THE THIN LINE at Covellite Film Festival

Among the many diversions used to postpone novel writing over the last few years was the little matter of assisting my brother Neil in the production of his feature-length directorial debut: The Thin Line. No small matter, as it turns out. If you’ve had cause to sit through the closing credits of just about any movie in the last decade, you might have some idea of the number of individuals involved in modern filmmaking.

Sadly, I proved far less useful in the venture than I’d hoped. Fortunately, Neil and my brother William were able to rally a small army to help pick up the slack, and invested an army’s worth of time and effort themselves. Along with editor, producer, and fellow USC Cinema alumnus C. Eric Powell, they eventually ushered the film through a grueling period of post-production. While the entire affair took far longer than intended, I’m proud to say that they did ultimately complete the film, which screened this past week at its first independent film festival: the Covellite Film Festival in Butte, Montana.

Now, Butte won’t soon be mistaken for Cannes. For one, there were far fewer yachts. (Then again, when you live in Newport Beach, California, a land without yachts actually makes for a nice change of scenery.)

What was my point?

Oh yes, Covellite. A delightful little celebration of the visual arts, just three years old, but with a historic setting and an endearing sense of hospitality. The Thin Line was granted a place of honor with a Saturday night screening. The audience was very gracious in its reactions, and graciously enthusiastic during the Q&A afterward. For those of you who know Neil, his discomfort at having to stand there and endure their praise was in and of itself worth the price of admission.

The unexpected adoration continued on Sunday, when we learned that The Thin Line had earned festival award nominations for Best Actress (Neva McIntosh), Best Editing (the aforementioned C. Eric Powell), and overall “Best of the Fest.” While we fell short in the Best Actress and “Best of the Fest” categories, we were quite pleased to see Eric acknowledged for Best Editing. (Though, since he wasn’t able to attend in person, and already has more editing awards than he can possibly know what to do with, I think we’ll keep this one on his behalf.)

(L to R) Producer/Composer William Thompson, Executive Producer Allison O’Briant and Writer/Director Neil Thompson display the Award for Best Editing from the 2018 Covellite International Film Festival for THE THIN LINE

I wish I could say this was an announcement as to where more viewers could watch the film. Alas, that will have to keep until we line up another festival screening or two, or stumble upon some form of distribution agreement. While it’s too early to even be thinking in such terms, I will take this opportunity to say thank you and kudos to all the countless folks who helped bring this particular little cinematic vision to life.

Regardless of what the film’s future may hold, a copper mountain’s worth of appreciation to Covellite’s executive director Don Andrews, programming director Brian Boyd, and to their entire team of festival organizers and fellow attendees for granting the entire The Thin Line cast and crew this pleasant, unexpected acknowledgment.

On the Delay of Kylac

As a naive young reader, I grew accustomed to authors who routinely released a new book each and every year. Every now and then, I’d run up against one who would appear to take long breaks between series, if not titles, and it always left me wondering: Why? What was taking so long? What on Earth could this author have to do that was more important than publishing the next installment of their particular adventure?

Suffice to say, I never wanted to be one of those writers.

Well, flash forward to adulthood, and I’ve learned firsthand that, even for professional authors, there are a million and more things that might get in the way of that next book. Let’s start with the exhaustion that can settle in after grinding through a 750,000 word trilogy and really wanting nothing more to do with those characters or settings for a time. Then there’s the distraction of competing professional pursuits such as only Hollywood can offer, with exponentially larger audience demands and the promise of eight-figure back-end participation. Add to that an economic recession and the resulting overhaul that even a major publisher might go through, where staff is decimated and the executive editor moves elsewhere. There are the obligations to a single mom and her young child, athletics coaching, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, a move, new schools, and weekend chores. There are daily workouts, injuries, surgeries, and unexpected deaths in the family. Toss in the contractual commitments to side projects, volunteer and charity efforts, secondary work when some of those larger Hollywood windfalls fail to materialize, and… well, before you know it, a decade or more has slipped by, and you’re still promising you’ll focus on that book “right after this.”

In fact, when I look back at some of my particular distractions, I don’t feel quite as bad about taking this long to complete another trilogy. Trouble is, readers only know that I’ve “abandoned” them for all this time, and so I must apologize. Just as I must apologize to all of those authors out there whom I silently judged and criticized as a callow youth, when I believed that their first and only priority should always be to their craft.

Excuses and apologies aside, there’s nothing I can do about the past. So I’m trying instead to enjoy the sense of relief, enthusiasm, and potential that always comes with the launch of a new project. There’s some trepidation too, of course. Will readers even remember me? Will the new story satisfy them? How, after all this time, can it possibly measure up to expectations? Having learned that the answers to that are certain to be mixed, however, I’m resolved not to spend much time dwelling on it. With as precious as time has become, and knowing that a host of fresh distractions are waiting just around the corner, I’d do better, I think, to get started in earnest on that next book.

The Ukinhan Wilds Now Available

The wait is over:

The Ukinhan Wilds

Anyone interested in the further adventures of Kylac Kronus can read the prologue, order online, or request autographed copies here.

All-New “Warder” Trilogy Featuring Kylac Kronus

Well, it’s official. As teased a few weeks ago, Kylac is back in his very own trilogy, collectively entitled Warder. The series kicks off next week (August 28) with the release of Book One: The Ukinhan Wilds. Books Two and Three will both be available before the end of the year.

