Book Review – Twe12ve by Ceri Bladen

I really like the idea that gods wander among us doing godly things and generally causing problems. That was the central tenet of Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, it was an integral part of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Anansi Boys, and I used a similar idea in Henchmen and Arise.

The one thing, though, that all of those books had in common was the gods were really just doing god stuff and were mostly unconcerned with human things. Today’s book, Twe12ve by Ceri Bladen, changes that dynamic somewhat. The story of Twe12ve revolves around two groups of Norse gods. Naturally, the groups are at odds with each other over a secret buried in Odin’s vault; one group wants to keep the secret safe (they’re the good guys) and the other wants to steal it and hand it off to pharma company, presumably so the pharma company can make sure it never gets out.

And that’s kind of an interesting twist on the god genre. While it’s never actually revealed what the pharma company has promised the bad guys in return for the secret, one can only assume it must be impressive to catch the attention of a bunch of Norse gods. The pharma company is a background element which, interestingly enough, renders it almost a godlike feel in and of itself. That right there would be worthy of some exploration; what does it take for a company to gain enough power to attract the interest of gods? Perhaps Ceri will explore that in a sequel. Twe12ve ends in a neatly tied bundle, so there’s no real reason for a sequel, but there’s still plenty of space to go exploring. I would imagine once a pharma company gains that kind of power, they’re not going to go quietly into the night.

If I had one problem with Twe12ve it’s that some of the mythology is a little off. I won’t worry about the names (Floki instead of Loki), because names can change and it’s entirely possible Loki just wanted to use a different name. He’s a god; he can do stuff like that without even bothering to fill out a change of name form.

The gods make plenty of references to wanting to go home. Unfortunately, they want to go back to Ragnarok. Ragnarok is an event, though, not a place; it’s the end times when the great battle will happen. Asgard is where the gods lived. The cool people got to hang in Valhalla – a large hall inside of Asgard.

Aside from that, Twe12ve was a fun read.

twe12ve

Get your copy of Twe12ve here

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Henchmen rev B.

Henchmen was released almost exactly a year ago.  I won’t say it was released to much in the way of fanfare, but it was released and some people liked it, so I decided to write a sequel.  The sequel, Arise, will be along shortly, probably by the end of this month.  I’m waiting for some input from a final beta reader who’s input I really trust.  Anyway, I like the way Arise turned out.  It’s a good story and you should get a copy when I release it.  Trust me, it will make life worth living.  Since Arise is pretty damned good, I decided Henchmen needed some work.  A little fine tuning, know what I mean?

A month and some change later I dropped a chapter, added a chapter, and rewrote a huge portion of Henchmen so it actually makes sense.  In the final count I dropped a thousand words or so and added a few thousand more, redesigned the cover (again), fixed a short ton of errors, and expanded the story.

It’s available on Amazon for $1.99.  That’s right, less than two bucks for a pretty damned good story.  Amazon hasn’t updated the cover on the page yet, but the new is below.  Go now.  Read and enjoy and ponder.  I promise you cool characters, a good story, and a bunch of stuff will get blowed up REAL good.

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“Rewritten and expanded for November 2014! Now with more action-packed adventure! Gods, guns, secret bases, bad guys, and a small group of people with one simple task: Kill Congress.
Steven’s boss is a seven-foot-tall blonde with supernatural powers and a penchant for parking-lot hookups. His coworkers include two hackers in love, a biker who loves guns, and a former nude model with an unexpected propensity for violence. They’ve all been hurt before, and now they’re poised to strike back. They’re done pulling small jobs. Now they’re aiming for the top – because why bother robbing jewelry stores when you can topple governments?
Yakuza gang fights. Incursions into high-security, top-secret government buildings. Picking fake fights with losers in bars. A psycho ex-coworker who has some strange friends. And a well-dressed older gentleman who haunts dreams. It’s all in a day’s work for Steven…one of the world’s most dedicated and dangerous…
HENCHMEN”

Also, don’t forget I’ve got an author page with a bunch of funny stuff.  Drop by and say howdy some time.

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)