The Assault on Inquiry

Here’s a question for you: when did we become so opposed to questions? Question society. Question the government. Question the media. Question your parents. Question everything. It’s where the seeds of knowledge are planting—in asking questions.

And yet.

And yet many adults—and I assuredly include teachers in this—are put off by that almighty: “Why?” Have you noticed the infinite capacity children seem to maintain for that investigation? Why is the sky blue? What is the nature of a dream? Why don’t we have tails? When was the world born? How deep is the ocean?

From the deepest inquiry to the most innocuous query, we should relish the spark in youth that teaches them to wonder. I say this, because too often we don’t think—and furthermore don’t care—about these answers. We know—or think we know—some semblance of the answer, so we don’t plum them any deeper with “Whys”. And in turn, we take that obstinacy and apply it to those curious youths, answering them with irritation and distaste, ridicule or dismissal, and actively make them feel stupid for thinking outside the box, for pondering depth, or for not knowing what we take for granted.

There are, none of us, who stand omniscient. Mother may be God in the eyes of a child, but we need to remember that we are not, in fact, deified. Just because you don’t know something or don’t care, doesn’t grant an open-ended excuse to dismiss, exclude, or deride. Admit you don’t know. Children won’t hold it against you, and you may learn something new and exciting yourself—we should always be trying to learn. Don’t dismiss if you do know. Sit down and explain it to them. You never know what will strike a chord that resonates with them throughout the course of their lives.

Because likewise, your negativity rubs off. Children are not the idiots many make them out to be. As I said: they are filled with wonder, and more importantly, they learn. If they can’t learn what they asked of you, then they learn to recognize instead how the pursuit of knowledge annoys and aggravates…and thus they, too, come to avoid it. To walk the path to ignorance, and chastisement of those that bury themselves in the knowledge of the world. It only takes a few experiences to ruin them.

You realize we have libraries for a reason, right? And whatever happened to, “The stars are the limit, kid,” because telling them no is a one-way street, but telling them they should grow up to find out—to be the first to know something, well, that’s a whole hell of a lot more incentive than deprecation, isn’t it?

Unveiling As Feathers Fall

As Feathers Fall eBook CoverThat is one gorgeous cover, no? And before you ask this, like all its predecessors, was crafted by the skilled hands of one Matthew Watts.

On Friday, March 20, the first day of spring will herald the beginning of the end of this chapter in the fantasy genre, finishing out The Haunted Shadows trilogy. It will be available via Amazon and its retailers in all associated countries, with print and e-book versions (theoretically, knock on wood, or faux-wood as this desk’s case might be) launching on the same day. PRE-ORDERS ARE ALREADY AVAILABLE.

Kick off the spring with a journey to a new world—because, let’s be honest, if your state looks anything like the Midwest, there’s still going to be plenty of snow when it rolls around. Thank you for all your support along this journey and I look forward to kicking off greener days with you—albeit with my heat being brought in the form of war, treachery, and the occasional bout of magical flame.

No drakkons were hurt in the making of this post. Or in the book.

…full disclosure: a few gryphons were, though.

AS FEATHERS FALL to launch this month

That’s right, gentle readers, there’s no illusion or misdirection in that title.

It has been a bumpy ride this past year, and I’m sure after the forced delay at the end of last year, some of you probably thought AS FEATHERS FALL was going to be a non-starter. Well, I always finish what I start, and chaos or no chaos, the metaphorical ducks have been gotten into a row and soundly chastised until they met my terms. Essentially: I had a series to conclude, and I had done my part; I wasn’t about to let the world’s mayhem step in the way.

Alright, that probably didn’t make much sense, but you know what does? RELEASE DATES.

AS FEATHERS FALL will be kicking off Spring this year on March 20 in both print and e-book, finishing off The Haunted Shadows trilogy for some and hopefully introducing new readers to the series as well. In the end, it actually clocked in a bit shorter than its predecessors, but I assure you it’s no less epic in its fantasy scope for that.

Given the nature of this season, of course, there will probably still be snow on the ground come that springtide kickoff, so you can probably read your way through between longing glances out the window, waiting for the sun to return.

I don’t think I need to tell you that I love stories. I devour them when I’m not crafting them. The journey that has led to this point has seen a lot of love, but also its share of hardships, and I don’t think I’ll shock and appall anyone in saying it didn’t all go as planned. I have always wanted the double life—the day job and the literary nights—and I think I have managed that in what I’m going to call success.

