Monday, June 26, 2017

June newsletter

[Cross-posted at Patreon.]
June newsletter
Jun 26 at 10:58am
Hello, friends and patrons!  Welcome to the newsletter for June 2017.  This one was intended to be a little shorter than the May one, but . . . You're welcome? 
Anyway, if the prospect of reading farther than two paragraphs is daunting, here's the TL; DR version.  1) Arrivederci barbarossa! 2) Long pig! 3) Patronapalooza yay! 4) Wonder Woman! 5) Cookies yum! 6) JDP writes!
Also, this computer has UNLIMITED EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!
Let's go already!

DECIDERS vote : The poll last week was to decide what I should do with my facial hair for the next six months. My precious face, the plaything of your aggregate wills.  Who else gives you that kind of power? 
Anyway, the results are in.  I'm going to play both sides of the TV talking head contrarian duo and say both that the vote was a close one (Decided by one vote!) and a blowout (33% margin of victory).  You guys can argue about which of me is right in the comments.  In any event, the verdict is: 
And so, obedient to your commands, I shall wear no facial hair until at least Christmas.  And as I accept my sentence, I realize that it is a far, far better thing that I do with my face than I have ever done.  
Also: Some things should not be left to the hive mind.

Upcoming Story of the Month : For July, I've picked out a really special story-- the very first story I actually got paid for.  "Long Pig" is a little slice of dungeon-crawling life, and it was first published in
Bards and Sages Quarterlyin 2013.  And (in keeping with the zeitgeist) it features a powerful warrior woman who has been the heroine of several of my stories.
Elke is a tomb-raiding mercenary, trapped by a cave-in.  She and her treacherous business associates know they're running out of candles, but they don't know that they're also running out of time.  When everything goes dark, who will survive long enough to dig their way back into the light? 
Read the tale right here on Patreon, July 10.

Report on the inaugural Patronapalooza :  Last month we held the very first Patronapalooza.  It may make me sound vain, but I must confess that I was hoping that this brand new holiday  I created completely ex nihilo would go viral-- and it did!  
In fact, it was so successful that it emitted a festive burst of tachyon particles which traveled back in time and caused people to begin celebrating even before I invented it completely by myself and very originally!  So, well done, patrons.  You partied so hard you broke the space-time continuum.  Excellent. 
As part of the festivities, I made audio recordings of the first few chapters my work-in-progress novel The Mundanes and put them up on YouTube.  They're gone now, but like Brigadoon they'll be back in a hundred years.  Or in the last week of July, when we'll be celebrating our second Patronapalooza.  Hooray!
(Details to follow in next month's newsletter.) 

Movie review : Thanks once again to the best in-laws in the world, my very own warrior queen and I got away to watch Wonder Woman. And despite popcorn which had been sitting under the warming lights since the days when Lynda Carter wore the tiara, we had a blast!
Gal Gadot completely inhabited the role, thanks in part to the best costume for Diana ever.  She perfectly walked the balance between sunny (perhaps even naive) idealism and fiery determination.  (Why can't we have a Superman like this?)  
And she was funny!  Not a quality I usually associate with WW, but I loved it.  Her hilariously, adorably awkward scenes  with Chris Pine were absolutely my favorite parts of the film.  (Plus, I loved pretending he was Captain James T. Kirk on a secret mission to help save Earth's past.) Forget a movie sequel.  I want a weekly Lois & Clark style TV show so we can really spend some time with these two.  
(Yes, I know he got blowed up.  Which, spoiler alert on that, I guess.  But it's a comic book movie.  And he died off screen.  And we didn't see the body.  Totally still alive.)
My only nit to pick is that, as a war nerd, I really wanted this to work as a World War I movie.  And on the strategic level, it does not.  At all.  One single trench between Allied forces and German High Command?  In 1918?  And breaching that lonely trench line to liberate an occupied town results in ZERO reinforcements arriving--either from the Central Powers or the Allies?  
I know this is a cartoon movie about superfriends, but I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to get past the utter ridiculousness of the war scenes.  Which is a shame, because there were some moments that really captured the brutal, desperate pointlessness of the Great War-- plus lots of great Amazon butt-kicking!  (Pow! Take that, bell tower!)
Rated 4/5 wonders, with a half-wonder subtracted for the extreme telegraphed obviousness of Remus Lupin's supposed-to-be-surprising face-heel turn.  Come on, now.  The man is a werewolf.  Of course he's a bad guy.

