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Thanks for the money, you filthy thief!

Universal Thank You ScreenWhen popping in disc one of Back to the Future on Blu-ray, the giddy waves of excitement coursing through me were so intense that I almost missed something different. Universal was thanking me for buying their product instead of lecturing me on the evils of piracy. We’ve all been subjected to horrible ads that show SWAT teams hunting down bootleggers or commercials that equate downloading a Jonas Brothers concert to stealing a car. In Germany there was a terrible ad in cinemas of a nerd refusing to go to bed with his super sexy girlfriend because he was too busy burning DVDs.

The irony is that these condescending messages are only seen by those who spend money on a film, no matter if it’s buying or renting. Anyone who has watched a pirated film knows these stern lectures aren’t included. Fifty megs of that Avatar download isn’t dedicated to a public service announcement. No, only those who legally access films are harassed by studios for being potential thieves.

The simple “Thank You!” that’s showing up on Universal releases is accompanied by a cheerful voiceover over saying that buying stuff helps support local film and television industries. I can dig that. The standard text screen of copyright notice is still there, but those actually serve a purpose and are subdued enough to be tolerable. So big props to Universal for losing the attitude and making with the gratitude. You make me feel awesome for spending money.

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Free Spooky Short Story!

The short version: I wrote a horror story to go along with my fantasy novel, The Cat in the Cradle. How’s that for genre bending? You can download it from Smashwords in every conceivable format besides paper, but feel free to print it out if you like.

The long version: I enjoy dropping hints in my books about other places, other adventures. Ideas occur to me that have no place in the current narrative, and it gives me some release to at least leave a nod to them. The Cat in the Cradle makes mention of a handful of such tangents, Nikolai’s origin chief among them. What sort of experience would compel a person to shed the last vestiges of their humanity? Not a very pleasant one, I have to admit, but the most interesting stories are unpleasant. Besides, it’s almost Halloween, the perfect time to celebrate the grim and gruesome.

I asked Andreas for a rough sketch I could use for this story, but of course he went above and beyond and created a cover worthy of a full blown novel. He’s crazy, but that’s why I love him. If you want to see more of his art, stop by his website or his blog.

Flesh and Blood is part of the Loka Legends series, and fits best between The Cat in the Cradle and From Darkness to Darkness as an intermission between books. It’s bundled together with Finding Fire, plus a collection of sketches and concept art related to the series. All of these can be downloaded from the following retailers: Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, iTunes/iBooks, and all other formats.

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Young Adults VS. Old Farts

Published on October 4, 2010 by in Books, Fantasy

I entered The Cat in the Cradle in the Lambda Literary Awards this weekend and am excited to see if anything good comes of it. Fingers crossed! One hurdle during the entry process was choosing a single category to enter under. It was a toss up between Debut Author, Fantasy/Sci-fi/Horror, and Young Adult fiction. In the end I opted for Fantasy. People often ask me if The Cat in the Cradle is Young Adult, or will occasionally call it such in a review. I don’t really mind, but I never considered the YA genre when first penning the story.

In fact, I’m not really a believer in the distinction between adult fiction and that for young adults. I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s latest novel, I Shall Wear Midnight, which is billed as being for young readers. In the story, a thirteen-year-old girl is beaten so hard by her father that she miscarriages. This is by no means the main plot, but it’s pretty dire stuff for any age group, and more serious than I recall any “adult” Discworld novel being. Mention is also made of an event in a previous “young reader” Discworld book where an old woman, suspected of being a witch, has her home burnt down and her cat stoned to death. Eventually she dies from exposure to the winter. Cheerful stuff for the kiddies.

Mr. Pratchett isn’t alone. Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials series,” (The Golden Compass and two other volumes) deals with hard hitting issues such as political and religious corruption, death, and separation. There are some truly disturbing scenes in those books that shook me as an adult. Bridge to Terabithia is pretty heavy too, since the death of a friend isn’t easy for anyone to handle, regardless of age. Some aren’t at all disturbing, but are simply great stories. What isn’t there for an adult to appreciate in A Wrinkle in Time? Are you ever too old for a fantastic adventure?

