That little bird newly landed over in the Connect widget? Yeah.

twitter-logoI held out as long as I could, but the Twitter tractor beam finally latched on and pulled me in. Apparently I showed up several years too late to claim my just plain name, so if’n you’re of a mind to, you can find me there as @BHodgeAuthor.

Still working on getting the wind beneath my wings. Be nice.

There’s one factor that changes any scenario which exceeds what you believe you’re capable of doing: a gun to your head. What’s that, Hercules? You say there’s no way you can possibly clean out the Augean Stables in one day? [clickety-click] How about NOW?

Augean-StablesFor most of us, the guns may be metaphorical, but they’re no less motivating. I found myself in just such a situation last year, when I had seven weeks to write an entire novel. From scratch, not something with an existing framework, like a novelization of a screenplay (although it did involve existing concepts). And not just a first draft, but researched and finalized and as polished as I could make it. This is a feat I would’ve once considered impossible.

It shouldn’t have gone down like this, but did anyway. I’d been approached about doing an original novel — 100% my characters, settings, situations, etc. — set in the world of the White Wolf role-playing game Mummy: The Curse. I’d kicked around some ideas with the main game designer, C.A. Suleiman, but the project never seemed to get green-lit.

Then came the day when the publisher was wondering where it was. [click to continue…]

Dawn of Heresies: New Novel Alert!

by Brian on January 18, 2017

in Fiction

When my back was turned this past weekend, they sneaked out my newest novel.

Dawn_Of_Heresies_265Like the Hellboy novel I did some years back, Dawn of Heresies is the result of what I call getting to play in someone else’s yard … in this instance, the White Wolf gaming universe in general, and specifically, the world of Mummy: the Curse, as put together by world-builder extraordinaire C.A. Suleiman. Who was also behind this recent anthology, to great effect.

But I had an uncommonly long leash. As long as the book hit a couple of major reveals about the way that world works and how it came to exist, it could be 100% my storyline and characters.

Hence, a novel that takes place in parallel timelines both today and at the end of the last Ice Age, with repercussions stretching across more than 12,000 years. And I worked very hard to make it accessible to someone who has no familiarity with the game at all.

Hardcopies and e-book formats available here.

The Abandoned Interview

by Brian on January 12, 2017

in Press

The beginning of the year is a good times for wrapping up loose ends. Here’s one.

Abandoned-Shelves(425)Several months ago, at an online magazine, I took part in a group interview with a few other writers, including Jasper Bark, Jonathan Janz, and Mercedes Murdock Yardley. Word was, Kealan Patrick Burke would be joining us in mid-stream. One question every day or two or three, each of us weighing in. We all seemed to find it fun to see where we overlapped and where we diverged, and hoped you did too.

For reasons unexplained, the writer-blogger doing it dropped the project a little past the halfway point. Although the mag is still there, as of this posting it hasn’t had another update since. Weird, huh? The Q’s were already A’d in advance. All it would’ve taken was a few more minutes of copying and pasting.

Which was a shame, at least for anyone looking for potentially actionable creative insights … which was sort of the point of the thing. Those were mostly back-loaded toward the end.

I’ve finally stopped holding my breath. Here’s my slice of the project, in its entirety.

The 5 Most Useful Books I Read In 2016

by Brian on January 4, 2017

in Commentary

Surrealist artist Salvador Dali was almost as quotable as Oscar Wilde. I’ve always liked this nugget in particular: “At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven, I wanted to be Napoleon. My ambition has been growing steadily ever since.”

salvador_dali_-copyWhich is about what you’d expect from a guy with a mustache like a wi-fi antenna.

I identify, in my own small, restless way. There’s always more I want to make and do and learn and be. So I like to look for pointers that can help me get to as much as I can over time. I’m always interested in learning how I can build and maintain a better foundation for living. Always curious to see how other people approach things, do things, think about things.

Among other resources, I look for what I hope will be useful books, that will get me to think or reassess or take action or apply something I’ve learned. Even if they dish up just one valuable tip or insight, it’s time well spent.

These five-plus-one were the books that did me the most good this past year.

But First, A Mostly Courteous Rant

The first time I posted such a roundup was at the craft-focused Warrior Poet blog I had for two or three years, then let lapse because it felt as if it was increasingly taking on a separate identity from my own. I’d been persuaded it was better to keep things under one roof.

imwithstupidWhen I ran “The 5 Most Useful Books I Read In 2011,” it brought an intriguing reaction. A reader got in touch to make sure I knew how much less he thought of me for promoting “self-help books.” Which I found puzzling, because not one of them evoked the feel-good connotations typical of the sometimes derided term self-help. And so fucking what if they had? Value is value. Regardless, none of these would have been stocked or marketed that way. You would’ve found them under Business, Sports, Writing, and maybe Sociology.

I admit to uncharitably thinking a bit less of the respondent, as well, not so much for being a wanker, but for being a wanker in need of a refresher course on spelling and grammar. Gotta love the irony.

In January 2012, I hadn’t yet encountered the term aggressively stupid. I’d witnessed the principle in action, of course, but at the time, the notion seemed less prevalent: that there was a quantifiable cultural wave of people who proudly scorn learning, education, introspection, increasing competence, and acquiring new skills.

