drawn. Whoever had been down here, doodling on the walls, they’d drawn large rectangles on several spots. They started at the floor, and went way up over my head.

“Oh boy,” said Hamburger, dreadfully. “Looks like someone’s been experimenting with doorways.”

“Doorways?” I asked.

“We’ll explain later,” Dan said before Hamburger could answer. “We need to finish looking around here first. How many doors are…”

“Oh shit,” Hamburger interrupted. “We got a blood door.”

Dan and I walked over to where Hamburger was standing. He was shining his flashlight on another rectangle drawn on the wall. Unlike the others, though, it wasn’t drawn in chalk. If I had to guess, it was drawn in red paint.

“This just got serious,” said Dan.

“Oh golly jeepers gee fucking whiz, you think?” Hamburger replied, more concerned than anything else. “You don’t fuck around with the kind of things that can use blood doors, you know.”

“Oh I know,” said Dan.

“Bad enough he was making chalk doors,” Hamburger mumbled. “If it were up to me, nobody would be fucking around with that sort of magic either, but at least with chalk doors, nothing especially nasty can pass through it. Best case scenario, he probably just used these things to visit friends who live in other parts of the country.”

“And the worst case?” I found myself asking.

“Worst case scenario, he punched a hole into an alternate reality. But even then, it’s one of the safer alternate realities. Well, unless the reality where Benito Mussolini’s Italy became the world’s greatest superpower after World War II counts as safe, but that’s probably a matter of perspective. In any case, that’s the worst of the chalk doorways. The blood doorway…”

A loud, inhuman shriek of a noise cut him off, and demanded our immediate attention. We all spun around, and Hamburger pointed his light at what had so clearly made that horrible sound.

It looked like a man, but no one I’d met before. He wore a suit and tie that was caked with filth and blood. The moment he came into view, the smell of death became significantly more overwhelming than before. The light from Hamburger’s flashlight was at odds with the humanoid’s red glowing eyes.

“Get back!” Dan shouted.

Before either of us could do as we were told, he took aim with his shotgun, fired off a shot, and reduced the creature’s head to a myst of putrescence. The creature didn’t have blood, per say. Rather, a sort of black ooze and a swarm of maggots seemed to spray out from the shotgun blast.

I was already having a difficult time trying not to vomit from the smell alone. The creature’s exploding head, and the contents that spraid outward was enough to see to it that I’d lose that struggle. Suffice to say, Burger King doesn’t taste as good coming up as it does going down.

“Sorry,” I said afterward, wiping my mouth off on my forearm.

“Honestly, said Dan, “I’d have been shocked if a normy like you didn’t puke after something like that.”

I found myself immediately full of emotions and thoughts that demanded the floor, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Feelings of terror, and thoughts of what other unspeakable things lurked down here.   feelings of confusion as well as betrayal, and thoughts of what sort of reason Grandfather could’ve possibly had for keeping such things down here. It left me in a cold sweat.

“We need to go upstairs right now,” Hamburger ordered.

 

 

 

We practically ran upstairs after that, slamming the door behind us for good measure. The next thing I knew, Hamburger grabbed me by the wrist, dragged me into the living room, and practically shoved me onto the couch. I landed rear first on the throw pillow, giving him a look that couldn’t begin to properly convey my perplexity at this sudden aggression.

“What the fuck is your family doing?” Hamburger demanded, loudly.

“Whoa, calm down, Burger,” said Dan.

Hamburger’s head whipped around to look at Dan. “Shut up, Dan!” he shouted. He whipped back around to look at me, and it was then I realized how dead serious he was. The jovial tone that accompanied his every sentence since the moment I’d first met the man was long gone now, and in its place was a fury I wasn’t prepared to deal with.

“What the hell has your family been doing?” he repeated, more angrily than before if such a thing were possible.

“I… I don’t know!” I replied, startled. “I just thought that was where grandfather kept his pornography or something!”

Hamburger laughed. “Whatever perverted shit your grand dad was in to goes well beyond gawking at naked ladies. You don’t fuck around with the sort of shit we saw down there. We haven’t even been here an hour, and I’ve already found out your grand dad not only necromanced a guy, but he also turned his basement into a transdimensional nexus of horrors!”

“We don’t know where those chalk doors lead,” Dan interjected.

Hamburger looked back over to his companion. “Maybe not,” he replied, “but that blood door is the kind of thing that says you mean business! This ain’t no frat boy Ouija board party: this here’s some appocolyptic bullshit!”

Dan shrugged. “Fair enough,” he conceded. “That blood door is definitely cause for concern.”

“None of this makes sense!” I protested. “My grandfather isn’t some sort of necromancer.”

Hamburger laughed again. “Your grand pappy’s well past necromancer at this point,” he said. “Pretty sure somewhere down the line, he officially graduated to doomsday cult status. And I don’t mean one of them Heaven’s Gate cults, neither. I mean real life Cthulhu worshipper level doomsday cult.”

“I… But… What do we do now?” Was all I could stammer out.

Hamburger looked at Dan. “Yeah, fearless leader,” he said, the anger in his voice finally beginning to subside. “What do we do?”

Dan pulled out his cell phone. “First thing’s first,” he said. “We get the electricity turned back on, and we get the fridge stocked back up. Looks like we have our next assignment.”

“you seriously don’t think the two of us can fix all this,” said Hamburger.

“No, dipshit,” said Dan. “I’m calling in the cavalry. We’re going to need all the help we can get on this one.”

My Journey to ConQuesT

I’m no stranger to conventions.  I’ve attended Anime Festival Wichita a couple times.  I watched Anime Nebrascon go from small little convention being held in a community college to massive convention occupying an entire hotel in the span of four years.  I attended Planet Comicon last year to watch Kevin Smith and…  Uh…  The other guy (not Jason Muse), record Fat Man on Batman.  I attended a horror film convention a few years ago, and met the guy who’s distribution company holds the rights to the Puppetmaster series.

In all those conventions, I’ve seen all the usual attractions.  I’ve seen the cosplayers posing for photos.  I’ve seen the guys show off their remote control R2D2s, and in more recent years, remote controlled BB8s.  I have an autograph book that, while not exactly filled from cover to cover, has some names you might recognize if you like American voice actors, and obscure film stars.  I even contributed suggestions for an anime themed improv group’s “suggestions in a hat” game once or twice.

