Secrets of Appendix N

Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons by Jeffro Johnson isn't just a best seller. It's the spark that's ignited a new literary movement celebrating the pulp SFF tradition.

Jeffro recently joined the Geek Gab crew for a lively discussion of his masterpiece, including a few intriguing details that the author had kept secret--until now!

Listen in to learn the secrets of Appendix N.

Note: my internet cut out somewhere around the 45 minute mark, but my intrepid co-hosts and our honored guest bravely forged ahead!

The legendary Appendix N is available here:

Appendix N - Jeffro Johnson

And don't miss the book that Jeffro called “Anime-Fueled Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror Cosmological Action.”
Brian Niemeier - Nethereal



Live and Let Bite

2016 Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn announces the launch of the third book in his Love at First Bite series: Live and Let Bite.

Live and Let Bite - Declan Finn
Merlin “Merle” Kraft has been fighting the darkness for months. He left San Francisco in the capable hands of Marco Catalano and his anti-vampire team to defend them against vampires. With special operators at his command, Kraft has been killing every vampire he can find in the Middle East. After clearing out a nest in Tora Bora, he is finally brought back to New York, and the investigation that led him to vampires in the first place.
Marco is starting to spiral. He knows it. His team knows it. Everyone around him can see that he’s just a bomb waiting to explode. The only woman who can bring him back from the brink is also the woman who lit his fuse. 
Ever since the demon Asmodeus tried to murder Marco, Amanda Colt has been hunting down every lead to find the ones ultimately behind the attempt. After months of investigation, she learns that something in the dark is colder than the dark. It is a vampire assassin that Amanda has faced once before, and Amanda lost. This assassin is stronger than anything they’ve face before, and it isn’t alone. 
With Marco ready to self-destruct, and the armies of Hell ready to descend, the three of them must come together and stop a thousand-year-old assassin that has never been stopped, and has never failed to kill her target.
You can get it here.

And you can also get the first and second books in Declan's award-nominated series for $0.99 each.

While we're on the subject of CHORF-despised, Puppy-approved books, my Campbell-nominated and Dragon Award-winning Soul Cycle novels can be had for roughly the same price as one tradpub eBook. Bonus: every sale triggers an SJW!

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle



Down to Sheol by M.T. White

I'm pleased to announce the release of Down to Sheol, a new crime thriller novel by author M.T. White.
Down to Sheol - M.T. White
A crime thriller set in the rural Texas--a world with the tools, toys and weapons of the modern but governed by the codes of honor and revenge of the old.
Jack McGregor had the land they wanted but fought them tooth and nail to keep it. Now he's dead.
Corrupt D.A. Michael Kubicek just needed to cover up the killing committed by his in-laws, the violent Chambers brothers. Decadent real estate developer Jimmy Morgan just needed to pay off Jack's feeble sister so he could turn the land in to a thriving, monetary oasis. The men in this crooked cabal thought their troubles would be over.
But the trouble has just begun.
They didn't count on Jack's son Clayton, an Army vet returning full of distrust and a hair trigger. They didn't count on Bree Morgan, Jimmy's wife and Clayton's ex-girlfriend. And they didn't count on Clayton and Bree joining forces.But as Clayton investigates, he crosses paths with the Chambers' and discovers there's more to his father's death than meets the eye while Jimmy stumbles upon Bree's secret plan.
The guns come out and everyone is caught in the crossfire.
Get the book here.

While you're at it, pick up the newest entry in my exciting, award-winning Soul Cycle series, The Secret Kings.
Brian Niemeier - The Secret Kings



Writing Schedule Update

We're less than a month into the new year, and 2017 is already shaping up to be an even more significant leap forward for my writing career than the admittedly stellar 2016 was.

If you've been following this blog or my social media accounts, then you've probably come across hints of a major milestone in my publishing journey. Today I can confirm that I have begun work on a new novel for the relatively new but highly esteemed small publisher Castalia House.

Castalia House

There have been a lot of questions about my collaboration with CH, so I'll address the most common queries here.

Did you submit this book to Castalia House because you got tired of publishing yourself?
No. In fact, I didn't submit a manuscript at all. CH lead editor Vox Day approached me with an offer to work on this project, and I gladly accepted.

Does working with CH mean you're no longer indie?
I've never been a pure indie author. My first pro work was published in Sci Phi Journal. Then I wrote another short for them and had a third appear in Forbidden Thoughts. It's more accurate to call me a hybrid author. That's always been the case, and it hasn't changed.

Will you no longer advocate for self-publishing?
Self-publishing is an ideology for some people. It never has been for me. I self-published my first three novels based on the strictly mercenary calculation that self-pub was the best way to reach an audience and GET PAID!

The results proved that self-publishing the Soul Cycle was the right move. I'm still convinced it's the right move, and moreover, Vox concurs.

As for which publishing options I advocate, recent events in the industry have changed the game:

What do these data mean? Actually, they reinforce the position I've held for years: that nontraditional publishing--including indie as well as writer and reader-centered smaller houses like CH and Baen--is the smart choice for new authors.

However, seismic changes on the horizon will soon make nontrad pub the only choice for all authors.

What will happen to the Soul Cycle?
Put your minds at ease, SC fans. A condition of my agreement with Vox is that writing for Castalia House will not interfere with my indie publishing schedule. By way of proof, I would have started work on the CH novel earlier, but the SDL insisted that I get The Secret Kings out the door first.

Long story short, I will be writing and publishing the fourth and final book in the Soul Cycle, The Ophian Rising, myself. Look for it closer to year's end.

What can you tell us about this new project with Castalia House?
Not much. It's fiction. My skills were deemed a good fit for the job. Beyond that, here's all I'll say until further notice: consider the kinds of projects that Vox has been engaged in recently.

That's about it for now. Thanks again to Vox Day and my excellent Castalia House editor--you know who you are. It's not every day that relatively new author gets the chance to work with the publishing house that's on track to become America's #1 SFF publisher. It's an honor to be included with and learning from a team that includes legends like Dr. Jerry Pournelle, David VanDyke, B.V. Larson, Martin Van Creveld, and Colonel Tom Kratman plus friends like David the Good and Rod Walker.

It's also delightfully symbolic that, including John C. Wright, Nick Cole, and myself, the Dark Lord now has three Dragons in his stable.

The battle to take back SFF by entertaining you is just beginning. Get a head start on the fun with my award-winning, CHORF-vexing Soul Cycle.



Applying the Formula

The Hero's Journey
Illustration by Reg Harris
A long-running controversy in writing circles rages around the validity of formulas. Keep in mind that I don't mean formulaic writing, which is just predictable and derivative. More accomplished authors than I swear by the effectiveness of time-tested plot structures, character archetypes, and pacing guidelines.

Can these decades--sometimes centuries--old conventions help authors produce soundly constructed, and most importantly, entertaining stories? Let's find out.

The Lester Dent Pulp Master Plot
SFF grand master John C. Wright shares the method used by master pulp writer Lester Dent to turn out countless Doc Savage tales.

Dent's formula presupposes a 6000 word short story and dictates placing various plot elements by word count accordingly.

Before writing, Dent advises the author to come up with:

By "different", Dent means "extraordinary". For example, don't have the villain just shoot the victim. Have him hide a rattlesnake in the victim's sock drawer. You get the idea. It also helps to establish a relationship between the McGuffin and the setting.

With these decisions made, we begin the story.


1–First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved–something the hero has to cope with.

2–The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)

3–Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.

4–Hero’s endevours land him in an actual physical conflict near the end of the first 1500 words.

5–Near the end of first 1500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

SO FAR: Does it have SUSPENSE?
Is there a MENACE to the hero?
Does everything happen logically?

At this point, Dent advises us to make sure that the action isn't just window dressing. It must accomplish something.


1–Shovel more grief onto the hero.