Life updates : The best part about moving so far is cookies.  See, we need to clean out our cabinets, and clearly that means using up all that excess sugar and flour we have lying around.  Also chocolate chips.  
Plus, baking cookies makes the house smell like someone just baked cookies.  It's a subtle way to get prospective buyers to subconsciously associate this homely house with comfort,  warmth, family, and adult-onset diabetes.  That's your perfect storm of happiness right there.
In other news, our little Seabee is starting to make the most adorable human-like sounds.  Here's a picture of that.
Above: The sound of cuteness. Also pictured, the smell of cookies.  
Oh!  And the image at the top of this newsletter is the new and improved logo for my writing business, now in glorious Extra Color!  Many thanks to the lovely and talented Matt Malo, whose art is amazing and everybody should hire him.  

Accountability : Speaking of money being exchanged for goods and services, let's talk about what your patronage is buying-- besides Matt's awesome art.
Frankly, I probably should have done this from the very start, with the first newsletter, but that's why pencils have erasers.  So, starting this month, the newsletter will include a very brief report on the writing your patronage has been supporting.  There are at least three objective-ish ways to measure this, viz.: 
1. New words: In terms of raw productivity, I've pounded out roughly 7,000 words in the last month or so.  That translates to about 28 pages, or a little less than a page a day.  
2. Works completed: "Soul Invictus," a short story to follow my novel The Crown and the Dragon.  I plan to submit it to an upcoming anthology, and also to use it as the prologue to C&D's sequel, which I'd like to write next year. 
3. Submissions:  I had a plan to submit something every single working day in June, or to try until every story I have in my stable was out somewhere. I didn't make that goal, but as Dean Wesley Smith says, I failed to success by aiming for the stars and still hitting a pretty high mark.  My totals: 7 submissions of short stories for publication, 3 form rejections, 2 personal rejections, and 0 acceptances.  Not too shabby, actually.  (My typical acceptance rate is something like five percent; it's a numbers game.)
All in all, I'd like to be able to report greater productivity and success, but considering everything we have going on right now, I'll take it. 
Which is probably as good a note as any to end on. 
So, for your encouragement and support as I develop my skills,  thank you, my friends. 
Stay thirsty.

Monday, May 22, 2017


Greetings, imaginary readers!

Even though you are pretend, I feel you must have noticed that there has not been a lot of blogging here as of late. Well, we've been in kind of a busy season for the last many seasons.  And to be honest, I'm not sure that this blog is ever going to climb up to the top of my priorities list again-- especially given that I also have an author blog and now a Patreon page up and running.

But since my Patrons are owed a newsletter, I thought I might post it here as well.  So... welcome to the news update for the month of May!

What's new?  The first bit of news is that I have a new Patreon page.  Which, I don't think I've talked about here.  But if you know me, you've probably seen me yammering about it on Facebook.

If you haven't checked it out yet, do yourself a favor and head over there.  Lots of good stuff-- writing, art, behind-the-scenes extras-- some of which is available only to patrons.  For example, patrons who pledge two dollars a month get a new short story every month, plus access to the vault of previous Patreon stories.

But the newsletter is always going to be both free and public. This means if you want to keep up with what's happening with me and my writing, you don't have to be a patron. You don't even have to give me your email address for a mailing list-- you can find it on Patreon (or here, maybe).  If, however, you would like the newsletter to be emailed to you every month automatically, just go to my Patreon page click on the button that says FOLLOW at the top left of the page.  (It's free.)