In other words, I’m not a stranger to this sort of thing.

However, I’ve never been to ConQuesT before.  Not until this past weekend, anyway.

I went with a couple friends, not entirely sure what to expect.  Right out the gate, they had to help everybody’s favorite professional blind guy find the RIGHT convention, because apparently, the hotel hosting ConQuesT was ALSO hosting a tattoo convention on the other side of the building.  And if you’re wondering at all, yes, there actually was a surprising amount of overlap between the conventions.

Honestly, as far as atmosphere went…  It was pretty quiet.  I did see some folks in costume, but compared to the madness of your average comic book, anime, horror film, and whatever convention, things were pretty tame.

In large part, this is because ConQuesT is more dedicated to scifi and fantasy literature than anything else.  Book people are definitely as proud, but maybe not quite as loud as some of the other fandoms out there.  Also, with a lot of books not having pictures or film/TV adaptations, cosplayers most likely have to use their imagination.  At absolute most, I saw someone with a very intricate raptor costume, and someone…  I wanted to say the polar bear from The Golden Compass, but that was mostly because one of my friends described them as big, white, and furry, and polar bears are the first thing that come to mind when I hear that description.  It would’ve been hilarious if that polar bear was drinking a Coke.  Just sayin’.

Of course, the main event of any convention is the panels.  Unlike a lot of your usual panels, though, there aren’t a whole lot of Q&A with guests.  Rather, the guests usually have a lecture prepared, or the staff had an event planned out featuring them that might or might not have been a good idea in practice.

And of course, in my attempts to become a better shameless publicity whore, I handed out cards to everybody who’d take them.  And left what I wasn’t able to hand off on some table in the lobby for guests to pick up.  Or for housekeeping to throw away.  The important thing is I got rid of them.

I attended Steven Barnes’ panel on Afrofuturism: a subgenre of scifi and fantasy focused primarily on black individuals and their rolls in society and culture.  I have to say, I wasn’t expecting it to be such a powerful presentation.  Even if there was a mix up over whether his room got the whiteboard or not.  Once we actually got in to the nitty gritty, this was the kind of lecture that, at the end, left me nigh speechless.  I suddenly felt a little bad about having never read any of his books prior to attending.

I got to meet him afterward…  And found I had nothing to say.  I ended up shaking his hand, handing him my business card…  Then, three days later, I realized I just pointed the man who’s a driving force in afrofuturism fiction to MY work.  MY work includes The Gael Saga.  Within Gael’s rogues gallery is CharKendrick Parks: AKA, Spook.  Spook…  Well…  Let’s just say Spook is probably not going to win me any awards in political correctness any time soon.  No, I didn’t exactly hand the character a bucket of KFC and tell him to go play basketball while he and his homies listen to Gucci Gang or anything horrible like that.  However, if you’ve read The Hood and the Heroine, and read the chapters Spook narrates…  Yeah, the rules of political correctness dictate I’m probably going to hell.  And I only made it worse by possibly directing a guy trying to make a positive name for Black America without using hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter in that direction.  Shit.  Oh well, wouldn’t be the first time I accidentally burned a bridge.

Another panel at ConQuesT I absolutely adored was “Author Speed Dating”.  The premise is simple: there’s eight authors, and eight readers.  Each reader pairs off with an author, and the author tries to sell you their book.  This, right here, is an awesome idea on paper, and it did not disappoint in practice.

True, some authors were better at selling me on their fiction than others.  Sean Demory and Van Plexico were definitely my favorites, advertising such works as Polukaville, and The Sentinal trilogies respectively.

There was another author I met who’s book intrigued me, who’s condition intrigued me MORE, and…  Unfortunately, I forgot her name.  I’m SORRY!  I just remembered offering to shake her hand, and she explained she had a nerve condition that resulted in tremendous pain if someone touched her.  Even wearing clothing apparently hurt.  I can’t remember her name, and I can’t remember the name of her condition, and after pulling up a tab that had all the ConQuesT guests, I’m unfortunately not recalling anything.  Although I’M DEFINITELY positive it wasn’t Dora Furlong.  I think Furlong wrote the Monster Keeper series, as well as the Olympus Talent Agency series.  Both of which sound fascinating as well.

I did go to other panels…  But if I’m being honest, those ended up being a bit more meh than I was expecting.  They weren’t bad by any means…  But I wasn’t really feeling them at the end of the day, either, you know?

I only hung out for Saturday’s festivities due to only having enough money for one day, friends wanting to get together on Sunday, and Monday being my day to sleep in, get some writing done, then forgetting I’m a Baha’i for a split second and getting piss drunk stupid while watching The Stanley Cup with family.

SEMI RELATED NOTE: GO VEGAS!  FUCK THE CAPS!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at ConQuesT.  Maybe next year, I can actually register as a guest.  It’d be fun to try the author speed dating on the author’s side.  Maybe sharpen up my sellsman skills in my quest to become a better publicity whore.

Noir: My Thoughts

Christopher Moore is one of my all time favorite authors.  I started with A Dirty Job, then read all three of the Bloodsucking Fiends trilogy, and pretty much set out to read as many of his books as I could possibly get my hands on.

Admittedly, Moore is…  Not for everybody.  Especially in recent years, with stories like Sacre Blue, and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff.  These are pretty avant gard, considering the guy had made a living telling humorous stories about either a fictional town out in the middle of nowhere, or in a fictional San Fransisco that reminds me of Kevin Smith’s Jerseyverse.  Or Askewniverse.  Or whatever we’re calling the Jay and Silent Bob movies nowadays.  The Jay-And-Silent-Bobiverse?

Also, if nothing came from the 2010s, my fascination with film noir happened in this very decade.  All you bitches feeling nostalgic for the neon-colored nightmare of shoulder pads, toy commercial cartoons, and Reaganomics don’t know nothing about nostalgia.  I was going back to the days when movies weren’t even in color!  I was going back to the days communism actually seemed like a legit threat to anybody!  I was going back to the day when a high budget movie was around six figures at absolute most!  You want to talk nostalgic?  You don’t know.

I forgot where I was going with this.

