I used to post a lot. All the damn time, in fact. I’d average 2-3 posts and 2-3 guest posts a week. Tons of information I thought would be helpful, amusing or just something for me. I could also rely on the posts getting shared and commented on and people wanting to join in on the fun. When I started this blog way back in 2009 or thereabout, it was as a struggling part-time author trying to make the leap to full-time author who is so wealthy I never wear the same pair of socks twice.
I’m a full-time writer but the pair of socks I have on has way too much wear for my liking.
I podcast. Two podcasts, in fact… (shameless plug time in 3…2…1…)
Arm Cast Podcast – new episode every Friday
Arm N Toof’s Dead Time Podcast – new episode every Wednesday
Both on Project iRadio
I get a ton of interaction when a new episode goes live. I used to post about a new episode on this very blog but no one really seemed to care enough to read it, yet I have a very strong listening base. I guess they listen but don’t read about podcasts.
Is blogging and having a website no longer viable to reach the masses? Do we simply worry about Facebook and Twitter and the next Big Thing and keep connected there?
Your thoughts… if anyone is actually reading this, that is…
2015 was another solid year for me when it came to releases. While the amount of new product slowed, the same amount of words was released in my estimation. My goal each year is to hit 400,000 words written and except for a couple of short stories currently awaiting publication, everything else was released via self publishing or through a small press in 2015.
I had 30 releases, which was less than the 45 a year average I’ve done the last two years. I also went through my works and eliminated all of the serialized stories that made it into complete collections as well as redundant releases I did myself.
Box sets were still a big deal for me in 2015. A lot of my secondary sales through them as well as key Amazon ranking came because of the box sets and I hope to continue to be involved in a few more in the future.
OK, time for the breakdown by month for me and 2015…
The last day in January Dying Days was published in this box set along with notables Joe McKinney, Bobby Adair, TW Piperbrook, Michaelbrent Collings, Sarah Lyons Fleming, Shawn Chesser, Rachel Aukes, David Moody, Timothy W Long and Eric A Shelman. The best part? it’s still only 99 cents!
February 8th I was in another State of Horror anthology (you already know my initial involvement in the franchise, so I won’t digress) which featured some really cool stories by Nathanael Gass, Frank Larnerd, Randal Keith Jackson, Kathryn M. Hearst, Spencer Carvalho, Kenneth W. Cain, Frank J. Edler, Stuart Conover/Kerry Lipp, Susan Hicks Wong, Matt Andrew, L.J. Heydorn andMargaret L. Colton
The audiobook for State of Horror: Illinois came out on February 20th (narrated by the wonderful Jack Wallen)
The audiobook for Dying Days: Origins came out on March 3rd, narrated by Jack Wallen. Obviously I enjoy working with Jack on these audiobooks.
March 13th the audiobook version of this came out, narrated by Jack Di Golia, who did the entire seven book run for me. I couldn’t be happier working with him, either.
Also on the 13th, the first part of a trilogy came out, a horror humor tale written with Jack Wallen, Jay Wilburn and Brent Abell. This was fun to write. We debuted this at Mid South Con in Memphis to rousing success. Fine, we sold 5 copies.
March 16th State of Horror: Louisiana I debuted, with more great stories, this time from Chad McKee, Pamela Troy, Tommy B. Smith, Amanda Hard, Allie Marini Batts, Sarah Glenn, Armand Rosamilia, Ethan Nahte, J. Jay Waller, Alexander S. Brown, Henry P. Gravelle, Jay Seate, and Margaret L. Colton.
March 30th saw the second part of LA being released, this time with stories by Stuart Conover, Herika R. Raymer, Teresa Bergen, J. Lamm, Nathan Pettigrew, Armand Rosamilia, Ambrose Stolliker, B.A. Sans, Edward Moore, Anthony Watson, Jonathan S. Pembroke, J.M. Lawrence, and Melodie Romeo.
April 19th Fairly Wicked Tales: Dark Fantasy Anthology was re-released and featured one of my short stories, “The Wolf Who Cried Boy.” Over 20 great stories are in this one, so buy it. Now.
