Friday, May 30, 2014

The Secret Identity Community Comes Through Again

I have said many times that I believe the community of listeners that has formed around the Secret Identity podcast is nothing short of amazing. Whether on our Facebook page, over on the forums or in the emails we get for the show, the SI community is a positive, welcoming group that has made the show worth doing for the past eight years.

This week, I have another reason to boast about how great our listeners are. When we heard about the recent passing of comic legend Dick Ayers, I remembered that Matt had interviewed him at a Big Apple Con show in New York years ago. I went digging through the digital archives for the episode, and as my bad luck would have it, I had an incomplete version of the episode in question, that was missing the interview with Dick.

So, I took to the forums and the airwaves to see if any of our listeners had saved old episodes. This one in particular was number 81.5, and it was from around October of 2007. Low and behold, one of our longtime listeners David Anderson came through. He had the episode, sent it to me, and now we’ll be able to share it with everyone who may have missed it when we first aired it seven years ago.

So, a big thanks to David, not only for coming through, but for being a loyal listener of the show from the very beginning. David has supported us all the way through, from coming to live recordings, to connecting with us at shows, to emailing in on a regular basis after all these years. He is another reason I think we have the most amazing community around.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Secret Identity Summer Reading and Watching Projects Start June 6th!

Every year on the Secret Identity podcast we replace a couple of regular segments with our Summer Projects. We pick a comic event and a season of a TV show and discuss installments of both every week on the show for the entire summer. This year we've chosen a couple of great projects we think everyone will be excited about.

Summer Reading Project--Uncanny X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past

Given that the latest X-Men movie is tackling one of the most famous X-Men storylines ever, we figured it would be appropriate to check out the comic version of Days of Future Past as well. But DoFP flows directly out of the Dark Phoenix Saga, so we figured it would be a better idea to start with that.

Both storylines cover issues #129-143 of Uncanny X-Men and X-Men Annual #4. Each of these storylines are also available in trade as well as Kindle versions, so everyone should be able to get their hands on them. Here's the Amazon links:

Dark Phoenix Saga
Days of Future Past

ComiXology also has them both:

Dark Phoenix Saga
Days of Future Past

Summer Watching Project--Attack on Titan (Season 1)

A little over one hundred years ago, a race of giant-like humanoids appeared on earth and began devouring people, to the point of almost wiping out humanity. Those that are left now live inside a walled city, and things have been relatively quiet for the past century. That changes one day when a towering 60-foot tall Titan shows up and smashes through the city wall, bringing a horse of smaller Titans with it as well.

Some of the remaining humans join a fighting force to strike back against the Titans before humanity is completely wiped out. Check out a clip below.

Our good friend and longtime Secret Identity contributor Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe (the “Anime Librarian” as she’s known to SI listeners) will be joining us for some of the Summer Watching Project segments, and she may even bring some off the voice cast from the show along with her!

When do we start?
We will be kicking off the Summer projects on June 6th with the first two episodes of Attack on Titan. On Monday June 9th, the first issue of the Dark Phoenix Saga will kick off the Summer Reading Project. So you've got about two weeks to get access to the materials and read/watch the first installments. We’ll be covering two episodes of Attack on Titan at a time, so we can get through the first season of 25 episodes in a reasonable time frame.

So get reading and watching, and listen to the Secret Identity podcast to follow along! You can also get updates and listen to show over at

Monday, May 19, 2014

Writing Influences: Dungeons & Dragons

Wizards of the Coast recently announced that the fifth edition of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game will be arriving this summer. A starter set is coming in July, with the core rulebooks arriving in August. I am extremely excited for D&D 5e, and seeing as I have kids who will be 8 and 11 when the new rules arrive, I am really looking forward to introducing them to a game that has had a profound impact on my life.

I’ve blogged before about my love of RPGs like Mass Effect, and my desire to design my own tabletop roleplaying game. I even attended the Dungeons & Dragons Experience (DDXP) convention in 2008 and covered the impending launch of the 4th Edition of D&D for Secret Identity.

But I haven’t really talked much about the impact that growing up with D&D has had on my writing. Everything about my writing is in some way connected to my love of the game I first discovered when I was about 10 years old. I bought a copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules (the red box) from a friend’s brother for about $10, and fell in love. One of the most brilliant aspects of that edition of the D&D rules was that it began with a Choose Your Own Adventure-style story that explained the rules. The notion that I could play a game with others that was similar to the books I was obsessed with blew my mind. As I delved deeper, I found entire worlds to adventure in with my friends, or read about on my own. A lifelong love of D&D was born.

