Friday, March 30, 2012

Superhero Etiquette

If there's anything that excites me about I, Crimsonstreak, it's that people will get to meet the esteemed Mortimer P. Willoughby, manservant for the Kensington family and aide-de-camp for the Crusading Comet. He is my absolute favorite character to write. Mortimer (or as Crimsonstreak calls him, "Morty") is a British butler, Alfred to the Crusading Comet's Batman, although Mortimer is sometimes a bit less...helpful.

He also happens to be an accomplished smart aleck. Morty and Crimsonstreak have an adversarial relationship that isn't explained in the book. It doesn't need to be; they just have a Jerry Seinfeld/Newman ("Hello, Newman"/"Hello, Jerry") rivalry.

After delving deep into the archives of the Crimsonstreak universe, we unearthed a copy of Mortimer P. Willoughby's Guide to Superhero Etiquette (12th Edition). If you order early, you'll be able to read the butler's important advice on how "proper" superheroes are supposed to act. We live in a civilized society, people!

On changing into a superhero uniform in public:
Alleyways, phone booths, taxicabs, revolving doors, limousines, and public restrooms shouldn’t be considered. Seek less obvious places such as utility closets, abandoned buildings, rooftops (if accessible), and parking garages to protect your identity and observe the proper rules of decency.
On gentlemen and spandex:
Gentlemen should wear suitable fabrics that accentuate their musculature...Particular attention must be paid to the area just below the waist. It is here that “too tight” can become an embarrassment for certain heroes.
On women and uniforms:
An understated elegance is suggested, but forethought should be given to utility and public perception...Showing too much leg or plunges of décolleté has little to do with saving the world.
On the Supervillain monologue:
In cases in which you have foiled the villain’s nefarious plot and the safety of the world is assured, etiquette calls for you to listen to the Supervillain Monologue for at least one minute. After allowing the villain to feel that he or she has won the day, you may then apprehend them or initiate Final Fight protocols.
On receiving an invitation to another hero's secret lair:
Acceptable excuses include unanticipated deaths or funerals (close family members, sidekicks), important pre-planned events that cannot be moved (family weddings, pre-coordinated takedowns of underworld warlords), sudden crises (nuclear plots of urgency, captured colleagues), and detainment (by authorities or your enemy).

Sporting events, family reunions, social gatherings, and other minutiae are not acceptable excuses.
On White House etiquette:
If the President speaks directly to you, address him or her as “Mr. President” or “Madame President.” In prolonged conversation, you may alternate “Mr./Madame President” and “Sir/Madame.” Do not shake the President’s hand unless he or she offers it first. Please be mindful of sharp gauntlets and secret weapon switches.
On the ever-important super-secret drop box:
Many heroes do not have their own home address and sending an invitation to their secret identity (if known) could inadvertently reveal that identity to others. Thus, it is recommended that heroes keep a special “drop box” in their city for emergency correspondence and dinner invitations.
On receiving help from other heroes and the police:
It is common courtesy to send a prompt thank-you note to police and other superheroes for their assistance. Fruit baskets are the standard gift of gratitude.
On utilizing superpowers and gadgets:
It is imperative that you use your powers wisely. Be especially mindful of nearby civilians, low-hanging and unsteady structures, and historic buildings.
On handling TV interviews:
During most interviews, you should look at the reporter who is asking the question and not directly into the camera. However, if you need to speak directly to the viewing audience (“That, children, is why you should never play with matches”), looking into the camera is perfectly acceptable.
On making invitations to a superhero formal dinner:
Superheroes are encouraged to print their invitations on cardstock matching their superhero colors. Cream or white cardstock is still perfectly acceptable.
You can get Mortimer P. Willoughby's Guide to Superhero Etiquette (12th Edition) by pre-ordering I, Crimsonstreak here.

I, Crimsonstreak: The Technology

In addition to beloved superhero gadgets, the characters in the I, Crimsonstreak universe employ a variety of technological tools. A quick look follows.

Particle Busters: The particle buster is the primary weapon of the New World Common Wealth's Enforcer Corps. It's basically a nightstick with the properties of an "amped-up cattle prod." You don't want to be on the wrong end of one of these, although if you are, you'd better hope it's blue. Remember: "Blue means subdue, red means dead." I should've used that in the book.

Comet Acclerator: The Crusading Comet possesses no superpowers other than his extremely large bank account. In order to level the playing field with heroes capable of flight, super-speed, and teleportation, he designed the "Comet Accelerator." Unfortunately, it's an energy hog and a one-way journey, although the Comet hopes he'll be able to work out the kinks.

Containment Fields: When heroes are imprisoned, their superpowers are negated by a field of green energy designed by Colonel Chaos himself. These suppress powers, but their energy drain forces guards at places like the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane to reserve them only for the most dangerous villains.

Cloning Chambers: Imagine a room full of life-size versions of those canisters you send to tellers in the bank drive thru. Now fill those with a nondescript "goo," line 'em up by the dozens, and place yourself inside. Congratulations! Now you're staring at your own clone!

Bluetooth for Your Brain: The New World Common Wealth has significantly changed the way the internet works. Though not thoroughly detailed in the book, our hero does access a device dubbed "Bluetooth for your brain" that gives him pertinent information with a single thought.

Enforcer Armor: The Enforcers of the New World Common Wealth wear matte-gray armor of the fairly generic, sci-fi movie variety. It's the kind of thing you'd see in Starship Troopers or Halo or any other movie/video game that involves futuristic soldiers and/or space marines.

Rocket Boots: We only see these in action once, but Crimsonstreak's love interest is a hero named Boost. She has the natural ability of flight, but wears rocket boots to enhance her powers. These boots, you see, are made for flyin'. Are you ready, boots?


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Five Favorite Science Fiction Tropes

I, Crimsonstreak doesn't only pay tribute to classic comic book tropes. Science fiction and fantasy books and movies have also played a large role in its development.

Here are five common science fiction concepts you'll find in the Crimsonstreak universe.

Cloning: From Judge Dredd to Star Wars, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, and many others, cloning is a time-honored tradition in science fiction. In the book, Colonel Chaos has attempted to make a clone of his dearly departed wife, although something is perpetually "off" about the process. He's also cloned his son with similarly mixed results.

Multiverse: The book operates under the belief that multiple realities/alternate universes exist. The concept has been featured in many different science fiction venues. The multiverse theory typically means that multiple realities exist simultaneously, while alternate realities are usually triggered by a single "change" within a timeline. The Matrix, Inception, Star Trek, Sliders, and even It's a Wonderful Life incorporate this idea.

Superhuman powers: A human isn't simply a human. Some of us have extraordinary powers granted by genetics or (sometimes) magic. Obviously, this idea is the basis for many comic book/superhero stories. Science fiction/fantasy characters often display unique gifts ranging from telekinesis to teleportation, flight, shape-shifting, and the ability to manipulate elements. Most of these abilities (and many more) are exhibited by characters in the book.

Aliens: Extraterrestrials. Visitors from beyond. Aliens. Alf. Whatever you call them, the belief that humanity isn't alone in the universe drives a lot of science fiction stories. In I, Crimsonstreak, earth has been visited and nearly subjugated by an alien species called the Kiltechs. Colonel Chaos managed to defeat them, but I imagine an alien threat like that won't stay dormant for long...

