A little pick-me-up for you

I don’t often read Reddit.  Of my many failings it’s the easiest one to keep hidden from the world.  All I have to do when people mention Reddit is say, “Yeah, I totally saw that Reddit thread” and everything’s cool.  It’s not that I don’t like Reddit, I just don’t get over there very often.  For whatever reason the place doesn’t enter into my browsing field of vision.

Nothing but love for y'all

Nothing but love for y’all

“Hey, Eric.  What do you wanna browse?”

“I don’t know other Eric, what’s good?”

“How about this stuff on your bookmarks bar?”

“Word, other Eric.  Word.”

Maybe I should just dump some of the links on my bookmarks bar and put a shiny Reddit button on there.  In fact, I’ll mark that on my to do list right now.  I guarantee, though, I’ll get distracted and forget all about it again, lured in by the siren song of Fark and Facebook.  Or Arkham City.

Anyway, I don’t browse Reddit much but they have a cool feature called “Ask Me Anything” where a celebrity will hop online and answer questions – in real time – from Reddit users.  Recently they featured Todd McFarlane creator of (among other things) Spawn.  If you’re not familiar with Spawn, he’s this cheery fellow.

Happy to meet you!

Happy to meet you!

I started reading the Spawn comics back in the 90s sometime and watched the animated show and the (mediocre but underrated) live-action movie.  Spawn was great, a perfect anti-hero that you could sympathize with.  It had bad guys, worse guys, magic, Hell, action, everything you needed.

But back to Todd McFarlane and Reddit AMA.  In his AMA he mentioned something I found very interesting.  Adam Oster (I mention Adam because he does superhero books), if you’re reading this, it might be of interest to you, too.

“But here’s what I’d like to leave you with: right now, Marvel comics is owned by Disney. And DC Comic Books is owned by Warner Brothers.

What that means is neither one of those companies is going to let any of their characters outside of their company. So here’s what’s happening: Universal, Paramount, Sony, and FOX and a lot of other smaller studios are looking for content.

And they can’t have a Marvel or DC character – which means they are now knocking on our door.

So if any of you have ever thought about putting an idea down on paper – today is the perfect day. Because there is a great hunger for stuff that isn’t Marvel and DC right now.

We have 17 books that are currently optioned in Hollywood. It can be done.

What I tell people is: If you do a book, and if it’s the 150th best-selling book – BUT the 149 books ahead of you are Marvel & DC – You have the number one book for all the other studios. So you don’t have to be a big-selling book to have people interested in you right now. The studios have to scratch out Marvel & DC and then go “What’s left?” and in the top 100 books – that might be #1 to the people at the studios. So I’m telling ya – it is a GOOD time to be an independent creator right now.” – Todd McFarlane

There’s a huge spate of superhero movies floating around and they’re generally a license to print money.  Done correctly, a superhero story can be a great thing.  Done poorly they’re abhorrent.  The bottom line, though, is all of those heroes are currently owned by some group or another so a studio that wants to make a movie may be stuck because the characters they want to use are already owned by someone else.

If you’re a studio looking for something that would make an awesome move, may I recommend Henchmen or Arise?  Two great books about supervillainy where the good guys are the bad guys and the bad guys are even worse.  If you’re looking for superheroes, Buddy Hero may be your guy.  Wanna try something completely different?  Check out the inimitable Del.

May cause unexpected awesomeness in readers

May cause unexpected awesomeness in readers

Has been known to grant readers nearly godlike powers (6)

Has been known to grant readers nearly godlike powers (6)

Thank you, Todd McFarlane, not only for the awesome Spawn, but for some much-needed encouragement.  Now I just need to figure out how to get the right people to notice this…

(6): There’s very little correlation between godlike powers and this book.

Muchas gracias!

A sincere thank you to Sylva Fae for her wonderful review of Henchmen.  Read her review here and enjoy the rest of her blog which is filled with magic and wonder.  Also a shout-out to the talented Tom Benson for his kick-ass review!

I think I might have just won some kind of award for maximum link density here…  Go check out their blogs and writing, Sylva and Tom are extremely talented people and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to meet them – even if it was only online.

Thank you both.

Sorry, Dr. Spengler

In 1984 an emboldened Dr. Egon Spengler proudly declared print was dead.  The movie, of course, was Ghostbusters and I was thirteen.  I loved every second of that movie and went on to watch it a couple more times in the theater.  Times being what they were, I didn’t see it again until it aired on TV many years later.