“Refuse and resist” can be a noble sentiment, but if you insist on aiming it back at your own head, I can’t regard it as anything other than a slow form of suicide. Like disconnecting yourself from life support and praising atrophy as a virtue.

As Arnold Schwarzenegger writes in the foreword to a just-published book sure to be on this list next year: “The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough.”

So I hold these up in their own spirit of refusal and resistance, in hopes that something here might someday leave you better off than it found you. Click the cover images to teleport to the books’ Amazon pages.

The Accidental Creative, by Todd Henry

My most impactful read of the year.

accidentalcreative_200pxWhen I looked ahead to 2016 last January, there was a lot I planned for that didn’t happen. The year got a big hole blown in it after I had a temporarily crippling accident, and my energy and focus fell off a cliff.

Despite this, 2016 was still surprisingly productive. For that, I give this book a lot of credit, and am very glad it was one of the first things I read it last January. Think of it as a collection of best practices for keeping ideas flowing, project management, planning, problem solving, study, staying mentally fresh, not going bugnuts, and so on.

For all this, Henry uses the same word I used in my Writers On Writing essay about habits and mindsets: infrastructure. In several ways, this gave me a new, improved infrastructure that has carried through the year and added permanent refinements to the way I plan and proceed.

At its core, it’s addressed to people working in teams and organizations, but there’s still tons of benefit for the lone wolf. Author Steven Pressfield (whose The War of Art was on my previous roundup) gives good blurb, so he’s another beneficiary. Ultimately, it’s modular, and thus easy to pick and choose from what appeals, ignore what doesn’t apply, and see if it makes a difference.

Mental Muscle, by Logan Christopher

Over the years I’ve read several works on such topics as visualization and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) … in a nutshell, ways of telling your body and mind what to do, and to do it to the very best of your capabilities. Mental Muscle is easily the one with the most clarity and variety of techniques and approaches. If one doesn’t resonate with you, chances are something else will.

mentalmuscle_200pxIt’s geared toward physical training and athletic performance, but doesn’t have to be confined to that. Principles are just that, principles, regardless of where they’re applied.

Fortunately I read it in the first few months of the year. That aforementioned accident? In May I shredded my left knee’s patellar tendon, leaving my quadriceps muscle unmoored from my lower leg. “I’ve never seen one tear the way this one did,” the orthopedic surgeon told me in the recovery room. Oh. Great.

Long before I began physical therapy in August, I got aggressive about rehabbing on my own, so I could start PT from as solid a position as possible. It paid off. “You’ve cut three months off your recovery time,” the therapist told me that first session. By my final session in October, I’d come about as far and as fast as was humanly possible outside of a Star Trek sickbay.

I used visualization as part of the process — for healing, for opening up range of motion, for restoring strength and muscle tone to a leg that was left feeling like something that had quivered out of a Jello mold. Did it help? I think so. There’s no way to A/B it, because I’m not going through this again to subtract visualization from the equation and see what happens then.

But I was able to compare my progress with that of people who’d documented their own recovery from the same injury on YouTube. And bear in mind that mine was unusually severe. In most metrics, I was equal to or ahead of most of them most of the time. That’ll do.

The First 20 Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds

One of the most informative books on exercise I’ve ever read. It’s science-backed all the way, but never comes off dry. Reynolds is a veteran health and fitness writer with a knack for keeping the material more entertaining than you probably would expect.

first20minutes_200pxShe provides useful breakdowns of what you could call the minimum effective dosage for what you’re after. If you’re simply going for low-fuss health maintenance, it doesn’t take much. If your goal is making gains in strength and endurance, there are prescriptions for that, too.

Also valuable is how she digs into what’s going on when two studies of the same thing come to seemingly diametrically opposed conclusions.

The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

A relatively short book on priorities, and I can give you the gist of it in one line. As often as you need to, for any endeavor you’re engaged in, ask yourself this question:

onething_200px“What’s the ONE thing I can do [this timeframe] such that by doing it, everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

There’s much more to it than that, of course, elaborations on theory and practice, but in keeping with the spirit of the book, it really comes down to that. Sometimes it helps to have a simple, effective tool for cutting through the murk and your own bullshit. I have murk and bullshit.

Go Wild, by John J. Ratey, M.D. and Richard Manning

Several weeks before this, I read Dr. Ratey’s previous book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain — also highly recommended, if it’s a topic that interests you. There’s some inevitable overlap, but this one goes much broader, to how we live overall.

gowild_200pxFor a long time, I’ve maintained that the modern world and its institutions are not our friends. You and I and everyone we know … we’re resources to be exploited of as much as can be squeezed out of us. Our maladies — physical, mental, emotional — are more valuable commodities than our health and well-being. So, admittedly, I was primed for a book like this.

The authors’ premise — and looking around, it’s hard to argue — is that while we may have no choice but to live in modern civilization, so much of how our world has developed is antithetical to what our bodies and minds were, after millions of years of evolution, left to expect in order to thrive and develop in optimal ways. Hence, what Ratey and Manning term “diseases of civilization” … widespread physical maladies that were rare or nonexistent a couple hundred years ago, nutritional deficits, epidemic levels of depression and feelings of rootlessness and disconnection.