I’m not complaining about any of these books. I honestly love them all. I just find the category of Young Adult to be condescending to young people. Adults tend to forget just how aware they were when they were younger and how much they could really handle. Sex isn’t something that can truly be kept from younger people these days, and good ol’ Hollywood has been spoon feeding us violence for generations. Not even book length can be taken into account for why this category exists. Just look at the tomes the last couples of Harry Potter books became.

I’ll admit that I’m a big kid at heart, so maybe the truth is that my tastes are just immature, but sales and specialized versions (such as those silly Harry Potter covers for adults) suggest that I’m not alone. More likely is that adults have forgotten just how wonderful and wise young people can be, and how many lessons can be learned by revisiting the experiences and viewpoints of our younger selves.

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Seven Years of Sharing the Comforter

Jay Bell and Andreas getting frisky in publicI’ve never been big on wedding anniversaries. Today marks seven years of being married to Andreas, but what of the 3.5 years that came before that? Claiming that it’s our seventh makes it sound as if those preceding years didn’t count. I also don’t need an excuse to be romantic with Andreas. I’m happy to celebrate the day we were married, but the day we first met means much more to me. As you can see from the video below, I’m also very Grinch-ish when reminiscing about the wedding ceremony. All of this might make me sound unromantic, when really I just love spending time alone with Andreas. I’m selfish like that.

We’re sort of an odd couple, Andreas and I. He’s constantly working, even when at home. He sketches and draws all the time. I can only write in solitude, but I often sit around drooling on myself while dreaming up new stories. Being able to do separate things while together is one of the secrets to our success. Regardless, I love when we are taken out of our routines and spend real time together. This happens on our vacations, and they are often the highlights of our relationship. Our recent trip to Paris is a good example of this.

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Kio Revealed

kio the talking catArt created in Photoshop can have many layers depending on how the artist prepares the image. Technical details aside, I was looking at the art for the 12th chapter of The Cat in the Cradle and wondering if I could take Kio out of the wagon’s shade to get a better look at him. Sure enough, Andreas had placed the shadows on a separate layer. There’s obviously still some drawn shading detail on Kio, but it looks cool, sort of like that old A-Ha video. “Take on me, take me ooooon!”

This is a happy discovery for me since this image of Kio is spot on. I suppose it would be a rare moment that the cat would be so lost in thought and not more expressive, but this is how Kio appears in my mind. Great job, Andreas!

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Happy Couples are Boring

A good day in real life is a bad chapter in fiction. A pleasant meal, a satisfactory day at work, and a relaxing evening at home all make for boring reading. Imagine though if a friend called to say they were late to work due to food poisoning, were subsequently fired, and returned home only to find that they’d been robbed. You would listen to every detail with rapt attention and probably repeat the tale to others. All those occurrences that make life miserable translate into a great story. Of course there is some good in the world that is also gratifying on the page, such as sex, but usually an author is the harbinger of conflict for his creations.

Lately I’ve been busy editing my gay romance novel and it feels like meeting up with old friends. Of the four complete manuscripts I’ve written, the characters in this story are hands down my favorite. I miss then when I’m not working on the book, bad enough that I feel like picking up the phone and giving them a call. Of course this is a problem since they don’t exist.

I could bring those characters back to me by writing a sequel, but I wouldn’t be doing them any favors. I’m not as hard on my characters as some authors, but those that have found happy endings deserve to enjoy them. A book consisting of nothing but dates and hot sex might not sound bad, but it wouldn’t be realistic either, since established relationships are full of quiet moments and simple conversation. Strange how most stories are concerned with the blossoming of love, when making a relationship last decades long is the trick. So maybe there is a book in there somewhere, but for now I’ll let my characters enjoy their reward before I march back into their lives with a bag full of trouble.

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