Author Archives: W.H. Lock

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Neo Noir Story Bundle

Y’all, something kind of amazing happened a few weeks ago.

A few weeks after launching the Eight in the Chamber Box set I got an email. It was a fairly simple email of introduction and a request: would I be willing to participate in a big box set of Noir-style novels for Story Bundle.  Story Bundle is built on the same premise as the original Humble Bundle.

Humble Bundle went like this: here’s a bunch of independently developed games you probably haven’t heard of and you tell us how much it’s worth to you. That’s how much you pay.

Story Bundle is built in the same vein as Humble Bundle.  Here’s a bunch of cool books you probably haven’t read and they’re chosen around a theme. How much is that worth to you? That’s how much you pay.

Brilliant idea.

Well, I got that email and I immediately thought “Oh, sure, Scammy McScammerson, you want my book. Hah!”  Then I thought, Oh, what if this is for real. This would be a cool thing to be a part of. I better do some research.

So, I asked around. I talked to people. Did some reading. What I found is that Story Bundle was legit, and all the people involved had fantastic reputation.

I emailed back that I’d be thrilled to participate.

So what’s the deal with this Story Bundle?

Kate Sullivan, the intrepid founder and once-mastermind of Candlemark, put together a fantabulous StoryBundle of neo-noir speculative fiction. From space opera to swords and sorcery, from horror to urban fantasy, corrupt elves, werewolf cops, ghostly soul-whisperers, and Twitter-obsessed superheroes, it’s all there— just take a gander at that snazzy lineup!

Did you see the Concrete Goodbye cover in there?  Looks pretty cool, huh?

Yeah, I thought so too.

So what’s the deal? Well, like the inspiration Humble Bundle, the Story Bundle costs as much as you think it’s worth. It starts with $5. For that $5 you get Gods of Chicago, Mr Blank, The Concrete Goodbye, Trouble in Double.  If you think it’s worth more than $5, you pay more than $5!

Now you’re like “That sounds pretty good, but I see more titles than the ones you just listed right there.”

And that’s because if you go up to the bonus level you can get ALL the titles: Gods of Chicago, Mr Blank, The Concrete Goodbye, Trouble in Double, Green Light Delivery, City of Devils, Deep Space Dragnet, Hard Times in Dragon City, Fresh Hell, The Coconut Swindle, and if you sign up for the Story Bundle Newsletter  you get The Tau Ceti Transmutation!

How much do you think that’s worth?  Well, that’s what you’ll pay!

Did I mention that you can set 10% of your purchase to go to charity? Yeah, that’s right, if you buy the Neo Noir Story bundle, you can help make the world a better place.

That’s you doing dope stuff. Heck yeah!

What are the charities? Two that sit close to home for me. Girls Write Now and Might Writers. What charities are these?

Girls Write Now helps mentor girls so they can develop writing skills, leading to a more successful future no matter what path they decide to choose. From young women exploring writing to seasoned professionals practicing their craft every day, GWN is a community of women writers dedicated to providing guidance, support, and opportunities for high school girls to develop their creative, independent voices and write their way to a better future.

Mighty Writers’ mission is to teach Philadelphia kids to think and write with clarity. Our free programs combat the literacy crisis in a city where nearly half of high school students drop out and some 50% of working-age adults are functionally illiterate (can’t read bank statements, fill out job applications or easily comprehend news articles).

I have volunteered for a writing program like Girls Write now. The one that I worked for was for boys and girls in economically disadvantaged Texas schools to help teach kids how to write. The book those kids produced that year ended up in the George W. Bush presidential library.

I know, cool right?  Something I worked on ended up in a Presidential Library.

But, hey, Story Bundle!  $5 gets you Gods of Chicago, Mr Blank, The Concrete Goodbye, Trouble in Double.

If you go bonus level you can get ALL the titles: Gods of Chicago, Mr Blank, The Concrete Goodbye, Trouble in Double, Green Light Delivery, City of Devils, Deep Space Dragnet, Hard Times in Dragon City, Fresh Hell, The Coconut Swindle, and if you sign up for the Story Bundle Newsletter  you get The Tau Ceti Transmutation!

If you bought the Eight in the Chamber box set I was a part of you’ll recognize Alex Berg and Matt Abrams. They both had stories in that box set.

But here’s the link to The Neo Noir Story bundle: https://storybundle.com/noir
You pay what you think it’s worth. And you get to help make the world a better place.

Go you!


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It’s a Best Seller!

Category : blog

 

best seller screen shot.

 

 

 

Y’all, something amazing happen.   Well, not to bury the lead and from that screen shot up there- I am part of a box set that became a best seller!

Which means…I’m a best selling author now!

Frankly, I’m a bit gobsmacked about it. When I left the traditional publishing model, I pretty much put any idea of  any sort of accolade like best seller.  And I have only been doing this Indie publishing thing for just over a year. So, hitting a best seller list of any sort this soon is a bit if a shock.