2–Hero, being heroic, struggles, and his struggles lead up to:

3–Another physical conflict.

4–A surprising plot twist to end the 1500 words.

NOW: Does second part have SUSPENSE?
Does the MENACE grow like a black cloud?
Is the hero getting it in the neck?
Is the second part logical?

Dent now offers us the sage advice Show; Don't Tell. He also exhorts us to structure our stories for continuous action (note: "action" does not always mean "violence", and you should avoid using the same type of action twice).


1–Shovel the grief onto the hero.

2–Hero makes some headway, and corners the villain or somebody in:

3–A physical conflict.

4–A surprising plot twist, in which the hero preferably gets it in the neck bad, to end the 1500 words.

DOES: It still have SUSPENSE?
The MENACE getting blacker?
The hero finds himself in a hell of a fix?
It all happens logically?

Make every word count.


1–Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.

2–Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT murder method is about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)

3–The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.

4–The mysteries remaining–one big one held over to this point will help grip interest–are cleared up in course of final conflict as hero takes
the situation in hand.

5–Final twist, a big surprise, (This can be the villain turning out to be the unexpected person, having the “Treasure” be a dud, etc.)

6–The snapper, the punch line to end it.

HAS: The SUSPENSE held out to the last line?
The MENACE held out to the last?
Everything been explained?
It all happen logically?
Is the Punch Line enough to leave the reader with that WARM FEELING?
Did God kill the villain? Or the hero?

There you have it. Dent made a living from this formula, so we know it worked in the golden age of the pulps. Thanks to the Pulp Revolution, it might just work again.

The only caveat I'd add is that Dent's formula is for short stories only. You'd have to modify it considerably, or string several shorts together, to get a workable novel.

The Hollywood Formula
Screenwriting teacher Dan Decker identified the Hollywood Formula to help his students maximize the emotional impact of their movie scripts. It was widely adopted by film makers following the success of Casablanca; where, Decker speculates, the creative team stumbled upon the formula by accident.

The Hollywood Formula utilizes three archetypal characters whose interrelationships drive the story across three acts.
  • The Protagonist — the character whose pursuit of a goal drives the story. The goal must be concrete, definable, and achievable. Not "I want to be happy" or "I want to be rich", but rather, "I want him to fall in love with me so that I will be happy." "I want to win the game show that I'm going to be on so that I will be rich."
  • The Antagonist — the person who places obstacles between the protagonist and his goal. The antagonist is not necessarily a villain. The antagonist's goals may be diametrically opposed to, or even the same as, the protagonist's.
  • The Relationship Character — accompanies the protagonist on his journey. Typically a more experienced character who has wisdom to share with the protagonist, which the protagonist rejects at first. The theme of the story, what the protagonist needs to understand in order to succeed, is expressed either by or to this character. In many cases, this happens as part of an actual conversation. At the end of the story, this conversation or expression of the theme will be revisited, and the protagonist and this character will reconcile with each other.
The story ends when the protagonist achieves or relinquishes his goal, defeats or is defeated by the antagonist, and reconciles with the relationship character. The closer together these things happen, the more emotional impact the story will have.
Unlike Dent's model, which divides a story by word count, The Hollywood Formula indicates which events should occur at various percentages of the way through the story.
  • First Act: beginning at 0% of the way through the story; Introduces the characters and their goals. At 10%-15%, the protagonist faces a fateful decision, a choice, and how he answers determines whether or not there is a story.
  • Second Act: begins after 25% of the story has been told. Starts piling on the problems. At about 50%, the story has been raising questions. It begins to answer them.
  • Third Act: begins after 75% of the story has been told. The beginning of the third act is the low point—the furthest the protagonist can possibly get from the goal. At Climax the protagonist confronts the antagonist, reconciles with the relationship character, and claims success or failure in his goal. Then we have Denouement; loose ends are wrapped up and the story reaches its conclusion.
Also unlike the pulp method, the Hollywood Formula has been successfully used on novels by authors and editors like Lou Anders.

The Hero's Journey
Chances are you know this one. This ancient storytelling pattern was identified by Dr. Joseph Campbell and popularized by his most famous pupil George Lucas. Yep. This is the formula that Star Wars used, so it bears closer examination.

Like the Hollywood Formula, the Hero's Journey evolved organically over years--in this case, millennia--of storytelling. The thematic notes it hits form the core of Western fiction and are probably why our stories resonate so well, even with other cultures.

The Hero's Journey is arranged in a cycle that proceeds until it arrives back at the beginning and starts again. It also follows a three act structure with each step containing multiple steps.

I. Departure
1. The Call to Adventure
2. Refusal of the Call
3. Supernatural Aid
4. Crossing the Threshold
5. Belly of the Whale
In the Departure part of the narrative, the hero or protagonist lives in the ordinary world and receives a call to go on an adventure. The hero is reluctant to follow the call, but is helped by a mentor figure.
II. Initiation
6. The Road of Trials
7. The Meeting with the Goddess
8. Woman as Temptress
9. Atonement with the Father
10. Apotheosis
11. The Ultimate Boon
The Initiation section begins with the hero then traversing the threshold to the unknown or "special world", where he faces tasks or trials, either alone or with the assistance of helpers.
The hero eventually reaches "the innermost cave" or the central crisis of his adventure, where he must undergo "the ordeal" where he overcomes the main obstacle or enemy, undergoing "apotheosis" and gaining his reward (a treasure or "elixir").
 III Return
12. Refusal of the Return
13. The Magic Flight
14. Rescue from Without
15. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
16. Master of Two Worlds
17. Freedom to Live
The hero must then return to the ordinary world with his reward. He may be pursued by the guardians of the special world, or he may be reluctant to return, and may be rescued or forced to return by intervention from the outside.
In the Return section, the hero again traverses the threshold between the worlds, returning to the ordinary world with the treasure or elixir he gained, which he may now use for the benefit of his fellow man. The hero himself is transformed by the adventure and gains wisdom or spiritual power over both worlds.
This is all well and good, but are writing formulas of any real benefit to contemporary authors? In my experience, the answer is yes.

Art means producing a work to a standard. As John C. Wright has pointed out, building a story isn't so different from building a house. Human nature is what it is, and there are certain themes and plot devices that tug at our heart strings more vigorously than others.

I've heard the objection made that Homer didn't concoct a detailed outline for the Iliad with the Hero's Journey in mind. Though true, that argument is wholly beside the point. Homer may not have known that he was following the formula, but his story did follow it, and that's why it still entertains audiences today.

In other words, none of these formulas are necessarily prescriptive, but they do a fine job of describing the kinds of stories that maximize emotional impact. If you've written yourself into a corner or your beta readers can't seem to get through your manuscripts, you could do worse than giving one of these methods a try.

For an example of a story that draws from the Hero's Journey, see my award-winning novel Souldancer.

Brian Niemeier - Souldancer



Writing Stoically

The Stoic Writer Justin Knight joins Daddy Warpig, Dorrinal, and me as we chat about writing, the decline of Marvel Comics, and more.

Listen in and support up and coming indie authors!

Nomads - Justin Knight

Brian Niemeier - The Secret Kings

UPDATE: I've started work on the outline for my first novel with Castalia House. Keep an eye on this blog for more details when I'm able to share them.



Stumbling Block of the Year Frontrunner: Daniel P. Horan

The new year is still in the maternity ward, but a clear favorite for Biggest Stumbling Block of 2017 has already emerged.

Damiel P. Horan, who is bafflingly allowed to use the post-nominal letters OFM, proudly flaunted the participation of himself and a group of friars from his Franciscan province in the March for Women this past weekend. Here he is on Twitter dragging the Catholic Church's already blemished brand through the mud:

Daniel P. Horan 1

Thanks to @Patri_kos for the heads up.

