Narmer And the God Beast Cover Reveal!

As I alluded to in my July Newsletter, I have worked up a short story in my ‘Egypt and Dinosaurs’ setting. It is called Narmer and the God Beast. As I so eloquently put it then:

“I even paid for a cover and everything . . . “

Well, that cover is here. It was created by illustrator Lee Eschliman who is absolutely fantastic. You can take a look at his other work on instagram. Lee’s artwork has been in my life since I can remember. One of his logos graced the deck of my very first skateboard (if you can believe I used to skate) and he’s influenced several of my hobbies overs the years. I was absolutely ecstatic that he was willing to craft the cover for my story. It turned out simply amazing.

Anywho, without further ado, here’s the cover for Narmer and the God Beast (and the back cover blurb to pique your interest):

Had I anything in my heart but hate for my brother and pity for myself . . .

I may have suspected I was about to meet a god.”

Broken and bleeding into the cool Nile waters – shattered by his brother’s cruelty – young Narmer pays the crocodile no heed as it enters the stream. Let it come.

But the hunter swims on, and only then does Narmer know its aim, the defenseless god-beast drinking and playing up-river.

Dinosaurs will again roam the desert sands, uniting the disparate Two Lands into one great Egypt, if Narmer can drive off the crocodile, if he can endure his brother’s malice.

If he can save this sacred creature and be saved by it . . .

So, there you have it. Narmer and the God Beast is officially announced. The launch on Amazon will take place on October 4th, but you can also preorder it now. I’m going to be doing a series of posts this month about my influences for the story and how it came together so stay tuned for those. Some stories and teasers in this world have already been posted on this blog so look for them on my fiction page.

And finally, you can just follow my progress on things and get quarterly updates and new fiction by subscribing to my newsletter at For signing up, I’ll send you a copy of the first story I every wrote about a warlock doctor.

See you next time!

*Update 9/14 – I’ve begun posting some of the “influence” posts I mentioned before. Here’s what I’ve completed so far:

#DinosaurDay 2023: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

Writing this review today feels a bit like cheating.

It feels a bit like cheating because I haven’t quite finished The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs yet. I’ve still got just a little less than one hundred pages left before I can mark it ‘finished’ on Goodreads.

However, #JurassicJune does not wait while I discuss Kratos’ Adventures in Egypt, or the marks and signs of magic. It cares little for things like Memorial Day celebrations, or the slow and deliberate notes that I’ve been filling my Obsidian vault with while reading this book . . .

It comes.

As the Jurassic gave way to the Cretaceous (words I feel much more comfortable slinging about because of reading this book), so too has May seceded to June, and all its #WyrdAndWonder of Fantasy evolves into the dinosaur themed goodness of #JurassicJune.

The first link in that chain is June 1st, #DinosaurDay. My approach this year is much the same as in years past, namely to review some non-fiction title which would teach me something about dinosaurs.

Back in 2021, I reviewed Kenneth Lacovara’s Why Dinosaurs Matter, a TED-Talk-turned-book which follows Lacovara’s career and served as a great entry point for me, just beginning to learn about the history of paleontology and the concepts necessary to further study these amazing creatures we call dinosaurs.

Last year (2022), I talked about Darren Naish’s Dinopedia: A Brief Compendium of Dinosaur Lore. I felt this book brought me firmly away from shallows and into the depth and intricacies of the discipline. Naish’s prose are funny, ironic, and sometimes serious, but always comprehensible and enlightening. With entries on each of the dinosaur clades, history of famous paleontologists, and their significance to science and popular culture, I’d say this is a handy reference for anyone looking to broaden their knowledge on this subject.

And this year, 2023, we tackle Steve Brusatte’s The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs. I say tackle, because of the entries I’ve discussed so far, this book is by far the longest. Including the notes and index (which I intend to read), TRaFotD is just over 400 pages while Naish and Lacovara’s books are a scant 215 and 192 pages respectively.

TRaFotD follows a format familiar to me from books like The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt, or even Why Dinosaurs Matter, which mixes the personal experience of the paleontologist with the history and science they are writing about. Consider a chef stirring a large pot of textbook, and adding a dash of memoir here and there for taste, and you’ll have a good idea of how this book reads. Even if it’s something common among these types of books, it seems a very good way to spice up what might otherwise be a very dull read (even for dinosaur enthusiasts like myself).

In terms of the content covered, TRaFotD is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, walking readers through each period of geological history and describing what was going on in the world at the moment different dinosaurs lived. I was quite shocked to find how harsh the conditions were during certain periods and how volatile. Megamonsoons in the Triassic, and 3,000 foot thick lava tsunamis in the later parts of that period? No thank you.

In my post reviewing Jurassic Park after a decade, I mentioned briefly an argument from Malcom’s character that humanity does not have the power to destroy or save the planet, and how awkwardly that section reads in light of Chrichton’s remarks at Cal Tech in 2003 (essentially denying climate change).

After reading the green-house gas fueled conditions the dinosaurs endured, without any humans around to contribute one way or another, I can see how easy it might be to think that our impact is negligible when looking at history through a geological lens.

I don’t think that is a stance this book takes; I’d imagine Brusatte has the opposite view in fact, but it was still interesting to discover nonetheless.

(Also there must be some irony that burning fossils is recreating the world in which those fossils were created).

Returning to the review itself, I would like to reiterate just how jam-packed this book is with prehistoric life. At only 300 pages in, I’ve already taken notes on over fifty types of reptile, mammal, dinosauromorph, and actual dinosaurs (part of the reason I’m moving so slow is all the notes). This might seem overwhelming (and looked at statistically it kinda is), but it never feels that way while reading.

Of course Brusatte talks about all of the major players that any child would recognize like T-Rex, Brontosaurus, Triceratops etc. but these are really only a small fraction of the types of creatures which made dinosaurs so fascinating, and Brusatte is not afraid to explore them all. This approach not only allows us to engage with new, or lesser-known dinos, but also sends us to places around the globe such as Poland, Argentina, Scottland and many more where these dinosaurs were discovered.

I probably only have a few gripes with the book, and each are quite surmountable in the end.

First, there are maps of how the continents looked at different stages during Earth’s history which despite Brusatte’s excellent descriptions, I still found necessary to look at. I only wish they had been mixed within the text and not just dumped in the beginning. Considering I struggled with a lack of positioning in time and geography during the first episode of Prehistoric Planet, this might just be a me issue.

Next, unfortunately when a dinosaur is discovered by paleontologists and when it lived in real life is not a very linear timeline. What I mean is, some of the dinosaurs we’ve known about for a very long time, were some of the latest to evolve, where older dinosaurs are only now being discovered. This gets compounded by the fact that Brusatte’s career is on a whole other timeline as well.