From now on, there are a few things you should expect to see in news updates like this one.  There will be some stuff about the Patreon page.  For instance, I'll always look back to the previous week and reveal the result of the monthly Deciders vote. Likewise, I'll look forward by announcing which story is going to be posted here the first week of next month. And if there's an upcoming Patronapalooza, I'll also talk about that.

If I have a book or story coming out, the newsletter will announce it and provide links to order or preorder. I'll also talk about what's going on in my life, whether big stuff (we had a baby!) or small (we saw a movie!). And I'll always throw in some pictures.

So, are we ready? Great! Here we go!

Deciders vote PLUS Patronapalooza :Last week, patrons at the Decider level and up voted on what we should do for Patronapalooza. (It's a week long special event we'll have every month with 5 Mondays.) There were lots of good options (which you may see again in July) but the final vote was unanimous.

So, next week I will give "every patron access to an audio recording (1-2 hours) of the first three or four chapters of a current work in progress."  And what is that work?  It's a novel, tentatively titled The Mundanes:
A sinister alien entity threatens humanity.  Earth's mightiest heroes are our only hope.  And unless Nikki Nelson can file their taxes before the 15th, there will be penalties not to exceed 25% of the total unpaid taxes.  Biff!  Pow!  Doom!
It's a superhero book where ordinary people save the day-- and it's been so much FUN to write.  Man, I can't wait to share this with all of you.  I've already started doing some recording, and it's coming out really well (especially considering that I have no special recording studio, etc.).

But don't sleep on this.  When Patronapalooza is over, the audio files will shortly vanish into the mist like Darkmoon Island.  So if you're curious about what I've been writing, go pledge a dollar and listen to the first few chapters.

Upcoming story of the month : On Monday, June 5th, a new short story will be posted over on Patreon for all supporters at the Reader level ($2/month) and up.  This month, I've chosen a story called "Lullaby," which was published last year in Dragon Writers: An Anthology.

It's about a mommy and daddy dragon who are trying to get their hungry babies to quiet down and go to sleep.  I wrote it on nights when I was rocking my own noisy and rambunctious little one, so it's got a lot of my heart and soul in it.  Plus: ravenous, rampaging dragons.  Raaaaarrrrr!!!

Life and such : This reminds me that we’ve actually got a lot of change on the horizon for Casa de Payne. And some change that’s already here, and pooping.

A baby. We had a baby. (See how cute?)

Also, last week I turned in the grades for my final semester of teaching at the university. After a lifetime spent on one side of the desk or another, I am leaving academia.

I will miss teaching in a university setting, but my new career of dad/writer has been awesome on the balance. In my first week, I've had twice as many awesome writing days (4) as days I had to change my clothes and shower because of baby barf (2). Frankly, I can't believe how lucky I am to be joining the stay-at-home dad club. (See above picture.)

This change should also give me a lot more time to write. I've got two novels in the works, and if I can keep my pace up I will finish both by the end of the year. Hooray!

Our final change is that we are moving to New Mexico, where my darling wife will be starting a new job. We have loved Texas and we're worry to leave it, but fortunately we'll be just an hour or so across the border. So any time we want our stars at night to be big and bright, we'll be in easy driving distance.

As we prepare for a big move and lots of other big changes, we're grateful to live in a time when it's so easy to keep in touch with friends and family across the world.  Thank you all for your support and well-wishing.  And please keep an eye out for next month's update on my Patreon page.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Movie review: World's best in-laws edition

As a birthday present to me, my awesome in-laws watched the kiddos so the Queen of Eternia and I could go out and see Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. (Thank you, J+L!) Following both the scientific method and my heart, I have arrived at a rating of 4/5 Galaxies. A delightful romp full of explosions and lasers and funny lines.  Loved it!

Two disappointments keep this from reaching the lofty heights of the first installment. First, the incomparable Kurt Russell, though wonderful in his early scenes, was boring after the face/heel turn. Not a memorable villainous moment or line, just a super dumb Saturday morning cartoon cliche. Boo.

Second, one of the great surprises of the first was that it made me care about a CGI raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper. This one gave him a stupid tacked-on Hollywood phony character arc that left me literally yawning with rage. Damn you, Gunn brothers, for giving me such a gift and then taking it away from me. Double boo.

