Shore Leave and publication dates

Ari and I will be attended the Shore Leave convention in Maryland this weekend, so if any of our followers happen to be going, please drop by our table at Meet the Pros on Friday night and say hi! We’ll have copies of Heart of Stone and Blood Bathory: Like the Night available. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get copies of Blood Bathory: Absence of the Sun from Amazon in time for the convention.

We’ll be attending Meet the Pros on Friday, and we’ll be participating in a couple of panels as well. We won’t be entering the Masquerade competition this year, however. We couldn’t settle on anything we both liked enough to commit that level of time and energy to making, so we decided to give it a miss.

In other news, we have new publication dates! Our Halloween novella, “The Demon’s Door”, will be released on October 22 from Torquere Press. Also coming from TQ, the third novella in the Herc’s Mercs series will be released in early 2015. The second novella is “Herc’s Mercs: Line in the Sand”, and that’s coming out on Sept. 3, 2014. The third one, “Herc’s Mercs: Bloody but Unbowed” is coming out on January 7, 2015. We hope our readers enjoy these as much as the first one!

A hodge-podge of topics

One thing I forgot to mention when I wrote about it initially that I did like about VWars is that the vampires aren’t one size fits all. The type of vampire you are is based on DNA, so it manages to incorporate all the different types of vampires from around the world… well, except without actually going around the world. The different types are mentioned, but not all of them are seen. Props to the writer who chose to make their main character a Chinese hopping vampire, though!

In Warcraft news, I decided — now that the expansion is almost over, of course — that I wanted to try to get the legendary cloak. All the buffs Blizzard has been giving out pushed me over the edge into committing to the long-ass quest chain.

So far, it’s not difficult so much as it is a grindy pain in the ass. I’d already gotten almost to exalted with Wrathion from doing the Isle of Thunder rep grind, and I finished off getting the initial set of drop items from LFR when Blizzard had the first round of increased drop rates. Then I hit the “gather 3000 valor points” part. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, you can only earn 1000 valor points per week, and it starts from the time you pick up the quest. Well, I’d already collected quite a few vp that week because I was doing Pandaria faction dailies in my quest to hit exalted with all the main faction reps and buy all the faction mounts.

Side note: mission accomplished. The only reps I don’t have at exalted are Emperor Shaohao, Shieldwall (but I did all that on a different character, so I’m not in a rush to do it on my monk), and the Shado-pan Assault. So I have a new achievement and a new kite mount. Also a lot less gold.

ANYWAY. I could only earn about 200 more vp that week, so my quest to hit 3000 vp took a little longer. But I did it… and now I’m at the PvP part.

I hate PvP. I don’t enjoy it. I’m not good at it. I hated it when I was working on What  A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been for the violet protodrake back in Wrath (yes, I got my violet proto before the achievements went account-wide), and I hate it now. I’m sure the PvPers hate it too because they get us PvEers flailing around in their battlegrounds, but believe me, guys, we don’t want to be there anymore than you want us to be there.

The worst thing is, Blizzard has released a drop rate buff from now until the 29th, so I have got to get the PvP part done so I can hit LFR and get as many of the Secrets of the Empire as possible in the next couple of days before Real Life kicks in, then do it again next week and pray I get close to 20 secrets before the buff goes away.

I really don’t mind the gathering parts. It’s grindy, and if the things you need don’t drop, you’re out of luck because after you run the necessary raids once, none of the Secrets (or whichever you’re looking for) will drop again, so you have to wait until the weekly reset. It’s a pain, but it’s not difficult. For me, the PvP aspect is difficult, and I suspect I’ll be running through the solo Nalak scenario more than once. But mostly, the quest chain is time-consuming. This is a weeks — possibly running into months — long commitment, but by golly, I’m going to stick with it because if I can do it, it means I’ll have my first legendary ever and it’ll still be current content.

I devoted a year to What a Long Strange Trip, so two-three months isn’t that bad in comparison. Or that’s what I keep telling myself as I keep queuing for battlegrounds after losing again.