Dystopia: From Brave New World to 1984 and even The Hunger Games, science fiction often imagines a bleak future for humanity when catastrophic events warp the globe or sinister world governments take control. When Crimsonstreak escapes from the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane, he finds democracy supplanted by the New World Common Wealth, a "utopian" society controlled by his father and tightly controlled by menacing Enforcers.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We're Going Crimsonstreaking!

Candlemark & Gleam and I (that's two separate things, not three) want you to go streaking!

Make that Crimsonstreaking!

To celebrate the launch of I, Crimsonstreak, we're asking you to show us your best Crimsonstreak/Olympic runner pose! Facebook it, email it, Tweet it (with the hashtag #crimsonstreaking) and get your friends to follow suit.

Five Crimsonstreakers will win digital copies of the book; one lucky winner gets the book and a cornucopia of great I, Crimsonstreak, stuff!

Before the fun starts, let's go through some examples of what we're looking for and give you a few reminders.

CLOTHING IS NOT OPTIONAL. You can send whatever you want to whomever you want, but we want you clothed! Or at least mostly clothed. You can't win if we can't publicly post your picture in good taste.

NO KNEELING. That's #tebowing. This is #crimsonstreaking. You need to look like you're running.

I LIKE FOOTBALL, BUT... Actually, you can have a football as long as you're running with it. No Heisman poses. Absolutely no Michigan Wolverines helmet. #rule

NO WALKING THE PLANK. We're hoping #crimsonstreaking is safer than planking.

That is all.

More details are at the Candlemark & Gleam website.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak: Setting the Table

Today, I'm writing about setting; how locations used in the book give readers clues about the world Crimsonstreak and his friends inhabit.

Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane: In the beginning, Crimsonstreak is stuck in the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane, a prison designed to hold people with superpowers. Sensory information for our hero is minimal here, with only the occasional glimpse of a single TV providing any insight into the outside world. Crimsonstreak remarks that his cell walls are padded (or were at one point). The entire setting is meant to evoke isolation and the sense that Crimsonstreak isn't in control.

New York/New Chaos City: Crimsonstreak has visited here before, and he recalls the streets bustling with people and hot dog vendors. When he arrives there after escaping, he comments on how pristine everything looks. Few people are walking around, and our hero gets an intangible sense of fear. The city is meant to project a sense of foreboding on Crimsonstreak.

Sanctum Cometus: Spacious and loaded with all kinds of tech gear and gadgets, the home of the Crusading Comet gives Crimsonstreak a breather. He's visited the Sanctum Cometus before, and recalls some of the layout. The labs, workout facility, and stored gadgets establish that the Crusading Comet is a professional hero who takes his job seriously.

Chaopolis South/Chaopolis: While New Chaos City is a place Crimsonstreak has visited before, it's not somewhere he knows intimately. His mind can play tricks on him there. Not so in Chaopolis/Chaopolis South (Indianapolis/Greenwood, Indiana), cities the hero knows very well. Both locations have a sense of both the familiar and the unfamiliar; when things are different here, Crimsonstreak finally realizes how much the world has changed.

NWCW Administrative Center/SpecPro: Both locations are completely unfamiliar to Crimsonstreak. They're full of strange technology, shiny architecture, and ancient Rome-inspired sculptures. He can't quite get a handle on it...and neither can readers. That's the point.

Chaos' Lab: Like the Administrative Center and SpecPro, Chaos' Lab is supposed to be unfamiliar. Unlike the other locations, the lab is designed to be unsettling for Crimsonstreak. Cloning tanks, holding cells, bleak lighting...this is a place meant to give the character a bit of a freak out.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Dark Carnival Ahoy!

I while back, I sold my short story "Harrigan the Magnificent" to Timid Pirate Publishing for its Dark Carnival anthology. My contributors' copies arrived today, and as is a quasi-tradition on the's a look at the cover and the table of contents.

A summary of my story:
Strange psychic messages draw Harrigan to a sinister circus where children disappear in the wake of the grand finale. Determined to save the victims, the luckless antihero confronts the dark mistress behind the behind the plot and stumbles across an unexpected, bittersweet destiny.
As a bonus, editor Nate Crowder took the original ending of "Harrigan the Magnificent" and threw it away...and then decided to use it as an epilogue for the anthology.

You can get Dark Carnival at the Timid Pirate website or

Parallel Lives: The Appeal of a Multiverse

I don't remember exactly when I became obsessed with the idea of a multiverse, but I'm definitely a big fan.

A multiverse is a collection of infinite/parallel realities. For instance, in one parallel universe I chose to blog about a different writing topic. In another, I'm a sports broadcaster who lives in Chicago. In yet another alternate reality, I'm a super spy who just stole a bunch of commie secrets from the thriving Soviet Union. Perhaps I actually am a superhero in one of them. All possibilities exist within the realms of the multiverse.

It's a minor spoiler that my book I, Crimsonstreak touches upon the idea of parallel realities. I've been fascinated with the idea for a long time, and many of my stories include this concept. Obviously, I didn't create this idea on my own. Several different TV shows, movies, and stories helped cultivate this interest.

What follows are some of my favorites. Bear in mind that this list is by no means intended to be all inclusive, nor is it a "best of" list.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Yesterday's Enterprise." This is both a time travel story and an alternate universe one. The Enterprise-C ends up going through a time rift, an act that alters the path of Federation history. The ship had been destroyed on a mercy mission that improved relations with the Klingons. When the ship went through the rift, the timeline was altered. Since the Enterprise-C never assisted the Klingons, the Federation and Klingon Empire are embroiled in a never-ending war...and it isn't going well for the Federation. Changes include a more severe, militaristic version of the Starfleet uniform, a darker Enterprise-D bridge, and the reemergence of Tasha Yar, who had died earlier in the series.

The captain of the Enterprise-C wants to help the Federation win the war, but Captain Picard reveals that the Klingons are winning. The crew of the wayward vessel decides to go back through the rift, the hope being that it will complete its original mission and prevent the war from ever beginning. Tasha Yar, who feels out of place on the Enterprise-D, decides to join the crew of the other vessel.

This is a fantastic episode of ST:TNG and one of my favorites. Bonus points for an appearance by Shooter McGavin himself, Christopher McDonald.

Star Trek, "Mirror, Mirror." A fun episode of TOS that involves Spock with a goatee and a murderous Captain Kirk. In this alternate reality, the United Federation of Planets never developed; instead, it's the ever-expanding, ever-evil Terran Empire, an organization dedicated to ruling the universe. Officers are encouraged to get promoted by assassinating their superiors, prisoners are ruthlessly tortured in the Agony Booth, and concepts like freedom aren't exactly at the top of the list.

Our intrepid Enterprise crew gets beamed aboard the alternate-universe ship thanks to an ion storm. They realize they're in the wrong place, of course, when they see that Spock has a goatee. Thanks to this episode, we now know that anyone with a goatee is evil.

It's a Wonderful Life. Hardworking everyman George Bailey is at his wits' end after his uncle misplaces an important deposit at the bank. Desperately short on cash and accused of bank fraud, George makes a wish that he was never born. Thanks to the unorthodox methods of an angel named Clarence, George gets an incredible gift: the chance to see what the world would be like if he were never born.

