What I’ve Been…Playing: Persona 4: Golden

I love games based around story – some of my earliest memories of gaming are of sitting down to play Karateka on an old system (Apple II I want to say?) with my uncle, and only wanting to know about the motivation behind what was going.  Forget the controls, why is that guy hitting that other guy? What’s the deal with that bird?

It’s something that has persisted with me all these years.  Gaming has informed my interest in being a writer, and I have developed an appreciation for the unique opportunities and limitations games bring when it comes to storytelling.

RPGs have always been a key part of this interest in story; specifically Western RPGs.  For whatever reason – and I’m honestly not sure what it is – I’ve bounced very hard off of Japanese RPGs, or games in general. Hell – and I feel like I should probably hand in my nerd credentials just saying this – the only anime I’ve ever really enjoyed was Macross/Robotech and Dragonball Z, and I’m pretty sure that last one was more ironic enjoyment than anything.

I appreciate from afar, but generally Japanese media hasn’t done it for me.

And yet, Persona 4.

This strange mix of dungeon crawler with Pokemon-esque turn-based combat, high school relationship simulator, and examination of the human psyche, is simply amazing.  I spent 80ish hours over a few weeks absolutely absorbed in the Golden edition of this game on my Vita, marvelling at every twist and turn of the story.  I grew to love the characters and the relationships you build with them, and incredible soundtrack, solid voice acting, and unique visual style – particularly the creature designs – kept me going back. I even learnt a bit about Japan along the way that led to me doing some additional reading and research.

Not since Mass Effect has a game sunk its claws into me and refused to let go like Persona 4: Golden did.  Not only has it made Persona 5 a guaranteed sale for me, but it also has me trying to source a copy of the previous game in the series, and even watching the (gasp) anime based upon the game!

If you have a system capable of playing Persona 4, you owe it to yourself to try it.  It starts out a little slow, but it quickly strikes that perfect balance between tension and bouts of goofy shit that makes it the most charming game I’ve played in years.

Work In Progress Excerpt: Freeburn (working title)

Here’s an excerpt from my current draft of my action-spy-post-apocalyptic thriller, tentatively titled Freeburn.  This is a (very) rough early version of a new scene from about a third of the way through the novel and is presented without context – I hope it can be parsed well enough, both in terms of the people in the scene, but also in terms of the tone of the story.  In case you’re wondering, I’m primarily posting this to try to fire myself up to write some more, so please let me know what you think!

