Cirsova 7 – The Iynx

Michael Reyes hits Cirsova 7 with an urban fantasy tale told well enough to hold the interest of even a reader who doesn’t care for the genre.

While wandering the sf/f desert of the early aughts through the mid teens of this century I flirted with urban fantasy and aside from  a few light thrills delivered by the Iron Druid series found the whole genre to be flat as a pancake and half as flavorful.  With few exceptions, they featured dour women miserable about their real, ultimate power and the love triangle in which they found themselves.  Total snoozefests.  Even the generally well regarded Dresden Files left me cold.  Heck, even Glen Cook’s series, Garrett P.I. did nothing for me, and I love Glen Cook.

Which means I’m far from the target audience for “The Iynx”.  But I liked it anyway.

An eldritch mask washes ashore on Coney Island and two modern day shamans war for control over it.  One wants to throw the evil back in the drink for another thousand years, and the other wants to use it to resurrect his lost love.  Sort of.  His plan is a little more complicated than that in the same way this story is a little more complicated than just a fight for a MacGuffin.

It’s a fairly gritty story that includes a brief appearance by a demon caught in the crossfire.  It doesn’t get bogged down in lengthy and tedious descriptions, which is a definite plus.  The tension ratchets up nicely until the final explosive showdown, and then Reyes gets out of the story with just the right

We’re two for two on this issue, can we bowl a turkey with the next story?

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Incoming! StoryHack 2

The big shot independent authors tell me that in order to make enough money to quit our day jobs and write full time, we have to don a creative straight jacket.  You see, Amazon’s algorithms have churned through two decades of data and discovered that readers are one trick ponies.  They read one genre and rarely stray from their comfort zones.  In an effort to sell as many books as possible, Amazon’s Artificial Almost-Intelligence prefers to dangle a person’s preferred genre in front of them.

Challenge accepted.

Bryce Beattie, editor of StoryHack magazine defies that conventional wisdom by planting his genre flag on the hill of ACTION.  Sci-fi, fantasy, weird west, modern day, urban fantasy, steampunk, you name it – if it’s a story with action and adventure, he’s got room for it in StoryHack.  That’s my kind of diversity in writing!

You have to admire a man with a vision that cuts across the grain and makes it work.  Rather than suffering for having no audience, StoryHack is primed to capture every audience.  It might not appeal to fans of any particular genre, but it holds appeal to fans of every genre.  When it comes to doing one thing and doing it well, StoryHack decides that one thing will be pulse-raising stories that feature real stakes, real heroes, and real adventure.  Who doesn’t find pleasure in stories like that?

Not the sort of reader I want to please, I can tell you that.

And that’s why, when Issue One was noticeably light on modern day action, I stepped up and offered The Gambler’s Tale, which shows up in Issue Two.  It’s the story of a gambler, (surprise!) with a plan to take on a mob run underground casino.  High-stakes gambling.  Fistfights.  Chases.  Daring escapes.  Hot dames and cold drinks.  It’s got everything a reader could ask for – maybe not the timid readers who stick to a single genre.  But definitely for those adventurous readers who are up for a little adventure themselves.

Read more about it here, and sign up for the man’s newsletter:

Getting close

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Cirsova 7 – Galactic Gamble

 Yeah boi!  Been chomping at the bit to talk about the latest edition of my favorite sf/f magazine.  We’re going to take these stories one at a time.  Dominika Lein kickes things off with her usual talent for leaving huge swaths of a story open to the reader’s imagination.  I still haven’t figured out how she does it, but somehow she puts vivid images in your head by NOT describing things.  Like the best horror movie directors, she shows you just enough to fire your imagination and lets you take over from there.  What results are full fleshed scenes with a modicum of description.