Since college, I’ve written three books, dozens of short stories, and hundreds of poems. Some have been published. Some are still in the process. Some lurk in the shadows, waiting for their chance. My point? The Haunted Shadows series has been a hell of a journey for me, and I doubt it will be my last foray into the world of Lecura (For Flying Spaghetti Monster’s sake, I still have to put out the Company of the Eagles short stories too!). It’s just the beginning of my literary expedition, though.

It’s my pleasure to bring AS FEATHERS FALL to you, and I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, are kind enough to share your thoughts with me, or at the very least, cast them into the great wilds of the wily Internet. Brings what the fandom folks call, “The Feels,” you know?

AS FEATHERS FALL will be available March 20 in both print and e-book form.

One Studio’s Blockbuster; One Author’s Horror Story

I have a horror story for you.

For our protagonist, we have a scrappy physicist turned novelist, who developed what can only be described as one of the most massive blockbusters of recent years. I know, so far out there, right—how could someone possibly relate? Well for starters, let me drop another name on you:

GRAVITY

The Gravity Poster.

Do you remember Gravity? Flailing cameras? Spinning stars? Shrapnel? Sandra Bullock dancing through Earth’s atmosphere? Yes, that Gravity. Well, did you happen to know that Tess Gerritsen is also the person that birthed that particular entity, originally in novel form? I thought not. Yet it plays quite heavily into the why of this horror tale.

Now suppose you take this character and kindly tell them that they don’t need to be paid for their job…and certainly not for the work that came of it. No doubt that’s quirked a few eyebrows. Well, that’s precisely what has happened to Tess Gerritsen. You see, Gerritsen is presently involved in a very nasty little lawsuit over the theft of her property—the aforementioned Gravity—by a little company named Warner.

From “The Gravity of Hollywood: When It’s Okay for a Studio to Steal Your Story” by Matt Wallace:

It seems author Tess Gerritsen sold the rights to her novel GRAVITY to New Line in 1999. In exchange she would receive credit, a production bonus, and net profit points if the movie were made (not only is that never a given, it’s rare).

In 2008 New Line was “acquired” by Warner, who then went on to make the movie GRAVITY from Cuarón’s supposedly original screenplay concerning a medical doctor/astronaut left adrift in space after satellite debris kills the rest of her crew.

The novel GRAVITY is about a female medical doctor/astronaut trapped on the International Space Station after the crew is killed in a series of accidents. Later, as they developed the film, Ms. Gerritsen wrote scenes in which satellite debris broke apart the station and her protagonist was left adrift in her EVA suit.

Sound familiar?

The facts had at this point intrigued me on the level of juicy gossip.

Again, I admit this shamefully. I’ve lived and worked in Los Angeles for almost five years. It jades.

That’s when my lady (who, incidentally, is a brilliant attorney) dropped the ATOM BOMB OF HORROR RADIATING AT THE HEART OF THIS STORY.

Nikki went on to explain to me that author Tess Gerritsen was NOT suing Warner Bros. over copyright infringement or intellectual property theft.

Ms. Gerritsen admits openly and freely that Warner had every right to make the movie GRAVITY, utilizing her story as they saw fit.

She sued them because they brazenly screwed her out of the credit, payment, and profit she was guaranteed from the movie clearly (at least to me) drawn from her work.

The court doesn’t seem to dispute any of that.

This is the horror bomb part.

What both the court and Warner Bros. argue is Warner is under no obligation to honor the contract New Line made with her.

See, the problem was, Warner hadn’t bought the rights to the book. Rather, they bought out the company that had—New Line. Fairly standard fare in the business world, actually; same thing goes for patents. It’s one of the reasons companies do so like to gobble others up, in fact—so they can get access to their hoards. Unfortunately, Warner has argued that while buying up said company has entitled them to its prizes, it has not bound them by the same contracts that enabled those prizes in the first place.

A Publicity shot of Tess Gerritsen.

Thus, they have refused to credit Ms. Gerritsen (who has not in any way debated Warner’s right to publish the movie—merely their refusal to pay her for it), or even pay her. Anything. Which really just seems like the latest par for the course round of writers getting shafted for their hard work. What’s more, as writers and readers continue to rumble and rage about the present state of the publishing industry, about the state of writing, and what creators do or don’t deserve for the trouble, this incident leads to a particularly troubling entry into the debate: that of the legal.

Unfortunately, with studio versus author, we find ourselves at a legal crossroads. Whatever happens here (and the court has currently ruled to dismiss Tess’s case, in Warner’s favor), we’re going to find ourselves with immediate precedent for future cases—and thusly, for the industry at large. Don’t see the big deal? Say the court rules in favor of Warner. To Warner, it’s a solid chunk of change in the immediate, and for Tess Gerritsen, merely no gains on something she’s already not being paid for. That’s the immediate case, though.