Dungeons & Dragons was the genesis of my lifelong love of sword and sorcery--I read the Dragonlance Chronicles before I’d even heard of The Lord of the Rings. D&D shaped the types of video games I was drawn to, from The Legend of Zelda in 1986 to the Mass Effect trilogy of recent years. And D&D most certainly shaped my writing, just as much as my love of ‘80s horror movies and H.P Lovecraft.

My first experiences creating adventures for my friends were in many ways my first real writing experiences. I had to create a story that was worth my audience’s time, because they weren't just going to listen to me tell the story, they were going to live it, and chance it, and help me tell it. Running a D&D game was my first experience with characters running off in different directions than I had initially planned. In D&D, it happens all the time, and as the Dungeon Master (DM), you have to adjust the story accordingly. When that happens now in my writing, I’m never afraid of it, as I’ve had years of practice.

Probably the biggest influence that D&D has had on my writing is that it has instilled a love of world-building and creature creation. Everything I write has at least one of those things, if not both. The Parted Veil series (Courting the King in Yellow, Private Showing, Lovecraft’s Curse) has progressed from kind of a creature feature set in our world to a series that is beginning to explore other worlds as well. Part of the reason the series has evolved this way is because of the D&D nerd in me that needs to find out more about the strange places my characters visit, and what horrors lurk in the shadows of those places. Using the Dreamlands of H.P. Lovecraft as a starting point, I’m taking things in more of a dark fantasy direction as the series continues. I’m having a blast putting my own spin on the Dreamlands, and I’m pulling on my D&D experience quite a bit as I go along.

So even though I don’t get to play as much these days, I will always pick up a new version of D&D, as I want to support the creative inspiration that in many ways led me become a writer.

Not to mention, fighting dragons is a lot of fun.

Friday, May 16, 2014

'Metalhead to Head' is a Fascinating Look Into the Creative Process

If you’ve read this blog or listened to any of the podcasts I do, you probably know that I am huge music fan, and in particular, a heavy metal fan. I was a teenager in the late 1980’s, and my love of heavy metal was encompasses everything from glam to thrash.

Recently, Fuse TV started a new webseries that is my favorite thing to come along in music TV since Headbanger’s Ball. It’s called Metalhead to Head, and the premise is simple--each week they bring together two great metal musicians and film them hanging out and talking music. Sometimes they are old friends, and sometimes they barely know one another. But the conversations are fascinating, as they inevitably delve into a discussion of craft, tools and process.

Even if you’re not a big music or metal fan, as a writer I think you’ll appreciate the magic of these conversations. The most recent episode (part one of which you can watch above) features two awesome bass players--Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy, Dio, Whitesnake) and Frank Bello (Anthrax).

Check out the rest of the episodes at

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

#AmazonCart Is a Great Bookmarking System

Amazon recently announced that you can add items to your Amazon shopping cart via Twitter by using the hashtag #AmazonCart. That’s pretty big news for authors, as Twitter is the main social media channel for us to connect with current and potential readers.

Here’s how it works: If I Tweet out a link to my book on Amazon, anyone can reply* to that tweet with the hashtag #AmazonCart, and my book will automatically be placed in their shopping cart without them having to leave Twitter. The next time they visit Amazon, that book will be waiting for them in their cart.

That may sound silly at first blush, as anyone can just click the book link in my tweet and go purchase the book right then and there. But a lot of people don’t do that. They see something they might want to purchase, and maybe they click the link, but they end up promising themselves they’ll come back later. A lot of those potential purchases get lost, because people move on to something else, or they forget to come back later. I’m guilty of the that all the time. I see tweets for books, games and movies that I might purchase later. But most times I never circle back around.

With that in mind, think of #AmazonCart as a kind of bookmarking system. Someone sees your tweet and decides they might want to check out your book, so they reply with #AmazonCart, and it’s now in their cart. Sometime later, they’re on Amazon and they give your book a look, deciding at that point if they really want to get it or not. Now, a good chunk of those people might just remove it from their cart and decide not to purchase, but they are still potential sales, and giving them the option to bookmark your book is one way of standing out from the million other book tweets they’ll probably see on Twitter on any given day.

Of course, this system has the potential to be abused by those authors who are already spamming people with book tweets. But, I think people will just unfollow those annoying non-stop marketers faster now. For the rest of us, we’re just offering another way for people to check out our books, and that’s a great thing.

*NOTE: In order for the hashtag to to work, you have to connect your twitter account with your Amazon account. If you're not sure how to do that, there's an FAQ on the announcement page for #AmazonCart

Monday, May 12, 2014

Reflecting on Why I Write

One of my favorite comics writers Gail Simone (Batgirl, Red Sonja) started a great discussion on Twitter a couple weeks ago when she posted the following question:

There were a ton of great responses, which you can read here. For me, my favorite part of the writing process is when I feel like I've created a place for someone to get lost in. There is a moment in the creative process where the story you are writing becomes a living, breathing thing.