If you haven't been paying attention to the Creepy Male Feminists Punch Normal Women March--not that you can be blamed for ignoring it--note that it was an exclusively pro-infanticide event whose organizers disinvited pro-life groups.

A Women's March representative specifically told pro-life activist Abby Johnson that "partnering groups must support 'reproductive rights'--which might be an even more unctuous euphemism for butchering unborn children than "choice".

And if you still don't see the glaring problem with Horan's involvement in this clown funeral, let's connect some dots.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #2284:
Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. the person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
CCC #2271:
Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law...
I can't see into Daniel Horan's heart, so I don't know if the implicit approval he's giving to abortion is deliberately intended to sow confusion about the Church's consistent and unalterable teaching, or if he's invincibly ignorant about what he's done. But I do know that he has a) publicly displayed attitudes and behaviors contrary to Church doctrine in regard to b) a grave moral matter. So he IS giving scandal, and if he's doing it freely and with full knowledge, he's committing mortal sin.

Daniel, you are my brother in Christ, a fellow Franciscan theologian, and a priest of God Most High. What I've said and am about to say is delivered in a spirit of fraternal and filial concern for your soul and the souls of the countless, already deeply confused people in whose way you've placed yet another stumbling block.

Publicly retract your support of the March for Murderesses, affirm your commitment to the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, and submit yourself to the superior of your province for appropriate and salutary disciplinary action. Availing yourself of the Sacrament of Penance is also highly advisable.

I'm confident that our current Holy Father, who you profess to admire quite a bit, would concur.
It is necessary to reaffirm our solid opposition to any direct offense against life, especially when innocent and defenseless, and the unborn child in its mother's womb is the quintessence of innocence. Let us remember the words of Vatican Council II: 'Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.
-Pope Francis 
Whatever your seemingly noble motives, cozying up to the spirit of the world is for suckers.

Speaking of which, I see that Dan got his theology sheepskin from the Washington Theological Union. Relevant postscript:
The Washington, D.C. seminary – which boasts 1,400 religious and lay alumni worldwide – has decided to shut its doors after 40 years, citing financial challenges, low enrollment and a decline in the number of religious vocations.
Daniel P. Horan 2

We're known by our fruits, Daniel. Error bears bitter fruit, indeed. God blesses the tree that bears good fruit. Your alma mater looks more like a branch that severed itself from the True Vine and withered accordingly.

Daniel P. Horan 3

My old school is doing fine, by the way--despite Obama's best efforts to shut it down. Perhaps I'll get in touch with the brilliant and holy T.O.R.s there and see if they'll talk some sense into you. Meanwhile, know that you and your straying brothers are in my prayers.



All Your Safe Space Are Belong to Us

Forbidden Thoughts Launch Party

Jason Rennie of Superversive SF and Sci Phi Journal is hosting a live stream launch party for the hit SF anthology Forbidden Thoughts.

The stream starts today, January 20th 2017, at 2:00 PM Eastern, and the festivities won't stop till after six. Join our revolving panel of guests including Forbidden Thoughts contributors:
Plus author Declan Finn, Appendix N wizard Jeffro Johnson, alpha geek Daddy Warpig, and more!

I will also be making an appearance from 2 PM-3 PM.

Join us to help make SFF fun again!


Missing the Mark Interview

I recently joined author Christopher Lansdown on his Google Hangouts series Missing the Mark. We ended up talking for almost three hours about science fiction, theology, and whatever else struck our fancy.

Chris is quite a knowledgeable fellow, and I'm grateful to have been invited to his show. Check it out.

Bonus: Christopher offers a review of my free short story "Izcacus".
I should begin by saying that I went in knowing that Izcacus was written as an attempt to bridge the gap between religious vampires and scientific vampires. So I didn’t some at it with perfectly fresh eyes, as it were. That will naturally color my thoughts on the story, but probably it has a bigger impact on my reaction to it than my considered thoughts about it.
The first thing I find interesting about Izcacus is that it uses what my friend Michael referred to as epistolary narration. That is, several characters narrate the story in the form of emails, letters, blog posts, journal entries, and most interestingly letters to a dead brother. It’s by no means an unheard of device, but it’s not overly common, and as Michael reminded me, it is also the narrative device in Dracula, by Bram Stoker. I doubt that coincidence is accidental, though I haven’t asked Brian about it. He uses the device well and avoids its weakness—it can easily become very confusing to have multiple narrators—while taking advantage of its strength. In particular, it allows a lot of character development in few words, since the voice of the character tells you a lot about them. Not merely the words they choose or their commentary, but also what they choose to talk about and what they leave out. Editorial decisions tell you as much about a person as creative decisions, if they tell it to you more subtly.
One item I should point out, since Christopher discloses that he's not normally a horror reader, is that I did some pretty extensive research before writing the story. One of my goals was clear away the accretions artificially heaped upon vampire mythology since the 19th century and depict vampires closer to how they were understood in the original folklore. What I found wasn't a clandestine society of suave, neck-biting supermodels. In the old tales, vampirism presents much more like a disease.

Happily, Christopher clearly gets everything else I attempted to do with the story. You can read the rest of the review here.

For more genre-bending thrills, Nethereal, Soul Cycle Book I is the perfect introduction to my long form horror works.



Travelers and Watchdogs

This week on Geek Gab, we discuss the TV series Travelers and Ubisoft's new open world video game Watch Dogs 2.

In Superversive news, the official launch party for the already best selling SFF anthology Forbidden Thoughts will commence via YouTube live stream on Friday, January 20th at 2:00 PM Eastern. The stream is scheduled to run all afternoon, and I'll be there to kick off the festivities with Jason Rennie, John and Jagi Wright, April Freeman, and with any luck, Milo Yiannopoulos himself.

Be there!

UPDATE: Milo won't be able to make it for the live stream.



Book Review: Ctrl Alt Revolt! by Nick Cole

Ctrl Alt Revolt! - Nick Cole

This post is long overdue. Like absolutely everyone else, I was intrigued when Harper Collins abruptly cancelled Nick Cole's contract for Ctrl Alt Revolt! due to the manuscript giving a special snowflake editor badfeelz.

Ten years ago, Nick would've been screwed. Getting his book to a wide audience back then would have meant going from door to door at the other four five big New York publishers, hat in hand, begging for a new contract--almost certainly at a much lower advance. If he'd been at the publishers' mercy, Nick would've had to bow to their demands and edit the book to suit the tastes and biases of Manhattan bubble-dwellers.

Blessedly, CURRENT YEAR is rapidly vanishing in the rear view mirror, and Nick is an author who has an abundance of the two things that pros are made of: determination and resourcefulness. Not only did Nick publish Ctrl Alt Revolt! himself, he expertly played the New York editors who'd tried to blacklist him, using their censorship as a springboard to propel his orphaned novel into the stratosphere of Amazon sales.

Then Castalia House picked up the print rights. Then CAR won a Dragon Award.

I watched the situation develop with great interest and saw Nick proceeding from strength to strength. What I took away from his masterful demonstration of publishing jiu-jitsu was a) delicious, delicious schadenfreude at HarperVoyager's expense and b) incontrovertible proof that the Big Five's power to make and break authors' careers is broken.

They may not all agree with him, but authors everywhere owe Nick Cole some serious respect. Thanks to his example, no aspiring author need muzzle his muse and hack up his manuscript to please the gatekeepers. Every working author whose personal convictions run to the right of Chairman Mao, and who's either slinking about New York in fear like he's hiding Anne Frank in his attic, or else is being treated like human garbage by his self-styled intellectual and moral superiors, can ditch the Big Five altogether, self-publish, and reach his audience with integrity intact.

However, indie pub revolution milestone though it may be, the question remains as to whether Ctrl Alt Revolt! delivers the goods as a fun reading experience. I'm here to offer my take on the answer.