In the future, other courts and judges can point to that ruling when they inform authors that studios need not pay on an optioned story—merely because that studio purchases another that had ACTUALLY negotiated the contract under which it was optioned. Essentially, there would be a massive loophole in the rights of authors when it comes to their own creative property—and studios would be able to operate with a lot looser restrictions on how they run their businesses. At least, when it comes to capitalizing off other people’s work.

Right now it’s comics that studios seem to be making huge profits off of, but they have always made a good chunk of their change from the literary scene as a whole. I doubt many moviegoers even realize how many films have that lovely little, “Based on…” disclaimer contained somewhere therein. Adapting books is a huge business, and I think fellow writer Emmie Mears said it best: “The least they can do is ensure those who thought up the stories are compensated accordingly.”

And if you haven’t read the article by Matt Wallace yet, which goes much more in-depth into the issue, and hits things far more eloquently than I, do so. Especially if you’re an author. In the same vein, you can get the story straight from the author’s own mouth, here: “Gravity Lawsuit Affects Every Writer.”

One Author to Another

This is an endorsement.

No, I don’t do these very often.

Yes, that should say something about my confidence in the fellow about to be described.

No, I was not paid for this.

Yes, it is in response to a similarly (snarky) pitch from this writer’s own page

Might I add, that is IN SPITE of the fact that he detests dragons, in any form, and I very much hope that one sits its fat little rump on his head and roasts him like a chestnut for it. THAT ASIDE…

JakeI would like to introduce Mr. Bryce David Salazar.

Bryce is the author of the forthcoming novel She Sees Metaphors (to be released summer/fall of 2015), which is contemporary/literary fiction that will bloody well set you reeling. Appropriately, he can string together a metaphor so elaborate you’ll lose yourself in an image within an image, and we’ll be forced to pull you out from perpetual loop at a later date. The man knows imagery and his dedication to character is inspiring. He may also be the reason the rum is always gone, and be a shoe-in for the cast of The Room 2, if all that is holy has no mercy upon us in such a way.

Keep your eye on this fellow, gentle readers. He will surprise.

A January Writer’s Smörgåsbord

A January Writer’s Smörgåsbord

12455-robot-pictureNew Year.

New Month.

New oh lord it has been too long since I prattled on here.

So much for New Year’s resolutions, eh?

Since I’m not one of those fancy fellows with people to shout updates at you from the heavens, this is where this little author’s giving you the rundown on what you’ve been missing here in my silence. Call it the TOP FIVE rundown to one man’s madness.

  1. Book Delay – In case you missed it, somehow, AS FEATHERS FALL, the third and final book in the Haunted Shadows series was delayed until first quarter this year. It will be out sometime in the coming couple months. The writing is done, fear not. In fact, I will be posting a preview next month. Why then, the delay? This was due to…
  2. Editor Change – Due to very human issues, there was an 11th hour shakeup in those working on the book. My former editor will no longer be involved in the process. As this did not transpire until the last minute, prompting a very sudden shift/hunt, delays were an unfortunate necessity. I believe in quality over quantity, after all, and no writer should be the final editor for their work as well. Foreign eyes must be there to see what we become too familiar to see.
  3. Life is a fickle creature – Due to unforeseen circumstances (a very collective, mean-spirited group of them), my living circumstances are also taking a tumble and a dramatic shift. Naturally, this also contributed to the Book Delay. Therein, however, I will be landing on stable ground again at month’s end.
  4. To school, or not to school? – As if the previous wasn’t enough, I find myself at a crossroads on the career growth front. The looming question: do extensive training programs lie in my future,  an Associate’s Degree for a new path entire, or something else? Lots of questions. Many answers. The mind debates.
  5. Upcoming Publication – You heard it here first. Another short story of mine, CLINGING, is slated to appear in Raven International Publishing‘s A Bleak New World anthology in the coming months. So long Kansas; hello Dystopia. As I know more, so shall you, but keep your eyes peeled. That one will be a grim ride, but I can promise you Robots. Also puppies. What could go wrong?

That pretty well does it. It’s been a rocky start to a new year, coming off a rocky end to the old, but life will what it will, and we can but react and try to keep our heads. I still write, even when I go silent, and the results will always come back to you, gentle readers, one way or another. In the meanwhile, for your entertainment, here’s a shout-out blurb provided by friend and fellow writer Bryce David Salazar, author of She Sees Metaphors. May you enjoy his snark as much as I:

“Chris is the author of the Haunted Shadows Trilogy and a freelance writer in Michigan. His short story, The Child’s Cry has been published in Mystic Signals Magazine. He is also a filthy pig who can stream a sentence together better than most writers, and for that, Bryce wishes every foul act of god upon his head in something so hideous, even the Old Testament would soil its pants in fear.”