Oh right, Christopher Moore wrote a noir book!  My favorite author?  Writing one of my recent favorite genres?  I literally commented on his blog: “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”.  No really.  Look for the sample chapter for Noir on his blog (if it’s still there).  You’ll find my comment right there!

ANYWAY…

I really had high hopes for this book.  And…  Not going to lie…  It’s not one of his better books.  Yeah, I’m starting to think I might have jumped the gun on that one.  It’s fucking No Man’s Sky all over again.

It’s not a bad story by any means.  Comedy wise, “the kid” was probably the funniest thing about the entire story.  I mean yeah, the fact the main female character is named after a variety of British cheese is KINDA funny I guess, but a lot of the humor…  I don’t really want to say it fell flat, but considering I read Christopher Moore books frequently, I’m kind of familiar with his pacing, and his style of joke telling.  It’s like watching a new episode of a long-running sitcom that hasn’t managed to hit seasonal rot yet: the jokes are there, and you know they’re funny, but they aren’t really gut-busting hilarious.

The very beginning of the book is basically a fucking trigger warning to all the delicate little snowflakes out there that this book takes place in the 1940s, and therefore may use some slurs that were acceptable then, but aren’t now.  Although I got to say, I was expecting a lot worse than what I got.  Sure, he used the word “colored” a few times, and a few slurs for Chinese people.  I don’t know, maybe having friends who masterbate to Trump and praise “the glory of Kekistan” have desensitised me to the point I feel nothing anymore when I hear racist remarks.  Or maybe I don’t offend nearly as easily as this current generation of weak-willed pussies.  I’ll honestly believe either one.

Get past the trigger warning, and you get a story that is…  Okay.

Really, my only real gripe with the book is that there’s two narrators, and the second narrator waits till way into the book to introduce himself.  The epic reveal…  Honestly, I can’t decide if it’s funny, or dumb.  Possibly both, but maybe leaning more towards dumb.  It’s one of those choices that, on paper, probably sounded funnier.  And at the moment of the reveal, it DID kinda give me a chuckle.  But prior to the reveal, I found myself constantly wondering why it went from first person to third person every other chapter.

The audiobook is read by Johnny Heller.  Heller is a man of about two or three voices at absolute best, and they all have a bit of a Marlon Brando quality to them.  However, it’s a reader that fits the theme of the book just fine, so I give it a pass.

Overall, it’s not the worst book I’ve ever read.  It’s not even the worst Christopher Moore book I’ve ever read.  Really, though, I’d recommend some of his other titles before recommending this one.

The Philosopher’s Flight: My Thoughts

The Philosopher’s Flight is a book I really wasn’t expecting to like.  Or even read, honestly.  It got recommended at the book club I’m a member of, in rather hilarious fashion.

Basically, we discussed the book of the month (The City and the City by the HIGHLY over-rated China Mieville).  Then, talk of what to read next came up.  A woman who comes to the group off and on picked two books out of her purse, slapped them down on the table, and said: “Here’s your choices.  Pick one.  I’m not running out and buying a third book.  Pick one.”  I laughed, and went with the side that picked Philosopher’s Flight on the grounds option B was a clichéd young adult dystopia novel that lost me at the blurb describing the overused, overdone premise every young adult novel throughout the 2010s has used.

So we read The Philosopher’s Flight, and I got to say, I liked it a lot.

Robert is a young man, living in a world where “philosophy” actually refers to magic.  Also, magic seems to come more naturally for women than it does for men, although a few men can perform magic as well.  Like Robert, for example.  Magic, or “philosophy”, consists of being able to draw sigils with certain ingredients, and through the power of magic (I guess), stuff happens according to what sigil you drew, and what you drew it with.  IE, aluminum results in teleportation, silver results in stasis, corn powder (I think) results in flight…  They allude to a combination of sulphur and bonemeal that makes a really nasty death spell, but it never gets used.

Robert wants to join the rescue squad, and serve his country in World War I.  However, because most men can’t perform magic as effortlessly, or at all, it’s an uphill battle just getting through the academy.  The person recommending this book for the club suggested that it was an inverse to the whole “strong independent woman who’s strong and independent and a woman proving to the men how strong and independent this woman is.  Did we mention this is a woman who’s strong and independent?  Because it’s super important you note that this is a strong independent woman.” fad we’ve been stuck in for the last three or four years now by basically giving the WOMEN the power, and making the MAN prove himself.  Admittedly, I assumed the women were going to have more influence in this world than they had.  IE, I thought they’d hold the majority of political power, cultural influence, and men were treated like objects who cooked and cleaned and all that.  While women in this universe are more adept at “philosophy”, they still don’t have a whole lot of influence outside “philosophy” circles.

Also, did you know that in the old days, a woman could run for office, but couldn’t vote?  According to the resident SJW of the club, yeah, that was actually a thing.  They brought it up in this book, but I thought it was just part of their universe, but it’s actually a thing!  Weird, right?

Getting back on track…

This book is definitely a departure from the kind of things I read.  IE, not a whole lot of fight scenes, and not a whole lot of magic and mysticism outside “philosophy”.  And I’m okay with that.

A common criticism the story seems to get is that it tries to tackle several themes, and only really resolves one or two.  A lot of this gets attributed to the fact that this is Tom Miller’s first book, and perhaps he’s still trying to figure things out.  I personally attribute it to the fact that Robert is really your classic case of a country boy in the city.  A lot of these themes get brought up as environmental factors, but the primary focus of the story is definitely that Robert is just trying to get through the academy, and live out his life long dream of working in rescue and evac for the U.S. military.

The audiobook is read by Gibson Frazier.  He does a really good job with the material he’s given, although it’s kind of hilarious to hear a guy give the cliché dum jock voice to female characters on occasion.  I guess in this universe, women have to take up roles like captain of the sportsball team, so I guess they can be dumb jocks just as much as…  You know, I’m thinking too hard about this.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that this is book 1 of a series.  A series that, as of this writing, is still in the works.  Honestly, as much as I enjoyed this book, I’m hesitant to read any further in this series .  The book ended pretty conclusively in my opinion.  I mean yeah, they could probably elaborate on the very specific details of what went on during the montage that was the last three or four paragraphs…  Also, the prologue.