Marilyn Martin does the same thing later in the issue in “Emporium”, but that’s a post for another day…

In “Galactic Gamble” a roguish smuggler gets caught up in a power play between two high ranking socialites, and bets his whole future on his strength of arms.  This story represents the best that the #PulpRev has to offer.  Daring fights against terrible monsters and impossible odds, tight suspense at the gambling table, a touch of romance, and villains that make your skin crawl.  Some of the characters might be a little iconic, but they are iconic because they work, damnit.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Dixon Projects

In addition to being a talented and prolific graphic novel author with credits that include Savage Sword of Conan (the best of the post-Howard Conan properties), Batman, and Punisher, Chuck Dixon also has a line of prose fiction novels available on Amazon. Over the last few weeks I had the pleasure of voicing the audio book versions of two of them, with more to come.

Gomers, as you can probably guess, is a zombie apocalypse story.  It has all the usual fare of this sort of tale – lovable losers who step up first to enjoy the death of civilization, and then become heroes, grizzled vets who didn’t realize they were ready for this, American nomad families whose vagabond lifestyles prepared them to improvise a new life among a different strange population.  It also features a few fun twists, you’ll laugh about the source of the word ‘Gomers’, tons of action, vicious gangs of survivors, a touch of romance, heroic deaths, and the kind of fun logistical porn that makes this genre so much fun.  Buy the novel today, and look for the audiobook, coming soon.

This one is for fans of the vampire genre, but takes a different tack than most.  Instead of a huge cast of classy and powerful and beautiful vampires, it follows one man turned against his will as he discovers that the downsides of being a vampire lead to a life far worse than the romanticized versions seen on TV and in movies.  There are a lot of strange and fun glimpses into the every day life of a blood sucking monster, but you’ll have to read (or listen) for yourself, because Dixon’s role-reversal is as surprising as it is a useful corrective in these days of vampires as magic superheroes.

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On Heroism

Writing heroes is easy, if you have the courage to do it.  Always keep the Seven Virtues in the back of your mind, and refer to them whenever you’re not sure if you hero is acting heroic.

File:Seven Virtues by Francesco Pesellino.jpg

A recent brush with the struggles of a left-wing author left me awestruck by how otherwise intelligent people can waste so much energy pursuing vain and hopeless goals.  The gent in question had clearly invested considerable time and thought and energy on the question of how to navigate the rocky narrows of left wing thought.  As an ‘effing white male!’ he wanted to increase the representation of [insert latest approved label for non-white] characters in his work given that, as an ‘effing white male!’ he had no business writing characters that were other than an ‘effing white male!’.

That Gordian Knot can be easily cut by the application of a trace of Aristotelian Logic.  By the doublespeak definitions that rule contemporary culture, a white male cannot be other than racist.  Write nothing but white men and you are racist.  Write anything but white men and you are racist.  It’s a Kafka trap with two obvious solutions – either admitting to being a racist or reject the two definitions.

Both solutions entail a level of social cost that the gentleman in question refuses to pay.  And so he finds himself trapped in a web and struggling to find a way out while not upsetting either the strands or the onrushing spider.  While on a surface level the man deserves nothing but contempt for his cowardice, it’s worth remembering that an appeal to our better natures calls for a bit of charity.  None of us are as strong or prudent or as courageous as we would like, and while it was tempting to devote my own time to trying to pull the man out of the morass in which he had freely dived headlong, I could see the futility of the task.  No sense adding my wasted effort to his own.

The real shame of this situation is that all of that all of his energy could be better spent reflecting on the nature of courage, and practicing courage in his daily life.  Courage is like strength and intellect – it gets stronger the more you practice it.  And as a writer, the man has ample opportunity to reflect on the nature of courage.  By crafting stories that feature men who grapple with the nature and practice of courage, he just might find himself better able to implement it in his own life – and more likely to tell those who spun his Kafka Trap to go pound sand.

We are creatures of habit, we humans.  Small changes in our habits can stack up to big changes in our lives.  Just the simple act of living inside the head of a brave man, as writers of heroic fiction must, can shed some light and understanding on the nature of courage.  That act, writing courageousness in the face of danger, imprints in a small way upon the author, just as reading such tales imprints on the minds of the reader.  If anything, the act of carving such a character out of the stone of nothingness, building him up from nothing, should resonate far more deeply inside the psyche of a writer than it does the man who simply experiences courage vicariously as a passive observer.