I’m also on a mission to hit 200 mounts before the Warlords of Draenor xpac is released. I’m at 181, and I’ve reached the point where there are aren’t any mounts left I can get without a lot of gold or a lot of luck except the Argent Tournament ones (the expensive ones that cost 100-150 champion seals). So of course I’ve been hightailing it to Icecrown to do those dailies. I’m scrounging up gold so I can create a ruby panther, which is the last of the four Jewelcrafting panthers I need. I’m not going to try to make the onyx one because the idea of trying to make four more of the ruby/jade/sunstone/sapphire panthers is soul-crushing. I’m also trying to slap a mount out of Baron Rivendare in Stratholme, but so far, all I’m getting is cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. And moonberry juice. Skadi isn’t being very forthcoming either. He keeps giving me swords.

But sometimes I need a break from my monk, so I rolled a couple of new characters, including a worgen druid. I got him through the Gilneas starting zone, and he ended up with the weapon that always amuses me. It looks like a spiked banjo.

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“I’m going to Orange Blossom Special you… TO DEATH!”

Warcraft Weirdness

Sometimes you see some weird stuff in World of Warcraft. Some of these weird things stem from glitches, but sometimes, it’s from the mechanics of the game itself. Case in point:

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I went to Dalaran to level fishing while working on the Coin Master achievement, and I picked up the fishing daily, which was Jewel of the Sewers. On my way down to the sewers, I found one of those underground elixirs, which turned me into a firefly — holding a mini version of my character’s staff, complete with the enchantment glow. I could even whip out my fishing pole and see my firefly self casting lines!

Too bad the transformation doesn’t last outside of Dalaran. I would have loved to see a little firefly wailing away on mobs with its tiny shiny stick.

Review: VWars – A Chronicle of the Vampire Wars

I recently finished reading VWars: A Chronicle of the Vampire Wars, which is an anthology of loosely connected short stories edited by Jonathan Maberry, who also wrote the patient zero storyline.

The basic concept of this anthology is a lot like Max Brooks’ World War Z, only with vampires and the occasional werewolf rather than zombies. It also has contributions from multiple authors, and with that being the case, you’d think the anthology as a whole would be more diverse, but it isn’t. Other than “Vulpes”, it’s pretty US-centric with both characters and locations, whereas WWZ takes you all over the world.

Basically, it’s broken down into roughly 8 stories that are told in stages, interspersing with each other. Everything is clearly labeled enough that you can jump around to read each story as a whole if you want to, but unless you’re picking up and putting down the book over a fair bit of time, I’d suggest reading everything as laid out in the book to get the full effect of how the characters and timeline are intertwined.

Despite being US-focused, the characters themselves are diverse. Patient Zero is a handsome white dude, of course, but at least half of the stories either have a POC as the lead or prominently feature POCs, so it’s pretty diverse in that respect.

On the whole… I’m still trying to decide if I liked it. I think if I hadn’t read WWZ first, I might be able to say I do like it, but VWars feels like it’s trying to be the vampire version of WWZ and doesn’t quite measure up. I think part of the problem I have with it is a lack of clear closure. There’s implied closure, but given human nature and the way things are going in the VWars world up to that point, the reader is still left with the impression that things could go either way in the human vs. vampire “war”.

I would have liked some more concrete closure with one of the specific stories as well. “The Battle of Big Charlie” is one of the most intriguing stories in the anthology, given that it delves into the world of politics and shifting public opinion, but it feels unfinished. Again, there’s implied closure, but unless I missed something crucial, there’s not a clear resolution in regards to what happened with both Big Charlie and his mom. It was such an interesting story that I wanted to know the whole story.

Maybe they’re setting up for a sequel? Who knows! It was an interesting concept, and there are things I’d like to know more about the world the authors built, but in my opinion, WWZ did “see the supernatural apocalypse from multiple POVs” trick better.

 

Ten Years and Counting

I’m not doing NaBloPoMo because July is going to be a bit hectic for me, and I’ve never make the daily posting goal. But I saw a post from someone who is participating, and today’s prompt grabbed me.

Do you think of a decade as a short or long period of time? (Is the century a 10th full or a 10th empty!)

