What I’ve been…

…watching at the movies (again!)


Rogue One (spoiler free)

Oh…oh my. That movie was amazing!

I freely admit that I’m a Star Wars tragic. I’ve been one ever since my mum showed me A New Hope as a child. I loved everything about those movies and even the godawful prequels couldn’t hurt me too much.

However, the thing that really captured me the most was the setting itself. Jedi were cool, and the space battles were cooler, but what I loved were the little glimpses of the day to day in this amazing universe. I loved how lived in it all was, how weird the aliens were, the glimpses at what society was like under the oppressive Empire.  The Extended Universe got into a lot of this stuff, but it had only ever been captured on film as incidental detail around the hero’s journey of Luke and his friends.

Rogue One is everything I ever wanted from a Star Wars movie.

This isn’t a story about a single hero rising up and saving the day. No, Rogue One is not about that, despite what trailers might have hinted at.  This is a war movie and a heist rolled into one – a gritty look at a rebellion against an oppressive government across multiple and wonderfully varied locations and what rebelling actually means; what it costs the people who are fighting and doing what might be considered bad things for what history will hopefully show were good reasons.

This is not a hero’s journey. Rogue One is dark without being dour. Adventurous without being trite.  Serious, but with that sense of humour and hint of hope that typifies Star Wars. It wasn’t a perfect movie – characterisation was a bit slim at points, I kind of hated Forrest Whitaker (not something I’m used to saying), and there were a few uncanny valley incidents that took away from certain scenes.

But overall?  This is Star Wars like I dreamed it could be. As much as I liked Force Awakens, it was a retread – A New Hope with a new coat of paint.

Rogue One is not a retread.  It is new and different and gorgeous and glorious and the standing ovation it got in the cinema I watched it in was well deserved.  I’m not sure yet where it will sit in my personal canon of Star Wars movies, but I’m pretty damn sure it’ll be high on the list.

An easy 5/5 for me.

 

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.