One man's life touches so many, he realizes, after discovering that the town pharmacist is a lousy drunk. When George was a boy, the pharmacist mixed up a deadly prescription. George realized it and never delivered the medicine. However, since George wasn't born, he never stopped that from happening, so the medicine poisoned a kid. The love of George's life becomes an old maid, having never found anyone to love. The Bailey Building and Loan went under after George's father died because George wasn't there to take over. It opened the door for the Evilest Man Ever (Mr. Potter) to take over all of Bedford Falls (make that Pottersville!). In addition, George's brother Harry--a war hero for saving transport full of soldiers--never became a war hero in the alternate timeline. As a boy, Harry fell into a frozen lake, but George saved him. With no George, Harry died...and with no Harry, the transport wasn't saved.

In the end, George realizes he had a wonderful life despite the problem with the missing deposit, and asks Clarence to let him live again.

Back to the Future: Part II. When Biff Tannen gets his hands on a sports almanac from the future, it creates an alternate reality in which Tannen is one of the world's most powerful scumbuckets and Marty McFly is his stepson. This is a brutal alternate reality...and embodies all the warnings from Doc Brown about the dangers of messing with the timeline.

Seinfeld, "The Bizarro Jerry." This isn't an actual slipstream universe (although it comes close!), but in this episode, Elaine falls in with a group of friends resembling "good" versions of Jerry, George, and Kramer (Kevin, Gene, and Feldman). This doesn't involve any kind of supernatural, universe-bending phenomenon, but it plays on the "what if" themes often seen in alternate reality/multiverse stories. Plus, it introduced us all to the phrase "man hands!"

Watchmen. In this bleak graphic novel, we are plunged into an alternate 1980s in which superheroes have existed for several years. However, something called the "Keene Act" has outlawed masked heroes. Most of the heroes have decided to hang up their capes and masks in response. The story gives us a few interesting nuggets related to our history (Nixon is still president, for example), but Watchmen also hits readers with a rich alternate history about masked avengers and superheroes. It's an interesting take on superhero conventions and how a few strange "tweaks" in history could've changed our world.

G.I. Joe, "Worlds Without End." This may have been the first (or at least one of the first) alternate reality stories I ever saw. In this one, several G.I. Joes (including seldom used members Grunt, Clutch, and Steeler) travel to an alternate reality where Cobra rules the world and G.I. Joe has disbanded. With no one to stop Cobra, the organization has finally succeeded in taking over the world. We find out the Baroness was in love with Steeler, who (like Grunt and Clutch) has been dead for years. The Joes eventually find a way back to their own reality, but Clutch, Steeler, and Grunt elect to stay behind in order to start a revolution to overthrow Cobra.

Star Trek: Q Squared. This is a crazy book. Really. It's the third Star Trek entry on this list, but the franchise uses the concept of alternate realities/multiverse a lot. In this Peter David novel, original series villain Trelane is revealed to be a member of the Q Continuum. He goes crazy and basically toys around with three different parallel universes. Eventually, they all begin to bleed into each other with insane results. It's been a while since I've read this one, but it really stuck with me.

Timeline. I couldn't create a list of influential works without including something from Michael Crichton, one of my favorite authors. Timeline is a solid Crichton adventure that takes a group to medieval times. It's a time travel story, but Crichton basically "faxes" the protagonists to a parallel earth where time is moving at a different clip, allowing them to travel back to a medieval period.

Crisis on Infinite Earths. One of the most important "event" comics in history, Crisis on Infinite Earths was the DC Universe's attempt to cut down on decades of convoluted character continuity. I'm not going to summarize the story because way too much happens, but a lot of heroes and villains die as DC tried to distill its history into a more palatable form. You get a lot of "Superman of Earth-Two" and "Superboy of Earth Prime" and that sort of thing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak Pre-Orders Now Open!

Candlemark & Gleam thinks a little differently than other publishers. As a small press, they'll do whatever they can to help promote their books and spread the word.

One of the most effective tools these days is Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website that asks people to pledge their support for a project by making a donation. In C&G's case, they use Kickstarter for pre-orders.

The great thing about Kickstarter is that when you pledge, you win. You get something in return. Candlemark & Gleam is all about books and helping people find great ones (obviously, that's why they chose my book *cough, cough*). They love giving you something extra, be it a poster, a button, or a New World Common Wealth ID card. Maybe you'd like a t-shirt or the ELUSIVE (and EXCLUSIVE) hardcover edition of I, Crimsonstreak, signed by yours truly.

The minimum pledge of $20 gets you the print edition, the electronic edition, and my eternal gratitude.

Here's where you can find out more about the Kickstarter project.

And, hey, while I'm at it, check out this teaser for the book:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guest Post on Writing in the First Person

Fellow Candlemark & Gleam author Anne E. Johnson asked me to write a guest blog about I, Crimsonstreak, and I decided to write about the challenges of using a first-person perspective.
You’ll have to excuse my friend; he’s a little chatty. First person stories become grating when the narrator simply wants to talk. Constant monologues aren’t interesting, and writers must infuse their characters with personality without turning them into monologue machines. Words are precious; don’t let the narrator’s sense of self-importance override your story!
You can read the whole post at the link here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak: Why Superheroes?

I've always loved superheroes and comic books characters. Although I've read my fair share of comics, I am not a dedicated weekly reader. I mostly read collected trades and/or novelizations. For me, it's just an easier time commitment. Perhaps one day I'll have the time to follow multiple comics and read multiple issues a week. At this point, I don't have that time. I wish I did.

Now to the point of this post. Why superheroes? Why superhero prose?

Because they can be complex.

They can be real.

They can be flawed.

Superheroes reflect ideals. Your super-duper-good vigilante represents the American Dream (Superman). Your masked, shadow-stalking vigilante represents the gray areas of life (Batman). A guy like Captain America stands for liberty and freedom. Captain Marvel symbolizes the latent power of youth and good intentions.

Even the villains have their place. The Joker is an agent of chaos, Lex Luthor stands tall for big business, and Red Skull represents Nazis. Nazis are bad.

I, Crimsonstreak plays on these archetypes. Chris Fairborne is the son of heroes and takes it upon himself to live up to those ideals. He isn't always the most successful of the lot, but he's dedicated and sees the world in stark terms of black and white.

Superheroes give us something to aspire to. The real world is full of heroes, but sometimes it doesn't feel like it. In broad terms, superheroes clearly define themselves. The guy in the cape is there to save the day...and you know it because he's wearing a friggin' cape. If we were all so selfless, just imagine how much we could accomplish.

My book is full of heroes, although sometimes they don't play well together. The Heroic Legion, for example, tends to get caught up in bureaucratic nonsense. Still, there's a sense that people do try to do what's right and set an example for others to follow suit.

They're just like us...except, you know, they can fly and stuff. Ye Olde Spider-Man is probably the best example here. Poor Peter Parker can't do anything right, gets paid peanuts for taking pictures, and saves the day on the side. Sure, some multi-billionaires are hard to relate to (*cough* Bruce Wayne *cough*), but a great superhero story has a character in there who's relatable. Many have families to protect.

In I, Crimsonstreak, our main hero has plenty of problems, although I'm not sure they're all relatable (having a father who's taken over the world, for instance). Still, Crimsonstreak has to come to terms with a broken father/son relationship, reunite with an old flame, mentor a young hero, and deal with the absence of his mother. These are all very human issues, and things people can relate to.

From a storytelling perspective, they're flexible. This is a wide-open genre full of diverse opportunities. You can go supernatural (Ghost Rider), humorous and nigh-invulnerable (The Tick), dark and brooding (I'm not even going to mention his name), intergalactic (Silver Surfer), high-tech (Iron Man), vampiric (Blade), paramilitary (The Punisher), godlike (Thor), and much, much more.