Needless to say I sometimes would get confused when the author would jump from a later part of his career to an earlier one to keep the narrative of how dinosaurs progressed in geological time in a linear fashion. I understand that this is necessary to the structure of how the book was written, however, it was sometimes hard to track.

Finally, my biggest gripe was actually how he described many individuals of the absolute legion of colleagues he’s had the opportunity to work with over his long career. The author often seems to fall into a pattern of comparing each person to a stereo type from a movie or book (often villainous) before essentially saying “But once I got to know them, they were incredible human individuals which I count among my greatest friends”.

It was a weird and slightly off-putting formula which made me feel like I would never want to be mentioned in one of his books. Why not just skip to all the parts you love about that person? What cool stuff they worked on, and why they’re special enough to include in your book? Seems like it’d be a good idea to lead with those things.

This strange quirk did not seem to carry over to figures from history, or paleontologists which Brusatte did not know personally although I did feel that there might still be a bit of sensationalism happening in their descriptions and introductions as well. Examples that stood out to me were any descriptions of Robert Bakker (author of Raptor Red), and the pretty much the whole section about Cope and Marsh.

In all honesty, I’m relatively new to all this, so those characters may have really been as Brusatte describes, but it just seemed a little much.

Give this One a Read?

Yes! Despite the slightly confusing timeline, awkwardly placed map references, and weird quirks surrounding characterization of real people, I would say this book is required reading for anyone attempting to get their foot in the door in terms of dinosaurs.

Brusatte balances a good mix of science and facts with personal anecdotes which engage the reader in a long and complicated history. This book is FULL of dinosaurs and all kinds of other prehistoric life and just getting to learn about such a diverse cast of characters is well worth the long page count.

Finally, I feel like The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs has served as a bit of a spark for me to dive back into researching and writing about dinosaurs in my own fiction. This book was filled with so much information and ideas, that I couldn’t help but feel inspired to record them and try to use them within my own work.

If nothing else, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs was a great way to kick off #JurassicJune and get excited about dinosaurs again!

Have any of you read this book? What were your thoughts? Was there a favorite dinosaur or animal mentioned within the text that you love? Please let me know in the comments!

See you next time.

Glowing Tats, Black Spots and Other Marks of Magic

“When you’re touched by magic, nothing’s ever quite the same again. What really makes me sad is all those people who never have the chance to know that touch . . . “ ― Charles de Lint

As readers of fantasy, we know magic. Even if only in our mind’s eye, we’ve cast a million spells (or a hundred million) and whether we plumb the depths of each new tome in search of the reasons a man may bend metal with his will, or whether we simply revel in the audacity of worlds in which graffiti comes to life, or a trumpet solo a can rebuff a hurricane, none can say that “magic” has not left its mark on us.

So perhaps it is only natural that we would seek the same for the characters in our fiction, or perhaps it is because we’ve seen our heroes changed by magic that we are changed by it too. Whatever the case, this beloved trope finds our hearts in many forms, a few of which I thought it would be fun to discuss this #WyrdAndWonder for the prompt: Marks of Magic.

First up . . .

The Power Tattoo

We’ve all seen this in some form or other. The Power Tattoo page of TV Tropes shows Avatar: The Last Airbender as the header image, and I can’t deny that it is a striking and clear use of the trope. I’ve only seen a few episodes so this usage did not immediately jump to mind, but I think it will be a great example for pretty much everyone else alive.

For me, I had to dig back into my childhood, and the Inheritance Cycle (Eragon) by Christopher Paolini to find a decent example. For those of us also blowing the dust off those old memories (and hopefully a couple hardcovers), the Dragon Riders were marked with the gedway ignasia, a silver mark on their palm, which signified them as magic users. I’m sure there are a thousand other examples from books and literature but most of my ready memories of this trope came from video games (I think it’s something that works a little better, and is therefore more common, in visual mediums).

For instance, in Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, Abe gets a pair of hand tattoos that allow him to transform into an avatar of Shrykull, the god of lightning. In the sequel Abe’s Exoddus, he gets a chest tattoo that lets him heal the sick. I played these games for HOURS as a kid, and despite all of that, did not progress very far through the game. I have since repurchased the remastered editions as an adult, and am only fairing slightly better. Perhaps if I manage to finish, I can post a review.

A second video game, and prominent tattoo, which jumped to mind was the large red tattoo — which I’m sure many people could recognize the character just based on that alone — which Kratos bears in the God of War series.

Fun fact, this awesome tat is not actually an example of the trope as I thought at first. He does use magic but his power is not related to the acquisition of the tattoo. His tattoos are actually meant to honor his brother Deimos who had a similar pattern of birthmarks which caused him to be mistaken for the ‘marked warrior’ which was prophesized to slay the gods of Olympus.

This works out pretty bad for Deimos and essentially just encourages the prophecy’s completion as Deimos’s kidnapping, and torture, in the land of the dead, just adds to the MANY reasons Kratos’s default setting is kill-all-gods (take a look at what that setting might look like in Ancient Egypt).

With that first one out of the way, our second trope is . . .

The Mark of the Supernatural

This mark of magic can be seen in many fantasies and is generally written as some physical characteristic which distinguishes the character as supernatural or magical.

The range of features that can be endowed with paranormal significance is as broad as the author’s imagination, but some easily visible features have become quite common.

Hair color, for instance, is a distinguishing characteristic for Geralt, the main character from The Witcher. His lovely locks are prematurely white, a result of his supernatural mutations, and the horrific procedures he had to endure to acquire them.

Eye-color seems to be even more common with notable use in Brandon Sanderson’s epic Stormlight Archive (aka the “lighteyes”).

Second, consuming ‘spice’ on Arrakis turns the the whites of people’s eyes blue and their irises an even deeper blue. Consuming the spice has all sorts of supernatural and essentially magical implications in Dune.

Another interesting take on this comes in Kushiel’s Dart. The main character, Phedre, has a mote in her eye which marks her as blessed by Kushiel. She is an ‘anguissette’, someone who endures pain for sexual pleasure. It is essentially her superpower within the first book.

Finally, we could point to Geralt again as one of his mutations is cat-like eyes which allow him to see better than normal people. Surely a boon when hunting monsters that prey on said normal people.

But none of this is quite so dramatic as . . .

The Worsening Curse Mark

This is generally some kind of mark on a character that ends up being significant to the plot because of some change in said plot, or something else unusual happening. Disappearance of the mark or change in its usual behavior counts though a wound healing would not. A wound that won’t heal, festers, or gets infected can count as long as there is some plot or magical reason for this.

Harry’s scar in the Harry Potter series is a great example. The scar was inflicted by an evil curse and it hurts Harry any time Voldermort is near.

In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Davy Jones marks Jack Sparrow with a large cursed boil (“black spot”) which marks him as hunted by the Kraken. This is a throwback to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island in which a “black spot”, burned into one side of a card or piece of paper, was handed to another pirate as a verdict of guilt (the unburned side I’m assuming meant innocence).