And let’s be clear here – what we mean is not the emptiness of those who chant, “so brave”, when they laud writers who pursue approval by the mobs of braying leftists.  It takes no courage to write according to New York Publishing House specifications.  It takes no bravery to write for those for who reject virtue.  Debasing yourself to appeal to that sort is no signal of virtue, but a capitulation to the shifting mores of the day.  It’s going with the current, and drifting in the eddying circles of trendiness and fashion.  You don’t need to be brave to write works that appeal to the sensibilities of the senseless.

Writing a good, Christian woman, facing down the evil of a mob braying, “burn her!”, at a woman who stands to speak for the freedom of all men to defend themselves from said mob with a stout heart and cold steel (and a bit of gunpowder, to draw on recent events)?  That takes guts.

You won’t receive accolades from anyone east of the Hudson or west of the rockies.  You won’t get back pats from mobs of people looking for validation.  You’ll find a few scattered men who nod in approval, and a few sales among those who have not forgotten the old values.  But damn, if your spine won’t stiffen and your jaw tighten with a well deserved satisfaction that you did the right thing.

And you won’t have to live the life of a thousand deaths that comes with the crushing, paralyzing fear of, “What will the mob think of me?”

That’s the wrong question.  The better question is, “What will God think of me?”

And if you want him to think well of you, he provided a thoughtful roadmap in the form of the Four Pagan virtues, useful for those fantastic realms benighted by a lack of Aquinas and Augustine, and the Three Theological Virtues for those realms blessed with a visit from Saint Paul.  And if you’re up for a non-Western take on the matter, take a glance at the Seven Virtues of Bushido, and note well how they map to the traditional western virtues:

Almost like there’s a fundamental Truth to virtue to be discovered, rather than a vaporous meaning to be invented and reinvented to taste.

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A Soft Pass

Galaxy’s Edge was fun and different while it lasted, but it’s just too dang dark for me. After the grind of living inside Goth Sullus’ broken head for 300 pages in Imperator, I had hoped Kill Team would mean a return to the straight-ahead action of Legionnaire or the over the top opera of Galactic Outlaws. It only half lived up to its name. The Kill Team story picks up right where Legionnaire left off, following Chuun, Twenties, and the rest of the survivors of the fight to escape Kublar. They are recruited by the Legion’s special forces to track down and neutralize the man responsible for the destruction of the Chiasm, and that makes for a fun read.

Unfortunately, the book interweaves the story of the man whom they are hunting, a secret agent who –

You should probably stop reading here if you plan on reading this series. Have a kitten picture by way of apology.

Always two there are…

It turns out the haunted former diplomat who fathered the little girl central to the plot of Galactic Outlaws was once a Deep State agent for the Republic. He arranged for the destruction of the Chiasm in order to catch a notorious arms dealer and throughout the course of the book assists in a space opera version of the Gunpowder Plot, wracked by guilt and uncertain about his mission.

Hello? You blew up a Republic destroyer, killed thousands, sparked an easily foreseeable war, allied yourself with murderous thugs and the worst breed of aliens in the Republic. This isn’t hard, Jack. You are surrounded by bad guys. You are killing good guys. If your plan to save lives involves the slaughter of countless innocents or the betrayal of your own people on behalf of the people whom you both serve…you’re a bad guy.

Which would be fine, but the book bends over backwards to paint this secret agent as merely caught up in events which he cannot control, even as he repeatedly exercises considerable control over them. It’s the same sort of ‘from a certain point of view’ writing that all too often attempts to hide a lack of intellectual vigor behind a false depth of emotion.

Had it been merely a one-off, I might stick with the series, and I might come back to it in time. But reading two such pieces back to back has left the taste of ashes in my mouth. I need some genuine heroism in my life, and I need to be reminded that good men exist to see clearly the boundaries between good and evil, right and wrong. I don’t need to be reminded that all too many people in positions of power view me and my children as pawns or tokens to be spent in a great game. I see enough of that in all of the false headlines parading by me on a daily basis.