My novel is pretty straightforward in being a tights and flights, capes and cowls type of story. I do dabble in some science fiction and fantasy elements, but you won't encounter things like "paramilitary" or "vampiric." That said, we do have some godlike characters, tech guys, and that sort of thing.

There's lot of "in between." Not every hero dons red, white, and blue. Sometimes they don't wear the white hat...sometimes the hat is gray. Maybe the "hero" kills people. Maybe he/she has to make an impossible choice to prevent some terrible catastrophe. Maybe they have to choose the lesser of two evils. Maybe they have to make a deal with the bad guy. Maybe they are the bad guy.

In I, Crimsonstreak, it's hard to know what to make of Crimsonstreak's father, Colonel Chaos. He started out as evil, became a hero, and then took over the world. Crimsonstreak comes to realize that not everything is as black and white as he originally thought, something our good Mortimer P. Willoughby points out in the novel.

We can paint in broad strokes. Superheroes certainly have their own shorthand. We know who the guy with the huge biceps and chin that doubles as a nutcracker is supposed to be. We understand the multi-trillionaire with the cowl has all the gadgets. The genre definitely has its tropes...and those easily-accessible ones help set up a world...and then allow authors to flip it upside down.

Yeah, I took advantage of this one. Many of the supporting heroes and villains are very easily explained simply by their names (Crossworld, Exponential the Amazing Multiplying Man, Zeus Caesar, Mimicry).

Grandeur and wonder already included. People can fly, run faster than sound, move things with their minds, and walk through walls. These are not normal abilities (except in comics, of course). Sure, these things can become mundane, but writers who step back and awe at these superhuman acts can share the experience with their readers.

In I, Crimsonstreak, superpowers are widely accepted. Yet there's a point in the book where Crimsonstreak flies with another hero...and it leaves him awed. Despite his ability to run faster than fast (and even faster), the thrill of flight manages to capture his imagination.

You want stakes? I got your stakes right here, and the villain just raised 'em. Every story needs high stakes, something big on the line. The stakes don't get any "higher" than superhero stories. I mean, come on, the world's going to blow up. An alien invasion is imminent. A mad scientist plans to unleash a super ray turning everyone into Christopher Walken ( sounds like the perfect world...but when everyone is Walken, there is no Walken).

In the book, the world, as is usually the case, is at risk. Freedom, justice, personal liberty...also on the line. Crimsonstreak's very reality is threatened, along with the lives of his family and friends. Stakes don't get any higher than that.

What do you think? What draws you to the genre? What pushes you away? Is this just "kid stuff?"


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Writing Tools of the Trade

The Notebook: When I write, it's usually on my computer, although sometimes I scribble in a notebook. That's for the actual writing of a project, however. Conceptualization and outlines always start in a notebook. I have different ones depending on my mood. There's a notebook from high school with some ideas in it that I still kick around. A newer notebook includes more recent ideas for both novels and short stories along with blogging and promotion ideas.

The Computer: I've been a PC fan for a long time, and my computer is as barebones as they come, a dual-core Compaq Presario with Windows 7. I write using Microsoft Word, although one of these days I'm very tempted to try out Scrivener. Word gets the job done; it's not flashy, but it's pretty standard and it has a familiar feel. Oddly, working with Word gets me into my "writing mindspace."

The Kindle: This wasn't a part of my repertoire until last summer, but the Kindle has become an absolutely essential tool in my writing utility belt. I don't mind sitting in front of the computer to write; I, however, loathe sitting in front of the computer to read. Hate it, absolutely hate it. The Kindle bridges the gap; I can email documents to the Kindle and read through manuscripts outside or while lying on the couch. I use the Kindle keyboard, which is handy for making notes about misspellings, wrong words, character inconsistencies, and other things I spot during a read-through.

The Caffeine: I am not a coffee drinker. I've never liked the taste and I've never worked a typical day job shift that made it part of my daily routine. When I need a jolt, I rely, sadly, on soda. I don't really care what kind I drink. I tend to be more of a cola/cherry cola guy (I lean toward Coke), although I also like Dr Pepper. Mountain Dew and its various derivatives are fairly low on the list.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak Preview Chapters!

I received a cool preview widget from my publisher allowing you to preview I, Crimsonstreak! You can check out the first two chapters, read my thrilling dedication, and get a good idea of how the book will look in its finished version.

Just click can pre-order the book here.


Friday, March 16, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak: The Primer, Part II

I, Crimsonstreak: The Primer took a quick look at the main characters in the book (you can find it here).

Let's move on to The Primer: Part II, key places and concepts you'll find along the way.

Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane: Known as the "Clermont Rehabilitation Facility" to those in power, Clermont is a place reserved for the evilest of evildoers. Crimsonstreak ends up here after being framed by his father. At the beginning of the story, our hero has been imprisoned for approximately three years.

Enforcers: The sadistic prison guards and henchmen responsible for maintaining the peace (translation: beating the crap out of anyone who would dare defy Colonel Chaos). Enforcers wear bulky, matte-gray armor and carry a nasty weapon known as a particle buster.

New World Common Wealth: As countries fought over resources and ideologies, Colonel Chaos decided to step in and stop it. He quietly laid out a plan for a one-world government called the New World Common Wealth (NWCW) that would divide the world into regions, redraw borders, and strip countries of their individual identities. Many resisted Chaos' diplomatic overtures, but his persistence would eventually pay off. Several European powers still refuse to join.

Region Seven: When Chaos reorganized the United States, he placed the state of Indiana in Region Seven, an area that includes Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. Chaopolis (formerly Indianapolis) is the capital of Region Seven...and the center of government for the New World Common Wealth.

Meta-Route 65: Because he's a maniacal control freak who likes to waste time and money, Colonel Chaos ordered the reorganization of the U.S. interstate system. Meta-Route 65 is the stupid-sounding equivalent of Interstate 65, complete with pointless new signage.

High Imperator: A dictator needs a title, and Colonel Chaos drew inspiration from antiquity. Instead of declaring himself emperor, president, or tsar, Chaos took the title "High Imperator." He also likes being called the "Great One," although the latter is not his official title.

Special Projects: The research wing of Colonel Chaos' new world order, Special Projects (SpecPro) houses a variety of philanthropic endeavors including deadlier iterations of the particle buster, better Enforcer armor, and superhero depowering rays.

Kiltech Incursion: As Colonel Chaos struggled to gain global acceptance of the New World Common Wealth, aliens called the Kiltechs invaded Earth. They arrived under a banner of peace, but quickly destabilized the world after eliminating several leaders during a peace summit. Chaos rallied a large resistance against the invaders, eventually driving them away. Hailed as a hero, Chaos consolidated his power base, dissolved the provisional ruling council, and watched as other countries practically lined up to join his new world order.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Guest Blog at The Qwillery

I'm hoping to do more guest blogs as the book launch approaches, but today I'm up at The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

My guest blog is on false documents and the role newspaper articles, character journals, and other pieces of fictional journalism play in my book. When the book is released in May, I'll do an interview with the site.

You can find the guest blog here.


The Qwillery, by the way, is a great book blog. You should check out the impressive lineup of authors involved in this year's Debut Author Challenge. I'm proud to be among them!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Introducing Crimsonstreak Central!