This device was also used in the 1930 novel Swallows and Amazons (by Arthur Ransome), given to the captain James Turner, homage to whom I believe is split between two main character names in Pirates: James Norrington and Will Turner.

What came to mind for me, perhaps has more to do with ‘worsening curse’ and maybe less to do with a physical mark, but my mind went immediately to Matrim “Mat” Cauthon from the Wheel of Time series. Across the first two novels he acquires and then loses a cursed dagger with a ruby on the hilt. During his possession of the dagger, some magical connection is formed, and the longer he is away from it, the worse his health declines.

So we’re definitely seeing the ‘worsening curse’ part of the trope but so far as I know, no physical mark was left on him aside from the worsening sickness. When (spoiler) the connection is finally broken, I do not believe he has any physical marks to signify his ordeal, however, I feel that he is psychologically changed by the experience. While in possession of the dagger, he does not act like himself, and once he is free of the curse, he is certainly not the same Mat who left Two Rivers. Therefore I’m going to argue that he has indeed been “marked” by magic, it’s just that those signs are more psychological than physical.

(I suppose there is a parallel here between Mat’s experience with the dagger, and Smeagol’s affair with the One Ring in LOTR. However, this post is already getting long enough lol.)

So . . . ?

Honestly, I’m not sure really. Many readers (and writers) are keen on the idea that magic has a ‘cost’, but I think reader’s enjoyment of magic is broader than that. While the Worsening Curse certainly has a cost, the Power Tattoo, and Mark of the Supernatural often have neutral costs, or as in the case of the Light Eyes in Stormlight, a benefit to being ‘marked’ by magic (Light Eyes enjoy higher social status in Rosharan society).

Perhaps it is only a change that is necessary.

Whatever the effect of these marks of magic on our heroes, I think it is safe to say that it is we who are truly marked by the amazing magic we read in our books, watch in movies or TV, or play in video games.

As fantasy readers we have the privilege of experiencing this magic, and to echo Charles de Lint, the only cost is on “…those people who never have the chance to know [magic’s] touch…”

What are y’all’s thoughts? Which ‘Marks of Magic’ are your favorite? Which should I have included in my post? Please leave your answers in the comments!

See you next time and happy #WyrdAndWonder!

#WyrdAndWonder 2023: Payback’s a Witch(y cover)

I’ve only missed one week (last week) yet somehow I feel like it’s been forever since I last had time to sit down and blog. Already 19 days have gone by in May, and while I’ve been able to tweet here and there, I’ve managed basically nothing in terms of posts for #WyrdAndWonder2023. In general, #WyrdAndWonder is one of my favorite times of year for blogging (please also check out my posts for 2022, and 2021), so I’ll admit to feeling pretty out of sorts the last 19 days.

I have excuses of course (travel . . . work . . . traveling for work), but mainly it just comes down to the fact that May is always a very busy month for me, and this May had been particularly so.

Without dwelling too much on that, let’s get to the good stuff . . . My first #WyrdAndWonder post!

If you’re completely confused as to what #WyrdAndWonder is, There’s Always Room for One More usually does a pretty good explanation (so definitely read that), but I’ll just describe it as a celebration of all things Fantasy. Generally, that gets related to books, but I’m sure any medium of fantasy is appropriate if you’re excited enough to talk about it.

There are also some prompts cooked up by the team so that each day of the month we’re (again generally) talking about the same thing, even if it’s different aspects or iterations of it. I usually find out about a couple new things each day and weep (tears of both joy and sadness) as my TBR explodes.

However, today my TBR is actually one book smaller. I’m not sure how Payback’s a Witch got added to said pile in the first place as Romance is not typically what I reach for first, but however it snuck in there, I’m happy that it did.

And because today’s prompt is “Witchy Covers” it’s a little extra relevant.

How Was It?

Good! Very good! I’m struggling a bit for a perfect comparison, but to me, it had the feel of SYFY Channel’s The Magicians (which are based off Lev Grossman’s novels by the same title which I have not yet read), which was probably my favorite show during its run (2015-2020; bring it back!!).

Within Harper’s tale, you’ll find:

  • Lots of pop culture references
  • Everyone is hot
  • Cozy does not necessarily mean low stakes

And honestly, a whole lot more, but somewhere along the line I was conditioned to write lists in threes.

Of course I enjoyed all of that, and if you like those things you will too. If you’re here for the steam, there’s plenty. I eventually quit taking this one to work because I didn’t want to keep worrying about what face I was making while reading in the lunch room.

Perhaps slightly more unique to my interests and tastes, one of the four major witch families is said to descend from Slavic folk legend: Baba Yaga. The book did not have as many allusions as say the Shadow and Bone series, The Witcher, or the Winternight trilogy, but it was still fun to note the influences and consider them as I read.

From what I could tell, the Avramovs are just ‘slavic’, hailing from no particular slavic country that I could distinguish. Indeed the family name, Avramov, is apparently a Bulgarian and Serbian name. Talia mentions Strigoi several times which appears to be a Romanian creature.

She toasts “Nazdravye!” to Emmy back in the guest cottage which I thought might have been a weird transliteration (or mispelling) of За Здоровье! a Russian toast (related: this consistent Hollywood mix up of На Здоровье!) but it might actually be Macedonian. And then finally, Talia greets her “sestra” (sister) with “Privyet” which I think is uniquely Russian.

I don’t think all of this confusion is somehow a mistake or bad writing. Talia is often teased by the other characters for even attempting such callbacks to her heritage because the Avramov family has lived in the US for so long as to render any connections to the past meaningless. However, the whole family persist in the delusion, and Talia, for all her swagger and confidence, seems to just want to belong with them.

Without going into spoilers, place (as in geography) and sense of belonging have huge thematic weight within the novel which — for a book that feels in many ways like it was written through the hyper-reality of an instagram filter — was refreshingly true to life.

Give it a read?

Yes! I’d give this one my recomendation. Come for some steam, spend entirely too much time googling slavic phrases, and then let the existential motifs hit . . .

That’s all I have for this time. Have any of y’all read this yet? How did it make you feel? Would you read it in the lunch room? Let me know in the comments!

See you next time!

What Gods And Goddesses I’d Want to See in a God of War Game Set in Ancient Egypt!

It’s May, and while I should be doing #WyrdAndWonder things on the blog, I stumbled across an article on Gamer Rant doing a sort of “fancast” of gods and historical figures that it would be great to see in a new God of War game set in Ancient Egypt (I did something similar before Marvel/Disney’s Moon Knight came out with 9 Things We Want to See in Marvel’s Moon Knight)

And because I now talk about videogames on this blog, I figured it’d be worth posting some thoughts.