That said, everybody else was just as lovably amoral as in the first one except Yondu and Drax were even better. And I loved the new addition of the gross bug-lady, who I hope we will see more of in future films which will also star a surly teenage Groot. (But not Sylvester Stallone, who was bleah.)


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Movie Reviews : Presidential Apocalypse Edition

Greetings, imaginary readers.  Long time no et cetera.  Shall we?

So I'm pretty sure Adora and I only saw one movie in 2016.  I think that's the lowest count since... ever.  And who do I blame?  Society.  Also: Donald Trump.  [Deep breath.] TRUUUUUUMMMP!!!!

Moving on...

The one movie we did see in theaters this year was a good one.  So let's talk about it.

Rogue One : * * * *

I also gave The Force Awakens four stars, which in retrospect feels a little generous.  I'm not going full South Park on this or anything, but most of what I really loved about that movie was that I was basically watching Star Wars again.  Rogue One, despite the fact that it is essentially a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead-style behind-the-scenes story that runs parallel to the original Star Wars, is vastly more original.

This is not to say that Rogue One doesn't lean heavily on  the source material.  As astute critics have pointed out, RO completely depends on you having seen SW-- it never attempts to explain things like the Force, and the ending would be deeply unsatisfying if you didn't already know that this is not the end.

But, whatever, I have seen Star Wars, so I do know that the Rebels succeed in blowing up the Death Star. (Oops!  Spoilers!)  So to me this was a wonderful companion piece that took nothing away from the original and filled in some holes-- even some that I never really thought about before.  (Like: Why isn't there a big old Rebel fleet at Yavin 4 when the death star shows up at the end of Star Wars?)

There is definitely some of the usual Hollywood baloney in that the film often makes the choice to show a big cool explosion instead of having people (on either side) do something smart.  But this is the nature of the medium-- movies are more explodier and less smartier than books.  I had a great time, as did HRH.


5. Finding good ways to use previously unused footage of Red Leader and Gold Leader from the original trilogy.  Very cool.  This is the kind of recycling I can really get behind.

4. Warwick Davis playing a little alien dude with a BFG.  I wanted more of this guy.

3. The sarcastic killbot and the we're-not-jedi monks.  Make this a TV show, in the vein of Kung Fu or Scooby-doo.  Throw in Warwick Davis.  To hell with continuity.

2. Darth Effing Vader striding down a dark and smoky corridor, cutting down rebel after rebel.

1. Five year old in the movie theater behind me asking aloud, "Are they dead?" during the final scene when our heroine and hero are nuked into radioactive vapor.  Hilarious.


5. Zombie Leia.  Her lines were good, but I just couldn't stop wondering if she was a cartoon or a Cylon skinjob or what.

4. No Bothans.  And, yes, the internet did remind me that the Bothans died to get the plans for the second death star-- not the first one.  And, no, I do not care.  This movie should have killed a Bothan every three minutes.  Two, maybe.

3. Zombie Tarkin. Shudder!  Seriously uncannied my valley. Definitely knocked off a half star for this.  Maybe a whole star.

2. Forrest Whittaker dying for absolutely no reason at all, other than he didn't want to jog down to the spaceship. Lame.  I mean, I would definitely die in that scene for the same reason, but I go to the movies for an escape.

1. Tarkin and Leia.  So terrible.  I can't stress this enough.

Anyway, thanks, J.J. Abrams for a great Star Wars movie.  It was tons of fun.  And I look forward to handing over my money to see the next standalone Star Wars flick: OLYMPUS MON: THE MOTHMA STORY (coming in 2018).


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Movie reviews: 2015, the year in review edition

Okay, so it hasn't been quite a year since the last movie reviews post, but I'm going to go ahead and jump in anyway.

Why? Because my lady is at the grocery store and the boys are asleep. And I don't have anything else to do. Apparently.