I sat on a stump at the edge of the woods and watched the sunset.
It had taken a while to extricate myself from the hospital after the attack – calming the terrified civvies, accepting back slaps from Gerstmann and co, seeing to Ayoub’s wounds. I’d taken a few myself, including a bullet graze on my right shoulder that I hadn’t even felt in the heat of the moment.
The sun had started to dip by the time I was ready to steal Lin’s bike and hit the road. No one tried to stop me – I had made vague noises about checking for surviving bandits lurking in the trees, and they’d been accepting enough. I admit there was a bit of an itch between my shoulder blades as I took off – I’d seen Lin sniping from the roof earlier, and she was easily good enough to peg a moving target, especially one she didn’t like that also happened to have just stolen her ride.
Thankfully, the twitchy Lieutenant mustn’t have been paying attention, and I made it without incident. I parked the bike well away from my actual destination, leaving it on its side amongst the surprisingly lush undergrowth, and moved away from the road, making sure I wasn’t followed.
The stump was perfect – in deep enough to obscure me, but not so deep that I couldn’t look down the road and over the houses dotting the distant hills, glittering prettily in the setting sun, off-white buildings stained orange and purple.
I could see clearly down the road, so naturally I wasn’t at all surprised when I heard someone clear their throat behind me.
‘How long did you know I was there?’ a deep voice, clipped and precise.
‘A while,’ I said, not turning around. My pistol was clutched in my left hand, dangling loosely against the inside of my thigh. I looked relaxed, and the gun should have been completely invisible to him, but somehow I knew he could feel the tension in both me and my trigger finger. ‘But only because I expected you.’
‘Liar,’ twigs crunched beneath his feet – an affectation, he’d never have accidentally done anything that could reveal himself. ‘If I was that predictable, I’d be dead.’
‘And yet, here I am, waiting for you.’ I smiled, finally turning to face him.
‘And yet here you are.’ He was tall, thin and muscular, looking twenty years younger than his middle age. He wore uniform fatigues, devoid of any insignia except for one: A bat-winged dagger. ‘It’s good to see you, Marcus.’
‘It’s good to see you too, Colonel.’
Llewellyn smiled at me. ‘Didn’t you hear? They made me a simulated Brigadier before they retired me. A general without an official unit, unattached to any branch of the Her Majesty’s military, and having never commanded more than two-dozen men at a time.’
I grinned at him. ‘We did more work than most battalions, simulated Brigadier General sir.’
‘That we did, Freeburn.’ His voice turned serious. ‘And how about now?’
Well, that brought us to the crux of things.
‘You killed my men. You’ve denied me what is rightfully mine.’
I shrugged. ‘The people in that hospital would probably disagree.’
‘Those people exist to allow men like us to do the hard work, you know that. I bear them no particular ill will, but they have supplies that my men need, and if we don’t have them, we will all die.’ Llewellyn had begun to pace, hands clasped behind his back – it was a pose I’d seen often, and one that usually ended with me being ordered to go kill someone. ‘You’re interfering in plans I’ve been working toward executing for more than a year now.’
‘And what plans are those?’
He ignored me, pacing silently. My hand tensed on the gun.
He stopped, instantly, eyes snapping to me. ‘Are you going to shoot me, Freeburn?’ His teeth glistened in the encroaching dark, more snarl than smile. ‘Is that what we’ve come to?’
I loosened my grip. Slightly.
‘Why did you miss our meeting?’
‘Honestly?’ I winced, actually embarrassed. ‘I was pissed about the job and drank too much on the flight, decided to grab a couple of hours of bunk time before heading up. It wasn’t personal.’
He barked something like a laugh. He stood – not at ease, never that – but suddenly more comfortable, as though the pieces had finally clicked into place and he knew what he was dealing with.
That pissed me off.
‘I didn’t realise at the time that armageddon was starting, of course.’
‘Of course,’ he replied. He stood just outside of my reach, not quite facing me, ready to move in any particular direction in an instant. He’d thickened in the middle, now that I could see him up close, although his fatigues were old and battered enough that they may have been adding to the effect. He still wore his usual beret – tan, devoid of insignia. He carried no visible weapon, but I knew that he had at least two knives on him. Not that Daffyd Llewellyn needed knives – he was deadly enough all on his lonesome, even well on his way past middle age.
‘What did you have for me?’ I asked him after the silence had stretched long enough to get uncomfortable. The sun had dropped lower in the sky, the shadows stretching between the trees. I could smell rain in the air, the first hint I’d seen since I’d woken from my long sleep.
‘I’d been ordered to kill you, of course,’ he shrugged, as though it were of no great import. A chunk of ice settled in my gut. ‘You must have worked that out by now.’
‘I had guessed.’ And I had, the more I had considered it. The night I’d been shot, the pink-haired assassin had implied I was responsible for what was happening. Budrickson and Lin had said it outright. I’d never found out why they’d believed it, but if enough people start accusing you of something and you actually didn’t do it, it probably means you’ve been set up. ‘What I want to know is why.’
‘That’s the million dollar question, son. Someone at MI6 disliked you enough to send you all the way around the world twice just so your old CO could put one in the back of you skull. What did you do?’
I shrugged, hoping I seemed mysterious rather than the utterly bewildered dickhead I felt like. I’d never seen eye to eye with the service, but I’d never done anything near bad enough to get myself implicated in the worst act of terrorism the world had ever seen. And, as Llewellyn had just said, it seemed like a particularly personal ‘fuck you’ from someone to send me on a trip just to be murdered by him.
We stared at each other as the last vestiges of light drifted away. The moon gleamed between the clouds and was absorbed a moment later as the rain began to fall.
‘I killed a lot of your men, General. I’m not sorry, they were scum.’
‘They were, but they were mine.’ He stepped close suddenly, so suddenly my hand tensed on my gun. ‘You’re mine too, Freeburn. I need you. This whole place has gone to shit, but I’ve got a plan and you increase the odds of my success dramatically.’
‘I usually do,’ I grimaced as he squeezed my shoulder, hoping he’d take it as a smile.
He reached into a pocket and handed me a piece of paper – it was too dark to see what it was, but I could guess. ‘Come to me, bring me something worthwhile, and I’ll leave these people you seem to care so much about-’
‘I don’t give a fuck about these people, Llewellyn, you know that.’
‘-in peace. Don’t interrupt me again.’ There was the Colonel I knew, voice suddenly as sharp as the combat knife tucked into the small of his back. ‘Come to me, and we’ll work this out together. I want answers as much as you do, and we’ll make whoever did this to us pay.’
He squeezed my shoulder one last time and stepped back, not turning away from me.
‘You’ve got three days.’ He said, withdrawing into the shadows, back the way he came. ‘After that, my plans will have progressed far enough that you’ll be left behind.’
I nodded. Not much else to say to that.
‘I’ll be seeing you, Freeburn. Make sure you don’t shoot me in the back.’ I saw his teeth glint in the sparse moonlight. He turned around and walked away, raising his left fist in what I initially assumed was a salute.
Then I noticed the two red dots dancing around on my chest.
‘If I was that predictable,’ I muttered, holstering my pistol with very slow, deliberate movements. ‘I’d be dead.’