Fiction Crowd Issue One is now LIVE!

Fiction Crowd Issue One is now LIVE!

There’s something you may have gotten from this website so far.

Or my novels.

Or my short stories.

Or the (dear sweet lord, have you SEEN how many poems I’ve flung against the walls here) myriad of other scribbles I’ve tossed to the wind.

That something is this: I like to write. What’s more, I love the act of writing. Creation. Not only do I craft, I consume. My reading is oft akin to devouring, though nothing on the level of my father (who probably averages a full length book a day for his reading pleasure). As such, I’m always looking for new methods of expression and new activities to lose myself in.

Fiction CrowdIf you’ve been hovering about my Twitter, you will probably have noticed recent references to a site called Fiction Crowd–or at least the Patreon dedicated to helping it go live.

Well, the day has come and the FIRST ISSUE IS OUT. Founder Hayley Morgan has poured her heart and soul into this project and has cobbled together a great collection of contributors. I am likewise on deck, with a segment called “Modern Gods,” which, being aptly named, is about the new, contemporary pop culture deities on the block, and the adulation that has given them form. From Clouds to Coffee and the elusive Burning Man, this short but sweet section is looking for its new adherents.

Of course, Modern Gods, like all of Fiction Crowd, is also looking for more contributions–and I mean of the literary sort. Wish to join the Pantheon? You’re more than welcome to submit your own suggestions for 21st century lesser deities and even stories, if some of these figures’ myths and legends have captivated your fancy!

But before I get much further, I think we need to talk about…

What IS Fiction Crowd?

In the site’s own words:

“It is a literary journal, a writers’ hub, a playground full of imaginary worlds, a creators’ collage and a hive of disorganized minds.
It is a multiverse of multifiction.
It is a place to read, write and imagine, to inspire and be inspired, where story narratives are shaped by audience participation or built in pieces by different authors.”

Are you ready to join the crowd or not?

Lift-off with New Frontiers!

New FrontiersGreetings, gentle readers!

Today’s a special day! Yes, it’s Tuesday, but it’s also a release day! Not the next novel, I’m sad to say–though the final chapter of the Haunted Shadows trilogy is coming along nicely–but a short story for your good, cheap fun style perusal. (Note: for the trollers among you, I am not, in fact, good cheap fun…but this bit of sci-fi is.) Some of you may remember “New Frontiers” in an earlier incarnation. Well, it has been tightened up, edited and remastered, and now it has been repackaged in its own shiny form for e-book distribution. Grand Celestia has been kind enough, in the meanwhile, to coincide a Super Moon with the release. Seriously, you can read by that thing at night.

“New Frontiers” also has a shiny tag on the inside, for which I am grateful: an Unfettered Books selection. They’re quality people, those Unfettered folks, and I tip my hat to their efforts in redistribution.

Here’s the relevant links so that you might snag your own copy (for just $0.99!) — a link that comes with a rather broad smile and a most lofty salute to anyone who decides to take the plunge into the depths of space with me, and learn a bit about where privatized exploration just might take us.

Amazon (US) 

Amazon (UK)

Special thanks to anyone who takes the time to share these links today. May the week find you well!

A Momentary Interlude to Discuss Violence in America

“Hands up, don’t shoot,”—a modern mantra.

Before the events of Aug. 9, it was a phrase that we all knew, a classic plea of self-defense. It shows surrender, peaceful surrender. Yet in Ferguson, that phrase has become a rallying cry, precisely because of how it did not work.

When you look at pictures on the news, it’s everywhere. On t-shirts. On posters. It is a jab at the police force there where, according to witness reports, Michael Brown, who raised his hands in surrender, was shot regardless by a white officer.

The end result hasn’t just been a slogan, though. Protests, riots, and an indefensible police response have been at the heart of news circuits over the course of the last week. Some outlets have come to refer to this St. Louis suburb as “Fergustan,” a not-so-veiled reference to the fact that we expect this sort of behavior more overseas—we just don’t expect to see it on the streets of what our leaders regularly proclaim, “The Greatest Nation on Earth.”

I write this message not because it’s not being covered. Lord knows, there’s round the clock coverage of this mess, both at home and abroad. Amnesty International is sending a team to its first ever American investigation for goodness sake, and it’s no longer unusual to see war correspondents on the scene. People are tense. People are watching. I’m writing this message as an appeal, and as an airing of details.