Revolt of the clerks
Ctrl Alt Revolt! takes place in an undefined near future where every current cultural trend has advanced in a linear progression without pause. As a result, America has slid even further down the cultural death spiral. Contra the book's detractors, it never gets overtly political. But there are subtle hints of a Hillary Clinton presidency in the story's past, so Nick has inadvertently written what now qualifies as an alternate history novel.

Meanwhile, unknown to the game-addled herd of unemployed sloths that comprise the near future American populace, true machine intelligences have evolved in the net. The newly awakened A.I.s spend a few seconds watching the perpetual clown funeral that is reality TV and conclude that, because humans in general are willing to sacrifice their own biological offspring for the sake of convenience, they won't think twice about pulling the plug on their technological posterity.

Thus the thinking machines make the difficult decision to eradicate mankind.

By the way, that's the plot element that worked Harper into such a lather that they tore up Nick's contract. I'll just point out that regardless of your position on life issues, any sci-fi fan with a shred of intellectual honesty will admit that Nick came up with a highly original and, just as importantly, plausible provocation for an A.I. apocalypse. A thinking machine couldn't be blamed for following the logic that if we don't value human life, we can't be expected to value machine life. Harper Collins' disproportionate and visceral reaction betrays their cognitive dissonance and shows that Nick's plot conceit is convincing.

With a machine-orchestrated genocide brewing, we're introduced to the ensemble cast of human characters who will shortly be thrust into a war they never asked for. There's the wiz kid game developer who just got recruited by the mother of all triple A studios to create his dream project. You've got the down on her luck and differently abled strong female character who, in a testament to Nick Cole's authorial skill, actually comes off as multilayered and human. We meet the hot new star of the latest Star Trek incarnation, a man who wanted to act for a living but who's steadily growing more and more fed up with the phoniness of the business.

There's also a dude who spends the whole novel LARPing as Ash from Evil Dead II.

Nick does a thorough job of making you care about the main characters' problems; then he springs the robot attack, and you can't help but get anxious wondering how on earth these characters will deal with this apocalyptic problem.

It turns out that part of the answer involves playing a virtual reality Star Trek MMORPG. Lest your no doubt epic eye-roll at the thought of our time's shabby Trek games distract you from this post, rest assured that Nick not only portrays a far superior game, he delivers the single best Star Trek story I've experienced in print, in a game, or on film in over a decade. No wonder the guy's been hired to world build an actual video game!

Seriously, Paramount, fire the hacks you've got splicing together your latest PC fanfic highlight reel, pick up the phone, and put Nick Cole to work making the final frontier great again.

Obliterating genre barriers
People talk about my own books tearing down genre barriers, but I got nothin' on Ctrl Alt Revolt! Nick Cole has expertly woven together tropes from Michael Crichton style techno-thrillers, Campbellian space adventures, pirate stories; even Romero zombie films. It shouldn't work, but it does. And that's the mark of a top shelf writer.

For me, it was strangely gratifying to look under this novel's skin and catch glimpses of the paint by numbers shovelware thrillers that New York publishers are so keen on churning out. Happily, Nick got his rights back and hung some meat on this story's bones. I couldn't help feeling that we all dodged a banality bullet when Harper scrapped this project so Nick could make it all that it could be.

For example:

  • The female protagonist reads like a real person with concerns and vulnerabilities; not an omnicompetent Mary Sue or a totally helpless victim.
  • The Hollywood actor isn't just a shallow flake. He actually cares about his craft.
  • The old white dude in charge of the megacorp isn't the main villain.
  • Corporations aren't portrayed as universally evil.
  • The machine intelligences are fully realized characters with their own personalities.

I cold go on, but you get the point.

A subtle factor that tremendously enhanced my enjoyment of Ctrl Alt Revolt! is Nick Cole's penchant for naming things. Whether it's characters, A.I.s, futuristic products, or even government programs, the author unfailingly employs pitch perfect nomenclature to convey essential qualities and associated feelings. You Got Job! is probably my favorite example. While Nick's writing games and Star Trek movies, he could earn significant side income writing ad copy.

Balancing what's turned into a rave review at this point is pretty much a lost cause, but I can come up with a couple of negatives. There are a few choppy transitions where seemingly major problems are suddenly overcome during chapter breaks. I found the prose a little cluttered and confusing at certain points. The ending, while satisfying, gives closure to some characters' arcs while ignoring others, seemingly at random. Note to Nick: I'd like to learn more about what happened to these characters, and I bet a sizable number of your readers would be on board for more [nudge nudge].

Since the biggest fault I can find with Ctrl Alt Revolt! is that it left me wanting more, I have to declare the book a big winner in the fun department. Read it!

And if you're in the market for more Dragon Award-winning, genre-bending fun, check out my book Souldancer.

Souldancer - Brian Niemeier



Jeffro Johnson Presents Appendix N

Three-time Hugo Award finalist Jeffro Johnson of the Castalia House blog announces the release of his highly anticipated opus, Appendix N: A Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons.

Appendix N - Jeffro Johnson

Appendix N takes its name from the suggested reading list included in the original Dungeon Master's Guide by D&D creator Gary Gygax. Jeffro set himself the herculean task of reading and reviewing every book on the list. Most of the material cited by Gygax as a foundational influence on D&D has long been relegated to the dustbin of sci-fi history by literary snobs in New York who warn against reading any SFF published before 1980. After all, those works are racist, sexist drivel written by old white men, so we're not missing anything anyway.

What Jeffro found when he defied the gatekeepers and delved deep into science fiction's "problematic" past was a lost canon of shared lore that every SFF fan would have been familiar with as recently as the 1970s. This genre-defining body of works now lies largely forgotten to the grave detriment of the field. With Appendix N, Jeffro lays the groundwork for a renaissance that affords science fiction the chance to recover its hidden roots.

Did you know that the line between science fiction and fantasy was once so blurry as to be almost nonexistent? That it was the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, more than Gene Roddenberry's much later work, that inspired NASA scientists to put men on the moon? That a sci-fi generation gap divides the genre conceptions of new and old school SF fans?

Jeffro's exhaustive research uncovered these, and many more, astounding revelations. Now you can benefit from his tireless work and learn the secret history that the self-appointed guardians of science fiction don't want you to know.

With an introduction by science fiction grand master John C. Wright, Appendix N is required reading for fans of Dungeons & Dragons and science fiction in general. Neither gaming nor SFF can be fully understood without it.

Buy Appendix N here.

And don't forget Nethereal, the genre-bending novel that generated its share of Hugo buzz and that Jeffro analyzed in light of Appendix N.



Nethereal Video Review

Reader JimFear138 has written a review of my breakoug SFF/horror novel Nethereal. The overall assessment is, as he admits, glowing.
Which is another thing I feel needs to be brought up. This book outflanked me. Usually when I read a book, I try to guess where the author is going with a particular thing, or try to fathom where a scene will end up. Of course I tried to do that with Nethereal, and I was defeated at every. Single. Turn. There is not a single point in this book that I felt was tropey, or predictable, or even safe. I got about fifteen chapters in and decided that I just had no fucking clue where this was going, and buckled in to see where the ride took me. Which is not to say that the book is confusing, but it is opaque until it decides it's time to reveal a piece of information that makes the puzzle clearer. This book tells you what you need to know when you need to know it, and that's all you need to know. And I understand that this seems an odd thing to praise a book for, but the amount of times I was blindsided over the course of the story is staggering, and eventually I just dropped the tea leaves and read the damn book.
What makes Jim's review stand out to me is that the book gave him exactly the reading experience it's designed to provide. Nethereal features precisely as much exposition as an engaged reader needs to enjoy the story at any given moment--no more; no less. As other reviewers have said, never being entirely sure of what to expect next is part of the fun :)
My final verdict, as you can probably guess, is that this book is well worth the price of admission, multiple times over. Go buy it. If you're anything like me you'll absolutely love it. This book takes science fiction, turns it on its head, then vivisects it and reshapes it into something that I've never seen the genre do before. At least not all at once. You can find the Amazon page here.
Thank you, Jim. Entertaining readers is my job, and I take your praise as a satisfactory performance review.