Game Rant’s 6 figures of Egyptian Mythology That Would Be Great For A God of War Game gives us a great place to start, laying out a pretty awesome list including: Ammit, Isis, Set, Sobek, Apophis, and Imhotep.

I would be thrilled to see Kratos face off (or ally with) any of those gods and goddesses, and I love the reasoning the author gave for why such appearances might make sense. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if the developers might actually stay away from these big names considering many already have such memorable depictions associated with them.

As the article mentions, Sobek and Apophis have already made appearances in another extraordinary videogame, Assassin’s Creed Origins (one of my favorites!), and Isis is renown from games like Age of Mythology (another fav!) and Smite.

Of course Imhotep will forever be immortalized in the 1999 film, The Mummy (a third fav!), and Ammit has recently come into the spotlight because of Marvel and Disney+’s outstanding show, Moon Knight.

Side note: If you’re at all curious to see how games like AC: Origins and Age of Mythology have influenced my own writing please check out my ‘influences’ posts, specifically From the Primordial Ooze.

The following list of gods and goddesses are not particularly obscure by any means, however, I don’t have any particularly strong associations with them in other media, so I thought I’d list em and see what people think.

Quick Note on the Setting

As the header image shows, GoW would look amazing just wandering around Egypt, with pyramids in the background, or even getting to explore and solve puzzles within the tombs (ala AC: Origins), however, just as we’ve explored the Greek underworld in the original GoW games, and the realms of Norse mythology which weren’t earth, I think it makes sense that much, or even most of a story set in Egypt would take place journeying through the Duat.

This Egyptian underworld was the path Egyptian souls would travel from their bodies on earth to the Weighing of the Heart, a trial which would decide whether they could pass into the heavenly paradise known as the Field of Reeds (or the Fields of Aaru), or be cursed to walk the earth as a spirit. This journey contained thousands of trials and horrible monsters, thirteen gates and their guardians, and a lake of fire.

Just imagine all the fun that would be for Kratos . . .

Anyway, here’s my list!


Horus is a falcon headed god of the ancient Egyptian pantheon. He often has the epithet “the Avenger” attached to his name, but their are many others which can be used to describe this deity. Probably because he is one of the most important gods within the pantheon.

Perhaps the most famous myth about Horus, is how he slew is uncle Set, after the chaotic god murdered Horus’ father Osiris (the Game Rant article touches briefly on this when they spoke about Isis).

Something that I don’t see often shown in stories involving Horus (probably because it’s confusing as hell), is epithets which denote his age. Horus is known dually as Horus the Younger, a child with a single lock of hair and a finger in his mouth, and Horus the Elder, an adult form of the god who is the son of other Egyptian gods Nut and Geb (in most stories Isis and Osiris are Horus’ parents).

I think it might be fun to play with the concept of two Horuses, one the younger and one the elder. A time travel element could be cool with Kratos training the young Horus to fight Set at the direction of Horus the Elder who came back in time to set Kratos along the path.

There is already a baked in McGuffin with the Eye of Horus.

My only qualm with this whole Isis, Osiris, Horus vs Set drama, is that it may be bit played out. Also, many might still associate the character of Horus with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who played the character in Gods of Egypt.

There aren’t many who enjoyed Gods of Egypt.


If the Horus/Osiris/Isis/Set drama does happen, it would be great to see Set’s wife Nephthys take a more prominent roll. I always feel like she always gets pushed aside, even in the literal myth.


Anubis is just the greatest. I never get tired of seeing this god appear in fiction, no matter how many times I see him (also check out my review of Death Dogs). One of this god’s primary rolls is to help use the scales of Ma’at at the Weighing of the Heart and guide the deceased to the Duat.

Since he’s kinda a grim reaper type of fellow, it would be interesting to see Kratos on his death bed, expecting a Greek or Norse god to take him to his final fate, but instead it is Anubis who calls him into Egypt.

He’s often cited as the son of Nephthys and Set, so he would make a good player in the family drama mentioned above.


A goddess and the literal concept of justice / truth. It seems like most things in ancient Egyptian society stemmed from attempting to keep this in balance with Isfet, the concept of chaos and disorder. Setting Ma’at as an antagonist would be a twist but in line with how Kratos tries to defy Fate.

Ra –

If Kratos is to go up against Apophis, it only makes sense that Ra would be at his side. Like Horus, Ra has a falcon’s head and is associated with the sun. Specifically, Ra rides the Atet Boat across the sky during the day, and sails the rivers of the Duat at night, waging war against the great serpent Apep (also called Apophis). If Kratos is to adventure through the Egyptian underworld, I don’t see how he would not run into this all powerful god.

Thoth –

Thoth is an Ibis headed god of the moon, but also wisdom. As many fans have already noted, there are definitely parallels here with the norse god Mimir from previous games.

Personally I’d like to see the two compete for Kratos’ ear, and try to prove to him that they are the smarter god of wisdom. Could be good for a few laughs.


I think Sekhmet may be the closest we come to a God of War in the Egyptian pantheon. She is a lion headed goddess (also present in AC: Origins, but not really as big a player as Sobek) primarily known for her savagery and blood drinking. There is a myth in which Ra pacifies her by dying beer red. She gets so drunk thinking the beer is blood that she cannot continue on her killing spree.

In many cults she has a connection with the goddess Bastet, another feline goddess, and the daughter of Ra.

Some believed Sekhmet and Bastet to be two aspects of a single god, while others worshipped the goddesses as sisters. I think there could be some potential for trickery and betrayal if such a character was added.


Well, there you have it, seven gods it would be awesome to see in the next GoW game. I think the choices above are still pretty well known, but not so top-of-mind as to be in competition with other games, movies, or shows.

Of course, all of the things unrelated to gods and goddesses mentioned in 9 Things We Want to See in Marvel’s Moon Knight, would be great to see in a new GoW game as well. There is such a DEEP well of history and mythology to pull from that it might seem a bit overwhelming, but I know the folks developing the next GoW title will take their time and use care when crafting the game.

I can’t way to see what they come up with!

How about you all? Any gods, goddesses or monsters the new game should include? Did any of the deities listed above evoke a strong association with another kind of media? What other stories have these figures inhabited that are your favorites?

Please leave your answers in the comments. I LOVE talking about this stuff!

Straightforward and Fun: Assassin’s Creed The Golden City

Last week, we tried something a little different on the blog with a review of a videogame: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. This week, we’re back between the pages of a book but we’re still within the robes of a Hidden One in Jaleigh Johnson’s Assassin’s Creed The Golden City (happy publication day!).

In this adventure, the saga of England is still a distant (but not to distant) point on the horizon, and we’ve yet to feel the grain of a sea-stallion’s deck beneath our boots. Nor have we felt the hidden blade of betrayal (I hope that’s not too spoilery).