Writing Exercise: Character Profile

One of the things that has come about with attempting to write longer form fiction is that my usual style of writing doesn’t really cut it.  With most of my early short stories, I tended to have a cool idea, wing it until most of the story was written, and then go back and rewrite until it came together as a somewhat cohesive tale. Along the way, the characters and main plot points would form around the core idea organically – often in unexpected ways – and I’d eventually find myself with a completed story that was almost certainly very different to where I started.

With my first novel manuscript, I started off this way as well.  Originally writing about 60,000 words for NaNoWriMo a few years ago, I did so with very little planning or idea of what was going to happen beyond wanting to write something in a post-catastrophe Australia and having a main character who was something of a lampooning of the James Bond type, where he thinks he’s a suave, sophisticated, hot shit spy, but is actually kind of a blunt weapon and a bit of a joke to those in the know, but dangerous nonetheless.

Part of the reason this is taking me forever to write is that my usual style is way too cumbersome for a full length novel. This has led to a great deal of rewriting, planning, adding and subtracting, and – crucially – outlining.

I’ve also undertaken some exercises in bringing my characters and world into focus.  One of these is profiling my characters, which has proven really useful for me, especially as I try to walk the line between seriousness and parody the story calls for.

There’s a lot of different ways you can go about this – I’ve used a simple series of headings that hit the core ideas I want to keep in my head as I write.  Below is an example for my protagonist that I hope some of you may find interesting and/or useful – keep in mind this is written as rough notes and isn’t a polished piece of fiction!

Name: Marcus Freeburn

Role in Story: Protagonist

Occupation: Secret Intelligence Service – Operative (TBC)
Previously: Joint NATO SMU (unofficial) (TBC)
British Royal Marines – Special Forces Support Group (TBC)

Physical Description: 6’6”, heavy build, muscular – almost always draws the eyes of everyone around, not an ideal trait. Shoulder-length black hair, raggedly cut post-injury. Neat beard. Dark brown eyes. Hairy. Scarred. Broken nose, but not crooked. Large, perfect teeth (like a cow’s), smiles look false. Has a habit of smirking or smiling with only one side of his mouth.

Personality: Sarcastic, arrogant. Has led a life where almost all of his decisions have been made for the purpose of defying someone or something, with very little thought given to his own goals, morals, or ethics. Has had a tendency to cling to the concept of ‘the greater good’ and serving his country as justification for the bad things he has done, even though he knows deep down this is just a cover. Has the capacity to be caring and decent, but has forced this down for so long that it only manifests unexpectedly. Smart, but thinks he is far smarter than he actually us.  A blunt instrument who thinks he is a scalpel.

Habits/Mannerisms: Internal monologues. Consistently underestimates the intelligence of those around him, but overestimates their capacity for treachery. Tends to act to provoke, but will occasionally be genuinely compassionate, kind, and caring. Can be suave and flirtatious when he wants to be, but the arrogance and falseness comes through to anyone who isn’t fooled by his outward persona. Has a tendency to move suddenly and unexpectedly, sometimes violently, with little indication until it is already done. Enters the zone when in danger, with much of the falseness falling away to reveal a calm, almost sociopathic killer.