I forgot entirely about the prologue until the book club got together.  And understandably so.  The prologue contributes literally NOTHING to the plot of this book.  I GUESS it provides a little context on how “philosophy” works, but it’s nothing you couldn’t pick up for yourself actually reading through the story proper.  Nothing that’s ever brought up in the prologue EVER shows up in the story.  So much so, I wonder why the hell the author even bothered.  Outside the possibility of page count, but I figured that’s why he included a glossary of terms that you’ve probably long since figured out by ACTUALLY READING THE BOOK.

Some writing advice I’ve gotten over the years is this: never start with a prologue.  Don’t start the story in the middle, and flash back to three weeks earlier.  Don’t use a prologue as a foreshadowing tool for something that happens in book 2 or book 3.  In fact, just don’t do the prologue.  Ever.  Start the story at chapter 1, and go from there.

The Philosopher’s Flight could’ve probably benefitted from this advice.  Lord knows I don’t do prologues anymore for this very reason.

One thing Miller and I are BOTH guilty of, though, is beginning chapters with quotes that foreshadow future events in the chapter.  This is one of those things where in it works if it’s done properly.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel like it was done properly in Miller’s book.  For example, he shares a passage from Danielle’s campaign speech from all the way into the 1930s: at least fifteen or twenty years after the story takes place.  Then we have an epic final battle between Robert, Danielle, and the villain of the book (a dude who totally gives me Fred Phelps vibes), and I felt virtually NO ergency.  Bitch, I already know Danielle survives!  And as a result, it kind of kills the suspense.

These are some nitpicks I had with the book, but despite those nitpicks, I actually really liked the story quite a bit.  Will I check out future books in the series?  Well…  We’ll see.  For what it’s worth, book 1 was definitely not a bad read.

 

End of an Era

Earlier this month, Scourged: the last of The Iron Druid Chronicles, was put out.  I bought it, I blazed through it in a week, and now I sit here realizing that the epic fantasy I’ve been reading since 2015 is over.  And boy, I have no idea how to feel about that.

All good things have to come to an end.  Frankly, the fact there hasn’t been a single bad book in the entire nine book series says a lot about how good at this writing thing Kevin Hearne actually is.  When the series started, it came out in a time where the whole “vampires, werewolves, and mythical creatures live among us and I keep them all in check” concept Anita Blake brought to the table was starting to become tiresome.  And really, one could argue that Anita Blake wasn’t even all that original in the first place.  So the fact Atticus O’Sullivan was ON THE RUN as opposed to being god’s chosen champion, or a member of an elite hunter squad, or whatever, was actually kind of a refreshing change of pace.  Also, who could say no to Oberon?  I don’t think myself as a dog person or as a cat person exclusively (I will punch you in the fucking face if you call me bipetual), but having had a dog of my own, I can tell you Hearne’s portrayal is definitely very accurate.  True, my dog wasn’t an Irish wolf hound, but really, dogs are dogs in the longrun: happy, slobbery, manic idiots who absolutely love you.

I’ll admit to not reading the novellas, though.  I basically stuck to the canonical books in the series.  Largely because, for the most part, the side novellas don’t really add anything TOO substancial to the overall plot.  At least, not until the book I refer to as “book 8.5.1 and 8.5.2”, but even then, the only thing those books explain is how Atticus ended up with a Boston terrier named Starbuck.

In the span of three years, I practically devoured all nine of The iron Druid Chronicles novels, and I enjoyed the journey from start to finish.

As per usual, I went with the audiobooks, because blind guy.  All of the books are read by the man, the myth, the legend himself, Luke Motherfucking Daniels.  In fact, I dare say, The iron Druid Chronicles were my first real exposure to him as a reader.  And ever since, Daniels has joined the likes of Simon Vance, Robertson Dean, and Mark Vitor: readers who make me loudly declare “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” the moment I see their name on the Audible.com page.  I was even subscribed to his Soundcloud page at one point, before I ended up deleting that soundcloud account in exchange for the one currently hosting Red Flannel Radio.  I should really do another one of those.  Seems like that’s been reduced to a monthly show now.

But I digress.

The series has ended.  I feel complete in a way, but at the same time, I feel kind of bummed out.  Well, maybe BUMMED is a bit of an exaggeration, but I definitely have that “end of an era, and I have no idea where to go from here” kind of feeling.  This feeling will pass in a couple days (it always does), but I really can’t remember the last time I’ve been bummed out about there being no new stories in the series.  Usually, by the time a series gets to book 4, I’m starting to notice problems, tedium, and even continuity errors in one case.

I highly recommend reading the series for yourself if you haven’t.  In the meantime, maybe I’ll be able to find the next great ongoing series to invest all my psychotic fan devotion to.

The Majin Among Us Sample Chapter!

I’ve expressed concerns of being an incompetent, Marvel Comics caliber social justice warrior a week or so ago, and I ended up with some…  Interesting, feedback on the matter.  In the longrun, I guess the only way to truly find out is to just put it out there, and let the people decide.

As of this writing, I’m on the verge of finishing the second draft.  there’s at least two or three more drafts that need to happen before this gets released to the public, but I’m feeling pretty confident about getting this in around the beginning of February.  In fact, let’s just make it official: I’m aiming for 2/11/17 for a release date.  Set your calendar apps to that date, and when you don’t see it on Amazon, check back here for a possible explanation.  Or just bitch me out.

In the meantime, I hope this sample chapter suffices.

DISCLAIMER!: This is the second draft version of the chapter.  If there are some noticeable errors, it’s because I may have missed them in my initial proofreading.  With luck, I, or my spellchecker will catch them in future drafts.

 

Also, as is the case with sample chapters, this version of the chapter might not be the version you end up getting.  Until the final version becomes available, though, I hope you enjoy.

 

 

THE MAJIN AMONG US

COPYRIGHT 2018 BY THOMAS J. BLACK

 

 

8

 

 

I thought for sure I was going to have to play detective that day. I dreaded this, because back in those days, I was never especially good at detective work. Sure, Redcrest was pretty tiny, but there were still a pretty considerable amount of nooks and crannies she and her family could’ve been hiding in that I’d have never thought of looking.