Still loved it.

Who da man?  You da man!

Who da man? You da man!

For the most part, Spengler was the man.  Stantz and Venkmen got all the credit, but it Spengler who did the real work.  He and Zeddmore were the unsung heroes of the movie.  Remember that, and then forget you ever heard it.

Still, it was a bit premature for Spengler to declare print dead.  After all, computers at the time were clunky, cantankerous beasts.  I know, I started programming them right around the time Ghostbusters came out.  It was all one cryptic command after another and I soaked them up, which may explain why I’m kind of hard to communicate with.  Even now, with the rise of ebooks and readers, it’s difficult to declare print well and truly dead.  As I pointed out in a previous blog entry, the print on demand services have finally realized Gutenberg’s goal of easy and cheap printing.  Throw some data in one end and pop! out comes a book from the other.

Books have some advantages that tablets and eReaders lack, too.  Sure, sure; you can put like, a gagillion books on an eReader and they’re easy to read, easy to find, and easy to buy.  But take this scenario into account:

There you are, lying in bed, reading the latest Bigfoot Erotica or staring at pictures of bunnies with pancakes on their heads and you notice something small and black crawling on your bed mate.  Whatever it is, it has far too many legs and its beady little eyes are shining in the soft light.  This being the Southwest, you immediately recognize the hateful gaze of the wily(1) – and deadly(2) – Black Widow Spider, the scourge of the Southwestern United States(3).

black-widow-jg-jones

Whoops.  Wrong one.  This is the beast:

Stealing your soul through this very picture.

Stealing your soul through this very picture.

Keep your wits about you, lest the foul beast suck the very soul from your bed mate!(4)  Look around and find what you have at hand: a pillow, your trusty Nexus 7 tablet, and your fists.

The pillow won’t cut it; it’s far too fluffy to take out the beast with many legs.  Your fists won’t work because the demon will sink its fangs into your hand and the last thing you’ll notice before you die is a sudden craving for human brains!(5).  This leaves your Nexus 7 tablet.  There are two problems with smacking a black widow with your tablet: You may kill the beast, but you’ll hurt your bed mate because tablets have sharp edges.  The other problem is you’ll likely break your tablet that’s loaded with Bigfoot Erotica and then where will you be?  SOL, that’s where.

Don’t fret, though!  I’ve totally got your back here.  With a little help from my buds at Amazon, I’ve cut a deal whereby you can buy physical copies of Henchmen or Arise and get their digital versions absolutely free!  That’s right!  FREE!  These are friend prices, you understand.

SO AMAZING!

SO AMAZING!

So, next time you find one of the blasphemous little devils crawling on your bed mate, reach for a copy of either book and send that eight-legged demon back to Hell.  Each book is printed with special ink on the covers that will allow you – yes, you! – to smack the living snot out Black Widow spiders and just wipe their hated remains off with a tissue.

BAM!  No fuss, no muss.  That’s how much I care for you.(6)

How many other books do you know of that double as stories hailed as “the greatest ever told”(7) and spider killers?  None that I’m aware of.(8)

What are you waiting for?  It’s time to LIVE!

Would you like to know what else you can do with a print book that you can’t do with an eBook?  Look awesome.  Unless you’re reading Bigfoot erotica, there’s no better way to meet new friends than by reading an awesome book in public.  Especially if it’s one no one’s ever heard of, like one of mine.  So, buy several copies, go forth, and look awesome!

whosawesome

 

So, sorry Dr. Spengler.  It would appear print is very much alive and well.

notes

(1) They’re not really terribly wily.  Black Widows are actually pretty shy critters

(2) Sometimes, not often.  Most bites are dry bites.

(3) I think Taco Bell is actually the scourge of the Southwest, but that’s just my opinion

(4) Black widows don’t actually steal souls.  They have been known to borrow them, though.

(5) The link between Black Widows and Chronic Zombieitis is tenuous at best

(6) And dislike Black Widows.

(7) I said that, but you can totally trust my unbiased opinion

(8) Try it with War and Peace or The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich; you’ll break your bed mate’s bones.

