New Articles Over At The Once and Future Podcast

I have a couple new articles up over at the Once and Future Podcast, a couple of which are Star Wars related. I hope you enjoy!

Despite All My Rage: The Enigma That Is Kylo Ren

I’ve seen a lot of talk about Kylo Ren, the newest villain in the Star Wars world in the movie, introduced in The Force Awakens. Fans of Star Wars seem to long for an adversary the equal of Vader, and many seem disappointed with this new seemingly weak, kind of douchey character.

Of course, no one is more disappointed that Kylo Ren is not Vader than Kylo Ren himself.

THE FORCE AWAKENS Something Unexpected: Thank You, J.J. Abrams

When I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening day, I was about as excited as could be. The event almost overshadowed the rest of the holidays in my house, and for me, that’s saying something. I was fired up about meeting new characters, and I couldn’t wait to see the old familiar faces. But the best thing about the entire movie for me was something I hadn’t expected at all, and my reaction to it surprised even me.

What? I Can’t Hear You Over My Nerd-Rage!

Nerd-rage. Let’s face it, it happens. One minute, you’re talking with someone about something you’re both passionate about, and suddenly, BOOM, war breaks out. How could this guy think Jedi was better than Empire? And he likes Star Trek V? SERIOUSLY? Who DOES that? I’ve seen strangers go on to Facebook pages of folks they don’t even know and completely trash them because they’ve never seen a Doctor Who episode prior to 2005, and I’ve seen the best of friends not speak for a month because of an argument over Firefly. On the latest episode of the Once and Future Podcast, Anton Strout and Ryan Britt discussed this phenomenon a bit, and it seems to be fairly prevalent.

My Gen Con Schedule, 2015

6BxaHHky_400x400I’ll be at Gen Con in Indianapolis again this year!! Here is my schedule, for those who wish to find me.

GENCONCARDThursday, July 30

5:00-7:00 PM The Once and Future Podcast LIVE Megacast, hosted by Anton Strout

7:00-8:00 PM Craft: Plotting for Short Fiction

Friday, July 31

2:00-3:00 PM Life: Breaking Writer’s Block

7:00-8:00 PM Business: Promoting Yourself As A Brand

Saturday, August 1st

Volunteering in Symposium Area

Sunday, August 2nd

11:00-12:00 PM Business: Managing a Street Team

I’ll be around all weekend, and will have my phone. If you want to connect, just send me a Facebook PM!

SELFIES FROM THE END OF THE WORLD: A Kickstarter from Jeremy Zimmerman and Mad Scientist Journal

A special message for you guys from Jeremy Zimmerman!

selfies-bannerWe’re spending February running a Kickstarter for an anthology called Selfies from the End of the World: Historical Accounts of the Apocalypse. This will collect short stories about the various ways the world can end, as told by people who experienced it.

This is an extention of our magazine, Mad Scientist Journal. Every week we put out a story told from the “World of mad science”, and collect them together with some extra content into quarterly publications. Last year we wanted to do something similar but bigger, and crowdfunded an anthology about Lovecraft’s Miskatonic Valley. And it went great! We had some great stories submitted and we’ve received a lot of great reviews for it.

Why the apocalypse? The phrase “selfies from the end of the world” popped into my head a while back, but I didn’t know what to do with it. After we came up with the idea for our Miskatonic anthology, That Ain’t Right, I realized this could be a great title for a similar volume about the apocalypse.

Our target funding goal is for the bare minimum to put out the book at the same quality as That Ain’t Right. One big difference from last year, though, is that we haven’t accepted any stories in advance. We want to be able to pick more stories from the submissions we get.

Since the title of the book is about pictures, though, the stretch goal we have for it is what we’re calling Postcards from the End: additional art that will be put into the book. For the higher end backers, they will also receive postcards with this art as well. We work hard to include up and coming writers, and we want to be able to help support illustrators as well.

Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. His young adult superhero book, Kensei, is available as part of Cobalt City Rookies. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

GUEST POST: Amalgams, Juxtapositions, and Fusions – Or, Where Do Stories Come From?

roninPlease welcome guest author Travis Heermann to the blog today! 

There is nothing new under the sun.

This maxim is something into which every writer smacks his or her forehead fairly early on in their efforts. This leads to the paralyzing fear: my work isn’t original enough.

Aside from artistic inspirations like the grandeur of nature and the triumph, tragedy, and pathos of human experience, art is itself an enormous source of inspiration for writers, musicians, graphic artists, etc. To see a film that leaves us exultant or weeping, to read a book that lights a fire in us that burns for years, to hear a song that brings a lump to the throat or makes our hearts sing, these are the ways that other artists are often spurred to create, to put their own spin on a concept, to join a conversation happening at that moment, a conversation with the zeitgeist that is larger than any single work. Art strikes chords in other artists to create, often in different media than the original inspiration.

When I was twelve, I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars books, and that event turned me into a writer. I borrowed my mom’s old Smith-Corona typewriter and pounded out a couple hundred pages of pure pastiche, but for me it was an homage. I lost myself in creating the kind of fun and adventure I had experienced on Barsoom. I didn’t care that it wasn’t original in the slightest. I was a kid having fun.

After that, it was Robert E. Howard, then J.R.R. Tolkien, then Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. From Burroughs and Howard I learned action and adventure, from Tolkien, epic scope and meticulous worldbuilding, from King, techniques of character building and breathless terror.

As I got older and started to study the craft of writing through how-to books, publications like Writer’s Digest and the Writer’s Market, and sheaves of rejection letters, I experienced that paralyzing fear that whatever I was doing had been done before, much better, by dozens of people before me.