What we do experience, is the sights and sounds surrounding a medieval Hagia Sophia. The hidden crannies of an imperial library and the din of the crowd as chariots race within the hippodrome. The Order of Ancients have designs for Constantinople, and so The Brotherhood has work there too, if only to route out their corruption.

Hytham and Basim, our main protagonist and his superior, will be familiar from AC Valhalla. If there were any other connections, or characters we’ve seen before, I did not notice them. But the focus on these two was intriguing enough.

Of course we’ll see more of Basim later this year in the upcoming game Assassin’s Creed: Mirage, but the wait will be hard given some of the revelations at the end of Valhalla. If you were hoping that The Golden City might reveal some more insight into any of those revelations, or even what will be going on in Mirage (which I think will take place before GC) you might be somewhat disappointed.

I felt Johnson walked a tight line with Basim, ultimately foreshadowing a great deal we already know from Valhalla, but never spoiling anything from that game, or any future games (as far as I can tell). It was honestly quite impressive.

But Basim is not the main character of GC, Hytham is, and as stories go, I felt his adventure to be a lot of fun if somewhat straightforward. Many times within the book Hytham considers the world and his place within it using the phrase “We work in the shadows to serve the light”. Though GC is the first time the phrase is catching my attention, a quick google shows that it seems to be something recurring through many installments of the series.

It is a very catchy mantra, and to me, seems to encapsulate the kind of black and white simplicity which I felt the book had, which the games I’ve played so far have not. In GC there is essentially one dichotomy: Order of Ancients vs Hidden Ones. Two sides; good and evil.

Assassin’s Creed Origins and the subsequent games contain this dichotomy as well — setting up the objective of annihilating the Order’s members — but ultimately there is more nuance in the means and choices by which you act (and whether or not you hunt every member down like a sociopath). For some members, the choice to kill or not to kill is an easy choice. For others . . . not as much. In some instances it can become a somewhat moral dilemma.

(all this discussion has me really wanting a game from the POV of an Order of Ancients member who gets turned by the Brotherhood).

I’m inclined to think GC’s more straightforward approach is just a consequence of medium (telling the story through a book) and perhaps even a feature, not a bug. It allows the reader to focus their attention on other parts of the narrative, of which I felt one part in particular really shined.

Of course that part was Hytham’s relationship with the young heir, Leo, which was actually quite wholesome for a book about the dealings of a brotherhood of assassins. The Golden City is by no means a Cozy Fantasy, but certainly seemed a bit less grim than you might expect from a book with such a dark premise.

My only complaint, which again might just be a consequence of working in such a large series, is that Hytham in GC seemed so much more competent and confident than the Hytham we meet in Valhalla. In that saga, he plays a pretty small part, befitting of an apprentice. In The Golden City he’s kinda a badass which, while very cool to see, did not quite line up for me.

However, I could be convinced that the events of GC are perhaps traumatic enough to temper him. He does a lot of badassary, but also makes a lot of mistakes. His skills as an assassin might be quite high while his experience as an assassin might still be limited. Perhaps the simplistic dichotomy of Order vs Brotherhood I mentioned earlier is merely a reflection of his character which becomes more complex because of the events of The Golden City.

Give This One a Read?

Ultimately, I’d say yes give this one a read. If you don’t have any previous experience with Assassin’s Creed, then the story will still read like a straightforward historical fantasy. However, when we consider its place with the larger AC universe, then I feel like the book offers much more to sort through and enjoy.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Has anyone read this yet? Please leave me your thoughts in the comments!

Until next time!

The LONG road to Valhalla: A Review of Assassin’s Creed

We’re going try something new on the blog this week: reviewing a video game.

I’ve never tried very hard to keep the contents of this blog focused on one particular topic or medium, but I’ll admit that generally I’ve have considered this space a “book blog” with the occasional digression into movies, comics, or my own fiction (oh and I suppose that one time: radio).

However, it seems that more and more stories are refusing to be bound by their original medium, and storytellers (or more likely their publishers) are finding new ways to adapt their tales and reach “readers” however they prefer to consume their stories.

This has obviously been going on in movies and television for some time. It seems like these days a movie cannot be made which wasn’t originally a best selling novel. Or vice versa, how many successful movies or shows are released without a novelization?

This formula has seemingly very rarely found success when adapting video games to the big screen. Indeed a 2016 adaptation of the very game franchise I’m about to review an entry in, Assassin’s Creed, is generally considered one of the worst failures of all time at videogame adaptation.

However, the new Mario movie is perhaps a striking example of how success can look when a video game is adapted for the screen (I’m sure there must be novelizations or comics of Mario long before now). Of course some could argue that the OG and real trail blazer here has always been the Resident Evil franchise.

Lastly I think it’s worth noting how, The Witcher has gone from extremely popular book series, to even more popular video game series, and finally, absurdly popular television show.

Adaptations from any medium to another are interesting in a general sense, and it’s easy to spend time pondering questions like “Why did they change this?” or “That was not how I imagined that”, but I also find properties which use multiple mediums to tell one unified story interesting as well.

I remember games like Halo, StarCraft, and Warcraft III doing this back in my youth. Allowing the reader to delve deeper into the world of the game by reading novels that embellished backstory or side quests only hinted at in the main games.

It seems like the Assassin’s Creed franchise has been doing this for quite some time as well, but I guess I’m only now catching on. I picked up the franchise with the game Assassin’s Creed Origins, and have greatly enjoyed each consecutive installment but never thought it worth mentioning on the blog because it wasn’t “book related”. Well, now I see that there are books and so discussions of the games could indeed be “book related”.

So here we are . . .

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

I’ll start by saying that while AC Valhalla is a great game, it is a LONG game. This is not really a very original assessment, but it is was the thing that stood out to me the most while playing.

After spending hours creeping around castles, assassinating some guards before eventually getting tired (or more likely caught) and blowing my horn to get the raiding party started, I would celebrate my victory for a brief few moments before immediately the next quest would arrive and I would begin it all again.

In literature, I love a doorstopper as much as the next person. I will spend a whole month, or even two, immersing myself in a world with a grin on my face because of the nuance and care an author has brought to their story. Every little detail that they could have breezed over but instead called into view . . . it’s the sweetness at the center of a pastry. It’s the reason I read the books I read.

In many ways, Valhalla has this same quality with its many side quests and mini games, items to be collected, and world events to experience. In games like God of War, the items you collect are not nearly as exciting as the puzzle you have to solve to get them. Valhalla has this quality too.

Only it never ends.

In a novel, at least you have the author setting your pace, and if they’re any good, you make all these discoveries as you move forward through the plot.

In Valhalla, you can spend days raiding or attempting to turn your camera to precisely the right vantage to view a rune which will give you a skill point. Meanwhile England remains unconquered and eventually, in order to “finish” the game, you’ll have to go forth and conquer.

