Still Alive

I haven’t posted in a while. It’s been busy times. I’m editing and formatting Saxton 1, writing dysRUPT, moving rooms around in my house, and generally working. I’ve got a review to post here in a couple days of Kimberly Coleman’s The Blind Girl’s Sword and am working on a little tutorial for laying out a cover with Inkscape, including some text effects.

In the interim, I leave you with this:


Have a great day.

Book Review – Bears of Glass by N A Shoemaker


Ryan Jacobs and his sister Riley never get along, he’s almost in high school, and to top it all off, he can’t stop having a horrific recurring nightmare. When his family takes an unexpected vacation, his dream becomes a little TOO real for his liking. Can you handle his Nightmares in the Dark?

Bears of Glass follows the adventures of Ryan, a young going through the sort of malaise a lot of us do at his age. He’s got bullies at school to deal with, a little sister that he only intermittently gets along with, and recurring nightmares about bears.

The bears Ryan keeps dreaming of aren’t the cute bear cubs like this


Hot bear on bear action.

They’re more along the lines of real-life apex predators that look goofy until you get too close and suddenly find yourself missing limbs. Adult bears are big critters and they’re immensely powerful animals.


Give me all the salmon and no one gets hurt.

One on one, you’re likely not a match for a bear, even if you have been practicing your Vibrating Hand of Death (I have). But poor Ryan is in his early teens and having recurring nightmares about being chased by packs of the beasts.

In addition to all this, he has visions, waking nightmares so vivid he can’t be certain they’re not real. Yet, every time his parents check on things there’s nothing wrong. All the damage is curiously missing. The way the narrative is woven it almost makes you wonder if something dastardly is going on or if Ryan is just flat-out losing it. As the story continues the answer becomes more and more obvious until the finale when we learn the horrifying truth.

This is the kind of book I’d be happy to let my son read if I wasn’t worried that I’d never get him into the forest again after reading it. The characters are on the early teen side, so it will appeal to younger readers. For all the background horror elements, it’s not overly graphic. All in all, ideal for younger readers.

Get your copy on Amazon

Follow NA Shoemaker on Twitter

Check out his FB Author page

Episodic Saxton

We’ve been watching the X-Files recently. The old-school, classic X-Files that were so wonderful until the ongoing plot really started to drag things down because it didn’t really ever get resolved. Then Mulder left and it just wasn’t the X-Files anymore.

But the early stories were the shit. An underlying, long-term plot about alien invasion? Weekly monsters including voodoo and devil worshippers and that thing that stalked people over the early Internet? Hell, yeah. Sign me up.


Admit it, you just started humming the theme song.

The thing that was so brilliant about it was how some stories featured stand-along pieces and others covered an over-arching exploration of the aliens. It kept you coming back for years. The fact that the characters were interesting and the acting was good just flat-out made it a good show.

Now, I’ve never written for a TV show, so I don’t really know the process, but I have written books. It takes me close to a year to get a full novel written, edited, formatted, and out the door. That’s kind of a long time and a full-length novel isn’t exactly the best medium for handling smaller stories and one larger story.

Enter Saxton. I’ve blogged about this idea before, and I’ve been Tweeting snippets of Saxton here and there while I work on it. The idea was to make better use of Kindle Unlimited – Amazon’s all you can read plan – while making shorter tales that each told a complete story and helped evolve the overarching story. I won’t give away the overarching story line here, but I will tell you the first edition is almost ready to go.

With a bit of luck (and no small amount of marketing), this process will help keep up interest in my work without having to hurry novels along, introduce my writing to people who don’t necessarily want a full-length novel (or find the politics and religion of the Henchmen series to be a turn-off), and it lets me stretch a bit so I don’t get writer’s block while working on H3nchm3n and dysRUPT.

They won’t be short stories, either. The first entry is almost 20k words now, well into novella territory. For those who don’t have Kindle Unlimited, each entry will be 99¢. Depending on the results, I may compile the whole lot into a single bulk book at the end of the year.