Ant-Man : * * * * 1/2

Soooooo fun. The science is completely inconsistent and silly even for a comic book movie, but I enjoyed the heck out of this flick. The Thomas the Tank Engine sequence perfectly encapsulates everything that makes this movie tick: thrilling action, light-hearted comedy, believable characters, and a blithe disregard for the immutable laws of physics.

For the first ten minutes of the movie, I wasn't sure about Paul Rudd. He reminded me of Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern in all the wrong ways. But I ended liking his Scott Lang almost as much as his Brian Fantana or Bobby Newport. The real scene stealer, though, was Michael Peña as Luis. Hilarious!  Every line he delivered was pure gold.

Bottom line: Even though both the last episode of Lost and the last 200 hours or so of The Hobbit greatly depleted my reservoir of like for Evangeline Lilly, I still can't wait to see Ant-Man and the Wasp.

The Martian : * * * 1/2

Not nearly as good as the book, but still very good. And Matt Damon was much better than I expected. I completely believed him (and liked him) as an astronaut. Not so much Jessica Chastain. Removing her from this movie entirely would bump it up at least a half star. Maybe a whole star. The same for the execrable two minute epilogue at the end. Blecch.

Hey and Michael Peña again! And he was great! Boy am I ready to see everything else that guy is in. Hollywood, take note.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens : * * * *

Yeah, this is pretty much a remake of the original in lots of ways, but who cares. It's a pastiche, an homage, and it comes from a place of love (and fanboi squee).  So yay Han and Chewie flying the Millenium Falcon!  Yay tough old Grandma Princess Leia! Yay emo Kylo Ren!  Yay Finn and Rey and BB-8!  Yay stormtrooper Daniel Craig! Yay Star Wars!

But just to prove I am not just enraptured to be reliving my childhood, booooo pretty much all the CGI aliens. Especially that refugee from the Hobbit heptalogy Maz Kanata. Booooo. In addition to looking awful, Yoda she is not. And booooooooo Supreme Leader Snoke. Seriously, that is the worst villain name in the history of the universe.

Anyway, that's all for now. Until next time, my imaginary readers, feel free to form your own opinions about movies.

I will correct you later if you are wrong.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Movie Reviews: Babysitters are expensive edition

We have not seen a lot of movies lately. Not sure what the problem is. Maybe time, or maybe the cost of getting a special snowflake to come watch our little perpetual motion machine. Either way, the arrival of our second little bundle of boy will not make things easier.

So I'm going to make sure these reviews are extra good, by including a special BONUS PRO TIP with each one-- absolutely free! You're welcome, Hollywood.

* * * The Hobbit 3 : Five armies is pretty good, but couldn't they have made it six? This movie just didn't feel like it had enough going on. The plot structure was too coherent and the movie itself was far too short. But the good news is that they can fix all this when they make the Silmarillion-- preferably as a series of 10 movies, each 10 hours long.

BONUS PRO TIP: PJ, you spent the whole last movie building up the dragon, and then killed it ten minutes into this one. Next time you chop a single children's book into three mega-movies, have the scary monster's death be the awesome climax of film 2 instead of the rushed and meaningless opening scene of film 3.

* * * * Cinderella : Utterly charming! Great costumes, picturesque scenery, and they even managed to make Cinderella's choices sensible within the context of the story. We could all do a lot worse than to make "Have courage and be kind" our motto.

BONUS PRO TIP: If you're going to remake a classic, don't miss the opportunity to showcase the dark horse scene-stealing star. Here I speak, of course, of Gus-Gus. How is it, in this age of shameless and unoriginal exploitation, that we do not have a Gus-Gus movie yet?

That's all for now. Sorry, imaginary readers. But if you want more movie reviews, you could always come watch the kids.


Saturday, August 02, 2014

We all fell in the pit

 * * * * *  Guardians of the Galaxy : Andy Dwyer leads a gifted ensemble cast in this unblinking look at the harsh realities of the contemporary space pirate.  Based on the experimental but critically acclaimed counterculture text, this starkly serious arthouse film is the century's first true masterpiece, although it may never achieve mass popularity.