So I’m going to go crack another bottle of cheap California sparkling wine.

Cheers, y’all!

 


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The Art of the Con cover

The Art of the Con: How to Think Like a Real Hustler and Avoid Being Scammed

The Art of the Con cover

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

A little history on why I’m suddenly reading books about Con Artists.  I had an idea for an urban fantasy series but instead of a standard detective like I’ve been writing with my Jack Story series, I decided to do something more fun; urban fantasy in a Sting/Ocean’s Eleven setting.

Which meant two things;
1) I had to watch Ocean’s Eleven and the Sting pretty much on constant loop. (skip Ocean’s 12 and 13.)
2) I needed to learn a lot about cons, con men, and how that all operated.

So, for Step 1 I bought the Sting and Ocean’s Eleven.  Great movies. Pulling off a heist or con is all in the setup and finding the motivation in their character. Like in the Sting they’re pulling the con in order to get revenge on a mob boss that ordered a hit on Luther, a venerated older con man. Played by James Earl Jones’ father, btw.

In Ocean’s Eleven, we don’t find out Danny’s motivation until we’re well into the 2nd act. If the movie has a writing flaw, it’s that one.  Oh, they set it up from the very first scene and sort of allude to it in conversation but it should be clearly sooner.

But it’s still a dang good heist movie.

The second- I needed to find books on con artists, cons, and the psychology of cons and the people who pull them.

I found this book: The Art of the Con; how to think like a real hustler and avoid being scammed.

And I have to say, it’s really good. It’s written by R. Paul Wilson, a man who has studied confidence games his entire life, and has produced, started in, and written TV shows about cons.

He breaks down the various types of cons from the short con that happens when someone walks up to you, to the mid game where you’re hooked into a situation, and the “big game” cons that take thousands of dollars from people.

Not only does he break some of them down, he runs the reader through how he pulled those exact scams on his various shows.

He even gets into the thinking of a con artist. In his view, and I would have to agree with it, that all con artists are motivated singularly by the desire for money.  They’re after the money, and they’re ready to do and say whatever it takes to get it. They’ll sacrafice everything- even their relationships- to get more money.  And they’ll blame you for letting them get away with it.

He also says that he’ll get into why people fall for the cons, but I feel like he’s less successful here.  This is why I rate it 4 stars out of 5.  He suggests rather than categorically states, that people fall for cons because they’re stupid or greedy, but because manipulated by social expectations and by the con artists.

I agree with all of those, but I also think that a fair number of people think they’re smarter than the con that they’re faced with. Like, take 3 Card Monty.  You can see that the game is rigged just by watching it for 3 seconds. But it’s easy to think everyone else is a sucker and we’re the one person who can pull this one out.

But overall, this is a really good book to read up on cons, how they work, and how the people who pull them think. If you’re looking for a book like that, I recommend this one.


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book cover

Out of the Shadows

Category : blog , Book , Recommendation , Reviews

 

As an American, I enjoy reading stories from non-American authors.  I really like the subtle and small differences in the usage of English slang like Take Away instead of Take Out.  Ashlee’s style is both eloquent and a smooth read.

Normally I don’t like a book that starts with one character that is “in the know” then switches to an “innocent” character who is discovering the world. I feel more comfortable as a reader when we start with the innocent and stay there. That’s just me.  Ashlee is an excellent writer, so even though that very thing happens here, I didn’t mind it and kept rolling with the story.

If I have any quibble with the story, it’s how the supernatural world fits into the normal world. It kind of felt to me like a supernatural world where everything was “out of the closet” but they’re not.  Frankly, it’s a minor quibble.  If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll glide right past it for an enjoyable read.


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Book Cover

Dark Sacrifice

Category : blog , Book , Recommendation , Reviews

3 star rating

Dark Sacrifice is the third book in the Hidden Heritage series. I haven’t read a paranormal romance in a while and when the opportunity to read this book came up, I went for it.

Overall, it was a good read. The premise is interesting- it reminded me of Howl’s Moving Castle but more of an older/adult take on it. Not “ADULT” though.

The point that really drew me out of the story is that the characters often talked about exactly what they wanted to talk about. Which seems like a weird complaint, but think of that first scene in the Princess Bride with Wesley and Buttercup, right? She makes a demand and he says “As You Wish,” and we all know what they’re really saying to each other. There’s isn’t any of that here, and I think it really brings the work down.

I was provided a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


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My Margarita Martini Recipe

As stolen from Trudy’s restaurant in Austin, Tx. 

drink picture

Margarita Martini

Y’all, I have spent more than a few years drink testing every margarita I can find. Most places get it wrong. They throw a bottle of Master of Mixes margarita mix in with some tequila and call it quits.