Refuse and resist applies here too, and Go Wild is a banquet of food for thought.

Bonus Round: Million Dollar Outlines (2013 Edition), by David Farland

One for fellow writers and storytellers only.

outlines_200pxThere are two kinds of writers, a sour old saying goes — those who write good books, and those who write good outlines. I suspect this was a shot of feel-good juice cooked up by some writer who sucked at outlining, and goobers like me made it a battle cry, all shiny and chrome.

Early in the year, through a set of freakish circumstances I don’t care to relive, I had seven weeks to write a novel of some tricky complexity. I had no choice but to outline the thing if I expected to keep on track and hit my daily targets. Million Dollar Outlines not only turned out to be a solid preparatory crash course, but also offered insights into the age-old art of storytelling that I’d never considered before.

“Mommy’s Little Man” Rises Again

by Brian on December 23, 2016

in Fiction

Just slipping this in as filler in a pre-holiday week when nobody is, or should be, paying attention…

ybdfh2017265Editor Paula Guran has tossed “Mommy’s Little Man” — last month’s heartwarming family comedy — into the mix for the 2017 edition of The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror.

Which makes me happy, but what I always like best about these is the part where I get mailed a book that lets me check out what two- or three dozen other folks have been up to lately.

If you were one of the Kickstarter backers of this shared world anthology — think the Walking Dead invades an alternate Middle Earth — then Yule is coming early for you.

totlc-cover265Squalling, newborn copies are making their way into the world at this very moment. Thanks for putting up in advance to help make this a reality for me and the other 15 contributors, especially creator/editor C.A. Suleiman.

The novelette I did for it, “The Sport of Crows,” is the farthest I’ve ever ventured into what felt like Robert E. Howard territory, with reluctant badasses making the hard choices to do the right thing no matter what it costs them.

And if you missed the Kickstarter campaign? No worries. This is also set up with a publisher for further print and e-book editions.

As if that weren’t enough, seeing as how C.A. Suleiman is a game designer by trade, this epic world he’s built is going that route, as well, with the book to be included as a package option when the crowdfunding campaign for that kicks in.

More on these when their time comes.

“Mommy’s Little Man” — Now Exclusively at DarkFuse Magazine

December 1, 2016

I think it took less time for me to say yes to the invitation, write this brand new story, then see it fast-tracked to publication, than it has for me to post about it here. Ulp. If you’re a DarkFuse subscriber, this new foray into x-treme family dysfunction is ready and waiting for you there. […]

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Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror: “Our Turn Too Will One Day Come”

November 3, 2016

Landmark new anthology alert, hot off the presses this week. Like editor Ellen Datlow’s 2010 antho Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror before it, Nightmares is a kind of state-of-the-art roundup, gathering 24 works from the years 2005 – 2015. Me, I’m just happy to be tagging along for the ride, taking one more lap with […]

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Mummy: Dawn of Heresies: A Sneak Peak at the Upcoming New Novel

October 24, 2016

Back in February and March, I wrote a novel in seven weeks. That’s an unprecedented speed for me — not one I could sustain forever, but for seven weeks I managed. Lived it, breathed it, ate it, slept it, and occasionally farted it. Because it had to be done in seven weeks, or not at […]

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Children of Lovecraft: “On These Blackened Shores of Time”

September 27, 2016

Freshly spawned from the depths of the ocean and outer space, here we have editor Ellen Datlow’s latest assemblage of cosmic horror. Which I get to divvy up with the heavyweight likes of Caitlín R. Kiernan, Laird Barron, John Langan, Livia Llewellyn, and more. And now I’ll just let this excerpt from the review at […]

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A New Interview … And, Oh Right, A Warning

August 24, 2016

Really? Two-plus months have gone by? The summer days get away from you when you’re convalescing. In that late spring-early summer span, I had a stupid accident and didn’t merely rupture my left leg’s patellar tendon … I shredded it. It’s not even a good story. It’s a good punchline. After years of Krav Maga, sparring, […]

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The Weight of the Dead — Now live at Tor.com

June 6, 2016

Each new month means new long fiction published at Tor.com. This June means a novelette of mine is published at Tor.com. For now, you can read The Weight of the Dead in its 15,000-word entirety right there online. If you think it’s going to be a keeper, or just hate reading via browsers, Tor has […]

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The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: “It’s All the Same Road in the End”

May 24, 2016

There have been so many dozens of Mammoth Book of [insert theme here] books that I have no unearthly idea how Cthulhu got away unscathed all these years. No longer. Cosmic justice is served. Today’s the day this whopper comes out in the States, while you lucky sods in the U.K. have had a month with it […]

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“Are You Not Entertained!” or, How Far Can Too Far Go?

May 6, 2016

Civilization fell again this week, in case you missed the memo. Sorry. Oh, and it has nothing to do with presidential primaries. If you caught this week’s episode of Game of Thrones — season six, episode two, for anyone coming to this late — then you know what I’m referring to when I say “that […]

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