Over the next few weeks, I'll really ramp up the blog content for I, Crimsonstreak, and your place to find it all is CRIMSONSTREAK CENTRAL.

I've added a new section to the website. To the right of "Home" at the top, you'll find the "Crimsonstreak Central" page.

I will constantly be adding features to the special section, which is where you'll find all things related to I, Crimsonstreak.

Highlights will include:

The Primer: Brief profiles of the principal characters in I, Crimsonstreak.

Timelines: Two are offered: the New World Common Wealth Timeline and the Crusading Comet Timeline.

The World of Crimsonstreak: A collection of posts related to the technology, uniforms, secondary characters, locations, and other content.

Author's Commentary: I, Crimsonstreak draws upon many pop culture, sports, and real-life inspirations. In this 22-part(!) series, I go chapter-by-chapter, appendix-by-appendix for a behind-the-scenes look at everything related to the book. COMMENTARIES LAUNCH ON MAY 15th!

Reviews: When the reviews come in, you'll find them collected here.

The ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Starting April 11, we'll embark on an epic alphabetic journey through the universe of I, Crimsonstreak as we cover everything from the Amazing Merrick to the villainous Zeus Caesar.


Look for labels like these for all Crimsonstreak Central posts:

Each post in Crimsonstreak Central will link back to the special section as illustrated below:

Now that I've told you about it... time to visit!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Appendix IV

Appendix IV

Dawn Magazine Profiles in Heroism

Author’s Notes

  • Dawn is the People of the Crimsonstreak universe. The magazine’s tagline is “on the edge of what’s new.” The mag serves up a variety of content, but definitely has a soft spot for superheroes. This appendix focuses on short profiles for several key heroes.

  • Note in Colonel Chaos’ bio that one exploit is called Operation Save Christmas (1985). The implication, of course, is that Christmas often has to be saved, and that Chaos was involved in the 1985 mission.

  • Chaos’ birthplace is listed as Webster, Indiana. It’s a small town just “up the road” from my hometown of Williamsburg, Indiana, in Wayne County. Again, that’s on the eastern side of Indiana near the Ohio state line.

  • The book takes place in 2010, which technically makes Colonel Chaos 64 years old (the book takes place in the spring, thus Chaos hasn’t had his 65th birthday yet). Miss Lightspeed was born a year later, and would’ve been 63 years old if she hadn’t died in 2000 (her birthday is in May, so she wouldn’t have celebrated her 64th birthday yet). They’re older than you’d expect, but their superpowers have slowed down the aging process. They look, I would say, 20 to 25 years younger than they actually are.

  • The Trial of Demonspawn is a scenario I created to show that members of the Heroic Legion don’t agree on everything. Like any other organization, the group has disagreements. In this case, the heroes Samson Knight and Great Alexander felt the villain Demonspawn should’ve died for his crimes. Chaos, a reformed villain himself, took a different stance.

  • Miss Lightspeed was born Karen Jo Watson in Fountain City, Indiana. This is a town in Wayne County and the location of Northeastern High School, home of the Knights. I’m a proud graduate of the class of 1999. Chris also attended NHS.

  • Earlham College is in Richmond, Indiana, located in—you guessed it—Wayne County. Earlham is a liberal arts college sometimes called the “Harvard of the Midwest.” The school’s mascot is the Quakers. Earlham is a respected institution, although it sometimes seems out of place in traditional, Midwestern Richmond.

  • In early drafts of this bio, Miss Lightspeed was a more passive hero who didn’t do much with her powers in her early days. This bio changes that to make her a stronger character.

  • Chris’ mom was a trailblazer, becoming the first female granted membership into the Heroic Legion, which had been more of a club for the boys.

  • Miss Lightspeed is truly concerned about the plight of developing nations and committed to world peace. She doesn’t always follow established U.S. diplomatic protocols, something that rankles top U.S. leaders.

  • The Crusading Comet’s profile is, admittedly, fairly bland. There simply isn’t much to write about him; he’s done a tremendous job of covering his tracks.

  • Crimsonstreak’s profile breaks little new ground; we already know plenty about this character. The one little nugget gleaned from the piece is that Crimsonstreak and the Indiana State Police had a formal partnership.


I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

The Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane:
Serving evil-doers and those in need since 1972

Author's Notes

  • The entire book started with the simple concept of a superhero being locked away with a bunch of villains. That’s where the idea for I, Crimsonstreak began. I wanted to start the novel with a situation that defied explanation; how would a superhero end up being imprisoned as a bad guy? I tried to take it a step further by making his father responsible for his bad fortune.

  • Crimsonstreak remarks here that he’s not sure how much time has passed. In early drafts of the book, it’s implied that he was imprisoned in Clermont for as few as four months and as many as six months. Once my editor and I started digging into the worldbuilding, I realized that six months was too short a time for everything that happened while Chris was in captivity to occur. We mention the rise of the New World Common Wealth, an alien invasion, a global reorganization… that certainly could not all have happened in the span of six months. Three years is probably even stretching it, but it’s definitely easier to believe.

  • The “Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane” is 100% fake. I suppose you could argue that it’s a stand-in for Arkham Asylum; the parallel is certainly there and I avoided using “asylum” in the name of the facility to avoid that association. Yet, Arkham is so associated with supervillain psychos that it’s nearly unavoidable to consider it a reference point, subconsciously or not.

  • The “Clermont” name itself is inspired by Clermont, Indiana. It’s a small town west of Indianapolis and home of Lucas Oil Raceway Park (formerly O’Reilly Raceway Park; formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park). I’ve only been to Clermont once during a going away party for a colleague. I’ve always liked the name, so I included it in the book.

  • The straitjacket is important for a couple of reasons. First, it’s something that constricts Chris’ movements (I will use “Chris” and “Crimsonstreak” interchangeably throughout the commentary, so my apologies for that). This is a super-speedster, actually the super-speedster, and he doesn’t enjoy being unable to use his powers. Secondly, the straitjacket serves as an (embarrassingly obvious) symbol of Chris’ imprisonment. He can’t escape his predicament until he sheds the straitjacket. Thirdly, I like the mental visual of this hero in the loony bin like a common criminal.

  • Colonel Chaos (William Fairborne) and Miss Lightspeed (Karen Fairborne) share some traits with my parents, although the characters are not based on them. For instance, my father is not a guy with genius-level engineering intellect (he’s got a genius-level head for baseball, however). Miss Lightspeed has my mother’s strength and no-nonsense attitude. Both are loving and involved in their son’s life, which reflects some Adams family history.

  • The thing I wanted to convey is that Crimsonstreak considers himself a disappointment. He hides behind a quick-witted, confident persona, but deep down, he feels he pales in comparison to his parents. Colonel Chaos and Miss Lightspeed could both fly and possessed super-strength. Chris inherited neither of those traits. He didn’t inherit his father’s insanely deep intellect, either. He has his mother’s speed (his speed actually surpasses Miss Lightspeed’s), but feels like he got the short end of the stick in the genetic pool.

  • Crimsonstreak is a slightly damaged hero, but not quite in the way someone like Batman or the Punisher is damaged. Bruce Wayne lost his parents at a young age and vowed revenge on the criminal element; the Punisher saw his family mutilated and swore to get even. Crimsonstreak was a college freshman when he watched his mother die in a very public way on television. That event cast a shadow over what is supposed to be a young man’s heyday. Instead of going to parties and figuring out life, he distanced himself from friends and watched his relationship with his father disintegrate.