Freebies

Henchmen, the story that has been described as “the greatest story ever told(1)” and “better than Cats(2)” will be free 1/5/2015 through 1/6/2015.  Supplies are limited, so act now!

wpid-wp-1415472877414.jpeg

(1): No one has ever actually said this except the author and he’s prone to exaggeration.

(2): Most things are better than Cats.  The musical, not the animals.  I like the animals.

Allow me to tell you a story

Sit right back and allow your crazy uncle Eric to tell you tale.  It’s a tale woven of gods and monsters, Nazis and beasts, good guys who aren’t so good and bad guys who are really really bad.

You see, last year a group of people decided it would be a good idea to kill everyone in the United States Congress.  Naturally, this is a difficult proposition.  Their reasons for wanting to do this were varied but usually came down to, “I’m not happy with things the way are.”  In this way, the story parallels the real world.  The difference is, in the story, the characters actually manage to do it.  They cheat of course, but they manage to do it.

The story is Henchmen, that action-packed tale about revenge gone overboard.  But Henchmen was only part of the story.  Thing is, if there’s one god floating around, there’s bound to be others, too.  And maybe those other gods are less than thrilled that the first god was released.  Gods, after all, are not big on competition.

So that’s where Arise begins, with Eve promising to kill Steven for his part in releasing the God of Dreams.  Naturally, she doesn’t kill him and they pull everyone back together to stop the thing they released from taking over the world.

I won’t promise you “Citizen Kane,” but I will promise you action, adventure, a smidgen of romance, and some damned funny jokes.

After the Dreamer tore through the United States Congress the world didn’t stop spinning. The sun still shone, gravity still worked, and the country kept on going.

Releasing the God of Dreams, though, caused ripples in places that should never ripple and soon Steven, Eve, and the rest of the gang find themselves stuck between a terrifying god that wants them dead and a God of Dreams bent on expanding his domain. They’ll need all the help they can get to make it through, even if comes in the form of a man that Steven has personally shot twice, but who refuses to stay dead. Throw in the girl he can’t strop dreaming about, a mysterious site in Dulce, NM, and a group indestructible minions and Steven soon finds he’s got his hands far more full than he ever wanted.

Blood will spill. A god will fall. And a hero will arise.

Buy it now.  Only $2.99 on Amazon

Arise Cover.  © 2014, Eric Lahti

Arise Cover. © 2014, Eric Lahti

Yikes

The sequel to Henchmen will be called Arise rather than Henchmen: Arise.  The compound title just didn’t work for me.  That story is done, edited, changed, edited, modified, edited, and pretty much ready to go.  I’ve got one guy still doing a beta read and I’d like his input before I publish, so I’m holding off for the time being.  I’m pleased with the way it turned out, but knowing me I’ll make another pass or two through it before I publish.

After I was mostly done with Arise I looked back through Henchmen, looking for some bit of trivia I had forgotten and was thoroughly disgusted at what  I found.  There are some good moments in that novel, but damn, the intro sucks ass.  So, since Arise is coming out I decided to do some clean up on Henchmen.

I’ve been doing clean up for nearly a month now.  It’s got a whole new first chapter, huge parts of the second and third chapters have been stripped out or rewritten (or both).  I hadn’t really doubted it, but some of the criticisms I got were spot on: takes to long to get started and is very ambiguous about the formation of the group.  It starts with more of a bang now, there’s more interaction between the characters, less exposition, and generally more reasons why things are happening.

I’m tentatively targeting late November for re release of Henchmen and release of Arise.

Praise is nice, but it’s criticism that really helps

I submitted Henchmen to Creativity Hacker’s Immerse or Die Challenge, a challenge whereby Jefferson Smith reads a book while he’s on the treadmill.  It didn’t go so well for me, but at least he didn’t shred me.

Oh, ah.

It’s unfortunate, but true, that it’s the constructive criticism that helps the most.  Hearing you’re awesome is great and all, but I’d really like to grow as a writer and for that to happen, I need to know what needs work.  I’ve gotten good reviews and some mediocre reviews, and a whole whack of friends who never bothered to say one way or the other what they thought.

So, thank you Jefferson Smith.  I really appreciate the feedback.

After I’m done editing the sequel, I think it’s time to take another look at Henchmen and do some serious reworking now that I’ve got a bit more experience under my belt.