I’m something of a completionist, and so the first time I tried playing the game, I thought I could find all the items, experience all the events and do all the raids. I burnt out and never reached the end.

The second time through, I stayed focused. Mostly main quests, and a couple side quests here and there. The second time? I “finished”. I put finished in quotes because what I accomplished was allying every territory in England to the Raven Clan, and I slayed each of the members and zealots of the Order of Ancients. I did the same with two of the three DLC’s (I’m still working through Ragnarök), but there is still sooo much in the game I haven’t done.

I think I have a screenshot that says I’ve only explored 2% of the map? I think that has to be an error but it still makes my point. The game is HUGE.

Don’t Judge the # of hours played lol

Despite all my complaining, there are lots of things I think the game does really well. Primary among them is its character work. Of course, there are tons of them, but each felt really fleshed out and even alive. They all have motivations, some grand in scale, and others simple but satisfying (which unfortunately does not help one stay focused on the main plot). One of my favorite quests was helping free a caged wolf for a group of kids. That wolf stayed in my room for the rest of the game, and honestly it was quite fun to return home and see him every now and again.

Another thing I enjoyed about Valhalla, which I think many more traditional gamers might not enjoy, is that it wasn’t incredibly ‘boss’ centric. There are tough fights for anyone looking for them, but this was not the main focus of the game which seems to reward exploration and problem solving more than just mashing buttons and grinding down health bars. There’s a balance here to be sure, one which I’m not entirely sure Valhalla achieved, but in general I’m happy the focus of the game wasn’t a bunch of ‘big bads’.

Finally, despite how much I complained about the game being immersive to the point of distraction, I do have to say that I’m somewhat in awe of all the research that seemingly went into creating the world. On some of the other AC games, I’ve played through the tour function and learned about the real history behind the setting. I’ve not yet completed this portion of Valhalla yet, but I think I will likely do so eventually.

Give this One a Shot?

If you enjoyed either of the last two Assassin’s Creed games, this one is much the same only seemingly a lot longer (and I though AC Odyssey was massive). And if you’re new to AC games in general, I think there is a lot here to enjoy, but just remember to stay focused. You will lose WEEKS of your life otherwise.

My favorite parts of the game were absolutely its characters and the moral situations you (and them) are placed in. I’m not sure what the lessons may be yet, but I’m sure there are some good ones to take away from the experience for anyone doing game writing, or even novel writing.

That’s all I have for now. Has anyone played this game? What were your favorite parts? Did you “finish”? Leave your answers in the comments!

Until next week!

Celebrating my 2nd #NationalVelociraptorDay with Raptor Red

Hold on to your butts, it’s #NationalVelociraptorDay again.

This year, I again decided to enjoy a piece of fiction instead of attempting anything remotely resembling research, but I’m feeling this year’s post is at least heading in the right direction (last year’s post on Velocipastor was . . . something else).

Raptor Red was at least written by a real paleontologist . . . about the life and adventures of a Utahraptor pack. Damn. Well there’s no #NationalUtahRaptorDay so far as I can tell.

Also, the image of Velociraptor that I assume most people associate with the term — from nearly a quarter century of watching and rewatching Jurassic Park for almost any reason at all (just me?) — actually has more to do with the real Utahraptor than it does with the real Velociraptor.

As you can see from the graphic, the big red raptor (Utahraptor; also good job Scott Hartman for doing Utahraptor in red like the title of this book) and the purple raptor (from JP) are roughly related when it comes to size. The real Velociraptor, in blue, is quite tiny by comparison.

Interestingly, as Raptor Red author Robert T. Bakker (of Dinosaur Renaissance fame) describes in the opening pages of his book, the designs of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park already had their dimensions before Utahraptor was ever found in Gaston Quarry in 1991 (Wikipedia points out that some Utahraptor bones were found in 1975 as well but not well known). Bakker would know, apparently he was helping Spielberg’s artists with the anatomy.

Is This Post Secretly About Jurassic Park?

No. I was just feebly attempting to defend my myself for talking about the wrong kind of raptor.

About Raptor Red then?

Yes! Onto the reason we’re here. How was Raptor Red?

Honestly, quite a lot of fun to read.

After the confusion that was 65, it felt really good to reengage with dinosaurs again in a way that felt both thoughtful and passionate. It is clear that Bakker has a real love for these ancient creatures and his attention to detail was astounding (though I can’t speak to its accuracy. 1995 was a long time ago so I’m sure some things have changed and also I just wanted to read and have a good time).

On a surface level, Raptor Red reads a little like an episode of Prehistoric Planet, dolling out information about how Utahraptors may have lived, providing some interludes from the points of view of other contemporary species, and showing us adaptations those species had for their unique niche.

In this capacity, Raptor Red exposed me to a bunch of new species I had never heard of before. Appearances by Astrodon, Acrocanthosaurus, and Ornithocheirus were new, as well as early mammals like Aegialodon, or marine reptiles like Kronosaurus. And it was great to see some old favorites too like Pterydactyls, Deinonychs, and Iguanadons.

But this is really only just the surface. I think the real draw of the story, and what keeps us reading is a second level altogether consisting of the humanity Bakker is able to give the Utahraptors which are essentially horrifying killing machines.

This happens in a few ways. Raptor interiority is one. Bakker represents their intelligence with more than just expert hunting tactics, but actual thoughts which is at first a little strange, but quickly palatable.

The pack dynamic and the constant struggle for survival are two more. In many cases, the tension of a scene comes from changes in environment which the raptors are not ready for, or not adapted to. They rely on either their aforementioned intelligence, or the bonds between themselves and the other members of the pack. Consequently, when those bonds begin to fray, trouble is always soon to follow.

This feels very human. And a lot more like a novel than a documentary.

So a third level which presents a kind of message or theme should not feel out of place, but a passage about the “momentous transition in family life from a male-dominated pack structure to an incipient matriarchy.” (pg 135), stood out to me as somewhat surprising. I have in my notes:

“Raptors fighting the patriarchy?”

Bakker explains later that inspiration for this came from how “Owls, hawks, and eagles have societies organized around female dominance, and we can think of tyrannosaurus and raptors as giant, ground-running eagles.” (pg 249).

Looking to these kinds of birds for inspiration makes sense (they are also raptors), but I think it was a detail that could have just as easily been left out.

But one I’m sure glad wasn’t.

Give this One a Read?

Absolutely. Two killing toe-claws way up for Raptor Red. This book has both the detail and science of a documentary, as well as the drama and catharsis of a novel. It’s clear that Bakker has a deep sense of awe, and a love for dinosaurs, but also the ability to tell a great story like a novelist. I can’t imagine a better way to spend #NationalVelociraptorDay, then with a copy of Raptor Red.

That’s all I have this week. Has anyone read this one? What were your thoughts? Please leave them in the comments section. I’d love to talk about this one.