  • The scene with the “accountant from The Untouchables” tells us a little about a bombing in Williamsburg, Indiana. This is, in fact, my hometown, a little barely-there dot on the map in Wayne County, Indiana, near the Indiana/Ohio State line. The closest cities are Richmond, Indiana, and Dayton, Ohio. I wanted Crimsonstreak to have a modest Midwestern background, so I stuck him in my hometown. This does not reflect my desire to wipe Williamsburg off the map.

  • I think the line “Sure am glad Dad was there to vouch for me” speaks volumes about Chris’ issues with his father.

  • The villainous Zeus Caesar was a character I always had a very clear picture of. He’s an all-powerful, god-like supervillain who’s pretty much off his rocker. I mean, who starts “conquering America” by taking over Nebraska and Iowa? I’ll have more on Caesar later.

  • Chapter 1 ends with the line “But the world needs a hero.” Chris is in a desperate situation. He’s tried to escape more than a dozen times, but is still stuck in the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane. Since we’re seeing this whole world through his eyes, this line reminds us that he’s not giving up just yet.


Success: Your Terms, Not Theirs

We start off with an important message from Dean Witter...

"We measure success one investor at a time."

I believe I've quoted this commercial before, but I think it's an important thing for writers (and heck, everyone) to keep in mind.

Note that Dean Witter didn't measure success by "another author's Amazon ranking" or "the seven-figure deal that erotic Twilight-inspired fan fiction book got." He didn't measure success by "the number of books J.A. Konrath sold" or "how many Twitter followers Amanda Hocking gained this week."

We have to stop comparing ourselves to other people. We have to stop being jealous of another writer because he or she hit on a new market trend, signed a huge advance, or won an award.

I write this as one of the guilty. I look at the Publishers Weekly "Deals" column and see three- and four-book deals in the six-figure range and lament how my small press deal came with no advance at all. A big-name author options a film deal, and I think, "that could've been me." Or, even worse, "that should've been me." It's natural to compare your accomplishments to those of others, but you have to be realistic about where you are.

Most importantly, you can't compare your accomplishments to their accomplishments, thus letting them define your definition of success. You will lose every time you do this. No matter how much hard work you put into it, you'll always feel like you aren't good enough. This is a vicious cycle...and writers must break free.

Last year, I wrote a blog post likening my writing career to that of a baseball player mired in the minors. At the time, I defined the "big leagues" as finding an agent and getting my book published.

At the time, I wasn't even considering a small press, but it's a route that's paid off for me. I've gotten an immense amount of satisfaction from going through the process--submission, acceptance, revision, etc. I've had input on cover design, aesthetics, promotion, and other things involved with launching a book.

By the time I, Crimsonstreak is released in May, it's going to feel like my book. I'm sure that sense of accomplishment would come along with having something published by the Big Six, but the book is something intrinsically valuable to me. Candlemark & Gleam has given it so much care and attention! When this superhero book launches, it may not set the world on fire, but I will know how much work has gone into it.

So it's not a $100,000 advance or a seven-picture deal. So it's not a Top 100 Amazon seller or the new indie book craze.

It's my book. The first, I hope, of many.

For that, I am proud...and measuring success on my own terms, not theirs.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak: The Costumes Uniforms

A superhero's costume uniform is one of the most important parts of comic books--especially given the emphasis on dynamic visuals. I, Crimsonstreak isn't a comic book, yet our heroes and villains still have splashy, bright uniforms.

Let's visualize!

Crimsonstreak: All right, this one's easy. For better or worse, Chris Fairborne AKA Crimsonstreak appears on the cover of the book in full uniform. His ensemble has more in common with a speedskater than anything else; it's designed to be streamlined and wind-resistant. Crimsonstreak travels at such high speeds that regular spandex probably doesn't do the trick.

Crusading Comet: The Crusading Comet appears in his full regalia only a handful of times in the book (only in flashbacks, actually). Think of his suit as a combination of Batman body armor (Bale or Keaton version; it doesn't really matter) with a splash of Ted Kord-era Blue Beetle. The Comet wears a darker shade of blue (more of a navy) and has a stylized "comet" symbol across his chest. His mouth and chin are exposed; the Comet does not wear a full helmet.

Colonel Chaos: During his early days as a villain, Colonel Chaos favored black bodysuits with ridiculous accoutrements like garish shoulder pads, white forearm gloves, and a flowing cape. After repenting of his villainous ways, he retained an affinity for sleek black bodysuits for work in his lab and out in the field. In the age of the New World Common Wealth, Chaos' look has evolved toward a militaristic tunic with a high collar and NWCW logos on the shoulders. No matter the outfit, Chaos sports shiny black books polished with obsessive detail.

Miss Lightspeed: Before her death, Miss Lightspeed was atypical among female heroes. While her contemporaries favored tight bodysuits, sequins, and midriff-baring "barely there" outfits, Miss Lightspeed dressed far more modestly and put an emphasis on practicality. Her usual outfit included an off-white top with matching pants; both had a variety of zippered pouches. A dark red cape and matching boots were concessions to her superhero lifestyle. She did not wear a tiara.

Enforcers: As befits their role as faceless scourges of a totalitarian regime, Enforcers wear generic, matte-gray, hard-shell armor devoid of personality or customization. Think Starship Troopers or Minority Report, and you get the idea. Members of the law enforcement arm of the NWCW also wear visored helmets and keep a nasty particle buster holstered by their side at all times.

Mortimer P. Willoughby: A butler's job is never done...and Mortimer P. Willoughby always carries an aura of elegance. A topcoat with tails, expertly tailored pants, crisp white shirt with a bow tie, and white gloves speak to his refinement and attention to detail. Morty's typical outfit also includes thick-rimmed glasses, polished dress shoes, and an assortment of secret devices hidden within his seemingly harmless topcoat.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

History, Harbaugh, and #18

"In one sense, this is a sad day for the franchise. A man who has meant a lot to this team, and this community, is leaving."
The words sound familiar. A beloved quarterback let go to pursue other opportunities. A new era for the Indianapolis Colts.

Those exact words were not, however, uttered by Jim Irsay. They were not spoken by general manager Ryan Grigson or new head coach Chuck Pagano.

They don't even refer to Peyton Manning.

It's February of 1998 and I'm 17 years old. In my younger days, the Cincinnati Bengals captured my attention. I pulled for Boomer Esiason, watched Joe Montana break Cincy's heart in 1989, and believed James Brooks was the best running back ever. I wanted to do the Ickey Shuffle. I knew what "Who Dey" meant.

By that time, the Indianapolis Colts had been in Indy for 14 years. Sometimes their games sold out, but you were only guaranteed to see them (usually) when they were on the road. If you were a Colts fan in those days, Bob Lamey was your best friend because odds were that it wouldn't be on TV.

The Colts barely registered for me. Anyone who knows the slightest bit about me will probably be taken aback by that statement. Approximately 75% of the clothing I own has a horseshoe on it.

Jim Harbaugh changed everything. I loved the way Harbaugh played. Smart, efficient, gutsy. He earned the nickname "Captain Comeback" after a series of increasingly unlikely comebacks after it turned out highly-touted new acquisition Craig Erickson was actually highly-ineffective new acquisition Craig Erickson. Harbaugh took over and led the Colts to the playoffs during the 1995-1996 season.