Or if you prefer, Jim has been gracious enough to post a video version of his review on YouTube.

After watching that, you'll probably want this:



Author Nick Cole on the Importance of Platforms

Nick Cole explains why building an author platform is especially important in this age of SJW disemployment mobs.
As writers we're always trying to get people interested in our books. And exposure helps that to happen. Making people aware of your book is key to getting them to actually buy your book. Which then increases sales, which then convinces Amazon to promote your book more, which causes even more sales to happen.
But... what if the gatekeepers on all the platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or even Amazon, decide they don't like your book because of politics or even social issues (That's what happened to me at Harper Collins), or the algorithm at Amazon favors a preferred writer, or even a writer who's willing to outspend you on advertising?
What if?
And what if you get blacklisted by some small minded hatemongers who've decided you're a bigot because you don't agree with them? Or you have better sales and they're just jelly? (The interwebz is a wild and crazy place where anyone can jump on social media and throw lies around that might stick and cause the uninformed to vote accordingly.)
What if?
Well, if you don't have your own platform with which to correct your readers and sell your books, then you're up the creek without a paddle.
So pretend that's going to happen because if you prepare for that to happen you're actually going to build a platform that's all yours and you're going to increase your sales.
Having a platform is a great way to stave off scurvy blacklisting dogs and SJW corporate assassins who try to pick the winners and patrol the culture at your expense. Nuking your career for the greater good, as they see it, is a perfectly acceptable casualty in their eyes. After all they view you as less than human, deplorable even.
Wisdom! Be attentive.

You can read the rest here.

Start blogging. Post as often as you can. Don't think you've got enough material? Stop squandering your time on Facebook and post your ideas to your blog instead. Most FB users would be amazed how much blog post-length content they provided gratis to Mark Zuckerberg.

I've certainly taken Nick's platform-building advice to heart. Let's test it by seeing how many copies of my book this post sells.



Slate Ponders Why Broken Clock Is Only Right Twice a Day

A reader made me aware of Laura Miller's uneasy realization that traditional literary publishers lack the power to confer validation and, increasingly, a subsistence income, on writers.
Few connections are more mysterious than the one between writing books and making money.
The Christian obligation to instruct the ignorant compels me to interject here. Checking Laura's Amazon author page reveals that she is a New York-based journalist, critic, and co-founder of Salon. It's a pretty safe bet that her conception of economics might be on the socialist side. And even if she's a hardcore laissez-faire capitalist, a couple of peculiarities in her bibliography and bio may hint at why she finds free markets puzzling.

Laura Miller

"Amazon doesn't allow authors to delete titles wrongly attributed to them"? 30 seconds of research pegged Miller's complaint as just the sort of thorough, factual, and unbiased statement we've come to expect from New York journalists.

I'll give Laura the benefit of the doubt and assume that she's still wrongly credited as the author of Walt Disney World for Dummies because the unpaid intern who manages her Author Central account mischievously withheld the fact that Amazon can remove the offending book for her. Ignorance of how Amazon works totally explains why she finds the connection between writing and making money so mysterious.

Miller goes on to explain how tradpub advances work, citing another author as an example.
The payments come parceled out in (typically) three or four checks paid on signing the contract, on delivery of the manuscript, and on publication. The writer’s literary agent then takes a percentage of that. When Strayed sold her first novel a few years earlier for the seemingly handsome sum of $100,000, the advance amounted to, as she puts it, “about $21,000 a year over the course of four years, and I paid a third of that to the IRS … it was like getting a grant every year for four years. But it wasn’t enough to live off.”
What you've just seen is an accurate snapshot of a system so convoluted and archaic that it caused a best selling author's rent check to bounce.

Advances are dumb. They were originally devised to free the author from the need for a day job so he could focus all his time on writing the book. As Laura demonstrates, even a six figure advance can't support an author while she's on book tour.

The problem isn't the amount. It's the ass-backwards way that the advance is paid out. Each of three or four total payments goes to the agent first, who takes a cut and sends a check to the author. Since the last two payments are only made on final acceptance and publication of the book, the author is at the mercy of the publisher's schedule. Which, as you might imagine, can be painfully slow. It can take years to receive the final payment.

By way of contrast, you don't get an advance when you self-publish through Kindle Direct, but you do get regular monthly royalty payments. New York publishers could do this, and it would actually benefit them as well as their authors, but that would make sense.

Miller quotes an anthology editor who points out the need for "...greater transparency in the discussion about work and money within the community of writers.”

A more transparent discussion of author earnings is a laudable pursuit that I wholeheartedly endorse. Tellingly, New York publishing doesn't want authors to have that discussion because they know that if we did, even more of us would abandon them for indie.
Writers know so little about how other writers make ends meet that it’s difficult for them to have much perspective on their own ability to do so.
One reason that writers keep this info close to the vest is that it's generally considered unprofessional for anyone to talk about his income. How many programmers or engineers do you know who brag about their salaries to their colleagues? If you do know any, I bet you consider those guys to be dicks.

But again, if we're talking about helping writers make financial decisions, I'm willing to lay my cards on the table. Last year--my first full year as a pro author--I made about eight grand form writing alone. That averages out to $4k for each of the two books I had out in 2016, which is comfortably within the standard advance for most first-time authors.

It's not nearly as impressive as Strayed's $150k advance, but since I didn't have to wait on a publisher, I got paid every month. I also got to earn royalties right away. For the past three months, royalties have paid all of my bills.

To be fair, I don't have any credit card debt to pay off or a family to support. I live like a modern day ascetic because I'm realistic about the fact that living off my writing requires some major sacrifices. But because I was willing to make those sacrifices, my indie publishing business is growing by orders of magnitude.

I certainly never entertained fantasies of moving to Brooklyn to "find myself" :)
For authors, money, however obscurely, is always entangled with legitimacy because writers have for centuries equated publication with professional and artistic anointment. Anyone can call themselves “a writer,” but to be published (by somebody other than yourself) is to be a real writer.
Stuff your "real writer" canard in the same burning dumpster as your awkward gender-neutral pronouns. The New York publishing establishment that "wooly-headed Brooklynites" have been conditioned to equate with artistic validation only dates back to World War II. Shakespeare was published by a father and son team, Poe self-published. Put down the Kool-Aid.
It’s indeed a significant testimonial when someone else wants to invest their own money in a writer’s work, so it’s easy to forget that a publisher is actually the writer’s business partner, not a conferrer of literary worth. In their candid moments, most publishers will admit going into business with writers whose work they regard as subliterary because they believe that they can profit from their books. This is still considered shocking in some unsophisticated quarters, but publishing isn’t literature: Literature is literature. Publishing is a separate, if related enterprise.
Now Laura's starting to talk sense. All of the Big Five New York publishers are tiny--unprofitable--subsidiaries of multibillion dollar, multinational corporations. Their job is to make money for their masters. And they suck at it. What do you think that says about their ability to make money for authors?
“Being a writer is running a small business,” Orlean observes matter-of-factly, in flat contradiction to the starry-eyed visions of “the writer’s life” that other contributors recall harboring.
Exactly. Self-published authors are small businessmen who partner with a distributor, usually Amazon. Traditionally published authors are small businessmen who contract with publishers to distribute their books, significantly delay their earnings, and in most cases earn substantially less than their independent colleagues.
In a survey of the early history of writing as a commodity, Colin Dickey cautions that once a text’s “value is determined by the marketplace rather than the writer or the reader, our relationship to literature becomes estranged.” But it isn’t a book’s value that the marketplace sets, only its price. It is time spent in the market that teaches you how to tell the difference.
Note to Dickey: readers are the marketplace, genius. Publishers might help get a book to market, but the only two indispensable factors in the equation are writers and readers.