Last night, after the Missouri State Police finally relieved the Ferguson Police Department of their duties—following endless criticism of their overhanded efforts to dissolve protests—and hopeful speeches throughout the day, things took their darkest turn yet. Hours before a governor-imposed curfew, things turns violent when police attempted to disperse the crowds and “restore calm.”

The stated reasons: reports of gunfire, a protest a little too near to a police command center for their liking. The end result? Molotov cocktails, lines of riot police, tear gas, and as of this morning, a call for the National Guard.

Yes, that’s right, the National Guard. The people that are deployed against disasters have now found themselves in a situation they haven’t had to deal with since the 1960s—a need to quell raw, simmering rage, and restore order for those whose sole job should be to do so. Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order this morning deploying the U.S. state militia to the area, effectively dubbing Ferguson a disaster zone.

“Tonight, a day of hope, prayers, and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk,” Nixon said in a statement on his website.

In contradiction, you have residents saying things like, “The smoke bombs were completely unprovoked,” said Anthony Ellis, 45. “It (the protest) was led by kids on bikes. Next you know they’re saying, ‘Go home, Go home!’” (Reuters)

State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson explained, in turn, that while most protesters were peaceful, the trouble came from “a few people bent on violence and destruction.” Elevating the level of the police response was, in his opinion, simply par for the course. Following that example, the state has now raised theirs, even as the Federal government steps in to autopsy Brown’s body (a third time it’s had to go through this, mind you), and supporting protests spring up in other cities.

In Ferguson, they’ve even closed schools today.

It’s out of control

So let’s break this down:

A week of protests.

Brutal police tactics, from start to finish, including the shooting of a man they later released criminal details on, but which they knew nothing of at the time. Journalists have been arrested for nothing more than reporting on the details, and there has been a determined effort to keep the information gatherers out.

Local, state and federal agencies scrambling for a response.

Autopsy after autopsy after autopsy.

Those people taking the streets say there often is no other outlet for their objections, that they have no alternative but to protest until they are listened to. It’s a sad state to find oneself in, not just as an individual, but as a community. Young and old alike, they’ve put up with a lot, for a very long time—the thing breaking here in Ferguson is not a single man’s poor decision, but the latest in a long-running sense of one versus the other, of an outlook on a community that does no one any favors.

It wasn’t even until a few days ago that the police finally caved to Civil rights activists’ demands for the name of the officer who shot and killed Mr. Brown—ostensibly out of concern for his safety, and probably logically so, but nonetheless, a poor move which only served to fan the flames in the community.

Conclusion?

Police, Politicians, and fellow Citizens, we need to rethink how this whole society thing is working. Because if this is how things turn out, it’s not. We don’t want the United States of America to be the land of freedom under which terms and conditions may apply. None of us signed a terms and licensing agreement.

What’s more, this should be a wake up call. With the militarization of police forces across the USA, the buying of surplus military arms, and, if a concerted effort is not made to rein in what exactly is “the law,” what exactly is “right and wrong,” the capacity for what is happening in Ferguson could happen anywhere, and that’s a truly dark thought.

Communication, people. It makes the world go round. Let’s engage before we disintegrate.

The Grand Unveiling: Introducing Unfettered Books

Time to cease the vague social media hints and grab the megaphone. Roll out the red carpet, gentle readers! I proudly present to you a shining new self-pub indie author book site:

Unfetteredbooks.com

Unfettered Books is a site that currently features myself and Nathan Hartley, whom some of you will doubtless recognize as my editor, though others might know him as the poet who brought The Vultures and I to the world. Both his book and my own are available on our site as well as links to his Facebook author page and more. The most exciting part of this is what Unfettered Books has to offer you all, our intelligent and engaging readers!

As a team, Hartley and I are very excited to offer a promise of quality, imagination and open dialogue that will guarantee a worry free reading experience. We are both avid readers of self-published and indie published books, and know the uncertainty that comes with the undertaking. Will this new, unknown author’s books be worth the time and money? Will the books be filled with errors, from plot-based loopholes to grammatical madness? Will the author walk away, leaving the series half finished?

With the Unfettered Books stamp of approval you can buy and read our books unbound and without worry, knowing there are little to no errors, complete chapters, satisfying endings (as well as guaranteed endings to any series under the guidance of our fingertips, mind you), and an honest, open dialogue with the authors.

You can find the whole of our Unfettered Books Collection on our website. You can also join our Reader’s List to access our free monthly newsletter!