A win in San Diego (Zack Crockett goes absolutely crazy). A win in Kansas City (Lin Elliot is still a curse word in Kansas City). Suddenly, Harbaugh and the Colts were in the AFC Championship Game against the favored and evil Pittsburgh Steelers.

They weren't the most talented team, this group, but their defense played tough and Harbaugh was as tough as they came. He was bruised and battered nearly every week, yet he kept the team in the game. No lead, it seemed, was safe. And with the Colts trailing 20-16 on a cold day at Three Rivers Stadium (Heinz Field wasn't even a glimmer in the franchise's eye yet), Harbaugh got one last throw.

For the game.

For everything.

For the Super Bowl.

It landed on Aaron Bailey's chest, yet the wide receiver couldn't reel it in. I see it in slow motion; Bailey reaching for the ball, but no matter how much I try to will him to catch it, it slips away and hits the turf.

Game over.

The Steelers would go on to lose to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX, thanks to Neil O'Donnell, who mistook Larry Brown for his own receiver not once, but twice.

The next season, Harbaugh and the Colts started out 4-0. Injuries would hit the team hard, and they'd limp to a 9-7 record and lose to the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs. For a franchise with a reputation for lackluster play and local TV blackouts, making two consecutive playoff appearances was quite an accomplishment.

During the 1997-1998 season, the team fell apart. Injuries and a porous offensive line meant Harbaugh took a pounding. He missed four games that year, with backups Kelly Holcomb and Paul Justin taking over (and each getting beat up in turn).

Thanks to a Colts loss to the Minnesota Vikings and a comeback win by the Arizona Cardinals, the Colts landed the top pick in the 1998 NFL Draft (the Cardinals traded the second selection of the draft to San Diego, who chose Ryan Leaf).

An aging roster, cash problems, and a general sense of mediocrity became the underlying theme.

Then, for 17-year-old me, the unthinkable happened. The Colts traded Jim Harbaugh, and the words appearing at the beginning of this piece were spoken by new general manager Bill Polian in a farewell news conference. Not only did the Colts trade Harbaugh so that he could "find better opportunities," they sent him to the Baltimore Ravens, a franchise I never liked.

Harbaugh would go on to play for the Ravens, the San Diego Chargers, and the Carolina Panthers (although in Carolina's case, I use "play" very loosely). To me, he was always a Colt. He was always Captain Comeback.

17-year-old me was heartbroken. I didn't want to see Harbaugh leave, and I certainly didn't want this "anointed" quarterback from the University of Tennessee, some guy named Manning, to take over in his place. I was determined to hate Peyton Manning.

Think about that lunacy for a second.

I was determined to hate Peyton Manning.

14 years later, I sit in front of my computer wearing a Peyton Manning jersey following one of the hardest weeks Colts fans have ever endured. Not only is Peyton Manning no longer a Colt, but Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, and Joseph Addai are gone. The year Harbaugh left, the big losses were wide receiver Sean Dawkins, defensive end Tony Bennett, and linebacker Stephen Grant.

So, yes, the parallel isn't perfect; no one missed Dawkins or Bennett or Grant the way they'll miss Dallas down the middle, Brackett in pass coverage, or Addai in position to pick up the blitz.

Yet, the Colts dumped their general manager and coaching staff. They parted ways with a beloved quarterback. The next "anointed" one waits in the wings as the team turns the page on a new chapter.

Jim Harbaugh played in Indy for four seasons and captured my heart. Peyton Manning played in Indy for 14 seasons and earned the city's love.

It's incomprehensible to 31-year-old me that it ended like this, just as it was incomprehensible to 17-year-old me that the Colts could trade Jim Harbaugh.

When that new era dawned, Peyton Manning arrived.

And as this new era dawns, Andrew Luck likely awaits.

If we're as lucky as we've been over the last 14 special seasons, history will repeat itself. We can only hope.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak: The Big Cover Reveal!

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I think we all do it anyway.

I, Crimsonstreak does indeed exist! Now, we have a cover to prove it!

The next image is the full "wraparound" version of the can see the artwork on the spine and the copy on the back jacket. You should be able to click on the image for a larger version of the cover that will allow you to read the back jacket copy.

If you can't get it to work, here's what it says:
Framed by his father, "reformed" supervillain Colonel Chaos, super-speedster Chris Fairborne AKA Crimsonstreak, is sent to the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane. A hero surrounded by dastardly inmates and heartless guards, Chris struggles to keep his wits about him, until the arrival of some unexpected new "guests" at the facility provides him with a means for escape. Once out, though, he discovers that the world he knew is gone, replaced by a fascist, supposedly utopian state run by none other than Colonel Chaos himself.

With the heroes of the world locked away or fighting in a disorganized resistance, Crimsonstreak teams up with a snarky British butler and a teenage superhero-to-be. Together, the unlikely (and bickering) allies must take down Crimsonstreak's dad and set the world right again.

Thanks to Brooke Stephenson for the fantastic cover art. You can find out more about her here.

Look for I, Crimsonstreak on May 15 from Candlemark & Gleam! We'll have information for pre-orders very, very soon.

I, Crimsonstreak: The Primer

On May 15, Candlemark & Gleam unleashes my debut novel, I, Crimsonstreak, onto the world. The book is a labor of love; a tribute to bright, splashy comic book stories and superheroes, pop culture, and science fiction. It's a unique book in many regards, but the appendices in the back of the book make it stand out. Nearly 100 pages are devoted to newspaper articles, journal entries, magazine features, and character dossiers.

So let's get familiar with our main characters.

Chris Fairborne/Crimsonstreak: The son of prominent superheroes Colonel Chaos and Miss Lightspeed, Chris feels like a disappointment. His dad can fly. His mom can fly. He can't. He did, however, inherit his mother's super-speed, and is considered the world's preeminent super-speedster. The story is told through Chris' perspective; be warned that he's never met a pop culture reference he didn't like. Our adventure starts with Chris imprisoned inside the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane, where he's confined to a straitjacket after being convicted of a crime he didn't commit. Oh, by the way, his father's responsible for his imprisonment.

Colonel Chaos: Born William Avery Fairborne, Colonel Chaos is a reformed supervillain who perpetuated several different crimes against the world--things like antimatter rays and holding the world for ransom. He reformed and eventually became one of Earth's greatest defenders, marrying Miss Lightspeed and joining the Heroic Legion. After his wife's death, Chaos descended into madness and forged a one-world government called the New World Common Wealth. He also threw his son in prison, which kind of soured their father-son relationship. His powers include superstrength, flight, and genius-level intellect.

Miss Lightspeed: Born Karen Jo Watson, Miss Lightspeed emerged as one of the world's leading heroes and is responsible for stopping Colonel Chaos' rampage of terror and destruction. In an unlikely twist, Lightspeed and Chaos fell in love and eventually got married. Their union produced a son, Chris, who took the superhero name Crimsonstreak. Lightspeed died over the skies of Iowa in April 2000 during a battle with the villainous Zeus Caesar, yet she's somehow mysteriously returned to life. Her powers include flight, superstrength, and super-speed.