Background: Born to wealthy, land-owning parents in Edinburgh, Scotland. Family was loving, but eventually became distant through meddling by his grandparents and some other difficulties. . Played rugby, boxed, played chess but was a middling player and lacked patience. Known for his aggression above all else. Went to university, partied hard, eventually dropped out when parents stopped supporting him. Decided to join the military to punish his liberal mother, and joining as an enlisted man to punish his propriety obsessed father, and ended up immediately being sent to Afghanistan. Adept fighter and showed genuine leadership capacity, but bad soldier – lack of discipline, questions authority, and little care for the rules. Promoted and demoted multiple times in a short period, then eventually arrested. Retrieved from the stockade by Major Llewellyn, who is leading a small team of reprobates from various NATO forces on black ops. Becomes an expert in small arms, infiltration, etc, although is generally used as a blunt instrument when all else has failed. Completes several years in this group and is “Dishonourably Discharged” by the Royal Marines, but immediately brought into the SIS. Struggles to fit in, but passes and becomes an operative, but is immediately punished for recklessness and contrary behaviour and given a series of nothing postings, the last of which is monitoring a listening post / safe house on the isle of Noumea. Finally brought home and given a mission to retrieve a package in Australia as a redemption mission.

Internal Conflicts: Obeying the orders of those he respects and completing the mission assigned to him versus thinking for himself and examining the morality on what he is doing. Hiding behind his job and false identity versus opening up to people who know who he is. Being truthful with others or lying, for purpose or habitually. Betraying people who trust him to meet his own goals or putting others first. Trust versus trusting only himself. Living in the past versus building a new life. Valuing a mentor for who they were versus who they are now or who he perceives them to be.

External Conflicts: REDACTED – here be spoilers.  I’ll just note that this would be conflicts that related to relationships between characters, as well as their place in the world and interaction with the plot (e.g. conflict with the main antagonist, not getting along with a companion, etc).

 

 

What I’ve Been…Watching : La La Land

My thoughts on La La Land? I am tempted to post a photo of me shrugging and leave it at that, but I won’t.  What I will say is that this is a movie that seems to do a lot of things well on the surface:

There’s the extremely talented cast who play their roles well, both in terms of character work, but also with the singing and dancing required of a musical. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are both excellent, and the few supporting roles that aren’t there for the ensemble musical numbers are good as well.

It nails the visual style of the old musicals it is emulating (more on that in sec), and the s0ngs are all certainly listenable, even if none of them really stand out as amazing numbers in their own right.  So too the dance numbers: some visually distinctive things happen, and the movie uses modern film making techniques to break away from the old timey feel on a couple of occasions in some (very) interesting ways.

So why did it not remotely click for me?

Partly, I think, was that there was only the thinnest skein of story on top of all the pretty people dancing and singing prettily in pretty locations with pretty, over-saturated colours.  The actors themselves give engaging performances, but nothing at all that they are doing is really all that interesting. Even for a genre where plot typically takes a backseat, it is noticeably absent here, as is any depth to the characters beyond the Act 1 journey from snarky arseholes to madly in love.

I referenced it above, but the film is not so much a loving homage to old musicals as it is directly lifting from them, the only difference being the time period the film is set in and modern day nods to visual and audio effects, as well as diverse casting (and I say nods here, because the supporting roles are almost non-existent, and the two main characters are white). The issue with emulating that old style so slavishly is that you have to be at least as good as – and, crucially, as memorable as – the movies you are mimicking.

La La Land is nowhere near as good as those musicals. The story and characters are not at all memorable, but worse than that, neither is the music.  A few of the dance numbers go places with their visual effects, but that is a small bright spot in an otherwise completely bland film.  The most notable thing about La La Land for me was how sadly mundane the whole thing was.

What I’ve Been… Writing

Coming up on the end of the year seems like a good time to reflect on how my writing has been going, as well as planning out a few resolutions to spend more time working at it for 2017.

It’s been a pretty rough year for me as an author, to be honest.  I’ve stalled repeatedly on my “main” novel for a couple of years now, and the frustration of that was enough to really hurt my overall interest in writing as a result.  Add in a job that is pretty stressful, and it was very easy to justify doing anything else except for writing.