On the 26th of May my short story “Down In A Hole” was featured in this Simon and Schuster release. Tim Curran, Jeff Strand, Rebecca Besser, MontiLee Stormer, Lee Moan, Tonia Brown, Jake Bible, Faye McCray, and Jimmy Pudge were all involved as well. Get it.
Tim put 19 of his stories together in this fine collection, and had other authors (such as myself) give him one of our stories to promote. He’s a swell guy. This came out June 6th. I had “Dying Days: Noah Stern” short in there.
This audiobook came out on the 10th. Narrated once again by Jack Wallen and once again featuring a Dying Days short from me in it.
June 16th Dying Days 5 was released. Putting this together I realize its my first self published full release for the year, as everything else was an anthology or audiobook previously out. I’d been writing up a storm up to this point in the year but most of it would be released later (as you’ll see) or written for the movie team and those books sometimes come out months in the future. Anyhoo… this is part 5 and it was released right in the midst of my annual #SummerofZombie blog tour.
The second book in our trilogy was released on the 21st. Another fun time was had by all: me, Brent Abell, Jay Wilburn and Jack Wallen.
This was a really cool charity anthology to help a friend in need who is such a big supporter of zombie authors. Over 30 authors contributed a YA zombie story, including my first-ever, a Dying Days story featuring the children of the family. It will definitely lead into my first-ever Dying Days YA novella in late 2016, too.
This is the updated version. I changed the crazy sex parts and over the top violence and made it more in line with the rest of the Dying Days books. So far people have enjoyed the less intense version, although it still isn’t for the kids. I’d give it a solid R rating instead of the NC17 it used to be.
September 4th this cool anthology came out. It’s a shared world anthology and written by Joe McKinney, Armand Rosamilia, Tonia Brown, Joe Mynhardt, Aurelio Lopez III, and Alex Laybourne. You don’t get any cooler than that group. Am I right?
On the 8th, right in time for the Imaginarium convention on Kentucky, we released the third and final part. Single digits of people flocked to our signing tables, creating such a noise the car alarms went off in the parking lot.
On the 17th Dying Days 4 audiobook (narrated once again by Amanda Lehman) was released.
I wrote this novella based on a movie that was filmed but some people weren’t happy with it. So (because it is Hollywood and beyond me) I was listed as editor, the cover is just words and it has distanced itself from the movie by changing the title. The book is much better than the movie, by the way. Much.
October 14th saw this extensive collection released. Nonfiction essays and interviews by film legends and authors such as Wes Craven, George A. Romero, Ray Bradbury, Ed Naha, Patrick Lussier, Stephen Volk, Nancy Holder, Tom Holland, John Shirley, William Stout, and John Russo. For some crazy reason they thought I had something to say on the subject, too.
On the 30th Devil Dog Press re-released this book, one of my favorites and my first real full-length novel. Look for longer books from me in 2016, and most of them more thriller and less horror as I change things up a bit. This book is one of my favorites I’ve ever written, and you need to read it and tell me I’m right or wrong. As long as you read it.
On the 18th this anthology was released. My short story, “Black Tooth Grin,” joined Melodie Romeo, Rick Scabrous, Silas Green, D. S. Ullery, Brian W. Taylor, Diane Arrelle, Bryan Best, Tanya Nehmelman, Mariesa Inez, Rachel Hogan, S. H. Roddey, Jenner Michaud, Scott McCloskey, Heidi Lane, Brian Fatah Steele, Eric I. Dean, Herika R. Raymer, Lee Pletzers, and Jerry E. Benns writing fun stories about death.
The seventh and final release in the contemporary fiction Flagler Beach Fiction Series was out on the 20th. The audiobook followed in November, too, once again narrated by the great Jack Di Golia. This wraps up the series although I have a feeling we’ll see some of these characters again in the future.
Halloween saw the release of this cool anthology, where eleven authors took the kernel of the same basic story and made it our own. Hi-jinx ensued. Abel, Chesser, Evans, McKinney, O’Brien, Rosamilia, Shelman, Stallcup, Tufo, Wallen, Wilburn. So cool you don’t need first names.
November 3rd, at the basic start of my annual #WinterofZombie tour I always release a new Dying Days book. I still technically did, and it nicely combines characters from the first Highway To Hell as well as Dying Days: Origins.