But I kept writing anyway. My first published novel The Ivory Star (Commonwealth, 1997) came out of those learning days and wears its influences on its sleeve (perhaps too glaringly I feel nowadays, but it was a work of pure, joyful fun).

“Good writers borrow, great writers steal.”

This quote has been attributed to Oscar Wilde, T.S. Eliot, and Aaron Sorkin. In the spirit of the sentence, who can be sure? (My money’s on Wilde.)

How many re-imaginings and retellings in modern times borrow (steal!) from Shakespeare or Grimm’s fairy tales? Fairy tales and folklore stories are nearly all retellings of older stories, morphed by the spirit of the times and places in which they are told. Mythology and folklore are constantly evolving. The Brothers Grimm simply captured a collection of stories like a snapshot in time. Those stories are still evolving, changing to fit the needs of the modern audience.

Modern writers and filmmakers borrow heavily from Shakespeare. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from the Classical Greek playwrights, from Ovid, from history, from his contemporaries.

Akira Kurosawa adapted two of Shakespeare’s plays–Macbeth into the creepy, claustrophobic black-and-white film Throne of Blood, and King Lear into the stunning, full-color epic Ran. In both cases, Kurosawa took an archetypal story and juxtaposed it onto medieval Japanese history, putting his own unmistakable stamp on them.

It was this juxtaposition that became one of my inspirations for the Ronin Trilogy. The story of the Ronin Trilogy is amalgam of history, folklore, samurai cinema (good and bad), my experiences living in Japan, and countless other sparks of epiphany, the memory of which are lost to me.

Film influences include:

Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa
Ran by Akira Kurosawa
Throne of Blood by Akira Kurosawa
Excalibur by John Boorman
The Lone Wolf and Cub series

Literary influences are:

Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa

Readers of the Ronin Trilogy will soon recognize the Arthurian influences, and that was my central inspiration for the story: What if I juxtapose Arthurian legends on a samurai backdrop?

And this brings me to my final point.
The writer brings his or her original take to an old story, and their take is fueled and shaped by their own experiences and perspectives. Is this a foolproof elixir for a story’s originality? No. There are untold thousands of hopelessly unoriginal stories out there. Writers still need to strive for a fresh angle on a familiar story. This fresh angle often comes from new fusions, unexpected mash-ups, original juxtapositions.

Your particular set of passions and experiences is where the interesting new fusions come from. When I launched into the story that would become the Ronin Trilogy, I was infused with a wild excitement about Akira Kurosawa, Miyamoto Musashi, and Arthurian legend. The result is something that resonates in new and interesting ways beyond the inspirations.

So it’s true that there is nothing new under the sun. The angles to approach a familiar story, however, are infinite, just as no two writers are alike.

The story of the Ronin Trilogy is now approaching its epic conclusion, and I would appreciate your assistance in bringing it to glorious life. I am running a Kickstarter from now until February 24, 2015, to fund the publication of Book 3, Spirit of the Ronin. Please visit the campaign on Kickstarter here and consider supporting it.

Author Bio: Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, roustabout, Travis Heermann is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of the Ronin Trilogy, The Wild Boys, and Rogues of the Black Fury, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Fiction River’s How to Save the World, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and the MMORPG, EVE Online.

He enjoys cycling, martial arts, torturing young minds with otherworldly ideas, and zombies. He has three long-cherished dreams: a produced screenplay, a NYT best-seller, and a seat in the World Series of Poker.

REVIEW: Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig


You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault. You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

Revised edition: Previously published as two volumes, Shotgun Gravy and Bait Dog, this combined edition includes editorial revisions.

Amazon link:

MEL’S REVIEW: Author Chuck Wendig has never exactly been known for holding back. If you have ever read his blog or his books (including The Blue Blazes, the Miriam Black series, and his young adult Heartland Trilogy), you’ve seen his NSFW MO. If you expected anything else from his newest book, Atlanta Burns, you will be either overjoyed or sorely disappointed. This is Chuck Wendig at his truest and finest form.

Atlanta Burns hold no punches. Atlanta, the main character, is a teenage girl who has been through a lot. But unlike many of the angst-ridden teens we read about in YA fiction, she doesn’t take this crap lying down. No way. Atlanta takes matters into her own hands and exacts her own brand of justice. She’s like a teenage superhero with the balls to face danger without a mask or cape. She’s a teenager with a shotgun, and she’s done letting people pray on the weak.

Wendig has accomplished something pretty cool with this novel. Not only does he deal with topics like suicide, homosexuality, bullying, dog fighting/animal rights, absentee parenting, sexual abuse, and drugs—he deals with them all in one book in a realistic way that doesn’t feel heavy-handed. We don’t get that syndrome I see so often in teen books, where so many things happen to one person that it’s unbelievable. Most importantly, however, he captures the helpless, powerless feeling of being a teen so well, and in a way adults can understand, which is possibly the most interesting thing. Atlanta’s problems are not petty, and they are far-reaching. I never felt the eye-rolling exasperation I get when I read some YA “issues” books, I never felt like the main character had to get over herself, because she wasn’t in it for herself. She puts her life on the line for her friends, and while yes, life would have been easier had she just lain low and let things happen…well, this is Atlanta Burns we’re talking about here.

Every time I asked myself “how can this get any worse?” it did. Things got to the point where I had to say, “This can’t possibly end well,” yet the book did end in a satisfying way. No one is unscathed, but life does go on.

Is this a good book for teens? Would it be appropriate for your teen? Well, as with anything, you know your kids best. I thought this was a great book, and Atlanta is a kickass heroine that adults and mature teens can love. Very sensitive teens might want to wait a while on it though, as there are some animal cruelty issues as well as some drug usage.

Kudos to Chuck Wendig for another no-holds-barred winner!