So it was probably a good thing that I didn’t actually have to do any of that detective work. I don’t know how, exactly, but somehow, Debbie was able to find where I lived! All I know was that there was a knock at the door, and Debbie was standing on the other side when my mom answered it. Next thing I know, we’re taking my car to her place.

It turned out that she lived clear on the other side of Redcrest. Specifically, the bad part of Redcrest. The part Joe Jack’s dad lived. The part where all the meth heads from neighboring towns go to buy their product. The part of town all the adults warn us about.

“You live out here?” I asked. Considering this was the same girl who could turn people into chocolate on a whim, this shouldn’t have been as shocking. And yet, here we were.

“Yeah,” said Debbie. “My parents aren’t exactly the wealthiest people on the planet. Especially not these days.”

“What happened?” I asked.

Rather than answer my question there, she pointed to a house further up. “That’s my place,” she said.

In terms of houses in bad neighborhoods, you really could’ve done worse than Debbie’s place. You could do better, for sure, but you could’ve done worse. The outside could’ve probably used a new coat of paint, and the lawn definitely saw better days, but none of the windows were broken, and there weren’t any toilets or washing machines in the front lawn. More than I could say for a couple of her neighbors.

The inside smelled like cat piss. Debbie’s family clearly didn’t own any cats, or really any pets at all for that matter. I’m guessing that was left over from the people who used to live here? The carpet was a dull dark grayish color, and the furnature was clearly thrift store furnature. The couch had a pretty generous amount of cushioning torn out of one of the arm rests, and one of the chairs looked like someone fatter than the chair could handle sat in it.

Debbie gestured for me to have a seat on the couch. Rather than join me, she chose to take a seat a foot or two away from me on the floor. She looked me from down their, and I looked at her from up where I was.

“Okay,” she said. “Let’s just get down to it. I find that in situations like this, it’s just easier to get all the awkward questions out of the way right here and now. I’m sure you have plenty of questions, and I probably have answers. So go ahead, ask me anything.”

I thought about it for all of three seconds. “What the hell!?” I exclaimed.

Debbie laughed a little. “Okay, maybe broaden it a little more than that.”

“You ate chad!” I exclaimed.

“Are we really still dwelling on this?”

“Um, yeah, we are!”

Debbie started to sigh in frustration… But halfway in, she seemed to come to a revelation.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “You didn’t want to eat him by chance, did you? I’m so sorry!”

“What?” Was all I could say in response to that.

“I really should’ve taken your pride into consideration,” she said. I thought for a split second she might’ve been mocking me, but all it took was a look at her face to see she genuinely meant what she was saying. “I mean the guy was clearly beating you up and everything. It probably would’ve satisfied your pride if you’d been the one to eat him. Plus it’d be pretty ironic. He always did want to be inside another man, after all. What better…”

That’s not even close!” I interrupted, maybe a little louder than I would’ve liked.

Debbie blinked. “Huh. Okay, what’s the deal?”

“Debbie, you took someone’s life!”

“And?”

“What the hell do you mean and?”

Debbie snapped her fingers, coming to another realization. “Oh, right! You’re a human. I can’t believe I keep forgetting that.”

I blinked. “What?”

Debbie stood up then. “Maybe it would help if I dispelled my glamour.”

“Glamour?”

She bowed her head, and closed her eyes. Then, to my absolute shock, she began to change! Admittedly, her appearance didn’t change all that much. However, it was enough to surprise me.

Her skin went from pretty standard Caucasian to cotton candy pink. She opened her eyes, and revealed that they were now the color of blood. Her hair remained in the same style it had been before, but now it was a very dark blue. On the sides of her head were little nubs that looked like they were trying to be horns, but were too short.

“Whew,” she said, “that feels good. Glamours are so hard to maintain, you know? Wait, you probably don’t know.”

“Whah… I… What are you?” I stammered out, astonished.

Debbie took a seat on the floor once again. “I’m a majin,” she explained. “My whole family are majins.”

I vaguely remembered her mentioning majins that one time, and it became clear her dumb little joke that only mythology buffs would probably find funny wasn’t a joke after all. She really was a majin in human clothes.

Unfortunately, rather than answering any of my questions, it only raised more.

“I think I explained what majin are,” said Debbie, trying to fill the awkward silence.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Apparently, they’re pink devils who can turn people into chocolate, and have no problem with eating them right afterward.”

“I didn’t want to use my powers on him,” Debbie protested. “I hated seeing him and his friends bully you around like that. And believe me, you’re far from the first person he’s harassed.”

“Oh you don’t have to tell me. I already know that guy was a douche. Everybody did. But eating him? Couldn’t you have just used your little jedi mind trick on him like you did with his friends?”

Debbie blushed… I think. The color scheme was not something I was used to, but it definitely looked like she was blushing then.

“I suppose I was thinking with my stomach again,” she said. “I knew I should’ve gotten some snacks at the theater.”

“Uh… Okay then. I’m guessing that’s a majin thing?”

“Kind of. For sure, it’s a Debbie thing. Majin in general are pretty hedonistic.”

“Hedo-what?”

“Hedenistic. It means do whatever because it feels good, and to hell with the consequences. On the positive side, that just means a lot of us like food. Or sleep. Or… Um, “other pleasures”.”

It didn’t take me long to figure out what that meant.

“I suppose that’s the problem when you’re an all-powerful godlike being who lives for flippin’ ever,” she continued. “We tend to think of humans the same way humans think of cows or chickens. Or more positively, we tend to think of you the same way you think of cats and dogs.”

“So we’re either food, or we’re pets,” I clarified.

“At worst, I’d say food. At best, I’d say you’re just another animal we have to share the planet with. Nothing personal. It’s just that majins have to eat too. And like I said last night, nobody’s going to miss that douche.”

“His parents are going to miss him. His friends are going to miss him. And even if nobody ends up missing him, people are going to notice he’s gone. Redcrest isn’t that big a town. Somebody goes missing, you usually hear all about it. Not to mention that guy was the star quarterback.”

“Oh, woopy for him. He can throw a ball, so we should put him on a pedistol and treat him like a god.”

I couldn’t say I disagreed with that. People around Redcrest worshipped Chad Testaberger. It was a popular joke around Draiman High that they held him back twice so he could get the football team to state. The other kids looked at him as someone to respect. The adults looked at him like he was somehow going to make them rich. In the case of people like Pat’s dad, he probably was.

