Neil Gaiman’s American Gods seems to be getting a lot of attention these days, which makes me happy. I had the chance to interview him over sushi many years ago, when I still worked in the media, and he was one of the nicest and most honest writers I’d ever met. Plus there’s all that creative stuff. He’s the kind of writer you really like to see succeed and blow up in mainstream popularity, especially given all the work he does on behalf of others.
I also like seeing American Gods get lots of attention because of that time Robert J. Wiersema went on the CBC’s Next Chapter and suggested readers of American Gods may also like my first Cross book, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice. Check it out if you haven’t heard it already – the segment starts around the 41 minute mark.
My first Cross book, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, is included in The Bad Fairy StoryBundle. Pay what you want for 10 books! Find out why The Mona Lisa Sacrifice is “like if Quentin Tarantino made Howl’s Moving Castle”!
My book aside, it’s a pretty good deal. 10 books for less than the price of a coffee each – and no DRM! It’s almost too good to be true, like some sort of fairy trick….
“Give me the impossible city, the perfect Paris,
its people wearing shoes made of saltwater,
its streets full of whipped cream and opera,
its fire-breathing street vendors selling
both balloons and bourbon bottles.
Give me books written on illuminated
garlic skin by domesticated foxes;
the cloud-breaking Eiffel Tower
afloat on the buttery backs of croissants.”
(Photo is of me in a gallery in Paris, many ages ago. Long before I’d dreamed up Cross and The Mona Lisa Sacrifice!)
My calendar reminds me it’s been three years since the publication of The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, the first in my Cross series of supernatural thrillers. I wasn’t sure where the tale of Cross and his angel enemies and mythical friends would lead me, but it turned into a wild and unpredictable journey. Shakespearean spirits and faerie intrigue! Strange, magical libraries! Undead Atlanteans, literary vampires and crazed angels! The difficulties of being a single parent to a ghost child! The horrors of monstrous royal families! The complications of love among immortal beings! And a host of characters that seem to have been born more from their own imaginations than mine – including, of course, Alice.
I think as a writer the thing you hope for most is to create a world that hasn’t been done before – and that wouldn’t have been made up by anyone else. Something that is a unique creation, a world that other people want to visit for a time and return to at different points in their lives, be it for discovery, nostalgia, comfort or joy. Those are the books that live on in my imagination. Hopefully Cross and his friends are creating such a world for some of you.
Also, I have recently finished the first draft of the fourth book in the Cross series. With any luck, you’ll have a chance to spend more time with Cross and his friends – and enemies – in the near future. Which, with Cross, always means a trip into our secret pasts….
Can’t view the ancient parchments? Read it below:
and to all a good night
once a year the elves rouse him from the long winter of sleep
with their screams, their burning bodies dancing through his nightmares
he wakes to their ancient bones scattered around the workshop
white as the snow and ice that bury the ruins in silent, eternal night
the same elves that had found him under the world tree
as dead as all the other world trees
and had unwrapped him from the bonds of his frozen grave
root and chain and stone and bone
lost there for so many nights
he no longer remembered
they gave him gifts of warm clothes
hot food and drink
until he burned inside
like a furnace
they took him into their workshops
and showed him impossible things
wonders made real
what some would call science
what others would call magic
what they called wishes
but all the wishes of the elves couldn’t save them
from the fire that burned out of control
and the ice and cold
of his soul
and so he sleeps forgotten again
in the ruins of the workshop
waking only once a year
on that anniversary
when their screams drive him out
into the snow and ice and long night
in search of other sleepers
so he can whisper in their dreams
the secrets of the elves
of impossible things
of the end
so he can free himself from the burden
of their gifts that could never be
and slumber for another year
his mind frozen hard
as a shard of coal
Originally published in On Spec No. 102 (Fall 2015)
I woke up this morning to Facebook reminding me of the Facebook Live I did a year ago to talk to the Vancouver Writers Festival about my new book, Has the World Ended Yet? A lot has happened since that time — the Great Bot Uprising, the alien ghost infestation, the angel viruses, and of course that whole Sunken City episode — but the Writers Fest FB Live still remains one of my favourite experiences in this dark timeline. So I’ve reproduced my original post here, to remind us of the time the sun still existed.
I had a great time at the Vancouver Writers Festival this year – it’s always such a treat to meet smart, creative readers and talk writing and books with gifted people like Lydia Kwa and Sean Cranbury.
I’m not sure what I’m saying in this screen grab – I think maybe: “The road to salvation is that way, not with this tawdry, earthly book down here.”
If Shakespeare and Faulkner had a knife fight in a back alley, the blood they spilled would be the ink Ian Weir used to record The Death and Life of Strother Purcell. The tale of a legendary gunman and his outlaw brother is as mythic as it is down and dirty, crossing years, borders and near every moral and ethical boundary imaginable as the estranged brothers head for a reckoning that is sure to be as apocalyptic as it is inevitable. It’s fit for those who like the westerns of Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx in equal measures: as literary as it is lurid, as epic as it is eerie. Picture John Wayne riding into a Greek tragedy and you’ll have a notion of the peculiar brilliance that is The Death and Life of Strother Purcell.