Four novellas set in the Dying Days world are included in this massive box set: Still Dying: Select Scenes From Dying Days, Still Dying 2, Dying Days: The Siege of European Village and Dying Days: Siege 2
Plus… the two-story Dying Shortly set (now out of print except here) and 2 short stories previously only available on a website: “Dying Days: Downtown From Hell” and “Dying Days: The Scorpion”… Over 500 pages and more than 174,000 words in all! This special box set will only be available for a limited time at a special price of $9.99 but right now its only $3.49, so get a copy. Look for the second one in early 2016, too.
November 23rd I released all three of these glorious books Jack, Brent and Jay and I had written in a convenient box set. Now you have no excuse not to read them. And its priced right now for only $3.49, so you really have no excuse at all.
I told you I liked box sets this year. On the 30th I put all 7 of the Flagler Beach Fiction Series books together in one massive 190,000+ word ebook collection and priced it at only $3.99. You’re welcome.
My last release of 2015 and one of my favorite stories. I liken it to a Bentley Little weird tale and so far readers have agreed. A little different from my traditional horror work, which I will be getting slightly away from in 2016. I’ll still have many horror releases and more Dying Days but this book (as well as Chelsea Avenue, both released by Devil Dog Press) will further expand what I’m doing.
Also look for my Kindle Scout-winning Dirty Deeds crime thriller in early 2016, too! Mark Tufo and I wrote an apocalyptic tale together (no zombies!) featuring Darlene Bobich and Mike Talbot. Look for that in 2016 as well… big things on the horizon for me in 2016.
The Mechanics of My Writing Style
John Mc Caffrey
As far as I know, writing style isn’t taught in school. I’ve read of the various writing styles some writers utilize, but that was after I had already come up with my own. Mine seems to be a loosely based form of organized confusion. Typically, I get an idea and jot it down on a small notepad I carry with me. Later, I’ll transfer it to a spiral notebook and elaborate for a page or two and then leave it for anywhere from a week to as long as a year. The initial concept however, is never far from my thoughts, and I will pull out the spiral notebook jotting down more ideas. Some of these concepts never get written, but for the ones that do, I’ll sit at the computer and begin an outline. I try to break the outline up into scenes, much like a movie, and when I feel I have a good outline, I’ll once again, leave it for a while, working on something else. It’s only after I’ve separated myself from the initial idea that I will start writing in earnest. I don’t have a time frame, or some type of internal deadline I force upon myself. If the story isn’t working for whatever reason, I allow it to sit. I have one piece that I have been working on for seven years that I can neither walk completely away from, or approach it the way I want to. But when everything comes together, I’ll take the story to completion. This is what becomes my first draft.
Depending on the length of my first draft, I either start right away with the initial editing or wait for a few weeks. I’ll go through a manuscript numerous times, always finding something that needs to be changed, revised, or deleted. When I’m satisfied with what I have, (and I’m never truly satisfied—even after things are in print, I see what I could have done differently), I load it up on a Kindle and leave it with my wife, Karen, for proofreading.
She is amazing. She proofreads and edits what I was absolutely positive was an almost flawless piece of work and finds everything from punctuation mistakes to problems with syntax and continuity. I go back to the computer and once again revise, upload it to her Kindle, and only when I receive her thumbs up, do I consider it finished. Her support and continued eye for detail has been instrumental in the development of my writing. If not for her, it’s unlikely Nora’s Wish would have ever been published. After writing it, I was certain that it was too far outside my usual genre, and was uncertain there was a market for it. I loved the story, but it went into a folder where it sat for a few months. It was her continual urging, and in the end, outright demands that it needed to be published that I finally submitted it to the fine folks at Sirens Call Publications.
Nora’s Wish began with a conversation I had with my father, about how he wished he was able to change certain decisions he’d made when he was younger. That, and the thought that there are probably many elderly people who shared the same sentiment, and how awesome it would be if they all could magically have that ability, was the beginning of the story. The character of Ben emerged almost immediately, Nora soon after. It was their friendship, and shared forgotten isolation in Willow Manor that became the nucleus of exploring the possibility of changing their destinies. My father passed away before he could see how his simple comments to me grew into the published book, but I’m sure he would approve.