The sad part is as disgusting as this was, it wasn’t, and actually still isn’t exclusive to Redcrest. We treat football players in this entire country better than our teachers, our emergency service workers… Really, better than everybody. And why? Because they can throw a ball really far? Because they can get tackled by a three-hundred pound lummox with an additional fifty pounds of padding?

They’re certainly not good people. I swear to god, there was at least one player a week getting a D.U.I. or a drug charge. And that was the standard nonsense. If you wanted the really bad stuff, you need only look at guys like Ray Louis, or Hector Hernandez: men who were charged with, and possibly even got away with murder. Although I think Hernandez eventually got caught, but I digress.

The fact football players, be they big time NFL players, or small time high school flunkouts in the making like Chad, are worshipped like gods is definitely something Debbie and I could see eye to eye on. Unfortunately, it was straying from the point entirely. Even if Chad was a douche, a closet case, and frankly, an individual the world would be better off without, Debbie had still opened pandora’s box on this one.

She was in the middle of a rant that, in short, was exactly what I was saying just now. However, she chose to end the rant with, “You want to see a god? A little majin like me is the closest thing you’re going to get.”

I chuckled. “If you’re so godlike,” I countered, “why do you and your parents live in such a dump? Surely, you could use your magic to counterfit money and buy a nice house out in the good part of town.”

“Because we’re trying to lay low,” said Debbie. “And in any case, that’d be a vulgar display of power.”

“Sort of like Jesus refusing to perform miracles on the spot?”

“Well yeah, in concept. My grandpa insists Jesus was either a very opinionated street preacher, or the head of one of history’s most successful cults.”

“Cult?”

“Well yeah. The only real difference between a cult and a religion is the difference between a membership in the dozens and a membership in the millions. We’re kind of getting off track here, though. Basically, I don’t see what the big deal is with you humans and football. Hell, it’s not even football! It’s not in the shape of a ball, and the only real footwork is in how far you can run.”

“Well… Okay. You’re more than welcome to have that opinion, but it still doesn’t change the fact people are going to notice Chad is gone now. And if they figure out there’s a pink devil girl around here with the power to turn people into chocolate…”

“Not my problem.”

I was at a loss for words then.

Debbie laughed. “Honey, if humans could kill us with anything less than a nuclear bomb, there’d be significantly fewer majins in the world.”

I sighed in frustration, which led her to laugh at me.

“Relax,” she said. “I’m not going to pick a fight with the entire human race. All I want to do is live my life, and enjoy the ride.like you. The only difference is we live a lot longer than you.”

“Really?” I asked. “Like, how long?”

“Well, that depends on the majin, really. My grandpa was somewhere around a couple thousand before he finally passed.”

THOUSAND!?

Debbie laughed again. “It is way too easy to blow your minds, you know? But yeah, thousand.”

“Okay, uh, I know I’m not supposed to ask a lady this, but how old are you?”

“I’ll be a hundred and ninety-eight in December. I’m guessing that whole “never ask a lady how old she is” thing is a human taboo? Probably because you guys only ever live to be seventy or eighty on average.”

“I… Uh, I guess so. I always thought it was a girl taboo more than a human taboo.”

Girl taboo, huh? Majins don’t have a whole lot of those compared to humans. I mean we have similar ones to humans, like “Thou shalt not kill”, “Honor thy mother and thy father”, and so on, but the only real taboo I can think of we don’t have in common is “thou shalt not use thy magic on thy fellow majin”.”

“Um, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of commandments there.”

“Eh, six in one, half a dozen in the other. The important thing is majin are discouraged from using magic on each other. Which… Sort of brings us to Scott.”

“Yeah, who is this Scott anyway?”

Debbie was about to explain, but then the front door came open. A woman with a similar Buddha belly shape, and brown hair to Debbie came in first. She was followed by a skinny looking man wearing overalls, a trucker hat, and sporting a thick black handlebar mustache. Someone was clearly trying way too hard to appear Midwestern. He looked like how one of those douches in San Fransisco thought us Midwestern folk looked. The woman had a better concept, if only because she didn’t really where anything that screamed “YOU’RE TRYING TOO HARD!” to anyone who looked her way.

Lastly, there came what had to be the fattest man I think I’d ever seen. If he were any fatter, he’d probably need one of those scooters those fat city people ride around on when they go to Walmart.

“That was a good walk,” said the woman.

“Brad like walk!” the fat one declared, clapping.

“You sure did,” said the woman. “Now head up to your room, and…”

“Debbie!” the man interrupted. “What are you doing out of your disguise!?”

Debbie was already on her feet by then. She handled herself calmly… Sort of.

“You really went out into town like that?” she asked, pointing at her dad’s overalls.

“Debbie, we have to be glamoured, remember?” her dad insisted.

“But dressed like that?” Debbie countered. “I keep telling you guys that nobody here dresses like that. You look like a couple of damn Beverly Hillbillies!

“fair point,” the woman interrupted before the man could say something, “but you still need to look human if you’re going to socialize with these things.”

“It’s okay,” said Debbie, calming down. “He already knows what we are. Kind of.”

She explained that I had unfortunately seen her use magic. She bent the truth just a little, implying both of us were backed into a corner and left with no alternative. She made it sound like Chad and his goon squad were going to kill us! At absolute most, he’d probably just shove me around like he had been doing for a while longer, make a few more gay jokes only Joe Jack thought were funny, and call it an evening. Debbie could’ve probably gone home right then and there, and they wouldn’t have even noticed she was gone.

The father sighed, and his glamour faded. I soon learned the mustache was fake as he pealed it off. Debbie’s mom unglamoured next, revealing she had the same dark blue hair as her daughter. Brad, the fat one, seemed confused.

“Mom said Brad need be human in front of humans,” he said, puzzled.

“Your sister already blew our cover,” his dad explained. “You can unglamour yourself in front of this…”

“Okay!” said Brad, way too inthusiastically.

With that, Brad’s glamour faded. Rather than two nubby little horns on the sides of his head like Debbie and her mom, he had one long horn protruding out of his forehead. It made him look like a unicorn trapped in a human-shaped bubblegum mold, honestly.