Anyone who may be interested can read the full announcement here.

“Unbowed” as Standalone eBook

As of today, the Kylac Kronus short story “Unbowed” is available for purchase as a standalone digital download from online retailers such as Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. This is the same story that originally appeared in the anthology Unfettered from Grim Oak Press, so if you already own that particular title, you don’t need this one. And if you’re a fan of authors such as Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, or Terry Brooks, I’d encourage you to check out the full anthology instead. But if it’s truly just a short story about Kylac you might be interested in, now’s your chance.

Waiting for Kylac

To this day, the first question I hear from anyone who manages to slog through the entirety of The Legend of Asahiel trilogy is: “What happened to Kylac?”

Well, for those who may still be interested, I’m pleased to report that the answer to this question is finally set to be answered…

“Thorns” Featured in “Deep Magic”

Way back in the spring of 2002, at a time when I was looking everywhere for opportunities to improve my skills as a would-be writer, the Maui Writers Foundation held a week-long writers retreat in Rome, Italy. The plan was to have attendees tour various historical landmarks in search of inspiration, while working under the tutelage of a handful of bestselling authors to produce three short stories in the span of six days. Having attended a couple of Maui Writers Retreats before, and been highly impressed with the quality of instruction, it struck me as an incredible opportunity. So I begged, borrowed, and otherwise scraped together the money needed, and set off for Italy.

As expected, it proved to be quite the experience. The Roman Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain, and the ruins of Pompeii were just some of the sites I had the pleasure of visiting. The latter inspired a story about a slave in ancient Roman times getting caught up in a conspiracy against his kindly master. We’d been tasked with setting up a character facing a dramatic question–ideally, the kind of situation that the average person might find difficult to answer.

I recall working throughout the night to write it. My head never hit the pillow. We’d gotten back from our excursion late, and lost an hour due to Daylight Saving Time. Our stories had to be read to our group first thing in the morning. Our instructor for the day was Terry Brooks, who happened to be my favorite author, resulting in a little extra “stage fright” on my part. All in all, by the time I stumbled into class, I was convinced that I’d wasted my time and was wasting everyone else’s.

As it turned out, Terry, his wife Judine, and my classmates were far more forgiving. While a little out of the ordinary, it seemed my story wasn’t quite the nonsensical debacle I feared it to be in that sleep-deprived light. With a point or two of sage advice and some minor editing, it was deemed the best of the three projects I ended up completing that week.

Like all of my earlier writings, I chalked it up as an exercise. I never really expected it to find an audience. But around 2008, when my brother Neil was looking for potential stories for a short film, he decided that this one fit the bill, resulting a year later in the release of Thorns, the film.

When Jeff Wheeler approached me about the possibility of contributing a short story to his resurrected e-zine, Deep Magic, it didn’t take me long to come back to this story, which seemed in line with what his readers have come to expect in terms of what might be deemed wholesome, compelling fantasy and science fiction. Far be it from me to label it one way or another, but readers and viewers have used those terms and others in that vein, calling it a “suspenseful morality tale.” Regardless, Jeff agreed that it was a good fit, and with some further sharp-eyed editing, offered to bring it back to life.

All of which is my long-winded way of letting readers know that my short story “Thorns” can now be found in the August 2016 issue of Deep Magic, available today. My thanks to Jeff and Brendon and the entire team for giving the story such a lovely home. I’m pleased and humbled that this “exercise” continues to find an audience, and that readers, by and large, continue to be so accepting. If nothing else, it makes me feel better about giving up that night’s sleep all those years ago–not to mention all of the combined efforts of those who have helped me to improve it since.

Even if “Thorns” proves not to be your cup of tea, give Deep Magic a look. Especially Kindle Unlimited users, who can read for free. At 51 issues with no end in sight, the gang at Amberlin is building quite the nice legacy, and I’m honored to be a small part of it.

MisCon Event Schedule

For those who may find themselves in the vicinity of Missoula, Montana over Memorial Day weekend (May 22-25), the full schedule of events for MisCon 29: The Wasteland has been posted online. If you plan on attending, or are considering doing so, check it out.

As always, these things should be considered tentative, as unforeseen circumstances and conflicts do arise. But the folks at MisCon run a tight ship, in my experience, so you should be able to gameplan accordingly.

My own schedule can be found here. A couple of intriguing items on the list. Live enactments of battles scripted by Terry Brooks and Peter Orullian? Featuring actual weapons and the legendary Garet Jax? This I gotta see! Or participate in. Wait… what?

Unfettered International Release

Readers across the pond or Down Under may be pleased to hear that today marks the official e-book release of Shawn Speakman’s Unfettered anthology in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Published by Orbit Books, this version of the anthology features new artwork and a bonus story from Shawn, entitled “The Twilight Dragon.” Click the cover image below for the official announcement from Orbit Books.


“Light Speed” Music Video Release

Those who remember the fantasy-themed music video “Shine On Me” from Chris Dane Owens may be pleased to know that the sequel video, “Light Speed,” is now available.

As before, the video was produced by Chris Dane Owens and directed by Academy Award winner Robert Short. The imagery is based on a story by Chris and Robert entitled Arra of the Third Kingdom, which has drawn interest in both novel and feature film circles. If you ask me, this second video in the series is even better than the first.

Both “Light Speed” and “Shine On Me” are available as individual MP3 downloads from your favorite online music provider, and are featured together with other nine other tracks on the full-length album, Blue Stone.