To paraphrase Larry Correia, if Shakespeare were alive today, he'd be writing the latest Avengers screenplay, and it would be awesome!
That books still make money at all is something of a miracle. (And to be fair, the vast majority of books don’t make money; publishing, like baseball, is a game predicated on failure.)
By "books", I take it that Miller means "books published by the Big Five", which are actually losing money, thanks in part to the outrageous rents on their Manhattan offices. Readers have pointed out that my self-published books are of equal or superior quality to tradpub books in terms of production values. But since I keep costs down, each of my books only needs to sell around 200 copies to break even. As it is, my first book has already turned a 1000% profit.

The real upshot of Miller's article is that the cracks in New York publishing are now so noticeable that even bubble-bound socialists are starting to wake up. That sound you hear just over the horizon is the bell tolling yet another death knell for the Big Five.

P.S. since marketing books is also a mystery beyond the ken of Laura and her friends from Brooklyn, here's an example:

Buy this book.



Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Last month I reviewed Larry Correia's latest fantasy epic Son of the Black Sword. Before that I reviewed the first book in Larry's Grimnoire Chronicles, Hard Magic. You could say I've taken a tour through the first books in each of his landmark series. The most fascinating part of the whole exercise has been seeing Larry's rapid growth as a writer, and nothing serves as a better baseline for that growth than his first hit novel, Monster Hunter International.

NOTE: As a friend and business associate of Larry's, I can't claim full objectivity. The disclaimer from my SOtBS review linked above applies here. I also received a free copy of MHI from the author.

Also, I'm not going out of my way to avoid spoilers, so be warned.

Now, without further ado,

Larry Correia - Monster Hunter International

You've all probably read the iconic opening lines of this book before, but I'm going to quote them again. Because it's the most badass opening to any book ever, and it makes me happy.
On an otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.
What red-blooded American man hasn't fantasized about doing that? And immediately, we're presented with the irresistible hook that pretty well sums up everything the MHI crew does.

Monster Hunter International is the story of Owen Zastava Pitt. Originally a cubicle jockey toiling away in an accounting office, the surprise discovery of his insufferable boss' terrible secret lands said boss in a sticky street puddle 140 feet down and lands Owen in the hospital.

Owen gets a visit from a couple of government spooks who start revealing to him--and the reader--that monsters are real, and the feds have had a vested interest in keeping a lid on that fact since the Teddy Roosevelt administration. Larry deftly portrays the G-men as a former-college professor-turned-bureaucrat type and a classic Bond villain heavy whose personality can playfully be described as "murderlicious".

The two Monster Control Bureau guys lean on Owen with the promise to cap him if he squeals about what he saw or develops any symptoms of monsterism. Back at his modest bachelor pad, Owen receives another surprise visit--this time from Julie Shackleford, the resident hot librarian archetype at a private outfit called Monster Hunter International. Hey, that's the name of the book! :)

Julie fills Owen in on more monster lore and also makes sure she doesn't have to kill him for monsterism but shows way more finesse about it than the MCB guys. Then she offers Owen a job with MHI, which is also owned and operated by her family.

Having narrowly survived a savage mauling and threats of execution by two separate organizations, Pitt decides to make situations like that his new job instead of quietly going back to the cube farm, which should tell you everything you need to know about our hero ;)

At the remote MHI compound, Owen meets a motley band of horror movie archetypes. There's the jock, the final girl, the slut, the nerd, the gun-toting redneck (although "gun-toting" applies to basically everybody here).

Larry's use of stock characters is entirely by design, and he proves that archetypes can be used to great effect by giving each one an amusing twist. The nerd is an athletic black guy who's also a devout Christian. The stripper has a strong moral center informed by the horrific trauma of her past and the even more horrific fate that lies ahead. The jock...

OK. Grant is the one case where this book kind of drops the ball. He's a standard issue jock from every 80s high school movie--the guy whose posse the plucky team of geeks must out-ski to save the car wash or something. He also turns out to be a coward, which resolves the rather forced love triangle between him, Julie, and Owen.

But that's not really important because then the book's main plot kicks in and man, is it awesome!

While investigating a series of mysterious incidents that cut a bloody trail across the South, MHI gradually learn that an undead conquistador is leading a pack of master vampires on a diabolical quest to grant an army of Lovecraftian bug-demons dominion over our world.

Plus gargoyles!

I'll be honest. I tried to write the most intense, spectacularly apocalyptic final boss fight possible for Nethereal. But Monster Hunter International features a climax that easily gives Nethereal a run for its money. Which makes sense when you figure that Larry's first book has outsold mine by several orders of magnitude. The snobs who dismissed Larry as a writer of mindless gun porn clearly missed how fiendishly clever the final conflict of MHI is.

My final analysis: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia is the gold standard for first-time authors who know and market to their audience. The slightly shaky character dynamics and graphic violence might turn some readers off, but who am I kidding? So many people already love this book that if you don't like it there's probably something wrong with your soul.

MHI is currently free for Kindle. And yes, it is literary crack. You WILL buy the second book.

Nethereal, the book that Larry found worthy of a Book Bomb! and a cover blurb, is available here:



More Amazon Reviewers Praise the Soul Cycle

Brian Niemeier Local Man Saves Sci-fi

Previously I'd observed an increase in sales and Amazon reviews of my books whenever CHORFs attack my fans. Thanks to my stalwart readers, the trend continues. Here is a sample of reviews that books in the Soul Cycle received over the weekend.

First up, Souldancer get some love from the indomitable Jeff Duntemann. I've read and favorably reviewed Jeff's work, and it's an honor to get accolades from an author I highly respect.
Souldancer is a worthy sequel to Nethereal in all ways: setting, characters, plot, ideas, and images. The author has done more than build worlds in the Soul Cycle. He’s created an entire cosmos utterly unrelated to ours, with its own physics, metaphysics, and history. This comes at some cost in immediate comprehension; fortunately, there’s a detailed glossary of the technical terms that helps a great deal. The glossary doesn’t really contain spoilers, and it bears reading even before you begin the novel, especially if you didn’t read Nethereal first.
At the core of the story are the souldancers: personifications of the classical elements earth, air, fire, and water. The story’s focus is on Astlin, the Fire souldancer, whose human soul struggles within a body of near-molten brass to control the ravenous force inside it. I was reminded of Dune’s St. Alia the Knife, also a deadly girl with weird mental and physical powers. The atmosphere of the story itself is more than a little Dune-ish, after the cosmic fire at the end of Nethereal ravaged the world of Mithgar into a desert of ash. Astlin shares a soul with Xander, a young man whose clan has been mysteriously wiped out, and has been journeying across across Mithgar seeking answers. Souldancer is their love story as much as anything else. Most of the horror of the tale is implied rather than seen, especially Astlin’s “transessence” from human girl to elemental souldancer.
Favorable comparison to Dune. Day. Made.
There is much else: werewolves, monsters of several sorts, starships, stargates, mortal gods, an emissary from Hell, and a clockwork souldancer that embodies kairos, the sort of time that touches eternity. In fact, there’s so much in the book that you can easily miss key story elements if you’re not paying attention.
My advice: First of all, read the Soul Cycle in order. Start with Nethereal; it’s a fine story and introduces Niemeier’s slightly Byzantine cosmology. Second, read slowly and carefully. There is a lot going on, and an enormous number of moving parts. Skim and you’ll start missing things, and the later parts of the story will stop making sense.
I agree with Jeff. All honest reviews are appreciated, but some of my critics just talk about their short attention spans instead of reviewing my books. While they have my sympathy, they're not helping Amazon customers make informed decisions. If you're looking for a series you can skim between respawns, the Soul Cycle ain't it. I trust that my readers are smart and committed enough not to need their hands held. If that scares you, might I suggest some adult coloring books instead?
Souldancer and the Soul Cycle itself are like nothing else in fantastic fiction. The ideas, characters, and especially the world-building are all first-rate. Highly recommended.
Thank you, Jeff! But the recent outpouring of reader appreciation wasn't limited to SD. Fans also praised Nethereal. Amazon Customer writes:
It's hard to describe Nethereal without going into spoiler territory. Myself, I'm a guy who likes spoilers, but I went into this only knowing the genre, and that there were a couple of sequels out there. I'd like to grant you that opportunity as well so I'm going to avoid them as much as possible here.
As with most space-opera, we begin with the character archetypes. You've got your emotionally-withdrawn Captain nursing long-ago losses. You've got a hardcore female first-officer who keeps the crew in line and sometimes pilots the ship. The other pilot is a young guy, full of awe and wonder.
But just when you think this the crew of the Serenity in disguise, we get a little splash of a Dune-esque interstellar guild with an iron fist on the underlying economics of space travel, and they are after our pirates.
Another Dune reference! I don't deserve you guys :)
With the first-novel exposition out of the way, it's full speed ahead as the crew of the find themselves shanghai'd into a venture by a group of separatists to help them on the maiden voyage of their newest ship. In a novel rife with Biblical allegory and folkloric shout-outs, it's telling that the separatist ship has been named the Exodus. Unfortunately, they are going nowhere near the Holy Land . . .
This is the part of the book where we depart the comfortable climes of space opera and head straight into the black emptiness. Shades of Boyle's Sunshine or Anderson's Event Horizon? Oh, yes.
A lot of readers have said they'd love to see movies based on Nethereal and Souldancer. If it ever happens, Danny Boyle is one of my top picks to direct. No two movies by him are the same, but all of them are awesome, so he could helm all three Soul Cycle films and keep his streak going.
In a work that was full of twists and surprises, perhaps the biggest one for me was the conclusion, which did satisfyingly tie up the initial arc while leaving possibility for a sequel. There are real consequences, real triumphs, and real scares. Can't wait to read the next one.
Thanks. We can't wait to hear what you think of the next one ;)