[Cross-posted on my new AUTHORIAL WEBSITE WHAT WHAT.]

Monday, March 31, 2014

Movie reviews: Winter of our discontent edition

Okay, so I've had a few disappointments lately at the movie theater. And the only thing for me to do is to air my grievances.

* * 1/2 Ender's Game : Less than the sum of its parts. The happiest surprise was a delightfully competent Harrison Ford. Should have been based on the short story, not the novel. But OSC had final say over everything, so what do I know?

* * * 1/2 Hunger Games: Catching Fire : An Empire Strikes Back ending would have been better than the jarring cliffhanger that we get, but that's the way the book does it. But a fun ride to get to that drop. The best part: Avery Jessup's crazy outfits and hairdos.

* * * * * Gravity: The saddest, scariest, most beautiful movie I have seen in a long, long while. A sparkling jewel in the heap of putrescence that is contemporary cinema. I loved every minute of it.

* * Hobbit 2: Good grief. Made me wish for the in-depth attention to character of the first over-inflated CGI extravaganza. If the last one is as dumb as this one, Peter Jackson will have used up all the good will he banked with the first trilogy.

Hollywood, please make better movies.


[UPDATE: Just saw The Lego Movie. Thank you, Hollywood!]

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Okay, so it's been a million years since I updated this blog. Imaginary readers, I am sorry to have disappointed you. But I have at least three good reasons why.

First, we had a baby!  He's adorable! (Seriously, check my Facebook page for pictures. But only if you're ready to think that the Gerber baby looks like garbage.)

Second, we moved! Like three times!

Third, I wrote a book! And it's published!

The book is called The Crown and the Dragon, and it's the novelization of a fantasy movie by Arrowstorm Entertainment. The movie is coming out later this year from Vivendi / Universal. I'll post more details about this as they become available. But for now let met just say that it was super fun to be a part of this project.

The novel has been published by WordFire Press, and is now available in trade paperback and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Baen, and other retailers.

At Comic Con in Salt Lake, they premiered the film and I did signings at the WordFire booth. It was a blast, and not just because of all the crazy costumes. We actually sold out, which left me apologizing to people who came by on Saturday afternoon. But that's not such a bad kind of problem to have, in the end.

Anyway, I think that's the only place I'm going to do a book signing, but if you would like to have your own signed and personalized copy, you can click this PayPal button, and I'll be happy to send you one.


Anyway, that's all the updates for now, but there's more to come. In the meanwhile, check out the baby pictures on Facebook, and pick up a copy of my book. :)


Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 Movie Rreviews: Before the Fall edition

Here's what we saw this year before school started up again.

* * * 1/2 Les Miserables : Anne Hathaway's lovely white teeth puzzled me, but her singing was unbelievable and so all is forgiven. Russell Crowe also sang. Highlights include: Wolverine's harrowing prisoner beard, the despicable Msr. and Mme. Thenardier, and the always-heartbreaking Eponine. I was singing the whole score for weeks, although often with improvised lyrics. "But the diapers come at night...!"

* * * * Iron Man 3 : Ben Kingsley is just so delightful. Everything that comes out of that man's mouth is gold. He's a treasure too rich for any one film to contain. Thank you, Mandarin, for making our lives wonderful. (Everybody else was fine.)

* * * 1/2 Star Trek Into Darkness : Benedict Arnold Cumberbund is no Ricardo Montalban-- but then again, who is? I can't really hold that against them. And there are some spectacular visuals here, including the Enterprise literally jumping hundreds of sharks. But this movie loses a full star for the use of Cylon baby blood to blaspheme Leonard Nimoy's sacrifice. Shame on you, J.J. Abrams. Don't pull that crap with the new Star Wars, okay?

* * * * * Monsters University : This movie made me laugh so hard. More importantly, it tricked me. I bought the fakeout hard, thought that they were taking the easy way out. But this is Pixar, so they didn't. They played out the trope, then turned it on its head, then blew it into a million pieces. I walked out of that theater reexamining my ideas about how the world works, and how it should work. Well done.

That's all for now!