Give me a good man with a clear path. A man confronted by a bad man standing athwart that path. Show me how to be a better man, and inspire me to follow in his footsteps, and you’ll have my attention. Show me a man struggling to do the right thing in the face of impossible odds, and you’ll have my admiration. Show me that he has no path, no hope, and no real core values…and I’ll show you the door.

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Cirsova Containment Status: Broken

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – time for a new issue of Cirsova. I’ve read a lot of anthology magazines over the last year in the hunt for new writers and new takes on fantasy and sci-fi, and don’t really talk about most of them because…well, they aren’t very good. Also, while not binge reader by any stretch, it turns out I’m not much of a short story reader either. They make a nice break from longer form reading, but my sweet spot is really right around the 300 page mark.

Which is why my abiding love for Cirsova should stand as a testament to my rave reviews for it. This isn’t the sort of thing I really like, but I like this one! And it’s out in the general public now, so I should probably set aside my Rzasa novel and give this a read. It’s sure to be a real corker.

Buy it here.

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Look, Up On the Shelf! It’s a Frog!

The Ribbit Awards will soon have long been an established predictor of the literary award seasons, and so it is with great pleasure that I accept the inaugural award for Best Short Work for “Sudden Rescue”.

Years from now when my wide-eyed great-grand children look up and ask grand-pops what I did to help science-fiction overcome its dark age of ruin, I’ll be able to point to my shelf and say, “Did I ever tell you about that frog right there?”  Then they will roll their eyes, tell me that I’ve already told them about it like, a billion times already and can they just log back into the datacore already?  Their friends are streamdancing the latest fractalscores.  I’ll chuckle, sit back in my grav-chair and sip my synthjuice, and let them do that thing they just said.  It’ll be great.

For now, I’ll just play this award show on an infinite loop:

In all seriousness, the Ribbit Awards are fan awards, voted on by the nominees (who I’m assuming are fans) themselves.  We didn’t take things overly seriously at the Award Show, but that’s because we don’t take this part of the game too seriously.  On the other hand, the voters represent a broad cross section of fans, and with few exceptions, they are the kind of people whose opinions on literature I respect.  So to have them vote for my work over that of a Mark Wandrey or a Dominika Lein, the other two nominees who I’ve read and who both have a phenomenal amount of writing talent, means a lot to me.  I’ve no doubt the other two nominees, Jody Lynne Nye and Bethany Jennings,  are also well worth reading – just making the list for the Ribbit Awards is worth bragging about.  In fact, knowing that my work can stand shoulder to shoulder with theirs, meant the world to me.

If you want to see what the fuss is all about, watch the video featuring the always charming John C. Wright, the always energetic and fun Jon Del Arroz, and even a special guest appearance by Sam!  And of course, if you want to read a prestigious award winning book this spring, here’s your chance: 

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New Look

I’d gotten a few reports that my website wasn’t working with some of the newer, most esoteric web browsers, so this weekend I rebuilt this place using an older template.  If you can’t see this, let me know.

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Adventure Constant, the Price Reduction

I’m experimenting with a soft release for Adventure Rising, the further adventures of Jack Dashing.  Rather than push for a big opening day release, I’m playing the algorithm game and counting on Amazon to do some of the selling for me.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Meanwhile, if you’re thinking about picking up a copy and haven’t read Adventure Constant, the first in the series, your life just got a little easier.  I’ve lowered the price of Adventure Constant to just ninety-nine cents.  Pick up a copy, and then strap it, because Jack Dashing’s race across a world a lot like ours, but way more adventurous, are a roller coaster.  And in the sequel we learn a lot more about Jack, his good friend Dr. Abduraxus, and the rest of the adventure multi-verse, all while finding a little time to romance a girl (see below), launch a revolution, and make a few more friends along the way.

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