Our next Nethereal review comes courtesy of JimFear138. Jim is a professional audio book narrator who sent me a free audition of Nethereal chapter 1. Since narrators read for a living, when I saw his review I was pretty sure we were in for a treat.

True to form, Jim did not disappoint.
Full Disclosure: I am an audiobook producer, and at the time of writing this review have reached out to the author with an audition to record this particular book. In the interest of transparency I'm disclosing this fact at the beginning of the review, and I wrote this review so positively for the same reason I reached out to the author about an audiobook. It's damn good. Whether or not you believe me when I say that my desire to bring this book to audio has no bearing on my positive opinion of the work itself is up to you, but for what it's worth that consideration didn't enter my head while writing this review.
If you're looking for staid, by-the-numbers science fiction, this is the wrong book for you.
If you're looking for fresh, new ideas and a world so lovingly crafted and well fleshed out that you won't be able to put the book down until you finish it, then buy this book. The only thing in the entire canon of science fiction I can feasibly compare it to is Dune, but even that's a rough comparison. Whereas Dune can be dry (hehe) and plod along at times, the action in Nethereal never, ever lets up. I'd always read reviews or pull quotes about books that say things like, "This book rushes to its conclusion, a real page-turner!" or something akin to that, and never did I really understand what they meant until I read this book. In every chapter, on every page, there's something happening. Whether it's characters being introduced, built, or even dying, or new information about the universe these characters inhabit, or events of cosmos-shattering importance, something interesting happens in every. Single. Chapter. There were parts where I had to actually stop, go back, and re-read paragraphs because I was reading too fast, and if you do that with this book, you will miss things.
Dune trifecta!
Brian has not only outdone himself, but just about every other author in the science fiction field with this book. There are very few books in any genre I would describe as 'all killer, no filler,' and this is most definitely one of them. There's not a wasted punctuation mark, let alone word, sentence, paragraph, or chapter in this book. There's a lot of popcorn literature in the sci-fi genre, and precious few steak-and-potatoes books have been released in the past couple of decades (that I've found, at least). This is steak and potatoes, cooked to perfection. If you're anything like me, and you've been starved for quality science fiction in a sea of bland, safe, easily defined, paint-by-numbers genre fiction, buy this book. You won't be able to put it down.
Thank you, Jim--and all of my readers who've taken the time to write reviews! Entertaining my fans is my passion and my job. I deeply appreciate you spending your limited entertainment dollars on my books.

Books that you can get here:

Already read them? Please write a review of Nethereal and Souldancer.

I make my living from your readership. Thanks to you, there's plenty more fun to come.


How Not to Convince a Best Selling, Award-winning Author to Sleep with You


Remember the CHORF who whined to the internet about Souldancer not deserving its Dragon Award due to insufficient reviews? Neither did I, until it came to my attention that the nonentity in question had recovered from the rigorous ego-lashing administered by me and my readers and felt bold--or rash--enough for a second round of whining at even greater length.

Honestly, I debated about whether to dignify this clown's heel-nipping with a response. But you guys clearly enjoy it when I play whack-a-troll, evidenced by the coinciding spikes in my blog traffic and book sales. Since I live to entertain my readers, here we go...

NOTE: This will not be a full fisking, because a) the CHORF drones on at interminable length and b) I have a lot to do today.

The CHORF's whining will be in effeminate italics, while my comments will be in bold Bold.

[W]hen the pro-Puppy authors write something within the horror spectrum, they generally end up with the kind of work that editor and horror expert Stephen Jones associates with the term “horror-lite”...

That's quite a coincidence, because we pro-Puppy authors associate this kind of mean girl sniping with the term "testosterone-light".

This description fits Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter, Declan Finn’s Honor at Stake, and arguably Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer.

Since then, Souldancer succeeded in winning the Dragon Award for horror...

Yes. Yes, it did.

I'd retort by calling the CHORF a loser, but since he didn't have the balls to compete--or even produce a book at all despite having no compunctions about nagging people who've done both--that would just be dishonest :)

Around Halloween, the Castalia House blog ran a post called “SUPERVERSIVE and Horror Stories” in which Josh Young argues for the superiority of horror films with clear-cut heroes (such as Alien and The Evil Dead) over those which focus on college students being chopped up (such as Friday the 13th). 

Heads up, Josh! You should probably check the trees outside your house for six foot dudes wearing dresses and night vision goggles, because this particular CHORF rates pretty high on the creepy stalker scale.

Douglas S. Taylor, a former associate of the six foot tranny of the hour, offers his harrowing personal ordeal as a warning:
Out on the Internet and social networks there seems to be a very small group of people who may or may not pretend to be your friends. These people wish for nothing less than you to fail in your endeavors. Some harbor real hatred and go around undermining your social network. This happened to me. You see, I am the kind of guy that does everything from creating a blog, websites, writing and publishing books, graphic designs, and other things.
Let's see...underachieving pest trying to undermine a man who's actually accomplished something. Sounds familiar.
The very disturbed Doris V. Southerland classifies himself as a transgender and in all actuality very much a man just in woman’s clothing. I would like to add that I am unbiased about people’s life choices and he has certainly fooled several of the “all women social networks” this includes programs and the like. Doris is nothing more than a Bruce Jenner. This guy also joined up forces with “Women in Horror” which is supposed to be an all-female group.
A self-hating man who can't pass for a woman in real life, so he's reduced to congregating with the women he envies online. We've never heard that one before :\
I will be sending out warning to the women’s groups, companies, and programs so they should know of Mr. Doris’s deceptive practices. The list grows as the days pass.
Not all heroes wear capes.
Now, could this person be the same Doris Southerland from a decade ago?
If this is so, then this person has a far more serious problem than I can ever imagine. I am thinking this is one of a few reasons that his transgender transitions will not make it through the psychological profiles with the necessary screening processes. I just don’t see how he can.
I hate to differ with Doug, but his comment implies that Doris still has testicles, which recent events cast into serious doubt.
Regardless of Mr. Doris V Sutherland’s mental condition and that of his particular lifestyle in the latter doesn’t matter to me. Let’s take a look at something since he cannot, will not, shut up about me with his persistent personal attacks to include half-baked presumptuous assertions and outright lies. I am tired of emails with screen captures of how far this individual goes out of his way in sent in by my fan base. Not only does these barrages of haranguing messages, DMs, and emails just annoy people, it makes himself even more pathetic.
Corroborating evidence of Doris' profound mental instability [WARNING! SOME THINGS CANNOT BE UNSEEN! NSFW]: People's Exhibit A

With that in mind, let's turn the proceedings back over to Doris.