Debbie’s dad removed the trucker hat, and a unicorn horn of his own popped out of his forehead with a faint pop noise.

“Go to your room, Brad,” Debbie’s mom ordered. “We need to have a talk with your sister.”

“Okay!” said Brad.

Gleefully, Brad went barreling past his sister and me, and down the hallway to his room. It was just the four of us then. I wasn’t sure of anything at that point, but I couldn’t help but think that nothing good was going to come of this.

 

 

SJW Concerns

The Majin Among Us is my latest writing project I plan to get published.  It’s pretty much guaranteed to be getting a paperback release at this time, so good news for all you people who prefer paper to ebook.

The further I get in to this project, though, the more one particular worry hits me.  That concern is that my book immediately gets dismissed as social justice tripe.  I’ll be posting a sample chapter within the week, but for now, take my word on it when I say that this thing may be a little preachy.

Make no mistake, I’m a lefty at heart.  True, I abandoned the democrats completely in 2016 after the stunt they pulled, and I’ve spoken highly of various aspects of libertarian ideaology, but in my heart of hearts, I’m still a lefty in many aspects.  I believe gays should be allowed to get married.  I believe abortion should be legal.  I believe net neutrality should’ve never been repealed.  I believe marijuana should be legal for recreational use, although I’d settle for medicinal if that’s how we have to start out.  I believe if someone wants to mutilate the shit out of their body in order to resemble a woman, why not?  Really, the only things I DON’T agree with my fellow lefties on is gun control (I’m pro-constitutional carry), and the death penalty (hang ’em all!), but that’s pretty much it.

Then we get into the kind of nonsense that passes for modern day liberalism: a horrifying checklist ideaology known as neoliberalism, or social justice warrioring.  I may think of myself as a liberal, but jesus tap dancing Christ, the SJW crowd makes me feel legitimately embarrassed to admit out loud that I vote democrat in public.

I could go on, but many other classical liberals have probably made all the points I’d probably be making.  Furthermore, they probably did it more intelligently, and with fewer swear words, because I’m a rude-ass boogan with no shame in using me some colorful language.

This is a crowd I generally want to distance myself from…  Except looking over the rough draft for The Majin Among Us, and making all the edits and additions I feel needed adding, I fear this book may come off as social justice tripe: the very thing I’m NOT going for.

The Majin Among Us is a tail of xenophobia.  A majin and her family find that their cover has been blown by the worst representation of their race: a cannibalistic serial killer with no concepts of restraint, social skills, or diplomacy.  The people take one look at this horrible majin and his wicked ways, and like people are prone to doing, they immediately assume EVERY majin is wicked, unspeakable evil.  From there, it’s a combination of trying to mend the bridge while keeping the guy who ruined it for everyone as far away as possible.

Pretty SJW-ish, right?  Honestly, I’ve based the story on all the stories I’ve heard of retards beating hindus and Sikhs to let us all know Muslams ain’t welcome in Amrrrica.  Or like the local dumbass who lost the mayoral election after running under the most blatant anticimetic platform…  Probably in the history of Kansas for all I know and care, then went on a shooting spree with all the intention of killing as many jews as possible…  Only to end up missing all the jews, and killing a couple Methodist Christians instead.  There are several examples of this caliber of retardation, and I could probably fill an entire blog with nothing but those stories alone.  However, I instead decided to draw influence from those stories when describing the level of ignorance displayed.

Unfortunately, one can’t write a story about racism in this day and age without immediately being labeled some sort of antifa level socialist ideaolog (as if being a right-winged libertarian anarchist somehow isn’t being an ideaolog).  You’re labeled an SJW, and you’re accused of virtue signaling to your fellow SJWs while pandering to the left’s lowest common denominators.

Need proof?  I refer you to the bullshit going on with Marvel comics right now.  A lot of what I can tell you is pretty much second-hand information at best.  Plus I’m strongly in favor of people actually looking it up and formulating their own fucking opinion instead of expecting my dumb ass to spoonfeed it to you.  But in any case, the current state of Marvel…  Well, the movies are doing all right, but the comics are a bit of a disaster right now.  I could probably forgive Ms. Marvel, on the grounds that Ms. Marvel (according to my own research) is less of a character, and more of a mantle handed down from heroine to heroine.  Then you get into things like Captain America just fucking off and shouting “Hile Hydra” so they can get the black guy the roll.  I’ve also heard of things like “Girl Thor”, “Asian Hulk”…  I think Storm might be transgendered now?  Or maybe I misunderstood my friend’s latest rant.  In any case, nobody asked for this.  I sure as shit didn’t want to throw Bruce Banner under the bus so some rando Asian guy could help Marvel show off how PC they are, bruh.  Wearing their sweet-ass Oakleys, and reminding us PC is the way to be for me.  And you.  WOO WOO!

Comparing my work, a work of fiction still in development with virtually no preestablished fanbase (unless fanbases from my previous novels counts, anyway), to Marvel, a studio that’s been around since the 1960s with an impressive legacy some SJW editor decided to wipe his ass with so we can recolor the heroes and find fascinating new ways to scream “FUCK WHITEY!” in approximately twenty-two pages, is probably not fair to me.  Or to Marvel, for all I know and care.  Dude, I WISH I was making Marvel cash at this point in my life, but I digress.

It’s an unfair comparison, sure, but it gives me an idea of the sort of fiction I want to desperately avoid.  Financially speaking, because according to the previously mentioned friend who’s given me all this information, it’s a direction that has thoroughly buttfucked Marvel’s sales.  Culturally speaking, because I’m not a social justice warrior.  We have some common ground, sure, but then you guys go and take it to a very psychotic level of nonsense that even I can’t agree with.

People will, and probably have accused me of having biases.  They’ll probably point out the liberal is the one in Charlie’s Chocolate Factory of Unspeakable Horrors is the soul survivor amongst a conservative, a libertarian, and a communist.  They’ll mention HikikoMorey takes potshots at The Tea Party.  They’ll mention how The Gael Saga demonizes capitalists by making Dan Adelson the A-list villain.  Right after the SJWs accuse me of using Gael as some sexist way of living out some foot fetish fantasy that demeans women, because fuck you for being a male.  Or whatever.