Thankfully, the tail end of the year saw me getting back into it.  Part of the reason I started this blog was to give me a chance to write a variety of things, and I’ve combined that with working on a variety of projects new and old.  It may make everything a bit slower going than I would like, but it keeps me sane.

Here’s a brief summary of current projects and how I’m going with them:

Freeburn (working title)

Type: Novel

Genre: Sort-of-post-apocalyptic action spy thriller

Description: A former soldier turned failed British spy named Marcus Freeburn is sent to Sydney, Australia to meet a contact, only to be shot and left for dead. When he recovers, he finds that the country has been the target of a chemical agent that has brought society to its knees, and that he is the number one suspect for instigating the attack. Now Freeburn has to work out who is really responsible, but first he will need to learn to survive in the terrifying world he has found himself in.

Status:  I’ve been kicking this one around for years now.  I’m on what I still consider to be the first proper draft of the manuscript with about 80,000 words written.  I’ve recently changed a great deal of the plotting and created a proper outline, resulting in me rewriting large chunks.  Slow and steady at this stage, and I am hopefully to have an actual complete draft done during 2017.

Rise (A Story of the Death Throes Unending)

Type: Novella

Genre: Fantasy

Description: A decrepit inn is attacked by the undead forces of a Necromancer cabal in the middle of the night, defended only by  a band of rowdy mercenaries and a healer of uncertain origins. As bodies fall and the inn burns, the only certainty is that nothing is quite as it seems as the dead rise in the town of Riversedge.

Status: Another story I had worked on for a long time and stalled on, version 10 is completed and sitting awaiting some final edits before going back to my beta readers (my wife Sam and my friend Tristan) and hopefully being ready to submit to publications.  I really quite like how twisty and fun this story is, and I’m looking forward to finally getting it out there.

This story is a part of my burgeoning Death Throes Unending fantasy setting and serves as a prequel of sorts to the novel series currently residing on my hdd as about a dozen dot points and some character descriptions.

Corsair Squadron (working title)

Type: Novel

Genre: Military Sci-Fi / Space Opera

Description: In a far-flung future where humanity has spread across the stars, a group of misfit pilots and soldiers are brought together in a mission to clandestinely undermine the imperialistic control of previously independent worlds, but in doing so may spark a war that crushes the people they are trying to save.

Status: I’ve wanted to write a sci-fi series from the moment I first watched Star Wars, and that was an idea that was only reinforced by reading, watching, and playing various awesome things over the years.  I’ve sketched out the first book, an overall plot that could setup a trilogy of books, and have written a couple of chapters to get a feel for one of the main characters and how I want to present the world.  I’ve also doodled a great number of truly awful spaceship designs.

What I’ve been…

A not-at-all creatively titled new series of posts I’ll be doing about the various things I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, writing, etc.  Let me know what you think!

…watching at the movies

I caught Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them over the weekend. I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan- I read the books quite late and thought they were decent but unspectacular (I enjoyed the later ones the most), and feel much the same way about the films. I’m not immersed in the Potter-verse, and knew basically nothing about Fantastic Beasts heading in.

I’m not normally a fan of spending a paragraph qualifying, but it feels necessary in this situation due to the simple fact that I really enjoyed Fantastic Beasts.

It was a fun story in a really interesting setting (1920s New York), well-acted and gorgeousto look at – I particularly liked Scamander as a lead and enjoyed the little nuances Eddie Redmayne brought to the role, but all the supporting actors were great as well, even where the characters were a little bit shallow.

There were some fun little call outs for fans of the series, but this is an excellent standalone piece of fiction in its own right, completely watchable for anyone who isn’t hugely familiar with the preceding movies/books.  It felt like a darker (but not grim) tale than Rowling’s previous work, but still retained the sense of whimsy and wonder that is missing in a lot of modern fantasy.

In short, it managed to tickle me just right despite my non-existent expectations, which is always my favourite experience when I go to the movies. At a time of year where the only hotly anticipated movie I’ve got left for 2016 is Rogue One, this was an awesome surprise and one I definitely recommend.

Have you seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? What did you think?  Let me know in the comments.