In 1876, the fabled lawman Strother Purcell disappears into a winter storm in the mountains of British Columbia, while hunting down his outlawed half-brother. Sixteen years later, the wreck of Purcell resurfaces – derelict and homeless – in a San Francisco jail cell. And a failed journalist named Barrington Weaver conceives a grand redemptive plan. He will write Purcell’s true-life story. All it requires is a final act…
What unfolds is an archetypal saga of obsession, lost love, treachery, and revenge. A deadpan revisionist Western, refracted through a Southern Gothic revenge tragedy, The Death and Life of Strother Purcell is a novel about two cursed brothers, a pair of eldritch orphans, the vexed nature of truth, and the yearnings of that treacherous sonofabitch the human heart.
Do our apocalyptic times have you feeling down? Maybe you need a little miracle to take your mind off things. From now until the end times, aka the end of summer, Wolsak & Wynn is sharing for free my story “Casual Miracles” from my latest collection, Has the World Ended Yet? Free! (Batteries not included. Some sanity checks may be required.)
Do you like movies about giant monsters smashing puny cities and their even punier inhabitants? Do you like board games? Do you like the idea of snorting strange little green cubes for bizarre power-ups like extra heads and poison quills? Then you’ll love King of Tokyo.
Promo copy for the game:
Play mutant monsters, gigantic robots and other monstrous creatures, rampaging the city and vying for position as the one and only King of Tokyo!
Sounds like good, clean, silly fun? It is. I’ve played King of Tokyo many times and it’s become my go-to game (although Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are still close seconds). It’s fun, it’s quick and every game is different thanks to the card and dice mechanics. Best of all, it’s simple without sacrificing strategy and tactics. In fact, you have to think through a strategy for your monster based on the random dice rolls – and that strategy can change quickly as you move about Tokyo.
The premise. You’re a horrible monster who wants to make Tokyo your own little sandbox of destruction and, well, destruction. That’s not a problem, given you’re a fearful creature such as the deranged Space Penguin, the malicious Cyber Kitty, the reptilian Gigazaur, the Godzilla-esque Mecha Dragon, the alienated Alienoid and the not-at-all-infringing-on-copyright-giant-gorilla The King. The problem is all the other monsters want to make Tokyo their own. The only choice is to fight it out.
The battleground is simple. A small board with a rendering of Tokyo in flames, and a red circle on the map to mark the home of the current King of Tokyo (plus another circle for Tokyo Bay for games with 5-6 players). The battle rules are also simple: roll six dice marked with various numbers and icons that allow you to attack, heal, earn energy cubes to buy special powers or collect victory points – first one to 20 wins! There’s a surprising amount of strategy involved in the dice rolling part of the game because you’re actually allowed three rolls. After the first roll of six dice you can reroll any number of them to build toward a goal for that turn – and the same goes for the third roll. So let’s say you’re badly wounded (all the monsters have limited health). You roll six dice and get three hearts, a 1 and two energy symbols. You keep the hearts and reroll the other dice and get another heart and two energy symbols again. Now you keep the four hearts, which is pretty good for a heal, and roll again because you’re pissed off about being wounded and don’t want to spend your time collecting energy. Two claws – great! You heal and wound your enemy!
The strategy can go any way you want. Maybe you want to collect energy cubes so you can buy cards that give you special powers – like the zombie costume that allows you to keep playing even after you’re dead (death normally results in a loss for you, but not always), or the wings card that allows you to escape Tokyo without taking damage.
What’s that? Escape Tokyo? But isn’t being king of Tokyo the point? Yes, but it’s not that easy. Some complicating factors: When you are in Tokyo, your attacks affect everyone outside of Tokyo. Yay – massive, wrecking damage! Also, when you’re in Tokyo, everyone’s attacks from outside of Tokyo affect you. Boo – massive, wrecking damage! On the plus side, you earn two victory points every turn you occupy Tokyo, so it doesn’t take many turns in the red circle to win the game. Victory is mine! On the other hand, you can’t heal when you’re in Tokyo. Death! Sweet, sweet death….
The games usually feature monsters stomping in and out of Tokyo, savaging their opponents and getting savaged, retreating to heal, then charging forward all over again. Thanks to the cards, every game is different – oh look, Space Penguin has an extra head and a robot suit while Mecha Dragon has poison spit and a giant brain….
If you ever get bored, there are plenty of expansions – I have the Halloween pack for King of Tokyo, which features two new characters, Pumpkin Jack and Boogey Woogey, plus evolution cards and new costumes. I also have King of New York, which adds to the basic game by introducing buildings and army units to be smashed by the monsters – and six new monsters!
I’ve played King of Tokyo with adults and young adults, who like the game just fine. My life being what it is, though, I rarely get out of the house for fun so I end up playing with my sons, 8 and 3. The eight-year-old loves the idea of wrecking cities and blasting his dad to death. The three-year-old just wants to roar and smash things. We play special rules with him, where he is only allowed to attack and heal and forget the strategy stuff. That makes him a real force of destruction – just like in real life, but with fewer trips to the ER.
So if you’re looking for a new game, check out King of Tokyo. Destroying the world hasn’t been this much fun since that book I wrote.