In all those cases…  Fair enough.  Even I’M not one-hundred percent unbiased.  But boy, the last thing I want to do is associate myself with a crowd that makes people like me look bad by association.

Once I’ve picked out a chapter or two I’d like to use as sample chapters, you’ll probably have a better idea of where these concerns are coming from.  Until then, I just want to get this off my chest, and out of my mind.

A Taste of Things to Come: The Hood and The Heroine Sample Chapter!

With the release of The Hood and the Heroine mere weeks away, I figured I would further tease the shit out of my audience, and give you guys a bit of a taste of what’s to come.  Enjoy your sample chapter.  Fragment.  Thing.

NOTE: this is the third draft version of the chapter.  If there are any noticeable spelling errors in the text, please keep in mind that this is still being worked on.  Although knowing my process, the third draft is where all the blatantly obvious spelling errors are fixed.  Still, try to keep in mind this might not be the final version of the chapter.

 

 

THE HOOD AND THE HEROINE: BOOK 3 OF THE GAEL SAGA

COPYRIGHT 2017 BY THOMAS J. BLACK

 

 

5: ROISIN

Our first mission was that night. I was legitimately surprised how quickly I was able to assemble a group. I thought for sure there were only going to be about two other people. Instead, I ended up with ten people who wanted to take part! Technically nine other people, since it was a guarantee Jennifer was going to come along.

In hindsight, I probably would’ve given them something a little lower profile than an arms deal on the docks. Sure, these were girls who were taking down muggers, and maybe the occasional independent crack dealer in Aventurine Cove. And I suppose even those gigs had all the potential in the world to go south. According to Jennifer, a few of them did.

It was the first time I had to lead an entire team. I wasn’t used to leading anything. I was on teams before, but the only reason gymnasts are on teams is because they represent a school, or a town, or a country. The only time it’s actually a team sport is if you have some sort of two-woman synchronized routine or something. And I’m pretty sure that sort of thing is reserved for swimming, or cheerleading. It’s basically just you throwing shapes on the balance beam, the uneven bars, or even just on the floor.

We got there before the deal took place, and I pointed out the places I used to hide when this was just a solo act. Before Adelson started making this more complicated, and had people meet with other people, who’d then meet with more people, and so on. We hid, and we cast our glamours to blend in with the scenery.

The dealer and his clients showed up a few minutes later. We watched as the dealer (a Russian guy) talked business with a group of men. I counted about five. We had the numbers advantage for sure… But I was having doubts ten girls on their first mission could beat six guys who’d probably done this a bunch of times before, and knew how to deal with trespassers.

The plan was going smoothly… Right up until Jennifer’s phone went off. It was set on vibrate, but even vibrating cell phones make noise. And the sound of the vibrating was enough to shatter her glamour. Worse than that, the damn eejit thought she could sneak up on the guy, and… Well, who knows? Guess we never will now.

Somehow, she avoided becoming a casualty. Hell, the worst she got was a black eye! We all dispelled our glamours, and went into action. I don’t like to throw shapes outside of gymnastics, but at the same time, this wasn’t my first fight. I knew how to dodge, I knew how to disarm, and I knew how to work in an occasional vault, or side flip in between. The other girls, meanwhile, stuck to weaving and dodging the old fashioned way, and for the most part, it worked.

At the end of the melee, all six of the men involved were disarmed, and secured for police pickup. Unfortunately, three of the Gaels were injured. I was no doctor, but I was pretty sure one of them was going to need a miracle, or a day and a half with the Earth to recover from those bullet wounds. All and all, it wasn’t quite how I wanted to end the first mission of the night, but I suppose someone more military minded than I would say the important thing is that the mission was a success.

And then he showed up. Right in the middle of our interrogation, I heard something. A couple of the girls panicked… And I can’t blame them too much. Again, it’s their first mission. Also, my plans for the mission hadn’t counted on him showing up.

I looked over, and saw one of the six men we’ve apprehended was now dead. A ninja star was lodged into his throat, and blood was fountaining out of him as he lay there on the ground.

Just as I was calming the girls down, I saw another ninja star come out of the shadows! I dodged… Only to realize the star wasn’t intended for me in the first place. The dealer I was interrogating got hit right between the eyes, and fell to the ground screaming in agony.

“Show yourself!” I shouted.

“Get out while you can!” a voice shouted back. It was clear he was using some sort of voice changer to hide his identity, but it was a little unsettling how deep he’d set it. It sounded like feckin’ Satan had just told me to get out.

To my annoyance, a few of the girls decided to take his advice, and bail. Before I could convince them to get back here, another ninja star came out of the shadows, and killed another of the dealers. Then another. And another. By the time I could get some semblance of order, only one guy was left standing. Before he could throw one more star, I got in front of the last target.

“This one lives!” I shouted.

“Why?” the demon voice demanded.

I thought it over for a second, and replied, “This is clearly an Adelson operation. If we can’t figure out where Adelson is hiding, he can at least forward a message for me.”

There was silence for a moment. Most likely, he was contemplating a possibility that hadn’t occurred to him. Then, he responded.

“You won’t get anything out of these guys,” he said. “But if you really want to advertise yourself to Dan Adelson that badly…”

Rather than finish his sentence, I guess he decided to take his exit.

The police eventually came, and apprehended the surviving dealer. I made it a point to glamour myself and go into hiding, letting Jennifer and The Gael Army take all the credit for it. And to be honest, they deserved it. Cell phone mishap notwithstanding, they handled themselves a lot better than I was expecting, and were able to improv just fine when our cover was blown. Considering ole Starman was another little variable we hadn’t counted on, they could’ve done a lot worse.

The man was apprehended, and taken to jail (I assume). The rest of the girls were also taken down to the station, but compared to the survivor, it was more for testimony than for any counts of vigilante justice.

I was able to sneak my way past the officers as they put up the tape, and began their investigation. The next morning, the details would be made public to the masses. And it wasn’t till I saw the reports that I realized what just happened.

The Gael Army did get a couple mentions, but as far as the media was concerned, we were just bystanders. They made it sound like we’d shown up too late, and tried to talk him out of killing all of them. It was annoying, but only slightly. Especially when it occurred to me right then and there that I had just come face to face with none other than The Blue Hood himself.