These places are not worth returning to.

However, there are some gem restaurants that actually take the time to craft a drink worth drinking. Something with the tartness of limes, the sweetness of sugar, the bite of citric, and dusty agave taste.

These places are worth returning to in order to figure how how they make the drink and shamelessly steal it.

And, believe me, I have spent a lot of time visiting and revisiting various places in order to learn their secrets…and steal them! The best one I have found is the Mexican martini from Trudy’s in Austin, TX.  In the name of science I drank a lot of these.

True story: Trudy’s will only serve you two of these.  Back when there were just 3 Trudy’s, people would start at the North Star location, drink their two. Catch a taxi to the original location. Two more. Then head to the old south location and two more. Then they added a fourth place and moved the south location.

After that most people couldn’t make it past 3 places. But a few stalwart souls could handle the trip. Then Trudy’s integrated all of their locations into one system because of like alcohol poisoning or something.  Whatever.

Anyway, I developed a fine sense of what a good Trudy’s Mexican martini should taste like and I’ve added a bit of something of my own.

For this drink you’ll need:

  • 2 shots of 100% agave tequila (My fav label is Espolon)
  • 1 shot of Triple Sec
  • 3 shots of limeade (do not use a lime soda like Sprite/7-Up)
  • Juice of fresh squeezed 1/2 of a lime
  • 1 shot of orange juice (to take it up a notch juice of one fresh squeezed orange)
  • Tajin
  • Cliantro
  • Jar of olives
  • (optional) jar of jalapenos

Instructions

  1. Fill a steel shaker with ice
  2. add the 2 shots of tequila
  3. add the 1 shot of Triple
  4. squeeze in the 1/2 lime
  5. squeeze in the orange/add the shot of orange juice
  6. Add in the 3 shots of limeade.
  7. Add tablespoon of olive juice
  8. Shake.
  9. Wet the rim of a glass/mug and dip the rim into the Tajin. Spin to get a good coat.
  10. Strain the mix into the glass.
  11. Float a sprig of cilantro as garnish.
drink picture

Margarita Martini

Now, you’re probably thinking, “WTF is Tajin?!?”  It’s a mix of dried Mexican chilies and lime salt. It’s not spicy so much as it hints at a spice with the tang of limes. It’s amazing on corn, eggs, cauliflower, actually it’s fantastic on just about anything.

And enjoy!  But, please be responsible. This little drink goes down real easy, but it packs a bit of a punch. So be careful.

Oh, and if you really want to make this a drink for the summer everyone will remember, add a tablespoonish of jalapeno pepper juice. The sweet tartness from the limeade with the tequila flavors will be taken up a bunch of notches by the jalapeno spiciness.  Oh  yes.

Alright, y’all.  I need to go make me a few of these and get cracking on the next book!

TTy’allLater!
~W.H. Lock


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Brick

By now you’ve probably seen Director Rian Johnson’s movie Rogue One.  Yeah, I agree, it’s amazing. Especially the last few minutes with that Vader in the Hall scene.  Bad ass Vader is back!

But have  you seen Rian Johnson’s first film Brick?  

It’s one of my favorite films from the early 2000’s.  It’s a neonoir style mystery set in high school.  Of course it’s a story that revolves around greed, sex, and murder.  Like all good noir and high school stories should.

It’s primarily inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s Glass Key and Red Harvest. If you haven’t read either of those, go pick them up. They’re great.  Red Harvest was the inspiration for the Kurosawa classic Yojimbo and the American film Last Man Standing.  It’s also inspired by the now classic anime Cowboy Bebop.

Which you should definitely  see. Bebop is an amazing series. It’s so good, I even own the sound track on CD.  And I don’t buy soundracks.

One of the things that I like the most about Brick is the command of the noir-style language. It’s something I’m very conscious of when I write a Jack story. It’s amazing how well the patios blends with being in High School.  I mean, it opens up with the protagonist Brandon looking for his ex-girlfriend Emma. He keeps asking everyone who she’s eating lunch with now.  Which totally sounds like a noir slang for who she’s spending time with BUT since this is High School, it really does mean he’s asking who she’s sitting with during their lunch break.

It stars a Joseph Gordon-Levitt and, as I mentioned, it’s written and directed by Rian Johnson.  If you like hard boiled action, noir patter, and some action you’ll probably like Brick.

If you don’t like any of those things…I wouldn’t watch it.

TTy’all Later!

~W.H. Lock

 


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Cloak and Dagger comic cover

Cloak & Dagger

The original Cloak & Dagger comic mini series was one of my favorite series as a kid. It’s a bit dated in its portrayal of characters, but over all it’s a really good. Two kids run away and get swept up with dangerous people.

Cloak and Dagger comic cover

original comic cover

And get superpowers.