Partner Stories: A Review of Penric’s Demon

So this novella kinda came out of nowhere for me, kinda knocked my socks off, and until I finished writing this post, I was pretty unsure why.

Of course, Lois McMaster Bujold is a name seen often enough in the types of places fantasy and science fiction readers hang out. Certainly one that had occupied a small space in the back of my mind, probably since I first started “paying attention to the genre”. But it was a name that, for me, wasn’t really drawn on the map. Indeed I could not even sketch a little serpent in the corner of said map and write “here be dragons”, because I wasn’t even sure it was dragons that would “here be”.

A quick skim of her Wikipedia page would have me writing “here be Hugo Awards”. With four best novel wins, two best series wins, and a healthy amount of nominations (all of which were nominated for and took wins in other awards), her accolades number high enough to require a chart and several bullet points beneath the chart.

I suppose this is why I’d heard of her.

Having read a few Hugo award winners now, it seems to me that each author on the short list has a “thing” which is exceptional (and often novel) about their writing which set them apart from the vast legion of SFF titles that were published that year.

From reading the Green Bone Saga I think it’s safe to say that Fonda Lee’s “thing” is incredible characters and generational drama which play on (read: destroy) your heart strings and leave you something of a husk for several days after finishing (all of this in the best possible way of course). The magical kung-fu gangster setting is also quite stand-out as well.

Shannon Chakraborty’s “thing” seems to be Islamic myth and legend which I had not read much (or any) of before seeing her name on the awards list. Of course she supports her “thing” with incredible amounts of research, worldbuilding, and great characters so expertly crafted and engaging that I actually cared about the resolution of their love triangle. Her most recent release, The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi, still focuses heavily on her “thing”, but also brings inclusion into the mix. I’m excited to read what she does next.

From the (albeit) limited sample size of Penric’s Demon, Bujold’s “thing” is a little harder to lock down. Her prose are expert, affecting the kind of serious diction we expect from a fantasy novel, but contrasting it with the often not-so-serious events, thoughts, and actions of Penric, a teenage boy.

The magic in The World of The Five Gods seems mysterious but clearly well thought out enough to be systematic. I never felt bludgeoned over the head with its mechanics and indeed enjoyed a lot of the nuance in how the main characters were able to find loopholes in the “rules”.

Finally, I felt the scope of the adventure to be quite refreshing. I’m happy to read (listen to, or watch) universe threatening epics as much as the next person, but a “simple” yarn about a country lord accidently acquiring and learning to live with a demon was certainly a nice change of pace.

But none of these things seem to be THEEE “thing”.

So I asked twitter . . . and then I asked twitter again.

Upon my second ask I got a response that it was: “Partnerships! Bujold likes a good partnership story, so under all the plot stuff, you get two people who cross paths and are surprised at how well they come to work together”

And it was like my mind exploded. THIS was absolutely the “thing”.

There is so much in Penric’s Demon that will make you smile (my personal favorite was when he must split with his fiancé (arranged) to essentially go adventure, and she gives him a giant wheel of cheese. It was somehow so heartfelt but also hilarious), but at the end of the day, it was Penric’s and (the demon) Desdemona’s relationship — so clearly viewed by everyone else in the novella as something supposedly antagonistic — which had me smiling the most.

Give This One a Read?

Yup! Come for the magic and wit (catch your breath with the relatively short page length), but stay for the bonding.

(not to be confused with the bondage which is more the speed of Kushiel’s Dart)

Welp that’s all I’ve got this week. Has anyone read this one? What made you smile the most? Let me know in the comments!

A Shot of Pure Imagination: The Ballad of Perilous Graves

I could hardly wait to read this book when I first heard about it back in June of 2022, but I held my not-quite-alive-but-not-dead horses about it and waited until recently for my turn to select it for our monthly book club.

See, in real life, New Orleans is the type of place that doesn’t even need the suspension of disbelief required of a book or other work of fiction. I Googled a history of the city, and the first result, History of New Orleans from, reads like the wiki page of a fantasy novel. Highlights include:

  • Colonial New Orleans
  • Beset by Pirates and Privateers
  • Mardi Gras (of course)
  • Highest concentration of Millionares in mid 1800s
  • Victorian New Orleans
  • The Dawn of Jazz
  • Katrina

I’m sure I could pull soo much more out of the article too if only I could sit still long enough to do more than skim something these days. Anyway, the point is, New Orleans is already its own speculative reality.

I’ve been twice, and can confirm, the city is exactly as surreal and baffling as it sounds. Music of all kinds seems to leak from any open door, window, or crevice. There’s no shortage of new and interesting kinds of food. In one bar we went to (which had no sign and required a passcode), there were literal vampires, and someone had struck up a conversation about opening their third eye.

(I’ve also recently learned that cab drivers won’t pick up fares in certain areas because there are too many ghosts which often disappear before the ride is done and stiff the driver)

And of course, perhaps the most fantastical element of real-life New Orleans: you’re ALLOWED TO DRINK OUTSIDE. Like pretty much anywhere . . . so far as I could tell.

Anyway, what if a writer was to pour his considerable imagination and love for this amazing city into a piece of fiction? What might we find there? A super human girl who can lift cars? Floating 3D graffitti which gives people such a pleasureable high that they abandon jobs and families and lives to follow these tags around like a bunch of technicolor zombies? Actual zombies? Driving undead carriages through a part of town reserved for those who are quite dead but not quite gone?

Whatever the F*@k a nutria is?

These are the promises of Alex Jenning’s The Ballad of Perilous Graves, and in those promises, the book succeeds in droves. Somehow, he is able to take an already heightened reality and turn it up even more. Way past 11. Maybe 12, or even 20.

There is no shortage of imagination in this book. I think perhaps most readers will give a raving review on these merits alone. I nearly did myself as I’m pretty much a worldbuilding junky.

However, my main critique (and seemingly the same complaints of the others in the book club), is that this book is LONG. It takes a long time to read and it’s not just because the book is 453 pages. It’s because the reader cannot go nearly a full one of those pages without a break in scene, a jump backward in time, or a jump . . . sideways? . . . . in time?

The cast of heroes is thankfully not too large (4 ish really), but this gets somewhat complicated by the (slight spoiler) fact that some of them have doubles which aren’t delineated very clearly until three quarters through the book when they start interacting with each other.

There are at least three main villains. On the order of nine McGuffins and a whole host of bizarre settings of which an underwater bar in the renovated hull of a crashed UFO is not even the wackiest (again 20/10 worldbuilding).

Within all of that, we also have a post-op trans man as one of the main characters. I’m undecided as to whether or not I would have liked to see this element brought forward more. I understand that every story with a trans person does not need to be ABOUT being trans, but also these kind of details are not for nothing. If there was a greater significance (or message) present within his inclusion, it seemed (to me) to get lost amongst the rest of the noise.