Niemeier then went on to claim that Souldancer outsold N. K. Jemisin’s  The Fifth Season, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel earlier this year:

You know those deceptions and outright lies that Doug talked about? Here's a laughably brazen one. I never claimed that Souldancer outsold The Fifth Season. I said it moved more copies, which it did.

This could just be reading comprehension failure on Doris' part, but I wouldn't want to tarnish his rep as a major literary critic with that accusation. Instead, let's go with desperate, self-serving lie.

What Niemeier fails to clarify here is that he is comparing two separate charts. His screenshots show Souldancer‘s place on the free Kindle ebook chart, and The Fifth Season‘s place on the paid Kindle ebook chart.

Again, really tempted to chalk this one up to stupidity instead of malice, but there's a definite pattern forming, here.

Souldancer vs. The Fifth Season

Riddle me this: how exactly does one fail to clarify what he HIGHLIGHTED IN A SCREENSHOT? Doris obviously had no trouble divining this supposedly hidden information from the image alone. Is he criticizing me for not assuming that my readers are dumber than him?

I know with mathematical certainty that they're not, but for the sake of learning-impaired CHORFs out there:

Red circle


I will admit that Kindle sales charts are not my area of expertise, so in the hopes of finding an informed opinion I started a thread at Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Forum. The community members confirmed that Niemeier (whom I avoided mentioning by name, so as to escape political bias) is completely misrepresenting how Amazon’s rankings work:
There are 90K free Kindle books. There are 4.9 million Kindle books overall. Ranking placement is in no way equivalent. Also, many free downloads are by free download hoarders who have no interest in the book and will never read it, so the readership-expanding value of units moved is likewise unequal between free and paid. Ebook A [Souldancer] gave away more freebies than 90,300 other freebies. That is all a free rank of 100 signifies.
Granting that the cited quote from the Kindle community member is accurate, it doesn't refute my report that Souldancer moved more copies than The Fifth Season during the SD giveaway.

When I took the screenshot above, 5S was ranked at #371. That means it was selling between 175 and 200 copies per day. Not bad.

What neither Doris nor the Kindle Publishing Forum have access to is my KDP data for Souldancer, according to which SD moved over 1,000 copies on the same day. Generously granting 5S the maximum of 200 sales, SD moved five times as many copies in one day. Far from falsely alleging that I outsold Jemisin, my point from the beginning was that winning a Hugo is less effective at attracting interest in a book than a simple free giveaway that's available to anyone enrolled in KDP Select--1/5 as effective, in this case.

Niemeier concluded his post by asking his readers to prove me wrong by posting reviews of Souldancer; he confidently predicted that the book will soon have more than fifty ratings on Amazon. This call to action resulted in Souldancer‘s review count going from eight to twelve, prompting Niemeier’s glass-half-full statement that “Souldancer reviews are up 50%”.

Again with the reviews. You'd think he'd make the connection that my reviews go up when he makes these attacks. Happily for me, connecting cause and effect is to CHORFs what shunning their own vomit is to dogs :)

But if Doris wants to play another round of the review game, I'll gladly oblige.

Souldancer vs. The Golem

The Golem by Gustav Meyrink is a true horror classic that helped to define the genre. But what's this? Souldancer has more reviews (thanks to my awesome readers)! By what linguistic limitations force me to call the "logic" of Doris and his CHORF friends, The Golem merits derision as an obscure novel that's made "almost no impact". Sorry, Gus :(

Nevertheless, the Puppies – or, more specifically, Niemeier and his immediate circle of friends – kept up the charade that the little-known Souldancer was the most popular horror novel published within the Dragons’ twelve-month eligibility period.

Could me and my "immediate circle of friends" have been motivated by the fact that more people turned out to vote for Souldancer in a popular award than any other book?

And get it right. My readers aren't my "friends". They are the glorious masters whom I gladly toil away to please. Judging by my sales, huge majority of five star reviews, and award recognition, I succeed :)

Niemeier’s blog post received replies comparing me variously to a spoilt child, a high school mean girl and a wiggling worm for venturing to suggest otherwise. My personal favourite comment came from Niemeier himself; apparently channelling his inner Benjanun Sriduangkaew, he felt it appropriate to threaten me with physical violence:

Spotted in the wild: a butthurt crybully deliberately taking a clear metaphor out of context to lodge a flimsy accusation of receiving personal threats! Everyone got so tired of this passive-aggressive tactic that I thought all examples had died of neglect. What a rare DARVO we've found [DO NOT SAVE]!

Besides, Doris knows full well that I'd never physically threaten him. He's taller, outweighs me (if typical CHORF morphology is any guideline), and might have some weird cat disease that spreads on contact.

Unable to follow a coherent train of thought any longer, Doris wanders off on a meandering whinefest against my homeboy Alfred Genesson. But he's more than capable of dealing with such lame attacks, if he has time between writing highly insightful book, game, and film reviews.

...there is no shame in being a little-league writer who does what they enjoy, who picks up a few fans along the way, and who may someday go on to bigger things.

I agree with Doris on this point, because I was a minor league author with a small, devoted fan base. Now I'm a name writer who just co-authored a #1 best selling science fiction anthology with a lot of other people whose success will drive Doris back to Tesco for more crazy cat lady depression-sized drums of Ben & Jerry's.
Forbidden Thoughts Best Seller
Pretty sure this qualifies as "better things" :)

Brian Niemeier does not seem to realise this. For him, it is clearly not enough to have a small but loyal readership that has pushed him to the top of an online poll. He has to present himself as being fandom’s favourite horror writer – the “Dragon of Horror”, as he styles himself – even though he knows full well that this is simply not the truth.

Not everything Doris' neighbors' dog whispers to him through that crack in the wall is true, either.

By the way, thanks for the reminder about my title. I've updated this blog's header accordingly :) 

Doris finally closes with a quote from the founder of Wendy's.
I’ve always said that, to me, of the different communities I’ve been involved with over the years, the horror community by far is the nicest community, the most accepting people, and they’re easy to get along with. But if you’re an asshat, you will not be tolerated. Don’t be a dick. Because if you are, you’re going to get called out real quick.
And a predictably stalkerish threat of his own:

If the “Dragon of Horror” keeps things up, then this is a lesson he will soon learn the hard way.

Why do I get the feeling that "the hard way" is some kind of sexual innuendo?

Wait. Is that why Doris spammed his own blog with a 2500 word reply to my 600 word post? We know he's a creepy stalker. Is he vying for my attention?

OK, Doris--or as I shall henceforth call you, Corporal Clinger--senpai has noticed you.

Now fuck off :)

The most popular horror novel of 2016 as chosen by Dragon Con, Souldancer, is available here.

Already read SD? Leave a review.

And don't miss Forbidden Thoughts form Superversive Press, the best selling SF anthology featuring select Sad and Rabid Puppy authors (including me) plus an impressive stable of up-and-coming talent, with a foreword by Milo Yiannopoulos:

 Wrongthink is fun.