See, when I was growing up, books were an escape for me (they still are). I want to create that type of escape for others. When I write, I feel like I'm giving back, somehow repaying the debt I owe to the writers who created amazing stories and worlds for me to get lost in when I needed to.

From the Encyclopedia Brown and Choose Your Own Adventure books of my early years, to the Dragonlance Chronicles, to the works of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, H.P. Lovecraft and more. Those stories got me through being bullied, bad breakups, family problems and more.

It wasn’t just bad times, either. Whenever my family would go up to Maine for a vacation on the beach, you could find me back at the cottage curled up with a good book. To this day, when I have time alone to do whatever I want, I’d prefer to spend that time with a great story.

And the wonderful thing about my continued love of reading, is that it propels my writing. I have to keep writing, because each story I read adds to the debt I feel compelled to pay back. It’s a debt I’m happy to carry and continue to work off for the rest of my life.

I know we all have reasons why we write, but I wonder how often we actually reflect back on them. Thanks to Gail Simone for the reminder!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

See Brian Write--Episode #19: Kristen Strassel and the Internet Archive

In the nineteenth episode of See Brian Write, writer Kristen Strassel joins me to to talk about her Night Songs collection of novels, as well as our mutual love of '80s music. I also give an update on Mo Stache and talk about getting the podcast episodes up on the Internet Archive.

You can listen to the entire episode right here in the player below, or head over to to download the MP3. You can also subscribe to the podcast with these feeds:


iTunes: itpc://

Mo Stache update

Kristen Strassel

Because the Night

Night Moves

Seasons in the Sun

Because the Night Playlist

Night Moves Playlist

Deadly Ever After Blog

Podcast Toolbox
The Internet Archive

SBW Podcast Archive Page

NOTE: If you are a writer and want to be on the podcast, either email me (, or DM me on twitter: I am now scheduling new interviews!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Free Comic Book Day 2014 Was a Blast!

Free Comic Book Day is an amazing event that takes place the first weekend of May every year. Comic shops across the country (and around the world) provide free comic books to anyone who walks into the store, and the day is an opportunity for comic fans everywhere to help bring new readers to this wonderful art form. It's also a great excuse to hang out in a comic shop and talk about everything from superheroes to horror movies all day long, which is exactly what I did.

My Secret Identity podcast show partner Matt Herring and I celebrated Free Comic Book Day by inviting some of our comic creator friends to our local comic shop--Most Excellent Comics and Collectibles in Enfield, CT. This year was a particularly great time, as we had our pals from HB Comics, Hero Envy and more come down for the day.

Over the course of the day, I met one of one the promoters of Hartford Comic Con, which I now may be attending at the end of the month. I also met several horror fans and even sold a few books, while giving away a bunch of my own comics in the process. I had a blast, and it was wonderful to see so many young readers and folks new to comics walk through the door of the store over the course of the day.

If you missed out on Free Comic Book Day, several digital comics sites are still celebrating by offer free comics. You can head over to Drive Thru Comics or ComiXlology and check out a bunch of the Free Comics Book Day offerings.

And if you missed out on Free Comic Book Day this year, mark you calendar for next year!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Recommended Reading--THE DARKNESS OF LIGHT by Tammy Farrell

After finishing the first draft of Lovecraft’s Pupil, I began plotting out the next book in the "Parted Veil" series, and it will have a lot of dark fantasy elements to it. So I was looking for a good dark fantasy novel to get me in the right frame of mind, and Tammy Farrell’s The Darkness of Light fit that bill perfectly. The first book in her “Dia Chronicles” series introduces readers to a world of magic, dark secrets and obsession in which a young woman must figure out who she really is and take control of her own destiny before everything she cares about is taken from her.

There’s so many things I like about this book. First off, Farrell paints such vivid pictures of the world, the characters and the magic they possess that I became immersed in the story almost immediately. The way she handles magic is interesting without being overly complicated, and the she adds weight to the magic by showing just how corruptive its power can be.

The main character Mara is one that you root for, but she’s flawed as well, and I really liked some of the choices Farrell made with her. She doesn’t play it safe with any of the characters in fact, and I appreciate that, both as a reader and a writer.

Farrell left the first installment of this series in a satisfying place, while paving the way for the next book. I personally feel like the ending of a book (particularly in a series) is the hardest part to stick, and she did just that.

All in all, The Darkness of Light is a great start to a series I’m looking forward to following.

You can pick up The Darkness of Light on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo right now. You can also learn more about the series at Tammy's website.