John Mc Caffrey
Ben Jameson is a bitter retiree residing at Willow Manor, a home for the aged or those in need of care, and has nothing more to do than await the inevitable conclusion of a life wasted. Forgotten by his family, his days are marked by the solitary existence of books, loneliness, and regret.
A chance meeting with a terminally ill resident named Nora, and her unshakeable optimism in the face of her eventual demise, rekindles emotions he was certain were gone forever. Nora reawakens his ability to love, and with her compassion and her companionship, he comes to realize that even a life as wasted as his own can be salvaged and, given the right incentive, is still worth living.
As Nora’s health declines, they both dare to hope that the magic of a strange pendant Ben purchased from an antique shop as a gift for Nora will overcome the odds, offering them more time with one another.
Nora’s Wish is available on:
Barnes & Noble (Print & eBook)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR — John Mc Caffrey writes tales of horror, the supernatural, science fiction, and fantasy. He was born in Illinois and grew up on the south side of Chicago. While still in grade school, he developed a passion for reading through the works of Tolkien, Poe, and Lovecraft as well as being addicted to watching Hammer Film’s at the local Saturday matinee. Today he lives in Northern Indiana with his wife where he writes in his spare time.
THE BOY WHO KILLED SANTA CLAUS
Seven year old Henry Childers crawled reluctantly under the covers of his bed. “But, Mom,” he whined, “I’m not sleepy. Can’t I stay up a few more hours?”
“It’s almost ten already,” his mother Tonya said with an indulgent smile. “If you don’t get to sleep, Santa won’t stop here tonight.”
“Do you think Santa got my letter this year?” Henry asked, sitting up against the headboard.
“I’m sure he did, honey.”
“’Cause I don’t want it to be like last year.”
Tonya sighed heavily and rubbed at her temples. She’d been hearing this same tirade from her son for an entire year now. “Henry, there was nothing wrong with what you got from Santa last year.”
“I asked for an XBox, and he gave me a Playstation. It’s not the same.”
“As I’ve told you a hundred times, maybe Santa was all out of XBoxes,” Tonya said, pulling the covers up to just under Henry’s chin. She and her husband had gone to every store in the city looking for an XBox last year, but they’d all been sold out. It had been a Playstation or nothing, but still it hadn’t satisfied Henry.
“I mailed my letter in October last year,” Henry said. “That gave him plenty of time to have his elves whip me up an XBox.”
“Henry,” Tonya said, a little more sharply than she’d intended, “you’re being awfully ungrateful. There are children in the world who have nothing. If you don’t start being more appreciative, Santa may decide to just skip our house altogether.”
“Okay,” Henry said, his lower lip poked out like a shelf. “I’m sorry.”
“Just get to sleep,” Tonya said, leaning over and kissing her son on the forehead. “When you wake up in the morning, you just might find that bike you’ve been wanting waiting under the tree.”
“You think Santa will like the cookies and milk we left for him?” Henry asked.
“I’m sure he’ll think they’re delicious. I’ll see you in the morning, sweetie.”
Tonya turned off the light, the small nightlight plugged into the electrical socket by the closet throwing a muted yellow glow throughout the room. She eased the door closed, leaving Henry to dream of Christmas morning.
* * *
“Do you think it’s safe to start?” Jonas Childers asked his wife. They were sitting in the living room, watching a SciFi channel marathon of the Silent Night Deadly Night films.
Tonya glanced at the clock, saw that it was just past one o’clock in the morning. “He should be sound asleep by now,” she said. “I think we can get started.”
“Good,” Jonas said. “It’ll probably take me ‘til dawn to get that bike put together.”
They went up to the attic, careful to avoid all the squeakiest boards, and brought down all of Henry’s presents. Tonya began arranging all the smaller gifts around the tree while Jonas unfolded the instructions for the bike and began assembling it.
“Shit,” Jonas cursed under his breath, trying to fit together two pieces that simply refused to fit together. “As much trouble as this is, Henry better like this damn bike.”
Tonya knelt next to her husband, took the uncooperative pieces and easily snapped them together. “Are you kidding? He’ll absolutely love it.”