 

Nephilim

Nephilim – buy now from Amazon for Kindle for only $1.99

Synopsis:

In near-future Hong Kong, a new designer drug has hit the streets, causing unimaginable bliss in some, and psychotic rage in others. Of greater concern to Dantalion – Fallen Angel and private security for the Pfay-Saxton Corporation – is the fact that this drug has been nicknamed ‘Neph’ and is being peddled by his fellow Fallen, seemingly as a trap to draw interest from neutral parties like him. As Dan follows the trail back to its source, he quickly realises he is in way over his head.

Because there are new players in the eternal war between Heaven and Hell, and neutrality is no longer an option for any Fallen, even one as stubborn and resourceful as Dantalion.

Praise for Nephilim:

A taut story which has a nice twisted ending, Nephilim reminded me a lot of the indie horror Gabriel, with a tad touch of Tad Williams’ current trilogy. Another shining effort from this collection. – Fantasy Book Critic

[Describing the stories which appeared in the Manifesto: UF anthology] I think my favorite, though, might have to go to Nephilim by TSP Sweeney. – seak, Goodreads

Background:

My second published story, Nephilim came out of a desire to continue on with the setting I’d created with Der Teufel combined with wanting to do something quite different in tone.  I did quite a bit of research into angels and demons, drawing upon a few different religious sources and a little bit of rule of cool when I created Dantalion, plus sprinkling in something a bit new with the rest of the characters.  This was also one of the very few occasions where I plotted out the entire story from the start and stuck pretty close to my original vision – in fact, there’s about 5000 words of additional material cut for space based upon my initial outline.

Nephilim was originally published in the now sadly out of print Manifesto: UF (Edited by Tim Marquitz,  published by Angelic Knight Press), my second time working with Tim, and hopefully not the last! Both anthologies were excellent in my not so humble opinion, and it was a great privilege to have my work included alongside that of so many talented people.

Excerpt:

I sensed the attack coming a heartbeat before something took me in the shoulder. That was okay. It had, I imagine, been aimed at my head, and only my innate reflexes saved me from a messy, permanent death.

I spun toward Andromalius, raising the shotgun one-handed. The blade that had struck me faded away, ethereal energy dissipating into the night.

Andromalius floated on ragged wings, sickly brown and gray feathers just clinging to raw, bloodied, black skin. There was a faint impression around him, an almost-glow, like a smudge on a camera lens.

A pale green snake, as large as anything you would see on Earth, coiled about his torso and now-whole legs, tongue flicking the air.

Remember when I claimed earlier that guns hold no fear for us? The reason is that mortal weaponry—indeed, mortal anything, from sewing needles to dropped pianos—cannot permanently harm us. For the warriors of Heaven and Hell, injuries heal almost as they occur.

For us, the process is a little bit slower and a lot more painful, but the end result is the same.

To truly hurt an angel one must call upon their own essence, their soul, to use the simplistic term, and weaponize it. For the soldiers in the Eternal War, this is easy to do, for their essence is protected and replenished by the power they fight for and the worship of their followers. For those of us without such … connections … it is a finite resource, a shallow oasis in an ever-encroaching desert. One where use can have deathly serious repercussions for the wielder.

Andromalius must have really wanted me dead.

The Devil You Know (Der Teufel Sie Wissen)

The first of what will be a series of posts regarding my published stories to date and upcoming work as well. The goal here is to describe the story, provide some background on it and the writing process, and to also provide an excerpt for new readers to see if they are interested.

The Devil You Know (Der Teufel Sie Wissen) – buy now from Amazon for Kindle for only $1.99

Synopsis:

April 24, 1945. Berlin has been invaded by Soviet forces. The fall of the city is inevitable, but resistance is fierce and every inch of ground is being paid for in blood. Deep behind the Russian lines, a small group of Hitler Youth volunteers hunt the enemy on behalf of their SS masters, seeking to be the monsters that haunt the dreams of their enemies.

Little do they realise, however, that there are nightmares far more dangerous than they stalking the shadows of the ruined city. As the war in Europe draws to a bloody close, a new war – a war unending – has only just begun.