Cover and Plot for Henchmen 2

First off, the actual title is Henchmen: Arise.  It refers to the changes in the power structure in the Henchmen world.  You’ll just have to read the story to get the details.

My old graphic design teacher used to tell us if we had to explain a graphic we had failed in the design, so I’ll forgo any explanation other than the technical description and some of the inspiration for it.  Everyone can decide for themselves if the cover “works,” so to speak.

Early this year, I stumbled across a series of comics called “God is Dead.”  The premise was interesting; the gods came back to Earth.  All of them.  And when they came back they started tearing the place up and, of course, immediately fighting among themselves.  The whole series is kind of an indictment on how we envision our gods and what we expect from them.  It’s seriously a good series and Hickman, as usual, writes some good stuff.  What caught my eye about it, though, was the minimalist cover art.  Most comics have extremely dynamic covers, filled with action and promises of an exceptionally engaging story.  “God is Dead” had some of those as well – remember the days of comics having a single, titular covers are gone – but the minimalist imagery is what caught my eye.

God is Dead #1.  You can find the entire series here: http://www.comicvine.com/god-is-dead/4050-67042/

God is Dead #1. You can find the entire series here: http://www.comicvine.com/god-is-dead/4050-67042/

Now, I’ve never been a spectacular designer, but I always liked bold, clean images; they’re easier for the eye to come to grips with.  You can look at a good, clean design and be able to easily process it.  Sure, there may be subtle nuances that you only get after examining it for a while, but the baseline meaning should be immediately obvious.

Book cover design should work essentially the same way as any other type of graphic design.  Grab the eye and convey a message.  There may be more text on a book cover, but the image should stand out in some kind of meaningful way.  Remember, the first thing a reader is going to see is the cover.  If the cover is crap, you’ll never get the reader to read the blurb, which is the second layer of book promotion.

The first few iteration of the cover for Henchmen were crap.  In fact, the one I first published with was crap.  The second edit I published with was crap.  I like the third one, though.  I don’t think it’s crap.  You can check the history of the covers on my website, if you’re curious.  The final one is up there, too.  The real early designs, like first gen black and white stuff obviously looked pretty lame, but I’m still thinking of getting a Henchlife tattoo.  Just a bit of cleaning up and I think it would look pretty cool.

The minimalist design that I liked so much with “God is Dead” was first explored in the Henchmen Awaken short; a story that two or three people have read and enjoyed.  It’s stark, but it works.  I took that philosophy and expanded the color palate for the Arise cover and wound up with a couple of covers that looked like they belonged together.  Unfortunately, that left a turd in the punch bowl in the form the original story, so its cover had to be altered.  So, here’s your interesting but useless bit of trivia for the day, Henchmen was the first book, but the current cover was actually designed after all the others.

So it goes and so it goes.

The “God is Dead” series used a logo and text to establish a theme and then switched the icon and colors to reflect each new issue.  I never could figure out what kind of an icon to use for a dream, short of a dream catcher (which is kind of overplayed in my opinion), so I opted to continue using my Dreamer silhouette and switch out the background art.  It’s kind of the same thing if you don’t think about it.

All the covers were done in a couple of remarkable open-source image tools: Inkscape and GIMP.  If you ever have need of a vector illustration program, it’s hard to go wrong with Inkscape and GIMP is a great photo editing tool.  Think of them as free version of Illustrator and Photoshop respectively.

So, without further ramblings about graphic design theory, here’s the new cover.

HenchmenAriseCover

I’m still quite a fair piece away from actually publishing the book, so any input is certainly welcome.

Now, as for the plot:

It starts off six months after the events of the first book.  Congress is pretty much gone (and no one really mourned their passing), D.C. is now the nightmarish home of the God of Dreams, and the group from the first book has scattered to the winds.  In releasing the Dreamer from his cage, Eve’s little group managed to piss off the gods, who have given her a choice: kill Steven as a proof of loyalty, or kill the Dreamer.  She opts for the hard path and, with some extrahuman help (and hindrance), the team gets back together to find a way to assassinate a god who can move through dreams.

From a quiet morning in Hesperus, CO to the climactic conclusion in Dulce, NM, Arise is a non-stop thrill ride filled with minions, gods, gun fights, Nazis, and monsters.  In the end, blood will spill, a god will fall, and a hero will arise.

(obviously, I’m still working on the blurb.  I’ll let ya’ll know when it’s published)