“He better. I don’t want to have to go through another year hearing him bitch and moan like he did about that damn Playstation.”
“It did get a bit tiresome,” Tonya said with a giggle. “But Henry just wants what he wants, and he won’t settle for anything else.”
“Like mother, like son.”
Tonya swatted her husband on the arm. “That’s not true. I settled for you, after all.”
“Very funny,” Jonas said. “How about you settle for passing me those cookies.”
Tonya had baked a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, half of which her family had eaten, the other half of which had been placed on a plate for Santa. She took the plate and handed it to her husband, who immediately scarfed down two of the cookies.
“Careful,” Tonya said, reading over the instructions. “You keep that up, you’ll soon be fat as Santa.”
“This isn’t for me,” Jonas said around a mouthful of cookie, spewing crumbs like a fine mist. “It’s for Henry. Think how disappointed he’d be if he woke up and saw that Santa hadn’t eaten the cookies he left for him.”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Tonya said with a smile.
“Hand me the milk, please.”
They did not leave out a glass of milk for Santa since that would curdle, but they placed it in a thermos to keep it cold. Tonya passed the thermos to her husband.
Jonas popped the top of the thermos and gulped down several swallows of the milk. Suddenly he retched, spitting milk into the air like a geyser, the thermos dropping from his hand and leaking its contents onto the carpet. Jonas clutched at his throat, making strangled gagging noises as milk and blood dribbled down his chin.
Tonya screamed and grabbed her husband as he collapsed onto her lap. His body was jerking with violent spasms, his eyes rolled up to the whites. He coughed violently, and more frothy blood sprayed Tonya’s arms, and she thought there were chunks of tissue mixed with it.
“Oh God, Jonas,” she screamed, crying. “What’s wrong? What should I do?”
“What’s going on?” Henry said, stepping into the room wearing his pajamas, rubbing the sleep dust from his eyes. “I heard screaming.”
“Henry, get the phone and call 911,” Tonya yelled frantically. “Something is wrong with your father; he needs an ambulance right away.”
“What is it?” Henry asked, wide-eyed, stepping further into the room.
“Henry, call 911 NOW!”
Henry started to turn toward the phone, but then he spotted the spilled thermos of milk and froze. “Did Dad drink the milk?” he asked, snatching up the thermos and waving it at his mother.
“What?” Tonya said, feeling her husband’s spasms tapering off, afraid to contemplate what that might mean. “Your father needs help.”
“Did Dad drink the milk?” Henry said again, his old stubborn self. “This milk was for Santa Claus, not for Dad.”
“Henry!” Tonya screamed, desperate tears of frustration and helplessness streaking her face. “This isn’t the time—”
“THIS MILK WAS FOR SANTA CLAUS, NOT FOR DAD!” Henry roared, throwing the thermos across the room.
A numbness began to spread throughout Tonya’s body, starting in her chest and reaching out through her limbs. Comprehension came slowly, and it made her feel cold inside. Cold and empty.
“What did you do?” she croaked, her voice raw and raspy. “Henry, what did you do to the milk?”
“I poured Drain-O in it,” he said matter-of-factly, as if stating that he’d brushed his teeth.
Tonya was on her feet in an instant, the still form of her husband stretched out on the floor. She grabbed Henry by the shoulders and shook him, shook him hard. “Why would you do such a thing?” she shouted into his face. “Why in the name of God would you do such a thing?”
“I wanted an XBox!” Henry shouted back, wrenching out of his mother’s grasp. “Not a Playstation, an XBox, and Santa knew that. He knew that, and he gave me the wrong thing anyway. I wanted to teach him a lesson, make him pay for giving me the wrong gift last year.”
Tonya stumbled back, hands to her mouth, and watched as her son turned and ran back to his room, slamming the door behind him. She snatched up the phone and quickly dialed 911 while Santa chopped up a topless teenager on the television behind her.
© Mark Allan Gunnells
If you enjoyed Mark’s story, be sure to grab a paperback or Kindle copy (available in Kindle Unlimited, as well) of his Flowers in a Dumpster short story collection – out now from Crystal Lake Publishing:
With the link to Crystal Lake, as well, please: www.crystallakepub.com
All Roads Lead to Terror (synopsis)
The horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present.