Praise for The Devil You Know (Der Teufel Sie Wissen):

Excellent, exhilarating short that’s fast paced, brutal and filled with violence. (4.5 out of 5 stars) – The Troubled Scribe

This was another of the fantastic short stories and one, which I believe the author should think of expanding into a longer novel. With an ending that is not only superb but also promises of further tribulations. This story left me wanting to know more of the world within and war to come… – Fantasy Book Critic

Background:

My first published piece of fiction, Devil was also my first foray into writing horror. Originally published in the now sadly out of print Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous (Edited by Tim Marquitz,  published by Angelic Knight Press), I had the idea for it after reading about the fall of Berlin in World War II, as well as the Nazi Werwolf plan. Originally planned as a one off, it would eventually share a setting with Nephilim, and would inform a novel outline I’ll (hopefully) get to fleshing out into an actual book one day.

Excerpt:

Andreas stared at the brown-brick building. It brooded at the end of the street, crouched amongst the surrounding buildings like a spider. It remained untouched by the Soviet shelling, and yet was still as dark and decrepit as any war-time ruin.

It was quiet and difficult to approach from the street without being detected; perfect for a clandestine meeting.

It was also perfect for murder.

Lukas came to a halt and turned back to the rest of the squad, a thumbs-up accompanying his familiar grin as their target effectively isolated himself from any chance of rescue.

Andreas’ return smile was more of a grimace. Nothing was ever this easy.

The squad dropped as silently as possible to street level, running across and moving into the alley behind the old barber shop, which had belonged to Gregor’s father.

Andreas allowed the other boy a moment to stare wistfully at the ruins of his inheritance before gently dragging him away. Gregor shook off his melancholy and pushed the ladder into place, allowing Lukas to lead the way to the rooftops.

They hurried silently to the factory wall, leaping the small gaps between the tightly packed houses. Andreas watched as Lukas forced one of the second-story windows, the glass making an almost imperceptible squeal. With great care, the red-headed teenager slipped through the narrow opening and onto a mesh catwalk, making not a sound.

Where? Oswald signalled once they were all clustered together inside.

Andreas’ eyes had adjusted enough to the darkness inside the factory that it was no longer a pitch-black void. Instead, it was filled with the deeper shadows of chemical vats and assembly lines, punctuated by hulking presses and other cluttered machinery.

The victim was nowhere to be seen.

Spread, pairs, Lukas signed, completely serious now that they neared their target.

Andreas partnered up with Dolf and moved carefully along the ancient, rail-less catwalk toward the eastern wall of the building, trying not to think about what it would mean to fall.

The old vats clustered on that side of the factory would make a perfect ambush point if the target realized he was being followed, and Andreas was in no mood to take risks. He watched as Oswald and Fabian headed toward the offices along the north wall. Lukas and Gregor slid down the nearest ladder, moving to investigate the scattered hiding places on the floor.

Andreas felt pride at the competent efficiency with which his squad worked, effortlessly moving to cover the whole facility without any further instruction. They had truly come a long way under the tutelage of the Scharführer.

He smiled at Dolf, the stocky youth giving him a toothy grin in return. Andreas had no doubt similar thoughts were going through his friend’s head.

Andreas crept further toward the chemical vats. He had taken only a few steps when he sensed he now moved alone.

Dolf stood perfectly still, grin splitting his face. His gun was clutched tightly in his hands, held against his body. Andreas frowned as he noticed his friend was shaking, almost vibrating. The stock of his shotgun rattled against the buttons of his coat.

What is it? Signalled Andreas, furious at his friend for breaking stealth. Was he panicking?

The smile grew wider.

“Dolf,” Andreas risked a whisper, shaking him by the shoulder.

Dolf’s smile grew wider still, stretching grotesquely. Andreas could only stare as the other boy’s lips began to crack, tiny drops of blood appearing.

Mein Gott.” Andreas’ eyes grew wide.

Launch

After much time and zero fanfare, I am relaunching my blog with a new look, a better URL, and plans to be a bit more prolific with my posting that I have been in the past.

To celebrate the launch, I am happy to announce the availability of a brand new short story – Heart Eater (Amazon), as well as the first time standalone publication of Nephilim (Amazon) and Der Teufel Sie Wissen (Amazon).

I’ll be profiling the stories in greater detail over coming days, as well as speaking about some upcoming projects, new publication news, and more.

In the meantime, please feel free to let me know what you think of the stories and the new site.  It would certainly mean a great deal if you could rate and review the stories on Amazon as well – it really is a difference maker.

If you’ve purchased any of my work through Amazon and would like the stories in a different format, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I will make it happen.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Cheers,

Tim