Crusading Comet: Not every hero has superpowers. The Crusading Comet is one of the world's longest-serving guardians, but he's not immortal. He is, in fact, a collection of men named Warren Kensington. Warren Senior, Warren Junior, Warren III, and Warren IV have all taken up the mantle of the Comet. Warren Senior and Junior died in the line of duty; Warren III--the current Comet--fights a disorganized resistance against Chaos' New World Common Wealth, and Warren IV is anxiously (not eagerly) awaiting the day in which he'll don the cape & cowl. As the New World Common Wealth takes hold, Crimsonstreak has few allies...but he can count on the Crusading Comet's heroic legacy.

Mortimer P. Willoughby: Mortimer, sometimes called "Morty" (he HATES that!), is the manservant for the Kensington family, having served under each of the reigning Crusading Comets. He has been entrusted with the education and upbringing of Warren Junior, Warren III, and Warren IV. Morty has a certain skill for electronics and subterfuge, and often runs operations for the Crusading Comet's various missions. That's all, of course, in addition to his roles as tutor, mentor, chauffeur, cook, and feather-duster. For unexplained reasons, Morty has a certain distaste for Crimsonstreak.

Jaci Graves: Former college girlfriend of one Chris Fairborne, Jaci serves the New World Common Wealth as an Enforcer. She and Chris drifted apart soon after the death of Miss Lightspeed and eventually went their separate ways. After her parents died during a counter-offensive against alien invaders, Jaci joined the New World Common Wealth, although she quickly began to doubt Colonel Chaos' leadership. Her powers include flight, which she augments with rocket-powered boots. Before the New World Common Wealth, she served as the superhero Boost.

Zeus Caesar: A super-powered titan of a man, Zeus Caesar stands 6'7" and can bench press a Mack truck. Combine this with sheer lunacy and the ability to generate/manipulate lightning, and you've got the recipe for disaster. Caesar and his Legionnaires Army marched across the Midwest in April 2000 in an attempt to mold the U.S. into another Roman Empire. Their reign of terror continued until they ran into Miss Lightspeed, who fought Caesar to a standstill before the villain jolted her with electricity. Colonel Chaos arrived too late to save his wife. Broken, he captured Caesar and transported him to the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane, where the supervillain remains.


Peyton Manning: Remember

I was originally going to post this to the author blog, but TFT has been neglected for a long time and I felt it was appropriate to post it there first.

Today, the Colts and Peyton Manning announced that they planned to part ways, a reality that seems absolutely inconceivable. Peyton Manning is the Indianapolis Colts. People can deny it until they're blue in the face, but I don't think we'd have a new stadium and convention center without Manning.

It's entirely possible the Colts would've crumbled so epically that they were forced to leave the city. Perhaps not, but I believe that's the case. Manning has meant so much to the fans in Indianapolis, and this is a day to remember how truly great he's been for the community. For more than a decade, Manning has defined excellence. With #18 under center, no lead seemed insurmountable (even in Foxborough).

The circumstances surrounding Manning's release are a jumble of the impossible. A roster with too many holes, the next "anointed" quarterback coming in the draft, salary cap issues, age, and injury. As many have pointed out, if the Colts win one more game, Manning may have finished his career with the Horseshoes.

The Colts have said goodbye to Peyton Manning. Inevitably, we'll turn next to speculation about where he'll go next and what his "legacy" will be.

Today, fans should pause to remember the good times and say goodbye.

My ten favorite Manning Moments:

Tampa Bay: The Comeback - With the Colts trailing 35-14 in the fourth quarter, Manning and the Colts engineered a mind-boggling comeback and took the game to overtime. The comeback included a recovered onside kick, an onside kick that wasn't recovered, a personal foul penalty, a blocked field goal, and a missed field goal nullified by a penalty and followed up by a made field goal that went off the upright.

The Turnaround - In his rookie season, Manning struggled, finishing with more interceptions (28) than touchdowns (26) while leading the team to a 3-13 record. The next season, it all came together for the Colts. With rookie running back Edgerrin James added to the mix, Manning and the Colts went 13-3 and secured the first-ever home playoff game for the Colts in Indianapolis.

Motor City Demolition -  On a brisk Thanksgiving Day in 2004, Manning threw six touchdown passes against an admittedly lackluster Detroit Lions team. It was symbolic for the holiday: Detroit was the turkey...Manning carved 'em up. He threw for 236 yards and six TD's...and it didn't even take him three quarters to do it. We saw Jim Sorgi that day.

The Fake Spike - During a 2001 game against the New Orleans Saints, Manning faked a spike to kill the clock...and then proceeded to run all the way to the end zone for a touchdown. The fake was so effective, however, that the officials blew the play dead. The TD was called back due to an "inadvertent whistle," although Jim Mora was trying to hustle his team into the locker room with the points still on the board.

Take the Ball Away...and He Still Wins - During a Monday Night Football game against the Miami Dolphins, the Colts' offense only had the ball for 14 minutes and 53 seconds. The Dolphins dominated time of possession, holding it for 45 minutes and 7 seconds. The problem for Miami? Every time the Colts touched the ball, they scored. Colts won this one 27-23. Somehow, Manning threw for more than 300 yards on 14 completions.

He's Throwing the Ball to Jerry Rice, Folks - During a glorious Pro Bowl afternoon, a reporter asked Peyton Manning about comments made by kicker Mike Vanderjagt, who criticized Manning and Tony Dungy on Canadian TV. Manning's response was pure awesome: "Here we are, I'm out at my third Pro Bowl, I'm about to go in and throw a touchdown to Jerry Rice, we're honoring the Hall of Fame, and we're talking about our idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth off. The sad thing is, he's a good kicker, he's a good kicker. But he's an idiot."

I Think We've Got Something Here - They say the preseason doesn't mean anything, but when the first pick in the draft hits Marvin Harrison for a touchdown on his very first throw in a preseason game, you hope it's a good sign. Manning and Harrison had an uncanny mental connection honed by hours and hours of practice, and it showed. I can still see Manning zipping the ball to Harrison on a slant as #88 did the rest.

Hunter Smith Took a Break that Day - In a wild divisional playoff game at Kansas City, the Colts outlasted the Chiefs 38-31. Neither team punted that day at Arrowhead Stadium, and Manning was absolutely unstoppable. He was 22/30 for 302 yards and three touchdowns. This game served as a microcosm of the Manning Era; while the Colts couldn't stop scoring...their defense couldn't stop the other team from scoring either.

How Did He Do That? Really? - The Colts faced a tough road game at Baltimore in the 2006/2007 playoffs. The Ravens, as usual, brought an intimidating defense, holding the Colts to field goals (Adam Vinatieri kicked five of them). The biggest play of the game, however, came from Manning. On third-and-five, he hit Dallas Clark for a first down that kept the clocking churning. The window for that ball was impossibly small, yet somehow Manning managed to complete it. The 14-yard gain chewed up more clock and set the table for Vinatieri's fifth field goal and (more importantly!) a nine-point lead.

The Real Super Bowl - With the Colts trailing 21-3 at home against the New England Patriots, all Colts fans could think was, "They're (the Pats) doing it again! We hate these guys!" The Colts drove for a field goal just before halftime. In the second half, Peyton Manning came to play, leading the Colts to a comeback victory and punching the team's ticket to Super Bowl XLI. I sprained my ankle jumping up and down during this 38-34 win and called everyone willing to pick up their phone. We almost saw Jim Sorgi that day after Peyton banged his throwing hand against an opposing player's helmet. Seeing him mouth, "Get ready! Be ready!" to Sorgi remains a chilling scene.

So one last time...

Thanks, Peyton. We'll miss ya.