Four boys strengthen the bonds of their friendship, while taking their first hesitant steps into adulthood, as they face the brutality of an old, new world. They will be tested at every step in their journey, as they travel through a blasted land where the only hope is for a swift death followed by an endless sleep. Survival lay in the firepower they carried, coupled with their willingness to use it, and their ability to trust each other with their own lives.
The world had become a wild place filled with wild things, and into this new reality each of them had been born. Coming of age at the end of days, where savagery was the norm, and man’s inhumanity to man was on daily display. Where the only law was the firepower one carried and the only hope was for a swift death followed by an endless sleep.
Meat was born at the height of the Zombie apocalypse, upon his birth his mother took one look at him and pronounced him meat. He grew up in a reality where they were all nothing more than walking bags of meat, so in his mind the name fit perfectly.
Window, his best friend, is very quiet, and ever watchful with a quick hand. To him friendship was the most important thing in the world. His family had perished in the ruthless times after the awakening and his temperament had been forged in the fire that took them from him. His friends were all he had left so he watched over them with a jealously protective nature strengthened by that sense of invulnerability all boys his age embraced. Further backed up by a quick hand with the .44 he’d used to kill the men who had raped his mother.
The remaining members of this quartet are Einstein who had been born within the compound at Bremo Bluff after the apocalypse. Having spent his life behind the fence he had no first hand knowledge of how brutal the world has become. As his name implies he’s the smartest in the group, as well the most innocent. While that innocence helps to soften the ruthlessness of the other three, it will serve to drive a wedge into their friendship. On this trip he will discover just how terrifying the world beyond the fence has become.
The final member is Billie-Bob, one half of a set of twins who appeared outside the fence several years earlier. Your typical class clown whose mouth runs a mile a minute, if he isn’t sharing overused jokes about Zombies, he’s whispering the passages from a book his mother used to read to him when he was younger, a chant that provides him with a degree of comfort. Billie-Bob is unique in that at the tender age of eleven he has proven himself to be a natural born sniper with a willingness to use his special talent to protect his friends.
The trail they follow leads them East, into the Dreadlands, a mysterious land from which those who dared to venture in the past, never returned. For there are places where the fabric of reality is at its thinnest. Where nightmare creatures roam the shadowy corners of a well lit world. Having existed at the edge of man consciousness since the dawn of time, an indistinct blur briefly glimpsed in our peripheral vision. Their presence felt on a primitive emotional level that reached our consciousness as a faint whisper in the night. Their touch the soft caress of chilled fingers dancing along the spine like the half remembered terrors lurking within the childhood memories of every person who had ever feared the night.
In Richmond they will be confronted by a savage cult of children who worship a creature of the night. A creature that until the apocalypse had existed in the shadowy corners of a well lit world A beast of nightmares that feasted upon the fear of its victims, delving into their innermost secrets, revealing half forgotten terrors that lay like a rotting carcass at the heart of their souls. For these creatures, that were once considered nightmare imaginings, are now awake in a world where the population has been reduced.
Awake and very, very, hungry.
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016MLXM32
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016MLXM32
Richard was born in Frostburg, Maryland, in the winter of ’58’ and currently lives eight miles away. A five-year stint with the military allowed him to see what he wanted of the world. Married with four grown children and eight grandchildren, he and his wife provide a home to four pets that are spoiled beyond rotten.
In addition to writing daily he works a full time job in retail, and piddles around in his wood-shop making one mess after another when time permits.
Richard can be found online at:
Follow Richard on Twitter: @RichardSchiver
Written in Blood is Richard’s personal blog where he shares his thoughts on writing, and whatever else might strike his fancy. http://www.richardschiver.com
He can be contacted directly at email@example.com and would be delighted to hear from you.
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Writing The Sequel: Demonkin
“How could the same [stuff] happen to the same guy twice?”
Somewhere during Die Hard 2, scrappy underdog John McClane delivers the (censored) line above as a wink to the audience. Yes, he says, we know this is the same story, but we hope you’ll like it anyway. That’s one method of writing a sequel. As much as I enjoyed Die Hard 2, I decided to go a different way.