Saxton: Uneasy Allies should be ready by or before April 1 (yay! my birthday). After that, expect a new Saxton story every other month. Mystery, magic, secret societies, and monsters will all converge in the end to create an epic tale of good versus evil and one man’s changing view of exactly what constitutes good and evil. I’ll get blurbs and stuff up shortly, but I would like to show off the tentative cover art.


Rules of Magic? Magic Laughs At Your Rules!


Insert your own joke here.

A couple years ago I was working on a programming project and we were having issues. Our program manager let me know and I set to work on fixing things. One day, without any intervention from me, the problems stopped happening. When I explained what was going on, the PM simply said, “FM.”


Fucking magic.

Software, especially the multi-tier stuff I work on, has its own set of rules. It’s complicated enough that sometimes completely unforeseen issues creep in and disappear as things like network load change. There’s precious little you can do about some of those things. If the data ain’t getting where it’s supposed to go, it ain’t getting where it’s supposed to.

In my writing persona, some of my stories have dabbled in the occult and touched on magic, but with the Saxton series I’ve got a full-on bruja wandering around. For the uninitiated, bruja is Spanish for witch. Brujeria is witchcraft. Like all witchcraft, it’s an involved art, learned over generations of trial and error. I’m hardly qualified to speak to its efficacy, so we’ll just say it works.


Now, Renee McMasters is a bruja, and a very powerful one. If you’ve read The Clock Man, you’ve come across her, but haven’t experienced what she’s capable of. Save for the way she took over the bogeyman (kind of gave away a plot point there) and sent him after her enemies, she’s mostly just a woman who inspires respect in people. And tries to kill Saxton with poisoned flan.

In Uneasy Allies, which will be the first Saxton story, Renee gets to stretch her legs and readers will get a taste of her abilities. I wanted to make her realistic, show what and where her powers stem from, but realistic magic doesn’t flow as well in an action story. Perhaps later stories will explore those topics, but for now I had to break with the realistic side of magic and make her abilities work in a compressed narrative. She won’t have the time to spin a traditional spell when all hell is breaking loose.

This is not to say I didn’t study up on magic a bit. It’s a pretty common tool in fiction and there are those who do it well and those who do it poorly. In my research I found a bunch of rules for using magic in fiction.

  • Magic should be limited and not used a Deus ex Machina solution.
  • Magic should have a cost associated with it.
  • Magic shouldn’t be all-powerful.
  • Magic should be difficult to learn

And on and on and on and on. The general gist of using magic in fiction comes down to one very simple rule: don’t let the story be about the magic. Magic is just some stuff that happens, a tool for causing or resolving events; it’s like a gun but for magicians. And like a gun, magic isn’t the easiest thing to wield.


If you recognize who this is, you get a gold star.

Fictional magic is quite different from it’s more realistic counterpart, but both of them come down to hacking reality. That’s the genesis of Renee’s magic in the Saxton series: she’s basically got the ability to see and impact the world around her more than the rest of us.

Her cost for using magic will eventually be explored, but for now it’s not. She doesn’t have all the power in the world, but she’s pretty tough. And she’s the only character in the story who has that kind of power.

So, did I follow the rules? Kind of. For the most part. But, let’s face it, this is fiction and I didn’t get into this business to do what everyone else is doing. Sometimes you’ve got to make up your own rules and just make sure they work with whatever story you’re peddling. The last thing you want your audience to do is wonder what just happened.


When your readers get this look, you’ve lost.

Within certain confines, playing with magic and its abilities in fiction is perfectly acceptable. As long as it works, it’s all good. Besides, it’s fucking magic. Have fun with it.

Saxton: Uneasy Allies should be dropping early next month.

Why I LOVE Bad Reviews

Bad reviews at least mean someone’s reading your book.

Kayla Howarth

The saying “Bad reviews aren’t really bad” is actually true. There are many benefits to bad reviews, and I’ll be the first to say that I LOVE them.