Given all of these elements, it’s pretty much a miracle the book is as comprehensible as it is. However, I eventually did find myself weighed down by keeping track of all of these elements and by the last third I just wanted to get to the end.

Give this One A Read?

If you’re someone who doesn’t mind feeling a bit (ok a bunch) lost while reading a book and are interested in a concentrated shot of pure imagination, definitely give this book a read. I cannot imagine a better tribute to such an amazing city.

If you’re going to get annoyed trying to keep about a million details in your head, and frustrated if they’re not consistent (they may be I just stopped checking after a while), perhaps this is one to pass on.

That’s it for me this week. Has anyone read this? Which part of Hidden NOLA would you like to see in “real” NOLA (I’d say sky trolleys FTW!)? What were your favorite parts? Your least favorite parts? Please let me know in the comments!

My Obsidian Journey Part I

After celebrating Tolkien Reading Day last week with a review of The Hobbit (1968 BBC Radio) and speculating on The Real Reason We Can’t Make Any Sense of 65 the week before, I’ve been having quite a bit of fun wearing my fannish cap these last couple weeks. I can never fully take that cap off, and even as I type up this post, there’s a part of me that’s anxiously anticipating #NationalVelociraptorDay coming up, #WorldBookDay after that, and then #WyrdAndWonder in May.

These activities are all well and good, but they’re just one kind of writing that I do, and in general, perhaps not the most challenging in terms of craft (although the ’65’ post surprised me at how much time it took to write and research).

The challenging parts of writing seem to reserve themselves for my attempts at original fiction. A story question — like “What if dinosaurs helped ancient Egyptians build the pyramids?” — might be the type of question authors love because because the answer is only limited to what they can imagine, but in attempting to answer that question, they will almost certainly come across other questions. What did the ancient Egyptians eat? Why were dogs so important to their culture? (for another story) Where else have we seen that Death personified? Is any of this something I can use?

Answering these questions is challenging enough, but keeping track of the answers adds another level of difficulty. Managing drafts, or attempting new (to me) writing techniques, adds still more trials.

It can all feel quite overwhelming.

Thankfully, these challenges are not unique to me, but seem to be prevalent among authors of every stripe, and as such there is an almost infinite well of possible solutions (finding anything useful that actually works for you is still a further challenge).

Enter Obsidian.

Touted as a “knowledge management” software (ahem note taking app), Obsidian’s whole premise seems to hinge on linking knowledge that you’ve already obtained with whatever it is you’re learning now.

In the words of Steve Jobs, “Creativity Is Just Connecting Things”.

Obsidian uses backlinking to allow you to make these connections, and has a pretty neat graph view which allows you not only to visualize the links, but also look around for more stuff you could link together. As the theory goes, using Obsidian allows you to create new and novel ideas, by making connections between the raw and disparate notes you’ve accumulated.

As Youtuber Aidan Helfant says:

” . . . most of the work comes in collecting and connecting information. When you sit down to write, you should be eighty percent done already . . . your past self does the work for you.” – from his video Lump, Dump & Jump (what a title!)

Like who doesn’t want that?

To be 80% done as soon as I sit down? Sign me up!

How it Started

Despite my current enthusiasm, quite a lot of time passed between when I originally heard about Obsidian (Worldcon 2021), and when I eventually installed it on my computer in November 2022. I think at that time, I had just begun experimenting with Scrivener, and I was not ready to simply jump ship because some new thing had come along no matter how good it sounded.

I’ve now “completed” — I seem to follow the old adage: Stories are never finished, but some are released — several more short stories (using Scrivener), and wiped out pretty spectacularly on a NaNoWriMo novel after 35,000 words. At least three of those short stories and the languishing novel were written in a “shared universe” aka fairytale Russia. Perhaps I still don’t know what I’m doing in Scrivener, but I struggled often when needing to reference points or characters from the previous stories, or facts I’d researched for one story but were actually useful for another.

Needless to say, a floaty graph with a bunch of links illustrated on my screen was starting to look mighty appealing.

How It’s Going

As of March 28th I’ve input 223 notes into my “vault”. About 15 are ideas related to ongoing fiction projects I’m working on. Like 2 are related to fairy tale Russia, and the rest are attached to a handful of premises that popped into my brain since November.

Of that handful only another two even have a whisper of an outline. A third I tried to pants my way through for tomorrow’s newsletter, but it’s stalled pretty heavily due to I’m not a pantser. A (hopefully) funny piece of flash fiction will release though . . .

The rest are about Ancient Egypt.

Ok, that’s a lie although that topic is probably what the majority of my notes are about. I would say there are also large chunks of notes about Writing Craft, Blog posts in various stages of development (including this one!) from a single sentences to complete at 1.5k words . . . an empty folder about 3D printing . . . ?

What Gives?

As I’m learning from the infinite amount of forum/reddit posts, Obsidian is a LOT of things. What I’m learning from my own experience, is that it is NOT a polished writing software like Scrivener, or even Microsoft Word.

Fiction can be written, and linked together in the fashion I’ve been imagining but there are a lot of simple things inherent in these other softwares that simply aren’t inherent to Obsidian (as far as I can tell). Things like SPELL CHECK!!

But hope is not completely lost. With the right plug-in, it seems you can accomplish almost anything you want.

So far the plugins I’ve found immediately useful allow me to:

  • Make Footnotes
  • Highlight a piece of text and then make a comment

Some plugins I’ve found that have potential:

  • Creating Timelines

Plugins that didn’t allow me to do what I wanted but I may still try to find a use for:

  • Kanban board
  • Make Columns

There are literally a gazillions of these plugins, so I’m sure I will be adding more and more as time goes on.

Verdict So Far . . .

In general, my journey with Obsidian has been a bit of a mess. Often in the beginning, it felt like I would sit down to write, starting at -80% complete instead of Helfant’s +80%. There is no doubt that the learning curve is high, and a lot of processes I already had in place with other writing software, I have to build again from scratch, often rethinking the methods entirely.

It can definitely be a bit much.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), I still get glimpses of the promise inherent in Obsidian’s design. Recently I’ve been learning quite a bit about cinematography. I had no intention of using any of the notes I took on lighting techniques or camera angles in a story, but when an idea came for a story, I was instantly able to connect those ideas to a plot formula I’d taken notes on earlier in the year.

Creativity, just by connecting things.

I’ll stick with it for now. Try a few more stories and continue to test out different plug-ins. There seems to be at least a few authors who have already blazed this trail, so perhaps I can learn some tricks from them.

My hunch is that this tool favors the long game. We’ll give it more time and see.

That’s pretty much it for me about Obsidian right now. Is anyone else using this to write fiction? What are your favorite features/plugins? How about your most frustrating issues? Leave your answers in the comments. Would love to learn more from y’all.