When it came time to start Demonkin, the sequel to my first book, Glyphbinder, I wasn’t sure where I wanted it to go. My first book tells a complete story, and I debated how I wanted to develop a follow up. Characters must return and stakes must be raised, but how best to go about doing that?
Die Hard 2 knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s a decent action movie that takes the scenario from Die Hard, changes the location (an airport instead of a skyscraper) and raises the stakes. Rather than a single building of hostages, we have multiple airplanes full of them. It’s a fun movie, but it plays out just like the first Die Hard. Our scrappy hero wins, the bad guys lose, and McClane reunites with his gutsy wife.
As I went back over sequels to movies I’d enjoyed, I kept coming back to the same sequel over and over: The Empire Strikes Back. In my opinion, it’s a perfect follow up to Star Wars, building on the first movie while taking the series and characters in a completely new direction. ESB does everything I want in a sequel, so as an author, I decided to dissect what it was about ESB that I liked so much.
ESB expands the universe, changes the characters in permanent ways, and reveals the cost of earlier mistakes. ESB’s ending is bittersweet at best and sets up a third movie where I know many pieces will collide in a final battle — and I’m okay with that, because ESB understands what it is. It’s the second act of a three act play, rising conflict that sets up the climax of a trilogy. A complete story, if a brutal one.
ESB also refocuses on underdeveloped characters from the first movie. In Star Wars, Luke is the hero and the story revolves around him. Han and Leia support Luke and don’t change very much. In ESB, we go another way. Han and Leia have significant character arcs and while Luke’s still in the movie, he’s off learning from a Muppet in a swamp. Luke had his story. Focusing on Han and Leia kept me hooked.
ESB also doesn’t limit itself to the same cast. It’s not afraid to introduce new characters (like Lando and Yoda) who have roles equal to the original cast. Rather than raising the stakes by rehashing the first movie (what if the Empire fielded multiple Death Stars?) ESB raises the stakes by flipping the script.
The Rebellion fights the Empire (like at Yavin) but at Hoth, the Empire wins. Risky decisions that went fine in the first movie (like Han’s decision not to pay off Jabba so he could help Luke) become huge problems. Our heroes unite to rescue Han (like they rescued Princess Leia from the Death Star) but this time, our heroes fail. Luke arrives at Cloud City to save everyone (just like he blew up the Death Star) and this time, Vader defeats him. We see our heroes savaged and forever changed.
ESB ends with one hero captive and all the others battered by huge losses and costly victories. They’re safe, for the moment, but facing even bigger challenges. It’s because ESB resolves most but not all of its threads that it works as a middle movie. It’s a soft cliffhanger. The bad guys landed some big hits, and now our battered heroes must fight even harder to recover. I’m hungry to see them redeem themselves and finally defeat the Empire, which is right where I want to be after the second volume of any trilogy.
Once I figured all that out, I was ready to write my second book. If Glyphbinder was my Star Wars, then Demonkin is my Empire Strikes Back. It’s a complete story, just like my first book, but new characters take the lead, heroes fall, survivors are traumatized, and bad guys strike mortal blows. I tried to write an exciting yet brutal story that I hope satisfies readers of my first book and gets them excited for my third.
If you enjoy darker stories where the heroes might not always win, I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
Eric Bakutis is an author and professional videogame designer based in Maryland. The staff of Balticon selected his debut adventure fantasy novel, Glyphbinder, as one of eight finalists for the 2014 Compton Crook Award. Glyphbinder has since received positive reviews from Kirkus and other review sites.
Eric’s dark fantasy short story, Hunted, recently won second place in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s 2015 short story contest. Eric’s short fiction has also appeared in various markets and anthologies including Fairly Wicked Tales (from Ragnarok Publications) Superhero Monster Hunter (from Emby Press) and The Ways of Magic (from Deepwood Publishing).
You can read the first five chapters of Glyphbinder for free at Eric’s WordPress site, Tales of the Five Provinces, along with sample chapters of Demonkin (so long as you don’t mind spoilers). Glyphbinder is now available on Amazon Kindle (and compatible platforms) for $0.99, and Demonkin will be available on December 18, 2015. For the latest news, including pre-orders, please check out Eric’s Twitter feed.