Which normally doesn’t happen to runaways, but this is comics so that happens.  Like all the time.

But it’s a good one that covers drugs and drug addiction.  Not in the jokey way that comics had done before with Speedy and Green Arrow yelling about Speedy being a JUNKY!!!!

Comics History note: many people claim that the first use of drugs in comics appears in Spider-Man with Harry Osborn popping some pills or DC Comic’s Green Arrow’s sidekick shooting something up. They’re wrong, drug use stories appeared in Pre-Code comics like Detective Comic’s Johnny Law #25 published in 1937. The earliest one I know of was titled The Marijuana Racket. It’s a 7 page comic story in the vein of Reefer Madness.

Anyway, Marvel Studios is continuing the take-over of all media by launching a new hero TV show.  They’ve turned Cloak & Dagger into a cable TV series. they recently released a trailer.

I’ll be honest after the trailer.

So, in terms of accuracy to the source- I think they’re nailing it. The two actors in the lead rolls look like the characters. they have a specific origin story that involves both of them running away. So far, looking good.

But there’s something off here. I can’t put my finger on why I don’t like this trailer. Maybe it’s the crap music.  Maybe it’s the lower special effects budget. I don’t know but I’m seriously underwhelmed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch every episode of the first season.

But right now I’m a little wary.

 

~W.H.


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Under a curse

Category : blog , Book , Recommendation , Reviews

So, I go through this cycle when I start a new project.  I think of it as my very own personal creators curse.

  • Step 1 is “Wow, this is a really good idea!”
  • Step 2 is “This is just so much fun! I love this idea.
  • Step 3 is “Huh. Hm. Well. This is a good idea. Well, I mean, I like it. But…”
  • Step 4 is “OMG, why do I even think I can do this! This is the WORST IDEA EVER!”
  • Step 5 is “Okay, I’ll just finish this draft and that’s it. No more.”
  • STep 6 is “Well, this isn’t so bad. I mean, with a little work…”
  • Step 7 is “You know, this is actually pretty good. Not amazing, but…yeah…”
  • Step 8 is “I AM SO SICK OF LOOKING AT THIS THING! Whatever! It’s done! I don’t care!”

Right now, I am firmly in Step 4.  The “creative doldrums” usually hits me in the outline stage. And I’m right in the middle of the outline stage. About two weeks ago or so, I really loved this idea.  Now that I’m working it out, I’m less enamored.  I know from experience that I go through this every time. What it takes to get out of this slump is to keep working on it.

I just gotta power through it.

If I switch to working on a different project, I will end up in the same place with that new project. So, I know it’s best to keep working on this project.

There’s a lot to be learned every time you complete a book. You get better at creating sell-able ideas. You get better at writing.  You get better at finishing. Being able to finish writing a book is an incredible valuable skill. There are an endless amount of books that have been started and never finished.

No one buys an unfinished book.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to go finish.

TTy’allLater.
~W.H.


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Obsidian Son (The Temple Chronicles #1)

Category : blog , Book , Recommendation , Reviews

3 star rating

3 out of 5 stars

 

cover image

#1 Nate Temple series

I’d be remiss if I criticized this book for having an unlikable protagonist.  My protagonist, Jack Story, is designed to be unlikable.  However, I do have to say that the protagonist in Obsidian Son is unsympathetic.

A lot of people think that you have to make your protagonist likable for the audience to root for them.  You don’t.  Two examples right off the top of my head are the MCU’s Tony Stark and Mel Gibson in Payback.

Tony, despite how charming RDJ’s performance is, is not likable. He’s rude. He’s a jerk to his friends. He only keeps people around based on how useful they are for him. His treatment of women is deplorable.

Mel’s character in Payback is a straight up bank robber. There’s nothing likable about this guy.

But we root for both of them, finding them sympathetic, because they do what we consider to be “the right thing.”  Sure, Tony is all those things I said he was, but at the end of the day he straps on the Iron Man suit and goes up against the forces of darkness.  Mel’s character just wants his cut of the money from the bank he robbed. Not all of it, just what’s due to him.

Things we think we would do in that same situation.  Thus we find them sympathetic.

This isn’t the case with Nate Temple. He’s got a Batman Origin, his parents were murdered. He’s a billionaire. He’s got magic at his disposal. But unlike Batman, he doesn’t do the sort of things we think we would do in that situation.

Imagine if you had magical power and essentially unlimited money.  Now add in the certain knowledge that your parents had been murdered. How would you spend your days?

Hunting down your parent’s murderer or would you run around collecting rare books for clients?

Exactly. Nate  doesn’t do that. He isn’t Batman. He is living his life as if no tragedy had touched him. And has a rare book store.

But there are some good things about the story. The use of the Minotaur from Greek myths is fun. The bookstore sisters are interesting. The action is fun. But I found Nate to be unsympathetic.