Do I love them when they pop up on my Amazon or Goodreads page and yell at me for being a mediocre writer with no hope of success? Not so much.
However, after I rant and rave about how the review was mean or unwarranted, I usually take a second glance and tell myself the same things I do every time someone doesn’t like my work:

  1. Everyone is entitled to their own (wrong) opinion. (LOL)
  2. Not everyone loves the same thing. 
    I belong to numerous writing groups and there’s an author who is always revered for their writing by everyone else. But me? I couldn’t read their work at all. Granted, it was written really well, but it wasn’t my genre of…

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Book Review – Joshua’s Island by Patrick Hodges

Normally I don’t go in for YA fiction, and Joshua’s Island is YA with a capital Y, meaning the characters are primarily in 8th grade. But the subject matter captured my attention and my son is heading toward that same age-range. I also caught no small amount of crap from some of the bullies in my Junior High, although my experience was nowhere near Joshua’s level. I was big enough to be a threat so there wasn’t as much beating up so much as a few guys threatening to beat me up.

The scars from those experiences run deep. Deep enough that if I ever meet those guys again it will be a serious temptation to introduce them to the inner mysteries of Kenpo. I won’t do it, I’m sure. Partly because it wouldn’t do any good to demonstrate just how much fun a dislocated shoulder or broken ribs can be, but also because there’s little chance I’ll ever come across them again.

Still, I know I can handle them if the situation should ever occur, and that’s a warm feeling.

Bullying has become an ever larger deal recently. This is due, I’m sure, to the fact that a lot of people had to deal with it when they were growing up. The bullies themselves have moved on to selling used cars or door-to-door life insurance and picking fights in dive bars. But no matter how miserable the bullies wound up, the fact that it happened at all is still a serious issue and, fortunately, schools appear to be taking it seriously. Finally.

Joshua, the titular character in Joshua’s Island is small enough that there’s no way he can handle himself against three larger kids. Truth be told, I don’t care good you are, three on one is not good odds. His bullying went far beyond anything most of us will ever have to deal with – to the point that the bullies basically ruined his life for years by spreading vicious lies and beating him up regularly.

If you recall what 8th grade is like, when the popular kids say something everyone takes it as fact. No matter how ludicrous it is. When you turn your back on those same popular kids, they can get pretty nasty and use their power to turn the rest of the school against you. When you couple this primal need for power with an administration that just flat out doesn’t care, bad things start happening with alarming frequency.

There is no one, simple answer to the bullying issue, and Patrick’s novel takes that into account. It would be easy to say Joshua just met his aggressors, one by one, in a dark alley with a lead pipe, but that’s simply not realistic. Joshua takes his licks and keeps going, year after soul-crushing year. Until he finally meets one person who takes the time to look through the lies and see the scared kiddo hiding underneath the veneer of falsehoods. Eve, ultimately, is his savior. It’s also fair to say, in many ways, that Eve has her own bullying to deal with. Although Eve’s attacks are less physical than Joshua’s, they’re no less devastating. Together, Eve and Joshua find a safe place of sorts and their relationship buds in the way that 8th grade relationships tend to bud.

Joshua’s Island is not always an easy story to read, but it’s an important one and it should be read and the lessons should be taken to heart. Unfortunately, the people that really need to be reading it – the bullies of the world – will never read it or, likely, understand it.

Fortunately, for those people, we still have dark alleys and lead pipes.


Get your copy on Amazon

Follow Patrick on Twitter

Check out Patrick’s website

Just Wanted to Share

As anyone who’s been following this blog for a while will know, I’ve redesigned the covers for Henchmen and Arise more times than I care to think about. I think I’m pretty happy with what’s out there now. Although, I did just redo the cover for Arise, but it was an image swap and a color change, so not a huge difference.

Part of the problem is, Amazon makes it sooooo easy to change covers. Design ’em, upload ’em. Wait a couple days for everything to filter around and – bam! – new covers.

With the printed works it’s a bit more effort. A full book cover takes a damned sight more effort to produce than an eBook cover, but the results can be pretty amazing. So, without further babbling and prattling on, I present to you the new cover art for Henchmen and Arise.

HenchmenComicCoverCS1Small AriseComicCoverCS1Small

Now I just need to get it uploaded to CreateSpace.