This prompt jumped out at me because Ari and I are celebrating our 10 year anniversary of writing together next month. She jokes that we’ve lasted longer than some marriages. I’ve joked that we’ve become heterosexual life partners. But I never really been struck by the timespan until I saw that prompt.

Ten years. Dang.

In some ways, it feels like we just started writing together. We began by roleplaying together, and then we moved into writing fanfiction. I look at our stories and think, “It hasn’t been that long since we wrote that”. Then I look at the date on it, and I realize it’s been a lot longer than I thought!

In other ways, it feels like we’ve always been writing together. We’ve got this collaboration thing down cold, and our writing process is like a well-oiled machine. Well, except for the usual pitfalls, like when real life intervenes in some way. One of us is out of town, one of us gets sick, something’s going on with the family, etc. But we’re never lacking for plot bunnies or inspiration.

That’s not to say nothing ever goes wrong. Sometimes, an idea peters out, or we get distracted and lose our mojo for it by the time we get back to it, or the characters just aren’t gelling. We’ve got a trail of partial drafts and rewrites streaming in our wake. All I can say is thank God for folders in Google drive.

We don’t get to see each other in person except once a year, but we chat just about every night. Despite the constant contact, I can count on one hand with fingers left over the number of times we’ve gotten out of sorts with each other. We’ve never had a fight. There are plenty of times when one or the both of us are snarky or moody or pissy, but there’s always a reason external to our friendship, and we explain what it is. “It’s not you, it’s [family/work/general life stress]“. There’s no projection of whatever is really going on onto the other person.

Would that change if we saw each other more often? Maybe, but I doubt it. We joke that if we ever lived under the same roof, we’d sit in separate rooms and communicate through chat anyway or we’d just leave a cake outside the door and back away when we realize the other is in a bad mood. Neither of us are particularly extroverted, so we get each other’s need for space and privacy, and we communicate with honesty because we know we can. We have our own safe space.

So this particular decade has seemed both short and long, and while we won’t reach a centennial mark of writing together simply due to the limits of the human lifespan, I’d consider this  1/10th of a century full, not empty, and I’m hoping for as many more as possible.

New release day!

Blood Bathory: Absence of the Sun is now available! 312 pages / 96500 words for $7.99 for the e-book version or you can purchase a print copy from Amazon! (It doesn’t look like the print version has populated on Amazon yet, but you can check our author page to see when it goes live.)

Gaia’s theriomorphs may have gravely injured Elizabeth Bathory, but they face new challenges now that her daughter Anna has instigated a coup against her mother. An appeal for help from Antonio, Marielle’s European deputy, results in new revelations for the younger theriomorphs about the origins and nature of the enemy they’ve been fighting for so long — revelations which also change how Evan St. John sees his role in the war.

Tyr Gustavson — a theriomorph who has been feral since 1945, grieving the death of his partner Aaron — and Adam Carson — a fighter pilot who was turned into a vampire against his will — enter the picture, both of them still fighting the specters of their experiences in WWII. As the theriomorphs attempt both to block Anna’s moves against them and to find and destroy Elizabeth once and for all, Tyr and Adam are drawn together, despite Tyr’s hatred of vampires. When Tyr pushes Adam away out of fear, Adam accepts a desperate, suicidal mission to find Thrace, the original nosferatu. If their desperate plan works, the theriomorphs would have the opportunity to destroy not only Elizabeth, but the sire of all vampires. But if it fails, they might have unleashed a force which could lead to the destruction of them all — and perhaps even of Gaia herself.

And here’s a sample!

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Blood Bathory 2!

A week from today, the second novel in our Blood Bathory trilogy will be coming out from Torquere Press! The Blood Bathory series is dear to us because while the first book wasn’t the first original work we got published, it was the first  manuscript we finished (and submitted and got rejected) when we decided to try our hands at original fiction writing.

Book One came out last July, and we used it as a way to introduce the world we’d built, which involves a battle between shapeshifters who are the servants of Gaia and vampires, who are out to destroy the shapeshifters. The primary antagonist is Elizabeth Bathory, who is trying to establish a foothold in NYC and to track down Evan St. John, who risked his life to escape her.

Evan is one of the main characters of book one, a reluctant vampire who didn’t ask to be turned. He seeks help from his best friend, Will Trask, and together, they face the realization that the world is much stranger — and much more dangerous — than they thought it was.

Mild spoilers for book two ahead!

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New Short Story!

Changing the Things You Can-1Changing the Things You Can is now available at Dreamspinner Press! It’s 59 pages for $3.99, or if you’d like a new story a day from some of Dreamspinner’s fabulous authors throughout June, you can purchase the whole Mended package.

Devastated by the death of his best friend from a drug overdose, rock star Devon Bailey retreats to his hometown to grieve. When his fragile emotional state causes him to break down in a local bakery, owner Michael Behrman comes to his rescue.

Michael’s nurturing instincts prompt him to reach out to Devon, offering support and a comforting shoulder, and the two grow closer. Michael’s feelings for Devon deepen into something more–but how can he know whether Devon feels anything more for him than gratitude?

Music Shuffle Meme

YOU CAN TELL A LOT ABOUT SOMEONE BY THE TYPE OF MUSIC THEY LISTEN TO. HIT SHUFFLE ON YOUR IPOD, PHONE, ITUNES, MEDIA PLAYER ETC. AND WRITE DOWN THE FIRST 20 SONGS. THEN PASS THIS ON TO 10 PEOPLE. ONE RULE: NO SKIPPING.

I didn’t get tagged; I just grabbed it because it looked interesting, and I’m not tagging anyone. REBELLION.

McKay’s iTunes Shuffle:

1. “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, The Mamas & the Papas
2. “Stand By Your Man”, Tammy Wynette
3. “King of Bohemia”, Richard Thompson
4. “Carolina in the Morning”, Brent Spiner (yes, Data. Yes, really.)
5. “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, original Sound of Music soundtrack (movie version)
6. “Chow Mein and Bowling”, Michael Nesmith
7. “Beshighoozhi”, Wolf Spirit
8. “Waldo P. Emerson Jones”, the Archies
9. “Red and Black”, original London cast of Les Miserables
10. “Portrait”, Enya
11. “The Bells of Notre Dame”, The Hunchback of Notre Dame soundtrack
12. “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, Blue Oyster Cult
13. “Dancing Queen”, ABBA
14. “Over the Rainbow”, Glenn Miller
15. “Addicted to Love”, Tina Turner
16. “Old Joe’s Place”, A Mighty Wind soundtrack
17. “O Kurieh”, JoSH
18. “I Will Survive”, Gloria Gaynor
19. “Seven Days”, Sting
20. “Bob Robert’s Society Band”, Jimmy Buffett

Wow, could my iTunes make me look any less cool? But it’s a fair cop. I have a lot of movie/Broadway/TV soundtracks and music that predates 1980.

The Colorado Kid, by Stephen King

The_Colorado_Kid_PB_faceI lucked up and found a copy of Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid in an indy bookstore last summer, and I finally got around to reading it this month because between work, family, and writing, my time for recreational activities is pretty limited. What time I do have is divided between reading, knitting, and gaming, so my reading list is pretty backlogged. But! I do hope to make some inroads this summer, and I started things off with this slim volume.

The brief, non-spoilery version is that I liked it a lot. I’ve been a Stephen King fan for decades, although I don’t love everything he’s written. Sometimes, he can get a little too… vulgar for my tastes. Dreamcatcher is a notable example, although reading it when I was suffering from a stomach virus was probably not the best life choice I’ve ever made. But when he’s on, he is on, and I consider him to be an amazing storyteller. Maybe he’s not a “literary” writer — although I think some of his works come very close — but he’s a brilliant storyteller.

The Colorado Kid is not a horror story. It appears to be marketed as a mystery/crime story, but… it isn’t really that either. For readers who are familiar with King’s work, I’d say forget trying to categorize it in a particular genre and think of it as a story that’s close in style and tone to works like Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. This one is about people and about storytelling, and it’s got some really interesting things to say. And now I’m about to get more specific and spoilery, so I’ll put the rest behind a Read More.

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